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Dar mpaka moro (part 2)

This post has been continued from Dar mpaka moro (part 1)

Exchange Rates: 1 Tsh = 0.58 Kshs , 1 Ksh =17.2 Tshs (note to divide rather than multiply fractions/decimals)

Arusha is the capital of the East African Community, and might be referred to as Tanzania's third most significant city. Arusha also marks the end of Tanzania's dry region, quite small compared to Kenya's expansive Northern and Eastern regions.

You will also notice the presence of Traffic lights at major junctions and round abouts, a difference from Kenya's preferred police controlled junctions. However, motorists will at time jump the lights. Be warned though that Traffic Police might be present and will not hesitate to fine you. Overlapping , a common aspect of road behaviour in Kenya is taken seriously in Tanzania, it may land you a Ksh. 10,000 fine and/or a jail term.

Our bus did not stop over at Arusha, which though is quite a large town. Arusha is on the slopes of Mount Meru, one of Tanzania's many mountains. The drive to Moshi takes you closer to the Coast, but still closer to more mountains, this time the Kilimanjaro.

farmland with the Usambara ranges in the background
Driving onwards from Moshi gets even more scenic as you encounter the Usambara ranges. It is more magnificent resemblance to our Aberdares. though this time round you drive closer to the ranges. This gives you the opportunity to see the clouds kissing the endless peaks.

Dar express stops for lunch at a point called Highway. Highway is more of 3/4 way to Dar hence lunch is at about 3 pm or 10 am depending on which side one is going. The place serves fries, roast beef, rice , alcohol and soft drinks. Fries and roast beef will set you back Tshs 3,000. Other buses plying the route should stop at a more halfway mark.

Great thing about driving along the road is that it does not get busy until you take the turn into the main Dar highway. The rest of the road is quite clear , you will mostly encounter long distance buses, trucks and local matatus.
Even more of the Usambara ranges

You will also note that Tanzania has quite a number of weigh bridges on their highway. In contrast to Kenya's weigh bridge stations that look like temporary structure that may be gone tomorrow, Tanzania has permanent well constructed structures. Trucks and passenger vehicles are required to go through the weigh bridges. The process however is quite efficient, you will not see long stretches of vehicles like happens at the Mariakani and Mlolongo weigh bridges in Kenya's Mombasa Highway. The weigh bridges also have a digital scale that is displayed in a position that the driver and other passengers can see, it 's just not something happening in some room. From what I gather, passenger vehicles undergo the weight checks to check on overloading.
A weigh bridge in one of Tanzania's provinces. All matatus
are required to go through all weigh bridges along their way

In addition, long distance passenger vehicles in Tanzania are required to pass through various bus stops along the way. This means that your bus will have to weave in and out of bus stops without picking passengers. On top of paying excise fee for the different regions, the bus is supposed to fill in a time sheet that checks the speed - the bus should not take less than a specified duration between two stops. While some stops may be strict, it appears a bribe can fix  this - explains why Nairobi - Dar takes less than 16 hours. For stops that are strict on time, your bus may have to kill time by extended stops along the way before arrival.

The Chalize Water Intake works
Despite seeming endless, the Usambara ranges eventually come to an end. The greenery however will continue as you approach Coast province. Tanzanias is quite forested, with several areas still preserving their precolonial vegetative cover - this poses as a mouth waterer to some of the visiting Kenyans who see the untapped cash value ranging from timber to charcoal. Coconut palms are also quite common in the country , extending all the way from the coastal strip to the slopes of the Usambara giving the country a West African feel. Afternoons can also be quite rainy as you approach Coast province.

The river at the Chalize Water Intake
Once you get into Coast province, you will join the Dar - Morogoro highway and traffic will be much denser due to the congruence of in  and out bound traffic between Dar and all the provinces. This is expounded by Dar been situated at the coast rather than in the center of Tanzania. The road network leading to Dar is not as developed as that of Nairobi with the dual carriage situated right inside the city. Reports indicate that the Airport road is quite a nuisance taking about 2 - 3 hours to get to and from the Airport. Luckily, I did not get to use the route.

At Tshs 3,000 , you can purchase Fries and roast beef at the
Highway stop over. Arrival from Nairobi is at 3 pm while from
Dar is at 10 am
Ubungo is the final terminus where all passengers are dropped. It is quite an expansive terminus, many times larger than country bus. Though well maintained, one is to be ware of con men - Tanzanians  make more sly conmen than you will find in Kenya. However, ask the driver to direct you to a kibanda hotel - forgot it's name - if you are been picked. There are also taxis available.

View of Mountains and A Sisal plantation from the
Highway Lunch stopover
Getting around Dar can be through matatu, taxi or the faster tuk tuk. Tuktuks are known as Bajajas - the initial model was named Bajaj -  and are safer to take compared to Kenya. Motorists in Dar drive better than Kenyans - probably due to stringent enforced rules, culture and working traffic light system. Bajajas can however be as costly to foreigners as taxis , especially when using them from a place - eg the mall, Ubungo -where they easily determine you are a foreigner. Confirm with hosts typical fares to avoid been overcharged.

