Adrian has arrived. In my mind that is the single most pertinent point I can think of writing about, as what a difference it has made and what a wicked time the two of us are having together. It’s not without a huge sense of pride that I sit here, in the garden of the Coffee Shop in Moshi, with a hangover, supping my cappuccino and waiting for breakfast to arrive. We are here, in my favourite part of my favourite town in northern Tanzania, drinking the best coffee the world has to offer, and contemplating the night behind us and how mad it has been over the last few days.
Monday, 7am, I leave my house, send Zawadi up to the Lula’s and begin my journey south, one that will take me the best part of the day to complete and one that will start with a brisk walk to Nakara, a taxi down the mountain to Marangu, then a short Dala dala ride down to Himo then Njia Panda and my awaiting chariot: The Dar Express, which on paper boasts hospitality, comfort and speed on my transfer to the capital. On arrival at the bus stand I ordered the mandatory chai na maziwa (milky tea) and chipsy mayai (you all know this by now!) and when the bus arrived, I boarded and then stocked up with crisps, water and a couple of sodas from the bibis selling their wares to the passengers through the windows. Now, I’m fully aware of how far Dar is from Marangu and the mountain, but travelling for that period of time in Tanzania is not as straight forward as it sounds. First off, you are in a coach that has seen better days. There are several other bus companies, but the Dar Express is one of the better known and more reputable firms and after Katy had assisted me with getting the ticket in the first place, I was happy to be on my way for the going rate, on a bus where the driver accepted my crumpled paper receipt as proof of purchase and let me on, for me to find that the bus had plenty of empty seats, and I had room to spread out, a decent window opening to counter the oppressive sun and mid-morning heat, and to my surprise, a fully stocked chill box with water and a free soda for everyone on the way. We stopped at a little highway restaurant, where I was able to smoke and pee, before the rest of the journey unfolded. Heading south along the western fringe of the Usambara mountains, the bus snaked its way down through the lower eastern rift valley with poise and precision, often missing oncoming vehicles by as little as a few centimetres. Having been here long enough now to trust the drivers and their unfailing skill at being deft with the laws of road traffic, I let Bob Marley take me down the road, I fell asleep to Legend again, and smiled as I remembered this very emotion crossing my mind while he calmly told me to stir it up, and I drifted away.
Several hours later, and now fairly sketched out at the whole idea of being on my own way farther away from my normal living conditions than I care to admit, I woke as we entered the sprawling reaches of outer Dar Es Salaam, and just like my first visit to Arusha earlier in the year, was amazed to see how developed the city is and revel in the contrast to my home up on the mountain. As with all the more modern places, the touts are up to speed, and their English on a level with that in Nairobi or Mombasa, and it wasn’t long before I was in a taxi on my way into town, having the familiar conversation arguing over how far it was, how much I should pay, and trying to convince the driver that I was not a tourist, but actually working here for very little money, but as is often the case, it fell on deaf ears, and I was indeed ripped off by around Tsh 15,000 (about £6) before arriving at the hotel I had chosen from the lonely planet guide the day before. The Jambo Inn Hotel, as described by the guide, is Dar Es Salaam’s premier and best-known backpacker hostel, and I was greeted by the owner, Rashid, who then upgraded me for free to an air conditioned room once he heard about the fiasco with the taxi. Later in the room, after re-reading the guide again, I found the warning about those drivers taking people from inside the bus station, and realised that I already possessed the skills necessary to fend these people off, and I just wish I had been a bit more awake and alive and I would have saved the money, and face, before settling down for the night.
