It’s been a very long time since I wrote, we’ve been off the beaten track a bit. When we have had access to internet it has been to sort out flights to ethiopia and home.
So where were we? Oh yes, we’d just said goodbye to the lake and were heading off with two young Australian sisters towards the Tanzanian border. We had a lot of distance to cover that day but all went smoothly apart from a moment on the bridge when unfortunately both sisters at once we robbed on the bridge while inadvisably trying to change money with the dodgy types on the (literal) bridge between the border posts. Once they realised they were being short changed in the transaction the men hopped over the bridge barriers and made off with what they had already handed over. Bad moment. But not really much anyone could do so we loaned them some cash to get over the border and the rest of the journey was uneventful.
I can’t help like borders though. You need to be on your guard all the time and be careful about any kind of helpful advice or assistance offered. I think that’s why I like them though, if you make it through it feels like you’ve passed a test. Things are rough of course, and I certainly wouldnt want to stay overnight in a border town but there’s a certain energy about them and when you hear the stamp in your passport it produces a special unique thrill of relief and anticipation.
My first impression of Tanzania compared to Malawi was how much noisier it was, and it’s obviously richer. The houses have tin rooves, there are more cars and motorcycles rather than bikes, people are wearing shirts and trousers with no holes, houses are multi story, water is sold to buses in bottles and not little lastic bags. And the landscape is hillier, the earth is brown and not red.
We had, by phone, reserved a place on the overnight train from the west coast of tanzania to the east coast and arrived at the station early to pick up our tickets and lucky we did because after a lengthy wrestle in the arse-to-crotch shoulder-to-ear squeezy-inny argy-bargy leany-over-wavy-papers queue we told that the booking couldnt be found and it took some hours to sort out a place but since we had a 6 hour wait for the delayed train it was no problem really and it meant we all got to experience the queue and hone that technique (I find shoulder placement is key). So we boarded with all our things and bags of extra provisions we picked up in the markets outside: mangoes, bananas, avacados, bread, sachets of booze...
It was dark when we boarded but when we woke the next day I made for the restaurant car, bought byself a beer to nurse (the liquid equivalent of a towel over the sunloungers), and stared greedily out the window for 4 hours solid. And I saw LOTS of green (but let me tell you now in hindsight that i thought *this* was green but Uganda actually blows Tanzania’s greenery out of the water because in Uganda you can’t even see through to the colour of the earth it’s that dense with vegetation): short grassy green, long grassy green, thin wavy green, lush flappy green , tall green , shimmery green, matt green, frondy green, bushy leaved green, wide leaved green... with the occasional red or yellow leaved tree to break it up But mostly it was small overlapping hills which would arrange themselves every now and again to make an open areas – and the odd dry riverbeds which, you may have guessed, were carpeted in green grasses. I only saw a few small groups of three or four huts so the main interest other than drinking in all that green were stations where people would parade past with large dried fish, plantain, mangoes, bread, cooked chicken, dried rice, bananas, water, beef kebabs on sticks, ricecakes, sugar cane, peanuts and occasionally random non edible goods in portable glass cabinets strangely. This all more evidence that Tanzania is better off, by Malawian standards of course.
The landscape eventually flattened out as we started to approach the national park and into more typical game park savanna land which was beautiful as the sun started to set. We had been delayed so much we only just entered the park in daylight so we only managed to see a few antelope and some picked cleaned remains of some prey of some kind ,but it was just enough of a taster for savanna for me.
After dark a big group of us took over the restaurant car for some poker which lasted well into the small hours when the train pulled into Dar es Salaam and our first proper city in months. Time to hit the (paved) streets!