Pottered around the house and office for the first half of the day. Made progress on a revised quote for the IPP classes and helped Jack figure out how to play VCD’s on his Windows laptop. Shafiq requested our presence for a trip over to a potential new site for the office over toward the airport.
The site turned out to belong to Arifa’s uncle and was in much less shape than Chantal and I were lead to believe. Shafiq mentioned that DTP needed to be moved by the beginning of January. They have a great deal of work ahead of them. The area proposed production area is nothing more than a pad at this point in time. The rest of the structure was incredibly raw, with parts looking as if they had been through a war. We are joined on site by Smit, the architect for this site and the Mayfair Plaza over toward Hanif’s house. We made arrangements with her to meet the following morning and get layouts for the structures that DTP would occupy.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent back at the office. The internet connection had degenerated so much that I was getting disconnect from my FTP server almost as soon as I was able to connect and start uploading pictures for the blog. It had been so bad that Shafiq had supposedly not been able to check his email for the previous three days.
We eventually called in quits and headed out for dinner. We decided to try a new place called the Garden Bistro. It was nice but a little expensive. Maina was supposed to meet an old college friend and eventually figured that he should just go get him and bring him along for dinner. Eventually Maina and Kamal returned and we had a nice meal together. Kamal, it turns out had moved to London and had been running a disco for a number of years before giving it up in favor of a community center. He was in Kenya and Tanzania for a few days to try and make contacts to set up summer camps in both countries. After dinner, we headed over to the Golden Tulips Hotel where Kamal was staying to have some drinks. By this point it was getting on towards 1 a.m. and we were all running out of steam.
In the Arabica Cafe: Kamal and Maina, Chantal crashed out.
Getting a little culture was on today’s agenda. We headed over to Mwenge to look for handicrafts. I had been over there previously with Gabriel and knew what to expect. The handicraft area consists of a large plaza with an open courtyard in the middle where a number of woodcarving artisans ply their trade. The finished pieces are then taken around to the selling stalls at the perimeter to see if they can find a buyer.
We made it around to almost every stall. It is interesting to see, with minor exceptions, almost the same thing in every one. Chantal bought a few things, including a painting that she got talked into purchasing. I was mainly interested in getting a better feel for what sort of things were there. It is so close to where we are staying that it will be easy to go back in the future.
A Swahili rendition of “Have you been to Jesus?” is in heavy rotation.
Our next stop is the Msasani Slipway, a tourist trap if I have ever seen one. We grab a bite to eat while being serenaded by an electronic toy that played Frara Jaqua, the Alphabet Song and Happy Birthday. At our suggestion, the waiter approached the mother of the boy who was manipulating the toy to see if it could be silenced. Maina reported that her reply indicated that she was totally unaware of the sound her child was making. Eventually they wandered off and we were left to Chantal taking up the serenade.
Take my picture.
After lunch we moved 50 yards over to be next to the water and nursed some fruit juice and mineral water for a bit before looking around at more handicrafts. A stall of handcrafted books caught my eye. The proprietor was talkative and explained that he was living in Micocheni, somewhere close to where we are, and that all of the books are made from natural or recycled materials. I was particularly curious about the pictures he had of himself extracting dyes from plants. When I told him what I was doing in Tanzania, he seemed very interested in the possibility of learning how to put together a website. Hopefully he will join the Pixel Corps.
One of a multitude of kitchen supply stands in a field opposite the US Embassy.
Chantal and I headed back to Hanif’s house to relax and work before going out to meet Mwanga. He fails to get in touch with us, so we just head out to get some produce for supper and set about making ourselves a meal.
We worked at Hanif’s house throughout the morning and headed over to the DTP office to meet with Shafiq. We grabbed a bite to eat before he returned from the mosque at 2 p.m. On our way over to the restaurant it started to rain and continued to pour down throughout our meal, stopping just prior to our departure back to the office.
The meeting with Shafiq was to discuss the logistics and legalities of our proposed classes at IPP Media. First up was a viewing of the DVD project. Everyone present seemed impressed. The discussion then progressed to our proposed fee. Shafiq thought our bid was too low and a long discussion ensued about the permit required to legally proceed with the work. It was determined that we would best be served by a “Special Pass” that would allow us to work for six months for a $400 fee each. A gentleman named Jack, who we had seen at the office on a number of other occasions casually placed a call to the Commissioner of Immigration and discussed our situation with him. We were all a little taken aback. Out of the conversation it was revealed that IPP had recently come into a considerable amount of funds for the express purpose of training their personnel. We agreed to revise our bid and that we would re-convene on Monday.
