Crossing into Zambia at Kasesha

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Africa » Tanzania » West » Sumbawanga
July 23rd 2012
Published: July 26th 2012
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I had a tough time this morning finding a bus from Sambuwenga to Kasesha. I guess that's because most people go down to Mbeya and cross to Zambia from there. I was considering doing that, but ... I really wanted to try and see Kalambo falls tomorrow, and the best chance of doing that is from Mbala in Zambia, which is not that far from this border post.

I was told by numerous people that there are a couple of buses to Kasesha, but they leave at noon or 14:00 and not from the main bus stand. I checked out all the booking offices in the main bus station and outside ... I went as far as a 4 street radius from the bus station to try my luck, to no avail.

It was now about 10:00, and I still hadn't found a bus agency going to Kasesha. Finally, I asked a taxi driver to take me to the Kasesha bus. He didn't know, but he drove right back to the main bus station, and before he could even ask anybody, there was a mini-bus with Kasesha written on the board. So, everybody who said the Kasesha bus didn't leave from the main bus stand was wrong. There is no agency. The bus conductors handle all the ticket selling and the passenger seating.

Another bigger bus showed up around 10:30, but I'd already paid for the mini bus and got my stuff from the hotel nearby. So, I wasn't switching to the bigger bus. The bus left at 12:30 when all the seats were filled. Once again, I was the only Muzungu in sight.

The trip was quite interesting as usual. There were 5 "tribal youth" ... that's the best description of them ... all the guys had traditional bangles, necklaces and foot adornments, plus plastic sandals and all kinds of clothing, including one wearing a Tanzanian football team jersey, another with a Qatar Foundation T-shirt, another with a cowbody hat, another in a boy-scout style outfit with lots of badges, etc. They were loud and had lots of fun in the bus. Typical late teen behaviour, although they could have been in their young 20's. The other passengers didn't seem to mind their antics. But good thing they got off half way in the middle of the bush.

There was leg room after they left. As usual, the 4 seats across in the mini-bus were filled with 5 people. Cozy. The police stop the buses and inspect for safety. But, as long as everybody is seated, they don't seem to mind. They don't want to see passengers standing. There wasn't much child sharing, as each mother had only one child each.

Once again the roads were rough, not sealed, but not too bumpy. The scenery was typical savannah mixed with woodland, and mostly flat. We left the hills and mountains in Burundi and Rwanda. The Great Rift valley that makes the mountains of Rwanda and Burundi also takes in Lake Tanganyika. So, slightly east of the Lake is mostly flat. But, there is a big drop off to the lake, and due to the elevation, it's not too hot.

I couldn't cross into Zambia and proceed to Mbala because the Zambian immigration official had left for the evening to do some chores in town. So I found a place for the night in Kasesha on the Tanzanian side, even though I had a Tanzanian exit permit stamped in my passport.

I've stayed at some pretty uncelebrated places, but the guest house here at the border in Kasesha between Zambia and Tanzania is definitely not going to be a feature story on Conde Nast or any travel magazine. Not that I read Conde Nast - it's not my idea of travel. The room and sheets are clean, but the one and only toilet is not. But, beggars can't be choosers. And besides, I'm paying Tsh 4,000 for it. That about $3. I ordered dinner too. Will see how that turns out. I have good feeling the food will be nourishing. Dinner with a soft drink was another Tsh 4,000. The woman who runs it is very hard working and so is her 6 year old son who helps with all the chores.

An interesting observation about technology. Cell phones seem to work pretty well everywhere. Only the rare blind spots. Yes, even in National Parks. Doesn't matter how remote you are, someone is on a cell phone. Even the poorest person seems to have a mobile. Not a single smart phone among them mind you. Almost everyone is carrying a Nokia Feature phone and actually talking, not texting.

It's quite an anti-social tool. People are talking quite loudly on the bus, in restaurants and other public places. Totally ignoring the very social scene around them. Several times I notice when people were havng a nice gab, and when someone's phone would ring, the conversation would end.

Also, if they aren't on the phone, then they are playing music on the phone very loudly - to drown out the music from the bus. Almost no one bothers with head phones. So, you can imagine, several phones, each trying to out power the bus spreakers, each with their own music.

Who ever invented long life batteries for these things wasn't seriously considerng all the "use-cases" ... the long life should have an automatic short-circuit feature when it detects there's too much anti-social behaviour happening. Yes, I do have an issue with phones in general, and especially with mobiles.

As I've said before, you can't transfer technology without also transfering the culture that created that technology. The anti-social behaviour common in North America, that pre-dated mobiles ... I mean the extreme freakish desire for individualism over a sense of community and social consciousness is now being exported with mobile phone technology. Technology is not culture neutral.

Every small town has phone charging kiosks ... when people don't have access to regular household current. There are competing phone companies, and the rates are cheap. Doesn't appear to be much government interference with this form of free enterprise.

Internet access though is a different story. Many small towns have no sign of any Internet connection. I knwn I'm biased, but I'd think Internet access would be more desirable and useful as a technology transfer than mobile phones. Just imagine rural schools that can barely afford school supplies and books having access to Internet education resources at a very low cost.


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