It’s been two weeks since I arrived to Tanzania and I cannot believe how fast time has gone by.
This is my first visit to an East African country. I had wanted to come to this side of the world for a while now because of the cultural richness, the diversity of its people, outstanding landscapes and the unique wildlife. So far it has been a very interesting experience. I have had some cultural shocks (if you will) and also some great interactions with the people. I’ll talk about the cultural shocks latter.
The first two weeks have been a combination of urban cacophonies, rural villages and outdoor experiences. I first arrived to Dar es Salam. It is not the capital city, but is the biggest one, the center of political and commercial activities.
I come from Ecuador and I live in New York so I thought I had seen some wild driving in my life. I was wrong… my welcome reception was a traffic jam from the airport on my way to the hotel. Cars were packed on the streets and some of the drivers (including my taxi driver) would chose to take the sidewalk to pass the other cars….. CRAZY. The poor pedestrians had to squeeze on the sides of the rode just in case a car decided to take that route.
I live in a big city and visiting another one was not my priority, but it was the place that made the most sense to land in. It was a good place to took care of some organizational business (buying a cell phone, electrical converter, air ticket to Arusha and more).
The day after I got on a plane and flew to Arusha. Arusha is a smaller city in the north of the country. It is where most people use as a hub to start their Safari trips and climbs to mount Kilimanjaro. It is a city that sees a lot of tourists, and although being a smaller city it also has a very active street life. (my guess is that this is the case in most cities in Africa). This brings me to one of the “cultural shocks” I’ve experienced as a tourist.
Being a white “musungo” person in an all black country I stand out of the crowd so easily. So I become a target from all the street hagglers that want to sell souvenirs, introduce me to safari companies, and of course as a “rasta” push some ganja! This is a non stopping thing… Not knowing the language makes it more difficult to get away from it as well. In a way this is part of the colorfulness of traveling in Africa, but having to experience it every day it becomes an uncomfortable experience.
It has been a while since I traveled to a country where I do not speak the language. I forgot how difficult it can be to not be able to communicate with people. It takes longer to get things done and it can be funny at times, but frustrating on others. Mostly it has made me want to learn the language, so I have been trying to learn it little by little….but it is hard!!
Continuing with my account… After spending a couple of days in Arusha I booked a Safari for 6 days. The Safari took me to different Parks with different landscapes and wildlife, there was the Serengeti, Gnorongoro, Manyara and Tarangyre.
Many tourists come to Tanzania for Safari. It is definitely a unique experience and quite interesting. I got to see so many animals that I have never seen so close, drive around the big planes hoping to find the next surprise, but I have to say that animal watching is not my strongest interest. I don’t want to sound disappointed, and I am happy that I did it.
I kind of joked about it with the group of people who I was traveling with, but if I want to see animals I feel like I can go to the zoo, but finding groups of people of different cultures is impossible to do it other than when you are traveling around. This brings me to my favorite part of my trip so far.
For a long time I had heard about the Maasai. They are a group of people that are traditionally nomadic. They live in both Kenya and Tanzania. Today a lot of them have assimilated and live close to the cities, but keep their traditional dresses and jewelry. Their features are unique, their clothing is colorful and the jewelry catches your eye… especially the women.
The maasai live in smaller groups of about 50 – 150. The houses where they live are called “bomas” and are built with wood and dirt. There are a few bomas in an area where the group lives and are placed in a circular configuration, leaving the center as the “courtyard”. It is a bit hard to explain…
I visited a few bomas in the past few days and it was a great experience to be able to photograph them. I also went to a maasai market. It happens once a week and it’s the time when a lot of them do their food shopping and cattle trading (selling and buying).
Tomorrow I am leaving to the north west part of the country to a town called Mwanza. I will be seeing lake Victoria and hopefully some small fishing villages.