Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam; An extra ferry companion; 500km from Dar to Iringa; Mikumi National Park; Money scare; A trditional dinner; Sunburn dementia

Our taxi dropped us off back in Zanzibar Town early in the afternoon. We killed a bit of time and then headed back to the ferry terminal. I call it a terminal, but it’s really just one dock with a gate opening onto the street. There’s a fence running the length of the dock, dividing departures from arrivals. We got our passports stamped and turned in our departure forms and then boarded the ferry. It was a different boat than the one that had brought us out - smaller and faster. It was a weekday, so probably fewer passengers. We managed to get seats inside, but it was packed and incredibly hot down in the passenger deck. I got stuck next to a guy from Shouth Africa who turned out to be a retired photojournalist. It was nice to talk shop for a bit, and we got an invitation to look him up in Cape Town when we got there. I did have one bad moment in the otherwise boring trip, when I took a walk out on deck in the air, made to sit down on a long pine box I found by my feet, and realized it was a coffin. Gave me quite a turn, really. I don’t know who they were or how they wound up in the cargo, but nobody else on deck seemed to pay any attention to it.

The ferry let us off in Dar around 5 and we decided to go to the supermarket for a couple of things before heading back to the campsite. Dar is a pretty rough place and we didn’t want to be stuck there after dark - especially near the port area - so we rushed through our shoppping and walked quickly back to the other ferry dock - the one that takes you across the bay to Mikadi Beach. We didn’t know when the next ferry left, or even if there was another ferry after the one we could see arriving. We could have taken a taxi all the way to the campsite, but it would have cust 20,000TSH (around CAD$20) and the ferry plus the short cab ride after was 2200TSH, so it was a no-brainer. Plus it felt good to know one of Dar’s secrets, small though it might be - it made me feel a bit more of a traveller rather than a tourist, which is a feeling that’s been seriously lacking while we’ve been in Africa. At any rate we ran for the ferry, pushed the closing gate back open just like the locals, and were one of the last aboard as the boat pulled away. We’d figured that our tour companions would have caught an earlier ferry while we were shopping, but we saw them loading their luggage into a taxi, so we sneakily grabbed the cab ahead of them and were back in the campsite drinking beer and asking what took them so long when they finally arrived.

The next morning we were due to spend twelve hours on the truck driving something like 500km to a place called Iringa, so we had to wake up stupidly early. I really wish we hadn’t bothered putting up the tent, since our sunburns stoppped either of us getting a wink of sleep. It was a sweaty, sultry night, though, heavy with humidity and scent. I took a couple of short walks but the mosquitoes drove me back into the tent soon enough. Neither of us were in the best humour at 4:30 am when we had to wake up. We took down the tent and loaded our bags in cranky silence and then went to our separate sets, and slept or tried to sleep or pretended to sleep. Despite my sunburn I think I did manage to nap, because the morning passed very quickly and before I knew it we were stopping for brunch by the side of the road outside of some nameless village.

The whole day passed this way - in a blur of boredom and villages passing by outside the truck, until the afternoon when we went through Mikumi National Park and saw a bunch of giraffes, antelope-style creatures, and what might have been a rhino under a tree. I saw a road-killed hyena too, but declined to call anyone else’s attention to it. Shortly after the park we went through an area thickly grown with baobab trees, called “upside-down trees” by the locals. There’s nothing quite so iconically African as the baobab tree, with its blobby barrel-shaped trunk and bare spindly rootlike branches. I shot dozens of frames, playing around with motion-blur and sepia-toning, and kept only a few of them.

We finally did reach Iringa - though we saw only yet another campground, so I have no real idea where or what Iringa actually is, be it a city, town or village - or none of the above. By the time we reached it it was nearly dark. Sheryl and I spent some time pulling apart our packs and hunting for a bundle of money that had gone missing. We’d been in a low-grade panic over it since the previous day when we’d done an acccounting and realized that we were about $1500 short of where we should be. We’d split the cash up into separate bundles and hidden them in various places on our first night in Nairobi, and I was afraid that we’d done something tremendously stupid and left one of the bundles in the hotel room safe, or that it had been nicked out of Sheryl’s pack, or something like that. I had gotten quite upset about it and discouraged over how quickly we’re going through money in general. But the bundle turned up, finally, buried in my toque at the bottom of my pack, and then all was right with the world again. I’ve been having wild mood swings lately. I don’t really know why. Seems like the smallest thing is enough to darken or lighten my outlook.

Anyway, the day ended well. We didn’t have to cook, but had dinner arranged at the campground’s restaurant and paid for out of the group funds. It was great - we met up at the bar and were escorted into the restaurant to a drum (which the drummer also beat to announce late arrivals) and found actual tables, laid with actual tablecloths, with candles and floral centrepieces. After two weeks of camp food it seemed like unbearable luxury and I felt quite underdressed for the occasion.

They made us a meal of traditional Tanzanian foods - some sort of meatballs in sauce, beans likewise, a carrot and ginger soup with cardamom, and a thing calleed “ugale”. I’m not sure how to categorize ugale. I’ts made from corn flour, but it’s not bread - it’s a firm, springy and sticky mass like bread dough, only cooked. Anyway it was all very good - lots better than anything we’d managed to do for ourselves so far, for sure.

After dinner we took our showers and that turned out to be a mistake. My sunburn, even though it was still hurting a lot, had reached the stage I’d been dreading. I don’t know if everybody gets this, but every sunburn I’ve ever had has eventually gotten to the point where it becomes a deep, prickling, stabbing itch. It’s something in between an itch and a pain, and it’s horrible. As soon as I got out of the shower I knew that the water had brought it on, all across my stomach and my back. It kept doubling me over, it was so awful. Sheryl, thinking a lot more clearly than I was, gave me one of her sleeping pills and it was exactly what I needed - it knocked me out for the whole night and got me past the itching.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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