Border Xing, Train Trip


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Africa » Tanzania » Zanzibar
November 10th 2009
Published: December 19th 2009
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Strange repair job on a dug out canoe
Jambo!
That's Swahili for hello. Since you last heard from us, we crossed the border into Tanzania. Had a comfortable taxi ride from Kargona, Malawi to the Tanzanian border. Just 11 people and 9 buckets of dead fish in a Nissan station wagon. There are some of the funniest named shops in Malawi, here's a classic we saw in Karonga. It was a bakery named "Jesus Rose and So Does My Bread" Bakery. To funny! Anyway we got to the border and exited out of Malawi, no waiting, no problems. Then walking over to the Tanzania side we needed to change money. If a countries money is not backed by a hard currency (gold) there are no change bureaus which means you have to change money with a street vendor, a black market money changer. They do give you a good rate, if you don't get ripped off first. Which is what happened to us. They only got us for $60 which is 10,000 Malawian Kwacha, plus we didn't get any currency changed. Aaron was livid. So we got into the Tanzanian border office, no waiting, so helpful & friendly. There were big signs everywhere about it being illegal to change
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The Tazara Train through southern Tanzania
money, so Aaron asked the man behind the counter what he should do because we had 400,000 Kwacha still. The guy asked his co-worker if her cousin still changed money, so she called him on her cell phone and he came right over and changed our Kwacha into Tanzanian Schillings. To cool! Then we walked for about a mile to the bus stop and caught a bus to Mbeya, about a 6 hour trip.
Aaron was really paranoid about getting off the bus at the station in Mbeya. Last time he was through there it was really sketchy & rough. He told me not to get seperated from him and do not take my backpack off for anything. So I had myself all mentally prepared to keep my head down and just push my way through people til we got to a taxi. We pulled in to the station, mid-afternoon, and our bus was the only one there. There were 2 taxi cabs in the parking lot. We got off the bus, got our back packs, walked about 20 ft. to the first taxi. What a relief!
We spent 3 nights in Mbeya. Food here is terrible, also. They did
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Kids on tracks
have a really neat market with all kinds of fruit and vegetable stalls, so we loaded up on fresh, giant avacados, tomatos, cucumbers and fresh rolls to make sandwiches and we also got all kinds of fresh fruits and fresh baked muffins to go with. It was delicious, we hadn't had any fresh fruit for a month. We've mostly been eating fried fish and french fries, a staple in Malawi. I don't care if I see another fry for years! Our first day here we went to lunch and I couldn't read anything on the menu but the word "omelette" so I pointed at it and they brought me an omelette filled with french fries. I had to laugh. The next day we went to another little place for lunch, they had no menu. The owner/cook came to the table and told us our choices were "meat of goat, rice, chips, omelette, chapati (tortilla like bread, really good), so we both had omelettes and chapati. We learned our lesson about ordering goat a few weeks ago, ha-ha.
Aaron didn't have food poisoning back in Nkhata Bay, we discovered we both have Bilharzia, his is alot worse than mine. This is
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A Tanzanian full english breakfast-cold spaghetti, bread and an uncooked hot dog. mmmm???
a microscopic flukeworm that is notorious in Lake Malawi (and quite a few other large lakes around the world) It enters through your skin and goes first to your liver then to other organs. It's not fatal or damaging but you have to take the medicine to get rid of it. Headaches, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fun stuff! So we went to the pharmacy and got the medicine for it while in Mbeya and plan to take it when we get to Zanzibar. It comes and goes, we'll feel good for 10-12 hours, then symptoms will hit.
We're taking the train all the way across Tanzania from Mbeya to Dar Es Salaam. We're both so relieved to not have to take the bus. We got a first class private sleeper compartment for only $90. First class is slightly different here than in the US. It wasn't new or fancy, but it was relatively clean and a really neat traveling experience. It was supposed to leave the station at 2:00pm, we finally got to board the train at 5:30pm. The station was an organized madhouse. Aaron was feeling really bad and finally had to sit on his backpack and put
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You can buy about anything from the train and bus windows in Africa.
his head on his knees. It was really hot and the exceptionally strong smell of urine didn't help any. Even though we had a first class ticket, the platform isn't nearly as long as the train so we had to walk about 1/4 mile to the end of the train. The first step on the ladder into the train was about 4 ft. off the ground, so Aaron climbed up, I handed up our backpacks, then I climbed up. With much relief we collapsed into our compartment.
