Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hell Is Other People (If Those People Are in Dar es Salaam)

I've been to some shitty places, it's true. Naples wasn't very nice. I've spent an inordinate amount of time in Trenton, New Jersey. And there were moments in Managua where I was told that, if I had walked an extra block, I would have probably been robbed at knifepoint.

All of these pale in comparison to Dar es Salaam, which I think could be accurately described as the armpit of Africa.

After a 9-hour bus ride from Moshi (a slummy little smear on the face of Africa which will be addressed, in detail, later), Kelly and I got off in the Dar bus station. It's an asphalt flat filled with swirling dust and 110-degree heat, and after our crazy bus ride (also to be covered later), we were pretty weak.

Well, Dar was ready to take advantage of that. We were subjected to a classic hustle that would leave us about $100 poorer. Porters immediately grabbed our bags and we were forcibly led to a waiting cab. Each of the porters demanded TSH$1k for their services, and then the cab driver tried to charge us 250% of the going rate (TSH$10,000) for a taxi just to take us to the port. We ended up negotiating down to TSH$20k, but he was not happy, and neither were we.

After paying his tax to leave the Dar bus station, the hustling really kicked in. He told us the area by the port was really dangerous, and before the car even stopped, some random guys had grabbed our bags. "We're your porters," they shouted, donning orange vests.

Kelly and I didn't even have time to think before we were pushed into a random travel agency, and overcharged $40 for ferry tickets. Once we were on the ferry, the porters made a huge scene, demanding $20 each for the service of carrying our bags for 2 minutes. We got them down to 10 and then watched our bags in a panic for the next hour, thinking seriously that they might return to chuck our luggage into the sea.

The 1.5 hour ferry ride was so rocky that the crew passed out airsick bags.

Thankfully, we landed in Zanzibar, which was Tanzania's saving grace. Wait for future posts for a much-more positive experience on a beautiful African island that everyone should visit.

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