Elpis Chrysovergis

Elpis Chrysovergis

Aug 12 2014

Karibu Tanzania!

On our first encounter with the nation of Tanzania , after crossing the borders with  Malawi we received a very strange welcoming. By using some tricks, local touts are selling Tanzanian shillings in a very good exchange rate in an effort to rip you off by taking instead all of your money.Thankfully last minute we realized that something is going on there and got our money quickly back, however our friends, and we are sure a lot more tourists, were tricked so be aware if you are crossing through borders with Malawi!

Like they say in Tanzania : “If you can’t climb Kilimanjaro , then drink it!”

Other than this (almost) misfortune, on our monthly stay in the Swahili speaking country of Tanzania we would be surprised to find some of the most welcoming people as well as the most diverse and beautiful landscapes! But let’s take things from the start..

We have never seen so many bananas in one place!

Our first stop in Tanzanian soil was the city of Mbeya, the capital of the rural area surrounding the city which is located on a narrow highland valley at the altitude of 1700 meters.On our way there the scenery was full of banana plantations and the green valley was full of small villages.After a very long dala dala ride (tanzanian small buses) we were finally in the busy Mbeya which had little interest as a city other than the fact that from there we would board the famous TAZARA train that would take us through 848.8 km across this vast country to its biggest economic centre, Dar es Salaam.

The TAZARA Railway, also called the Uhuru Railway (Uhuru being the Swahili word for Freedom) or the Tanzam Railway, is connecting the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia’s Central Province. The single-track railway is 1,860 km (1,160 mi) long and was built from 1970 to 1975 as a turnkey project financed and supported by China.

                            

Traveling today though with TAZARA is a totally different experience and a challenge on its own. TAZARA service today make it very inconsistent something we were about to experience from first hand. Our train was supposed to depart on Saturday at 6pm, but we only departed on Sunday at 11pm!! That’s correct, just 29 hours of delay!! The ”funny” part though is that after 6 hours of journey, the engine broke down and we had to wait another 7 hours for the new engine to come, hehe!

Patience is the key rafiki (friend)!

What you need to be aware of if you choose to cross on board the TAZARA, is that you need  to book 1st Class as is the only way to make it through this 2 & 1/2 days trip.The service is good since you get all 3 meals served in your compartment and also clean duvet and pillows.
Also male and female are travelling in separate ckompartments on the TAZARA so the only way we could actually be together was to book the whole compartment as we wisely did along with Dalil, a French  we met in Mozambique.

So our days passed lazily while the train was slow and we were doing anything to fill the time: chewing sugarcane sticks, sleeping, chatting ,playing bao and watching the scenery changing as we crossed this vast country! We passed villages and green fields and we eventually even passed through Selous Game Reserve and we got a short safari feel, spotting from our window hippos, zebras and a giraffe!!

                            

Waiting for the train to leave again!
Selous Game Reserve   

Once we arrived in Dar Es Salaam we were as dirty as ever but excited to explore the largest city of Tanzania (Its capital is the smaller and not so famous compared to Dar Es Salaam, city of Dodoma).
Dar , as Tanzanians call the city, is indeed big and growing bigger ,dusty and even the locals hate the traffic jams that they suffer from daily in order to get from the suburbs to the center and vice versa.We are talking maybe of 3 hrs stuck in traffic for 20km distance!

In such an atmosphere you would expect territble tension and negative attitudes, however the kind hearted Tanzanians surprised us with their patience. Pole pole (= slowly slowly in Swahili) is their moto and they are sticking to it no matter what.

A ride with our favourite means of transport! The Bajaji! (or indian ricksaw)

As we explained in our previous post about volunteering in Gongo village with SANA organisation, its Burundi born Greek founder Costas Coucoulis had been hosting us in his house for the 3 weeks we spent in and around Dar. We were lucky enough to have as company his lovely son, Bacari, who took us in all the places Tanzanians gather and socialize!

Kasuku- The mascot of the house! :D

The centre of Dar is the main transportation centre either to the rest of the country or to Zanzibar and Pemba through its port.It is easy to walk around and explore the busy roads. Actually we also need to mention that the United Republic of Tanzania as we know it today, it happened in 1964 from the merge of the offshore island of Zanzibar and the mainland territory of Tanganyika which used to be different states.

Tanzania’s first official stamps after the union

A cheap place to stay when in Dar, is the YMCA hostel. YMCA is the famous Young Men Christian Association club that Village People were singing about some years ago.The Dar branch is hidden between Holiday Inn and the Anglican Church and offers simple rooms (Tsh 28000) with shared bathrooms and a spacious restaurant.Wvith the room comes as a must the reading table with the new testament!

Not far from there in between Kisutu and Zanaki Street , is the famous Temple Road. This Indian Community in Dar is missing nothing from a typical Indian neighborhood. Whole families are putting their best clothes for the evening stroll chatting with neighbors. Hindu chants from the numerous temples are filling the atmosphere with familiar sounds and the smell of the fresh dosas cooked on the spot will make you stop to feed your appetite.

If you fancy something more Tanzanian and less spicy, 3 roads further down everybody is making queue for a good meal straight from the grill! Go for tasty and inexpensive samaki (fish) by the beach or for a grilled kuku (chicken) and mishkaki (meat skewers). Of course don’t miss the popular chipsi na mayai (chips with eggs). Don’t expect fancy restaurants, the best food is usually served on the roadside with plastic tables and chairs!

Mishkaki addiction!

Once again and because the life of the city is in its busy markets a visit to Kariakoo Market is highly recommended! A 30 minute walk from the centre, its craziness is best explored on a Saturday morning. The Market is basically a building as big as a basketball stadium. Entering the huge building we were amazed at the variety of the products.

Cooking pots, big or small,coal irons, plastic bins by hundreds, straw baskets, huge piles of rice and flour. Outside in the roads the market was continuing with dresses and khangas (cloths) that were even hanging from balconies! At the end of the day with our hands full of bags we managed to escape this crazy market!

Our stay in Dar Es Salaam was long enough to enjoy the most of it but we will definitely miss the people we shared these amazing days with!

Check out more photos from Tanzania

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