The Contrasts of Tanzania

Dar Es Salaam
The diversity of Tanzania is phenomenal. As if the abundance of wildlife and national parks weren’t enough, the country also boasts Mt Kilimanjaro, superb beaches on the mainland plus the exotic island of Zanzibar. But before we reached the first coastline of our tour, we had to traverse Dar Es Salaam – giving us a glimpse of yet another facet to this remarkable country.

Traffic-clogged Dar was one of the biggest culture shocks so far, especially after having been off the beaten track for a while. We were warned that it could take a couple of hours to drive through the city, and sure enough the urban sprawl seemed to extend for miles before we even got anywhere near to the centre. Driving in Dar requires superhuman hazard awareness skills.

The moment the traffic slows down sufficiently, street vendors converge on the cars and dodge in and out of the lanes, tapping on windows and trying to sell their wares. Our elevated position on the truck put us out of their reach, so we were thankfully removed from the dizzying scene below. One major crossroads took us at least fifteen minutes to cross, with four lanes of hooting vehicles seemingly ignoring the lights as well as the ineffectual traffic officials.

Furniture for sale on the pavement!

Just as our driver was about to take his chances and launch into the chaos, we were horrified to see a beggar with no legs start to drag himself across the tarmac in front of the revving traffic. The second he emerged from the front of our vehicle, we thundered across the junction and could only hope he got across all lanes safely.

It was a relief to reach our destination that night. We camped on a fenced off section of beach, ready for our ferry crossing to Zanzibar the following morning. It was a beautiful and tranquil bay, but we were given a gentle reminder that you just can’t walk around on the beach alone (as a white foreigner anyway). I’m pretty sure that this was the first time in my life that I had ever camped on a beach and fallen asleep to the soothing sound of waves breaking on the shore.

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