Have you ever looked forward to something for about two months then it comes and goes as if it doesn’t know it was a big deal. My Dar trip is guilty of this. Don’t get me wrong, I did have the time of my life. I just didn’t want it to end. Sob sob.
Honestly, this is the most memorable trip. Mostly because it is the most expensive trip I have paid myself and it taught me freedom or self-dependence. I am used to travelling in groups and this was a 37-people group, but within the trip, we would split up; different people had different adventures. And while I sometimes found myself with my friend Hannah, we learnt the discipline of solo travelling.
Lessons learnt on solo trips
Lesson one where you first accept that there’s no one to dictate how you’ll use your time. You can sleep, swim at the hotel or Google up places to go and explore. Sleeping off is amazing, because well, we’ve been busy bodies at home waking up early, sleeping late. Hotel De Mag offered that perfectly here. But then when in a new place or country in our case, you can’t afford to sleep off all your vacation. So yes, we did get out.
Lesson two of solo travelling is feeling the place, the people, knowing that y’all are human, and on top of that, are lucky to be sharing a common language so communication is not a barrier. So, you ease up and can ask questions. Where to visit. Which means of transport is best. How much you expect to spend. Names of locations. Directions when not sure which side you came from (this is major). When buying stuff, you can bargain with the common language. And even end up making friends with the dancer at the museum, hi Chichi!
Lesson three of solo travelling is putting your finances in order, don’t ignore this one. Everyone has their own financial capabilities so don’t go broke measuring up with others or not have a good time while being too cautious. We converted currencies at the Namanga border and within the town, at a rate of 21. Kenyan being stronger. When making purchases, since we are fond of KES, we would have to divide every amount by 20, the base rate in the market, then compare it with the price at home to consider it fair or expensive. And if bargaining, it took a while longer to load lol.
Me: how much for the shoes
Me: (looks at Hannah waiting for her to do the math because somehow, I don’t want nothing stressing me)
Hannah: Jesus! 800 woman
Me: (looks at seller), I need a discount, what’s your best price
Me: (looks at Hannah again)
Hannah: smh! 750
So, he reduced 2000 in TSH but 100 in KES
Thing is, there’s not much difference in the value of a commodity, just that our currency is more valuable. For instance, soda is TSH 1000 which converts to KSH 50. Doll shoes for TSH 14000 which is KSH 700.
After having bought TSH at 21(border) and 21.5(bureau), spent it and had some remaining, to convert back the TSH to KES, the rate was 22.6. For the money changers at the border, it’s a profit-making business. Advice; spend all TSH well except for a few coins that you carry with you home for remembrance. Because the spend rate is 20 – even lower meaning more TSH for you to spend.
Road Trip To Dar Es Salaam Tanzania
We left for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on a very chilly Wednesday (June 20th) morning, in Nairobi, Kenya roughly at 7am.
Dar Es Salaam is the largest and most populous Swahili speaking city in the world – According to Wikipedia. If you don’t know this, you are told by the writings on shops. Duka la dawa muhimu, vyakula vya mifugo, nunua viwanja bora na Kambele Investments, Wakala.
When you are used to mixed English like me, it takes a while to load these shop titles. Like I would stare for a while, awaken the language part of my brain then go like ooooh, that’s a chemist, an animal food shop, a land seller poster and an agent shop respectively.
The ride view from Namanga to Dar is pretty much like going to shagz (upcountry) featuring small residentials far from each other, a few towns on the road and major forest cover that includes sisal and sunflower. With a daytime speed limit of 30, 50 and upto 80kph, you are sure to enjoy the ride. And oh, buses pass by the Weight Bridge which in Kenya is usually for heavy commercial vehicles only.
We get to Dar at 2 in the AM, the streets are clean and still alive in the night, most hang out joints being on the outside probably due to the high temperatures. Some guys are playing checkers (draughts) in the streets.
From my beautiful hotel room view, I wonder where Diamond lives. Don’t laugh. I mean, he is this icon here at his home. I respect Diamond, boy from Tandale. I appreciate growth from scratch. Upwards and not forgetting the whole journey, then going ahead to become a star who raises other stars.
Did you know that Dar was Tanzania’s capital centre until 1974 when it was replaced by Dodoma.
Dar Es Salaam which means The House of Peace is on the coastline of the Indian Ocean so the weather there is pretty much always summer time.
Day 1, Thursday, June 21st
We have beautiful breakfast, swim through to the afternoon, then a tour around Dar town where we use the ferry at a cost of 200bob, relax, its 10 Bob in Kenya.
We pass by a major college here; The Institute of Finance Management which steals our attention for a while as there’s a dress code mini billboard just at the gate and someone to ensure that.
And this translates to all of Dar, not dress code billboards or a fashion police, but a culture of women in skirts or dresses, below the knee ones. During the day, women from the youngest to the oldest wear dresses with a 2% only doing trousers. Which is almost the opposite in Nairobi especially in this cold season. Later we do a quick pass by the beach then attend a forum held by Rotaract Club of Rafiki, Tanzania where the topic is quite interesting; Alcohol. Did we get to a conclusion on the discussion? Not really, because there are both positive and negative pros of booze. It boils down to you as a person really.
As we head back to the hotel, we can’t help but indulge in the street food, seems way cleaner than home’s hehe. Especially since it’s not as dusty. Here we learn that pweza (octopus) and it’s soup is a natural Viagra.
After dinner, I doze as I am worn out as a rug since we had arrived the previous day at 2am. But a few others explore the night life. Crazy energy guys!
Day 2; Friday, June 22nd
Beautiful breakfast as usual then swimming, and while other left for Kunduchi water park and Marine park, Hannah and I had the privilege of experiencing the public transport to Kariokoo Market.
