“The room is pitch black as I wake to the sounds of my son violently throws up in his sleep at 2:00 a.m. We are in the middle of a power blackout, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the suburbs of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, Africa. It’s two hours before we are supposed to finally leave on a bus. To make matters worse, there is no water, as well as the no electricity as my son lays in a pool of his own vomit and I think this is the lowest point of our travels in a LONG time.
The last two weeks have been difficult (you can read how all the problems started here) but I feel absolutely tired, exhausted, and completely drained.”
We’ve been STUCK in Dar Es Salaam – waiting for safaris that never happened, and a visa that never came, with problem after problem mounting day by day. As we try to leave it seems impossible, and it is like living ‘Groundhog Day‘.
Problems As We Can’t Book A Bus
Due to the extremely slow or non-functioning internet, I have not been able to post photos to Facebook or work on my website for most of the past two weeks. But more of a problem, is that I have been trying to book the bus on-line. But I can’t open the site link either even after half an hour of it trying to load, so this is also frustrating.
We take a Bajaj to where there are two bus companies offices to find out departure dates, times, prices and to book our tickets. One bus office is dirty, and the bus photos really look ‘B Grade’. We don’t want to risk it. We have been on buses that break down before, and some have no air-conditioning and are old unreliable buses.
We line up for the other bus company ‘ Modern Coast’. The line grows longer and longer, and as we wait several blind men led by young boys are trying to beg for money from us. We’ve felt the uncomfortable pressure of giving to the poor as so many seek our money. If we do not give at times, we have been verbally abused. We have given and given to the needy and helped who we could with random acts of kindness, but it is from our heart, and I feel like I am a walking ‘white-skinned wallet’ some days. I wonder if they see the real me at all, or do they just see me as ‘money’?
Back to how we are trying to get a bus ticket. Wouldn’t you know it, these other people are standing in the queue, but no-one has told us, nor has any sign been put up, but the booking computer system is down! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We just can’t seem to leave Tanzania!
In despair, we take a Bajaj back to the hotel – we will try again tomorrow.
Problem With Booking Onward Bus Journey
Tomorrow comes, and we go to a different ticket office and purchase the tickets for the same bus company. However, we can’t purchase a ticket for any bus to leave the next country (we think Uganda) after that either. We are concerned that the border patrol might need this onward journey ticket showing our place and date of departure to allow us to enter. The buses are not scheduled that far in advance, so we take a photo of the bus company’s booking screen, in the hope it might act as evidence if we get questioned at the border.
With things being this tough, we want to cover all our bases and we don’t want to end up detained at the border!
We Want To Leave Dar Es Salaam
We end up having to spend another two days at the hotel in the city before the housesit we have booked for Easter. More wasted money and time. We really just want to leave, but we don’t want to let the house-sit owners down, and we have committed to care for their dog so they can go away for a holiday with their family. But we also find that the owners want to return late, and we will be required to book another night in a hotel, just for a few hours sleep. Frankly, we don’t want to waste any more time and money in Dar Es Salaam, we just want to move on to where things are not so tough.
Thankfully, we have contacted the really lovely housesit owners who have a friend to care for their dog for the last day – so we can take the bus early – leaving their suburban house at 4:30 a.m. by taxi to the bus departure point in the city.
Problem With No Power And Water At the Housesit
We love the housesit! It’s a relaxed home and it’s nice just to chill. We walk the dog to the local shops, and it’s lovely to care for the little dog and have her snuggle up next to me.
Plus, we both get to have some baby cuddles with one of their staff’s little boy. He is adorable!
Once the owners depart, we head to the local village Supermarket, but my goodness, the produce is mainly imported and quite expensive. For example, an Easter Egg is $50 for the carton, and $20 for the cheapest box of chocolates (I guess because it is so difficult to get it there refrigerated?) Easter bunny will not be taking a visit this year to our place in Tanzania with these prices. We also find bread at $6 and $8 a loaf! Crazy prices for Africa, when we have paid $1 a loaf just last week.
Fortunately, the homeowner showed me another local Indian-owned supermarket, and we take a Bajaj down to there. Quite a few Bajaj drivers are lined up under the tree, some are asleep because it’s so hot. We learn no-one walks unless they are exercising themselves or a pet. The prices are far more realistic, and we understand how expensive life can be for Ex-Pats in this city.
That day, the power goes off for many hours in the house, and we are told that this is because it is the rainy season. This house is old and has no backup generator, so when the power goes out, the water goes off as well, as it is pumped to the house. There are many bottles of water they have filled and stored under the sink for such situations.
Problem – Explorason starts to get ill
The morning of the day before we are meant to take our bus trip, Explorason gets ill and has the ‘runs’. I load him up with ‘Imodium’ and hope for the best.
We need to leave tomorrow because not only are the owners are back but we would have to find a hotel, plus apply for a new visa which could take days and more $$$ because we would miss our travel date if we can’t go.
My son doesn’t eat all day, and we can’t work out how he has caught this, considering that apart from a trip to the store, and eating one thing differently from me (pasta), he has been isolated.
I wash his clothes by hand because of the lack of water to use the machine. I hope they won’t still be damp by the time we are due to travel and put them under the fan to dry.
We pack some of our luggage contents and go to bed early. I place a towel down on the bed, and a bucket beside the bed for him, ‘just in case’.
I lie awake for hours, scared that I will miss the alarm, or fear the taxi we have booked won’t show.
I consider myself a bit of a travel expert, but honestly, this has been a really tiring couple of weeks, and we just want to leave and move on, and hope things improve.
2:00 a.m. Nightmare
The room is pitch black as I wake to the sounds of my son violently throws up in his sleep at 2:00 a.m. We are in the middle of a power blackout, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the suburbs of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, Africa. It is two hours before we are supposed to finally leave on a bus. To make matters worse, there is no water, as well as the no electricity as my son lays in a pool of his own vomit and I think this is the lowest point of our travels in a LONG time.
The last two weeks have been difficult (you can read how it all started here) but I feel absolutely tired, exhausted, and completely drained.”
I’ve had enough of this chapter of our African travels. And the power is cutting out not just because it is the rainy season, but because this is what happens in these parts of Africa.
I fumble for my iPhone and can’t even get the flashlight working. So I hit the ‘on’ button and get a low glow from the screen. As I make my way to the other side of the bedroom, I see my son is covered in puke, and he has half-missed the towel, plus it is all in his hair and on the floor. Gross!
I make my way to the kitchen in the dark of night and locate the cupboard of water bottles, and race back with a bottle tucked under my arm unscrewing the cap as I go with one hand, and the other holding the phone to light the way.
I lean my son over the bucket by the side of the bed and try to wash him off – again using one hand, holding the phone as a dim light with the other – still not thinking to put it onto the flashlight mode. I clean everything up in the dark – there is ‘mess’ everywhere and I try to find old towels in a house I don’t know. I can’t even set the washing machine going because there is no power, so I stuff the towels in, and fill the detergent and will leave a ‘sorry note’ for the owners. What else can I do?
By now it is 3:00 a.m. and I have to get up. Great!
I’ve had maybe half an hour of sleep, but thankfully Explorason is asleep and not been vomiting again. I leave him to sleep and finish packing everything and find him some medication and wake him, dress him and pack spare toilet paper, and plastic bags for the journey.
Some readers I am sure would at this point not have travelled, but we both really just want OUT of this city.
Not A Surprise Problem But Taxi Tries To Charge More
The power comes back on! YAYYYYY!!!!!
I quickly type an email to the homeowners explaining the drama. I hope the house is neat, disinfected, and tidy. As I got to shut down the computer it starts an auto update. Great timing – NOT! So I wait for ten minutes for it to finish as there is no cancel button. Why now? the taxi is due any minute, and I am worried if I turn the computer off mid update, that is might cause some software corruption. Being in Africa, I really don’t want that.
We are thankful when the taxi beeps in the street at 4:30 a.m. (and I was petrified he won’t show up, even though he is booked, so I’ve booked him early – just in case). I’ve made sure I have a quote, and we have written the number of people, that it includes large luggage, the agreed price, it’s one way, and the destination – I think I have that covered.
As I’m getting the luggage outside Explorason declares “I feel sick again”, so I tell him to go sit in the taxi, but he chucks up in the garden, so I grab him a plastic bag.
When we get into the city it is pitch black again, and I can’t see which street to get the taxi driver to turn down, but we find it without a detour, and when we pull up, the driver won’t get out until I pay him. Then he asks for more Shillings. Seriously – I am so ‘over’ them expecting more money. I tell him I have no more money as we are leaving the country, so he reluctantly accepts defeat and helps me with the luggage.
We are quite early and the bus office is closed, but there are metal seats in the street and a staff member comes to unlock the kiosk type of office. He sees Explorason lying on the seats, so he gets him a comfortable mat to lie on. It is early in the morning but the humidity means perspiration is running down my back and behind my legs.
This particular staff member is so nice. He tags our bags, and then helps me with the luggage and carries it to the bus across the double road when it arrives, and I am so thankful I give him a massive tip (yes, I did find some spare cash!)
Problem – No Toilet On The Bus
We get on the bus and it is SO HOT. Explorason’s window is jammed closed, and we eventually get it opened so he can hang his head outside to breathe, but as soon as the air-conditioning is turned on, the driver demands he close it, even though the bus is about 40 degrees Celsius inside. My son looks grey, and like he is gong to be ill again, so I hand him a plastic bag – just in case.
My stomach starts to cramp up so take some medication too – there is no toilet on this bus! I just can’t get ill. Oh, I dread the very thought. We have a 12-hour bus ride with NO TOILET!
Soon after, Explorason gets the shakes and is freezing cold, so I cover him with my cardigan, and he thankfully falls off to sleep as the bus finally makes its way out of Dar Es Salaam.
Problem with Fog
As we exit the city area and start to drive into the country, the bus driver is forced to take it slowly. It is hot outside and the temperature reads at over 35 degrees Celsius, but ‘pea-soup thick’ white fog prevents us from making much speed. We can barely see the road in front of the bus, and the driver is getting very frustrated as he is losing time.
Problem – No Toilet Stops
As a result of the slow pace, and that the speed limit is already only 50 KMPH in most places, the bus driver is keen to make up lost time.
He stops for barely ten minutes to give us a toilet break, and only once in 7 hours. I ask his assistant to stop for a toilet but he tells me “wait”, and as we pull up to pick up more passengers, I dart out to a public toilet whilst Explorason stays on board to guard our bags. I return, then as Explorason goes to dash off for his turn to use the lavatory the driver starts driving off, so Explorason yells at him to wait. The toilets are holes in the ground, and Explorason has stepped in faeces, so he has had to wash his feet and shoes, and returns rather wet. Gross!
We use our hand sanitizer very thoroughly!
Border Problems – Our Luggage is Deserted
We arrive at the Tanzania border and line up inside for over an hour. We had no idea it will be a long standing wait, so we have no water with us. The toilet in the building is also locked. We finally have our passports stamped and find a toilet across the road – another hole in the ground!
We then walk to the Kenya border in the sweltering heat, and Explorason is feeling very poorly at this time, which is no surprise. No-one tells us where to go, and we can’t see our bus either so we hope we are doing the right thing. We follow a man with a ‘Modern’ t-shirt – I guess he is here to direct, us but we have never seen him before.
As we approach the Kenya immigration office, we see three of our five bags with other people’s luggage left for anyone to help themselves to. I go OFF! No-one is guarding our luggage and I dread to think how long it sat there. I race around and find the bus attendant and he knows I’m really annoyed and tell him two of our bags are missing! He states they ‘might’ be left under the bus. He tells us to “hurry, hurry”. I hate how it is all so rushed.
No-one is guarding our luggage and I dread to think how long it sat there. How unsafe is this?
I race around and find the bus attendant and he knows I’m really annoyed and tell him two of our bags are missing! He states they ‘might’ be left under the bus. He tells us to “hurry, hurry”. I hate how it is all so rushed.
Next thing I know, an inspector wants the contents of our three cases inspected. One cover is ripped – no wait – they are both ripped! Unbelievable! – there seems to be no respect for property! Some uncaring person has wheeled the bag ON the cover making a large hole. But then, that is why we have covers, to protect the bags from getting damaged. Both tops of the covers are also ripped. I make a big deal about the inspector going through our clothes as he is looking for new items to charge us import duty on. I inform him there are more clothes in the next bag, and thankfully he says he can’t be bothered by the time he gets to the third bag.
I make a big deal about the inspector going through our clothes as he is looking for new items to charge us import duty on. I inform him there are more clothes in the next bag, and thankfully he says he can’t be bothered by the time he gets to the third bag.
We get ‘tossed back and forth’ between three counters trying to sort out the Visa and passport stamps. I produce my printed copy of the visa, but NOOOOO. He wants the emailed invoice and receipt as well. Of course, if you read our first blog about all our troubles, you would know hat I never received any acknowledgement for the on-line Visa. the Visa application was lost and I found the approval document on-line a week later. that means I have no email and no invoice, so he won’t let me into Kenya. This is no good.
He says my Visa doesn’t prove I have paid for it! He tells me to go back to the other room’s counter and line up for a retina scan and fingerprints and come back and we will discuss it.
My phone battery is about to die, but thankfully I have a Tanzania SIM so I hope it still works in Kenya seeing I am at the border. At first, it doesn’t but I persist and it does, and I manage to pull up my banking and find the payment deduction, so I race back to their office. I cut in, and explain my phone battery is about to die, and a nice fellow bus passenger takes a photo of my phone screen before it dies. We show Customs and he says OK but demands the Visa paper, and won’t give it back. That’s OK, I have the PDF, I can print a spare!
I’m stamped into Kenya – YAY! The bus assistant races us out. It’s all “hurry, hurry”.
Money Changer Problems
I’m prepared. I’ve written in my notebook the exchange rate for Tanzania to Kenya currency, and how much the total is, and even the conversion to Australian Dollars. I find a money changer (as I know we are getting off the bus on the side of the road, and I need Kenya money for a taxi) and he walks with me towards the bus as we start to exchange my money. I tell Explorason to go rest on the bus and drink some water.
As I get to the bus, I have to tell the money changer to wait, because “hurry, hurry” is yelled at the same time by the bus assistant to locate our missing luggage. I’m going through all the bus storage lockers to try and locate our other bags. I find one bag under a washing machine which has tipped on its side and I’m hoping its not leaking residual water from inside! I’m still looking for the last bag and it is piled under some other cases that look like they have been thrown in ‘willy-nilly’.
Next thing I know, the bus driver starts to take off!!! Personally, I think there is no need for these intimidations, rushing, and scare tactics, and he is such a rude driver! Explorason is ON the bus, but I’m not, and that is very disturbing for him!
As this is happening, what a surprise, but the money changer is trying to rip me off by over $30, so I threaten to call the police, and he then yields SOME of the money but not the right amount, but tries YET AGAIN to short change me. I start yelling. Yelling at the money changing thief, and yelling for the bus driver to stop.
Finally, I get the correct money, and I have to RUN after the bus.
When I get on the bus, Explorason is beside himself. The bus assistant isn’t even on the bus yet! My son doesn’t talk to me for 15 minutes, but he isn’t angry at me, he is angry with how we are treated.
Shortly after, we are left on the side of the road, and I’ve raced around the back of the bus to find our bags in the storage lockers (as passing traffic throws up orange dust all over me). Throngs of locals gather to try and get us to use their Tuk-Tuks, but we have too much stuff for a Tuk-Tuk, and we need a taxi.
Thankfully, a ‘taxi’ driver comes and has the tiniest taxi – actually it is not a taxi, it is his private car, but this is what taxis are in country Kenya.
So I sit Explorason in the back of his car and I oversee the luggage getting crammed into the hatchback – just as I start to feel very ‘flu-ey’. Oh No!
We arrive at our accommodation, and as soon as we are in the room, I put Explorason to bed as he is now in a cold sweat, but there is no air conditioning, only fans.
It’s 7:00 pm and I am mentally and physically exhausted, and as I unpack I notice he is asleep almost instantly.
I am glad we have had an end to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
We made it! YAY!!!
As I’ve said before, our troubles and trials may not be the same as others who go there, but we have had a rough and challenging time. Others who visit Tanzania may have a wonderful experience, and I’d hope to go back and have a better experience sometime in the future – just not now!
I welcome our arrival to Kenya as I sit alone in the garden overlooking the Indian Ocean at dinner with a drink. I pray things get better than they have been for the past few weeks.
We are looking forward to our time in Kenya, and staying at some lovely locations.
Often, ‘it always darkest before the dawn‘, and hopefully, the worst challenges are all behind us now, and there is something amazing waiting ahead for us.