The Bus to Arusha

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We work our way across the street from the Comfort Hotel and our Driver, David, negotiates 3 seats on the bus to Arusha with an arbitrary man standing somewhat near the bus.  It’s not obvious to us that this man is any different than the 30 or so adult males standing near the bus – all looking equally unofficial.  The Riverside Bus Service company needs some sort of uniform or logo shirt or hat – or maybe a sign saying – “The guy in charge stands here.”  This is not a high end tourist route.  This is a bus service that locals with money, other Africans, or travelers looking for the “Authentic Africa” experience are likely to engage in.  This might be why they don’t need no stinkin logo shirts or “I’m in charge” signs. Everything in Africa is a negotiation with someone.  The challenge is to find out who to negotiate with.

Heward heads off to buy 3 pizzas for us for lunch before we get on the bus.  The pizza is absolutely delicious – and I swear – not because I was hungry!  We each share a few slices with a group of kids who approach us asking for a bite.  The kids were very nice and polite – each saying thank you.  The adults nearby were not as pleased with our sharing.  Apparently sets up a bad situation in the future.

We’re finally on the bus.  The 2pm bus departed at 1:58pm with a load full (3 high-end DSLRs, 18 passengers: 2 white guys (me and a dutch guy that refused to utter a single word), 2 asians (Elley and Heward), 12 Africans, and a roof top full of non-camera luggage.    After emerging from the cluster contest of Nairobi traffic we headed south along the highway that runs from Cairo to Cape Town South Africa.

For some reason I was worried that I might not return with the iconic African acacia tree at sunset picture.  Unlikely: The acacia trees are everywhere and their shapes are just like they are in the pictures – only better.

The border crossing at Namanga was very interesting.  Screw filling out the forms accurately – they want the $$.  The road leading to and from Namanga was actually pretty good except for a few dirt detours around bridges over seasonal creekbeds.  The road at the border was a disaster.  We made it through Kenya outbound and Tanzania inbound checks and were only $100 poorer.  I now have more complete and accurate fingerprints on file with the Tanzania government (and thus the NSA) that I do with the FBI.  Maybe NSA should share more…(maybe I should take a break from political commentary and focus on the Africa experience).

I watched out the window for a giraffe.  No luck.  As we approach the western edge of Arusha National Park, the sun is setting to the west (just like in the US) and the nearly full moon is rising over the faint outline of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It was a beautiful site and a challenge to capture from a bumpily moving bus even with a great DSLR.  I caught the sunset – the moonrise will have to wait until tomorrow night.

We pull into Arusha at 7pm after 5 grueling hours on the bus and we’re greeted by Albert – our guide and driver for the next 8 days.  He takes us to the Hotel Pepeone in Arusha and it’s fantastic…more on that tomorrow.  I caught an early glimpse of the people and the communities outside Arusha and Nairobi.  Too early to write about but – I;m going to learn something on this trip!  I think I’m on Africa time so – I had better get to sleep.  It’s almost 2 in the afternoon in California.  Life is good.

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