Many updates to the blog today, so if you are an avid reader, click on the January 2008 link on the left.
I don’t sleep well, probably because I plan to get up at 5:30am, so do the waking up hourly thing all through until getting up, having a cold shower and heading out. The chap who runs the place kindly offers me a limited breakfast, but my appetite isn’t stirred by tough chewy bread and tea at this hour. It’s a pleasant quiet walk down to the ferry port, the other side of town. Despite the Call to Prayer being over an hour ago and the sun being up there seems to be little activity. I’m glad it’s quiet around the port, as this is Tout Central during the day, but at this time it’s easy to work out where to buy my ticket, priced at more than double the local price, at 35 US$ or 50,000 shillings. A quite bit of mental arithmetic suggests that it’s cheaper in dollars, so I hand them over, and am given a small ticket to write my name on. Round to the “Passenger Terminal”, i.e. some benches before the boarding point, where Immigration check my passport and ask me to fill out a form. I suppose it’s a token gesture, as Zanzibar is semi-autonomous within Tanzania, having their own President and civil service.
The catamaran ferry, the Sea Star I, leaves just after 7am, and is comfortable, despite me not forking out the extra 5US$ for the VIP seats upstairs, and it’s smooth on the water – I hear there were some rough crossings last week.
Kath meets me in front of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and I spend the rest of the day organising my bus ticket to Moshi, buying some new sandals, as my Crocs are about to fall to pieces, eating some nice grilled fish and doing nothing much in Dar. Not that there’s any need for guilt, the only sight in Dar is the National Museum, the description of which in LP was not especially enticing. So, technically, arriving into Moshi tomorrow (16th) I could be heading up Kili the following day! I presume it will take a day or two to organise things though. The thing that worries me about Kili, apart from the fact that the majority of those I’ve met recently failed in their attempt to reach the summit, concerns precisely that point – it’s a very goal-oriented affair – unlike Nepal where the whole hike is a beautiful experience, Kilimanjaro is all about whether you make the top or not. Nothing much else to see, no villages, no valleys. One mountain, and up you go. My Uncle Michael climbed it a few years ago, and according to Grandpa Cliff, the last few hundred metres were not the easiest!
In Dar I’m staying in the Kariakoo area, which is the main market of Dar, and really something to be seen if you’re into anarchy! People, carts, cars, buses, all flying in all directions, all busy, impatient, and allowing little room for a by-stander. Not really my kind of thing.
Luckily, as I’m using New Scandinavian Express buses tomorrow, I can walk to the terminal, instead of the others which all leave from an enormous place out of town which is apparently rather chaotic. Dar es Salaam to Moshi is apparently about a 7 ½ hour journey, and I’m on a so-called “Super-deluxe” coach. Full report tomorrow.
We have dinner at the Chef’s Place, what seems like the only decent recent restaurant in town. Strange that they don’t offer beer though.
Next morning, as I walk down to the bus station, I walk past vast selections of newspapers, and nearby men sitting in big groups drinking tea from a communal pot. It’s good to see there’s a free press here – in Kenya the President has apparently banned live broadcasts. Interestingly there’s a worry here expressed regularly in the newspapers that Tanzanian tourism will be hit by the troubles there – however if anything my experience is the reverse – people are aborting their Kenyan trips and redirecting to Zanzibar and the Serengeti.
On my bus, which does look like a South American bus which had reached the end of its life, we head off on the 7-8 hour journey.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather, flu like. An hour out of Dar, the rains start, which is kind of amusing as I read today’s newspaper, the headline article of which is about droughts across the country! It’s interesting to watch pineapple sellers hiding between HGV wheels, small kids standing soaked to the skin in their uniform, holding hands, a crowd of locals sheltering under a tiny canopy, squeezed together comically.
It’s noteworthy that Tanzanians love their road bumps. All along this road, a national highway, we hit big ones, small ones, ribbed ones, especially on dips near bridges, but also in places where there’s no clear reason to have them. They also have police checks on a regular basis, most of which we are waved through. Also weigh bridges, which we pass through twice.
Most goods carried about on two-wheeled carts pulled by young lads, along the relatively empty roads, past buildings mostly brick with corrugated iron roofs, moving to mud walls in the more remote areas. There are lots of fern-like trees with red flowers, very pretty. Locals are mostly on bicycle. One doesn’t see many motorbikes either.
