06 April 2013

bus to Arusha
meeting Christopher and Mponjo
visiting safari companies

tourist info
walk around
maasai everywhere

booking safari
walk along river

A condensed journal for this, as we have not done that much to warrant a day each.
On the fourth, we basically caught a bus from Moshi to Arusha.  This was not too hard, as we could just walk up to the station and catch a direct bus.

Saying goodbye to Kilimanjaro, we headed out over the plains again towards Safari country.  The trip itself was not that interesting.  It was not the small towns we passed through, or the fields, or even the people we passed beside the road.  It was due to the heavily tinted windows that Tanzania has a fascination for.  If the person in front of you opens the window to let some much needed air into these “air-conditioned” buses out of necessity, it slides back over yours and you cannot see a thing out the window.  However there is the advantage of being able to breath semi fresh air.  A mix of the two would be ideal.  Or just don’t tint the windows soo much that you cannot see out.

On arriving in Arusha we were prepared for the fly catchers.  Apparently they are the worst in the country.  This is a reputation well earned, as spotters saw us on the bus as we pulled into the station in Arusha, and before the bus had even come to a complete stop, people were climbing through the window to sell us Safaris, Hotels, Ganja, Stiletto shoes and everything else you can dream of, along with a few things you can’t!!  Trying to ditch these people is almost impossible, and we had to flee to the closest hotel saying we were not interested and we knew where we were going.  The hotel in question was fairly up market, but we thought we could take refuge there and let the people disperse again.  This was not the case, as they followed us inside, even with repeated “go away”‘s.  Since we were there, we confirmed our suspicions that the hotel was out of our price range, and asked the receptionist to try to get rid of the guy that had followed us in.  She did ask him to go away, but he only left when we did.  Back outside we had another couple re-attach themselves to us.  So we tried to make our way along in this fashion.  It got so bad that we stopped trying to be polite to them and bluntly told them to leave us be. Eventually we had to resort to simply trying to ignore them, with them still following us.

We found a cafe and sat for half an hour having coffee, until they lost interest and left.
Now in peace we could find a hotel. The first cheapish one was pretty bad,  but the guy working there (Christopher) showed us a different place nearby. Promised to be better and cheaper. On inspection it was definitely better, but more expensive. Still, we checked in for one night.

Declaration of Independence roundabout

Declaration of Independence roundabout

Out to find an ATM as we did not have enough to pay for the room. Walking there we met a local calling out Rasta! He came over for a chat, and mentioned a German Rasta that he had met before. Frido! (The guy we met in Tanga)
Frido had told us about this guy, Mponjo, that he spent time with while in Arusha and gave Mponjo the heads up for two Aussies that were on their way. Unbelievable that he had found us within a few hours of arriving.
After the ATM we took MP and Christopher for a beer and a chat.
We pulled up at the local pub, and they pulled out their safari references. It became pretty clear that they are in the safari business, but that is not surprising as this whole town is.

Every town in Tanzania has a clocktower

Every town in Tanzania has a clock tower

After the beer we agree to visit a few companies with them, to get an idea of what is available. Well, everything is available, as long as you are willing to pay. And pay you will, as everything is expensive.. We are looking at a camping safari for about three days, and it will cost us about 1000 US dollars. Oof! (All safaris are charged in US dollars and they prefer for you to pay is US even though there is not one ATM in town where you can get US) It is all a bit depressing..

We start the day by going past tourist info to get some more info for this safari thing. Christopher and MP are both hanging out outside our hotel, wondering if we had decided on a safari company yet. We let them know we have not, and have not even decided yet if we want to do a tour at all. We can get them to back off for a bit.

Tourist info is unfortunately not very helpful. We are shown the list of the black listed companies, but all others are apparently “ok” and all the same. They seem more interested in selling us some cultural tourisme programmes.
On exiting the Tourist info office, we are stormed by the touts from (it seems) every safari company in Arusha. Is there some sort of SMS service going? “Two tourist on the loose, they have not booked a tour yet!” This is really overwhelming and we escape to a nearby park. Only two touts follow us and eventually we can convince them that we do not want to do a safari at all. At the moment we really don’t..
MP shows up about  a minute after the touts left, to see if we needed any help today. (How does he know where to find us?) Convincing him we don’t, we head on.


To get our minds of the whole tour thing, we go and visit some of the local markets.
There are a lot of Maasai in Arushu. We have seen them all through the country and they are very recognizable in their red cloth and big earrings. Here there are also quite a few wearing purple and blue.
So we have given in, and will be booking a tour today. We dislike how expensive they are, especially compared to how much the normal people in Tanzania earn, but it seems to be the only way to see anything of the national parks. And why be in Arusha and not do one? We decide to skip on Serengeti because of the distance and money involved, and unfortunately Lake Natron is not possible because the road is really bad during the wet season, so we are going for a pretty standard two day safari of Norongoro Crater and Tarangire NP.
We have decided to not book with the cheapest one, but instead book with Victoria Tours, as they promise great food, and are willing to throw in a free night before and after the safari in their luxury Arusha Lodge! (This comes with free wifi, which will be very good for us to plan a bit of the next stage of the trip)
Off course they are happy to see us, and drive us to the ATM to get the money out. We pay in Shillings, a bit more expensive, but it saves on the hassle of getting it transferred ourselves at a money exchange and walking around town with all the cash. (For whoever is interested : We payed 300US per person for two days safari and one night camping, all food included except water.)
As we get a free night in the lodge, they have two days to try to find some other people to come with us.

Mount Meru behind the town

Mount Meru behind the town

With all this done, and the worries of our minds, we go for a walk along the Arusha river. Not for long though, as about 500 meters in we get warned again by the locals that this is not safe and we should not go there.. Great. We are looking forward to a few days without having to worry about people and being able to just focus on the animals.



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