On The Road Again

Kristen and I on a boda, during one of our previous trips to Kampala.

After a tearful goodbye with Kristen, I carted all my things down the street from the hostel we were staying at in Kampala, to the bus depot where I would be departing for Dar es Salaam. Amazingly enough, the bus actually left on time, so by shortly after 3pm my bags were safely (I hoped) stowed underneath the bus and we were on our way. We were travelling to Tanzania via Nairobi, and the first 12 or so hours of the trip were glorious. Our bus was barely even half full, so I managed to finagle myself the entire back row of seats, and was able to spend most of the trip to Kenya stretched out quite comfortably. We crossed the border at around 8:30pm, and I had no troubles getting my transit visa. After a few more hours of driving along bumpy roads, we arrived in Nairobi shortly before 4am. Unfortunately, we had to switch buses there, and the bus we were boarding didn’t arrive until 6:30am, which meant sitting in a very crowded waiting room for a few hours. They had CNN turned up on the television set, so at least I was able to pass the time catching up on the news from Egypt.

The view from the bus, just after we'd crossed the border into Tanzania.

We were assigned different spots on the next (much more full) bus, which was unfortunate since it meant I lost my window seat and no longer had empty space to stretch out. Ah, well. There was some beautiful scenery as we drove through Kenya and crossed into Tanzania, though I didn’t spot any wildlife. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, despite somewhat frequent (albeit brief) stops every 30 minutes or so because we had, as my seatmate termed it, a “sick bus”. Nothing broke down, however, and I spent most of the time reading and listening to my ipod. I really can’t recommend podcasts highly enough – I spent many hours listening to sports, culture, and political gabfests, plus this great National Public Radio interview program called Fresh Air, that features some fascinating interviews. On one particularly noteworthy episode, the host interviewed a man who was part of Martin Luther King Jr’s inner circle, who was recounting his experiences on the day of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Completely enthralling stuff…

We pulled into the bus station in Dar shortly before 10pm, though I stayed on until the bus drove to their offices in the city centre. From there, it was just a short cab ride to the YMCA hostel, where I had to cart my things up three or four flights of stairs, but was rewarded with a nice single room with a balcony (!) and fan. The fan was especially key, since it is swelteringly hot here, even at night.

The view from the ferry as we approached port in Zanzibar.

Monday morning I headed off for the ferry terminal, to catch the boat that would take me across to Zanzibar. I loved the directions I was given on how to get there – “go straight until you hit the water, and then turn left”. Living in landlocked Luweero, it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to navigate with water as a marker. I opted to take the slow ferry across, since I wasn’t in a hurry and figured it would give me more time to enjoy the scenery. My $20 ticket got me access to the “VIP” area of the boat, which meant that I spent the crossing in a very comfortable pleather armchair in a room with air conditioning – a most welcome amenity, since it was again incredibly hot. We arrived in Zanzibar mid-afternoon, and after going through immigration again, it was just a short walk to the guest house where I’d reserved for the week. One of the many touts (unregistered guides who swarm tourists at entry points, seeking to make commissions by directing them to specific hotels and tour operators) informed me that the Flamingo Guest House I was trying to find had closed, on account of the owner dying. I suspect he was just hoping that I would be deterred from heading there and would instead choose a place where he would get a better commission, since when I arrived it was very much open and had a room waiting for me.

I ate dinner at a lovely little restaurant around the corner from where I’m staying. Today, after enjoying the free, absolutely massive breakfast on the rooftop of the guest house, I spent the rest of the morning walking around town and figuring out how I’d like to spend the rest of my time here. Now that I’ve located a spot with wireless internet, I’ll keep updating about my activities.