Stories

 

Tanzania


From the 17th to the 25th of April, 2016

Deciding against Tanzania's most important tourist attractions, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti NP (they are just crazily expensive), left us with very little point of interest to see in the country. Knowing that there would be cheaper wildlife viewing experiences in southern Africa and being in the rainy season which isn't good for climbing Kilimanjaro neither, we decided to "skip" the country and just zip through it. As you will read below, that turned out to be a pretty bad experience.

As soon as we entered Tanzania, we were struck by open untouched inhabited landscapes. Since western Kenya, we have been circling Lake Victoria but didn't see it before reaching Bukoba in Tanzania. When we reached our lake shore camping spot, we learned that the lake is getting more and more easy to see: It's expanding. The owner of the campsite told us that they lost 20 meters of their camping grounds in the last 8 months. We had clear proof of that by seeing the upper half of a children swing standing ten meters in the lake. Being the second biggest lake on the planet, lake Victoria looked like an ocean to us.

    

Progressing throughout the country, the highway crossed kilometers of sugar cane, sunflower and rice fields. Not as visible as the change in landscape but equally different was how people reacted towards us: We were not interesting anymore! For example people hardly noticed when we camped in an open grassy area only 20 meters away from their homes. That was one of the rare occasions when no-one complained about our choice of wild camping spot.

In Tanzania, it was more the rule than the exception that we have been kicked out from our wild camping spots. As camping places were not widely available along the highway, we spent some nights sleeping in motel's secured parking which turned out not to be a very enjoyable option. With such empty landscapes, we decided to try wild camping again, but it didn't work so well neither. Because of the lack of signs, we unknowingly twice ended up in natural reserves and once in a military zone. After long negotiations, we managed our way out without leaving a "gift", nor paying a visit to the police station. Talking of which...

    

Along the highway, speed signs made little sense. 20km/h or 50km/h when we were driving through endless fields and no signs at all when entering settlements. It is common that the speed signs are being stolen to be converted for more urgent purposes. But that was no reason for the guy with the speed gun. They stop you asking for your driving license and to get the flat rate amount of 30'000 shillings (~15 USD) while they are filling their little booklet. Corruption didn't seem to be part of their routine. We escaped the payment of two fines out of four speeding tickets. In one occasion we have been stopped and Raphael was very confident he obeyed all the rules this time. When the police man showed him the picture of his speed (53km/h in a 50 zone), Raphael was showing a big smile as he awaited a pat on the back or any other kind of appreciation of the police man. When he then learned the news that it was considered speeding, he flipped and you could see last to kill flicking up in his eyes. Only me taking over prevented a murder (and a fine) that day. I became so paranoid that I was scanning the road ahead with the binoculars to see the road robbers before they could speed gun us. It was really spoiling our days, me scanning the road and Raphael watching the needle of the speedometers rather than the road ahead.

    

Our not so enjoyable Tanzanian experience was about to be topped off 20 meters away from the border post on exiting the country. Exceptionally, we had too many shillings left which we had to change at the border. Like a previous experience in Colombia, I already knew I would get scammed, but didn't yet know in which way. From my window, we agreed on the exchange rate, they handed me over the Malawian Kwacha which I calmly counted. All good. I handed over the Tanzanian Shillings which they counted. All good. All of a sudden, one of his "colleague" started shouting. They decided to change the exchange rate and asked me another 50'000 shillings (~25 USD). No way. The scene became chaotic. Everyone was shouting louder than the other. I gave them back the Kwacha while they handed me back the Shillings. In a fraction of a second, everyone vanished, just like the 50'000 shillings which were suddenly missing in "our" pack of bills. Mad, I jumped out of the car shouting to everyone standing around. 100 meters away I recognized one of them and shouted: " GIVE ME MY MONEY!!! ". With a smile on his face he told me that my money was already gone. Before he could even open his mouth again, I grabbed him by the shirt. The buttons gave way one after the other as he tried to free himself from my iron grip. When I finally decided to let go, he ran away with a shirt reduced to shreds. Even if I had little hope to find my money again, we went to the police station. The officer jumped in our car and we went back to the place of the incident. While I waited in the car, Raphael and the officer identified each of the bystanders one by one. Nop, not him. Neither this one. They entered a garden behind the houses and found the group sitting there. That's him! He didn't even dare to twinkle. Nobody moved. The guy reached his pocket and handed over the dirty money. They do this every day but they are stupid enough to be found so easily.

Byby Tanzania !