A 9.2 rating has The Shawshank Redemption (1994) on top of greatest movies list as per critics’ views. These are gumshoe kind of critics. You can’t dismiss them. I don’t question this ranking. If you’ve watched it, you know the dialogue is divine, the humour whole and the lessons lasting.
There are movies that I have classified as reference material. Besides re watching them frequently, once in a while I will play specific scenes for a mental or a hearty high. We talking this one of course, plus Pineapple Express, Angela’s Ashes, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (Jack Nicholson is cerebral in this), Scent of a Woman, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps, Taxi Driver, The Godfather 1 & 2, My Cousin Vinny and others.
The best thing they did to The Shawshank Redemption is to have Red narrate it. He unfolds it for you. He serves it from the first scoop all the way through. We get in it from his subjective mind and that makes his experiences and that of his colourful crew humanly closer. Heywood is my man. He is brilliantly clueless. Watch him in the field pick a rock as the crew collects some for Andy’s carvings, only that it’s petrified horse dook and he is a joke. Then watch him in the library calling it “The Count of Monte Crisco” and Floyd can’t have it.
Heywood: The Count of Monte Crisco…
Floyd: That’s “Cristo” you dumb sh*t.
Heywood: …by Alexandree Dumb-ass. Dumb-ass.
Andy Dufresne: Dumb-ass? “Dumas”. You know what it’s about? You’ll like it, it’s about a prison break.
Red: We oughta file that under “Educational” too, oughten we?
What I have been thinking about is Red’s explanation of “institutionalized” after old man Brooks holds a knife to Heywood’s neck upon learning he is being let out of the slammer after 50 years. Brooks goes psycho in the face of freedom. That doesn’t make sense.
Red: These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.
It is an existentialist problem. If freedom is the human capacity to act as one prefers, without restraint or coercion, then nobody is, since even that which we willingly do is particularly reward oriented. You may have freedom of will but lack freedom of action or freedom of action but you lack freedom of will.
When Red is released after 40 years in there, he keeps asking the store manager for permission to go pee. That’s institutionalized. It’s some kind of conditioned prison. That happens everywhere apparently. Our social relationships, jobs, friends, businesses, favorite foods, joints are all institutions. You only know they are when you try leaving them. They have such a hard-boiled hold on you and that scares me a bit but every time. Not being free. I wonder what freedom is. Can one really be free? Is it an attitude?
Red: [narrating] We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation…
Like many, I loved Reader’s Digest. The love has continued, even after the magazine went out of print. Until then I had not found a magazine so consistent, balanced, family-oriented, uncontrollably humorous, witty, thrilling, all round, little and ever green. I think this is what happened. You thought you could write and found their offices. You walked in. They gave you a pen and paper. Write us something. We’ll be in the other room. Bring it over. If you hear us laughing, you’re hired.
How I discovered Reader’s Digest I can’t remember, but I was in primary school. It was too expensive to get a new one every month, but one didn’t have to. A ten year old Reader’s Digest is as fresh as any just out of print. It doesn’t matter whether you had read it. Newspaper vendors sold old copies and they moved. My friend’s father had a subscription. Whenever I went there on Sunday afternoons, that’s what I looked forward to carrying back home. It’s something I couldn’t put down.
The magazine and its sections. The story of the story is what they called Book Choice. It’d be on the cover page and in the features. I’d read this one last because it was the longest and often, the most spell binding. To today, I remember the story titled “Judy The War Dog.” It’s the story of a pointer who became a Japanese PoW in WWII, how she saved British PoWs and her amazing survival story. Judy died on 17 February 1950 and is buried in Nachingwea, Tanzania. The internet describes her thus;
Judy (1936 – 17 February 1950) was a ship’s dog on board HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper stationed on the Yangtze before and during World War II. She proved able to hear incoming aircraft, providing the crew with an early warning.
