Arusha to Mbeya: Leap Year Country Crossing
Arusha to Mbeya: Leap Year Country Crossing.
[su_note note_color=”#b0b1b6″ text_color=”#030303″ radius=”6″]I should make a series of my leap year blogs together to see how much I have changed every four years. It might be an interesting activity…[/su_note]
Up at 04:48, showered, checked out of my dungeon hotel room and rushed off to the bus station. Found a ticket from Arusha to Mbeya for 56,000 ($25.50). Likely paid too much but it was too early to think. Found out the bus would not arrive and leave again until 07:00. Went back to the hotel. Checked back in at 05:38. Slept again until 06:38. Rushed off to the bus station. Waited for my 07:00 bus which eventually arrived at 08:00. Africa…
I was in one of the last remaining seats of a large bus and I was in the very back corner on the passenger’s side. There are speed bumps to control traffic velocity every one kilometer or so on the drive from Arusha to Mbeya. It was a 14 hour drive that turned into 16 hours.
If I was counting the speed bumps on the ride, I am sure I would have had to quit along the way as I am not sure if I am capable of counting to that high of a number. I also would not have missed counting one as I was very much aware of each one. Each time we hit a bump, I would nearly bounce up into the roof of the bus due to my seating placement in the very back corner. What a ride…
The bus played Tanzanian hip-hop music videos for most of the drive. Then they put on an Asian television series where the sound cut out as one Swahili voice explained the whole show and what was going on.
I realized on the drive that I never get offered drugs in Africa. Not even pot. I hate it so much when that happens and every scumbag in every park assumes that I am in town to smoke his pot, snort his coke and screw his whores. It is one of the worst parts of travel, getting those guys out of your face. They are in every non-developed country. It is really nice not having to talk to them in Africa. People here are very clean. I cannot remember the last time I smelled pot. Maybe in Rwanda over a month ago. That might be the only time I have smelled it anywhere. I think I have only been offered it once, which was on my second day after I arrived in Zanzibar…
About 8 hours into the Arusha to Mbeya drive, our bus crossed a huge dam. I went to take a photo of the dam as we passed by, but could not get my camera ready in time. The bus stopped about a kilometer down the road. I heard something about “Muzoongo” and I found out that someone from the dam reported that a white person had taken a photo and the dam people were demanding that it was deleted. There were three other Caucasian people on the bus. Everyone in the back of the bus next to me was angry, assuming I was the reason that the bus stopped. It turned out it was a girl a few rows up.
We drove along very windy mountain roads and one of the bus conductors handed out vomit bags to the passengers.
It got really dark and many people were squeezed into the bus. I fell asleep and when I opened my eyes, a local man seated next to me was staring at me. It made me super uncomfortable, so I made myself stay away to keep an eye on the situation. I was still catching stares and about 30 minutes later I thought I should test the energy of the man. I introduced myself and asked him where he was going. It turned out that he was actually a nice man and was just interested in understanding who/what I am. It is hard to not let your mind run wild though when you feel like you may be in a vulnerable position.
Later, when the bus stopped and seats emptied along the road, I moved closer to the front of the bus. Something was slippery below my feet and when I shone my phone on it, I realized it was vomit. So, I moved to the seat behind that seat.
We arrived in Mbeya at midnight. Barking-dog sounding tout-men were all over me as I got off the bus. The closest to me who reeked of booze. Luckily, I had shared my chips with one of the relief drivers earlier on the drive when he came to the back of the bus to sit beside me. In Mbeya, he took care of me and walked me to a guesthouse. I needed phone credit and the note I had for 10,000 shillings was too big for the vendor to break so my bus driver friend paid for the phone credit for me. He sure was a great guy.
He walked me back to my guesthouse and local women (likely prostitutes) were cat-calling me as we walked past them. I was glad to have my driver-friend with me. I thanked him for his help at the hotel. He told me he was going to sleep for three hours in the bus while it was being serviced and then he would start the return journey back for 14 hours to Arusha and then another two hours to Moshi to finish the day. Those drivers make a lot of miles on no sleep…
When I entered the guesthouse, I was talking to the manager. I asked him if it was dangerous for me to be outside. He told me it was too dangerous and that I was not allowed to leave the guesthouse. I said, “Okay dad, thanks. I will just go to bed then!”
16 hours from Arusha to Mbeya on a bus today… 8 hours on a bus yesterday… I am making miles, but wow travel like this is unpleasant…