A scam that backfired, new friends and exquisite beauty
In the last one I left you with a stolen bag, a pending visa and a planned trip to Arusha
I guess I'll start this one by saying, there is no news regarding my stolen bag and I still haven't heard from the Burundi Embassy regarding my visa. I have however (long ago) received confirmation on my East African Visa, which gives me access to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. That visa was done online and took only 3 days in its completion. It makes you wonder...
So, I currently have friends who are working in the north of Tanzania near Arusha. They are rehabilitating Kilimanjaro Airport and I was invited to visit for some R&R. Since that's a 11-12 hour bus ride from Dar Es Salaam, I had to board the bus early. Detective Kulwa from the Tanzania Tanzanian police force is investigating my stolen bag. We're connected via Whatsapp and so far he has made no visible progress regarding my stolen bag. But he is a nice guy and he insisted on bringing me to Ubungu bus terminal which is notorious among travelers and lies a little outside Dar Es Salaam.
Before I go any further then please keep in mind that most people are both decent and helpful. And this is kind of funny too ;)
The people working around many bus terminals are usually looking for someone to play a trick on. You know: make an extra buck on some tourist...easy money! And when detective Kulwa and I arrived they saw a tourist and a driver. Not a policeman and whatever I am... Some guy immediately grabbed my remaining bag out of the trunk and brought it to the bus. Then he wanted TZS 20,000 as a baggage fee? I told him to forget it, gave him a TZS 200 (50 cent) tip and sent him away... Meanwhile Kulwa spoke to the conductor and got the right bus price (including luggage): TZS 33,000. He then told me the price. People still thought he was a driver and that I was a tourist.
I got into the bus, said farewell to Kulwa and the bus took off. A conductor (Rey) collected TZS 40,000 from me and owed me TZS 7,000 in balance. He then handed me a ticket. It's normal practice...The bus then stopped a few times leaving the terminal. 5 minutes later Rey was gone and I was speaking with a different conductor on the bus (Freeman). "Where is my balance" I asked? Freeman called Rey and then replied to me that Rey gave it to "the driver". I wanted to know why Rey gave my balance to "a driver"? But Freeman was firm...that was what Rey told him...?
I sent a message to Kulwa to confirm? Kulwa denied. I then asked Freeman for Rey's number. I received it and sent it to Detective Kulwa. 15 minutes later Freeman received a call and gave me my full balance.
Trust people...but don't be naive. And never mess with Detective Kulwa and I ;) Actually, while I hear much good about the police in Tanzania, I also hear that it wasn't always so. Therefore there is much respect/fear for the police even today. They scammed the wrong people and it certainly backfired.
Mount Meru is gorgeous and the 5th tallest mountain in Africa (depending on definition).
Matthew Ball and I worked together on a project in Bangladesh back in 2011. When my bus approached Arusha, I got off and Matthew came to pick me up. We've been in touch over the years, but it was the first time we met since Bangladesh. It was great to see him!
The next morning I woke up in a large clean bed under a mosquito net. I washed myself and went to the kitchen, where I said good morning to Tukta, Matthews wife. I poured myself a cup of tea and then went for a walk in their enormous and well kept garden, while listening to the summing of bees and tweeting of birds. All while far in the distance I could hear the children's voices from a nearby school...
I stood there and enjoyed the fresh cool morning air while sipping my Kilimanjaro green tea. Then I returned to the lodge for a freshly prepared breakfast. Then I heard an upbeat drumming and some singing coming from somewhere far behind the trees. A flute joined in and so did several other voices singing in Swahili...
Later that day I joined a long list of people, who in one way or the other are in connection to the Airport project. They were testing a "walking safari" and I was invited to join. I don't exactly know why, but my imagination immediately pictured a savannah with lions, zebras and elephants. And then all of us along with a guide carrying a riffle for protection. Reality however was a local fellow in slippers, worn pants, a T-shirt and a jacket from a suit.
Our guide in action.
A nice enough fellow and we followed him down a public dirt road through some nature and past some local village life. We managed to spot some monkeys in the trees, but mainly we saw cows, sheep, dogs and cats. That selection of animals pretty much summarizes the vast majority of animals I have encountered within the African continent. Especially if you disregard nature and game reserves.
There is much to make Tanzanians proud about being Tanzanian!
It was a nice enough safari, but the real joy for me was getting to walk side by side with all these people and get to know them a little bit. The safari ended after about 5 hours, around 20km (12.5mi) and a beer. The popular beer choice around Kilimanjaro is a beer by the same name. Although both the Serengeti and the Safari are also contenders. I've been trying to drink a local beer in every country although I'm not a heavy drinker to say the least. In fact I usually prefer milk or water. But sometimes life calls for a beer!
As I mentioned earlier my friends are in the north of Tanzania due to work. Their workplace is at BAM International, which recently completed the rehabilitation of Ngurdoto primary school. But in reality they are here to work on rehabilitating Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).
The CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project was executed voluntarily by the project team to express BAM’s involvement with the local community. And that worked out really well for Ngurdoto primary school.
The works for the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) comprises partial demolition, rehabilitation and expansion of the existing airport. The Contract Period is 20 months, during which the airport must remain fully operational at all times (pretty cool if you ask me!).
From the left: Hazem, Matthew and Krishantha! 3 men I gladly travelled half the world to see!! :)
The contractor, BAM International, is responsible for the design, procurement, construction, start-up, commissioning and all related works. It looks like a great project to me! But the best part of it was seeing Matthew, Krishantha and Hazem again after all those years!! Let's see where we might meet again!
After a few nights in a comfortable bed I was looking towards Dar Es Salaam again. So I thanked Matthew, Tukta and everyone else and got ready to get back on the long ride to Dar Es Salaam. I had joined Matthew to the office and it was early morning. He had already done so much for me and I could hardly pay him back. Besides my budget is extremely low for a project this size and I even lost around $300 when my bag got stolen. The night before Tukta had generously given me her battery pack, which was another item I had lost within the theft. Now this morning, with Matthew in his office, he looked me deep into my eyes and we said our farewells. He then gave me a golden handshake which goes a very long way in recovering what was lost. He really didn't need to do that with everything he had already done. But he wanted to, and you should never refuse a gift from someone who insists. That can at times be taking more from them than what they give to you. My dear friend Matthew, I wish you continued success with the rehabilitation of KIA and hope to see you again somewhere east of here! :)
It was a really long and very uncomfortable bus ride back to Dar. But I made it and found a new hotel not far from Tropical Hotel (where my bag was stolen). I want to check up on them, because I have a feeling that they couldn't care less about knowing that a man is on the loose with a master keycard and can enter any room at will. What to do? I've heard no apologies from Tropical Hotel and seen no evidence that they are ensuring safety at the hotel. Should I warn people on all available online outlets: Trip advisor, Hotel.com etc? I don't know? I guess I should try to speak to them again. But the more I think about it, the more evident it becomes to me: It was someone from the hotel! He was in the hotel, he knew when I went for breakfast, he had a keycard for the door... How many common street thieves could pull that off? None I would think.
Northern Tanzania is Masai and Meru territory. And www.rossoffshore.no has been a loyal sponsor of the Saga from day 1! :)
Now I'm upgraded to luxury again! Morten and his wife Charlotte are from Denmark and live in Tanzania with their beautiful daughters Savannah and Summer. Morten happens to be the country manager for Maersk Line (www.maerskline.com) and they generously invited me into their home, while they left for Zanzibar over the weekend. So I'm technically house sitting...in solid luxury ;)
Morten and Charlotte invited me for a traditional Danish meal before handing me the keys ;)
Forrest Gump knew it to be true: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
Keeping that in mind it seems I did something right with the latest video for the Saga!? I've done a number of videos throughout the years, where I state that I travel to every country without flying. Perhaps not the best solo statement I could possibly make as the response has been limited. This video however has a lot more focus on what else the Saga is. And it received a very warm welcome with over 3,500 views on Facebook just within the first two days!!! What?!? Yes! :) People have been generous to comment and share it, so now it's available on YouTube as well. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/igfIQ8STDco
(10 years ago I came to Tanzania for the first time with my friend Ann-Christina)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still smiling ;)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga