A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

Week 66, 29.May.10 - 4.June.10

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Maputo, Mozambique

View Week 66 on rd wrld1yr's travel map.

Mtwara, Tanzania
Well, this was not the best bus ride down from Dar es Salaam here to Mtwara. What was estimated to be a 9 hour ride turned into something around 21.5! Early this morning checked out of the YWCA, grabbed a cab out to the bus station and through the chaos and confusion, could not find my 6am bus. I wasn't sure if I bought a bogus ticket or what! Fortunately, someone at the office where I bought the ticket from yesterday directed me to a bus (but not the one I bought the ticket for), which took me to another station probably 30 km or so from Dar, to switch busses. Well, the 2nd bus ride started out like countless others I've been on - crammed in, modified 3rd row of broken-down seats on a bumpy road. Along the way, the old man sitting next to me started leaning forward - I thought something was odd with his movement, so I kept an eye on him (even though all I wanted to do was sleep). I then noticed he unzipped his pants and was reaching in with one hand, while the other was holding a plastic bag. "What are you doing??", I loudly asked. He said, "I'm going to relieve myself." Others on the bus were looking, and I just lost it - I finally had to draw the line of what I will not put up with on these damn busses. "The hell you are! I realized this is Africa and all, but you are NOT taking a piss while sitting next to me!" I told him to tell the driver to stop if he couldn't hold it, but instead, he wanted to switch seats with someone toward the rear of the bus - I assume so he could urinate amongst people who wouldn't be so bothered. But, the bus did stop, and most everyone - old man included - piled out to use the side of the road. Continuing on, there was a point we got stuck and a giant CAT truck with crane needed to drag us through the muck. Further along, another stretch of road was in such bad shape all vehicles were stopped in both directions. We wait and wait and wait, something around 9 or 10 hours. Turns out this stretch of "road" was so bad, that ever vehicle in both directions had to be pulled through by the CAT, one by one. So finally arriving here in Mtwara at 03:30, now just waiting here with a local Tanzanian guy for the 05:00 pickup truck ride to the border.

Mozimboa da Praia, Mozambique
Well I've easily just had the worst day of my traveling to date. This morning started at 05:00 back in Mtwara (with no sleep the night before), a bunch of locals and a few tourists piled into the back of a pickup truck taxi for a couple hour ride down to the Rovuma river border. During the ride, my day pack was thrown toward the front of the truck bed, someone's heavy suitcase thrown on top, and sunglass lens was now shattered. We piled onto a dugout canoe and crossed - somewhat nerve-racking due to the overfilled capacity - to the Mozambique side,

and greeted by two policemen who asked for our passports, and just held them. Not able to speak Portuguese, but guessing he was saying something along the lines of wanting money. Already familiar with the infamous reputation of punk Mozambican police whose favorite pastime is extortion, was kicking myself for handing over the passport in the first place. "I don't know how to say this in Portuguese, but there is no way I am giving you money." He didn't (or claimed not to) speak English, but knew full well what I was saying, as we proceeded in a stare down for a full minute. The local Tanzanian guy went up to the officer, said some things, slipped him some Meticais. Although the Tanzanian didn't really speak English either, I was telling him not to pay any money, this will just perpetuate the problem. I gathered up enough of his broken English to understand he comes here enough for work, that is just second nature to him. Well, I got back my passport so wasn't going to pursue the issue. We waited on the other side of the river for another boat to come so they could cram another 15 (30 total) passengers into the back of a regular size pickup truck bed.