Then there was It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power where you guessed the meaning of words and checked your score at the back of the page. Life’s Like That had pieces of awkward but funny life moments. Like you trying to buy a small electric indoor fountain and asking the shop assistant about the possibilities of electrocution. Well, she replies. No one’s ever brought one back! There was All in a Day’s Work too. It was about those What moments at work; “I had to tell one of our patrons that she owed the library over $15 in fines. Among the late books was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beating Debt.”
There was my favorite – Laughter, the Best Medicine. I’d always go to this page first; “Why are coins made out of metal? Because change is hard. What do you use to fix a broken tomato? Tomato paste. Whoever wrote this one should really catch up.”
It’s from Reader’s Digest that I read the story of Denzel Washington. How his mother had a hair dressing shop and one day as she worked on a client, the latter hysterically asked for a piece of paper. Denzel was in the shop a that time. The client wrote that he, Denzel, was going to be great. Undoubtedly, he today is. A favorite actor. After that, I’d fantasize the same happening to me. I actually just found a copy of RD with his story. Another story.
Reader’s Digest has a big impact on my English language learning, especially written. I learned suspense, new words, story plots and wrote better compositions in school. Above all I was guaranteed of entertainment and information whenever a copy came by, new and crisp or old and tattered. Like some people collect limited edition watches, vintage cars or stamps, I’ve started collecting old copies of this magazine. They’d be of great use to future generations, undoubtedly.
Here is Judy’s story: Judy The War Dog
Our backpacking trip to Capetown has been in the fridge for so long; 5 years! My friend and I have in the past few months nailing down the dates to finally hit the road. Last year we had set it all for early March to arrive in time for a festival in Capetown. Work could however not give. September it now is.
For a 3 week journey, the schedule is tight and exciting; at least a day in every country except Zambia to allow enough time for Victoria falls tour and a bungee jump. It means we’ll have to take night buses where possible, resting and walking the different cities by day. I’m a little apprehensive of the little time to rest, but it’s all flexible and open to adjustments on the fly. While it’s difficult to find reliable bus schedules online, blogs by backpackers have really been helpful in figuring out what to expect with timings and fares.
There are plenty of small hotels close to the bus stations, but we can only hope for the minimum comfort. I have taken long distance buses in Zambia and Tanzania and they are comfortable enough. Since we are not out for a luxury trip, that should be welcome. In Lilongwe a friend will host us for a night; a great opening to once again enjoy home-like comfort.
Fortunately we do not require a Visa for all the countries we will pass through, except South Africa, which makes arrangements way easier. Initially we planned to hit Swaziland and Mozambique after Capetown but both are off schedule for now. It would take more than a month to do a round trip by road, a month that we sadly don’t have. Mozambique is a backpackers’ heaven in terms of its history, long coastline and vast remote interior.
Besides the bungee jump, I look forward to seeing how Namibia is like. From Livingstone in Zambia, the trip takes you to Sesheke, a border town with Botswana and Nambia. You then have the expansive Kalahari desert to cross headed for Windhoek. The desert and Windhoek are places I very much want to discover. From there to Gaborone, we hope to visit the famous Okavango delta. Great places to see!
Backpacking gives you a chance to break from the usual and lose yourself for some time with only the basics. There is the invaluable chance to meet new people, try new foods, see new places and have great stories to tell your children by the traditional fire. 🙂 It’s an experience full of the unexpected which makes it memorable and very very exciting.
Photo courtesy of: galleryhip.com
Years ago, I worked with three gentlemen from India. Two of them were my colleagues in the same department, while the third was a point of contact on the client’s side. Our job, a sales job, was not easy. The most essential part, the one that always preceded, was laying a foundation of ease with the clients. We had to gradually build a relationship of friendship, followed by another gradual sale of our products and finally, if all went well, a deal would be won. And so we all had to get along especially off work where all ice could be broken; hiking, climbing mountains and parties. Thanks to sharing the same frustrations when a deal looked lost, we became friends. And so we talked a lot. Besides work, dating was a top topic. It was only natural for single men and it offered a chance for much needed taunts.
