But what if you are tired of public transportation?

March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sometimes when I travel I can get pretty tired of public transportations as I am limited to their time schedule, which is if there is even public transportation to where I want to go.
This is especially true when travelling in Africa where it is not uncommon to squeeze in up to 9 people into a regular car to maximize the profit. You are lucky to get a seat by the window so that you can hang halfway out to get space and if not than you are packed as a sardines in a tin can.

Sometimes I just want to be able to go where ever I want to go, without being limited to what kind of public transportation there is. Sometimes I am tight on time but want to see as much as possible. That is usually when I start looking into the possibilities to rent a car. Renting a car can also, just as finding flight tickets, be a real time consuming burden though as there are so many vendors and rental outlets to choose from. All of them with their own set of rules and prices.

Rental prices are fluxuating hugely depending on factors like countries due to insurance, taxes, roads, opening hours of the rental place, location where you pick up/drop the car, age, mileage and so on. Not always are all the charges clear either.
The most expensive countries to rent a car in is actually in Africa and not always can you rent a car and drive yourself but a driver is included. Funny enough, sometimes it is even cheaper to rent a car with a driver then to drive alone because of the condition of the roads and the style of driving of the country. If you drive yourself the insurances are skyrocketing.

When I am hunting for a car to rent, I always make sure that unlimited miles/kilometers are included in the price as you never know what you will find along the way. Maybe I find a road that I find interesting and decides to drive down? If you have a fixed limit of distance than these adventure decisions can become quite costly when you return the car as rental companies usually charge you extra per mile/kilometer for a drive that is longer than what they include into the rental price.

Another important feature is the included insurance in the rental. Always make sure what exactly is included and also what you are liable for in case of an event, any event in fact. Fortunately I have never really had many problems with rental cars in any place where I have had it. In Syria there was a small discussion though since I prolonged my rental for two extra days and the company suddenly tried to charge me double as it hadn´t been agreed in advance. Other than that I have been safe and you should too if you rent a car.

You never know what is waiting out there for you.

Sleeping under a sea of stars in Zanzibar

December 19, 2013 in Africa, Tanzania

We boarded the ferry to Zanzibar just in time before it was about to sail.
Well.. This being Africa we didn’t move until some 30 minutes later but that didn’t really matter as we wouldn’t reach the island of Zanzibar until the early morning.
At least that is what I thought.

The ferry was larger and more modern than I had expected as per statistics one ferry sinks per year.
However there are two or even more companies who traffic the route.
Me and Jake took our seats on the outdoor deck.
We saw a group of 3 girls sitting in a corner not really dressed according to the islamic rules that one should follow when visiting Zanzibar to not offend its people.
One of the few things I find essential when visiting foreign countries, to behave and respect their rules.
Just as people respect the dress codes for visiting catholic churches for example.
They were surrounded by black guys who were talking to them.
Something that is not uncommon in this part of the world.

Tanzania ferry to zanzibar

Jake ran off somewhere after a while and I stayed in my seat.
Funny enough it didn’t take many minutes before a black man in his early twenties sat down next to me. I had my nose in the latest issue of TIME magazine and ignored him somewhat as I was tired.
In the corner of my eye I could see him looking at me.
After a few seconds he introduced himself and asked me for my name.
I looked up from the magazine, replied and went back to my reading about the slums of Nairobi.
The next question that came was, -Where are you from?
-Sweden, I replied with my nose still in the magazine.
He smiled, -Oh, it’s a nice country, he replied. (That is the standard answer no matter what country you come from, it’s just a part of the game.)
The man continued, -And Oslo is the capital, right?
-No, was my automatic reply
The man looked surprised and fell into silence.
After some seconds he left the chair and walked away.

After a little while I felt that I needed to put something in my stomach and as Jake had returned I decided to go explore the ferry and see what food options there were. It turned out that it wasn´t so much on offer. You could either buy some unidentified meat that was cooked, sausage or fries. There was also the option of buying chips and cookies. In the end it became a few portions of fries to try to feed myself with.

The journey over to Zanzibar went pretty quick actually, about 4 hours, and we reached the port already in the evening but got to know that the night would be spent on the ferry as the port was closed. The group with the 3 girls came over and asked if we had a place to stay in Zanzibar for the night and if I could advise them of something. They seemed surprised when I informed them that the night would be spent on the boat and not on land.

As it was time to go to bed as nothing more really happened, Jake went downstairs to the air-conditioned seating area while I decided to bed down myself between two seat rows and sleep on deck. It was a clear night and the stars were shining bright.

I woke up a few hours later having had a good sleep for a couple of hours on the hard metal floor. Jake had befriended the cook onboard the ferry who offered a cup of Zanzibarian spiced tea which turned out to be a good start of the day. The ferry was slowly moving towards the port of Zanzibar and we walked of together with the rest of the crowd.