The next hour was spent running the numbers to come up with a few pricing schemes. Almost every financial transaction here seems to involve some bargaining so we will aim high and maneuver down from there. The power went out just after we finished, so we decided to pack it in and go find some food. We ended up at the Indian restaurant that we missed a couple of nights previously. I was happy to learn that it was a strictly vegetarian establishment. I ordered a five Dal dish and some garlic parathas. Absolutely scrumptious.
With breakfast at 8 a.m. and an 11 a.m. departure, none of us were in any hurry to get up. I had taken off my watch and even though I probably woke up at the usual 6 a.m., I managed to stay relaxed in bed until just after 8 a.m. Had a bit of a scramble to get over to breakfast but I don’t think anyone really missed us.
The camp had a pool which Else and I made use of. The chilly water was most welcome. We swam for about 40 minutes before drying off in the sun. I am in desperate need of some more sun. I figure the tanner I get, the less I will get overcharged for goods and services. I will no longer be the pasty white European that the locals can spot a mile away. It is a pipe dream I know, but worth at least a little effort to try.
We departed the camp at 11 a.m. to be at the train station for a rumored 11:56 a.m. departure. We arrived early and the Dutch folks have a bunch of Bic pens to hand out to the kids. It is a bit of a mob scene and Fadhil is volunteered for the next time. The trip is smooth and most pleasant. We were forced to the siding to let another train pass at the village of Kifuru. We all opted to go out and explore the area. The Dutch folks were quite indiscriminate with their picture taking. One lady took offense and there was a bit of a heated discussion with Fadhil that he diffused quite well. We returned to the train just before the oncoming train passed. The next Bic pen distribution went much better. Fadhil’s solution was to have all the kids close their eyes and hold out their hands. This worked much better and made for some fun pictures at the same time.
Bedlam vs. Order, Fadhil’s “close your eyes” solution was most elegant.
The beauty salon in Kifuru. Everyone got to watch the DVD. The Dutch group was so impressed they wanted to buy one on the spot.
We arrived at the Dar es Salaam train station about 5:30 p.m. Miriam was on hand with our forward transport. The Dutch group was whisked off in a mini van to their hotel. We crammed into a cab with Else and drop her at her Uncle’s place before heading over to the DTP office. We caught up with Maina and checked in with our email. Eventually we headed over to Q Bar to get some dinner. The place was packed with expats and lascivious looking local girls. I was particularly nervous on this occasion. I imagined that this would be a good target for religious extremists. Down with the bringers of evil from the west and the corrupted local people chasing after them. Maina would tell me later that he sometimes thinks about this too and that there is an even busier bar that would probably be a more likely target.
If Tanzania were the Disneyland of yore, today’s adventure would have required an “E Ticket.” We were summonsed by the Foxes to be at the Tazara Railway workshop at 8 a.m. in order to get on their train out to the Selous Game Reserve.
After a harrowing rush-hour taxi ride in a vehicle with no shocks (Being shock less necessitates negotiating the multitude of speed bumps at 5 Km/Hr, coming at them from a 45 degree angle.) we arrived at 8:10 a.m. to find no one at the workshop. Fearful of having been left behind, I attempted to call Nick, who had “arranged” everything. The guards at the gate failed to understand my request for a telephone, but were most amused by the page in Chantal’s notebook that Nick’s number was on. About this time Miriam showed up and whisked us over to the Tazara station for a 9 a.m. departure. Else from Vuma Hills arrived a few minutes after we did.
The Tazara station in Dar es Salaam, empty at 8:30 a.m., but they do have a cage (…er, crib) big enough to hold me.
Our questioning slowly brought to light several heretofore unrevealed items. It turned out that the Foxes coach was already in the Selous and we would be riding out on a locomotive. Fair enough, but we started to wonder about water and food. Nourishment had not been “arranged.” Miriam and a helper set off to get some produce. At our urging, she bought some bananas, citrus, mangoes and a papaya. After Miriam left, we learned from Else that we would be sleeping on the floor of the coach without any sort of bedding. This threw Chantal into a fit. Several text messages and a voice call later, arrangements were finally made for us to stay at the Sable Mountain Lodge.
