Mad Dash to Dar

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This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, April 27, 2004 was originally posted on April 29, 2004.

DAY 192:  Before the sun was awake, I was awaken around five in the morning by the chants and Muslim prayers coming from two different sets of loudspeakers from what I gathered were in two points of town, one somewhat far away (but still audible) and one right across the street because it was blaring through my window and into my hotel room.

I WASN’T LYING WHEN I TOLD THE SHADY GUY the night before that I was planning to stay in Mbeya for a couple of days.  I knew that the Scandinavian bus company was popular for its “Princess Class” service (they served drinks and showed movies), and had to be booked at least a day in advance according to my guidebook.  My plan of the day was to spend the day in Mbeya to book my ticket for the next day, catch up on Blog duties, possibly check out a friend of Peter, the Mbeyan I met in Nkhata Bay, and exchange the remainder of my Malawian kwacha since I only had 11,500 Tanzanian shillings left (about $11.50).

Since my agenda for the day wasn’t packed with activities, I took my time getting up and out of bed, leisurely taking a shower and a dump in the communal squat toilet.  I was ready to leave the hotel by around a quarter to eight, hoping that a bank would be open at the top of the hour so I could get at least the money exchange out of the way.  The guy at the hotel told me they wouldn’t be open until nine, so I just walked over to the Scandinavian bus office to see what they had to say.

“I need to go to Dar,” I told the desk attendant, knowing that the big city Dar-es-Salaam was known locally simply as “Dar.” 

“There’s one leaving in a couple of minutes,” he informed me, which was a total shocker.

“Today?!  Right now?  Can I get on that bus?”

“It’s leaving soon.”

“My bags are just across the street.  I can run over and grab them real quick.”

He called over the bus conductor and asked for some advice.

“We’ll give you five minutes.”

I ran back to the hotel, threw everything in my bag, zipped it up, locked it, left my key at the desk and returned in four in one hurried mad dash. 

The desk guy started writing out my ticket while my eyes wandered to a sign behind him:  “Mbeya - Dar, TSh 13,500”  I thought the guy told me 11,500, but I guess I was mistaken.

“I thought you said eleven five,” I said.  I laid it out on the table for all to see.  “That’s all I have.”  The guy stopped writing the ticket to consult the conductor.

“Can you take kwacha?” I pleaded.

“Dollars?”

“Can you take dollars?”

“How much to do you have?”

I had a ten spot in my wallet.  “I can give you ten, and 5000.”  I took the two bills and gave it to the attendant.  “Ten, and 5000.  For the courtesy.”  The extra TSh 1500 wasn’t necessary and he just took the ten and TSh 3,500.  Everyone seemed happy and I got on the bus, seat number 33, which was in my own row for the entire eleven-hour journey.


IT WAS NO SURPRISE TO ME that the Scandinavian ticket guy didn’t take the extra TSh 1,500.  Tanzania is a predominantly Muslim country and according to Lonely Planet, was also a fairly law-abiding one.  I recalled what someone mentioned to me in Windhoek, Namibia:  “They’re all Muslim in Tanzania.  It’s not in their nature to be violent.”  This was welcome news in my ears amidst the more recent stereotype that all Muslims are violent extremists, for I knew that the teachings of Islam stood for peace.  In fact, the predominately Muslim city of Dar-es-Salaam means “Haven of Peace.”

It was a good thing I was traveling to the “Haven of Peace” on Scandinavian because they offered occasional free Cokes, cookies and water for their slightly higher fee.  This was good news to me because I only had a couple thousand shillings left and I knew I might need them for my arrival in the city.  Therefore, to save on cash, I had a pack of dry ramen noodles, which I crushed into bite-sized pieces, sprinkled flavor on them and ate them out of the bag like a snack food.  At least this starchy (and really ghetto) meal wasn’t as smelly as the hard-boiled eggs the guy in front of me ate; his silent-but-deadly farts attested to this when I could barely breathe.

The bus cruised through the beautiful Tanzanian countryside, passed rolling hills, distant mountains and vast grasslands (picture above).  Vendors with good on their heads tried to sell us items through the window at occassional stops.  At one point we drove through the Mikumi National Park and rode passed a herd of impala and a pack of baboons. 

Meanwhile, inside, the conductor put on a bootleg copy of Saving Private Ryan, which pleased the masses, and later on, Dangerous Liasons which to an African was so boring, he just turned it off when no one was watching.  (I wasn’t watching either because whoever dubbed it cut out all the nude parts.  I just read my book instead.)


