Round The World TripTanzania

Tanzania: Arusha to Moshi

I woke up at 5:30 as the overland campers got up to hit the road.  There was a German couple in a tent nearby that were speaking to each other in conversational tones, so sleeping was out of the question for me.  Jon woke up at 6:30 when a cow across the way started mooing – constantly and loudly.  We lay around and tried to get back to sleep, but finally got up at 7:30 to shower and have our breakfast of champions: peanut butter and jelly.

Bug Bites

The bugs here love me.  Every time I look down I have a new bug on me somewhere – mosquitoes, spiders, gnats, flies.  You name it, and it’s had some of my blood.  Someone said that Vitamin B helps to keep them away, but  vitamin stores are non-existent here.  For entertainment, Jon counted my bug bites.  I have 37… and that’s just below the knees.  There are 15 on the outside of my left ankle alone.

After breakfast, we packed up our bags and cleaned out the tent for the next Kiboko tour group that is due today.  We didn’t want to leave for Moshi before lunch, so we watched CNN, read the newspaper and read our books.  We ordered burgers and chips for lunch and sat around for a while until it was time to leave.  Finally, we put on our backpacks and headed outside the Maasai Camp and got a taxi to take us to the bus depot so we could catch a ride to Moshi.

The Bus to Moshi

I’m not sure how to accurately describe the entire bus ordeal, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most stressful we’ve experienced yet.  The bus depot was a loud, chaotic, crowded affair with people and buses everywhere.  We – the white tourists (mzungus) – were spotted before we’d even exited the taxi.  So the vultures moved in, offering to carry our bags, direct us to the right bus, and to sell us bus tickets.  Some of the vultures directed us into a ticket office (there were a few offices all in a row) until Jon remembered that we could and should buy the ticket on the bus.  So we moved to the side, took off our backpacks, and put on the backpack covers we use when traveling.  There were at least 10 people watching us and trying to talk to us while this was happening, and we were quite distrustful of the whole scene.  Jon watched the bags get loaded onto the top of the bus (which was a large mini-van), and I climbed in to get us two seats which ended up being in the very front of the bus.  Jon stayed outside as long as he could to ensure the bags remained on top of the bus and didn’t find themselves separated from us before we even left the bus station.  Then he got into the seat beside me and this is where the fun began.

Four of the vultures surrounded us and one handed us a ticket with the amount “4800 TSH” (Tanzanian Shillings) written on it.  Now, we had heard that the bus ride would cost approx 1500 TSH  per person (about $2.00) and were very wary about the guys waving the tickets in our faces.  A guy at our window kept saying, “It’s a seasonal rate.  You must pay it”, and the guy with the ticket was saying, “I’m the conductor on this bus.  You must pay me.”.  It was all very cagey, and we weren’t really sure what to do.  But here’s a good rule to live by: if you are the only tourists around and no one else is getting hassled, chances are that you’re getting take for a ride.  So we refused to pay anyone but the driver and told the vultures to go away.  After a few more minutes of hassle and heckling, the vultures moved off and the bus was on its way.  There was an actual conductor person collecting money from the rest of the passengers, and they were only giving 1000TSH ($1.50).  So we were very happy that we’d stuck to our guns although I wished I had been mentally prepared for it.

But we were still nervous about our bags being on top of the bus, and Jon turned around to watch each time the bus stopped for a rider to get on or off.  At this point, I should describe the bus operation.  Much like yesterday’s Mtatu, there was a driver and a conductor, and the goal was to get as many fares as possible.  So, when we were well on our way, there were about 40 people in the mini van including the 3 hanging onto the side of the bus.  The trip to Moshi is about 90km and took about an hour through some beautiful land with Mt. Kilimanjaro in our sights for most of the ride.   When we finally arrived in Moshi, we wanted to get out of the bus as quickly as possible so we could keep our bags in sight.  So I climbed out the bus window instead of waiting to get out the door.  We got the bags just fine, and we caught a taxi to the Springlands Hotel.

The Springlands Hotel

We didn’t have a reservation anywhere and had no idea where to stay, but our Kilimanjaro tour will stay at the Springlands Hotel on Tuesday night, so that was enough credibility for us to go there.  The hotel was just outside the town of Moshi, and was marked only by a black gate and tall fence.  The courtyard we walked into looked beautiful and clean, with a pool in the background.  The very nice woman at the reception desk – Patience – said that she was quite full for the night.  We pleaded with her and said, “We’ll sleep on the lounge chairs if you have them”.  She smiled at this and said, “OK I have something you can stay in”.  The rate was $45/night.  There are two-level multiple buildings in the complex, which have rooms that open to the outside.  It turns out that our room is in the one-level building that houses the kitchen and the bar, and the window faces a major gravel thoroughfare through the hotel.  But we were so happy just to have a room for the night and a place to relax after our ordeal today.  As Jon says, “It’s better than a lounge chair”.  And it’s clean with it’s own shower.  Hakuna matata – no worries!

So we put on our bathing suits and went to the pool (yes, there really is a pool!) to read for a while.  Most of the people around the pool were American, which obviously means that this hotel is a high-maintenance hotel.  It really is quite nice by African standards and is probably the nicest hotel in Moshi.  The pool was so refreshing and a nice change from the last four weeks.  After a few hours, we showered and went to dinner.  The dining area was outside and everyone staying is going to, or already has, climbed Mt. Kili.  It was nice to hear people’s experiences and thoughts on the climb which we are starting to be concerned about.  After speaking with these people, Jon and I both feel as though there’s definite potential for us to make it to the top.  It all comes down to altitude adjustment.

So it’s about time to go to bed, but the bar is just getting started and there are people from the kitchen and bar walking all around the hallways and slamming doors.   I think that this night is going to be quite loud and whatever sleep we get won’t be very extensive.  Patience told us that she might be able to give us a better room tomorrow, which would be nice since tomorrow is Jon’s birthday.