Heavy rain during the night. I wake several times in anticipation of our early start, but finally the dawn comes and we are soon ready and waiting for our taxi outside the resort gift shop. Just fifteen minutes late (and I wasn’t really getting anxious) our car lurches into view bumping wildly down the driveway.
It is just less than an hour back to Tanga. Our driver is much less protective of his car than Armani was back in Arusha, even so the ride is much less jarring than the bus we arrived on. At one point we meet a minibus coming the other way on a narrow section where earth is piled up on either side for regrading of the track. It looks like one of us is going to have to reverse, but somehow we squeeze past each other, the minibus slewing sideways as it fights for grip in the loosely mounded earth.
Yesterday we had at last managed to book seats on a Scandinavian Express bus for our journey to Dar, courtesy of Denys, thereby proving that they do in fact exist, and this morning we arrive at their office on the edge of town, from which the bus departs, in plenty of time. We pay the taxi driver and lug our rucksacks into the office. The woman behind the counter is even expecting us! The Scandinavian Express office is quiet and organised, and could not be further from the chaos of bus terminals we have had to endure up until now.
The bus leaves on schedule and there are actually less people than seats! It is a world away from Tashrif. The seating is two plus two, which gives rather more elbow room. Our driver seems positively restrained compared to the other bus drivers, calm almost, and there are even drinks and snacks served along the way.
I’m quite tired and the scenery does not hold my attention for long. There is not a great deal of variation. Try to stay awake playing I Spy with Rachel.
Our arrival in Dar too is calm. Scandinavian Express have their own bus terminal inside a locked compound with an orderly line of taxis waiting outside. If only we had found one like this in Arusha! With a little difficulty we negotiate a Tsh2500 fare to the Jambo Inn, not our first choice, but well-known and in a cluster of several reasonable-looking ones.
We ask the owner if we can see a room, and decide there and then that it really isn’t worth traipsing round others. Lunch now is our first priority. Our early start had precluded breakfast at the Peponi Resort, so yesterday we had had some sandwiches made for us. But this morning R had made the unhappy discovery that the ants had got them.
We walk up Samora Avenue until R spots a Lebanese restaurant up a side street. It looks clean from outside – actually it is spotless and all of the staff are wearing hair nets. The food hits the spot for me perfectly. I have an egg burger Lebanese style, and R choses some kind of bean wrap thing.
We continue down Samora Avenue and then head south towards the cathedral to find out the service times for tomorrow morning. It is not hugely convenient, but there is an 11.45 am service in English. From there we follow the waterfront towards the fish market.
As we pass the Lutheran church a wedding seems to be taking place and we can hear strains of passionate kwaya singing spilling out onto the street. I hope that there might be music like this at the cathedral tomorrow.
Dar seems to be much more relaxed than Arusha, though when we do get hassled it can be more insistent. A man with Rastafarian dreadlocks accosts us determined to interest us in his paintings and we have to be very firm, almost rude, before he finally stops following us.
We smell the fish market a little before we see it. A would-be guide outside the market insists that it would be unsafe for us to go in without his services but it all looks quite relaxed compared to Arusha and we don’t feel threatened, so decline his kind offer.
The market is winding down for the day. Women under one canopy are sorting fish according to a criterion that neither R nor I can fathom. Charcoal stoves fill the air with aromatic smoke. Most of the fish counters are nearly empty and stall holders are wiping down their tables. R seems to be in her element and is clearly enjoying trying out the Swahili that she has acquired during the trip.
From the fish market we continue further around Ocean Road, with fine views over the port and the sea, that is if you ignore the litter strewn along the shoreline. Even the container ships anchored a way out are not particularly intrusive. It is almost unnaturally quiet. I can’t quite believe that we are in Tanzania’s commercial capital.
It is nearing the time when we can reserve our seats for the return flight, so we hurry back in the direction of our hotel to find an Internet café.
Which proved very hard to find. Did however see and hear a new recording of cringy ‘folk dancing’ in the botannical gardens. Persumably the next edition of the ghastly video shown to us last week!
Everything is shut on a Saturday afternoon, and we finally end up back at the Safari Inn just down the road from the Jambo. Battling a slow and unreliable connection we succeed in reserving bulkhead seat 23A, coincidently the very same that RL got a week ago, and 23B next to it. Then back to the hotel for a shower and a rest.
Decide to try for a high-class dining experience at the New Africa Hotel, with, according to the guidebook, a ninth floor view over the harbour – if it is not too expensive. I’m content to let R lead, even though I soon don’t recognise anymore where we are. After some time hopping in the dark across roads, drains (trying not to fall into any), and occasionally pavements, I sense that R is a little less confident. When we quite unexpectedly reach a major road and a large interchange we know that something has gone very wrong. If we missed the hotel we should have hit the coast.
Our map is back at the Jambo, so our only option is to backtrack. I spot a clock tower that I think I remember from the map and suggest a more direct route to put us back on track, but R is skeptical so we continue as we were. We reckon that we ought to see the Lebanese restaurant soon, and suddenly there it is – but quite unaccountably on the wrong side of the road. We both do a double-take. We must have been walking round in circles. But we at least know where we are now, and this time follow Samora Avenue along the route we trod this afternoon, finally bearing right when we see the Lutheran church.
A posh lift takes us straight to the ninth floor of the New Africa Hotel. The menu looks good and the prices very reasonable so we ask for a table. It is not very busy and has a nice ambiance. Our table is right next to the window and we can see the harbour and the lights of the industrial port beyond. We both order Thai sweet and sour fish, which is quite excellent. The dessert, a sort of crunchy coconut coated ice cream is a slight disappointment though.