RURAL TRANSFORMED INTO SUBURBAN, and suburban turned into urban.  As we were within radio range of Dar-es-Salaam about nine and a half hours since departure from Mbeya, I heard the familiar sounds of American hip hop (and the unfamiliar sounds of Swahili-speaking DJs) over the bus’ speakers.  When you haven’t heard it in ages, the music of Beyoncé never sounded better.  Meanwhile, outside the window on the outskirts of Dar-es-Salaam was a little shack labeled the “50 Cent Class Cutz Salon.”

We arrived at the bus terminal by dusk, and I hopped in a cab to take me the additional 11 km. to the city center.  Luckily for me, the taxi driver also took a combination of American money and Tanzanian shillings, otherwise I might have been stuck.


“WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” John the cabbie asked me when I started light conversation with him in the front seat.

I hestitated before saying the usual responses — “New York” or “The States” — and said, “Philippines.”

“Oh, Filipino?  I thought maybe Korean.”

Playing the race card worked in my favor because apparently “Philippines” was the right thing to say.

“Philippines, good.  America, bad,” the mostly-Swahili-speaking taxi driver said in caveman English.  “Bush is bad.”

“Yeah, I don’t know anyone who likes Bush,” I told him, citing the opinions of about 98% of the travelers I’d met so far.  (Only two people — one South African, one South African/Australian — were very pro-Bush.)

I tried to hide my American accent by putting a slight Filipino/South African spin on my words.  I knew that for the most part Muslims were a peaceful people, but I also knew we all lived in a crazy and ever-changing world.  This wasn’t the first anti-American vibe I’d felt on my trip so far.  I had seen anti-American stickers as early as Rio de Janeiro in February, and I’ve noticed that as I’ve headed more north through Africa there was more of an anti-American sentiment, from the Osama bin Laden watches to the numerous Saddam Hussein Hawaiian shirts I’ve noticed people wearing.  Anti-American conversations that I’ve overheard were more frequent.  Whether or not this was contributed to the fact that it was getting more and more Muslim as I headed north I can not say for sure.


THE RIDE INTO THE CITY was longer than anticipated with the rush-hour weekday traffic.  I kept the vibe positive between John the cabbie and myself, asking him to teach me useful phrases in Swahili, but the only one I could remember was Asante sana, which means “thank you,” probably only because I heard Rafiki say it in The Lion King.

When the taxi rode through a questionably dark alley, I kept my hand on the door handle just in case.  It was unnecessary because the alley led back to a main road where the Safari Inn was located, the place mentioned in my Lonely Planet Shoestring Guide as one of the better value places to stay, at TSh 8,400 for a single room with private bathroom, plus breakfast.  Luckily for me, they let me forego advance payment since I had no proper cash on me.

After not eating anything substantial all day, I just vegged out in my room with another emergency can of tuna and started the long and arduous duty of catching on Blog duties.  I didn’t leave my room at all for after a long day of travelling; I had found my little haven of peace in an even bigger one.






Next entry: Tomorrow in Tanzania

Previous entry: Racing The Sun To Tanzania




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Comments for “Mad Dash to Dar”

  • HEY GANG, this message is actually being written by MARKYT on my behalf because the computer I’m at in the hotel in Dar-es-Salaam totally blows and I keep on loosing text…  Anyway, I maybe NIZ for a week, maybe two, if I go find a Kili tour company tomorrow… As I write this at 9:47 p.m. the night before, I still don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow.  Ain’t travelling grand?  Blog you later!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  09:51 PM


  • NOELLE:  Thanks for your donation, hope you like that TGT baby tee!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  09:53 PM


  • MARKYT:  Thanks for your on-going support! (yup, Erik told me to post that…)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  09:53 PM


  • that 50 cent guy is everywhere huh?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  12:36 AM


  • lol.  dry ramen noodles??  man that is nasty.  totally ghetto

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  01:27 AM


  • SCOTT - nasty?  don’t knock it till you try it my friend….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  01:29 AM


  • seems like it would make my mouth too dry…...its like shoving some spghetti noodles in your mouth and thinking its bubble gum

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  01:33 AM


  • SCOTT - hahah..ok…well put…it’s still pretty damn good…i’ve done it college!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  04:38 AM


  • i sold him those noodles!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  06:48 AM


  • GREETINGS from the shadows of Kilimanjaro!  Of course, there is high speed internet here…

    I didn’t anticipate it, so I have nothing written just yet… perhaps yesterday’s entry will just be a part of the bigger group from the NIZ I will embark on…

    Hang in there!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  03:46 PM


  • LOVE,MOM:  Before I forget… If I’m in the NIZ on Mother’s Day, then HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!  love,erik

