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Email: Greetings from Tanzania


Date: Tuesday, 4 November 2003 07:56 PST
Subject: Greetings from Tanzania

Captions for pictures:
1. ‘Mad house’ bus station in Lusaka
2. Vendors and taxi drivers in Kapiri Mposhi
3. Tazara engine
4. Tazara carriage (note Sandy and the girls)
5. Boy running along the train
6. View out the window in the Zambian highlands
7. Covert picture of black market transactions in Tanzania
8. Preparing lunch in our compartment
9. View out the window in Tanzania

30 October 2003 – Day #40

As I write this, we are nearing the end of our journey on the Tazara train from Kapiri Mposhi (K.M.), Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Our train departed two days ago at 3:10pm. The total journey is 1860km (a little more than 1100 miles). It is scheduled to take about 39 hours (the train makes a lot of long stops). It looks like we will be about two hours late.

Day 1
Our journey started not in K.M. but in Lusaka about 3 hours south of K.M. That morning, Sandy woke me up at 5:20am and told me that we had both slept through our alarms. We had only 10 minutes to pack and move our bags outside to meet our prearranged taxi. After a short ride, we arrived at the bus station and started looking for our bus.

The bus station was a “mad house”. There was at least seven buses lined up with their motors running. Since there was nothing to distinguish one from another, I asked the driver of the second bus for directions. He sent us to the third bus. I asked the driver of the third bus and he suggested we check with the first bus. As we passed the second bus, a tall black man asked us our destination. We told him Kapiri Mposhi. He ordered us to board the second bus. One of the kids jumped on and I followed behind. Just then, Sandy mentioned to the man that we had already purchased tickets the day before. He apologized and asked us to take the first bus instead.

We arrived in K.M. at about 10am. The bus station was located near a outdoor market. Most of the passengers were continuing onwards. Vendors encircled the bus with all sorts of items for sale. The rest of the welcoming committee was made up of taxi drivers hoping to get a fare. The kids got off first, moving to the side of the bus where our bags were stored. We selected one of the drivers, loaded our bags in his vehicle and made our way down a bumpy dirt road to the train station. At the train station, another welcoming committee made up of porters greeted us. We slung our packs onto our backs showing that we didn’t need a porter. We waited in the train station for 4 1/2 hours until boarding time. The train left right on time 40 minutes later at 3:10pm.

From the bus ride we knew that K.M. was surrounded by farmland and small villages. From the train, we saw many of the villagers leave their huts to wave (the weekly departure of our 30-year-old, Chinese-built train is apparently a big deal ’round these parts). Later, a small boy of about seven ran along side of the train trying to keep up (see attached picture). The huts were all the same – mud bricks with straw conical roofs.

As the sun started to set, we entered the highlands of central Zambia. The hills there are covered with primary forest. The uncultivated plains were visible in the distance. While most of the terrain we had visited in Africa was dry, the vegetation here was green. It was also quite a bit cooler. We opened the window of our compartment. The wind felt good on our faces.

At 7pm, we locked up our bags and went to the dining car. The menu was limited. But what they had was tasty and inexpensive. We had roast chicken, breen (fish) and beef stew. The total bill including drinks came to 44,500 Kwaca (about US$10). We returned to our compartment, brushed our teeth, closed the window and went to sleep.

Day 2
At 5am the next morning, we were rudely awakened by Zambian customs officials. We were nearing the border with Tanzania. They knocked on our door several times and then started to walk away. Sandy woke me up and asked me to open the door (it was very hard to open). I did so without getting out of bed. They entered, asked for our passports, stamped them and left. We went back to sleep. It was crucial that we receive the Zambian exit stamp or we would have trouble a later when we entered Tanzania. Two hours later, the Zambian officers left the train and we were visited by Tanzanian customs. They gave us arrival cards to fill out and returned a few minutes later to review them and our passports.

Now that we had entered Tanzania, the dining car would only take Shillings. We knew this would happen so we had tried (unsuccessfully) to get some Shillings before we left Zambia. Unfortunately, none of the banks or exchange bureaus had Shillings. It turns out that black market moneychangers hopped onto the train with the Tanzanian customs officers. While their activities are technically illegal, the officials look the other way. We converted our remaining Zambian Kwanca to Tanzanian Shillings. We also changed a US $20 bill. Jesus was right about moneychangers (thieves). We only received about 80% of the going rate. But we were able to purchase coffee from the dining car.

While we were enjoyed the coffee and our provisions we had purchased before we left, we once again opened our window. The scenery was very different on this side of the border. The dry conditions had returned and most of the land had been cultivated. On this second day of our journey, we focused our attention on schoolwork.

Day 3
As we near the end of our journey on the third day, we have entered Selous Game Reserve. This is a treat since we are able to see animals roaming free though our open window. So far, we have seen elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog and zebra.

Interestingly, the time changed at the border of Tanzania. We are now on Eastern African Time. With the recent end of daylight savings time at home, we are 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard (GMT+3).

With our 3,000-mile overland trek across Africa ending, our plans are to stay in Dar es Salaam for one night and then take a two-hour ferry to Zanzibar. We plan to recuperate before our flight to Bombay three days later.

Miss your all.

God’s Blessings,