Monday, January 09, 2006

Dar to Zanzibar

Altogether two nights at the Segelo hotel, it was such a nice place, really. Tiled bathroom, TV, breakfast... well, two large 'omelets' that we cut up and shared and a pile of bread, and the always available tea or chai na maziwa (tea with milk). We decided to run into Cental Dar and go shopping and exploring and rather than spend 12,000tsh, we decided to try the local transport, the daladala, which was 200tsh (20cents). It was an interesting experience that is for sure.

Mr. Suit, the manager insisted that "Mr. Magoo" (the assistant) walk us to the daladala stop and make sure we get on the right one. We were after all just wuzungu, you never know what would happen to us. As each overloaded daladala heading to the central post office went by, we knew there was no way six of us were going to fit, finally we managed to squeeze onto one, and I mean squeeze. It was actually very interesting to note that many of the men just hanging out at the daladala stop tried to help us find one to get on... they were quite interested and even a little protective, making me back away from the road as I tried to watch for one that said Posta on the front. They started to yell at the daladalas and flag them down for us and then herded us on as a likely one stopped. Again, the poor wuzungu needed looking after!

As I described before, daladalas are basically minivans with seating for about sixteen, which would be okay, maybe not truly comfortable, but do-able. However, daladalas loaded as many people as possible in and I would say on the first trip there must have been about twenty of us, not including the driver and the 'conductor' who swung precariously out of the side door making the most curious noises and shouting at people and banging signals to the driver. At first, when we were standing at the daladala stop, waiting for a chance to get on, I thought we were being rather openly flirted with, but I couldn't tell by who. I kept hearing a kissing noise, you know if you purse your lips and suck air in, the noise that makes? Well... I discovered that is another way that the 'conductors' signal the driver. It was actually quite amusing.

As it happens it was Oct 19, my sister's birthday, and there was a power outage in Dar. Which I noticed previously in the middle of the night as my fan quite working. We spent a lot of time walking around, we went to the post office, it was so nice and cool, and the tourist office to get info and advice on booking ferry tickets to Zanzibar for the following day. We were hoping to avoid a similar situation as we encountered in Arusha. We found a great Chinese food restaurant, A.W. was sooooo happy, Yeah Noodles! Thank goodness they had a generator. There were generators all over the place on the sidewalks in front of businesses, it was very noisy. The touts weren't quite as aggressive as they were in Arusha. Or perhaps we were just a little more seasoned and conversant in Swahili to let them know we weren't interested in buying what they had to offer. I did see more of the abjectly poor and crippled on the streets than I had before, but still not very many considering the size of Dar.

We decided we had better get our ferry tickets, we knew the name of the ferry company we wanted to buy from and how much it should be, but sure enough as we walked into the ferry terminal parking lot area we were surrounded by touts trying to sell us tickets, getting in our faces, yelling. It wasn't nearly as bad as Arusha, but still felt like total mayhem. We were smarter though, a few of us deaked them out by pretending to be interested in one ferry company while two of us sneaked away to the one we really wanted. It worked too! Boy were they mad at us, but they left us alone once we were all in the office and out of their sight. Whew! What a pain it is getting around sometimes.

Because we were there during Ramadan, there were very few restaurants open, most of them were closed or just closed during the day. We were wanting to eat and get back to our hotel to pack and get ready to leave early for the ferry. We celebrated D.B.'s birthday at the same Chinese place and as it was dark, decide it isn't safe to take the daladala and grab two taxis.

I think my favourite part of the Segelo is sitting on the second floor balcony and watching the African night life unfold beneath me. We are tucked away, but clearly visible and are obviously a curiosity in the neighbourhood. Many people casually wander by the front of the hotel and check us out. We smile at everyone who is brave enough to look up for very long and actually get some to wave at us. Directly across the street little shops come to life for the evening business, the most interesting one belongs to 'Mama Ugali', as I name her. The later it becomes, the busier she gets as men come and sit around her cook stove and drink chai and eat ugali, hard boiled eggs and I am not sure what else. She looks up and waves at us and laughs. I am determined that when we come back I will go down and try to talk to her. A.W. and I sit there until after midnight, drinking Tuskers, soaking it all in. It begins to cool down and we have power again... mmmmm, moving air while I sleep. It is about 30 degrees Celsius and very humid, I look forward to the ocean breezes on Zanzibar.

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