What backpacking on public transportation in Tanzania means

June 3, 2012

7am of a Sunday and streets are full of people. They are going to Mess, some to the Lutheran church, others to the Anglican one. I can hear nice music coming from the Lutheran church. And the same weird little screams I heard during the wedding (see Dar Es Salaam). I’m at my favorite café having breakfast. From Dodoma to Iringa there are two roads. One goes a bit large through Morongoro, all paved. And one that they call “shortcut”, that goes straight to Iringa, but it’s not paved. It’s half the price to take the shortcut, and this is enough to make up my mind. At 7.30 I must be at the bus station for the head count. The bus doesn’t leave before 8.30. It’s 7.25 and I’m already sweating. It must be quite hot here during the day. It’s 270km to Iringa, and it takes 8 hours or more.

9.46am. 219 km to go. It’s good I took the shortcut. We drive slowly through the countryside and the villages of red houses. MLONA is the name of this village. The bus is a junk. The interiors are covered in red dust, there are holes where once were bottoms, to ignite it you have to connect two wires, odometer and other instruments don’t work, the transmission sometimes gets stuck, but the driver knows its beast and we have nothing to worry about. They are building a new road to connect Dodoma to Iringa. To do it they are uprooting a lot of centuries old trees (or so they seem looking at the dimension of the trunks). The roller to level the ground and other machines are Chinese.

The driver is multitasking while driving. He calls and writes on two different mobile phones, checks the passengers payments, drinks, eats, counts money, takes tickets, gives orders. But he made me sit in the front, where I can keep everything under control, and I like him for this. They exchanged some tomato cans with goat milk brought by the village children. One of the helpers of the bus is really goodlooking. Dirty and without underwear, but smiling and handsome. At another village they bought two goat thighs, I would say from shape and dimension. They attached them to the roof without bag or other containers, they are just there swinging over the driver’s head. The bus is super full. It’s not a comfortable trip. And I’m lucky I’m sitting! Maybe I should have paid the 0,30€ for a bag to cover my backpack. I am curious to see how it will end up.

One of the inspectors bought three hens, alive. He puts them in the luggage compartment. Oh no, he changed his mind, he’s taking them inside with us.

The tender to build the new road must have been won by a Chinese company because from time to time you can see almond-shaped eyes under a straw hat and clean clothes. They must be the engineers that supervise the work. We passed by the Chines headquarter. New white houses with airconditioning and huge cars in the courtyard; they are a bit of a clash if compared to the wood and soil houses, with no water nor electricity, just a few meters away.

4.30pm. Poor hens. You can tell they are still alive only when someone steps on them. I don’t want to eat meat anymore. A girl of Indian origins got on the bus. She sat next to me and started reading an English book. She’s a bit of a princess, gets annoyed if the poor guys standing touch her or if by mistake they step on her feet. Oh, she’s the driver’s sister. She gives me some advice on what to do in Iringa. There’s no swimming pool, she’s afraid. There is one in Dodoma. Did I see it? Well, actually the swimming pool was not my priority. Apparently for them it is. In Moshi I was taken to visit the swimming pool too, and my guide was very proud of it. Surely in a country where water is a precious element, a swimming pool must have a different value.

7pm. We arrived in Iringa at about 5.30. I ate a boiled cob for lunch, and now I’m quite hungry. I’m waiting for the usual potato omelette. Tomorrow I must go to a decent restaurant and eat something different. I like Iringa. It’s quiet, with beautiful houses, nice and welcoming people. I’m in a hotel a bit out of town, seems quiet. I hope I’ll sleep well.