African Roads, a Drunk Driver and too many Luggage Scans

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Africa » Tanzania » North » Arusha » Arusha City
September 11th 2018
Published: September 11th 2018
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A huge thunderstorm awoke me at around 5am, the room was intermittently lit by bright lightening and the curtains were blowing in like a horror movie. The window was open but we were protected by a veranda, mosquito net and wrought iron bars. I got up to watch it over the lake. I've never seen so much lightening in one storm, it was sheet lightening that lit up the entire sky turning the palm trees into black silhouettes. It flickered like a faulty light at varying intensities as the wind attacked the trees and the lake was totally mad. The thunder too was intense and frequent, being particularly loud at times. This went on for around 40 minutes and what baffled me further was that Glyn didn't wake up.

Afterwards, the sky was a dingy grey and there was no sunrise worth mentioning, so I scrapped my original plan of photographing that and went back to bed.

We had breakfast at 9am, taking all our valuables with us as we were very concerned about the theft from nearby guests yesterday. There are fences around the grounds and a huge gate, but if a thief is prepared to paddle, it's so easy to get past where the fence ends in the lake. So afterwards each of us taking turns to explore the grounds (which didn't take long as I couldn't find the kitten I'd met yesterday) and then we decided to go for a walk.

Now James the driver had said Kigoma is safe for tourists, but as we walked along the road, we felt uncomfortable. We bought drinks and the vendor was not friendly, one guy said 'good morning' but everyone else stared and mostly with disdain. A few people shot us some pretty filthy looks, I don't think any harm was meant, they just didn't like us. Given what white people have done to this country (and many others), their dislike of us is understandable. Or so I presume - it may be just Glyn and myself they didn't like; the white Belgians had been here happily for 18 days before they got robbed. After one guy in particular kept shooting backward glances, we admitted to each other that we weren't enjoying this and given we didn't have much time, it was doubtful we could walk far enough to see much beyond this fairly dull road. So we went back to Aqua Hotel and chilled until James came to pick us up at midday.

Kigoma airport was an experience: a bungalow with an outdoor desk where one lady wrote our passport and personal details in a big notebook as another lady checked our temperature in our ears. The departures were hand written on a white board with only one flight listed. Here we met the Belgians again - they'd spent the morning in the police station without much hope, the police had not come until late last night as apparently that's not how they do things here. I was directed to another woman who checked my passport and then a man who laughed at my name as he also checked my passport.

There was one luggage scanner where we placed both hold and hand luggage, unusually for us, Glyn and I got through with no problem. Finally we got to check in a few metres away. Our rucksacks were weighed on a mechanical scale and check in was a desk with a computer and a couple of bespoke boarding pass and luggage tag printers. We had to wait awhile as the Internet was down so they couldn't check us in. The back of the computer was shoulder high to me with the cables sticking out so I was careful not to brush on them when the Internet finally kicked back in. After a final check of my passport, I was told to have a nice flight and we got to sit in the departure lounge which was a large room with seating, toilets and a stand selling snacks. As we left we spotted a soldier with an iron grey rifle and wondered how come there was security, until we saw a guy carrying bits of red carpet to another plane. No red carpet for us however.

We flew to Dar Es Salaam where we had to go through THREE lots of luggage scans before making it to the departures lounge to wait for out flight to Kilimanjaro. We arrived around 7.30pm in the dark and were picked up by a very chatty guy from the accommodation we had pre-booked. Whilst he went to pay for parking, we waited in the people-carrier and were unexpectedly jolted as another large vehicle had backed into us. That certainly woke me up! There was no damage and the other driver apologised to us. Our driver said he was drunk and it was a miracle he had managed to drive so far.

The journey was around an hour and he turned down the Kenny Rodgers music to ask how Theresa May was! He wanted to discuss Brexit and the U.K. economy as they do read about it here. I asked about Tanzania and he asked what did I want to know: politics, economics, social? We only had an hour journey! He told us that though they have a multi party system, it's a dictatorship really as the opposition tend to get quietly murdered. But he does think things will get better and says that people are generally happy. Most own their homes rather than rent and many live off the land, most can't afford much healthcare but schools are free. We were overtaken by Mr Drunk Driver and held back so he would be far away from us. It is illegal to drink drive in Tanzania, but there aren't enough police to enforce the law. The journey ended with Abba and Bob Marley.

We arrived in Arusha which is very big and we drove in on a large main road that didn't exist when Glyn visited in 1993. Not long afterwards, our driver welcomed us to 'typical African roads' where you get a free massage. In other words very bumpy. I was going to describe it as full of potholes but that insinuates it was once a surfaced road, so better to describe it as a place where many people drive and walk. In the winter we were told that it's a river and boats were used.

Quite some distance along this road, shops and lights became few and far between and we turned into a private road lined with banana trees and avocado plants - we had arrived. It was quite small and as we entered we were welcome by two lads listening to rap music. It felt like someone's home rather than holiday accommodation, but the lads were friendly and made us food that we weren't expecting but very grateful for. Our driver even nipped out to get us bottles of water and asked which safari company we were using so he could call them to make sure they could find us tomorrow. Great service!


12th September 2018
fishing boat on Lake Tanganyika.

I'm drawn to the serenity of this shot.

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