Once, I attempted to rid my mind of cultural influences and came to the conclusion that arranged marriages can work. I realized the best way for a young man and woman to grow into matrimony is the communal way. How communal? That leaving the job of finding you a spouse to people who know you better is just as good as finding that spouse yourself. In fact, given several factors, the former exceeds the latter in its effectiveness and ease. First, from an economic point of view, you would save more time if your folks called you one Wednesday after work and said; Surprise! Guess what champ, we have somebody. Think about it. I will come to the dating part – the coffee, the heart throbs, the lunches – later. Perhaps that is what you think those in arranged marriages miss. You can’t be more wrong!
How would an arranged marriage become? It’s is no different from ordering pizza and having it delivered at your doorstep! Recently I did that. I went online and found Naked Pizza chaps. I selected the pizza I wanted and placed a call. The lady said it would take 35 minutes. All the way from Westlands, but true, I had it in 35 minutes. That is how an arranged marriage would work. Was it possible for me to go to Westlands and get that pizza? Of course. However my end was the food. I was not careless of the means to the food – it had to be convenient and trustworthy – but the end was the food, just as I ordered it. I was happy and satisfied. Why wouldn’t the way to marriage work in a similar manner? I like you can now see that dating before marriage is simply a way of ordering events. It’s not the only way of doing things.
If you sat your people down and told them what you want in a spouse, they should be able to find you that person if they loved you. You only have to be clear about everything you want in a person, including height, colour of gums, nail texture and all. To moderate mistakes, you better be exhaustive. You can even go statistical and give them margins of error for some qualities. When both the search team and you as the commissioner are on absolutely the same page, work can start. Here is the rewarding part I have come to strongly believe, evidence or lack of it: you can never not find that person, as long as your likes and dislikes are reasonably human.
Your disturbing question may be whether love can flower with a person you have not known before. The thinking is that you need to find out, beforehand, whether you can get along, after which if the coast is clear, marriage can happen. That is sober thinking, but it’s also cultural. Are great marriages built on love? Yes they are. I however think love is both of the mind and of the heart. I have put this to test and found it to be so. While you may feel attracted to a person, the decision to date and marry them is just that; a decision. It is a work of the mind. It is logical. I have heard it said that the heart-throbbing goes away a few years into marriage and that it’s friendship which takes over and sustains. That this friendship has to be made before marriage so that even after the pimple-popping love goes, the friendship keeps together. It’s a very strong justification for the DIY subscribers.
Of my former colleagues from Indian, they reinforced this favorable observation I had of arranged marriages as we went along. What happened is that they would take leave, go back to India and come back married. I truly admired that. At one time we are in the basement of our office and we’re all single. Then suddenly we are not all single. They tell me their folks back home are already searching. That they have found some would-bes and are considering who is best suited. It was not a see, like, come event. A number of compatibility checks had to be done, including religious, astrological, familial, caste and all. The man and woman had to accept each other as well. As we made presentations to clients and as we hiked, their spouses were being lined up back home. It’s like your party being arranged in your absence and you only need to make a grand entrance. They only had to go back, finish their part of the ritual, and come back to work after a month, with their wives.
This is something that wise business people do daily; let other smarter people work for you. They will never disappoint if you trust a good team. Instead of you going for coffee dates to known each other well, how about your folks going for those dates with your potential spouse? Do you see how cool that is? Your auntie is having a date on your behalf as you apply for a visa to go to Nigeria for the Bi-annual ICT conference. She and others then gather, do the analysis and present you with the best of them all. It’s like having a second you. Unbelievable! Even more unbelievable is when this person meets you eventually and you fall in love. Not a second of both of your time spent in endless dates but here you are, good for each other, ready to get married tonight, all thanks to others who checked all boxes as you signed deals with clients. Incredibly special!
You may find it surprising that they live as happily as others who personally searched, found and married. In fact one of the couples I know better, seems to be falling in love more as days go by. There are structures that help hold them together because they both subscribe to and accept them; social, religious and such. While our cultures are different, we should appreciate that such arrangements are not in any way out of place. In fact I advocate for them because I suspect the dating games are putting a lot of our young men and women through struggles and worries that their parents, uncles and aunties should be handling and easily so. Most of them know what is good for you and are thorough, if you tried them. But you won’t.
