Arusha to Mwanza... "10 hours"... yeah right!


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Africa » Tanzania » North » Mwanza
July 4th 2012
Published: July 11th 2012
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My bus to Mwanza was due to leave Arusha at 7am, in my hungover state I rose at 6am and after attempting to wake Annabelle in the next bunk to say goodbye (she was sound asleep so I gave up), off I went with my backpack and belongings towards the bus station. Upon arrival you are greeted by many touts “where you going my friend? Come this way...”, this is not something I wanted to deal with at this time of the morning, fortunately as soon as I showed them I already had a ticket they leave me alone. I asked a guy for “Chakula” (food) and he showed me to a little café within the bus park and I ordered myself some tea, chapati and mandazi. The mandazis' are available everywhere and are kind of a savoury doughnut, sometimes they are a bit dry but others are really good – especially when freshly cooked – at 200tsh a go (4p), I cant complain!

My bus was coming from Moshi and, in mandatory African style, was about 30 minutes late. I load my bag in the luggage hold and off I head for my “10 hour” bus ride to Mwanza.

It started relatively peaceful, I was listening to some music and appreciating the countryside as I left Arusha. The chap next to me spoke good English, so we were discussing East African music and I was sharing with him some of my favourites from back home. A couple of hours in and the bus was jam packed, people were standing in the aisle, I even had a lady next me sat on an overturned bucket with her arm on my rest. At one point I was sandwiched between her and my neighbour who was sleeping whilst using me as a cushion! We stop to squeeze on even more people (its unbelievable the amount of people they can fit on one bus), and a guy gets on with a seated ticket – only the seat appears to be double booked! The shouting throughout the bus soon began and my neighbour quickly woke up and got involved – it seems he is top of the pecking order on this bus! From what I made out they were saying the guy had a fake ticket “ticket faki, ticket faki!” or something like that. It went on for some time whilst I sat wondering what the hell was going on. At one point I even had my neighbour and another man both leaning across me pointing fingers in each others faces and shouting! Though this was a little intimidating and at home I would have gotten well out of the way, I was pretty much stuck so couldn't go anywhere. I actually felt pretty comfortable and decided to record the whole thing with my MP3 player! The police eventually boarded the bus , though they seemed pretty useless and the locals were shouting at them as if they had no authority, maybe this is true.

In the end, the guy stayed on the bus standing and we begin to drive on, the arguments continue for most of the journey with my neighbour constantly shouting at the conductor and the alleged culprit. In fact it just becomes boring in the end and I go back to my music. My neighbour finally calmed when we stopped for lunch which is Chipsi Mayai (I'm pretty fed up with this now, I feel like it is all I have eaten for the past 3 months. Its basically an omelette mixed with chips).

Later, we stop to pick-up and drop-off passengers and luggage. I have to trust that my bag is still in the hold as there is no chance of me moving from this wedged position between my friend on the left, bucket lady on my right and now an elbow that keeps hitting me in the head from above. The chap next to me is ordering some food out of the window and hands over some money. The lady walks off and the bus begins to move, then he screams “SISTER! SISTER!” and literally dives across me, knocking the lady off her bucket and proceeds to barge his way through the crowd to get off the bus. In the meantime a man from outside has run over to the accused lady, pushed her over and a big crowd quickly gathers – everyone screaming in Swahili at each other! There is a stand off between my neighbour and the lady until two lady police officers stroll over (pole pole as they say), and walk them both to their booth for talks. We are then left waiting for another 20 minutes pfft!

Eventually he's back on the bus and our journey continues. As we get further west the surrounding countryside is beautiful with hills in the distance, open space and random boulders balanced on one another (I've no idea how they are formed or where they come from, in fact they are all round so why have they not fallen off each other?). Eventually, and at the same point that my neighbour disembarks, so does bucket lady. I can finally move my legs from the cramped seat position into the aisle. But... not for long, here comes another neighbour and ANOTHER bucket lady... but this time with a stinky and screeching chicken. At the same time she is chewing a stick of sugar cane and spitting it out by my feet. Great. Quiet often she has to stand to let people pass (I have no idea why but throughout these journeys, Tanzanians have a tendency to struggle from the back to the front of the bus and back for no apparent reason). When she stands, she has the chicken tucked under her arm, and every time she swings its angry and screeching beak around to my face, this chicken is clearly not happy.

Seeing animals like this is particularly concerning for me being vegetarian, mostly for the sake of animal welfare. Its very difficult, but I have to accept that whilst in my own country I can argue for good treatment of animals, as a foreigner in this different culture I cannot see it being taken politely or even seriously. In fact one day I was really tested when I was sat next to a man on a daladala for 30 mins with a live chicken face down in a plastic bag. I could hear it clearly screeching for air. Without any fluency in Swahili, I was almost at the point of grabbing the bag from the man when he got off. Tanzania (and I'm guessing from my experience most of the developing world), really has not yet built an understanding of animal welfare, and for some lunatic Mzungu, here for such a short period, its not an area I dare tread.

On another note, though scenes like this are upsetting, the livestock is not produced on such a scale as back home so as far as I know, they have not yet seen factory farmed animals to the same extent as the western world. Most animals are bred locally, have open spaces and pretty much can roam wherever they want. Due to the expense, most Tanzanian families rarely eat meat and when done so it is considered a treat.

I arrive at Mwanga at about 21:30, 14 hours after setting off. Tired and baffled I still manage to haggle my 25,000tsh taxi offer down to 5,000tsh, and arrive at my preferred Guest House, strangely names Christmas Tree. This is full so some other backpackers suggest I try another one down the road, which was perfectly fine.

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23rd July 2012

Thats life in Tanzania
I bet next time if you travel to Tanzania carry enough cash,unless you want to be writing such articles.Be informed that,there are planes that route from Arusha to Mwanza daily and five star hotels in Mwanza. informed
27th July 2012

But where is the fun in flying, and 5 star hotels! You may as well be in Europe if thats what you want!
23rd May 2013

Information about Mwanza Bus
Hi, I will be very soon travelling in Tanzania. My boyfriend and I will travel from Arusha to Mwanza. Do you remember which company you took to make it to Mwanza, where did you pass (by Kenya, Serengeti,...)? How much was it and also, do you recommend the same route? Thanks!
23rd May 2013

Information about Mwanza Bus
Hi, I will be very soon travelling in Tanzania. My boyfriend and I will travel from Arusha to Mwanza. Do you remember which company you took to make it to Mwanza, where did you pass (by Kenya, Serengeti,...)? How much was it and also, do you recommend the same route? Thanks!
19th July 2016

Been there, done that!
Hi Steve! We were looking for a means of transportation from Arusha to Mwanza and found the bus you took thanks to your blog. We took that bus a couple of days ago and recognized so much in your story! We didn't have chickens, but we had pooping babies with us. Which are as bad and stinky, I guess :) It's not a trip we'd like to make again in the next weeks or so, but we are happy to have had this real African experience. And the stories we can tell so far, oh well... This is just awesome! Cheers!
19th July 2016

Been there, done that!
Hi Steve! We were looking for a means of transportation from Arusha to Mwanza and found the bus you took thanks to your blog. We took that bus a couple of days ago and recognized so much in your story! We didn't have chickens, but we had pooping babies with us. Which are as bad and stinky, I guess :) It's not a trip we'd like to make again in the next weeks or so, but we are happy to have had this real African experience. And the stories we can tell so far, oh well... This is just awesome! Cheers!
26th July 2016

Fantastic!
Hi, Thanks for your message. Im glad to hear you experienced the same route and enjoyed it! Shame you didnt experience the chickens :) Steve

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