We had reached the legendary island of Zanzibar

Tanzania town zanzibar

Riding with Jesus to Dar es Salaam

October 2, 2013 in Africa, Tanzania

It was still dark when I woke up at 4.30 to start packing my belongings for the trip to Dar es Salaam.

The bus was leaving from the center at 5.50 and Benjamin´s house were situated a few kilometers outside the city meaning we had to take some form of transportation to the terminal.

We had agreed with some locals the day before that we would be picked up at 5 in the morning by the gate in front of Benjamins house. They were a no-show so after 10 minutes we started walking towards the bigger road in hope of finding any boda-boda divers awake at the crack of dawn.
It was not even dawn as it was pitch black and walking around on slippery dirt roads without any street lights, is an art in itself. We managed to find two guys coming driving up the bad road and convinced them with some pink elephants (10.000 schillings) to drive us to the bus station.

The flickering pale light from the headlight of the motorcycle was all that could be seen a head of us while cruising down the asphalt in 80 km/h. At least that was what the speedometer said when I glanced over my drivers shoulder.
If it was correct or even working I don’t know.
It was 5.20 in the morning and I was not the freshest person as I had slept just a few hours and was looking forward to sleep on the bus to Dar es Salaam.

When we reached the bus station, we found a small shop that was open and bought something to drink for the road as we now had a minor trip of 10 hours a head of us on what looked like a pretty new bus model.

It was still dark as we pulled out of the station and headed into the early morning with s cool temperature. It didn’t take long before the video system on the bus started and the closest TV screen started flickering and running rows of lines up and down. For those of you who had the fortune to operate a VHS player in your homes knows exactly the flickering I am talking about.

And then it came.. I was half asleep, the dusk was slowly growing outside and someone had set the video volume to a 11 on a 10 scale… ASANTE YESU!
It was a true awakening!
Not in the sense of me being reborn or touched by the lord, but rather by the volume of the praise song performed by Martha Mwaipaja.
Asante is the Swahili word for Thank You.. and I assume I don’t need to translate the word Yesu?
So hardly any more sleeping on this journey.
The songs from Martha kept on for the next hour or two, all with lyrics regarding God or the Lord in one way or another.

When the sun had risen above us I started noticing that the bus didn’t have any air-conditioned and the only fresh air that came into the bus was from the few windows that were open.

However the windows were frequently shut by my other fellow brother and sisters on the bus as they found the draft being cold to my despair. Slowly cooking in my seat it was a minor relief when the bus pulled up outside an establishment by the road. It seemed to serve as the local restaurant point as several buses already had come or was about to leave the place.

We got some 20 minutes to take a piss, breathe some fresh air and buy some fruit and food before the bus stomped off again towards Dar es Salaam. We were already delayed making us see the small time window hat was left to get the last ferry to Zanzibar disappear.

When we reached the outskirts of Dar es Salaam we got caught in the incredible traffic jams and the time window shut on us right there and then to the tones of Canadian music as Celine Dion´s “My heart goes on” and Bryan Adams “All for love”. A bit amusing really.
How would we now make it to Zanzibar and would there be a place for us to sleep if we had to spend the night in Dar es Salaam before taking the first morning ferry. Jake was constantly saying that there must be more ferries than the one written in the Lonely Planet guide.

Finally the bus arrived at the central station and as we walked off the bus we were quickly surrounded by people offering us taxi to all different destinations. Fortunately Jake had befriended a local on the bus as he had become curious about Jake’s Kindle reader.
The man gave us an estimated price range for a boda-boda, our favourite means of transport by now, and we walked out of the station to take one on the street.
We negotiated a price for two of them to take us to the port and off we swooshed between the cars and traffic lanes.
After riding for some nearly 10 minutes, the drivers drive in on a street which is currently being constructed so there is a lot of unfinished asphalt lying around and huge potholes. I can not see any way out of the street but Jake’s driver passes elegantly between two flowerpots at the end of the street and as me and my driver approach on our bike, a person walks right out in front of us.
My driver stops and starts talking to the person who simply turn of the bike with the key and takes the key and walk away.
I understood nothing.

I start asking but I get no real answer.
I raised my voice and the guy who took the key said,
-I am a police officer, and smiled at me.
-So, was my answer, what is the problem?
I don’t get any real answer but just a mumble back.
I once again raise my voice as I am getting really irritated at this moment over not knowing or getting any answer to what is going on as well as I am in a hurry to the ferry in case there is another one.
-He has to wait, was the only reply I got.
Getting off the bike and taking my bag as well loudly swearing the man start to panic, the policeman that is.
He is asking me where I am going and I just push myself by him and starts talking to one of the boda-boda drivers sitting on the other side.
The policeman, as he claims that he was even without any uniform or showing any ID, suddenly gives the driver back his keys and tells me to go along.
Apparently he was just trying to get a bribe but failed with me.

