Tent Sufring in Dar es Salaam
After three days on the road I touched down on the white sands of Mikadi Beach. Coconut trees swayed in the breeze and little wooden fishing boats sailed along the calm waters, heading to and from the fish market. It was just as I had imagined. After parking my car in deep beach sand, under some trees (The 4×4 gang told me I would be stuck there forever, and that they were not interested in towing me out) I kicked off my shoes and wondered out into the water. Bliss.
I set up camp in the shade and was joined by only one other camper. “I guess we’re going to be neighbours” I said to him as I introduced myself. My fellow camper was called Jens, and he was a travel blogger from Frankfurt, Germany. We got on very well, and decided to head out to lunch, in search of a good Kuku and Chips place he had heard about from other travellers. Over lunch at the Ibiza Pub he told me how Ethiopian Air had lost his luggage, and that he spent the previous night sleeping in a, what’s the word? Oh right, hammock.
The next morning we went back across the harbour. I left my car at Mikadi and we took motorcycle taxis down to the ferry. We stood in the crowded holding area until we were let onto the ferry, which took a very long time to reach the other side. Jens was heading towards the airport to meet some friends who were arriving from Europe. I accompanied him in a tuk tuk and then on foot to the bus station, where we split up. I found a bureau de change and headed back towards the ferry. I tried finding a tuk tuk but had little luck, until one driver stopped, only to give me a lecture about wearing shorts on a friday, and the last friday of ramadan at that. Eventually I found a motorcycle taxi who would take me back to the beach. Deciding I didn’t fancy the ferry I walked through the fish market (holding my breath) and down to the beach. There I met a man who knew a man who knew a guy who made some phone calls. Eventually a towering Arab man appeared. He owned many of the boats on the beach, and for a fee I could cross to South Beach on one of them. When I asked how much this would cost he scratched his beard and said 150 000 Shillings, or $75. This was perhaps the dumbest con I had ever encountered. There was no way even the most moronic tourist would fall for that. So I laughed him off. “You must think I’m an idiot” I said as I left him and walked towards the water’s edge. He followed along with his little entourage saying “You don’t understand, Do you know how much petrol costs? (Yes I did, 2175 TSH/Litre) You’ll never get across for less than that!”. As he was shouting at me a small fibreglass boat with an outboard motor pulled up on the sand near me. “Hey, how much to cross?” I asked the chap seated at the motor. “1000 Shillings” he replied. That was $0.50. Deal. I crossed the harbour with the wind on my face as we darted between the bigger boats. We quickly overtook the crowded ferry. It was a very pleasing experience, not only because I got to look smugly back at the Arab boat owner as I disappeared over the harbour.
I arrived back at Mikadi to find Dominik, the Swiss traveler I met in Mbeya had arrived along with two more backpackers, one from Switzerland and one from Denmark. The train had been late, and they arrived in the middle of the night, and slept in the YMCA in the city centre. Later Anders (the Dane) would tell me “Bro, you know when you watch movies and there are drug addicts and stuff? Yeah it was like that. Just imagine the worst place in the world.”
Dominik and Anders caught me up on all the stories of the train and eventually Jens arrived with his friends from Austria, Dani and Christina. Our group was growing rather quickly.
Christina’s luggage had been lost by Ethiopian Air as well, so Dani and Christina had no tent. So Jens moved in with me in Schloss Bronner and the girls took over Jens’ tent. And so Tent Surfing was born. My tent, purchased online, is an enormous five person tent that is slightly overkill for my needs. It is comfy though. The next morning we were told to move camp as a bonfire was going to be made where my car was parked. Ramadan had ended and it was a triple public holiday in Tanzania, and there was going to be a huge party on the Saturday night. However my car wouldn’t start and was trapped under the trees. After a quick inspection with Anders’ help I found that the mounting plate of the distributor was dirty, and therefore the distributor wasn’t grounding properly. I cleaned it and the car started right up. I then drove it out of the sand with no problem, much to the disappointment of the 4×4 lads.
We resettled under some trees on the other end of camp and founded Tent City, which was only set to grow. Schloss Bronner was the most impressive palace on the beach in those languid days.
I found it extremely comfortable there with these new friends, who were all too charming. I had a slight worry about the approaching party. It seemed like the staff were preparing for the party at the end of Apocalypse Now. So I dedicated the rest of my Saturday to relaxing, determined to just take it easy. But Dar es Salaam had other plans for me…
Next time: The Party to end all parties.