Arusha – 22/02/10

And so endeth my first ever day in Africa. It was a culture shock for me, big style.

The drive here was through seemingly endless tin huts at the side of the road, selling all manner of merchandise. There are endless bars and banana sellers, car washers and shoe shiners. The latter seems somewhat ridiculous, given where we are, and also that we are in the middle of the mother of all rainstorms. There are also dogs, cows, goats, chickens everywhere. And I mean everywhere. They litter the sides of the road and even the road itself.

Main Street, Tanzania style

The drivers are of course totally insane. If you try to overtake a tractor or truck full of cows a second too early, some idiot will screech inside you and undertake you as you do it. Others overtake you as you overtake someone else. There are as many speedbumps as there are cars, and they are brutal.

I also feel conspicuously like the only white person in the country. That doesn’t freak me out in the slightest, but it is just a feeling. It is so very very different to anything I have ever seen. It is incredibly ‘third world’, with seemingly the only females that you see carrying impossibly high baskets of stuff on their heads.

I got here to the Outpost Lodge at around 10am local time and just had to crash out. Thankfully my room was ready for me to do so.

My temporary home in Arusha, the Outpost Lodge

Normally when I get to a new place I have to go and explore my surroundings first, but after no sleep last night I needed to just sleep. I had a good two hours and felt much energised, and so went and had myself some breakfast, pictured below

Don't worry, be happy......

Following the beer (well three actually, I am on my holidays too here) and the most garlic infused baked potato the world must have ever seen, I went on that exploratory trip of Arusha. It’s not a great place it has to be said.

As I got to the end of the road I was met by a guy called ‘John’ and he started asking me about what I was doing here and giving all of the jambo, beans, and hakuna matata stuff. He seems genuinely friendly. I realised quickly that there would be a catch somewhere, and so my guard was up at maximum security levels.

I decided that I could handle it though (I’ve made a few timeshare salesmen cry in my time), but in the end I was wrong. These people have no scruples at all, and I was being fed a story before long how he needed money as he had fled from Rwanda and his Daddy had died from ‘sugar diabetes’. I was sympathetic to all this, and it is probably true, but it was the way he tried to get the money from me that was the galling part. I couldnt really get rid of him, and so I let him walk with me, an all the time there are a thousand questions, him probing, me being as vague as possible.

At first he walked me through this really dark backstreet Market, where I knew I was being followed, and so I just tightened my grip on everything. My wallet (actually it is a fetching red Buzz Lightyear thing) became as impregnable as a camel’s bum in a sandstorm.

Then when I had managed to bat various urchins off me, a ‘friend’ of John’s appeared and asked if I “liked coffee”. The place we were in now was a covered Market, and so small narrow and dark that almost anything could have happened in there. I imagined for a moment that I may never be seen again. I was also carrying about $500 in cash on me, and if they had known that then I would definitely not be writing about this in the way I am right now.

The ‘coffee’ guy wanted me to go into this basement place to ‘see his coffee’, and then all of a sudden another guy I on my other shoulder and putting his arm around me. I recoiled, and told them I didn’t want any coffee in a voice which attempted to be stern but friendly at the same time. They backed off and just sort of disappeared into the melée.

So John then made a sort of “sheesh, those guys!” type gesture, which was a bit stupid, as I knew that it was arranged that way. He eventually started walking me back to my hotel (or following me) and I am all the while figuring how to stop him getting back to my room itself. I then thought he probably knows what is in there already. Do I sound cynical here?

When we got half way back he made a phone call and explained afterwards that his brother was having problems with his landlord. I sort of pretended to be half interested. Upon getting to the end of my road I knew I has to get rid of him, and so stopped and thanked him and pulled out a $5 bill to say thank you for the tour.

At this point, instead of accepting it, his ‘brother’ (they looked so radically different I cannot imagine it to be close to being true, but who cares) appears, and pulls out a roll of paintings. He half asks/half tells me “you buy?”, and I say, as firmly as I could without aggression “no “.  And so he tells me that the prints (which are somewhat rudimentary to say the least) are only $65 dollars each or he will do me ‘two for $95’. I try to tell him I am not interested, and there is pawing and arms and legs all over the place. They are trying clearly to pickpocket me. I push them off, and manage to get away.

I am lucky (I think) that I am on the corner of a public road and lots of people are watching. I get back to the hotel and decide not to venture out again, and so go and chill by the bar, suspiciously eyeing anyone who comes within 10 yards of me, and imagining that my room is being ransacked by John and his brother.

After a fairly interesting and rather undercooked pizza, I unwind with three or four more Kilinanjaro Premium Lagers. It is not the most exciting beer ever, but it hits the spot.

Before I know it, with blog duly updated, it is 9pm and I am ready to crawl under my mosquito net (pictured below):

Room K2, the Outpost

My room appears to be intact and I duly try to read, but fail as I am so tired. A seemingly friendly (but pretty ugly it has to be said) lizard crawls around my bedpost – I decide to call him Toby. He can hopefully eat some of the bugs that made under the net with me. Sleep comes very very easily.

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