June 27, 2012

First full day here in Tanzania!

Our group is finally together.

First impressions…

After a long but good flight, we got off the airplane at Kilimanjaro Airport, descended onto the tarmac and walked into the building, waited for a while to have our visas registered. No problems at all! After getting the bags, they gave us two options for customs “Customs- nothing to declare” and “Customs- declaration.” We choose “nothing to declare” and literally exited the airport with 7 giant bags between 3 of us, and had no questions asked. Brilliant.

Dilan and Odion met us at the airport, along with John, one of the local boys who’s been helping us here and Max, our driver. It was only 7:30 but already pitch black outside so it was difficult to see the countryside we were driving through. The most striking thing at first was the total lack of light. No streetlamps, and the small houses along the way have minimal if any lighting. Even in the city, almost no lighting and everything is downward directed.

The ride there gave us our first near death experience. So, the driving here is insane. There are no street lights, just speed bumps every now then. And literally no driving rules that I can discern. As our driver went to change lanes to pass a van, we literally changed lanes into an oncoming car. The reaction of both drivers? Oh, speed up more. Neha, Aaron and I saw our life flash before eyes. The oncoming car ended up swerving around us so seriously, at that point there were 3 cars squeezed onto this somewhat paved road, with us between the van and the oncoming car. Yikes. Welcome to Tanzanian driving!

We got to the hostel and the rest of the night was a bit of a blur. The girls bought some pizza for us which was quite good, but I was just feeling confused and tired and a bit shell shocked.

First night under a mosquito net. I fell asleep quite quickly.

Today, we got to sleep in. Yay! Bethany took today off to show us the city. First things first, getting money from the bank. Current exchange is about 1500 Tanzanian Shillings per US dollar. Then it was off to eat some breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, juice and fruit and the delicious masala chai here, VERY gingery!) and get phones (which was a very long affair- things move slowly in Tanzania). Next, Bethany took us to one of the craft markets. Amazing! So many beautiful paintings, masks, bracelets, earrings. As you walk around everyone says “Welcome, you are welcome” along with “looking is free” haha.

Next, we went to the large fruit and vegetable market. Quite the experience. The smells are intense- dried fish, rotting fruit, stray dogs. Even so much as glance at a stall and people descend on you, touting their wares, asking what you do what if it isn’t this, and you find yourself surrounded by small children hoping to sell plastic bags to hold your fruit. At this time, we were also desperately trying to avoid a “flycatcher” we had picked up- one of the local men who introduce themselves to you on the street, and then sell you a safari or whatever else. This one was particularly persistent, following us everywhere, trying to “help”. When Bethany told him “Basi” which means “enough” and to leave, he simply stated he was now speaking to his friend, Aaron and continued to walk with us.

Everywhere you go though, people say “Karibu” which means “you are welcome” and asks where you’re from. On hearing “Canada”, they offer you two options, “Toronto or Vancouver?” 🙂

So far, it’s been new and different and exciting, but great. Our group cooked a big spaghetti dinner together and spent the evening speaking with a fellow traveler and Quebecker who has been to Africa as a tour guide many times and is now travelling across Eastern Africa in a van he is currently altering to act more as an RV. Lots of useful details about Mt. Meru and Kili climbing. And wow, his photos from safaris are truly worthy of National Geographic and have made us all incredibly excited for our own trip!

But now, I must off to bed. We have an early morning ahead of us.

Lala salama (peaceful dreams). 🙂



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