Dalla dalla style

So its 9:45 on Sunday morning and I am making the most of having a free day to relax. I had a lie in today and didn’t get up until 8:30 which was sweet. This morning however it felt like I had awoken in a different house. Last night we had six new arrivals in the volunteer house, and Sarah departed. Friday night we had another two arrivals, and Lauren and Jenny are leaving tonight. So the group has suddenly been transformed as the old lot start to leave and the new lot come in. 2 Canadian guys arrived on Friday night and 3 Ausie girls, 1 Spanish lady and a couple form the States arrived last night. Its exciting; along with the opportunity to meet new people (and these guys are not all from the US for a change!) comes the shift in emphasis on our role of duty to facilitate a smooth handover period to the new volunteers and watch the programme progress into the next phase. At the same time it is sad that the previous group has to fragment since we all worked so well together, but I think it will be good for the school to have a fresh bunch of people come in with new ideas and expertise to bring to the programme. There are also a couple of teachers amongst the new arrivals which is good news in light of tonight’s departure of Lauren and Jenster whose teaching experience has played a major part in the lessons at school.

Yesterday we decided to take a trip up to Bagamoyo, the next coastal city from Dar when traveling north. Myself, Steve, Ben, Rachel and Emma left the house at 6:15 before dawn so we could spend the whole day in the small city. We braved the public transport system which was a first for us Brits (the comfort of a personal driver during weekdays is very convenient). After walking to the Kunduchi junction we took a dalla dalla to Mwenge bus station and from there a dalla dalla direct to Bagamoyo. Dalla dalla are public mini buses that the locals use to get around. There are actually pretty efficient and are very frequent on most routes. Perhaps more efficient even than the buses in England, but then I guess that’s not a difficult feat. Africa being Africa, dalla dalla journeys can be rather interesting as the locals cram themselves like sardeens into every available space in the bus. A bus originally built to accommodate 20 is often frequented by double (or more) its intended capacity. They also race each other to their destinations which is rather entertaining and the conductor literally hangs out of the side doors attracting the attention of prospective passengers. It is a dirt cheap way to travel though, and we made it to Bagamoyo (an hours journey) having spent little over 60p.

13th century Kaole

13th century Kaole

From Bagamoyo bus station we found a taxi driver who drove us a short distance out of town to the Kaole ruins. This is a historical site preserved by the government because of its significance in African history. The ruins of a thirteenth century city, Kaole was the first settlement in East Africa. On arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic tour guide who give us a short tour around the remains. Within the ruins we saw the reminants of the first East African mosque and a ‘sacred’ well that we were told has special power from God because it is the only well that provides fresh water (as opposed to salt water) for miles and the water level has bizarrely remained exactly the same ever since its origination. Of course, we didn’t pass on the opportunity to indulge in a quick hand wash in the ‘sacred’ water. It was an interesting tour and well worth visiting. Our guide was a little bit sketch, claiming to be the grandson of a really famous African (I forget the name, my knowledge of African history is very limited), but he was very insightful.

Bagamoyo beach

Bagamoyo beach

We finished the tour by late morning and called our cab driver to pick us up and take us to a beach side hotel we had earmarked from the guidebook. Unfortunately, the hotel no longer existed so the taxi driver took us to different hotel where we spent a while on Bagamoyo beach which famous for its beauty. Personally, I wasn’t quite as impressed with the beach as I thought I would be, preferring our local Bahari beach. But that may have been because the tide was out and we had to walk a long way to reach the sea. The water was also very shallow and I didn’t manage get beyond waist deep, so it was less than ideal for swimming. The experience may also have been marred by the transient African weather, quickly changing from intense sun to downpour. Maybe I’m getting too accustomed to African life – at high tide I’m sure this beach would be every bit as beautiful as described by the guidebook. We had lunch in the hotel ‘restaurant’ if it can be described as such. Fish and chips as per the usual were my choice of cuisine. It took an hour after ordering for our food to arrive. Being the only people in the restraunt I guess the staff had to go out and fetch some fish before they could prepare our meal. We did see two big fish being carried into the hotel while we sat on the beach shortly after ordering. The food was not quite up to the standard of the fish and chips we had on ‘the island’ last weekend, but the large portion sufficed.

Lunch in Bagamoyo

Lunch in Bagamoyo

In the afternoon we left the hotel and took a walk up the main street. Looking at the map in my guidebook I had envisaged a bustling city and market place. The town however was quiet and not the hive of activity that Dar is. We did however manage to find a road-side fruit seller where I indulged in a fresh pineapple. After a short walk through the town we decided we had seen enough and asked someone to direct us to the bus station. He was very obliging and guided us to the station, a short 5 minute walk.

The journey back to Mwenge was very smooth as we found a larger, more comfortable bus that wasn’t as crowded as this morning’s journey. After jumping off before the Mwenge bus station we walked a for short distance along the road before a Kunduchi dalla dalla approached. We flagged it down to find that it was already well over capacity. The conductor insisted that there was space for us so I went with the flow, and found myself hanging half outside the door with my hands clasping onto the seat in front. This is true dalla dalla style; when there is only space for one foot on the floor with the other trailing outside the door. Stopping at the Kunduchi junction I jumped straight onto a bike taxi which took me the remainder of the journey back to the house. The bike taxi was surprisingly comfortable, and it was much more fun sitting on the back of a bike than walking. For 20p, it was definitely value for money. The remainder of the evening was occupied by greeting the new arrivals.

The plan for today is to spend the rest of the morning on the beach and the afternoon exploring a bit further north of the house via bike, which we have yet to do.

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