Published: December 5th 2008October 4th 2008
I have to go back a little bit in time now, a couple of months before my departure to be precise. We were originally told that we had 23kg luggage allowance on our flight to Tanzania - not a lot when you are not just going on holiday, but going to live somewhere. So I enquired about the cost of shipping boxes out here and couldn’t find anything below £250 for a box. Then I also thought about buying a car once I get to Tanzania to be able to travel more freely round the country. On my research I found that you really need a 4x4 to get to most places and they advised against a Toyota RAV4 or Suzuki Vitara as not rugged enough to get through, especially during the rain seasons. Cars are very expensive in Tanzania due to heavy import duties. But then buying a quite old 4x4, that’s been a long time on Tanzanian roads, didn’t seem such a promising prospect. So the idea came into my head why not solve two problems in one: buy a cheap old 4x4 in the UK (they drive on the left in Tanzania as well), that probably never has
actually been off road, pack it full with stuff and get it shipped down there and sell it afterwards - breaking at least even. So I started enquiring about shipping, import costs and also checked with my VSO Programme Advisor, what he thought about this idea. I was worried, it might not make a good impression if I as volunteer come in a big 4x4… But he told me, quite a few volunteers buy cars during the placement, so I shouldn’t really worry about that aspect, but he was rather concerned, if I really wanted to face the hassle of importing my own car. My research gave me some incline as well, that it might not be the smoothest of processes… But then when things seem to be a particularly tricky mission, they can be an irresistible challenge for me as well! Well, after many hours on the net and a number of phone calls, I had at least a picture clear enough to wanting to give it a go: I found a friendly shipping agent, Bhupesh (Auto Kenya - in case anyone who reads this blog plays with a similar idea…), who quoted £ 1,000 for a 4x4 and said there would be 2 ships a month and they take about 4 weeks to Dar Es Salaam. So I thought, if I get a car and ship it in early September, it will get there just after my arrival.
The import duty seemed to be a wopping 55% for cars younger than 10 years - the 10 year found out just in time. For older cars it’s another 20% on top. This is to prevent from the country being flooded with just old bangers. Some other African countries have got stronger restrictions and don’t allow any cars older than 8 years in at all. So now it came to selecting a car. It should be less than 10 years old, as cheap as possible (not at least due to paying almost half again for customs), ideally big enough to put a bicycle, windsurfing board and equipment and a few household items inside and later on for work and travelling around with a load of people and luggage, be safe (have an airbag), not a gas guzzler (so a diesel and manual) and reliable (so better not a Vauxhall Frontera or Land Rover). That narrowed t down quite a bit and originally wanted a Nissan Terrano, but they were either just a few months too old or gone by the time I tracked them down. So getting kind of frustrated checking eBay and AutoTrader and googling anything else, I came across Ssangyong/Daewoo Musso. Being Korean meant it’s quite cheap in the first place. But with a slightly strange design and more than a few years old, not the most sought after car on the market. So I found this one on eBay having just half an hour left to go, located in Leicester. So I hesitated a bit, but then less than a minute before the end of the auction, I just gave it a go - and won the bloody thing for £1050! At first I wasn’t quite sure, if I should be happy or not, buying a car, I haven’t seen or driven…
So a few days later I took the train up to Leicester to pick up the Musso. Not particularly experienced when it comes to checking a used car, I just looked at a few obvious things (tires kind of okay, chassis number matched, no dent, obvious oil leaks or rust) and took it for a short drive out of the village. So I handed over the cash and drove it down to London, it felt like a tank, so huge and the engine grumbling along nice and deep - it’s a 2.9 litre Mercedes-Benz 5 cylinder diesel. So I felt quite excited, this was kind of a milestone in my journey to Africa (even so the first stage was only Leicester to Kennington).
Now I had about 3 weeks to go until loading of the vessel - so deciding what to pack into the car, a few last minute purchases (i.e. surfboard on eBay - didn’t want to take my nice one, as I intended to sell it on afterwards). In the last week of August I packed everything in (surfboard and sails, bike, clothes, towels, shoes, big backpack, spare kitchen equipment: mugs, glasses, pot, utensils etc.) and drove the Musso to Sheerness, from where it would go onto its 4 ½ week journey to Dar es Salaam. When I arrived the staff at the harbour said to me, I shouldn’t worry about the car getting there alright, but it would most probably be emptied out of all my things by the time I get it back, so I should secure everything. Easier said than done, as I couldn’t lock the car. The key had to be left in the ignition for them to drive it onto the vessel and with no separate boot there wasn’t anywhere I could lock things into. They suggested a dog cage - good idea, but a bit too late. So I chained at least the bike to the backdoor handle. As I had to catch a train to travel up to Birmingham that morning for a 5-day VSO training course, there wasn’t much else I could do at this stage. But I didn’t felt too good about the whole theft issue and decided to go back to Sheerness the day after the VSO training (the last day before boarding for the vessel was to commence). I took a long chain and a few more bike chains with me and tried to get them through as many things as possible…
Bhupesh had given me the number of a customs clearance agent, who would take care of everything, once the car get to Dar - Benno. Whenever I tried to call Benno he seemed to be driving or busy in some other kind of way, but I more or less got the information I thought I needed and wanted to discuss the rest once I arrived in Dar. Back to now again! All week I had been trying to get hold of Benno, but his cellphone was to no avail and no reply to my emails either! So I contacted Bhupesh again, who told me, that other clients had complained about Benno as well. He gave me another contact, that he didn’t have experience with, but that I could give a try - Roselyn of Malai Freight Forwarders. So I emailed Roselyn in the morning before we started our journey to Morogoro.