Monday, May 14, 2012

A flying visit to Dar es Salaam

 Shinyanga airport (30 km from camp) formed the first leg of my trip to Dar. A young technician was on his first leave in 180 days and accompanied me

At the beginning of this month I was sent to Dar es Salaam to collect our passports which contained the necessary visas for South Africans to enter the UK.  It was a totally unscheduled trip as we'd made arrangements for a third party to collect the documents on our behalf. When he arrived at the Embassy, he was told he had no authority to collect our passports. The message was relayed back to Grant, who asked me to "pop over" to Dar to do the necessary!

Rajamani, one of the young mechanical technicians, was due out on leave after 180 days on site and very excited to be accompanying me. He, like I, had also never flown from Shinyanga airport and was fascinated by the very basic layout. He took dozens of photos to show to his family back in India.

It's always great to be going out on break! 

We touched down in Dar es Salaam at 10.30 and were duly met by the company driver, Mohamed. I asked him to take me across town to the Embassy. I wanted to collect our passports and know that all was in order. 
Getting across the city of Dar is easier said than done. No sooner had we extricated ourselves from this gridlock...
...than we were snarled up in another one! 

I kept busy by taking photos! 

No thought for human safety in this scene! 

We arrived at the Embassy qt 11.35. While Mohamed and Rajamani waited in the car, I went into the building to collect our passports. (I'd told the men I would only be a few minutes)  However, I was stopped at the door with the query of what my business was. When stated that I'd come to collect passports, the security guard told me that on Thursdays the collections are done between 2.30 and 4.15. Eewgh!

I dashed back to the car and had to tell the guys that the trip had been in vain. Not only that, I had to return later that day! I could see they weren't too pleased. Next we had to go back across to the company head office where Rajamani had to collect his passport. We seemed to make a quicker way back. After the call to HO, I asked Mohamed to take us to one of the large shopping mall. 

I've said this before and I reiterate: Dar es Salaam is the most advanced city I've ever been to in Africa. The malls have upmarket retail shops, many of which are South African: Game, Shoprite, Mr Price and many more. I wanted to buy a new rebounder as I'd left mine in Kenya due to luggage constraints, *sigh* .
 The entrance to the Mlimani City Mall in Dar is equal to anything in South Africa

 Ditto the interior

 Not even Nairobi, Kenya delivered such upmarket shopping malls! 

 Once I'd bought my new rebounder (more about that tomorrow), I took Rajamani into Shoprite Supermarket where he bought a large selection of chocolates for his mother and sisters back home. While walking past the many and varied businesses, he remarked that he wished we had more time to really look around! And that coming from a man! LOL! 

Next we tried to make a dash back across town to the British High Commission. Again, not so easy. We left the mall at 1.30pm and after several traffic jams and detours, we finally arrived at 2.40! Once again I left my mobile phones and camera in Mohamed's care (not permitted in the Embassy) and dashed back into the building. The British visa counter and hall was deserted, so I went forward and handed in my receipt. The lady behind the thick [bullet-proof?] glass, punched the receipt number into the computer and to my relief I saw her make a tick against our names on the tab. (Does anyone else, apart from South Africans, have this angst  trying to enter foreign countries?)  She walked to the rear of her cubicle, flipped across a well-marked filing system to "H" and extracted to brown envelopes.

When she returned to the counter, she asked me why the messenger which we'd appointed had never collected the passports on the due date. I told her he had come in but was turned away. She then disappeared through a door at the back and down a passage. Soon she was back and told me that the other clerks who'd manned her counter that day as she was off, said no-one had come in! I told her that he had been, but not allowed to collect our passports which now had cost us US$600 for me to come and collect them personally.  She was most apologetic (pole sana) and with this, passed the two envelopes through the metal tray under the glass! Phew! We now have a UK visas in our passports.

Once back in Mohamed's car, I asked him to take me to the Southern Suns hotel where I was meeting my friend, Sonja for coffee. He would drop me, take Rajamani to his hotel in town and then return to collect me from where he'd take me to my hotel. 

Twice before I've posted about Sonja. She and I met way back in March 2001. We were neighbours, two of only three ladies on a remote gold mine camp in Northern Guinea, West Africa.  She was there with her husband, the project manager, (the position which Grant holds here now and is called contracts manager) Karel, her young daughter and his two young sons. One of these boys, the now 24- year- old  Marnitz,  is a production manager here on Grant's project and lives in a little cottage directly behind our house. Small world, is mining! 

