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The Dhala Dhala adventure

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Pimponi, where we are currently staying is a small town, not really town per se but a jumble of huts by the sea in Northeast Tanzania. Were staying at a really nice place called Pimponi beach lodge. They are like thatched huts you stay in right on the beach. They have a restaurant which serves great cheap food and everything comes from the local area including the fish and the fruits and vegetables. I had a huge piece of fish last night and it was around 4 bucks. Today we walked about 2 miles down the beach and there was nobody, just an occasional family walking out to there dhows which are little sailing boats they use here for fishing and getting around. A very unique thing about the ocean here is that when the tide goes out, it goes way out about a half a mile. Then when it comes in, it goes over all the hot sand which warms the water up to an increbile 90-95 degrees. That’s not a misprint, the owner of the lodge we stayed at took a thermomter out in the water. And when you go in the water, the first 50 yards is like a jacuzzi. Not exactly what you want though when its 90 degrees out and humid, although Christy seemed to love it.  There are monkeys running around which I just love.  Now that’s all for the “how beautiful Africa is” story.

Now let me try to describe the experience of us getting here to this lovely beach paradise.  We got to Moshi with no problems, the safari company we’re using had a shuttle for us and it brought us straight to Moshi, right to their front door. From Moshi to here we were on our own and had to use  African public transportation. The bus station was just pure chaos, we were the only white people there and it was just packed with people coming and going, people selling food, candy, clothes you name it they were selling it. And they carry everything on top of there head, Women carrying huge stalks of bananas or big bags of grain all on top of there head. So we get on our bus which is like a greyhound bus from 1960 and they just pack it until people are standing in the aisles with no room to spare. When its packed full and there is no chance of fitting anyone else on, they depart and off we go for 7 hours straight, stopping at little villages along the way. Things went fairly smooth until it started to rain and naturally the bus isn’t too water proof so we had to dodge some streams of water flowing in from the outside.

We then get to Tanga where we need to change buses in order to get to our final destination (Pimponi) and once again we just get mauled by people wanting to know if we want a taxi, bus, hotel, bananas. We tell them we need to go to Pimponi and they take us over to a dhala dhala, which is a minivan that that has seen better days. How this vehicle is still running is beyond me.  I go to get in, open the door and its filled with about 12 locals just jammed in there. Well, whats the saying “when in rome” so we pile in, put our backpacks on our laps and off we go…that is as soon as they tie up the door with a rope to keep it closed and from falling off. 

Two minutes into the ride the driver gets into a fender bender. We all sat in the minivan for about 30 minutes as the 2 parties involved screamed at each other. Finally we get going along this dirt road and the drivers door keeps flying open which he has to hold with one hand and drive with the other. Then the sliding door on the side of the van which was held on by rope starts to break away again from the van but luckily they caught it and tied it on better. We continue on, dodging bikes, chickens goats and people. At a stop sign the van putters out and dies. No problem, a passenger jumps out, gives it a push and we’re off again.  Along the way we’re stopping and picking up more people so I think we maxed out at around 15 people in a van built for 7…let me remind you that most of these people haven’t touche a shower in about a week.  Anyway we finally made it.  It was fricken hilarious. Christy and I were just cracking up and all the locals treated it as just another day at the office. Mind you, the people are as nice as can be, one guy had Christys backpack on top of him and he didn’t mind. That is what makes it an incredible journey and not a scary one, the people. Africa, Chaos, comedy and beauty all wrapped up into one pretty picture.

Welcome to Africa

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

We left Rome on not the most direct route you could take to get to Africa. We Went Rome-Milan-Dubai-Nairobi. In Dubai we had a 10 hour layover and best of all we arrived there at midnight so it was a night of no sleep. Dubai Airport however is one of the nicest airports I have ever seen. There is a shopping mall  and even at 2am was packed with people shopping. I guess Dubai has a lot of long layovers because there were people sleeping all over the place, hundreds of people. Add the muslim women walking around totally covered up except there eyes and you have plenty of people watching for one night.  We also got a free breakfast compliments of our airline because we had such a long lay-over…sweet!!!

At 10am we flew to Nairobi for the final 5 hour leg of our journey. Luckily, Emerites Airlines is one of the nicest airlines I have ever flown so we spent our time watching movies and eating great airplane food. Little did we know the fun hadnt even begun when we landed and exited the plane. The first thing we needed to do was get Kenyan shillings from the ATM. Well, in Africa everything doesn’t quite work all the time and the ATM in the terminal wasn’t working. So without U.S currency we had no way to pay the $100 fee for our visas so we could exit the airport. With thoughts of the movie “the Terminal” creeping into our minds, I began to get frazzled trying to figure out a way to get money. We approached the Customs guy and told him our dilema and luckily they are much more laid back here and he told us, no problem, theres an ATM outside, go get your money, I’ll hold the passports and your wife as ransom. So I ran out the airport to the ATM and took out my wallet to get my ATM card. My heart sank when I realized I somehow either dropped the card in the terminal or left it in the machine that didn’t work. I ran back to the airport and then I had to explain to the security guy why I had no passport, no money and why I had to go back into the airport. Again, thank god things are more laid back here and he let me in. Then I had to tell Christy what a moron I was and that we may never see our way out of this airport again. I ran back to the ATM that didn’t work and of course the card was gone. So then I pictured some guy buying thousands of dollars worth of stuff on my card. More horror, I quickly found a phone and called home to my mom where it was 4am and sure enough she thought it would be me and something terrible happened. So I got her to cancel my card as I ran back to the customs guy who by now thought I was a crazed American and wasn’t sure I should enter his country regardless. With more persuasion he let me go outside the airport again using Christy’s ATM card this time and finally we got money and got through customs. Oh, but the stories not over yet.

So we go to baggage claim and there are no bags to be seen and everyone from our flight it long gone. We ask the lady in charge and she just kind of shrugs her shoulders and tells us to go talk to someone else. We find the lost baggage department which is a lady in a desk with a computer from the 80’s. She enters our tag numbers and says the computer isn’t working right now and to give us her name and number and she’ll call us when she finds out something. Which in Africa translates to, I will do nothing as soon as you walk out of this airport and you will never see your bags again. So right when all hope is lost a worker comes up to us and asks if were missing 3 bags. It’s still up for debate, but Christy swears that I kissed the guy, I dont think I did though.  He said our bags were on the wrong turn-style.  Anyway, we were soooo happy as we grabbed our bags and headed for the taxi stand. Welcom to Africa!

Ciao Rome!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I have never in my life had gelato as delicious as it is in Rome!!!  And the pizza...ohhhh gracious, my mouth just waters thinking about it.  We arrived in Rome via a train from Venice with a plan to stay ... [Continue reading this entry]

Venice…are we ever going to get there???

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
We all know Venice is a beautiful city with its canals and bridges and singing gondolas...but that would all have to wait for Steve and I.  Let me tell you about our little adventure to the Italian border... We woke up ... [Continue reading this entry]

Slovenia-A Little Paradise for Us!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
After a long travel day-from Hvar (island off of Croatia) on a ferry boat to Split (mainland Croatia) where we took a bus to Zagreb, then caught the train to Ljubliana (hope I spelled that right), we were finally in ... [Continue reading this entry]