I was not in a good mood when we finally got off the bikes at the port and we were surrounded once again by touters to tell us where to buy the tickets for the next ferry. Most of these people are homeless and addicts who makes it to get money from the company.
Fortunately I had read up on this and we headed towards the official ticket office while we had one addict running along our side telling us that there is no more ferries today and the tickets are the cheapest at his vendor.

We entered the building and found out that there is a night ferry that leaves in 5 minutes which is the last for the day, but that it will not reach Stonetown until the next morning. Not having any place to sleep in Dar es Salaam we agree to take the last ferry.

zanzibar ferry tanzania


Thoughts after 26 days on the road – 2011

August 6, 2013 in Africa, West Sahara

Was going through my old videos the other day..
Found this piece that shows my thoughts and reflections during my first Africa trip in 2010/2011
Contains some strong language.. You have been warned :)

Road back to Arusha

July 3, 2013 in Africa, Tanzania

Tanzania lake natron sunrise

Sunrise at Lake Natron

I woke up a little before 7 in the morning and noticed that it was still dark outside. Great, I thought to myself, I can take some pictures of the sunrise. Then I remembered. The camera was not really in a functioning state after the previous day’s bath in the river. :(
At least I had my small backup camera that I could use and take some pictures.
Not the same quality but I guess they would suffice as I didn’t really have any choice at this moment in time.

This day also marked that we were halfway through our stay in Tanzania.
After the sun had risen and we had packed together our stuff we headed back to the “dinner” table in order to eat some breakfast before we headed off to the nearby lake Natron to watch the flamingos.
The breakfast which contained of bread, egg and fresh fruits was eaten as the sun was slowly rising over our heads and warming up the landscape from dark blue to bright yellow. Our Maasai guides from previous day had already showed up and we all stuffed ourselves into the tin box and went off to the lake.

We reached the lake some 30min later after driving through the landscape following nothing more than a few tracks in the deep sand from previous vehicles. Rasta parked the car and we started walking with the guides towards the flamingos who didn’t show any interest of coming any closer or to be watched on a close distance.

The lake, as this was the dry season before the rain period, had dried up quite a bit and had left a long bed of slippery, thick mud on the edge of the lake. We had to carefully walk through it not to slip and fall over. The mud was however not just slippery but also extremely adhesive making every step a bit harder as the mud loved the bottom of my shoes and in a few steps I almost felt like Elton Johns character in the Who´s iconic movie “Tommy” from 1969.

Elton Johns boots in Tommy (1969)

Elton Johns boots in Tommy (1969)

Jake wearing flip flops took a different approached. He took off the plastic bits and decided to start running and sliding along in the mud instead while trying not to fall over.

After an hour trying to get closer to the evasive pink birds we decide that it is starting to become time to head back towards Arusha. I guess non of us really was looking forward to spend the hot trip in the car all the way back as the days drive before was still fresh in our minds. As we got closer to the car we found that it now had been surrounded of Maasai women sitting and waiting to try to sell their handmade bracelets, necklaces and all other stuff the have. And it was not 1 or 2 but maybe 10-15 in a total with kids and of course they all wanted to sell. But where did they come from? There were no settlements that we had seen on the way to the lake?

Once again we had to convince the Maasai ladies that we were not interested in buying anything from them as they sold the exact same thing like everyone else. Almost like if there was a franchise business of this specific jewelry that all Maasai women participated in.

Tanzania lake natron maasai

Maasai women

The drive back went amazingly much faster then we had expected and were not as horrible as we had anticipated it would be.
When we reached Arusha we asked Rasta to drop us off at the bus station so we could buy to the Dar es Salaam express bus which we would take the next day.

We decided to take the first bus in the morning departing at 5.45 so we would have a chance to catch the last ferry over to Zanzibar that same afternoon according to the information that was written in Lonely Planet.
We found our way to Benjamin’s office as we were going to stay with him a last night and pick up our stuff we had left for safe keeping while we were out on the safari.

One last night and one last night with delicious food cooked together meaning we had to go to the local square to do some shopping of ingredients. Ben and Jake shop away and come back several bags of vegetables that we now needed to transport back to Benjamin’s house which was situated a few kilometers outside Arusha center.
Its getting dark outside and in the sky heavy dark clouds are sitting and waiting to unleash its humidity over us.
Benjamin arranges two boda boda´s (motorbikes) to drive me and Jake and the grocery back to the house before the rain start. Ben has his own bike and bikes home.

10-15 minutes ride later through the evening traffic between the lanes we reached the house. Fortunately the heavy rain never started and we spent one last evening in Arusha in a little corner of paradise.

Arusha tanzania market

Grocery shopping Arusha