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  03:49 PM


  • Hey erik, glad to hear you got on Da’ Bus! the amzing race will never end (unless your money does) Just enjoying your stories, it’s Friday, have a good weekend! N smile

    Oh, BTW, neeraj, lyn, JP and myself did an X-TREEME backcountry snow boarding trip. Pretty cool, hiked up a mountain which took 5 hours then rode down which took 1 hour! (felt like 15 mintues) but it was worth it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  05:37 PM


  • Hey erik

    i just got back from Europe (paris/London) and feelings about Americans there are not good either. I felt isolated during some conversations and I’m really Australian.
    Otherwise I loved Paris.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  11:24 PM


  • It doesn’t surprise me that even 50Cent can be found in the most far out of the way places!!

    Rap truly rules the world!

    Word Life!!

    Moman!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/29  at  11:40 PM


  • wait….50 cent raps?...is that you call it?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/30  at  12:06 AM


  • Actually in Japan dry ramen noodles (that have been fried or something) are sold as a snack.  Kinda like chips. 
    Erik, how can you read a book during Dangerious Liasons??? That’s like one of the best movies ever made.

    Posted by Liz  on  04/30  at  04:15 AM


  • Hi bud,
    it was nice to hear your voice.  The # you need is in your e-mail from mark.
    have a safe climbing…

    God bless..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/30  at  02:27 PM


  • man.  THOSE SQUATS TOILETS are the worst.  THE ABSOLUTE WORST!!!!!!

    Posted by hanalei  on  05/01  at  03:52 AM


  • man.  THOSE SQUAT TOILETS are the worst.  THE ABSOLUTE WORST!!!!!!

    Posted by hanalei  on  05/01  at  03:52 AM


  • SQUAT TOILETS are so bad that the i just had to doublepost.  twice, i say TWICE!

    Posted by hanalei  on  05/01  at  03:55 AM


  • Wow more squat toilets!  I ran into these when travelling in Japan last year with Liz!  Very difficult for women with jeans on and very dirty floors!!!! Takes some practice to master! Love reading your blog…happy trails

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/01  at  05:14 PM


  • does anyone know why the countries with squat toilets havent upgraded to ones which you can sit on?  you’d think someone would realize it hurts the thighs to squat like that and maybe consider something to sit on…..or maybe not.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/01  at  05:16 PM


  • Scott - it is apparently more sanitary (although you’d never know it from the state and smell of washrooms with squat toilets) as well as better for your bowels (I read somewhere) to do it squatting… that is of course if you don’t fall over and end up with your foot down the bowl LOL The natives don’t have a problem with their thighs hurting smile 
    I never worried too much about the thighs - I am constantly worried about peeing down my leg or on my shoe or dragging my pant leg in a pile of urine.  Using a squat toilet while you are drunk is a nightmare LOL
    And that is just the problems with urinating…

    Posted by Liz  on  05/01  at  09:50 PM


  • thanks for the clarification liz.  i will remember never to take a dump when i am drunk in some remote african country smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  03:24 PM


  • american standard could make a killing in those countries!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  05:30 PM


  • Liz… enjoyed your comments about the squat toilets and the image of doing that in a drunken stupor really makes me laugh!!!! lol n smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  05:53 PM


  • Hey Erik - who did you decide to go with up Kili?  Guess you’ll probably be up and down and outta there by the time I arrive on the 12th june, huh?  too bad.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/02  at  05:56 PM


  • erik, ur the EFFIN man!!!!!!  thas all i ever tell mister marky mark…  while my ass is sittin in front of a computer all day at work.. ur good for nuttin *ss is traveling the world…  once again.. ur the EFFIN man!!!  (ur prolly thinkin.. ILL DRINK TO THAT! alki) hahhaha pece n respect

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  12:34 AM


  • Hey Gang!

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to put my BlogHog status on hold. There’s no way I can keep up at $1 Singapore dollar for 15 messly minutes.

