Tanzania: January 2, 2010

Our first impressions of Tanzanian buses were extremely positive.  We had just crossed the border from Malawi in the early evening and quickly caught a minibus to the town of Mbeya 100km away.  We did not have any Tanzanian shillings, which upset the conductor, but we were able to pay in Malawian kwacha thanks to the help of two local female passengers who took up our cause and convinced him to accept our fare.  Another fellow passenger then bought us a fried banana at our first stop (he, on the other hand, refused to accept our Malawian kwacha as payment.)  Meg looked at Jed and said, “so far Tanzanian buses are great!” 

It all went downhill from there. 

We spent the next 4 hours on that same minibus to get to Mbeya (again, only 100km away)- it was so crowded that one point three people were sitting on one seat in front of Meg. After arriving late in the town of Mbeya we spent an hour looking for a hotel before finding a not-so-nice one. Then we got up in time for the 6am bus (never got to see Mbeya in the daylight) to Dar Es Salaam. Thanks to our friends at Happy Nation Express, we arrived in Dar, 16 hours and two bus breakdowns later.

The next day we met Jed’s family (parents, brother, and his fianc√©) for the beginning of a vacation from Africa. We spent the next week on Zanzibar; then Meg’s parents joined us for another week of safari.

We had noticed in Dar that the feel was very different from the other parts of Africa we had been in but Zanzibar had even more of a middle eastern feel to it. Wandering the winding alleys of Stone Town with women in veils and long, colorful dresses felt like being back in Damascus. The diversity also encompassed significant parts of Indian culture with the spices and curry-based food as just one example.

For our trip, just as in its history Zanzibar represented the cultural amalgam of Africa India, and the Middle East. So while the middle eastern influence reminded us of the beginning of our trip, the considerable Indian influence was a preview of the time that we’ll spend on the sub-continent in the latter half of January, and yet so much of the island remains truly African. Thus in so many ways, the Christmas holiday with our families represented a midpoint to our travels- geographically, chronologically, and culturally.

Our Herrllivann safari was a great chance to catch up with our families and see fantastic scenery and wildlife as well. We truly hit the highlights by visiting a diverse set of habitats. Lake Manyara national park was filled with baboons and a wide variety of birds. The Ngorongoro Crater was a unique plain within a volcanic caldera- the views from the crater rim along with the lions, elephants, and flamingos (to name a few) combine for a truly magical setting. 

Perhaps the climax of the safari was our time on the plains of the Serengeti. There we witnessed thousands of wildebeests in migration, giraffes by the score, and elephants by the dozens. It really was like a film from the nature channel. A big thanks to our families for trekking to Africa for such a wonderful holiday celebration. 


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