You can love each other after marriage, although a particular cultural foundation is required. The biggest advantage, when it works, it the time saved. Perhaps even the heartache is less.
Anyone can climb a mountain. Well, not quite anyone but that may probably be correct for hills. Two things will happen when you climb a mountain successfully. I mean anything above 4000m. The rest are anthills. You’ll do it again or you never will. Those who climb again are of a certain type. They are loners; introverts with a disposition to enjoy silence or they are extroverts looking for the next great story to tell; hunters of attention. However I find the loonies are common. People who talk solo meditation, moon watching and night gazing.
Mountains are their home; there in the farmland and forests, in the heather and moorland, in the highland desert and summit zone, in the middle fog, cold winds and erratic climate. They walk for 6 or 7 hours a day and keep walking, headed for the base camp. The base camp is often 2 nights away. When you think the camp is near, the guide says stop; this is lunch point. It’s only halfway. 15 minutes. You take photos under two baobab trees that converged 7m from the ground to form a massive gate in the middle of the forest. Or in the caves that climbers, porters, guides and rangers shelter into when it rains.
Base camp will always be cold. If the sky is clear, you may see the summit. You’ll be up at 1am to start the ascent. It’s unbelievable sometimes when you see what awaits you. And so you eat and sleep early. I first climbed a mountain in August 2009 and knew I had just started. That was Mt. Kenya (4,985m), second highest in Africa. Unfortunately, our guide was a joke who reached the summit in moccasins, jeans and a pair of socks as gloves. He also lost his wallet as he slid on the way down and that meant he also lost food money or so he said. One girl has breathing problems and we can’t leave her behind. She’s doing 5 steps and finding a rock to sit on. By then, we are all peeing very yellow stuff due to dehydration. No water. Mountain sickness has also set upon us and there are frequent quarrels over small stuff. Another dude has a severe headache but claims handstands can cure a headache. He’s busy looking for the best spot to perform two. We came in sober, we’ll go home nuts. With no food, we had to borrow from strangers in the next camp. We set up our tents outside, slither into sleeping bags and I thought our guide was going to freeze in the 0 degrees camp. I give him a coat and a pair of gloves. At night a friend claims it’s too cold and he wants to get into my sleeping bag. I refuse. Friends who pee in bed always want to sleep near you. Even those that do it in bags.
Next was Mt. Kilimanjaro (5,895m) with excellent organisation but the same crew. Tough but incredible satisfaction of reaching Uhuru peak, the highest point in Africa. On that morning of January 29 2010, it was the birthday of one of us. It probably will be his best and highest birthday ever. As with summits, it’s very very cold and we only stay long enough for photos. Traffic is high at any day in Kilimanjaro and climbers jostle for a photo moment posing with the Uhuru Peak plaque. Great feeling of accomplishment. You watch the beauty of the sun rise and can only be sorry for the climbers that got sick and had to retreat to the base camp, or those that just couldn’t make it this far. With oxygen being in shorter supply as you climb, breathing with labour and with the cold that pierces your boots and ravages your toes, you respect their decision.
I returned to Mt. Kenya 2 years later in the month of November. It rained all the way, day and night. We went for the summit under the falling snow, tracing the guide’s bootprints with our headlamps. At 7am we got to point Lenana. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. The whole of the mountain was white, covered in knee-deep soft snow. For the strong winds, we only held long enough for the photos and started the steep scary descent. The park has put a strong cable from the Lenana point way down to a safe point. Climbers have to tightly hold onto the cable as they descend or else they tumble into the valley below on either side. Climbers have died this way and dragged others with them.
A few weeks ago, it was the turn of Mt. Meru in Tanzania (4,566m); the 5th highest in Africa. I had always wanted to conquer it. Steep all the way up, thick forests, 2 major peaks and 11 minor peaks, spectacular views of Kilimanjaro under a clear sky and a chance to see game. With 3 others that I met for the first time, we had enough stories to keep us sane for 3 nights and 4 days. All of us had done Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro before so you couldn’t scare anyone. Just stories. When you climb together, you bond strongly even after the trip. I found the ascent to the summit the most tricky. With 11 peaks, you always appear to be getting there and these series of mini not-yets, isn’t what your mind wants. Mountains are more about the mind than the body. If your mind goes on a lock down, your body will.