Even though Sonja was (and still is, ha-ha) years younger than I, we immediately clicked and have been friends all these years. Since 2007, we've lived in different countries: I was back in South Africa while she was here in Tanzania, living on another mine. But we kept in touch by e-mail. 

In October last year, Karel was trying to convince Grant to take up this position here in Tanzania. I didn't want to move as I have never been as happy as I was in Keirio Valley, Great Rift Valley, Kenya. However, I agreed to a meeting at the hotel Grant and I were staying at in Johannesburg on our way back to Kenya, when Karel said he's bringing Sonja along! We were thrilled to see each other again and talked non-stop, catching up on the newest grandchildren (she has two granddaughters) while the men talked shop.  (Little did I know that Karel would contact Grant again in January and we would make the move from one East African country to another!) 

When we met in Dar last week, Sonja had just arrived from South Africa. Marnitz gave me her Tanzanian mobile number and I contacted her, hence the arrangement to meet at the hotel near her apartment.
Me and Sonja, my young and beautiful friend of many years. (Photo by hotel waiter)

All too soon our visit was over but Sonja will probably be coming with Karel on his next visit to Mwadui so we'll  be getting together in fine style!  

Mohamed was outside the hotel waiting to take me to my hotel: The Sea Cliff. I've posted about this hotel on the seaside before and how we enjoy staying there, so Grant booked me in here again. Once I'd been to my room, I popped down to the Village Supermarket to stock up on - you guessed it - Cat Food! I bought four packets of Go-cat kibbles. My cats love this brand which was readily available in Kenya but which I'd only recently found again at this supermarket. As I was alone with no man to say: "what do you want to buy now?" I wandered around the shop and checked out the other products, picking up various items: creamed mushrooms in cans, sun dried tomatoes and a bottle of Vegemite! 
Vegemite, one of my favourite vegetarian spreads which hails from Australia! 

Back at the hotel, I wandered around with my camera and took photos!  
 The foyer outside my hotel room

The next morning while I waited in the hotel reception area  for Mohamed to take me to the airport, I took photos! 
 The beautiful reception area of the Sea Cliff Hotel

Mohamed, my trusty driver in Dar
 One of the many beautiful homes lining the esplanade as we travel (fast - hence the blur!) from the Sea Cliff to the airport
Rajamani and I waited at the Julius Nyerere International Airport for the check-in counters to open
 The waiting area looks more like a train station than an airport! 

At 8.30 am I said goodbye to Rajamani and checked in.  
 The boarding lounge in the airport

By mid-morning I'd arrived in Shinyanga where William, my trusty Mwadui driver was waiting to bring me back to camp.  A real flying visit to the city! 

PS. Re yesterdays post about Pets Forever featuring two of my cats and paw prints on the furniture. I had the windowsill on the enclosed veranda painted. Ambrose, who loves to sit there and watch the chickens, birds and dogs, didn't know about the maintenance. He found out soon enough though!  
Hope you all have a wonderful week. 


  1. You did have a quite a trip!! Glad it all worked out well! Hope you have a restful week, Jo!! Love your photos as always!


  2. So glad you got your passports. That mall looks as nice as any large shopping mall I visited in SA.

  3. Wow, Jo! It's hard for me to believe that there is a Game store in Tanzania. I visited that country (especially the city of Dar) several times without seeing it. My last trip was probably 2007 - which may be a reason - for it may not have been built by that time. It looks so NEW and wonderful.

    Let me assure you that it is not only S.A. citizens who have angst about trying to get any official paper-work done in East Africa. Oh what a string of stories these things bring to mind. Haha.

    I'm so glad that you are able to get things done in spite of the changing situations in offices. Grant was smart to send you to collect the passports! I always sent Frances for those testing times! (Imagine a Great big Smiley Face here)!!!

  4. Hi There, I'm trying to begin catching up -after being gone for a week.

    Sounds like an interesting trip, Jo... Glad you finally did get your UK visas...

    Glad you met with your friend, Sonja also..

    Great set of photos. Thanks!

  5. That was an interesting post to read ! What adventures ! That's a real shame what they did to you to collect your passports ! I think I would have exploded. I never had any "angst" to enter a country, I only became very furious when we arrived in New York and a fat guy sat on a high seat like the King on his thrown and asked stupid questions, like if we were communists, or if we had persil with us ! From all countries I have been the American custom's were the most impolite and rude ! And we have been there at least 6 or 7 times in different airports !


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