We make a brief stop at Ubungo Ubungo, the main bus terminal. Even after our stop here, the bus is fairly empty, great! They put on a Nigerian soap on the TV up above us. I’m getting quite into these Nigerian soaps with their sequential storylines, always with a moral.
In Tanzania, whacking crows with catapults is a popular kids pastime, and I even see a dead one pinned up to a telegraph pole for practice.
We make a lunch stop. I ask for chips and a sausage, but am told they don’t have that in the ready-made polystyrene trays. What, even chips and a sausage isn’t cooked fresh? I'll wait till Moshi!
We drive along into the bush, consisting of short spiky trees, sparsely spaced in the orange soil. There are also irrigated areas with small spiky plant, like a yuka without stem, perhaps palm trees?
Foothills start rising up from the plains, and I think I see Kilimanjaro silhouetted against the horizon, though later decide it couldn’t have been, the weather we head into is too bad for me to have seen if from that distance. I’m proud of following in some of Tilman’s grand footsteps across this continent. The woman behind me suddenly whacks me on the head. I turn round to find her apparently fast sleep. She does it again, harder. Still sleeping.
One interesting cultural quirk that I believe LP comments on is the practice of using one’s indicators to suggest safe passing, sensible given the slow speeds many vehicles adopt here. However, often in Tanzania, the drivers get confused and despite driving on the left hand side of the road, indicate right to encourage one to pass, which is of course the reverse of what one would expect – I wonder how many accidents there are when the indicating car then actually turns into a side road?!
Torrential rain as I approach Kilimanjaro! Doesn’t bode well!
As much as I get to see of Kili today!
Visiting a local hospital – as a patient!
On arriving at Kindoroko, I feel so awful that I take to my bed, and am there for the next three days, shuttling between the bathroom and the bed. Not enjoyable. Finally On the third day, I’ve had enough, and my self-diagnosing myself using LP’s Heath advice suspect I have Giardiasis. Turns out I was right! Anyway, I can tell you this – with Giardiasis, you can’t just let you system flush the bad stuff out then be done with. Your system keeps flushing, and flushing, even though there’s nothing more to come. A sip of water would pour out the other end five minutes later.
I wanted to get a Doctor to visit me, as I had no confidence in being more than a few metres from my bathroom, but this apparently wasn’t to be, so Haj on reception put me into a taxi to Kilimanjaro Hospital, where I immediately had to fork out 30,000s or.. as I had to do.. 30US$ (a horrendously bad exchange rate) for a consultation. The Doctor seemed to ask all the right questions though, and soon send me off for a stool sample, (4,000s more) which as it happens I was keen to provide as a matter of priority! I had a choice of bathrooms – a Western style toilet with no paper, or a dirty squat toilet, which at least had running water. Nice. Especially given the open wound I have just had inflicted by them taking a blood sample – I think to test for Malaria.
That handed over, I went back to the Doctor, who suggested I should have a lie down on their beds and have a saline drip to replace some of what I had lost over the past few days. I asked whether I could just take tablets instead, but no. So, all fine, until I stupidly asked the Doctor what was in the saline solution. He grabs the bottle which is feeding my line, tips it up to read the side, and I see bubbles zooming down my drip! Help! I don’t know much about medicine, but air in the blood stream is definitely a bad thing.
Then the nurses fidgets about with the bottle and again introduces bubbles! By now I’m getting a bit stressed, but the staff just laugh at me. Why am I paying so much attention to this, they wonder? Could it be because they’re close to giving me a severe stroke when these air bubbles block the blood supplies to my brain?? After the third time, I refuse to continue with the drip. Along at the pharmacy, they issue me with three different drugs (12,000s more). One to combat Giardiasis, a Metronidazole substitute, one to block up my bowels and a general purpose antibiotic (I think). I taxi home, hoping that this stuff is going to work, and hoping I won’t die from all the air in my blood stream!
Next day and I’m feeling slightly better. I think it’s indicative of how loose my bowels are that I can still “go” after taking the “Imodium” equivalent they’ve given me! I tried to eat dinner last night but just couldn’t do it, so this is now day 4 of not eating, hardly the “building up energy for trek” that I’d hope to be doing right now. And so I wait… At least I’ve made it to this net café today, so things are getting better!