At some point during this fracas, a plain clothed lady claiming to be an immigration official approached us demanding to know our travel plans and to see our passports. Else whipped her passport out right away, but I wanted to make sure the lady was who she said she was and demanded to see her identification. Everyone’s documents were in order and we were left to stew in our purgatory.
Around these events, the morning had all but slipped away by the time a rail official came to apologize to us for the delay. It turned out that the Technicians to whom Miriam talked had not informed the Marketing group of our departure. The upshot of the long apology was that special arrangements had been made and a driver brought in, but no definite time of departure could be set. We were moved to the “First Class” lounge until our eventual departure at 12:30 p.m.
The Shoma diesel locomotive was a wonder on wheels. All of the seats were perched atop a spring base of some sort. We thought this weird at first, but after we got moving, the necessity became apparent. Even at relatively low speeds, the locomotive rocked back and forth and front to back in an endless random pattern of shakes and jolts. The next five hours were spent being thrown this way and that in the increasing heat while we crept down the track to our destination far in the distance.
Chantal puts on a happy face with our chariot in the background. Hailing from Holland, 17 year old Else is an intern at the Foxes’ Vuma Hills camp.
Chantal is not impressed with our conveyance. At speed, I attempt to clean the windows for better viewing.
We whiled away the hours talking amongst ourselves and with the driver, while eating our way through a fair amount of the snacks we had purchased on the chance that we were not able to stay at the Sable Mountain Lodge. When we got to the Selous, our forward speed decreased and we felt like we were on a game drive, with the driver slowing to a halt for giraffes.
At the helm, our captain has worked for Tazara for the past 25 years and been a train operator for the last 4. The seemingly endless ribbon of track extends into the distance and beyond.
This giraffe paced us for a bit before veering off. Else enjoying the view from the coach.
We finally rendezvoused with the Foxes coach in a little wide spot on the tracks called Fugu. There was another car attached to the coach so some time was spent moving both cars from the siding and then moving the extra one back. After everything was in order, we moved back to the coach for the rest of the journey. The suspension in the coach was much better and the cushy armchairs were most welcoming. After another hour of traveling, we arrived at Kisaki and the end of our rail journey. A truck from Sable Mountain appeared half an hour later to ferry us the 9 Km to their camp. We insisted that Else come with us rather than spending the night on the train. She seemed worried that she would get in trouble, but we assured her than we would take the blame for everything.
We have to shuffle the strange mobile office around before going forward with the coach. Chantal is lost somewhere in the huddle.
We arrived after dark, so would have to wait until morning for a proper assessment of the camp, but we were mightily impressed with the bit we could see. The rooms were constructed from rock with thatched roofs and reed mats covering the floor. The bathrooms were very nice with natural rock around the perimeter. The hot showers were a delight and it was great to wash away the dust and grime accumulated over the course of our journey.
For dinner, we met the Dutch group that we would be escorting back on the train. They seemed very nice and had had a great time on their sixteen days in Tanzania. We had some local dishes for starters that were quite delicious. I wish the Foxes would break up their staid English meals with a bit of local flavor, but with Geoff at the helm, I think it will be a long time coming.
We spent the morning at Hanif’s house and headed into Kiriakoo for lunch. The main item on the agenda for today was a meeting with IPP Media to see if we could provide them with some classes. We arrived at 2 p.m. to find that Lema not at the office. We met up with Ernesto, who turned out to be a good friend of Maina’s girlfriend’s roommate. He does motion graphics for ITV, one of the stations under the IPP umbrella. Lema finally showed up with apologies for being detained elsewhere.
The meeting finally got underway with Lema, Ernesto, Maria, from Channel 5, three of the video guys from Channel 5, two of which I recognized from the Pixel Corps meeting the previous night, as well as Maina, Chantal and I. The IPP folks outlined their needs and concerns and we talked back and forth about what we could provide and how to proceed. We wrapped up an hour of so later feeling good about what we had agreed upon.