Bouncing along for an hour or so ride south to the official immigration checkpoint, we pull in and jump out of the back - and as I am coming down the side the same time the driver swings open his door. My arm catches the corner of his door and instantly feel sharp pain, and see blood - lots. I take a look and see basically a punctured hole the size of a dime in my underarm - not good. I ask the office for a restroom, they direct me across the road to some local's home that has a barrel of water. The owner of the home helps pour a bucket of water on the wound and down my arm to wash it off. I am obviously attracting quite a bit of attention, but, no one was coming forward to offer help. I start digging into my pack for antibiotic ointment, bandages, and other stuff. Some immigration officer walks over and tells me to go get my passport handled first. I just show him the hole in my arm, "No, I'm dealing with THIS first." He didn't comment further. I bunch some toilet paper to the wound and wind clear Scotch tape around it, figuring there wasn't much else I could do at that point being in the middle of nowhere. I hand my passport to the officer who tells me to pay 150 Meticais, "entry tax". "No way" I said, pointing out the visa I've already obtained for $45USD. "Then you return back to Tanzania.", he says. "This is Africa, not America." "Yeah? Take a look at my passport. I bet I've been to more of Africa than you have, and never before have I heard of an 'entry tax.'" So he just ignores my comment and continues charging and stamping others while I stand there waiting. Eventually he tells everyone else to back up, calls me in front of him, and, more politely, explains that everyone has to pay this in addition to a visa. So I figured I needed to get to the hospital at some point here, so just paid it and got a receipt. So everyone piles back into the truck and we start heading on the bumpy road a couple hours ride south here to Mozimboa da Praia, the first real town south of the border. When we arrive, I hop out - carefully - and pull the driver aside, explaining that the injury he caused will require me to go to the hospital and get stitches, which will cost money. Therefore, I wasn't paying for the pickup truck ride unless he is paying for the hospital bill. Well, he tells the conductor who threatens to take me to the police. "Let's go", I said. On the ride over, I reach into my pocket for my passport, but it isn't there. I check my day pack where I normally keep it, even though I knew I placed it, carelessly - perhaps distracted from the injury -in my pocket, after clearing immigration/customs. I thought back on the ride and remembered hearing something fall to the road, but at the time thought it was just my makeshift dressing (which did fall off), but had no idea where along the 2 hour ride it happened. So now I'm thinking this is not a good situation heading to the police for the purpose of arguing about the injury sustained in the truck, without my passport. But I didn't have much of a choice as we pulled in to the lot. I have to rely on the driver to translate the dispute - who knows what he actually told the officer, but I was told to pay the full fare. "And my injury? Will the driver be paying for this?" The policeman wrote a letter (in Portuguese), notarized it and handed to me, while instructing the driver to take me to the hospital and for me to visit immigration tomorrow in Pemba and sort out my passport issue. The "hospital" - which was a set of UNICEF tents in a large dirt lot - looked like something out of M*A*S*H. Inside the main tent, my first image was of a cot with 2 women laying head to toe with IVs flowing - not sure if they were suffering from malaria, HIV or what, but clearly this clinic had limited resources, so was a bit worried about the conditions for my treatment - like new/sterile equipment. I showed the doctor my wound, he brought me to another tent and got some gauze, needle, thread and a sewing needle out. I asked the driver to ask the doctor if the items were new/sterile, they both laughed at my concern, but I wasn't letting him get near me with those things without confirming, which he did. After cleaning the wound, he took the needle and started drawing fluid from a vial. I told the driver to tell him I am allergic to penicillin, which prompted another round of laughs - "anesthesia", then jabbed twice with the needle. All of maybe 30 seconds lapsed before he starts threading the stitches. I'm grimacing with pain and grabbing on the arm rest with my left hand, explaining to him that the anesthesia hasn't started working! He wasn't too concerned, and kept right on suturing me up. He taped some gauze in place and wrote some instructions - in Portuguese - for treatment. At least I wasn't charged for the treatment, after the doctor looked at the police letter. I was dropped off here to a dumpy hotel, and of course no running water for a shower to end the day. So very glad the day is now over...

Pemba, Mozambique
Well today wasn't quite as bad as yesterday, but not without more problems. Woke up at 04:30 to catch a bus, which broke down several times along the way to Silva, then waited for a shared taxi to Pemba. Along the way to Pemba, our car was stopped at a police checkpoint - not surprisingly, when all I could show was a beat up copy of my passport, a bribe was soon requested - this time, I had to pay as technically I was an illegal immigrant. Arriving here in Pemba, got checked into a hotel (also problematic without a passport), went to a bank where the ATM - despite being labelled with the MasterCard logo - promptly ate my bank card. I went inside the bank to ask the manager to retrieve the card, he wanted to see my passport before returning the card. Ah, great. Well, I went over to the immigration office which told me to go to the police station, but as it was already 15:00, I'd have to return tomorrow morning... "The police station closes at 3?" I asked. Meanwhile, I've not been able to get ahold of the US Embassy today - the number listed in my guidebook isn't connecting. To top off the day, the hotel here is also without running water - I'm not sure if there is a drought happening here, but suffice it to say Mozambique isn't my favorite place so far.

This morning I was at the police station at 07:00, waited 2 hours to be seen by the officer who didn't speak English, and spent another hour trying my best with broken Spanish to communicate my problem. Finally got a notarized letter explaining I lost my passport, which allowed me to return to the bank and get my card, then over to the airline office to book an expensive flight down to Maputo tomorrow. I still can't get through to the Embassy, but got to an internet cafe and emailed them so at least there is record of it. The good news today (glad I can say that) is I checked out of the dump I stayed in last night and into a hotel with running water - shower tonight!

