Now that winter is almost here, I feel it is time to go somewhere, even if it’s only in writing, to warmer places. It’s true that the natural state of things would be to start writing about the two wonderful days we spent in Istanbul, before getting on the plane to Tanzania. But Istanbul deserves a special place, a special post only for it. So we will leave the Istanbul story for later and wake up, lazy on a Monday, not to get ready for work but to discover a new continent: Africa.

“But what discovery?” I’m thinking to myself as I am getting out of bed, woken up by the light outside as I didn’t set any alarm. We will only have 2 weeks, would this be enough time to discover this side of the world?  And still… let’s see what we can do. Let’s see how we can use these 2 weeks to their potential.”… and all of a sudden I became agitated, I felt like I had to hurry. I get that sometimes when I feel I have lots of things to do and too little time.  Little did I know that during our short stay in Tanzania, Africa will teach us a different notion of time…. But before we get there, Basar’s message left on his kitchen table next to a glass of Turkish tea makes relaxes me for a while:

“Have a nice flight!

Have a great trip

Don’t get eaten by the lions, they are not like Çitir (Çitir is Basar’s cat, quite a wild one I might say). Come back in one piece, pe curand!

   Love, Basar”

And, there it is, my impatience and hastiness are gone. We have enough time for everything… with people like Basar around us, we will have time for everything. At least for what it is important to us…

So we take our time to prepare until late in the afternoon when we finally decide to head for the Ataturk Airport on a route that would involve: a bus ride, a subway , a funicular to help us get to the tram. And after one more hour ride with the tram ride we took a train/ surface subway. And here we are, in the terminal.

Our first dilemma came when we saw the plane that would take us to Dar Es Salaam: a Boeing 737. A small plane I used to take from Bucharest to Istanbul and Istanbul to Ankara. Only those flights would take 50- 60 minutes, the one to Dar would be almous 8 hours. It’s like we were crossing the Atlantic in this small plane. Andreea quickly finds a name for it (of course without any technical information):  “helicopter”. Hmmm, I hope at least it has enough fuel to take us to our destination (I discovered that it was the ER – extended range). Anyway, it’s not like we can choose, so let’s get on board.

A cup of tea and a sunset seen through the airplane window take away all the doubt that we will get safe to Tanzania.

Goodbye, Istanbul! Goodbye, Europe!

I go to sleep late… after spotting the lights on both sides of the Nile and the thunders far in the distance, probably coming from Sudan. The captain’s voice wakes me up, he is saying something in Turkish. I don’t understand what he is saying. I look at the window and everything, letting me know that there are a few houses down there. But the streets, where are the illuminated streets, the ones that look like snakes of fire seen from above, making their way through the villages. Hmmm…  the plane spins around a few times and then makes a determined landing. We are here apparently, we are in Dar.

The airport is small and we reach passport control in no time. It’s even much faster since the Romanians don’t need a visa for Tanzania. The customs formalities were also fast and easy so after we have our passports stamped we get directly to the luggage claim area. Once we get there we realize that after 7 hours in the plane we really need to use the toilet. We look around and we see no sing. I decide I can wait but Andreea is inpatient so she asks a female guard where would the closest place of happiness be. She comes back to me disappointed:

- “She told me the toilet is on the way to the passport control.”

- “Well, we passed passport control.”

- “Yes, she told be to pass the passport control and go to the toilet.”

And there we are, barely checked in in Tanzania and elegantly crossing back the passport “line” for a quick pee. I head back to the luggage area expecting to be questioned by a guard about passing the passport control but nothing like this happened. They didn’t even throw us a look as we were sneaking with out backpacks pass the people staying in line to have their passports checked. That was funny. I was seeing myself explaining to them “no, no, we already have stamps on our passports. Yes, you verified us on the computer. Yes… welll… we had to cross back…well… you know why!”

We are back in the luggage area, right on time to get our 2 white Kappa bags. Who says they are only useful on the motorcycle? Hehe… I already miss Gunnar.

So far everything looked like a regular vacation. But afterwards… Well, the next usual step would be go to your hotel room. As we were in an exotic country, maybe have someone wait for us at the airport with our name on a piece of paper and a soothing smile confirming that you will be safe. We were supposed to meet out CouchSurfing contact, Mopoo, at the airport. He was supposed to be our guide and wait for us at the airport. We asked him how are we gonna recognize him. “I will be wearing a shirt with a boa on it”. Ah, good. No worries then. And Mopoo was indeed waiting for us at the airport wearing the snake print shirt and a smile on his face. Good, first step checked. I wasn’t really in the mood to look for a cab at 2.30 AM in a completely new country. Did I tell you how much I miss Gunnar who can take me wherever I want to go, whenever I want to? You will keep hearing this from me… so I apologize in advance. Without Gunnar, the plan was to take a bus from  Dar Es Salaam to Arusha, North of Tanzania, around 600 kilometers bus ride.

As we are getting to the car in the airport parking, we meet Mopoo’s friends, Alfred (Fredy) and Christopher, we would be staying at their place in Dar for 2-3 hours before our bus trip to Arusha. Said and done. We put our bags in the truck and sit in the back of the car. Here we are in a car in Dar Es Salaam. At 3 AM. I look around through by smoked glass to the grey buildings we are passing by. There are few lights on the street  and soon enough the [paved road turns into dirt as the car is taking a few turns on side roads. I look at Andreea and then at our new friends. I am a bit nervous asking myself how well we documented this, how thorough were we checking the CouchSurfing profile? What do we know about this people? It’s ok to be afraid of the unknown after all. Just a little bit at least. And it is natural to want to keep your family safe. I realize that there, on a dark street in the middle of the night, with 3 Africans we barely know in a right-hand drive car, we are again in a situation we chose to be (maybe even unconsciously back home, when we decided to travel this way), we chose to believe that we will meet nice people here too, just like we did on the other roads, on other continents. Now all we need to do is stick to our choice. People are nice  and everything is going to be ok. (and so it was.)

The car stops in front of a big gate. The gate opens and we get into a large courtyard. This is it. We arrived.  Silently, not to wake up the whole house, we take our luggage and get inside. We take our shoes off and we are invited to Fredy’s room, one of the two kids of the family. He takes his laptop from the room and wishes us good night. In less than 3 hours we have to wake up and get the bus. We change our clothes quickly. We hang our mosquitoes net, the one we bought from Romania, under the net already installed on the bed. Here… you don’t really want to sleep without protection against mosquitoes.

I get into the sleeping bag, not before sending 3 text messages to our family in Romania. “we landed. we are ok”. The rest of the thoughts (“we don’t really know where we are, we drove into the night but we are in a house now. We don’t know these people but they seem nice) I am keeping to myself. They wouldn’t fit in a text message anyway. And even if they were, it made no sense to worry anyone, we knew we were gonna be ok.

Outside the crickets are singing. It’s hot and humid. I try to fall asleep “fast, there is not much time to sleep”. But I cannot fall asleep. Even falling asleep is taking a long a time here… I am in AFRICA! I am so far away from home! I feel Andreea close to me, she is restless too. She cannot sleep either. I feel her hand nestling into mine. We are in Africa. But now I am home. It’s ok, go to sleep!

Part of the photographs have been taken with a Fuji Finepix X10 camera, thanks to our friends from F64.ro.

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