Dar es Salaam

Thursday 12/10/17: We’re on the road for the next couple of days to reach Dar es Salaam and oh my gosh, is it hot! My fellow overlanders tell me that the temperature is in the 30s but I’m sure it’s more like 40! I never thought that I’d yearn for a bit of drizzle! We’re in a new truck and it feels quite a lot more squished than our original one but it might just be the heat. The two days travelling are long. Each a 7-ish hour drive, we leave well before sunrise but the time we get in really depends on traffic (generally the roads have been pretty quiet since we left Nairobi, or maybe it’s just that no traffic will ever seem as bad as Nairobi!) and how many times we get pulled over by the police. Since driving on Tanzania’s main roads, we’ve been flagged down every two to three hours by one of their officers in shiny white uniforms, similar to a pilot’s wardrobe. One of them often comes on board to check we’re all wearing seatbelts, while another might talk to the driver about an imagined speeding violation (these trucks are so slow, I don’t see how that could even be possible!). So far, after 15 minutes of discussion, we’ve been allowed to proceed. Hopefully this luck continues to Dar.  

A while ago, I’d read Roald Dahl’s “going solo “ where he’d described Dar Es Salaam in the 1930s as a tiny town. It’s very name translates as Haven of Peace.  More recent reviews, however, suggest that Dar is a fast-growing urban mixing-pot of Indian, Arabic and African. When we finally arrive, it’s an assault on the senses. It’s noisy and busy. It’s home to modern tall buildings that sit alongside streets of haphazard shacks. Men carry trays of bottles of water or peanuts or sweets and walk between the traffic selling through car windows against a backdrop of billboards offering western products. Dar is a major shipping port to the Middle East and Asia and we can see tankers and cruiseliners anchored in the distance in the sea. 

We’ll be staying overnight in a simple beach-hut before the final stage of our journey to Zanzibar tomorrow. This evening, we hang out in the little bar on our beach, drinking cocktails and eating a fish bbq. At one point, a large group of around 100 topless men in camouflage trousers run up the beach in file, 5 across, singing an army song. The front runner carries a pole with a large camouflage flag blowing in the wind and I automatically take out my camera and start recording. Suddenly, one of the men is running towards me and I realise my error. As he gets near me, I start apologising and asking whether it’s okay to take pictures, he says no, and I immediately offer to delete it. He stands over me as I delete the recording and I ask him if they’re the army, to which he nods his head. He’s polite and not actually threatening but I’m relieved as he runs off into the distance to catch up with the rest of his squad.

Saturday 14/10/17: We take tuktuks to the local port where we join a busy queue to take a small ferry to the main ferry port. Our guide explains that we’re not allowed to take pictures here either – this is a military area and Tanzania police have a reputation for fining people ridiculous amounts for small infractions. It sounds like I got off lightly yesterday! The main ferry is busy but modern with security scanners and checks and will take us across to the island of Zanzibar. We arrive a couple of hours later and after further security checks and registration controls, we’re finally on the island where Freddie Mercury was born. 

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