Maputo, Mozambique
I am staying at an expensive hotel here in Maputo - the hostel across the street is full, the other one north of here ran out of blankets for their guests for the night - an a**hole worker there was trying to tell me "As a backpacker, you should be bringing your own sleeping bag to sleep in." Whatever. This morning back in Pemba I was able to sleep in a bit, have a nice breakfast at the Patisserie, and then headed to the airport. I arrived early there anticipating problems with the notarized police letter, but was handed the boarding pass with no questions.

This morning I checked out of the pricey hotel and back to the first choice hostel - now with a blanket available. Went to the Embassy in the afternoon, paid my $100 and filled out an application for a new passport and separate form declaring my old passport was lost - although now officially invalid, I'd still really like to recover it someday for my 15 months + of stamps - but not holding out hope it'll happen.

Well, I've got some time to kill - the Embassy said the new passport should be ready by Tuesday or Wednesday next week. So today I wandered around Maputo to visit some sites like Praza da Indepencia where the Cathedral of Nossa Senhora de Conceizao,

bizarre Iron House - which, when I rapped on the walls, sure enough is iron,

and City Hall are located.

I headed over to the National Art Museum where nice modern art paintings and sculptures were on display.

Now heading out with some folks to a street party downtown - should be a good finish to a VERY difficult week.

Posted by rd wrld1yr 02:09 Comments (0)

Week 65, 22.May.10 - 28.May.10

Zanzibar, Tanzania to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

View Week 65 on rd wrld1yr's travel map.

Zanzibar, Tanzania
The first stop today was over to the Zanzibar Medical Clinic Group for a malaria test... really bad persistent headache and aching neck the past few days, some of the symptoms I've read about. But, results showed negative so I guess it is just an unusual cold I've come down with. Anyway, after my breakfast, I spent some time today wandering around a bit more in Stone Town - really interesting houses with ornate balconies and latticework,

and of course the famous Zanzibar carved wooden doors.

Narrow sand covered alleys and pathways where women don the full burkas rounded out the images I've always pictured Zanzibar to look like.

Visited the 1870's Anglican cathedral, built on the site of an old slave market - the last one in the world to function as such.

Underneath the adjacent building, the chains of holding cells were still visible.

Rounded out the site seeing at the old Portuguese fort - a lot of history here!

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
This morning, hopped on the ferry from Zanzibar back to the mainland - good thing I took the sea sickness prevention tablets, as many of the people who hadn't were losing their lunch (or, breakfast). Held my breath as the ATM machine acknowledged with receipt my withdrawal of 30,000 TSH but then failed to dispense the money... fortunately a note at the bottom of the receipt indicated, "Your account will be reimbursed." Now, back at the good ol' YWCA and heading over to grab a beer at the YMCA next door, visiting the Mozambique embassy tomorrow.

Had an annoying time today at the Mozambique embassy - first, found out it would take 4 days to process the 1-page visa application... 4 days?!? And the payment - $45 USD - had to be deposited in an account at a specific bank, at a specific branch on the other side of the city center. A brit (who was also applying for a visa there) and myself spent an hour just trying to find this bank, then finally got that handled. Now with the waiting game, will need to pace myself on how much to see each day in Dar - because there isn't a heck of a lot!

Today I went and checked out the National Museum - pretty decent displays of Tanzania's history from the early days (as in, 3.2 million years ago with the zinjanthropus footprints discovered in the Olduvai gorge),

through colonial era (German then British), independence and Tanganyika/Zanzibar unity, finally up to a classy memorial dedicated to the U.S. embassy bombing that took place in '98. Along with the decent displays were a couple tacky ones like Tanzania's first ATM machine...

I'm wondering if this one had the same malfunctioning problems as they do nowadays??

Today, continuing the theme of slow-paced, spent some time wandering Dar to see some more limited sites like the Askari monument (dedicated to fallen WWII soldiers),

the German colonial-era churches St. Joseph's and Azania Front Lutheran,

and other older buildings with interesting architecture.