Dar Transport Situation
There’s several means. Besides the obvious, here’s a more detailed observation. Matatus which stop at every stage are two types; one that you pay while inside (more like Kenyan matatus situation but not as fancy) and those you pay before boarding and get a ticket called mwendokasi/ bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT operates within the town. I would recommend the mwendokasi for new people since they have a screen showing every next stage so chances of getting lost are low. Also, since they save on time as they stop for around two minutes max at every station to allow people to alight and board. Excess passenger carriage here didn’t seem an issue to the traffic authorities. The other means is to use their Uber App which interestingly includes tuk-tuk, (bajaji in TZ) which is very affordable and convenient since it is now more personalized.
We are guided by one of the hotel attendants on which mwendokasi to board and where to alight as she warns us to be careful with our bags. Hannah writes these heavy Swahili terms on her phone’s notepad. PS we don’t get lost. Here I buy my Rasta themed jewellery and we do a little more shopping. As we interacted with the sellers, somehow, they know we are Kenyans. I initially didn’t think we have a Kenyan accent but am proven otherwise. On top of that, we get stares since our trousers and vest dress code don’t quite fit the environment and it screams tourists.
Other guys visited the famous Kunduchi Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park which is a must visit when you visit Dar. Grace did a write up of her experience here. As the name suggests, the place is wild; it has more than 20 water slides each with different levels. Being afraid of water and height, I in time eyed the ones I wanted to try. This place reminded me of back in the village when coming home from school during the rainy season when we would remove our shoes and slide on the mud. I tried slides that needed a floater since it seemed easier. While on it, I felt like the world was ending, my adrenaline was over the roof and I screamed all through, but by the third attempt, it turned out fun. There was this one thin and enclosed tunnel shaped slide that only a few were courageous enough to go through. You should have seen their faces at the end of the tunnel. They were in shock, some said they felt as if someone was slapping their heads repeatedly as the speed had been overwhelming. I would love to go there again.
The more elite guys in the group went for a marine park experience which involved snorkelling and everything beach.
Later into the night we went clubbing at La Chaaz and later Club Masai. Something interesting; very few party people dance at all. Guys sit pretty much the whole time while eating, drinking, talking and visiting the washrooms once a while. Then at some point the DJ feels it’s wise enough to stop the music and talk for about three whole minutes advertising the club’s food menu. Smh!
Day 3; Saturday, June 23rd
Buzzed from the previous night, breakfast is followed by quick power naps which had me wake up at 1pm.
Guys have left for several sight seeings majority attending the Goat festival which is Wakanda themed.
We (Hannah and I) decide to check out the history of Tanzania; The Village museum. We request one of the hotel attendants to order a bajaji which we end up paying TSH 1000. Very fair infact. The cashier at the Village Museum is very helpful and welcoming and deciphers how Kenyan we are hehe.
Each charged TSH 2500, we go through roughly 1o houses and huts which were houses to the tribes back then. Btw, tribalism here is unheard of and they look at us Kenyans in shock when they hear of our tribal divisions.
We also get to be entertained by dancers which gets us feeling touristic and presidential material.
At the entrance are a few souvenir shops where I get some souvenirs including bookmarks. We pass by one of the commonest food outlets here which serve chips (fried with eggs at your request), chicken, mshikaki. Sugarcane juice is famous here too.
Hannah makes a friend who sees us to the matatu stage.
Aloha themed dinner
The main reason for the Dar trip was to officially install the new President of Rotaract Club of Karura and celebrate that in style.
All together, we looked like a small water body with water lilies floating or like we were attending a beach wedding. But somehow, I did black. And sneakers. Black ones. I didn’t quite get the aloha theme until I saw girls looking like flowers.
Departure day, June 24th
Well this one was quite dramatic.
Saturday night had us go out and decide to not sleep for departure time was 6am. Club Element to be specific, I loved the music, I danced like it was now or never, thank God for the Kenyan crowd since we lit it up. The crowd there pretty much sits through out the whole night. But us, noo, we can’t let good loud music go to waste. Hi Nge’ndo.
We get to the hotel at 430am, make coffee and decide to chill till the bus comes. Well, we all fell asleep. It is around 7am. Mkare wake up! At this point my greatest fear is being left by the bus. So, I run to my room, shower and park, take my luggage downstairs, have breakfast and chill. The bus is late. So we chill chill and chill. Panic strikes until there’s no more of it. The trip organisers have already left for the bus offices to manage the situation. We sleep, swim, we have lunch, still awaiting our ride home. Our bus gets there at 2pm. The management says there was a mechanical problem, and as grown up as we get, we don’t make a big fuss of it, and simply pray we get home safe.
It’s early morning hours when we cross the border. I am the first one to alight since my hometown is as you know…. Kitengela, yes you got that right. Well this time am not going to work on Monday like i did on the Uganda trip, so I carry on with the day to do lots other activities. I don’t sleep as I thought I would. I have a busy morning and a very slow afternoon, the way a slow computer shuts down. Because when am beat or not having slept, I am active as an ant in the morning but a tortoise from afternoon.
Its interesting how we study other humans when we visit a new place like they some other species. The way for instance, apes are studied. This morning, we just passed a safari vehicle with whites inside and with none of them on their phone, all looking at us ‘apes’ smiling. And I know one must be a blogger waiting to go back home and tell stories of how Kenyans look gloomy in their matatus heading to work early morning. How some people don’t leave their phones. How rough the Kenyan drivers can get. How decorated the public transport is. How their policemen are neat or something. The traffic situation.
Because we travellers love to look and give stories back home.
Ps, the use of apes here is just for comparison sake.
I hope you enjoyed my story or at least learnt something about The United Republic of Tanzania.
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