The rest of the afternoon is spent working on the course outline for a two week program. We soon began to realize what a large project the training would become. The staff needs so much training in so many areas that two weeks seems like barely enough time to scratch the surface. Had a short break for dinner before a second session of course outlining.
The saga of Chantal’s email account continued. Between her requests to Pac Bell, Yahoo and her roommates, the password was reset one to many times and she was locked out once again.
Got into the office by 10 a.m. Maina was tied up with DPI classes and we felt a little out of place hanging around. Attempted to get some telecommunication done. Chantal’s roommates had set up a wireless network in their house and during the course of the installation had talked the technician into changing the master password for the account. That password also happened to be the password for Chantal’s email account. She spent an increasingly frustrating day trying to access her account without success. The Internet connection was even more glacial than I recalled from July.
The early evening found Chantal and I paraded in front of half a dozen Pixel Corps members. They stared woodenly as we introduced ourselves and talked a bit about our backgrounds. I had the disconcerting feeling I was addressing a room full of propped up corpses.
Chantal’s attempts to get into her email account kept us at the office until after midnight. She was finally able to get access to find nearly 300 unread emails that would have to wait until morning.
I had made arrangements the previous day for our driver from the port to conduct a tour of the spice plantations for us. While getting the DTP logo off the Internet in the hotel lobby, I ran into the driver, who had a story about being unable to lead a tour for us today because he needed to get some medicine for his son. He was at the hotel to introduce his brother who he hoped would suffice as a stand-in. We negotiated a price and a time for him to come back.
With the DTP logo in hand, I quickly produced another build of the DVD and burned a copy. This one would go back with Julie and Gabriel to be shipped from San Francisco to Bruce in London. We gathered all of our stuff and at the last minute decided it would be a good idea to leave it at the hotel. Some repacking ensued and we were finally underway at 11 a.m. Stopped at the port to get ferry tickets back to Dar es Salaam. The only ferry out was leaving at 3:30 p.m. that would leave us with hardly any time to see the island. We opt to see about flights back. Precision Air was $60 for the 15-minute flight back to Dar. It was leaving at 9:30 p.m. so we decided to take it. Our next stop was at a local produce market. Lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, but none of the mounds of spice that were rumored to be there.
After a final detour for a permit to leave town we were underway at 12:30 p.m. Our first stop was at an overlook with a view back over Stone Town. It was not much of an overlook and I started to have misgivings about our driver.
Leaving Stone Town. A lumber yard.
Things started to get a bit more interesting once we got out of the urban area. Our driver, Muhsin, was keen to point out all of the notable plants in the area and was good about stopping for us to take pictures. We eventually arrived at a government run farm. Some negotiating went on between Muhsin and the local guides, after which, we were set for a spice tour.
The tour began very slowly with dry presentation of the plants in strangely broken English. Some other youths joined our procession and I began to wonder when they would begin asking for a hand out. As we moved along, the youths began to craft various accessories for us out of the vegetation. We received bags, purses, bracelets, rings, glasses, hats, ties, and necklaces with frog pendants.
The tour picked up as we got into some of the less pedestrian vegetation and our guide began to have us guess what things were from a sniff or taste. We were shown mandarin, coffee, banana, plantain, pineapple, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, breadfruit, jackfruit, coconut, clove, cocoa, and ginger.
Some out of control coffee and pineapples.
Breadfruit and cardamom.
The fabled “passion” baths that turned out to be Persian baths. One of Chantal’s many suitors, flowers in hand.
Styled by nature.
This youngster scampered up the palm tree to get us some coconuts and Gabriel thought he would give it a try as well. Needless to say, he didn’t quite make it to the coconuts.
Pepper and a giant snail.
Just as we were coming to the end of the tour it started raining, a little at first and then a torrential downpour. We were soaked running 10 yards to some shelter. The shelter turned out to be a stall of spices for sale. We each bought a little something and tipped our guide and outfitters before heading on our way.
On the way back to town we stopped at a little hotel to get something to eat and relax. Muhsin had to go and get some medicine for his children, three of which are afflicted with malaria and typhoid. He agreed to come back and pick us up later in the afternoon. He returned and we headed back to the Tembo Hotel to get our gear and slip into the pool. We had a nice swim and I went to get some samosas for a light dinner. Muhsin came back to deliver us to the airport. There was some worry about whether a plane would arrive to carry us back to Dar. Some earlier flights were cancelled. We made it back in good order and sat with Julie and Gabriel a bit before they had to go and check in for the 12:30 a.m. flight to Amsterdam. We were sad to see them go.
