Back in Dar Es Salaam 24,000km later. A legendary train ride and theft!
The dumbest thing you can do is judge an entire population based on a single event. Unless we're talking about positivity
In fact if you twist my above statement, then it's hard to see how you can say that a group of people are nice because 1 of them treated you kindly, but you should not judge the same group based on 1 of them treating you unfairly? I guess that's a choice you make in life: Are you willing to believe there is more good than evil?
To that I say that I have traveled overland to 116 countries across 4 continents and I've seen no evidence that there should be more evil than good. On the contrary! So I think that it is a pretty fair assumption. At least I have collected a solid amount of empirical evidence before stating anything. We will get back to why this is important later on in the blog.
I said farewell to Gerrie the beekeeper in Zambia. A man who likes to keep bees. He doesn't want them to get away. He wants to keep them!! Okay, I totally stole that from Eddie Izzard, a standup comedian I treasure. But Gerrie certainly keeps bees and makes honey, which tastes better than any honey I've ever come across. He also showed me a good time and drove me straight to the bus in Harare the day I left.
The bus became this projects bus number 217. You might say to yourself: "I take the bus everyday. So 217 doesn't sound like much?" Well, most of my busses take more than 12 hours to reach their destination, so I guess that's different. And I don't even count the city busses I take. I only count transportation in which I brought my bags along.
In Kapiri Mposhi I got off the bus and took a taxi to the train station. I picked up my reserved first class ticket for the 3 day train ride on this legendary train! First class only costs USD 27. So that's a bit of a bargain!
Chris in the middle - Alex in the back.
The TAZARA railway opened in 1975 and stretches 1,860km (1,160mi). It's the Tanzania-Zambia railway and aptly connects Tanzania with Zambia as the name suggests. I find it to be such a lovely way to enjoy the scenery of both countries while getting to where I mean to go. There are 2 trains. In June 2016 I traveled on the new train, but this time I got the pleasure of the old one...there is a big difference! However both trains offer unique experiences and I'm happy to have tried them both.
We passed the new train on its way to Zambia.
I was seated in carriage C1008, compartment number C2 and allocated to bed number B6. On first class they fit 4 beds into a compartment which is quite suitable. On second class there are 6 beds...third class is something else. Dining onboard is reasonable and the scenery is great. In fact I can hardly imagine a form of public transport more convenient for seeing a large portion of the landscape.
Something else? ;)
Onboard the train I met Alex (Alexander) from Austria, or Australia? Or Austria? Yes, definitely Austria...they're more or less the same - right? And I also made friends with Chris (Christopher) from Zambia, or Gambia? Or Zambia? Yes, definitely Zambia...they're more or less the same - right? ;) We teamed up for meals and conversations during the 3 days across the landscape. As the train passed the border from Zambia to Tanzania we made 2 short stops, where immigration was fast and easy. We didn't even need to leave the train. Hawkers would board the train along with immigration in order to sell sim cards, airtime and exchange cash.
Once in Tanzania we could no longer use our Zambian Kwacha anymore. Everything had to be paid in Tanzanian Schilling. And we also had to adjust the time 1 hour forward as we entered East Africa and left Southern Africa. If I ever get a chance to board the TAZARA again then I'll aim for the new train as the old train is less comfortable and luxurious. But the old one is definitely worth the experience!
One evening as the sun was setting, women onboard the train were clapping and singing as the train rolled deep into the night...
"Yahweh mulibakulu takwaba uwaba nga imwe. Yahweh mulibakulu takwaba uwaba nga imwe. Yahweh mulibakulu takwaba uwaba nga imwe. Yahweh mulibakulu takwaba uwaba nga imwe...Yahweh mulampala takwaba uwaba nga imwe..."
(God you are the greatest there is no one like you (x 4)...God you give me all the blessings).
The train stayed remarkably on time, and eventually we reached the final stop. Returning to Dar Es Salaam (the city of peace) wasn't "just" returning for me. It concluded a very long round trip. It was the end of "THE GREAT PLAN" which was my idea of conquering the island nations of the Indian Ocean. As it turned out a: 24,000km (14,913mi) ROUND TRIP!! A journey which included 2 cargo ships, 3 containerships, 9 busses and a train.
To put it in all into perspective the distance is equal to going MORE than halfway around the world! The 4 new countries we visited included: Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius. Then we revisited: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania in order to return to Dar Es Salaam. My guess is that it has never been done by anyone before and momentous as it may be...it will likely go largely unnoticed. However, it does make me wonder about the total distance of the Saga if conquering the Indian Ocean alone clocked up that much?!?
In Dar Es Salaam Chris and I said farewell to Alex, who was on his way to Zanzibar. Alex was on a 1 year journey to see the world and had a pretty tight, but quite extraordinary itinerary. Then Chris and I checked into Tropical Hotel in Kariakoo, Dar Es Salaam. We both got rooms on the 8th floor. The next morning I got started on visas for Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. You can apply for the "East African Visa" which includes 3 of those countries in a single visa. That is done online and takes the office 3 days to process. Burundi has gone a different way. For that visa you show up at the embassy, fill out the form, deliver supporting documents, passport photos and pay USD 90 to the clerk. Then you leave your phone number as the clerk sends your application away for review. I was told that it would take 1-2 weeks whereafter I might not even get the visa. So we're still waiting for that call people! ;)
One morning while still asleep in my hotel room, I was woken by somebody knocking on the door. I was barely alive, but managed to get out of bed and open the door. I was tired and didn't bother to put on clothes, so I was simply sporting my boxer shorts. The man at the door said "Oh sorry" and walked away. I went back to bed and checked the time: 07:30am zzzzzzzz.
