Tanzania: Border Crossing

Total Time: 20 days

Exchange Rate: 1 dollar= 1560 shillings

Cost of a Typical Dinner:  16,000 when we would get ripped off at the local place because we couldn’t ask the proper questions in Swahili, but when we paid actual prices we could get a burger, 2 beef kebabs, 2 samosas and 2 sodas for 6,000.

Number of Cities Visited: 4

Favorite Place: Kendwa Beach

Least Favorite Place: Dar es Salaam

Places to Visit Next Time: In all honesty, Zanzibar again.

Best Food:  Spaghetti and and homemade meatballs in the mountains of southwestern Tanzania which is usually a throw-away order.

Worst Food:  Spaghetti with bay leaves, cinnamon and rosemary cooked up by our “special” new additions to the overland group.

Most Popular Saying: Poa kichizi kama ndizi which means crazy cool like a banana.

Common Greeting: Thumbs up for men, a wave for women.

Number of Days to Summit Kili:  Paid for 7, completed in 6, begged for 5.

Number of Illnesses: 1 food poisoning, 1 black toenail, 2 major infections

Number of Stolen Items: 1 mattress (who steals a camping mattress from a tent)

Number of Hours Driven from Dar to Moshi Without Eating or Peeing: 13

Number of Kills Spotted in the Serengeti: 3

Best Beer:

1. Tusker

2. Kilimanjaro “If you can’t climb it, drink it”

3. Serengeti

Note on Overlanding:  An overland trip in Africa is an adventure in itself.  It’s long, full of activities and tends to cover quite a distance.  It could be the best way to explore the continent in a short amount of time.  But, and there is a huge BUT, there are so many things that they don’t tell you (and can’t tell you) prior to the trip.  Remember elementary school where you had a class with 26 kids–were you friends with all of them?  Now think of being trapped in a bus for a month or more with 26 people of all ages, personalities, cultures, backgrounds and smells (a non-issue for us (or it was me?), but could be deadly).  In addition, you probably booked with someone that was not even living on the continent.  Their main concern was to fill seats and hope the itinerary was somewhat accurate.  The rest of the details, not so much.  Once confirmed and paid, they just hoped for the least amount to go wrong….and keep in mind, if it did, someone was bound to tell you T.I.A., “this is Africa.”  Are you kidding me?  You can’t blame your own disorganization on Africa…it already has hunger problems, an AIDS epidemic and 80% unemployment in some places.  Let it be.  The quality of the trucks was another issue.  One might be nice and then you get switched 3 days later to a dump.  You can never have enough amenities or cushion to drive all day on the roads in Africa.  Period.  If you are flexible, all these things can be overlooked with a positive attitude and a beer at the end of the day.  But the tour leader makes it or breaks it…if they recommend activities that are lame, problem.  If they only know how to cook spaghetti and you hate it, problem.  If they like to party and you like to sleep, big problem.  Did I mention you camp the whole time?  We got lucky with thick foam mattresses for the first three weeks and then we slept on ratty mats that felt like two layers of dirt floor.  Not luxurious.

Absolute Africa was fine.  Not the best we saw and not the worst.  The price seemed more than fair for the trip, although the Mt. Kili add-on was high.  Lucky for us, the mountain crew was top notch even if the ground organization was atrocious.  And to be honest, I don’t think the office staff really cared about our feedback; I don’t think they ever expect truly satisfied customers.  I’m happy we did it, but next time I’d like to be in control of my own police and immigration bribes.

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