Sunday, August 29, 2010
Arusha, Tanzania

Ok.. for those of you not in the know TIA (This is Africa) is a saying to represent everything that can and will go on.. and WOW did I live that yesterday. Every preconceived notion I had about personal space, personal hygiene, and just about every other Anmerican value we have was totally raped from me.. but to explain..
Why doesn’t everyone jump into the Mr. Peabody way back machine with me and I’ll share my day.

5pm – Zanzibar – Me to owner the night before .. “my clothes will be ready at 5am .. dry and ready to go”.. “yes”.. “I need to leave for the ferry at 5am, you will have the clothes ready”.. “yes”.. “your sure because I can’t leave without my clothes”.. “yes your clothes will be ready”.. “and they will be dry and folded”..”yes, no pbroblem”…
midnight – Zanzibar – me to front desk manager.. “how are my clothes coming along”.. “clothes?”..”yes my laundry.. is it drying yet”.. “I don’t know”.. “can you go check”.. “I do not think they will be ready”.. “can you go check please”.. comes back with SOAKING shorts and shirt..me- “are you going to get these dried before morning?”.. “maybe.. I don’t know”.. “I can’t pack wet clothes, I need these dried like we agreed”.. “yes OK, I will get them dried”

5am – Zanzibar – I walk out and he is folding my clothes.. “is there breakfast ready for me like agreed?”, “no there is no breakfast”.. “I paid for breakfast and you said you would have some toast and jam and fruit out for me”.. “ok, maybe”.. I walk upstairs to find another gentleman eating breakfast.. back down to get mine.

5:30am – ready to leave for ferry… my clothes are on my bed folded.. and WET! No choice but to put wet clothes into the bag.. off I go to the ferry.

6am – on the Ferry after trying to get on the wrong ferry.. had a nice outside deck seat but was told that was coach and I had 1st class ticket and I needed to move inside. 10 foot seas and a bunch of land lubbers around me I spend two hours on the ferry watching a bunch of Zanzibar residents loosing thier breakfast into their sea-sick bag .. all while watching reruns of Mr. Bean.. very surreal

9:15am – off the ferry.. into the barracuda feeding frenzy outside the ferry docks.. fresh Muzungo (white people!).. I get into the taxi.. agree for a good price and off we go to the bus station.. I’ll admit I am scared of this station as I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about getting swindled, robbed and put on the wrong bus.

9:45am – Unbungu bus station.. chaos is too mild a word.. I can’t even explain the sight of men knocking each other over literally to get to the white boy and help him out of his money. I admit I got taken up in the frenzy and had the worst situation possible.. someone with my bag and another porter helping out. I was told to only take one of two bus lines.. no those lines don’t have any more busses running to Arusha today.. let me talk to the ticket counter.. off we go through the hoards, people grabbing me, yelling at me.. insanity! Finally get to the booking office only to see that there is clearly collusion going on between the dude with my bag and the booking office .. I can’t break through it for some reason.. but I must make it to Arusha tonight if I am to make my safari tomorrow.

10:30am – finally I have been convince that the Dar Express and the Killimanjaro express do not have any more busses running, I still think I was bamboozled there but I have no published schedule to prove them wrong and get on the bus. So I’m hustled on to the Saibaba Express .. “this is an express bus?” .. “Yes” – LIE #1, “This is a luxury bus?”.. “Yes” – LIE #2, “What time does it leave” “10:45” – LIE #3, “How long does it take?”..”8 hours” – LIE #4 (and the biggest!)

11:45am – bus pulls out of station after a pushing match over the price of a luggage transport and another 5 people piling onto the bus in the middle of the street as we cross traffic.

Now from here things get fun.. the so called 8 hour trip turns into 13 hours.. the seat of the bus has NO padding.. there are two men sitting next to me on a three person bench and all are my size and across from me are two more large men with nothing more than 18″ for an aisle between us.

Now during the course of this bus tour we stopped.. oh I’d conservatively say.. every 25 minutes to pick up and drop off passengers.. express my ASS! The best part is the variety of people joining and leaving.. African gang members.. men with car fenders.. bushels of fruit.. computer monitors.. and my personal favorite the chickens .. yes CHICKENS! Right at my feet.. Now through all of this the guy next to me has decided my shoulder is a really comfy pillow and even though he has wedged his elbow into my ribs he wants to use me as a pillow.. I have no fight left in me.. let it go.. Oh, and lets certainly not forget the every present buttock on my head, breast to my chin, crotch in my face and foot being stepped on as the bus riders decide that the need to come forward to stand right on top of me for 30 minutes before their stop.. I even had one large set of African female buttocks wedged on my ear and the piece de resistance.. they vibrated heartily with a gaseous explosion.. yes.. you can put the picture together.. RIGHT ON MY HEAD! This Is Africa!!

