Southern Tranquility – Part I

By on February 1, 2016

Before this year, I had never been to Tanzania. Apart from the occasional lessons in Primary School about the 19th Century formation of German East Africa, all I ever really knew about Tanzania were three things; Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and complicated Swahili. And all this I knew only because of kiboko wielding primary school teachers, National Geographic and rumours. Very recently however, a fourth item has been added to the list in the name of Magufuli – thanks to the internet.

Basically, I had as much knowledge of Tanzania as a blind man would of the rainbow.

And so at the beginning of this year while most people were scoffing at the rather cliché idea of New Year Resolutions, I secretly made one: I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to visit Tanzania to learn more about these wonderfully quiet neighbours of ours.

For a Ugandan like myself, travelling to Tanzania has got to be through Nairobi, for one simple reason. As someone who knows no more than twelve words in Swahili, it would be disastrous to head down to Tanzania minus passing through Kenya which, from what I gather, has a little more dilute and easier to understand Swahili. One has to go through the warmth before heading for the fire.

Therefore to make sure that the trip to Tanzania was as fulfilling as should be, I travelled with two Kenyans, Morris and Anthony, a Ugandan living and working in Rwanda Allan and we were met along the way by another Kenyan, Patience, who is more familiar with Tanzania. Also, we were meeting a few other Tanzanian friends with whom we could entrust our lives while we traversed Tanzania. Let’s just say it was an East African affair.

The plan was for Allan to travel from Kigali, myself from Kampala and then we would meet Morris, Anthony and Patience in Nairoibi then together head down to Magufuli land, yes, that’s what we are calling it nowadays – Magufuli land.

Patience was responsible for finding us a good place in Tanzania where we would spend the weekend and possibly have a story or two to tell. Her task was to find a place where these East Africans would gather, share stories, share laughs, experience time away from their dusty and noisy cities and also try to understand what Southern Tanzania has to offer in case one was hoping to visit a wonderful place without having to part with an arm and a leg or plead for weeks for a Visa to Europe or the Americas.

After a lengthy and complicated search, Patience found a place for us deep in Southern Tanzania. The place she identified is on the banks of River Rufiji; a location known as Serena Mivumo River Lodge, around Stigler’s Gorge. Now if you have been to Southern Tanzania, you know that there is a huge Game Park there known as Selous Game Reserve. This Game reserve is one of the largest Faunal reserves in the world and sits on a whooping 54,600 Km2 with additional buffer zones.

Now the place Patience was taking us was right in the middle of the Game Park! It wasn’t going to get any wilder than this. What an exciting prospect!

I left Kampala on the evening of 21st January having fully fed Hendrix (my feline housemate) and handed the responsibility of making sure the feline does not commit suicide to my neighbour Blaze who had sworn he would poison the little beast if I did not return within a week.

A bus ride from Kampala to Nairobi at night is anything but great. Even if you pay for the so called VIP seats, there is little in the way of sightseeing because, well; it is night time and you are half asleep for most of the journey. My friend Ebulani insists that if one would like to enjoy the trip to Nairobi from Kampala, their safest bet is to travel by day. I agree with her. But this time, I opted for the night bus because I had a lot to do before leaving Kampala. Whether you use the night bus or day bus, you can be sure that in no more than twelve hours, you will be in Nairobi; worn out, but there.

Me before travel

Rocking my Ondaba Jumper just before I left Kampala via Bus (ignore the lip bite)

By the time I got to Nairobi on the morning of 22nd January, I was just in time for the Kenya Airways flight departing from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar-es-Salaam. While the rest of my travel mates had enjoyed hours of sleep at Serena Hotel Nairobi I had been relegated to a lengthy and lonely bus ride on which the driver pounded Kenyan Music at full volume all the way. Even my pretty bus neighbour Zahara who seemed like a coastal girl just passing through Nairobi wasn’t interested in conversation. I knew her name only because her bus ticket fell out of her bag when she got up to go out, somewhere in Eldoret. I picked up the ticket, mentally raced through it and placed it back on her chair.

Zahara came back unaware that I knew her name and destination. Despite this new found information, she and I never said anything to each other. Either it was because she was reading an Arabic novel and therefore had no interest in English conversation or because I had my recently acquired headphones plugged in the entire journey.

We simply did not utter a word to each other, the whole way!

When I arrived in Nairobi, there was little time to try and get any rest because the flight from Nairobi to Dar was barely an hour away and the Nairobi traffic was not worth risking. Luckily, the Kenyans are organised individuals who have an Airport in the city so the drive from the Bus Station to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was shorter and less chaotic than I had feared. Plus my driver was waiting at the Bus station.

At Jomo Kenyatta I found Alan, Morris, Anthony and Patience all looking so fresh, neat and tidy. Each of them wore a brilliant smile and seemed jovial, probably because of the sumptous Nairobi Serena Hotel breakfast.

I on the other hand looked like I’d just walked out of a street fight. None of them attempted to crack any jokes about my look because from the look of things, they seemed to sympathise with me. I however did notice that Anthony was quietly grinning and probably thinking – this dude must be doing drugs.

But I swear I was not.

Anyway, we did our check-ins and chatted away as we waited for the gorgeous ladies to announce over the unclear P.A. systems when we would be boarding.

The one-hour flight from Nairobi to Dar was anything but bumpy as we had been warned especially since there was slight uncertainty in terms of the weather. As a matter of fact I was able to steal in a few great shots of Mountain Kilimanjaro from my Airplane seat. It is likely I will be approaching Kenya Airways for a deal of sorts because from what I was told by some of my not-so-talented photographer friends, the shot could fetch me a few shillings (Hopefuly Kenyan ones).

PlaneYou can see the gorgeous Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance ( Kenya Airways, expect a phone call)

Moving on.

When you have been in Nairobi and you arrive at Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar-es-Salaam, the first thing that will strike you is the manner in which the weather has absolutely no regard for where you are from.

Nairobi is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. On the other hand, Dar is too hot you could fry an egg off of the sidewalk. Every car, office room and hotel room has two things for sure; a door and an AC unit.

The walk from the Airport Terminal to the car park must have been the hottest I have ever experienced so far; and yet I had just arrived in a country where we were supposed to spend the entire weekend.

All of us

In this not so clear selfie you can see myself (representing Kampala but blending in with TZ), Allan (Ugandan living and working in Kigali), Anthony (from Nairobi) next to him looking at Patience (also from Nairobi) who seemed to be clearing a bill raked up by Morris (also from Nairobi).

On the car ride from the airport to the Hotel, I found myself lost in thought : What if we did this travelling within East Africa thing more often? What if East Africans travelled around this region more often?  What if we actually found interest in this East African thing that is always being talked about? Maybe Zahara from the bus ride would have changed course and travelled with me to Dar. Maybe … in the middle of these thoughts, Allan tapped me. There was a guy at the window selling Cashew Nuts.

In the heaviest Swahili accent I could manage I almost whispered,  pointing at the cashew nuts, “Cashew nuts those ones. Pesa ngapi all of them?”

The guys laughed.

To Be continued …

a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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