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Published: July 16th 2019
The next morning started bright and early at 4:30 AM in order to complete our 12-hour cross-country trip from Dar es Salaam to Iringa, in the Southern Highlands. While wrangling 17 college students to wake up before 5 AM is usually a near-impossible task, most of us slept very little anyway on account of jet lag, torn and ineffective mosquito nets, and wildly fluctuating temperature in the rooms.
Before leaving, our driver warned us that police stopping buses (especially those full of wazungu) are extremely common in Tanzania (verbatim, "The police in this country are crazy!"), and to make sure we were always wearing our seatbelts; our professors then directed us to predict the number of times we would be stopped, with the winner receiving bragging rights (final count was 7!). While the official purpose of these stops is for safety, many of the officers are just curious what a bunch of Americans are doing in the middle of Africa - one even came on the bus and initiated a standard, lengthy Swahili greeting to get to know us. Even at 5:30 AM, the roads were busy and the daladalas (public city buses) were packed full on the streets of
Dar. Navigating the city seemed just as difficult on this Tuesday morning as the afternoon before. After we escaped the inner city, we witnessed the scenery transition to the rural outskirts of Dar Es Salaam region where hundreds of people conducted business along the Tanzam highway, the quintessentially African savannah of Pwani region, then the forests, some part of which were ablaze when we passed, within Mikumi National Park in Morogoro region, and finally the rolling yellow hills of Iringa region. Along the way, we stopped at a roadside restaurant for a breakfast of pour-over coffee, chapati, beef samosa, and something which seemed like what would happen if idli was deep-fried. Lunch was pre-packed, and consisted of a piece of chicken, bread, an egg, a banana, and mango juice. The ride went fairly quickly, thanks to a combination of a couple naps, incredible views, good conversation, and entertainment in the form of historic and cultural narration from our professors.
Our first stop in Iringa city was our home for the next month, a building with hundreds of tiny, barren cement cells which passed as dorm rooms. Dinner was a short walk away at a high-end Indian restaurant called Sai Villa, one of a handful in the city serving its sizable population of expatriates and international aid workers. A taxi back to the dorms concluded a day which was a diverse, thorough introduction to the landscapes of Tanzania.
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