Friday, 19 October 2012

The Road to Dar

Friday October 20th

Having made the decision to go to Dar as Salaam, things moved very quickly.  Staff informed me that there is a basi that actually starts in Pangani and goes straight through to Dar via Tanga so I decided this was the best bet and, once again, Denis came to the rescue with transport to town; me on the back and my carry-on case resting on his petrol tank.  He had bought me a ticket yesterday, so I even had a booked seat D1 (provided you get there first and they haven’t sold it twice).  So at 7:00 I boarded the basi with its name boldly marked across the top of the windscreen – ‘Shilingi’.  I looked in my hand and the company name across the top of the ticket said ‘Shillingi VIP’ so things were looking good so far.  I found my seat and noticed straight away that the windows had catches that worked so we had another positive and then the driver pulled down the cover at the front of the bus and displayed a TV screen.  This was VIP!  Not too ‘posh’ though to neglect the waiting Norwich City fans who boarded just before we left for their ten minute journey to school.  I must admit I envied them as I settled down for the eight and a half hour trip.

Any thoughts that this was going to be a high speed, none stop trip were quickly dispelled as the bus stopped at the junction for Boza and took on further passengers.  One of these was Mr Pius who I knew had a three day trip to an island in Lake Victoria for a family funeral, so my problems paled into insignificance.
The journey was not going to be none stop but this basi could certainly motor and we arrived at Tanga in record time to drop off and take on passengers before hitting the blacktop to Dar.


Apart  from the driver,s papers being inspected by the polisi seven times over the journey, which I’ve found is quite the standard, the hours passed in conversation, reading and people watching until we finally arrived at Ubungu bus station 45 minutes earlier than I had been told to expect.  This meant that Karim, although on his way, was snarled up in the usual city traffic and I was on my own.

Thankfully Ubungu is a very different place in the bright afternoon sunshine than it was on my previous pre-dawn visit and, with a grip on my bag and valuables that would have required any pickpocket to have a surgical degree , I descended the steps.  I expertly (?) fielded the offers to carry my case/find a taxi/find another basi/or simply take some of your money anyway and moved along the pavement to a quieter spot to take stock.  I had some time to spend and it might as well be used constructively, so I decided it would make sense to get a ticket for my return journey on Monday.  I finally found the ticket office, or rather offices, with a combination of my poor Swahili and scanning for someone who looked as if they might speak English.  The building looked like an old fashioned primary school and had a very long packed corridor with upwards of twenty small rooms off, all displaying the company names above the door and containing three or four desks.  Needless to say, having walked the full length, Shillingi VIP was not one of them so I swallowed my pride and accepted the help of one of my many followers and was shown to the correct office.  I parted with a few hundred shilling and set upon the task of booking a ticket, ensuring that the language barrier did not deposit me in Dodoma on Wednesday morning.  There was a slight misunderstanding when it came to paying as I was asked for ‘elfu kumi na tano’ (15 000) whereas the journey down had been ‘elfu kumi na nne’ (14 000).  The man muttered something about ‘food’ but as I had certainly missed seeing a trolley dolly on the way down, I said ‘no food’ and the price was adjusted accordingly.

I went back out into the station, found a café with tables, right under a massive sign declaring the ‘World of Hitachi’ and having texted Karim with my position settled down for a long cold drink.

The drink had to be a long one as it appears a protest down town had got a little out of hand and the protesters were fighting the polisi (who obviously must do something, other than stop buses).  Consequently all traffic was avoiding this area like the plague and Karim eventually arrived at 4:45.

A reasonably quick trip to my hotel, after we’d got through the first melee, a quick shower and Cliff arrived to take me to an Indian restaurant for me sit to and sigh and eat and sigh and thoroughly ‘pig out’.  Bliss.

Incidentally I got a real shock as I walked into the hotel room, to see this wild man looking back at me.  I've never mentioned before that nowhere at the YMCA or school do I have access to a mirror, so I hadn't actually seen myself for six weeks.  I’m sure you’ll all well appreciate what a shock to the system I had with that first sighting.


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