Sunday, January 11, 2015

Travels to Tanzania

Now that I've documented the climb up the mountain, now I'd like to share with you the adventures of the rest of the trip.  I set out from Zobue with my friends Emma (not my roommate Emma, a different Emma) and Aleesa and Alicia, a Peace Corps volunteer from Namibia who happened to be travelling through.  Alicia went on to the lake and we met up with our friend Nick at Doogles Lodge in Blantyre, Malawi.  After a day of enjoying Blantyre (eating ice cream, shopping at Shoprite, etc) we set off for Lilongwe.  Our plan was to catch the bus for Lilongwe to Dar that evening, but when we got to the bus station the bus for that day was already full.  We bought tickets for the next day and set off trying to find the Peace Corps Malawi office.  After asking for directions from a few friendly police officers, we found the office and got some advice for where to stay from some Peace Corps Malawi volunteers.

We spent our day in Lilongwe hanging out at the Peace Corps office, drinking coffee, and eating delicious food.  We even found a knockoff Chipotle restaurant with real burritos, good coffee, and delicious pineapple juice.  The next evening we found ourselves on the bus to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

It was winter solstice when we ate at the Chipotle knockoff restaurant, so we made a solstice man out of the foil from our burrito wrappers.

Waiting for the bus to Dar

Easy Bus--our bus to Dar

We're on the bus! So clean and idea what is in store
The first night we spent on the bus was uneventful as we traveled north through Malawi and by dawn we found ourselves at the border between Malawi and Tanzania.  Miraculously we found our friend Justin just walking along by the border and he joined us on the bus for the rest of the trip.  By this point we were already pretty tired--the bus rocked so much I hadn't been able to sleep at all--and we had discovered that a sooty grime covered everything on the bus so we were pretty filthy by this point too.  My fingernails were black, my skin was covered in a black dust, and all my possessions were gradually getting more filthy. And we still had 16 hours on the bus.

Views of Tanzania from the bus window.  Here Justin bought a whole plate of bananas for 1000 shillings, about 60 cents.

Tea plantations in Tanzania

So green!

We finally made it to the bus station at Dar es Salaam at 2 am and our plan was to wait in the bus station until 6 am to get the bus to Moshi, the town from which we would depart to climb Kili.  This was a rough time.  We were exhausted, filthy, and sweating in the 2am humid heat that is Dar.  The first man we talked to about tickets to Moshi tried to charge us way too much so we walked around trying to find someone who spoke English (Tanzanians, it turns out, don't speak much English unless they deal directly with tourists).  It was pretty dark so we decided our strategy would be to follow the lights and hopefully find the ticket offices. We found ourselves sitting in lit area near the ticket offices at 3 am waiting for them to open and wishing for nothing more than to take a shower.  By 4 am Nick had befriended a police officer named Daniel who promised to help get us tickets to Moshi.  The problem was that it was December 23rd and it seemed like everyone in Tanzania was travelling to Moshi that day.  We couldn't find a bus with 5 empty seats.  Long story short, at 9 am we ended up finally finding a bus to Moshi and paying way too much for it but we didn't even care because we just wanted to be out of the Dar bus terminal at that point.  Just before dark on December 23rd we finally made it to Moshi, found our hostel, took the best showers of our life, and went to sleep.

The bus to Moshi.  The man between us has an office chair on his lap and that in completely ordinary.

Almost there!

We want to get off this bus!!!

Washing our filthy bus clothes at the hostel.

It took at least three rinses for the water to not be black.

We spent the next few days recovering and exploring Moshi.  Moshi is a small town at the base of Kilimanjaro that is full of amazing coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.  Our first day there we learned how to count in Swahili and used our skills at the local fruit market to buy fruit for an amazing fruit salad.  We made some new friends, a young woman from Australia and a 65 year old Peace Corps Tanzania volunteer, and shared Christmas dinner with them.  We made salad, guacamole, fruit salad, and mango pasta.  And of course, a christmas melon.  After dinner we had a white elephant gift exchange and ate candy canes. The rules for the white elephant were that the gift could only cost 2000 shillings (about $1.30) and that you had to buy it off the street.  The most popular gifts were three raw eggs and a lighter/flashlight. I ended up with a Tanzanian shell necklace.  It was a good Christmas.

The hallway at Backpacker's Paradise. They had flags from all over the world, but no flag of Mozambique.

On the rooftop patio of Backpacker's Paradise.  After so much travel, it really was a paradise.

Moshi even had a fully stocked grocery store.  Look at all the vegetables!

The view of Kili from the rooftop patio.

Breakfast at Union Coffee.

With passionfruit cheesecake of course.  The best cheesecake I've had so far in Africa.  Not as good as Montana Mom's, but still pretty good.

COFFEE!!!! The best thing about Tanzania was that everywhere had REAL GOOD COFFEE! Not instant ricoffy chickory stuff--real, ground, strong, coffee. YES.

Making the christmas guacamole.

Christmas salad time.

Merry Christmas!

On December 27th, we began climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We got down the mountain on January 2nd.  In the next blog installment, I'll tell you about our travels after the mountain, including our trip to Zanzibar.

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