Adrian’s flight was delayed, so around 4am, we left the hotel in a pre-paid airport transfer Rashid had organised for me, and whilst in the arrivals hall, I got chatting with some others who were waiting for friends on the same flight. Alex, a bright and lively chap who lives on Zanzibar, came up to me immediately and began a conversation, and within minutes we were happily nattering away discussing the state of the nation, and I realised that he not only came from the area in which I now live, but went to school with Bob, and had been taught by Katy in the past. It is indeed a small world, and here in Tanzania, it takes very little to feel part of the furniture. I took Alex’s number, and when Adrian arrived, the sun was rising over Dar, and the morning heat haze hung low over the city shrouding it in a mosquito net of rising dew as the blue sky broke through. East Africa’s main port of entry for all cargo bound from China and India is a melting pot of different cultures and people from all over the world. The architecture is a mix of Arabian and colonial. Long boulevards llined with trees separate the dusty side streets from the neighbours, and as the people start about their day, the quiet, almost eerily silent roads of the city centre become alive with the people of Tanzania setting up their stalls and carts for another busy day in the capital. After leaving the comfort of the air conditioning, it was quite shocking how hot and humid it is there; we walked along the northern peninsula, past the government owned houses of dignatories and foreign visitors and rounded the journey right back in the heart of the city, and entered a small little restaurant, as I wanted Adrian to experience some of the local charm and hospitality before we found the Mzungu bars and clubs that he knew we’d end up in that night. We checked all the streets for a bar, a beer, anywhere to just sit in the shade and take in the surroundings, but unlike everywhere else I have been in Tanzania, it’s almost impossible to find these places, as most of them are second floor, and none of them are advertised with the fairly common signs promoting Kilimanjaro or Serengeti beers like Moshi or Arusha. We had booked our return journey to Marangu, and even found a bus company that would pick us up from the square down the road from the hotel, luckily saving us from having to deal with another local tout taxi driver, so returned to the hotel to recharge and shower. Alex was on the phone, inviting us out to his local area just outside the city, so we grabbed a taxi, and before long were sitting in a bar in the north eastern corner chatting and drinking nice cold beer. Having just arrived, Adrian was putting on a good show of form, and we were having a classic night out until we returned to the hotel to find I had left my phone in the taxi. Just one moment’s mistake had basically left me without communication, and I was massively upset with myself, as my little android had made its way to Africa and back with me and had been my companion for over a year, and was now gone. I’m leaving it at that, because my true feelings about this are not really suitable table conversation, and certainly won’t pass the bad language filters. I’ve looked in the shops and am searching ebay and everywhere else for a suitable replacement, but anyone reading this with a semi-decent froyo/gingerbread android phone that needs a new home, hit me up… I’ll gladly take it off your hands J
“Underwear is the worst invention ever” Adrian said to me on the return to Marangu as we stood outside the bus at the highway restaurant smoking a cigarette and contemplating our hangovers. On return to the bus, the sweaty and now rather moist seats we had occupied for the last four hours did not appeal to our longing for bed and relaxation, but delivered us back to Njia Panda in good shape, and now back on familiar territory, I took up the mantle of guide, and tried to cram in as much information to Adrian’s experience as I could.
A couple of days of standard life in Mshiri and once again we’re back on the road and down to Moshi. Its Friday evening getting dark, but we had to wait for the rain to stop before we could head out otherwise we’d just be soaked before we even left Marangu. On the dala dala Adrian had a prime experience of what it can be like, with an over-eager local keen to be our friend on the way down to Himo, and a few minutes later, a goat was shoved into the back of the van and bleated its way all down the highway to Moshi. Chris and Liz were waiting for us at Deli Chez, my favourite little restaurant just up next to the Coffee Shop on Kilima Road, and we all had what is described in the guide book, and certainly confirmed by our contented smiles afterwards, as the best indian cuisine outside of the UK or India itself. Well-presented and tasty Jalrezi chicken, kheema beef and nyaniaini lamb khofta all served in a traditional candle-lit bowl, came in, with drinks, at under Tsh 10,000/= each. That’s a little more than 4 euros.
Sitting back and chatting away about our experiences here in Africa, the phone rings, and it’s Jasen, sounding a little worried. Lucas, Junior and Hassan are in jail, and despite only hearing my end of the conversation, all at the table started frowning at hearing me say that word, and eager to find out what had happened. I needed to go down to the police station and get them out. Lucas had driven to Moshi from Arusha, had picked up the others, and essentially was tasked with getting Jasen’s sofa and other last few bits and pieces from the old house in Moshi and taking them down to the medical centre. Unfortunately, Lucas had forgotten to take the keys with him, and when he and the others tried to climb the fence and find a way inside the house, the neighbours had called the police and they were being held for breaking and entering in a very sweaty room being interrogated by a pretty scary looking Tanzanian man, twice my size. I explained my connection to these guys, explained why I was there to help them, my friends, and although I didn’t really do anything, I felt my presence there had definitely sped things up somewhat and within 20 minutes we were out on the street and ready to party. It was Friday night, we were in Moshi and that can only mean one thing, Glacier bar and a whole load of beer. Safaris all round, then out came the Konyagi, which Adrian had to try at some point, and no time like the present, within a couple of hours we were all laughing and joking together round the table. I was pleased to see Liz and Chris having a good night, and I sat back with a wry smile as I realised once again, that I am having the time of my life here and I’m in no rush to go back to how things were before this all started.
So we’re together, and it’s awesome to have my little brother here with me in my little paradise up on the mountain.