We reached the top at 7:15am. It was too foggy to see far but not as cold. We had enough time to take photos and to sign a visitors’ book at the peak. What a great idea by Arusha National Park! I like descending fast to get down and rest. In 3 hours we were back at the base camp for breakfast, a short rest and to start another 3 hour walk to the camp where we were to spend the night.
Another great climb, made even better by a cool team, caring porters, the cook, Boni, the guides, our friendly ranger, Frederick, plus excellent arrangements and facilities by the park. I’m not sure which other I will climb next. Mt. Kenya is in the plans but from a different and most scenic route this time; the Chogoria route. Maybe Mt. Elgon (4,321m) will come first.
Let me tell you about Thomson Falls in a brief way. I will start with a tragedy. Many years ago, I was calming on the grass outside the Thomson Falls Lodge. It’s a big one, inexpensive and they describe it as a place of solitude, freedom and space in a wild landscape. Built in 1930s high up on the west side of the valley that hosts Ewaso Narok river, 2,377m asl, that description is apt. I know because I have been to this place countless times.
As I sat there one Sunday afternoon, I could see the top of the waterfall just as it rowdily cascaded 81m below. I then saw a man up there. He run to the edge and made as if to sit on the water. The water easily carried him, his red jacket marking his figure out well enough to be seen by anyone on the lodge’s lawn as he plunged. His jump and his descent were quick. After a while, his body hit the pool below with an explosion of sound. There is a wooden rail along the drop of the valley on the lodge’s side. I went there and his body then floated. Naked. His jacket apart. Water must be very aggressive to undress a man that speedily. Many die there that way, every year.
One of the joys of the lodge is going down to the base of the waterfall. You follow well laid stone stairs half the way down. You then hold on to jutting root butts, rocks and logs for the rest of the way till you get to the river. In dry season you can hop on the dry rocks in the middle of the river and approach the base. Or else take a slippery path by the edge. The vapour is dense and you get wet fast. Few walk to the base though. It’s scary, but just a little scary.
My father tells me the stairs were built in the 1950s; mainly for access to a small hydroelectric generation station at the base of the waterfall that fed power to the settlers dairy factory that later became the once mighty KCC Nyahururu milk factory. Sure enough you can still spot the cables and up the river the water holding concrete walls and huge pipes are still intact.
Thomson Falls is still a memorable place to visit. You never get enough of walking down that valley to meet the raucous waters, save for the fatigue of making your way up. But the view from the bottom of the valley or from the shade on the lodge’s green lawns is outstanding, for a camera too.
In January of this year (the year of our Lord 2013 – sounds too English) I left my job. I resigned and left the building. Doesn’t that read ninja from every end? Maybe. For two years prior, I had thought, imagined and finally decided it was worth it. Mine was a cool job if that means working from the deep end, freedom, a love affair with the industry and flying around. Leaving was an epiphany, reinforced by many things. One of them was the need to go where I wanted when I wanted; freedom. And so on the Monday that followed the last Friday at work, I was on a bus for 13 hour, 920km long road trip from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The bus is named Sai Baba and I caught it from River Road, 0530hrs Monday morning, with a backpack, rubber shoes, and a pair of shorts. It felt so light in mind and body. There was not a return by date, there was neither going to be a work phone call nor a report to submit after this and I was not travelling to see a client. I could just alight in Arusha, Moshi or anywhere and sleep there. I could even get into any Tanzanian village, make a home and live happily ever after. Do you get what I mean? I was my own man in the truest form you can imagine. Answerable to no man; indescribably liberating.
The Sai Baba guys were decent enough to call me around 4:45am, but I was awake. With so many missed trips from travellers, they knew it; sleep doesn’t wake people up. I followed my receipt to a seat near the window, pulled the curtain and perched my backpack. Fellow long distance travellers joined, escorted by families or alone; bye bye wishes, it was good to see you handshakes, safe journey hugs. Nairobi wakes up really early. Everybody leaving from Nairobi was in, save for one lady. She will come by the second bus. The empty seats will be filled at the border into Tanzania. That next to me was one of them and my bag became such a packed arm rest. I kicked off my shoes, pulled Sidney Poitier’s The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography and we left the city, right on time.
We will pass by my former workplace. I will look out and being a Monday, realize that’s where I would have spent the day. At such a time, you ask yourself; what have you done? This is a Monday and you’re in shorts, away to Tanzania on a bus, instead of dressing up for work. Really?
Cruising on the newly done Namanga road is such a pressure. Kenya and its many newly done roads. Very smooth. The music in the bus was Zillizopendwa or Golden East African oldies. We heard, not listened to, these songs a lot on Saturdays as momma washed our school uniforms outside the house. It was not allowed in our house to listen to irreligious songs. Then, Kenya had one major radio station; the state broadcaster. I knew the words but not the meaning of most of them. The last time I was on this road was 2010. We were going to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro. 9 friends. We did it save for one. I liked it that I was unaccompanied anyway because I wanted to soak in, shed off the working skin and just be away like a tramp.
My wish at the boarder was that the bag seat would not be taken, so as to read Sidney Poitier comfortably. After Kenyan border control, I paid a fine of about 4 usd to Tanzania border control for not having my Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. I bought apple juice and korosho for good gnawing along the way. None of the new passengers took the backpack seat. It was going to be another 3 hours of fine riding. Sai Baba pulled up its anchors and left.
The road from the Kenya/Tanzania border town of Namanga to Arusha, one of the main Tanzanian towns, is very well done with clear markings, road signs and deep drainage troughs. It also has little traffic; any cruiser’s dream. On both sides are large expanses of idle land with shrubs and red soil. You will see the Maasai, their livestock, their manyattas and a few small shopping centers. The air smells fresh and when the clouds are clear, the caps Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru will show themselves. It is beautiful; the textbook road to ride in a convertible.
We got to Arusha. Arusha is quite eventful and almost all shops have a glass door. A hanging board or some thingamabob that lights up will either say closed or open. In Nairobi shops are normally wide open, even for jewelry. Sai Baba was in a rush. We dropped some and picked others. I gave up my seat to a well-built light lady, dressed in a leso with black and yellow flowers. We only spoke a little. I asked her the names of a few shopping centres as we left Arusha for Moshi. I continued with Sidney Poitier with the passengers’ noise and a Lingala song called Kasongo forming the background music. Kasongo Mobali na Ngai. Once again, I knew the words but not the meaning.
Sai Baba was fast, which made it hard to take good shots of Mt Kilimanjaro, whose ice caps were now clear. Soon we’ll be in Moshi town to drop and pick. We left again for the most beautiful Tanzania country side. This is the Usambara mountains on the left as you head east. The road is nearly straight and once again, with little traffic. Road construction was going on and for a good part it was a dusty ride. I put Sidney Poitier down to love the view. There are few shops along the road at Himo, Segera, Chalinze and Mlandizi areas as well as travellers’s restaurants at Mombo and Korogwe areas. Where you find them, traders leave luscious fruits by the roadside and get busy with other duties. Only when you stop do they come to sell. Most of the houses are done of red bricks and you can spot kilns all along the way. Sai Baba crew passed over drinks.
It was a long ride and Sai Baba was really fast now. It felt great. I had always wanted to do this. Stop working and take time out. It felt like a coup d’état. I had taken the jump, done the unusual and there was no going back now. What I can tell you is that I felt free, sane and very light in the head. I was ready to go and go, wipe off that sweat and feel better. There was a heartbeat too. What a young eagle feels once released by its mother to spread it wings. No safety net.
We soon got to Korogwe which was the journey’s halfway point. The lunch, water, pee and poop point. The centre is built specially for bus stop overs. The loos are chic and restaurants have great selection of samosas, sausages, vegetables, burgers, meat and blaring music too. I got a chicken burger, fruits and sat down on the footsteps leading to the restaurant. From here I could see the country well, munch and drink. No one knows you here. You’re alone in a nonchalant breeze, shoeless, having chicken in a foreign Kiswahili speaking land. Isn’t that a certain something?
We had 30 minutes and Sai Baba roared again. In 2 hours palm trees started appearing. We were now headed to the shores of the Indian Ocean before turning right for to descend upon Dar es Salaam. I packed Sidney Poitier and took a nap. I woke up to an argument between the driver and the police. He was driving fast but loudly insisted he wasn’t. He shouted at the police. I found that brave. In Kenya, traffic police rule. If they say you’re wrong, you don’t dispute because indeed you are. This is the second time he was in a row with cops.
Night was now approaching. More palm trees appeared, traffic increased and Dar kept coming closer. I saw the road to the historical town of Bagamoyo and recognized it. I had toured Bagamoyo 4 years ago. Shortly after, at 2030hrs, Sai Baba safely brought us. Long distance bus trips are big business in Tanzania because it is a vast country. There is a major and exclusive bus station called Ubung’o that handles more traffic than any in Nairobi. They can’t allow you in or out without a ticket. Well organized.
Before alighting, I was already examining the buildings for a place to lodge. Once out, I knew better than to look a stranger. In shorts and just a backpack, I was everything Dar. I took a road in search of any signs of a guest house. After a few meters, street lights kept getting scarcer and the road seemed to lead to residential areas, so I turned. I went back to the bus station and took a road that I thought lead to the city centre. Traffic and street lights will tell you. I knew a popular entertainment area called Sinza and it wasn’t far from there. I asked a cab guy if I was on the right path and he said yes. Go down, turn right at that lighted junction over there. That’s the road to Sinza. I just walked.
I turned right. With several shops and clubs, it was going to be easy to find a guest house. Dar unlike Nairobi is pretty safe and sleeping joints abound. I was not worried at all but getting to 2100hr, you can never be sure and tired I was too. There was a flashy glass door with lights around and the guard said it was a hotel. The reception told me I could get a single room at 20usd. Man, wasn’t I glad. I hadn’t walked around much and this was a proper cheap hotel. I paid, went upstairs to the room.
The bed was well spread in white sheets. The window was wall to wall with white curtains. I pulled them and watched the outside. What a pleasure! The small TV was however not working. Tanzania had just started digital migration in the capital city and my hotel was slow to buy the set top boxes. I was going to miss the purely Kiswahili TV stations which I relished whenever I had visited Dar before.
Soon I will be fast asleep, with my back pack empty and stuff strewn all over. I first went out and bought roasted bananas, fish and soda which I took away to eat in the room. I slept and heavily so. So much that I didn’t notice someone getting into my room and pulling out my 3000ksh (35usd) which was on the table. I hadn’t locked the door properly. Well, every other memorable trip gets a stamp of unfortunate events and that was mine.
In the morning I would have tea, oranges, eggs and bacon at the hotel’s downstairs restaurant and set out to see more of Dar. Daladala is the name of the public transport buses for city service. Really old mini buses filled and filled from bus stop to bus stop. Commuters are always getting in and it seems, none getting out. There was always a lady offering to hold my backpack while I held on to the roof rail. I found that very polite. I rode on, enjoying the street Kiswahili, Bongo style. The heat in the coastal city was abnormal. You sweat even where you normally wouldn’t, but for the few days I spent in Dar, it was a pleasure. I would stay late into the night in an open air restaurant outside the hotel, eat, make friends and watch football.
On the day I took the bus again for the journey back to Nairobi, I had finished Sidney Poitier and bought SAS, a book on Australian Special Forces, to read on the trip back. There hadn’t been work calls and I was not on any assignment. I was just a man in khaki shorts, grateful and living the freedom in Dar es Salaam.
I boarded Sai Baba again at 0530hrs but not before asking how much the fare is from Dar to Lusaka, Zambia. A longer road trip to Cape Town, long overdue, is next on the cards, God willing.