Tanzania has quite a well maintained highway network. Other than the Arusha - Namanga stretch which was under construction, the rest of the 9 hour journey to Dar had very little presence of potholes, nothing that would take more than a day or two to fix.

Tanzania is quite different from Kenya in many aspects, probably a result of the German colonization before handing over to the British after their World War II loss. However, their insistence on been part of the South African trade bloc rather than the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) may be more of a reason. First, as you may have noticed, their buses are quite different from ours.

A variety of long distance buses in Tz. All are the
Scania Marcopolo range
While we have the traditional Scania models, most of Tanzania are of the Scania-Marcopolo model, a fabricator based in South Africa . The Chinese are also making in roads though with a similarly shaped Yutong Bus. Buses plying the provinces (Tanzania is quite large) will be smaller and consist of the common Nissan Diesel (UD) flavour that is also a bit prevalent in Kenya. Passenger vehicles plying local routes will mostly be the Toyota Coaster and its variants (Rosa). There will also be smaller Nissan Caravans that seat 18 people, and not 14 as happens in Kenya. The Nissan Caravans also tend to have an elevated roof - think more of a loaf-of-bread shape. Trucks, not the trailer-pulling ones will also be Nissan Diesel or Mitsubishi - however, the Tanzanians appear to prefer their trucks with very tall bodies.

The Toyota Corolla will feel quite lonely in Tanzania where the preferred vehicles are the longer Camry and Mark II  and Mark X. The fact that many Tanzanian motorists cannot afford the bigger Range Rovers , Land Rovers and other SUVs has not stopped them from owning a large car.

Cashew nuts are quite abundant in the country and are available cheaply at the coast. Note though there are companies that specialise selling them at a premium to travellers on the buses. Traditional (Kienyeji) chicken is easier to find than "grade" chicken. The chicken is prepared in a spicy recipe that gives it a red  coat , the spices can be quite sharp - not hot - though. The chicken can also be characteristically tough. As for breakfast, it sis recommended that you try "supuu and chapati". This is available in many open air vibandas. Here you will have the privilege of sharing your meal with tens of flies - this is Africa. The soup is made from pieces of beef and mostly bone.

When it comes to alcohol, Tanzania has a very wide collection of it ranging from the best of Kenya, South Africa and Tanzanian beer. This include Tusker and Tusker Malt, Castle , Windhoek, Serengeti and Kilimanjaro. If I am not wrong, Nile special from Uganda should be available too. Another notable presence will be Redds Lite special which comes is a long neck bottle. sadly though, I did not get to sample any of the alcohol and have no idea of the pricing. There is also some Tanzanian wine whose name I forgot and of course Konyagi, the infamous Tanzanian Vodka.

Soft drink drinkers will also be glad not to be left out in the wide variety that Pepsi and the Coca Cola company present. Pepsi and its brands have quite a presence with Coca cola appearing as the underdogs.   Even better news is that soda in Tanzania comes in longer 350 ml bottles, an extra 50 ml and all this at a price of 500 Tshs.

Cocacola however take the day home been the sole supplier of bottled water in the country. I promise you that you will not find any other bottled water brand  other than Kilimanjaro water. Even Dasani forefeits appearance to the nationalistic sounding brand.

Shoppers will be quite pleased to visit the new Mlimani City, carved off the University of Dar-es-salaam. Mlimani City consists of a mall, a conference centre and an office park. The mall commands a presence of various South African stores including Game, Shoprite and Mr. Price. The Mr. Price is as stocked as the one on Nairobi's The Junction. Game meanwhile is a supermarket that gives any of our Nakumatt stores a run for shelf variety. Be warned though that the pricing at the mall is a bit steep compared to even upmarket malls in Nairobi.

Dar has quite cheap housing, in fact the houses come at a throw away price. With bad access roads, many neighbourhoods in Dar are unplanned, though have better units than Nairobi can offer. Furthermore they come with spacious living rooms at about 50% - 60% what it will cost you in Nairobi. The catch though is that rent in Tanzania is paid annually, and not monthly!

For the weekend, Dar has a lengthy beach, including  a peninsula and they are dotted with affordable restaurants. Your typical Nairobi club will be located at the beach.The resorts however do get congested as night falls.

Further adventure can be via a 2 hour boat ride to Zanzibar Island, or perhaps a visit to one of 2 marine parks just off Dar's beach.

Dar has a more lively night life than Nairobi. In fact, one can easily lose track of time as streets remain busy while many outlets will remain open late into the night, even in residential areas. Bajajas will also be available well into the night

The weather is hot and humid, just like Mombasa. June is the coolest month with quite pleasant weather, though heavy night/afternoon rains.

Dar is quite an enjoyable city,  a well deserved break.

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