    If anyone wants to see some pics during an NIZ check out
    kent.derk.ca

    I’ll be back!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  02:03 PM


  • Tdot: while in Singapore check out Muhommed Sultan rd.! it’s a strip full of clubs & bars & the more trendy Zouk! .. but avoid giving gum away (thats distribution of an illegal substance) hehehe

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  04:15 PM


  • whew… i finally caught up. only to have you niz again. man, i am finding it hard to keep up but i love your blogs. it is scary how anti-american the rest of the world is becoming. but then again, can you blame them when we have an idiot for a president? if that moron gets re-elected, i am moving to canada.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  05:29 PM


  • alice, have a safe trip

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  08:11 PM


  • Canada may be the next melting pot if George keeps it up. But ALICE, why think so small, move to Europe! Ireland is quite lovely!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/03  at  08:30 PM


  • i’m so far behind on the blog that they won’t let me post comments! how rude… so i’m gonna post them on this one..

    i’m still in the namibian desert entry with the eet sum mor’s.. heehee.. and that reminds me, i wanted to ask you when u get to spain, pick up some “FILIPINOS” cookies and save the wrapper for me please, i’m starting a collection..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/04  at  03:03 AM


  • HEY GANG, sorry I have to make this quick; I’m only out of the NIZ for a couple of minutes right now, and it’s on a crappy connection too.

    I’m glad you’re all still following along and enjoying my work.  Greetings to those new Blog readers!

    Sorry I can’t reply to you individually right now—this includes e-mails you may have sent me.

    Well, I’m off on safari through the grasslands of the NIZ for the next 5-6 days.  Stay tuned!

    P.S.  In the meanwhile, surely some of you can look up web awards/contests that The Global Trip 2004 Blog could be suited for.  (http://www.theglobaltrip.com/blog)  I’d love to have this entered/nominated for something—although perhaps we should wait until I have a more interesting story on the home page first!  Whaddaya think?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/04  at  07:33 PM


  • Erik, I’ve been reading the whole story of your trip from when you started in Ecuador until now. I’m from there but currently live in the US. Being hispanic is not so easy here, at least where i am. It’s just amazing how many people, cultures and great places come and go in your life. Hope one day i can start a trip like that. Good luck, keep posting blogs more frequently if you can!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/06  at  06:18 PM


  • I hope you stay safe Erik.  Be careful out there!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/06  at  09:08 PM


  • something to read during the NIZ: http://media.hamncheez.com/?p=ticketdefense.jpg

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/06  at  09:38 PM


  • SIM: You wouldn’t believe how many times I atempted to get to Zouk. But to no avail.

    I’m in Kuala Lumpur now, and I’m off to Thailand tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’m flying over the trouble spots.

    I’m still not caught up (Sorry Erik)! But I will be ASAP… I still need Blog, even though I don’t have to travel vicariously.

    Alice: You’re welcome north of the boarder!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/08  at  01:27 PM


  • wow, see, canada is welcoming me already…. but just for the sake of other americans, i am going out and voting for anyone but bush. NO MORE BUSH, NO MORE BUSH, NO MORE BUSH!!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/09  at  05:20 AM


  • Tdot: thats too bad about Zouk! .. Hey are you going to catch the full moon party in Thailand? ... You should if you get a chance. K.L. is quite interesting also try the aluminum griddled fish ..hmmm good!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/09  at  04:15 PM


  • Alice - I’m with you on that one…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/09  at  11:39 PM


  • i love bush.  bush in 04!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  02:02 AM


  • Hola Erik!!!  It’s great you are doing well! Im finally in South Africa! I miss Malawi, nice last supper!!!!!!!  Hugs!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  12:26 PM


  • Erik - did you fall off Kili?  :(  I’m suffering blog withdrawal LOL Hope all is well with you and you are just living it up in the NIZ.

    Posted by Liz  on  05/10  at  04:49 PM


  • NIZ’s? : into a lil’ hi-hop?
    http://i.flowgo.com/greetings/madeapoop/madeapoop.swf

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  05:51 PM


  • WOW.  I have TONS to catch up on…  Don’t you worry, I’m spending the next 2-3 days to rest (very much needed) and to work on The Blog so you can read all about my adventures up Mt. Kilimanjaro and on safari through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria… 

    Currently I am in Moshi, Tanzania, staying at another American ex-pat’s place… Details to come soon!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  05:56 PM


  • erik is there a lot more anti-americanism out there?  shit must be crazy lately.  from now on i tell people i am from canada!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  07:31 PM


  • You’re back, and didn’t fall off Kili like Liz asked. Phew - I would have gone through SERIOUS withdrawals.
    Happy to know that you’re safely back. Enjoy your rest.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/10  at  09:49 PM


  • Hey Erik, maybe YOU should run for president! Of course you’ld have to vote for youself with an absentee ballot.  Your foreign policy is WAY better than Bush’s. You’ld get my vote!

    Glad to hear you’ve safely decended Mt. Kili. Can’t wait to see pics & read a week+ entries.
    Yippee!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/11  at  12:57 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Tomorrow in Tanzania

Previous entry:
Racing The Sun To Tanzania




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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