The second night we spent in Tanzania, in the suburbs of Arusha, was the lowest point of our trip in Africa. Maybe it was because of the long bus ride with Osaka Classic that ended late in the night in an unexpected place, maybe it was our adaptation to this kind of travel, without a personal transportation (I missed Gunnar and the liberty it was offering me). Or maybe it was the “forced” adaptation to the particularities of people and places. I am not uptight. I want to believe that I am pretty adaptable. But I confess that it was pretty hard for me to get used to the difference between “what you are told/ promised” and “what you are discovering”.

Details are less important right now, this is a whole separate story, but it’s enough to say that I was noticing how I was getting stressed up without my will by things that I couldn’t have changed anyway. There were small things, unimportant in other situations. So, here we are, on a bedside, in a house far from what it was supposed to be, making our first important decision for this trip: shorten the “guided” tour with one day and spend more time on our own. And we start feeling better after making this decision. We get ready to go to bed. Taking our own sleeping bags with us was such a good decision just as it was the one to buy a brand new and clean mosquitoes net.

The next day was cold and gloomy. We woke up early as usual since we were supposed to leave on the safari at 8 AM. We took some time to look around.

OK, I feel that I should add something – probably there will be a few more of these – about the “safari” industry. There are, of course, personal opinions and very… biased. The word safari is of arabic origin and it has been adopted in Swahili (the local language) and later on in English at the end of the XIX century. Even before getting to Africa I read that this word has lost it’s original meaning, that of “travel” (- in general “overland journey”). This days, “safari” (along with other words in swahili -I will tell you about them later), was practically robbed by the mass tourism.

You are on a jeep for half a day? Safari!

You are in a completely full bus and stop only in super luxury lodges? Safari!

You cross the street in a city in Africa? SA-FA-RI!

Why? Because this is good for the public. This is what the tourist wants to hear! So the local entrepreneurs have adapted and are offering what the tourist wants. We hardly felt like this were going on a “safari” but rather on a touristic trip for a few days. So we killed any attempts our “guide” had to impress us, like “This luxury jeep…”  (80% of the jeeps are just the same, luxury means that the plug in the car in functional)  or “especially prepared for you” (this means most of the times, that the car has been cleaned after the previous trip).

But enough with these details for now, our car, luxury or not, didn’t even arrive (yes… it was past 8 AM but that is irrelevant… Osaka Classic already taught us that time is different here). A quick cold shower from a bucket and everything looks better already, we can smile to a new day!

The car arrives eventually. We meet Dula, our guide and driver. And this is it, we can go! Let’s ride! Apart from everything else, being on the road makes me feel good, even under a cloudy sky.

We make our first stop in the city where we are getting the camping gear.

They we stop at at shop to get some supplies. The shop, one of the largest supermarkets in Arusha (as we are told), is a special one also. At the entrance they have a guard with a shotgun. You can only pay with a credit card if you go to the customer service desk. And YOU have to pay the 5% tax (this is applicable everywhere in Tanzania). And… after performing all the right steps, we couldn’t pay with credit card, the dial-up connection was down. It’s ok, it was time to get some Tanzanian money (shillings) anyway, so hurry up to the cash machine.

Ah, since I was telling you earlier about the difference between what you see and what you get… Here’s another example, from the supermarket: 15 “assorted” cookies (= of various sorts put together)!!

Oh, well? The 15 assorted cookies are 10 and they are of the same type. Heheee… and this was a “sealed” product, labeled and with a bar code (!?!),  in a controlled, “oficial” place.  This were getting really “interesting” once you were venturing on the streets, in the local shops. From buying a SIM card to money exchange or talking with the locals who were selling you unimaginable stuff (a fur!?! – when it’s hot outside), everything, everything is colorful and full of imagination.

There are basically two ways to approach these things: get angry and always in a passive- aggressive state, thinking that everyone has something against you, or you realize that this is a special place and he stories come to life here. And you adapt. Imagination is very important here. Fairytale place, full of things that seem real but are not. And the other way round…. full of real but incredible things!

Talking about incredible happenings, in a city where traffic regulations are basically unexisting and you can park wherever you feel like… we “manage” to get our wheel blocked.

I don’t know exactly what was the official reason the policeman gave us but the whole experience was hallucinating. There was a trailer parked in front of us, even closer to he intersection that we were. Behind us, across the street, cars were parked all over the place. And still, our driver had to take the hit. He was very upset and I don’t blame him.

We solve this eventually, we take our groceries and make a final stop at a gas station: tire pressure and fill the gas tanks (these kind of cars have 2 tanks). Everybody was relaxing at the gas station. It was lunch time already and it was hot.

When we are not driving, we try to ask people permission to take photos. And most of the times this approach pays off and people are very positive. It was the same this time, in Tanzania. The “ordinary” people (those who weren’t making any profit from the tourism industry) were friendly and positive. Having a small photo camera, a Fuji Finepix X10, borrowed from, was also helpful. And people are relaxing instantly. 

As we are getting out of the city we are passing by a local market (Masai market). A place full of color and bustle.

I would have loved to stop for a little while.

A short time after, the crowded settlements make way to  the wide areas where the savanas used to be.

Now the Masai tribes are grazing their cattle here (there are over 100 tribes living in Tanzania). Actually, we learned an interesting fact about the Masai a few days later: they consider themselves the rightful cowboys of… the whole world.  Therefore, all the cows belong to them- so they say. There have been incidents in the past when the Masai have been accused of stealing the cows from other villages and they defended themselves by saying that they cannot steal what is already theirs.

“If they would come to Romania, they would think that all their cows are theirs”, a local guy told me smiling.

The Masai may have multiple wives. And if you are an important (or rich) Masai you may have a lot of wives… For instance, the tripe master has a whole village, only for him. A village of wives and children.

They even have their own school.

The landscape is changing continuously. And some pictures are reminding us of another world, in Central America.

And we are getting closer to the first National Park we will be visiting, Lake Manyara. But about this experience… some other day.