We got lots of stares from the other passengers in the airport terminal. A sad farewell to our traveling companions.
With our stuff all gathered together, we headed off to the pier to catch the boat to Zanzibar. Got our tickets on the “fast boat” all sorted out. We felt a bit taken advantage of by the guy that arranged for the tickets but by the time we realized that other options might be better, it was too late. Our search for breakfast was hindered by Muslim holy month of Ramadan being in full swing. We had missed the first few days while we were out on safari. With all the Muslim faithful fasting during sunlight hours, eating during the day for the next month or so would prove to be a difficult experience at best.
You can have a Coke and a smile anywhere in the world.
We boarded the boat and took our reserved seats for what turned out to be a two and a quarter hour trip. Compared to the three hours on the slow boat, it was hardly worth almost double the price for the ticket. The Stone Town port on Zanzibar was hardly set up for tourist traffic. We laboriously climbed over rickety piers and ramps and negotiated around the clearinghouses. Our meandering path eventually took us to the Immigration Office where we were admitted into Zanzibar.
Just outside the office we were set upon by the touts looking to give us a lift into town. During her visit in July, Chantal had paid 3000 shillings for a ride that lasted less than 5 minutes. We were a little reluctant to repeat that experience but one of the drivers was willing to take us for 1000. His game turned out to be getting us signed up for other services on the island, mainly spice tours. We told him we would think about his offer and checked into the Tembo Hotel.
Poolside at the Tembo Hotel.
After getting settled, we headed out in search of some food. It took us a bit of hunting, but we eventually found an Indian place that was open. Our onward ramblings took us through the narrow streets of Stone Town, winding up on the rooftop bar at the Emerson and Green Hotel.
Stone Town is noted for its carved wooden doors.
Seen around town.
Garbage is omnipresent in the small streets and alleyways.
An example of the ornate facades found in Stone Town. Weathered limestone.
The local video arcade has everything you need.
Sugar cane presses waiting for the sun to set before being put into action. Some of the biggest spiders I have ever seen. These were easily 5 inches long.
The view from the Emerson and Green bar was spectacular.
Returned to the Tembo Hotel from our wanderings to work on the DVD some more and for the others to swim for a bit. Headed out again to try and find an Internet cafe. The first one we stopped at was closing in 30 minutes but we thought we would give it a try anyway. The settings that the attendant gave us to hook our laptops into their network didn’t work so we ended up leaving, frustrated, a little bit later. We searched for another place we could hook into but none of them were interested in our business. Ended up back at the hotel hooked into their connection, which is the fasted we have experienced in Tanzania. Out again a bit later for a delicious meal at a pure vegetarian Indian place around the corner.
Up for a 7:30 a.m. departure. We had to be in Mafinga at 8:30 a.m. to ensure we didn’t miss the Scandinavian bus back to Dar es Salaam. We were all intently looking at the license plates for the right bus. A different Scandinavian bus came through and Geoff’s enquiries about the Dar bus were met with a reply of it is coming just now. Our experience with “just now” has been spotty at best. There are varying shades of just now from “just now” to “just now, now”. The bus arrived in the “just now” timeframe, about an hour later. We loaded our gear and bid goodbye to Geoff. We were all quite sad to be parting.
A last view of misty Mufindi. The bus depot in Mafinga.
Gabe thought the guy in the back sound asleep with no shirt was a riot. A roadside market.
Our eight hour bus journey set off at 11 a.m. Gabriel, Julie and I tried to get some work done in the cramped quarters of our seats. There was some fantastic en route entertainment in the form of a TV at the front of the bus. In the course of our trip we were subjected to a Thai action film, Delta Force with Chuck Norris and The Tuxedo with Jackie Chan. We had a pit stop just after the Iringa pass and another in Morogoro. The bus finally arrived in Dar around 7 p.m. Got a cab back to Micocheni where we met up with Maina. I was still furiously at work getting the DVD laid out. Gabe and Maina got some take-out Indian for dinner.