Posts Tagged With: tanzania

Polé Polé Way

From the Usumbara mountains the quickest way to reach Rwanda is by taking an expensive one way flight from Kilimanjaro. Of course there is a cheap way to do it, this is also the Polé Polé (slowly slowly) way. 

Lushoto to Arusha is a seven hour bus ride. Arusha is Tanzania’s second largest city and where most of the Northern Safaris are organised from. For apparently being a tourist town I was expecting to get constantly hounded by people selling Serengeti tours. The majority of the hassle actually came from one street where everyone wanted to sell me a mattress, apart from that I surprisingly found Arusha quite a friendly and relaxed place, even the blind busker in the street didn’t object to being photographed. 

Mattress Street


The Arushan Badly Drawn Boy

To avoid driving through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks and paying the full entrance fees, I had to go the long way around. Babati is three hours South of Arusha and was an ok place to break up the journey. I paid a local fisherman to take me out into Lake Babati in his dugout canoe to see the hippos that live in the lake. Charles, my canoe driver didn’t want to get too close to the beasts as the heifers can be very aggressive, territorial animals when they have a calf. Charles spoke good English and told me how his ambition was to become a lawyer but he never had the funds to send himself to university so had no choice but to become a fisherman/hippo locator. Feeling rather touched by his story, I let him keep the 30p change. 




Next stop was Singida, another 4 hours West. There’s a few lakes here but I opted to just go for a wander around the villages and climbed up one of the town’s weird rock formations. It was in Singida I broke my record for the cheapest room in Tanzania – £2 for a complete shit hole with bucket showers right next to the bus station, where the music blares from the nearby bar till early hours of the morning. Luckily I had ear plugs, but after spending the night here, I wish I had of bought that mattress in Arusha.



Africans use the phrase Polé Polé meaning slowly slowly in Swahili for many things, as nothing ever seems to be hurried or scheduled. Mwanza, the final stop in Tanzania was meant to be a seven hour drive North but took around nine after the bus broke down 70km away from the city. Myself and four other passengers managed to hitchhike the rest of the way with a Soof Afrikaan gold tycoon who kept complaining about the road “yu paye thu Chinese tu burld yu a roud dis is wat yu git!” Mwanza is the third largest city in Tanzania and also at the centre of an area known as ‘the sorcery belt’. Witchcraft still happens around here and in recent memory some woman have been beaten to death by a mob of people after they were believed to be witches. Albino people are particularly vulnerable in the Mwanza area as they are hunted down and hacked to pieces by witchdoctors for their body parts. The bones from the removed limbs are then grinded into a fine powder and used as a powerful potion to heal even the most deadly curses, this was recently documented on an episode of Ross Kemp’s Extreme World. Kemp travels around East Africa meeting wizards and sorcerers, but none of them seem to have a spell great enough to prevent Ross looking like Zippy from Rainbow. I didn’t leave the cheap hotel in Mwanza after a taxi driver pointed over to me a shouted “Albino”!

The final leg of this gruelling journey started at 5am at Mwanza bus station where I departed the Nyehunge express, after half an hour a ferry hauls the bus across lake Victoria and I got to see the sunrise over Mwanza, this is where the fun ended. 

The next 8 hours were spent being thrown around the back of the bus with my new friends as the Ferrari crashed along on possibly the worst road in all of Tanzania until in reached the former refugee camp of Benaco. Here it’s a quick shared taxi to the border where I walked about 1km through no man’s land and stopped to admire Rusomo falls, a huge volume of water that surges from the Akagera river beneath the bridge between the two border posts. It’s here that German troops reported seeing the dead bodies of Rwandan genocide victims being thrown over the falls at a rate of two or three per minute. 



So I finally made it to Rwanda, the slowly slowly way, after five days, 40 hours worth of driving time and four nights spent in cheap local hotels next to dusty bus stations. I may have some acute symptoms of deep vein thrombosis to remind me of this journey, but on the bright side I’ve saved myself some money and got to see a more rural side of Tanzania. Welcome in Rwanda! 


Categories: Rwanda, Tanzania | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chicken Arms Strike Again 

Inconveniently, most trips must start with a journey to London as being our capital, it connects us to many worldwide destinations. The good thing is if you book early enough you can get the megabus for only £1. I managed to make it all the way to Gatwick airport for less than a fiver – a quid for a second hand metro ticket from the enterprising charva who hangs around the machine, £1 megabus to Victoria, £2 easybus to Gatwick airport. The disappointing part is that after travelling 300 miles for the price of a happy meal I was forced to pay £3 to go the final mile and less than a minutes travel for the shuttle bus to the travel lodge, that’s London for you! 

After a short transit in Istanbul we arrived in Dar es Salaam almost two days after leaving Newcastle. I’m tired and I’m hungry and can’t wait to try some local food. Sadly my first Tanzanian meal was a forgettable one, a 70 minute wait for some rice and a severely deep fried chicken carcass. I thought the chef may of fell asleep whilst cooking this fine meal, but then I remembered that now I should be operating on Africa time, so shouldn’t expect anything to happen in a hurry or on schedule.

Chicken Arms , and not for the first time


Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city that was founded next to a tiny fishing village by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar. It’s thought that it’s name is a corruption of Dari Salaam meaning House of Peace, a name the Sultan gave his palace in honour of the original fishing village, Mzizima, which means tranquil place in local dialect. On first impressions Dar is anything but a tranquil place, it’s a typical busy African city. For now Dar is a place to fly in to and spend as little time here as possible here. Although it may have a few colonial buildings and a little bit of character, it’s not somewhere I can be particularly bothered with right now. 


The ferry to Zanzibar was full so we were forced to spend a little more time in Dar than originally anticipated. We came across a congregation of folk from all over East Africa selling all sorts of herbal medicines and handicrafts. There were some excellent and very reasonable priced items here, but how do you explain to the pushy Kenyan woman that you’ve just arrived and would rather not hump around a rucksack full of tribal masks for the next two months? 

The Burundi Department

 A little further afield is the Kariakoo market, a place where the British army corps were stationed during WWII. Both sides of the streets are lined with manic stalls mainly selling fresh fruit and not so fresh electrical appliances. It’s here where a saw my first Tanzanian bum sporting a Sunderland shirt, no matter where in the world you go, some things never change… 






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