Evening here at the YMCA around the corner in what has become the routine, taking advantage of the cheap price of dinner and beers from their canteen - not terribly exciting, but the options are limited in Dar! Earlier today I took a "dala dala" minivan bus from central Dar to the northern bus station at Mwenge. I grabbed a connecting dala dala just as it began pouring, and headed up the coast a ways to Bagamoyo, former capital of Germany's East Africa colony and a welcome day trip escape from Dar. Getting off the bus at the station, waited under cover for the pouring rain to stop while turning down attempt after attempt of motor cycle taxi drivers bothering me - telling me that the center of town was very far, 6 km away... of course I knew this to be untrue, it was about 1 km from the bus station according to the guidebook, but I wasn't sure which direction. A woman who had been sitting next to me on the ride was also waiting, also unfamiliar with Bagamoyo but got a better answer of the general direction to walk (laughing about the scamming taxi drivers) and so I followed once the rain stopped. We approached a tourist information office to get our bearings, but first had to listen to the sales pitch of tour guides... we politely refused and asked for directions. We set off and the woman was laughing, saying the tourist office was asking her (in Swahili) whether they could get any money... for simply giving directions... at a tourist information office... ugh. She was shaking her head and laughing, apologetically mentioned that unfortunately it is common for the locals to take advantage of the Mzungu just to try and get money any possible ways... um, yeah, I'm familiar with that! So walking along I ask whether she is here as a tourist or on business, and I got a vague response that she was here to meet "a friend". Well, we arrive in the town center (actually less than one km), I thank her and assume she's going to go do her thing, but she's sort of hanging around. I stop by a museum to look at the price, she follows. I then decide I would first eat lunch, and she asks whether I wanted to be alone or joined by her. So naturally I try to be polite and invite her to join if she's not in a hurry to meet her friend. We stop by a local restaurant, I order the fish and she orders the same. Well, during lunch, I learn a few more details about her story about visiting Bagamoyo, saying her younger brother was here before and got into some "trouble", and so she's here to help out. Well, I didn't ask more questions because I'm not sure I want to know. When we're finished she speaks to the waitress, and then tells me the bill is 6,000 TSH (around $5 USD), which is far more expensive than it should be... so I ask, "Is that the bill for each, or total??" And she smiles and kind of laughs, but doesn't respond... so now I'm buying this stranger's lunch because I said she could join me when asked?? I thought to myself - before she was somewhat embarrassed at the others trying to take advantage of the Mzungu, but here she is trying to score a free lunch and doesn't think anything of it. Anyway, I pay the (whole) bill and tell her "Well, I'm heading to the museum now", before she starts in on the story of her brother or something to get more money. I visit the Caravan Serai, which was an unimpressive building that served as a colonial-era inn/lodge of sorts, catering to slave/ivory traders.

Next, headed to the Catholic Mission - the first in East Africa - north of town.

There was a pretty decent museum here, and also housed the "Livingstone tower", which was a stopping point for the convoy who were carrying the Dr's dead body back to Westminster Abbey (via Zanzibar).

Headed back to the Old Town center to wander, really enjoying the old colonial buildings - similar to Zanzibar, Mombassa and other Swahili towns, but here not much seemed to be preserved/restored - crumbling homes and storefronts gave it a very interesting look.

Wandered down to the old fish market with tin roofs supported by logs, where guys were cooking the day's catches in big vats of boiling oil - smoke everywhere, it was quite a sight.

This morning I went down to the semi-deserted stretch of beach just outside the Dar center, to get some skyline views of the city.

While walking around and taking pictures, noticed two guys who were sitting on rocks on the beach stand up and look at me - of course I put away the camera and keep walking toward a busier area closer to the fish market, just as the men call out "Hello" to me. While continuing my walk, passing them, I respond "Hello". They then call out in an authoritative sort of tone, "Mambo, (Swahili for "hey" or "what's up"), police", as one of them pulls out of his front shirt pocket what looks a notepad, but I'm guessing is supposed to be a badge. Well, I'm not buying it at all - no uniforms, and if they were trying to appear undercover, well, no locals are dressing that nicely (slacks, dress shoes, button down shirts) while sitting on the beach. So I just keep walking and cut them off before they can continue talking, saying "I'm not falling for it.. if you want to search my camera or see my passport, let's go to the police station." They didn't say anything else, just stood there looking at me. I kept walking where more people were sitting around about 100 meters further down the beach, and glanced back to the two "policemen" still just standing there looking at me, maybe a bit stunned that their scam didn't work - whatever it may have been. Wandered by the fish market then over to the Mozambique embassy for my visa. Arrived at 14:00 as directed back on Monday, then proceeded to wait until 15:00. The British guy I met on Monday was also there, as well as a guy from Netherlands - I asked him when he dropped off his passport, and was told "Tuesday". And then he gets his passport returned before the Brit and I... so it appears the embassy here only issues visas on Friday afternoons, and just processes the last one dropped off first, working through the stack - how annoying and what a waste of time to think I was in Dar last week and could have dropped it off then before heading to Zanzibar. Anyway, after getting the visa, headed to the bus station to book a ticket, and (finally) will make my way down to Mozambique tomorrow morning.

