It’s another early start with a 4.30 alarm and a taxi through the dark streets to the bus station, ten kilometres out of the city. We have a long day: a 15 hour journey from Mwanza to Arusha. Thankfully the bus we’re on is ok and we sleep and listen to podcasts and read or stare, dazed, out of the windows. Everyone around us seems totally used to such a long journey and can sit for hours just looking at the back of the seat in front. By noon my bum is sore, I need a wee and my stomach rumbling, and we still have hours ahead of us. The landscape is so different to Rwanda, flat and scrubby, and the sun burns red as it sets behind us. We’ve been on the bus from before dawn until nightfall.
A man gets on and starts shouting animatedly down the bus in Swahili, acting out scenarios and asking for responses from our fellow travellers. What is he, we wondered, a preacher? Nope, he turns out to be the world’s most dedicated toothpaste salesman, extolling the virtues of his product, reading out the list of ingredients (“science” as he calls them) and acting out how to use it and how good the toothpaste will make you feel. I think of my brother-in-law, Nathan, also in dental sales and currently at a conference in Washington DC and wonder if they’re discussing similar sales techniques. The salesman is clearly very entertaining and soon has the bus laughing, especially when he latches onto Phil and I and asks us to hold up various other items he has for sale, which include soap, mosquito repellent and exfoliating shower gloves – all of which he acts out using to everyone’s amusement.
We’re almost at Arusha when the bus stops and everyone gets off. Panicked, we’re so close but yet so far, Moz looks after the bags and I scramble off to find out what’s happening. A nice lady tells me that the bus driver has been driving in the dark without headlamps, as they are broken, and that the other passengers have ordered him to stop. We drag our stuff off and wonder how we’re going to get the last 20km to town when thankfully another bus pulls in and we climb on. Finally, after a whole day of travel, we reach our Air BnB, a little cottage in a suburb of Arusha, and collapse into bed.
The next morning we potter around our little place. The owner, a British lady called Kala, has left juice and milk, eggs and bread for us, and we enjoy the slow pace of getting up and making food. I nip out to the local shops and find tomatoes and greens to go with fried eggs, and buy two of the fried doughnuts we love from a sweet girl called Nancy on the street.
Later we walk into town and pick up groceries in the supermarket, it’s shelves lined with imported products and its aisles filled with expats, and a gaggle of schoolgirls who seem to be spending their lunch break watching others shop. I gaze longingly at the extensive cheese selection, easily my biggest craving, and all priced at eight times the price of home. We buy what we need, stock up on beer and boxed wine, then head over the road to the bustling open-air market. We spend a fun twenty minutes and £2 buying lots of vegetables from the ladies who sit on upturned buckets and holding out their produce to us.
It’s a lovely few days of doing very, very little. We walk one day to a nearby workshop called Shanga (‘bead’ in Swahili) which trains deaf, mute and physically disabled people in weaving, glassblowing and jewellery making. Disability is a stigma in Tanzania and many disabled people find it hard to get work; at Shanga they employ 47 people, providing valuable work, tackling the prejudice against disability and making some beautiful pieces. I also loved that the workshop uses over 48 tonnes of recycled bottles, cans and paper to make their products and couldn’t resist popping into their shop.
On the Sunday we took a trip into Arusha town itself and walked around a little bit before finding lunch at a nice place with a garden and fountain. We play cards and drink a beer and eat pizza, watch the other predominantly white customers and talk about what it would be like to live here, whether you’d easily fall into a bubble of eating in western places and hanging out with only white people. On the boda back, holding onto the back of the motorbike, I think about how much I love being here and how special it is to me, and how it might change to live here. Would I still want to shop in the market and eat at local places, or would I just go to the supermarket and places with wood-fired ovens? It’s a balance, I guess, and a tricky one to navigate.
Aside from our two trips, we spent most of our time in our little cottage. It was so lovely to have our own space for a slightly longer period of time and to do things at our own pace. Moz cooked, we read, relaxed, I did yoga on the front porch and managed to beat Moz at Scrabble for the first time in our six year relationship. The wifi wasn’t great but I managed to see my Dundee girls on FaceTime as they visited Lori and Kriss’s new baby, Arthur, for the first time; I can’t wait to see him in just a couple of weeks.
Arusha felt like a much needed topping-up of the batteries, a pause in or travels and a place to recharge before we hit the road again. Next stop: Moshi!