Dar es Salaam, which is translated into “Home of peace” has a small arrival terminal even though it is an International airport. As usual the immigration and visa process is always chaotic no matter which continent you come too if you apply at the point of arrival. In Africa that is no exception. Two different papers that needed to be filled in , immigration paper and application for visa. With both papers filled in we followed the flock of tourists and ended up in a line that led to one guy in uniform who seemed to be the guy who collected all the passports, checked the applications as well as taking the 50 USD that the tourist visa cost.
After that we stood together with the rest of the heard of sheep in a group where no one really knew what was going to happen next. After a short while we heard when someone of the three immigration officers behind their glass window started to shout out names as much as they could pronounce them for the owner to come up to the window and have its fingerprints scanned and photo taken. After we got the visa stamped we could go to take out bags that had arrived a long time ago and was already taken down from the conveyor belt.
As I took up my bag I noticed that my alcohol gel had kind of “exploded” and I had gel on the top of my bag but fortunately it was not such a mess as it could have been which I was happy over. I opened my passport as I wanted to see how the piece of paper I just had paid 50 USD for looked like.
And it was there.
Shiny, new and with the wrong date stamped on it.
The stamp said 2nd January and I for sure knew that it was 2nd February this particular day that I arrived at Dar es Salaam´s international airport in eastern Africa. I went back to the window where the woman had given me the stamp and pointed out that the date was wrong. She looked at me, looked at the passport, looked at me and then looked at her colleague and started speaking Swahili. The colleague took the stamp and checked the date and yes, it said January, not February. He checked all of the four stamps he had in his reach and they all said January. They had just granted a couple of, maybe some 30ish, tourist visas with the wrong date.
They looked at me, they looked at the passport, they looked at me again and then took the passport and tried to fit the stamp precisely over the old stamp and BAM! stamped it again. My passport now say 2nd February over 2nd January. Not the nicest stamp but it’s there and readable and I prefer it for my own safety in case someone would like to check it. Jake also went back with his passport and unfortunately they didn’t succeed to make such a nice stamp on his visa as I had in mine so they just crossed out the text and wrote February manually instead.
We were set to move out of the airport and find a ride to our CouchSurfing host who was waiting for us at her place. She had advised me that a cab from the airport to her place would cost some 25 USD so I was prepared for a tough negotiation with my Ethiopia experience still fresh in my mind after 14 months. We walked out and a couple of men came walking very fast towards us asking if we need taxi. Of course. This is how you get customers in countries like this where the taxi business is not really regulated. First bid we got was 40 USD and I was really hard and said that we won´t pay more than 20 USD to the address.
First I wanted to withdraw money from my card and the little man was walking right beside me as he tried to negotiate the price to 35 USD while I was stern on 20 USD. The first ATM of the two available at the airport was shut off so I headed to the second one meanwhile the little man was walking with fast steps beside me to be able to keep up with me and was offering me the price of 30 USD. He promised that the price was very low and he would hardly make any money on it as gas was so expensive. 20 was my counter offer. The second ATM took my card but didn’t offer me any option to withdraw money for some strange reason and I suddenly realized that this trip could turn out very interesting in case i would not be able to withdraw any money.
The little man offered me the option of 25USD and also take me to some ATM´s on the way so that it would be worth the 25USD that he demanded. I discussed loudly with Jake if we should take the Dala-dala instead, the local minibus. The little man said OK and waved at us to walk with him and we jumped into his car. He started driving and I pulled down the window and had a look out.
I felt free.
I felt like I was home again.
Can this be where I truly belong?
Time will show.
The 14km taxi ride turned out to take around 1 hour due to traffic being extremely bad in Dar es Salaam. I have seen bad traffic in many countries , for example Syria, but I must say that the traffic queue in Dar is the worst ones I have seen in my life. The little man drove his Toyota taxi on small roads here and there to try to come by the queue and advance a bit while the scorching sun was roasting the car and us in it. I noticed that Jake had dozed off in the backseat and my eyes told me to sleep as I hadn´t managed to sleep on the flight to any satisfactory extent. I fought my heavy head to stay awake as I didn’t wanna put myself into any stupid situation.
As we got closer to our destination I asked the little man to call our host so she could explain the way. This guy apparently didn’t manage to get the right directions and drove us around through small streets and alleys until he stopped in front of a landmark that we had been given. We pulled our bags out of the little mans trunk and decided to wait for our host at the landmark instead of sitting in the car while he was driving around and around. I decided to pay the little man 30USD and he thanked me so much and said that he now was able to buy food to his kids as well.
We sat down by the local little shack that also worked as a local store for lighter items such as drinks, snacks and so on. Jake thought it would be good to crack up a beer in the sun while we waited and I agreed. Unfortunately the little store didn’t sell any beer but a smiling man by name Charles approached us and started talking to us so we decided that we would meet up again the next day as he wanted to invite us for a local beer. At the same time our host appeared in her car to pick us up. She explained that her house was just on the next street so we packed in our bags into her car that was also filled up with other stuff and walked to her house while she drove to her house.
A big house in a secure compound where me and Jake each got a separate room each to sleep in. It’s around this time that I realize that my small camera is not in my bags or my pockets.
I forgot it in the taxi and didn’t notice it when I got out. Our host calls the taxi and he says it is there and that he is already at the airport – a very fast drive back apparently (!?) – and as we needed a taxi to take us to the airport 2 days later in the morning, I suggested that he would drive us and hold on to the camera.
That was too hard for him as he didn’t wanna risk the camera as well as he didn’t know if he would be driving on that morning we needed a taxi but he could come directly with the camera for 40 USD as he had to drive from the airport again. I’m not sure what our host said but she raised her voice a bit when talking to him. He promised that he would come directly with the camera. We talked a bit and relaxed while we were waiting for the taxi driver. Joyce invited us to join her and her friends to a BBQ that afternoon that they were gonna have nearby and we accepted the offer looking forward to some food.
Joyce was such an amazing woman, one of those people who you meet and start talking to and you feel like you have known them for years. She was also witty and sarcastic just like me and Jake so we got along directly. The little man showed up with my camera and I gave him 20 USD doubting that he had been at the airport. As I walked away he asked about the drive to the airport as he could drive us. I didn’t answer but just walked in and closed the door behind me. I have had enough of him.
Joyce said that her friend would come and pick us up in about 90 minutes so I decided to hit the bed and take a quick nap and I guess I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I was in Dar es Salaam – a home of peace