The train was really cool though. We saw alot! We didn't realize that they serve meals in first class and we'd taken our own food with us, which, believe it or not, turned out to be a good thing. We did try their breakfast which the server said was "a full english breakfast". That's supposed to be eggs, sausages, potatos, tomato, beans, & toast. We got a cold, greasy omelette, a raw hot dog, cold spaghetti, and a slice of bread. Mmm-mmm good! I just handed my plate to Aaron and got out a muffin & peanut butter that we'd brought with us.
The train runs across the Selous (Saylou) Game Reserve. Our
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Stone Town-Zanzibar
car conductor came by and told us when we were entering the park and to be looking for animals. Right after he told us that and walked off, I looked out the window and on a little little mound of dirt, under a tree, right beside the tracks lay a female lion and a big male standing beside her. It was like something off a postcard. We also saw elephant, giraffe, zebra, warthogs, baboons, various antelope species, it was pretty cool. An elephant wonders onto the track occasionally and gets hit by the train. We saw about 6 elephant skeletons at various places beside the tracks, plus the latest victim, still putting off a very strong smell. Yuck! We saw some very interesting sights going thru towns and little villages. Just like the bus, you can buy anything from your compartment window when the train stops somewhere. We were going through a small place and we saw a young woman walking up the red dirt road in her big fluffy white wedding dress & veil. She was surrounded by older women who were holding her dress up out of the dirt and her 5 bridesmaids dressed in green were following behind holding their boquets in one hand and their dress up with the other. All in a procession to the church.
After 26 hours we arrived in Dar Es Salaam, the biggest city in Tanzania. Stayed here one night. The next day we boarded the ferry to Zanzibar Island. There are 6 ferries that travel between the mainland and Zanzibar Island. It's about a 2 hour trip on the fast ferry. It holds about 200 people, really nice and new, several big screens showing a movie during the trip. But. . . during the night a storm had blown in from the ocean with wind and rain. So the sea was rough today. As soon as the ferry pulled away from the dock, they started handing out sea sick bags. Within 40 minutes we were surrounded by people losing their breakfast. I looked at Aaron and he had sweat rolling down his face, then he turned and looked across the aisle and there was a lady sitting there eating deep fried "day old chicks" ( a delicacy thru alot of Africa). He turned back to the front and just stared at the TV screen, then an attendant came and placed a waste basket right beside his seat and people started chunking their used sick bags in it. I looked at him and he was actually a shade of green and he said "I'm not gonna make it". I told him to just close his eyes and breath deep. He made it , he was okay, but what a trip! I made sure I didn't eat anything that morning, so I was okay.
We were so excited to get to Zanzibar, this is where we came for our first anniversary. It is so cool here. We're staying in Stone Town which has been an operating port city dating back to the 11th century. There is so much history here and a really cool mix of Arab, Indian, and African cultures. It's 90% Muslim, and the people here are wonderful. The buildings are made from coral blocks and the streets are very narrow, since there were no autos when the city was built. Lots of bicycles and scooters. There is a huge city park called Forodhani Gardens, beautiful grass, flowering shrubs, palm trees, fountains. Every night at dusk a huge market is set up in the center court of the park with vendors selling any and every kind of fresh seafood you could want. You choose the pieces you want from their table and they cook it up for you right there on their grills. There's also fresh breads, soups, salads, fruit vendors and cane juice vendors. One of the most refreshing beverages ever: they run a stalk of sugar cane through a hand cranked press along with a hunk of fresh ginger root and fresh limes. The juices from all these run over ice and down into a glass, absolutely delicious!
We took our Proziquantil for the Bilharzia the next morning. It's a 2 day course of medicine based on your bodyweight. This knocked us out of commission for those 2 days. The cure was as bad, or worse, than the disease! We're going to enjoy Stone Town and all it's good restaurants and museums and take the Spice Tour for the next week, then head out to the beach.
Incidentally, if any of you are Queen fans, like us. Freddie Mercury was born here in Stone Town. We went to the house he grew up in and there is a restaurant called "Mercury's" dedicated to his music and memorabilia, very cool. He was born Farook Basara and lived here until he was 19, then moved to London. He was born & raised a Muslim, but obviously he didn't grow up to be a practicing one.
We hope you all have wonderful holidays. Have a very "Merry Christmas" and a "Happy New Year" if you don't hear from us before then! Let us hear from you. . .
Happy Holidays,
Carolyn & Aaron

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19th December 2009

Yummy!
Loved that English breakfast story!

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