Posted by rd wrld1yr 02:10 Comments (0)

Week 64, 15.May.10 - 21.May.10

Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania to Zanzibar, Tanzania

View Week 64 on rd wrld1yr's travel map.

Moshi, Tanzania
Today we completed the climb down Kilimanjaro, back to Marangu gate - certainly a lot easier coming down. After the uncomfortable tip exchange where the guide and porters proceeded to count the money in front of Yi and me, we got a (grudging) ride to Moshi. Yesterday, Yi had climbed down back to Kibo hut finally around 13:00 - with the altitude sickness still very much with me, I was not feeling great waiting for him that long. We headed out down to Horombo hut, where the sickness thankfully started to lessen, and we stayed the night. With all 14 climbers accounted for, discovered only 8 of the 14 actually made it to the summit, which goes to show how difficult a climb that was (nicknamed "Coca-Cola"... I don't think so!). Got checked into a cheapie here in Moshi, now heading (well, wobbling - with very sore legs) to a nice hotel with a rooftop bar and views of the mountain (still disbelieving a little that I actually climbed it!) for a beer - it is definitely 'Kili' time.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
This morning got on a bus -- a non-modified bus, with only 2 seats each side of the row - for the first time probably since Morocco -- and headed the 8.5 hours from Moshi to Dar es Salaam. Got checked into the YWCA - yes, that is with a "W", although it appears more men are staying here than women! Not planning on much tonight, other than resting my sore legs.

Zanzibar (Jambiani Beach), Tanzania
This morning I dodged the many annoying touts hanging out at the pier in Dar, and took the Sea Star ferry over to the legendary "Spice Islands", Zanzibar. During the ferry ride I was able to enjoy the movie playing ("Apocolypto") for about 30 seconds until the born-again Christian Tanzanian sitting next to me struck up a greeting, trying to "save me" that lasted the full 2 hours. Arrived in Zanzibar, proceeded through customs/immigration (random - maybe they haven't yet realized this has been a united republic with the mainland for the past 30 years), and then shared a taxi with an American couple over to the east side of the island and tiny Jambiani village (which isn't really a village). Checked into a bungalo on the beach for some R&R time!!

Today was spent sitting on the beach reading a book and drinking beers (bought from some local guy's home out of his refrigerator), mixed in with occasional swimming in the turquoise waters and sleeping. I found some motivation to wander around the "village" (which is a couple shops on a dirt road with the surrounding thatched-roof coral built houses),

now heading to dinner. Today could have been worse!

Just about the same amount of activity as yesterday, which was just fine. The locals around here aren't that busy, either!

Zanzibar, Tanzania
This morning after a last quick dip in the Ocean after breakfast, I checked out of the bungalo and grabbed a seat on the bench in the back of a pickup truck bus back to Zanzibar town. And while trying my best to dodge the "papasi" (Swahili for "tick") touts following me after getting off the pickup truck bus, ducked into a ground floor cafe in a much too nice hotel. The woman owner assurred me her hotel doesn't pay a commission, asked me if I needed a room and I was able to get it for $20 - much cheaper than the listed price, and probably one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in yet... the (clean) towel was folded to look like a swan, and there were fresh flower petals on the (clean) bed spread - well happy birthday to me! Wandered around Stone Town just a bit and visited the Beit el-Sahel (palace museum), former Sutan's palace.

Now I'll head out to grab some dinner and a couple beers - evidently turning 36 isn't going to change my routine all that much!

After unfortunately checking out of the really really nice hotel (they're full tonight) and checking into the not really nice hotel (much more familiar territory), I ventured out on a tour today of the spices of "Spice Island". There were a group of tourists that were bussed to the plantation - our guide showed us a wide range of fruits and spices to sample, products both indigenous and imported from the time Zanzibar was the most powerful city-state in the Indian Ocean - like cocoa beans,

vanilla beans, cloves, cayenne peppers -

the latter followed quickly by a bite of orange! After the plantation tour, we had lunch prepared with some of the spices we just saw - yum. The tour also included stopping by a cave where slaves were hidden during the trade days - apparently, hiding down there for weeks at a time.

The final stop of the tour stopped off at Mangapwani beach for a dip - very nice! This evening a few of us from the tour met back up in Stone Town to visit Forodhani Gardens - open air stalls of food and drinks, I got my fresh-squeezed sugar cane to finish the day's taste testing... yum.

Posted by rd wrld1yr 06:43 Comments (0)

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