Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam: It’s Good to Stay at the….
Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam: It’s Good to Stay at the….
“Young man, are you listening to me?”
I am lacking sleep because I think my Facebook and email accounts were hacked into through the internet at Sofia’s place. That really happens? Really? Marc had been suspicious of it happening to him through her internet and last night things got fishy on me. So, I was up until 02:00 changing passwords to accounts and the hassle of getting codes through different accounts to change passwords can drive a partially-sane man crazy…
Then I cracked into the day this morning at 07:30. Yay…
It is $35 to ride the ferry from Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam if you are a foreigner. It is 25,000 ($12) if you are local. I wanted to get someone local to buy the ticket for me, but I was warned they would check it when I went to get on the boat. They were right. I would have never gotten away with it. It took about two hours to get across from Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam…on the continent of Africa. I am officially on continental Africa!
I have heard nothing but horror stories about Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam, the ferry ride and about the dangers of Dar Es Salaam. Everyone I have talked to likes to go on about how bad the city is and how much crime is there. Everyone has me pretty freaked out. Ms. Tanzanian Pageant told me, “The thieves do not care about skin in Dar Es Salaam. They steal from everyone. Never ever take your camera out. Never use your phone. They will steal necklaces you are wearing when they walk by. They will steal your shoes…” Really, she told me they will steal my shoes… So, I have been stressing about even going to the city. People love to talk about how scary and dangerous places are. I have heard so much of this shit, but it is hard to just brush it off. It makes you uncomfortable when you are there and you end up edgy and trust no one. I would sooner not know anything and just feel the energy. Negative premonitions make for negative experiences…
I left the ferry terminal in Dar Es Salaam walking with authority. There were about 30 taxi-guys at the front gate yelling at me for business as I parted the seas through them and carried on. One of them followed me for an additional 15 meters promising me good fares. I just ignored them all. I have heard stories about the cabbies from the ferry terminal getting foreigners into their car and then taking them at knife-point to an ATM. So, no taxis for me. I mapped it out last night and I knew where to walk three blocks into the city center to catch a dola-dola for $0.20 for 8kms to the Ubungo bus terminal. I even ended up with a seat on the hour bus trip there.
When the dola-dola dropped me off about 100 meters from the bus terminal, it was like someone had dropped chicken blood into the ocean where the piranhas usually sleep. There were immediately at least five touts all over me. “Where you go?” “What bus company you look for?” “You go to Kampala?” “You go tomorrow?” “Where going friend?” And the questions went in a circle over and over again. I was stand-offish and I would not tell any of these fuckers trying to make a couple of dollars off of me anything about my plans. They would not stop walking with me and they were basically surrounding me as we were walking, one of them thinking he was going to get the big prize. Well you know what fuckers? Today is not my first day of travel! I have met 1,500 of you vultures. I told them to leave me be. I told them I wanted space. I told them I did not speak English. They asked me in German if I speak Deutsch. I told them, “Russia!” All they could say to me was, “Vladimir Putin…”
I walked towards the ticket office with five leeches in tow. I just stood out of the rain for about five minutes while they paced, trying to figure out how to crack my wallet open, wanting to know where I was going. They were like dogs barking around me. Eventually, I went into an office to price out a bus for Moshi. There were no more buses leaving from that office but I asked the price. 32,000 Tanzanian shillings ($16). As I walked, my ‘friends’ followed and tried to lead me. I got really tired of one of them, the one who was trying to share my breathing space. I told him, “Enough. Stop. I do not want you around me anymore. Stop following me.” He tried to tell me it was okay. I told him, “It is not okay. Leave. LEAVE. LEAVE!” He followed me more. I stopped and said, “GO!” One of his scumbag buddies said something in Swahili, which was probably very insulting to me, and he eventually left. But there were still at least four of them around me.
The bus station is just little company after little company in tiny offices next to each other, each running their own bus line fleets. I found a place that still sold tickets for a bus for today. The company said it was leaving right away. I asked them how much it was. They told me, “$65.” I told them, “Nope,” and went to leave. As I was walking away they asked me how much I was willing to pay. I said, “35,000 shillings. No more.” They said, “Okay, but bus leave now. Last bus. Must hurry.” I went to hand them a $20 US note, and I told them I wanted change. They told me to not worry about the change. I told them I was not going without change. They wrote out the ticket and handed it to a tout. He told me to not worry about the change and to just give him the $20. I told him that would not be happening. He said he would take me to a ‘black-market’ office where they would change my $20. In the office a man offered me 30,000 shillings for the $20 which is ¾ of the value of the money. I walked out and tried to find a new bus company.
Meanwhile the tout was trying to get me to follow him to the bus, saying I ‘might’ be able to find change there, knowing that I would not, but guessing that I would not care at that point and I would just get on the bus as it was leaving and let him keep the money. But, since the tout had my ticket in his hand, I was going to have to bribe the security man to let me though to the buses and he wanted 200 shillings. Now, that is only $0.10, but I could see where this was going so I just walked away. The tout was telling me to hurry. I told him I was just going to miss the bus. I still had my money in my hand, so what did I care. I have time. There is no real rush for me but I could see that he sure did not like losing out on my money. I stopped a two other bus companies, but they said that all buses were gone for the day. I decided to just head back to town to spend the night in this shitty city. Two touts were following me saying, “You can still catch bus!” “Nope…”
Some new tout followed me to the gate going on and on about some lady who was out there who was going to steal my money, or she had stolen some German person’s money, or something like that. I was just walking away and was not listening to whatever lies he was trying to tell me to make it seem like he was saving my life and maybe I would give him $1 for his heroics. I found a dola-dola outside on the street, took it back into the city center and tried to check into the YWCA, which I heard was nice. I had no idea I could stay at the women’s version… Some guy had checked in ahead of me so it was legit, but they were full. They sent me around the corner to the YMCA and I got the last bed in the place for $6. I went and ate at their cafeteria as I need to start taking malaria medication now, and I need to chase the pills down with food. So, I am staying at the YMCA, and I had a good meal there… Yea, that shitty song is stuck in your head now too. I know. Sorry about that. Imagine staying here. The song does not stop playing in my head…
I went for a walk around Dar Es Salaam to get a feel for the city, while singing a shitty Village People song in my head. I am not sure what is here in this city. It seems like there is nothing but businesses, and residences. There seems to be nothing else that would make this city distinctly itself somehow. Just little businesses and homes for 2.5 million people.
Stone Town to Dar Es Salaam today. It was a day I had been dreading but it was not bad at all. No more Dar fear!
Back at the YMCA, I made friends with a local Tanzanian guy and his two friends from Kenya. I asked them what they are doing here. They said they brought forty women here. I exclaimed, “Forty! Wow. That should be just enough I guess!” They were laughing at me. They asked about Zanzibar when I said I had been there. The one guy said, “They have good bitches there. Not bitches. Beaches.” I said, “They have a little of both.” They were laughing hard at that. Now, keeping in mind that when those guys say those two words, there is not a lot of difference in the pronunciation… one of them asked, “What did you try more, the bitches or the beaches?” I said, “Well, I tried one of the bitches and two of the beaches. All three were great.” Those guys were killing themselves laughing. One of them said, “You are very funny man!”
Here is a little more YMCA for you, just so that it can really get in your head.
You can thank me with curse words. I can tell I am not happy in this city because I have used a lot of them myself to write today… I will be gone in the morning…. The song seems to be written for me right now:
♫ Young man, there’s no need to feel down.
I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground.
I said, young man, ’cause you’re in a new town
There’s no need to be unhappy. ♫