Last Day in Dar Es Salaam

After I climbed Kilimanjaro, I had to make my way back to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) to get my visa to head to India, which was to be my next stop as would be attending a friend’s wedding in two week’s time (India is the first country I’ve been to thus far that I’ve needed to secure a visa prior to getting there… all the others provided visas upon arrival). Yes,  I know that applying for a visa just before trying to leave for another place isn’t the best idea (no room for error and all), and I’d heard horror stories of folks from other countries about securing their Indian visas (two month wait in one case), but there wasn’t much I could do about it at that point.  And just so you all don’t think I leave absolutely everything to the last minute, note that I actually tried to get my Indian visa while I was in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).  But the Indian Embassy there was really difficult to deal with, and by the time I had gotten my paperwork in order, the processing turnaround time would have been too long as I had to meet my friend Shayne down in Mombassa by a specific date.  Luckily, while in Ethiopia searching for another way to get this done, I found out that Dar Es Salaam has an Indian High Commission office that issues Indian visas, so I knew I could do it there after the climb (how long it would take was going to be a different question… but their website did promise a 3-day turnaround… of course that was for Tanzanian residents only).  Anyhow, fingers crossed for a smooth process, after coming down from Kili, I made my way back down to Dar by late afternoon on Monday, spent the evening gathering all the necessary paperwork (my favorite being proof of a flight out of India), got up early Tuesday morning and went to the High Commission Office to get my application submitted.  Although my paperwork was deemed to be in order for submitting my application, because I’m not a Tanzanian resident, I was informed that it would take at least a week for processing, and that I could come back and pick up my visa next Tuesday.  I pushed for a rush, or any kind of early delivery because the wedding I was supposed to attend was the following Saturday, all of the flights from Dar to Delhi take at least one whole day to arrive, and I wanted to maximize my time there before the ceremony to see my friends.  I tried my best at charming all the ladies behind the counter, and managed to at least get a maybe on a Monday afternoon pick-up… not much, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.  And so… just like that (insert finger snap here)… I’m found myself in Dar Es Salaam for a week.

What to do?  Well, as chance would have it, while I was at a party in Zanzibar (prior to climbing Kilimanjaro), I met a lovely Tanzanian lass that lives in Scotland, but was back in Dar on holiday (it was her first weekend back, and her and her friends decided to got to Zanzibar for the weekend).  At the time, I told her I’d likely be in Dar for a couple days in two weeks trying to get my Indian visa.  We exchanged contact information and she told me to call her when/if I was in town.  So, after I had submitted my visa paperwork, I gave her a ring.  She was nice enough to show me the town, let me know what part of town would be the best to stay in, and take me out and introduce me to her friends.  Needless to say, I had an excellent time all week… but it was the last day that really took the cake.

Now Dar Es Salaam is located on the Indian Ocean…and once you get away from the center of town, there are some lovely, lovely beaches around.  And even better, just offshore, are small islands with other, very lovely beaches that are a short boat ride away.  Her and a couple of friends had been planning to hit up one of the islands for a day for quite a while, and (thank you impeccable timing) they just happened to pick the last full day I’d be in town to do so.  We all managed to meet up around midday at a beach bar/restaurant, where we were to have lunch and then get on a boat out to the island.  Despite some very long delays (including waiting two hours for our food order and another hour waiting for people who never turned up, plus and hour boat ride… as they say… hey, this is Africa… and yes, even the Africans say that), we all eventually made it to the island for a ridiculously lovely afternoon of chillaxin’ by the sea (all the agitation from waiting to get there wore off after about five minutes)… some photos:IMAG0600

View back towards ther central city

View back towards the central city

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So… I don’t have any crazy stories for you as there’s not much to it other than the fact that it was just a really, really nice day (and week as well).  That, plus the fact that one of the things that’s enjoyable about this trip (or maybe any trip for that matter) is simply the unexpected.  Before my time here I’d honestly never known where Dar Es Salaam Tanzania even was, in fact, I don’t think I’d even really heard of it… much less even entertained the notion of spending any time here.  And I likely wouldn’t have even stopped here had I managed to get my shit together and gotten my visa in Ethiopia…. but then… I would have missed out.  The place (or at least parts of it) is gorgeous… and those are pictures from my crappy cell phone camera… so you can imagine how much better it is in real life, not to mention that the people I met there were fantastic.  In keeping with the same expectations theme/rambling here… expectations really do affect the way I view places and experiences.  When I go to places like Ibiza, or Andalusia, or Goa, or wherever that’s relatively well-known, I have a certain image of what that place is supposed to be like… even if that image isn’t founded in any sense of reality of fact… and if, no when, real life is different from that expected difference (which it always is), there’s always some sense of disappointment and questioning of what all the hype is about (even if 99% of the superlatives turn out to be true).  But when I have absolutely no expectations of what a place is supposed to be like… I can’t help but be pleasantly surprised by the good parts (even if there are also other corresponding negatives)… ala Dar Es Salaam.  So… moral of the story?  There’s none really… just some rambling… or maybe, stop and stay a while if you ever find yourself in Dar Es Salaam.

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