Dar es Salaam: Part 1
The heat was becoming uncomfortable. It was 8.30 in the morning and the police station had just been opened. This was our first morning in Dar-es-Salaam.
People began filing in to the dusty compound towards the solitary block to be attended to.
There was a protocol one had to follow.
You state your reason of entry at the barrier to the officer on guard and he will determine whether it’s good enough to earn you entry. He will also determine whether your clothing is appropriate enough, shorts for men and short skirts for ladies are not allowed.
It was still fairly early and the city was moving slow. The humid air carried a lone cry from a bruised and beaten up fellow lying on the dusty ground at the police station. He only had on a pair of tattered boxers and was covered in dust, feces and blood. He propped himself up using his hands with his right leg elevated off the ground. As we got closer it became clear why; His right leg was broken at the shin and his foot dangled at an awkward angle. He cried for help to which the officers’ response was the threat of another beating. No one else around us paid him any mind.
This was hardly the kind of adventure we thought we would be having, but like any journey, ours had starts and stops, pauses and accelerations. Thus, for us to give a proper account, we must begin at the beginning.
After weeks of planning and correspondence with our host we were ready to take on Tanzania as the first of our Wanderlust East Africa series. We were on a mission to road-trip all the way to Dar to immerse ourselves in the culture and cuisine of the coastal town. Our route would be Nairobi-Namanga (border)-Arusha-Moshi-Dar-es-Salaam and back. A total of 1800kms.
For anyone planning to road-trip across East Africa you will need a COMESA Yellow Card. Contact your vehicle insurance provider and they will guide you accordingly. They require details such as type of vehicle (private or commercial), number of days travelling and number of passengers.
We got a premium insurance cover using Britam for 5,260/- for 7 days. This will cover any vehicle damage that may occur during your trip. For personal goods however you will need a separate insurance cover. Keep in mind the police officers will be asking for the COMESA card at checkpoints so keep it close at all times.
We left Nairobi at around 5.30 a.m. and arrived at the border at 7.30 a.m.
There is a procedure for crossing the Kenya – Tanzania border with a personal vehicle so you might want to pay attention to this:
Head over to Kenya Immigration with your passport and yellow fever card. Get your passport stamped.
Then go to Customs KRA and present your original vehicle log book, original I.D and COMESA insurance. You will then be given a copy of your logbook as they shall retain the original. You will collect the original upon re-entry.
Exchange your currency. The border offers the best rates.
Head over to the Tanzanian Immigration to get your passport stamped.
Clear your vehicle with Tanzanian Customs and you will be required to pay $20 to Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA)
If you haven’t already, purchase a fire extinguisher for your vehicle, two hazard triangles and a first aid kit box. If you can have these items before departure from Nairobi the better.
Finally, keep your papers close and you are good to go.
Following these steps will prevent plenty of complications with the Tanzanian Police along the way. Due to our own ignorance we did not realize we needed to pass by the Tanzanian Immigration for vehicle clearance which eventually led to a waste of 5 hours haggling with Tanzanian Immigration and Traffic Police over bribe prices and allowing us to go back to complete the process. At this point we were already 10 kilometres in to Tanzania.
Driving in Tanzania makes for a pleasant journey as the roads are well marked and enjoyable. However, keep an eye on your speed and maintain a 50 kph speed limit in 50 limit zones and residential/populated areas. If you aren’t patient enough for this, travel at night. Speed limits are less strict after dark, especially after 7 p.m. There are random checkpoints where police will check your vehicle so a word of advice, keep your contraband in your toiletry bag. (Thank us next time)
After several ravaged Oreo packets and countless playlists, we got to Dar at around 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
Upon arrival our host Adrian received us and showed us where we could sleep and refresh after the long journey. Lodge inns are quite common in Dar and the best bet for a low budget trip. We spent about 15,000-25,000 TZS per night/per room at various lodge inns. Some even come equipped with a bar and thus offer a quick solution to beverage refreshments and if you’re really lucky, some give one the opportunity to buy ingredients and request for a meal to be prepared.
We didn’t get the chance to try out an Airbnb accommodation though we would have loved to.
There are various camping options available as well, mostly by the beach. We were only able to visit Lungwe Beach which was a bar which offered boat rides to Mbudya Island by day and camping grounds by night. Prices for camping are flexible and depend on how you bargain with the facilitators.
We however, got more than what we bargained for.
Having decided to camp on the beach on our first night, we were excited to catch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean at the crack of dawn. We got to Lungwe Beach at around 11 P.M and we were shown by the main guard where we could park our car, as well as where to sleep. We were offered beach beds and we soon got comfortable.
A stalwart man in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt slept behind us. He had identified himself as a guard and we had gullibly believed him.
We left all our luggage and valuables in the car and made sure we had locked it. We slept not more than 40 metres from the car under umbrellas. The ocean provided a soothing sound as the waters broke at the beach. The tide was coming back. It was humid but cool so we had the lightest of clothing on. We were soon lulled to slumber by the sound of the mighty waters. It was a peaceful night as any.
We woke up at about 5.30 A.M. to get ready to capture the sunrise. Our gear was in the car so we headed there. Upon getting to the car the site was unnerving. Two doors were opened and one window shattered. Alarmed, we rushed to check inside.
(We were asleep in the umbrella seen above and the vehicle was where it is)
Everything was gone.
Our bags, our gadgets, laptops, phones, cameras and money were nowhere to be found, as well as some personal documents such as passports, I.D cards and driving licenses.
All that remained were blood stains on the car seats and our snacks. Luckily, one camera survived the onslaught, having kept it in a paper bag full of Oreos and chocolates. They hadn’t bothered to check.
It was without a doubt the lowest point of our adventure.
Upon reflection, the fact that there was no sunrise that morning as the sun hid behind clouds, makes that moment even more melancholic.
Photo credits: Marshall Kiganjo and Will Itegi