Unprepared for Tanzania
Category : Tanzania
Bag packed, passport in hand and patiently waiting my 2am flight to Tanzania from Bangkok Airport. This long awaited visit to the beautiful East African destination evoked a cocktail of emotions in me. The first was excitement-I was going to one of the main havens of beautiful multi coloured fabric, I imagined myself as a kid in a candy store marvelling at all the designs while my bank account limited how many I could keep. I looked forward to exploring the country’s creative scene, soaking in Tanzania’s hospitality, trying out new cuisines and getting lost in the city (well not literally…hopefully).
My excitement was however somewhat cautioned some online information I had seen earlier, about the hustle and risks of travelling solo in Africa. I had done the solo travel thing for a while, but not in Africa. The thought of being a black girl travelling alone in an African country where I couldn’t speak the local language made me anxious. I imagined a lot of annoyance or mistrust from people who tried to communicate with me to no avail (wild imagination on overdrive).
I was awestruck, flying over Tanzania’s capital, Dar es salaam. Such a breath taking sight where the earth emerges from the Indian Ocean, creating a beautiful vision of union whilst still allowing each to independently stand beautifully in its glory. My heart was taken, I smiled from the core and with this, the fear that had been bubbling up subsided, and gave way once again to a state of dreaminess and excitement.
Less than 15 minutes in Tanzania my excitement was subdued once more, this time by an official who asked about my yellow fever certificate. At that point, it seemed very likely my Tanzania trip would be cut shorter than I had anticipated. In my shoddy research about Tanzania, I learned that with my Zimbabwean passport there was no visa needed, and that is where I stopped (what more did I need to know???). Sadly, it turns out I should have known I needed to get a yellow fever jab. Of all of the things that were going on through my mind I decided, I had no desire to use the limited cash that I had on me to pay for a jab at the airport and therefore managed to negotiate my way through immigration without the certificate. Don’t judge me for not prioritising my health (which I do not advise-as I will later explain).
Relieved to have made to the other side, I was accosted by the heat which felt like it was coming straight from an open fire in close range. Fortunately for this solo traveller there was a shuttle service to pick me up from the hostel I was staying at so I did not have to dig out my very dodgy Swahili to negotiate cab rates.
Five minutes into the Dar es salaam I realised that, there is something about African roads that just gives you an indication of where you are. The traffic was chaotic, the helmetless boda boda (motorbike) drivers weaved between cars so fast I had to hold my breath as they sometimes narrowly missed the cars behind them, the dalla dalla (minibus) drivers owned the roads-squeezing into every gap that could be seen on the road, at times creating their own gaps through intimidation. What I had not seen in Africa before though were the tuk tuks (motor taxis) which they referred to asbajaji which seemed to be the only mode of transport on the road that tried to confine itself to lanes or reasonable speed. My driver decided that he was not too special to also follow the lead of some of the hectic matatu drivers which saw me hit my invisible emergency brakes a few times on the road. Inspite of all the road chaos, I caught glimpse of the activity in the streets, the bright coloured outfits everywhere, places I could later potentially get my hair done. This was looking like the unravelling of a promising adventure… to be continued