It wouldn’t be enough to write some lines to describe what we experienced in Tanzania, as well as it’s impossible to see this country in the two weeks Milande and I have been spending there. But I’ll try to make a recap, at least for letting you guys barely form an idea on what backpacking in Africa might mean.
Yes, because first of all this is the land of NO low-cost flights and NO promise you’ll get to your destination whenever you wish. With my backpack already tied up around my chest, I receive a call from Uganda: Milande. “My flight is 26 hours late”. Nice. Then, let’s fly to Dar es Salaam (capital of Tanzania) and wait for the adventure to take off.
Once landed, I get another nice surprise: my amount of Ethiopian birr cash isn’t accepted anywhere for change, my Mastercard doesn’t work in the airport’s ATM and my few euros are not enough to pay my visa. Then it’s just the moment to rely on the elasticity of local people: the immigration office allows me to enter into the country under the deal I’ll be able to get my stamp in Zanzibar. Deal, then. And while hardly negotiating with an expensive cab driver, the mosquitoes and the crazy dusk heat bring me officially far away from the Ethiopian highlands. But I can’t lie: in that moment, despite the stress a small part of me felt home again.
In Dar, which remembers of some tropical cities in the Caribbeans, people are friendly and welcoming, and most of all, white folks are not object of creepy attentions! Apart from someone approaching a bit closer than usual and a couple of army guys blaming me for not keeping a copy of my visa to show to the authorities around the city (that’s a serious crime you pay..bribing them with 50$. Duh, sure!) walking in the city is perfectly fine, especially where the heat lets you alive. But Milande is finally arrived and for us it’s just time for Zanzibar!
The next day here we are: the Stone Town. Possibly, it’s warmer than the Capital and the hundreds of people who surrounds you to propose a tour throughout the city don’t make the things easier. Our plan is rather to reach Nungwi, a small town in the North, where we had already arranged few nights in a guest house on the beach. Then, we step on a Dala-Dala (typical local transport, thankfully open on the back) and with other 25 people ammassed on eachother we go for another 2 hours-trip, one of the most uncomfortable (as well as cheapest) I ever had. But it’s definitely worth a ride, at least to take a look to the inland! About Zanzibar: very nice beaches (and weather, despite the low season), breathtaking sunsets and wonderful sea food (while tasting calamari and octopus again I SERIOUSLY felt home). Only a drawback: bunches of people stopping you on the beach proposing tours, tattoos, necklesses, paintings (A refusal I made also costed me a witchcraft: wait for that). But what strikes is that they know perfectly where you’re going and what you’re about to do! I guess our plan to spend a day trip snorkeling around has been known by a dozen folks, who wished us to enjoy it and not to forget about their offers. Jambo!
We wished to stay longer in this sunny paradise, even since our accommodation has been great and right in front of the sea, where we could have the best beers ever at sunset. But the wild Tanzania is calling us. Then, after being back to the mainland (and escaped from the scam called: “your hostel has been burnt down tonight, choose rather my friend’s accommodation” launched by our cab driver), the next day we are ready for 12 long hours bus ride towards Arusha, the closest city to the “Northern route”. It’s Safari time!
Here the atmosphere turns different: people are quite attracted by tourists and we are warned not to be too around in the night. After skipping many bunches of “Flycatchers” (namely those who follow you everywhere in the city inviting you to join their Safari tours, very often hiding scams) at the very last moment we discard the idea to hire our own 4WD (eventually a crazy expensive solution) and we decide to join a small group of backpackers through a tour operator. 4 days around Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti look seriously appealing, and we really can’t refuse. Even though we still don’t have any ticket for the bus heading back to Dar and we risk not to catch it after the Safari, we decide to take such risk and just enjoy the experience.
What to say about safari? In my opinion, there is one thing which makes all the parks we saw so similar with each other: the sense of freedom. Either in the splendid nature of Tarangire, the volcanic gorge of Ngorongoro and the wide plans of Serengeti, the thousands of animals which live in these enormous natural environments behave totally according to their nature, and it’s not difficult to find zebras and gyraffes crossing your way, tree-climbing lions and leopards, and elephants which don’t really agree with human presence on their territory. Even a big elephant crossing your campsite is actually normal, considering that you are the guest there! And we felt the same way while seeing Masai population (which aren’t allowed live in the Serengeti ‘cause of their hunting nature) still following their traditional way of living and dressing up, without being contaminated by a “westernization” process rather spread in Tanzania. And that hopefully won’t transform radically the rest of the country in few years. Well, in the end great company and perfect weather made this adventure unforgettable. For the rest, I will make our pictures talk for me 🙂
Time to come back “home” then, but the last surprises are behind the corner. After another long bus ride to Dar (yeah, we managed to take it in the last 5 minutes), thankfully we find an hotel where to spend our last..3 hours of deserved rest. But once I show up early in the morning at the airport, I look at the timetable and..”FLIGHT CANCELLED”. Looks like a nightmare, since I already guess I will lose my connection flight from Nairobi to Addis Ababa, which happens just once per day. And indeed, that’s how it actually goes: at 5 AM an employee from Kenya Airways communicates me I need to wait until next day, 6 PM. I say bye to Milande, and I really wish I did it with another mood: after all this has been maybe the most amazing trip we had together. I turn completely calm just when KA offers me an accommodation in a luxurious hotel in Dar, transports and meals included. Apologies accepted, even though I will have the occasion to argue with them again and my long journey back will bring me home late in the night. But as said at the beginning..that’s how it goes!
And with a couple of nice bags still hanging under my eyes..
See you at my last article! – 36 😉