Tuesday, 22 June

Dar Es Salaam to Arusha

UNIX Fire Extinguisher

In the morning, I noticed that the fire extinguisher in the hall outside of our room had "UNIX" written on it. So, of course I took a picture. Am I a nerd or what?

After breakfast at a local restaurant (where the egg whites were still runny and the coffee was instant), we grabbed our bags and headed to our bus to Arusha. This was the Scandinavian Express bus line: they're high class. The bus seemed a little old, but it was in pretty good shape. They served cookies and Coke along the way. The road was paved and mostly smooth. I found it hilarious that, whenever the bus would stop, locals would run up alongside of the bus and hold boxes that were filled with snacks up to the window, trying to make a sale. I watched one guy sprinting alongside the moving bus as the person he just made a sale to had to dig out their money.

The ride from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha took about nine hours. There were some beautiful views, as the road goes along a mountain ridge. I was amazed to see all of the mud huts with grass roofs. I guess I didn't really know what to expect. This was some serious third world living I was observing. Lots of people who live to live. As our bus drove by, people would turn and look at us. Sometimes kids would run towards the road. As everyone turned their heads to watch the bus go by, it made me wonder if they always stare at the road. Of course they don't, but the faces I passed were continually looking at us.

Arusha is Safari Central: it's the place where all of the tourists go to start their safaris. Since David and I were two white guys heading to Arusha, the locals naturally assumed that we were about to go on a safari. We stopped at the roadside to pee at one point. I was trying to do my thing and this guy (who was wearing a beaded necklace in the shape of a pot leaf and in the colors of the Jamaican flag) started to talk to me to sell me a safari. I said to the guy, "Look, man, I'm trying to pee here and it's never going to work if you're talking to me." He left me alone, but it was too late. I was too distracted to do the deed.

We stopped at some place halfway and got something to eat. We got "mystery meat," which we assume was beef. Bite size chunks were cooked on skewers over charcoal. We also got some fried plantain bananas, which tasted an awful lot like baked potatoes. The meat was tough, chewy, stringy and got stuck in between our teeth. It tasted all right, though, and it was sustenance.

Getting off of the bus in Arusha was an intimidating experience. We were swarmed by locals who wanted our attention. "Hello, my friend!" "Okay, grab your bags and let's go!" "Where to?" "Taxi?" "Which hotel?" "Safari, my friend?" There were probably twenty locals touching me, handing me business cards, trying to take (I mean help me with) my bags and just trying to get my attention (I mean money). I just kind of clutched my stuff and followed David's lead. We walked to our hotel.

After we had escaped the swarm, I stopped to arrange my bags. Nope, the swarm caught right back up with us. I hurried up and we walked to our hotel.

After checking in, David and I went to Stiggy's, a restaurant ran by a former Australian named Stiggy. They serve Western food at Western prices. We met up with David's special lady, Lauren, and her friend, Kate, who had come from the States to visit her. Kate's trip was pretty short, only about a week, so she and Lauren had been flying around the country unlike how David and I were  bussing it. The four of us were about to start our safari the next morning! A little later into our meal, four other Peace Corps people met up with us. One of them was Tony. When Tony first showed himself in David's village, the locals told David that a new guy showed up who looked just like him. Except that Tony has dark hair and a beard and David had, at the time, long blond hair. They look exactly not alike. My impression of all of the people that I met that night was positive. They seemed like a group of accepting people, the kind of folk that believe in the common good, earthy maybe. We all swapped stories (including me, and it was only my first full day in Africa). Tony told us about how he had to stand on an Mtei bus (more about those in a few days) for 2.5 hours, "With that nasty goaty smell...you know that smell I'm talking about. Seriously, I almost passed out." Good times.

Meru House

David and I then headed back to our hotel, the Meru House Inn. It's another $12 a night, medium-clean place. But this place had some charm: there were mosquito nets. There's David hiding under his. And there's me taking the picture. Don't mind my half-nakedness.

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All content and photos Copyright 2004 Travis Pettijohn.