Part 3, the Walking Safari
By John L. Fuhring
After arriving in Arusha from the jeep safari, I checked into the New Safari Hotel (on Paul's suggestion) and I liked its roominess and somewhat more conventional aspects. As mentioned in a previous story, the Naaz Hotel I had been staying in earlier was OK, but not nearly as nice as the N.S. and I was glad for the change.
The New Safari had a nice lobby with a TV set and much of the programming was in English. In addition, there was a nice restaurant near the lobby and a complimentary breakfast is served there in the morning. The restaurant also has a TV in it and one can watch the BBC morning news while eating.
Excuse me for digressing again.
Speaking of TV news, the Presidential elections were on in full force in the country and voting was scheduled in two days. There were huge, and loudly cheering rallies going on at the governmental buildings just down Boma Street from my hotel. I wanted to go down to see what was going on, but didn't know if Id be welcome or not or if it would be safe to be there. I probably would have been welcome because it seemed like a happy crowd. You know, a lot of the people that were going to cheer at the rally were uniformed men and women. A lot of those people were wearing police and military uniforms (dress kaki, not battle camouflage uniforms and nobody was carrying any kind of weapon).
That evening I myself was wearing military style kaki clothing (very similar to what the natives officers were wearing) and standing at the entrance to the hotel, the officers would wave and shout a greeting and salute me – what a totally unexpected experience that was!! They did seem like a very happy crowd and I should have gone down to the rally just to see how they do things in the “Third World.” From my hotel I could hear happy cheers well into the evening. On TV news the next morning, the scenes weren't so happy.
You probably already know that Tanzania is a union of two preexisting countries – Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Zanzibar and the East Coast (including Dar es Salaam) are 95% Muslim and they are deeply regretting they ever formed that union with the mainland. In addition to the religious, linguistic and cultural differences, Zanzibar is somewhat more prosperous. The Eastern peoples resent the fact that Christians and secularists from the Western interior dominate the national government.
Next morning, the TV showed the things that happened on Zanzibar. Rather than a happy crowd to cheer on the re-re-re-reelection of the President, the locals were rioting. Three things really popped out at me while watching the news program. First, the Euro filming crews seemed fearless in filming everything no matter how violent their surroundings were becoming. Second, I couldn't believe the Government wasn't censoring or preventing these guys from filming what was going on. Thirdly and related to item two, the police were really bopping the protesters – hard. You talk about “Police Brutality” this was it. Rodney King was never treated so badly, I can tell you.
Watching all this on TV, I didn't see anybody get shot or any killing going on, but the police sure used their sticks with wild abandon. When a group or rioters would hole up in a house or building, the cops would shout for them to come out. When they would meekly come out with their hands up, the police would wade into them and bop them really hard until they fell to the ground. Once on the ground, the police would load their prone bodies into flatbed trucks like chord wood and drive them off – God knows where. It looked pretty rough to me and I wonder what the naives in the rest of the country thought of it. To answer my own question, the natives of the interior probably thought the Zanzibaries got what was coming to them. Maybe the Government wasn't popular on the coast, but in the interior they re-reelected the Government by an overwhelming margin (again).
Ok, back to the story.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the restaurant. The restaurant has a great view of Boma Street outside through nice big plate glass windows. Problem with that is that all the street vendors (especially the news boys) are always motioning to you to look at their stuff.
Here you are, rich, fat and happy, stuffing your face with more food than you really need and there those poor guys are trying so desperately to make a few worthless, but honest shillings to feed themselves and their poor families. Enough to make a fat, rich, happy guy feel a little guilty – not to mention ruin his appetite. I quickly learned not to sit near the windows.
There were always about three or four people behind the counter there in the restaurant and the service was always good, but being alone and socially awkward under the best of conditions anyway, I felt painfully self-conscious. I noticed other patrons interacting with the staff in an easy and friendly way, but somehow I always had the feeling they were staring at me and being very stiff and formal.
Speaking of other patrons, I quickly noticed that there weren't any other people of American or European extraction staying at the N.S. In the morning, Id see a person or two that would come in for the breakfast and I would sit nearby. I was disappointed that nobody ever wanted to talk to a stranger and that my presence seemed to be an annoyance.
After a day or so, Paul (from the jeep safari) dropped by my hotel with a native guy in tow. I didn't know, but I assumed that Himself had been over to the Safari Company looking for something interesting to pass the time and (quite rightly) thought I'd enjoy a day trip too. This native guy was also named Paul and it was suggested that he be my guide on a walking safari the following day. Paul (the African) and I contracted for a price of $25 USD (cheap enough, but a fortune by local standards) plus a tip. Lord knows, I was already bored out of my mind and took no pleasure wandering the alleyways of Arusha, so an opportunity to walk the villages on the slopes of Mt. Maru seemed pretty attractive. The only down-side was that my poor hearing and Paul's minimalist English produced negative synergy when it came to mutual understanding. In other words, I couldn't understand hardly a damn thing he said.
I've already bragged about how well I can hike (for a little old fat guy) so I was looking forward to a good walk. I got dressed early the next morning, had my breakfast and then met Paul in the lobby of the New Safari. Paul described (more or less) were we were going and how we'd get there – like the natives do. We walked up Boma Street and then up past the International Conference Centre, past the place where the Rwandan War Crimes trials were going on and up to the main Arusha-Moshi highway. It was a very beautiful day out, perfect hiking weather – not hot and not humid.
When we got to the “highway” I noticed that it was crowded with a moving mass of people, bicycles and vehicles of every sort. By far, the most common vehicle were these Japanese and Korean vans absolutely packed full of people. I say Japanese and Korean because they were older vehicles and they still had oriental lettering all over them. Obviously, they had been used in those countries until nearly worn out, then sold cheaply to buyers in Africa for even more service. They all belched black diesel smoke (all vehicles in Africa appear to have malfunctioning injectors), but they all seemed to be in pretty good working order. The local people call these minibuses “dalla dallas” and they are not a recommended form of transportation for tourists as traveling in them is “decidedly dangerous.”The dalla dalla is how people there get around. They never have to wait more than about a minute for the next one to drive by and all you have to do is put out your hand and (if they have room) one will stop and pick you up. Yes, they will pick you up right there on the highway (no bus stops – none needed). Each dalla dalla has a driver and a conductor who is in charge of the sliding door, helps squeeze you in and collects the 100 shillings coin for the ride. If you really want to “get close to the people of Africa” in a most intimate way, then a ride in a dalla dalla is a must.