At 08:00am my alarm set off. I got up, washes myself, got dressed and headed down for breakfast. Around 08:30am I returned to my room. Nearly at my door a man carrying a small backpack came racing around the corner!! He was sweating and stressing and pushed me aside as he blazed past me!!! I merely thought he was late for something, but as I looked at him running I noticed a resemblance between his backpack and mine. In a split second I dashed for my door, looked in the room and realized my bag was gone!!! I ran after the man, but was 10 seconds behind him and he had already vanished!! I started racing down the staircase from the 8th floor stopping once in a while hoping to hear him?! But nothing. I reached the reception on the ground floor and explained what happened and that the man was still in the building!! It didn't take them long to react...but still long enough that time was lost. A door by door search began within the massive hotel, but I was already late for an important meeting and had to leave.
Later on I returned to the hotel, but only to discover that nothing had turned up and that the hotel was back to normal again. I found Chris and he helped me motivate the hotel supervisor to join us at the police station to file a report. Some bureaucracy later I was handed a report number and told to come back the next day at 08:00am to get an investigator assigned to the case. So I returned the next day at 08:00am.
I've already heard a number of people say that Tanzanian police has gotten a lot better lately. The only thing I can derive from that, is that their reputation might have been lacking in the past. Culturally I'm really far from home and what seems logically to me might be far from how things work in Tanzania. It's the age old debate about implementing solutions from one part of the world in another. It just might not work as intended. And as such my brain and my ideas towards an investigation might be misplaced around here. And that is really frustrating! Because I cannot see or understand the progress that the police is trying to make in this case? However, I know from experience that the social network of a country like Tanzania can solve a situation I could never hope to fix in Denmark. It has been quite a dance and there might still be hope to get some of my stuff back. I really don't know? Definitely maybe...
I have been told by a few people that I should leave Kariakoo because it's too dangerous. I love Kariakoo and most people there are just trying to get by. They go to work, do their shopping, smoke cigarettes, tend to their family, listen to music, laugh, play candy crush...you know the drill ;)
So what was in the bag? Well, a few items will certainly hold value for the thief: iPhone, battery packs, credit cards, cash. But for my sake he can keep those as they can all be replaced. I want the items that hold no immediate value to the thief: Red Cross collection canister, Ross Offshore banner, Red Cross business cards, Red Cross material, Spot gps transmitter. It's basically a lot of my work and 2 irreplaceable items:
- The Red Cross canister is probably the worlds most traveled canister and therefore unique having been to 116 countries. It has been signed by the Nigerian Red Cross as well as the Congolese Red Cross. It also contained far more than 100 business cards from Red Cross employees I had met along with small tokens I had received in appreciation.
- The Ross Offshore banner was provided to me as a part of the sponsorship deal. Like the canister it had been to 116 countries. I was asked to take a picture with it in every country in the world. I have 2 banners in spare, but they were only given to me after I had visited 37 countries.
- The gps transmitter has been documenting the Saga from the beginning. There is an online map which you can log onto to see the Saga as logged by the gps.
The full list of lost items appears here below:
- Red Cross collection canister
- Ross Offshore banner
- Red Cross business cards
- Red Cross material
- Spot gps transmitter
- Euro/Dollar, approx $300.00
- Visa credit card
- Master credit card
- iPhone 4
- Samsung battery pack
- Extra battery pack
- Lifesaver water bottle
- World Atlas
- Leather folder
- Passport photos
- Foreign exchange
- Playing cards, angry birds
- Red Cross first aid kit
- Stationary items
The last photo with the Red Cross collection canister. Tanzania Red Cross.
It has been extraordinary hard to deal with the hotel! The manager is currently in Zambia, the director has been out of reach and the supervisor doesn't speak much English and tries to avoid responsibility. In fact as Swahili is the dominant language and many Tanzanians have poor English skills, it has all been quite mentally exhausting. And at no point has anyone tried to explain to me what's going on. Chris has however been massively supportive within his capacity. Chris is by the way a smart guy who is currently studying management in procurement and supply, while supporting his family through a small garment shop. He speaks a ton of languages!
What I know is this:
- my door was locked
- the windows are bared
- my bag was locked
- the thief had a keycard
- the man knocking on the door at 07:30, was the same man who ran
- the hotels security cameras do not work
- the police is working on the case
- the chairman of Tropical is cooperating with the police
Now this is important:
Dar Es Salaam is a city with around 5,000,000 people. And I have been to 116 countries - some of then several times. Furthermore I have been on the road for nearly 3 years. So at this point I think it's safe to say: HURRAH FOR MANKIND!! :)
It took all this time for something bad like this to happen to me! And it was only 1 man against the parade of strangers we have turned into friends! :) Those are superb odds in a world, where I would happily bring in a future born son.
Evening out with Deogratias and Zainav. I've been out a few times ;)
Now somewhere between all of the above I have been shaking countless hands, laughed several times, had a few beers and been invited out several times. So don't come here with your doom and gloom. It's a bitter pill to swallow, if I've really lost the bag. But I've already been promised a new one from www.friluftsland.dk and we will slowly have it filled up again.
In 2011 I spent the year in Bangladesh working as a logistics manager during the construction of a water treatment plant. As it happens several of those colleagues are now at work on a project near Arusha here in Tanzania. So while the police is doing their thing and the Burundi visa application is undergoing some sort of scrutiny, I'll be on a 10 hour bus ride to Arusha. And something I'll be sharing more about later on is how I met Helena and Eivind from Norway who have offered me to stay for free here: http://www.lighthousebeachlodge.com/
While a stranger is a friend you've never met before, we simply just keep on keeping on. The rest will sort it self if we work hard and smart ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - working hard.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga