Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Marcus in Arabia: Bus Trip to Arusha and Dark Bars.

We bought our tickets, had our bags loaded up, and got on our bus. IIRC we were not the only mzungu on the bus but for whatever reason we did not cluster with them. The bus was crowded but everyone had their own seat which were more comfortable than airliner seats. I had John Grisham's The Firm with me. We set off.

I was glad to get out Dar Es Salaam, but of course there was a good ten hours of unknown only to be followed by more unknown, at least Dar was a known entity. The bus trip was interesting, at times I had cartoonish images in my mind of how our bus must appeared while hitting bumps and going around curves. From time to time we would pull up to a bus stop. People get on, people get off, vendors scramble to sell food, drink and trinkets to us; people get off to refresh themselves and returning. I remember they had music going and it varied between the local music (think Paul Simon's Graceland and you are close) or Bob Marley. Bob has quite a worldwide following. The wonder of driving into a new land is the same as flying into a new land.

Many new sights, I still remember the sausage trees in this one strip of land. There was a high ridge off of the road by about a mile, the whole of the landscape was grass with scrubby trees. Between the ridge and the road were sausage trees, that had these sausage like pods hanging down from the trees. I never got a close look but that particular image is still in my mind.

Like any trip into the unknown it took a long time, even longer than it took. When I have no reference to gauge the trips progress it seems to drag on longer. The return seems quicker. Eventually the daylight faded and it started to get dark. I remember getting apprehensive as the last thing I wanted to do was to find a place when the only knowledge I had of Arusha was the Lonely Planet Guide in our hands.

It was dark by the time we arrived. We got off of the bus and grabbed our bags and before we knew what was going on a tout had glommed onto our luggage and whisked us away. No he was not after our belongings he was after paying customers for one of his clients. We went to the Equatorial Hotel which was considered to be the upscale hotel in town. We checked in, paid the mzungu rate and got to our room.

We kicked back for a bit, unpacked and unwound. Of course we were hungry and thirsty and we quickly located the hotel's bar & restaurant. I ordered a gin and tonic (I want to call it a ginnintonic per The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and a steak. See my previous Marcus in Arabia for the standard restaurant review. I made a point to drink gin and tonics over other drinks! Why?

Malaria! Do you know the origin of the gin and tonic? The British with their colonial outposts over the world were subject to catching malaria. Eventually quinine was discovered and the British found it quite distasteful so they tried to take it with water. The stuff was still horrible so they put bubbles in their quinine-water, yuck! Then they tried a quinine-water-bubble-gin concoction! I wonder how long it took for the lime to find its way into that mix! Seriously, we were taking malaria prophylaxis pills and had a full range of immunizations.

What dark bar is complete without skullduggery? This bar provided it as well. Two guys found out we were new in town and looking for safaris and a mountain climb. So they sat down with us and told us they had two people leaving the next morning for a safari and needed another two to fill up the trip. They gave us a "good rate" too! My colleague and I later on supposed the two to leave the next morning were us. We didn't go with them.

We had planned the trip out to allow us some time to shop our mountain climbing and safari needs sufficiently. It was a very good thing!

Next Installment: Marcus in Arabia: The Ubiquitous Chinese Restaurant.