Arriving in Tanzania

January 23, 2008 - Arusha, Tanzania

The visa process entering Tanzania was frustrating mainly because in the first 30 seconds I had figured-out a much better system. One agent was collecting passports, visa and custom forms, and the visa fee in US cash. He would collect a number of these and give the huge stack to an agent behind a window. Passports seemed to be collected much faster that processed and so all agents behind the windows had this Dr. Seuss-style, crooked, colorful, teetering stack of passports piled to the ceiling. Then as passports were processed the agent would call out a name with a thick accent and would eventually have to hold the passport up to the window for us to figure out whose it was. The agents refused to accept local currency as payment or US bills older than 1997. Although they did accept a 1996 US $50 bill since I had nothing else. I think having an ATM in the area and accepting local currency would solve a lot of issues. I think it would run smoother if one agent checked for completed paperwork and allowed each applicant in turn to approach the window for processing each passport one at a time while they are waiting. I realize there is no use in these dreams, this is just how I kept myself entertained while waiting for my passport to be processed.

The backpackers lodge in Jo-burg needed 24-hours to do laundry so although we were done with camping and sleeping in beds again, we had no clean clothes. Arriving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania our #1 priority was laundry. We skipped around town looking for a hotel that could also do our laundry by check-out the next day. We found one but it had no vacancies. So we unpacked in their lobby and gave them every bit of clothes except what we were wearing. I even took off the socks from my feet. Then we headed to a different hotels that had an available room. Our taxi driver was nice about driving us around and didn’t ask for more money. So we finally had a nice room with a nice shower and free Internet connection. We had a great Indian vegetarian curry/Naan for dinner at the hotel. Cheap too! The next day Edson, our taxi driver for our time in Dar Es Salaam, took us to pick up our laundry and drove us around again looking for camera stores before bringing us to the airport. No luck on with the camera. We should have read the laundry sheet better. The express charge to have the laundry done by the next morning was 100% of the laundry normal charge and so the total was $150 US! I was shocked at first, but we simply had no choice. Once we arrived in Arusha, our hotel let us know we needed to give them the laundry right away if we wanted it back the next day. I bet is was dirt cheap! Oh well.

Namita had an observation that has proven true so far. In the service industry, in the African countries we have visited, especially services where people have authority like airports check-in and immigration, men are so polite and the women are a bit rude. Like this is their one chance to have a power trip. We noticed this in a few hotels as well. We have not met a single rude male yet, and maybe 1 women in the position of authority that smiled. But the taxi drivers or people they are connected with (all men) go out of there way for you. We were suspicious (cautious) as first like in Indonesia, but our driver really went out of his way for us.

We finally made it to Arusha on a twin-engine prop plane. We had another awesomely delicious Indian vegetarian curry meal with Naan (can’t get enough). There is a lot of Indian influence here and so some very good Indian food. We owed a balance on our tour and I guess I just assumed we would pay by Master Card. But we were told the machine was down for two months now. So we have to make about 6 trips to the ATM over the course of the tour duration to pay the balance. Actually it will be cheaper for us in the long run since everyone here seems to charge a 5% charge to credit card charges. That  is on top of the 3% international exchange fee our card charges us back at home. So cash is still king!

We had no accommodations for the night before and the night after but Victoria Expeditions, our tour company, is run from a budget hotel and we offered at stay there for free. The room is not unlike many we have stayed in before during our 6-month trip. The bathroom was something straight out of a ‘Saw’ movie. The thin wooden door creaked when open, which it would do by itself, and the bolt lock, on the OUTSIDE, clanked loudly and echoed through the room every time you we secured the door closed. A few cockroaches visited us and so we slept with the lights on to keep them at bay. We agreed to upgrade on our last night. But the Indian restaurant, Noble, on the first was great. We had 5-course curry meal for $9 US! We reunited with Dave and Namita who had different flight arrangement to Arusha.

The following day we start on Safari...


My first Tanzania beer, Tusker
Arusha city traffic
Our 'Saw' bathroom
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