11:00pm Finally arrive in Arusha and then have to negotiate being able to pull money out of the ATM to pay for my safari since they will not take my credit card.. it happens to completely drain that account due to some other transfers of money that didn’t happen automatically.. exchange the money into US because the parks here in Tanzania only accept USD for entry fees.. very odd!

midnight – after a harrowing 125Km/hr car ride in the pitch black with headlights that might as well be candles in a jar, over roads with 2 foot potholes that we are dodging like a formula 1 driver with a suspension that has completely lost all functionality..

Needless to say I was wired and tired and stressed and relieved all in one by the time I got there.. this ride had me laughing at the absurdity of how much I take for granted at home.. it had me on the verge of tears with frustration and isolation… it had me enjoying a culture completely different from my own.. In short it was an experience that pushed me to the envelope. I can’t say I want to do it again, but having done it once I can move on in my life.

Tomrrow.. SAFARI!

Pictures & Video

This is Luxury?

 

The fruit has started to collect

The fruit has started to collect

 

View from our little rest stop

View from our little rest stop

 

The Saibaba Express.. ha!

The Saibaba Express.. ha!

 

 

8 Replies to “TIA!!! (This Is Africa!)”

  1. You have to watch "The Gods Must Be Crazy" again when you get back to the states. It's amazing how much you can relate once you've been to Africa. So glad I wasn't on that bus ride though. Makes the Hurghada trip sound like heaven. 🙂

  2. Bill, Bill, Bill… we are living vicariously through you on your travels, and giggling along with your exasperation, perspiration, and flatulation. Only you, Bill! I think you handled it correctly though, what could you do? Consider the alternative?! On the bus, if you'd stood up and went crazy on them, they'd have either dropped you on the side of the road in who KNOWS where, or killed you. Mr. Bean rules! And there's no need for subtitles! He's good in any language. Hilarious story about trying to dry clothes in liquid climates….. will message it to you on FB as it's kind of long…but it starts out with "once there was a priest, 2 nuns, and an el camino…" And I'm signed up! Have been! Just check my FB more often than my email. More pictures! Jessica

  3. Funny to see that Michelle now sees how good she had it! It can always get worse…..and with you it usually does. Laughed out loud!!! Touched the senses. I could taste the soot, hear the chickens, feel the pushing elbow,see the utter chaos, and smell the…….. You are right! TIA!!!

  4. P! What can I tell you? I reread this entry so many times and LMAO. I know it must have sucked but I honestly think I wouldve liked to be sitting right beside you egging you on. Just think, there couldve been the rookie traveler with the oversized bag taking up oh so much room that was desperately lacking to add to TIA 😉

  5. Bill, I have worked in the hospitality industry a LOT. And the ignorance in the previous comment is just hypocrisy at it's best. Obviously FROM Africa, this poster doesn't want to acknowledge the poor service you received, other than to say it is your due for being a "dumb" traveler. She doesn't understand that step 2 could very well happen and not just for you but MANY if they don't clean up their acts, and then where will the poor workers be? In the service/hospitality industry here in the U.S.A., in my experience, the point was to give the customer the best possible experience, with honesty and politeness at all times, so they not only spend their dollars, but come back again and again to spend their dollars, tell their friends what a wonderful experience it was so they'll spend THEIR dollars…. word of mouth is and always will be the strongest advertising tool their is. The ignorant poster before me is perpetuating the problem by saying, Ha Ha, you deserved to be treated poorly and ripped off and robbed and lied to because you didn't have an IRONCLAD travel plan?!? No, you went to a 'civilized' country to enjoy all the wonders they have to share, only to be treated, at times, shabbily by the people that want your dollars to come to their town, their attractions. The only things you would have found had you 'researched' your trip any more would be that these places already had a TERRIBLE reputation, deserved in every aspect. You had those kind of experiences here? Managers would be bending over backwards to make it right and make sure that you left with a smile on your face.If we just followed the simple rule of 'treat others as you would be treated' then certain parts of Africa have left you the short end of the stick, my friend.Jess