20 June 2009

Dirty digs in Dar

We'd hoped that by catching the bus from Arusha at 9.15 in the morning we would arrive in Dar es Salaam before it was dark. The journey should take about 9 hours, however; thanks to a few delays, what looked like another police shake down and some bad traffic we didn't arrive until well after sunset.

We hopped in a taxi from the bus depot to make the final 8km of the journey into central Dar. The taxi ride was certainly an experience. The traffic was really heavy so the driver spent the entire journey undertaking, cutting up, pushing in and swerving dangerously across all the lanes available (and quite a few that weren't). At one point he left the road completely and, with his arm on the horn, drove down the footpath sending pedestrians flying in every direction. It was like that scene in the film 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' where John Candy grows horns and morphs into the devil whilst behind the wheel. God knows how, but we eventually made it into the town centre without being mangled in a traffic accident or punched in the face by an irate road user or pedestrian.

Despite our lunatic driver's best/worst efforts we arrived at our hotel of choice, Jambo Inn, just in time to see the last room go to someone else. It was actually quite a shock to the system to see so many other backpackers/tourists in one place as we had seen so few since we left Bangkok nearly 3 weeks ago.

No problem, or so we thought, as we knew there was another hotel, Safari Inn, just around the corner. Safari Inn turned out to be a bit of a low point in the accommodation stakes. I think we have probably just about got used to it when a room is what would be best described as "a bit basic". However when it's a bit basic, a lot run down and completely filthy, then that's an entirely different matter.

Unfortunately Dar es Salaam is yet another place that is listed as unsafe to be on the streets after dark. In the end we decided it was safer to stay in the dirt of the Safari Inn than to risk being mugged whilst out on the street looking for cleaner accommodation.

The following morning we made a sprightly checkout first thing and managed to get a room back round the corner at Jambo Inn. Although Jambo Inn is still well and truly in the "a bit basic" category, at least it's clean.

Breakfast at Jambo Inn is also a hugely entertaining experience thanks to possibly the worst waiter we've ever encountered anywhere in the world. He could even show that useless lot at Sepilok Jungle Resort a new trick or two. We don't think we've ever seen anyone before who has such a brilliant skill of ignoring customers, he really is something special!

I think that my impression of what Dar es Salaam would be like is largely due to the Roald Dahl autobiography 'Going Solo' which we covered in English literature at school. My recollections from that book are not remotely like Dar es Salaam is today. Either it has changed a lot or Mr Dahl was already on one of his many flights of fantasy! I was imagining white sandy beaches and a view of the Indian Ocean. What you actually get is a port and view of the container ships.

The area where we are staying, Kisutu, is very atmospheric and feels more like somewhere in Arabia or India rather than Africa. The streets are full of Muslim and Indian traders who appear to be selling everything apart from the one item we need for our overland truck journey - a sleeping bag.

Other than shopping and soaking up the atmosphere, there isn't a huge amount to do in Dar. So whilst we wait for our ferry to Zanzibar we've spent a fair bit of our time making the most of the luxury hotels with nice facilities that are open to the public. Last night we had dinner at the Movenpick Royal Palm hotel to see a dance and acrobatics performance from a local troupe. Tonight we're off to the rooftop bar at the Kempinski Kilimanjaro hotel.

Even though the Safari Inn was a bit of a dive they still had standards . . .


  1. Oh dear, Ive read "Going solo" I sure theres a mention of a nice travelodge in Dar es Salaam


  2. Did they let Liz in or did you have to smuggle her in under a blanket!!!! (sorry, Liz, only joking!!)