Tanzania is a pretty large country which connects southern and eastern Africa. Without the budget or burning desire to climb Kilimanjaro, it was shuffled into the ‘next-time’ pile. I would like to spend some time in the west of the country which I’ve heard is beautiful and peaceful. Unfortunately on this trip, my only experience of Tanzania came from passing through on buses and trains. None of these were particularly brilliant memories, although at one point the main road went straight through a national park and we had giraffes and elephants strolling past the bus window. That was definitely the highlight.

The ‘Holy ghost fire bus’ stops for a chat with our bus during one of many breakdowns. The driver of it seemed to like soft-toys.

Bus and train trips can be both the most interesting part of traveling… as well as the most harrowing! If anyone reading this plans to travel by bus through Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia or Zimbabwe, never take the company TAQWA.

I travelled with TAQWA twice, purely as there were no other company driving the particular route I needed. The first time around when the bus broke down, we discovered some passengers’ luggage had been put on a different bus, then the conductor told us he’d lost everyone’s tickets. The driver abandoned ship that night and we were left to sleep by the border in freezing temperatures with 3 or 4 people crammed in each seat, no food, water or toilet. Over the course of the night it was also discovered that half the people on the bus were going to Zimbabwe. The other half thought they were going to Zambia. Hmm. The next morning a very grumpy kiwi got out her video camera and notepad and pretended to be a international journalist. It worked to a point – the lost tickets were recovered and another day later, people were finally on buses going to their requested destinations.

On the second trip the bus also broke down. This time we were made to wait in the dust and sweltering sun at the side of the road for over 24 hours with the bus conductor constantly lying about what was going on. Again my video camera threatened to take them to national television, but it wasn’t until a group of us hiked to the closest police station some hours away that they found a new bus. Throughout the rest of that journey (which included another night crammed in sleeping upright), the driver failed to announce he was heading for Burundi rather than Rwanda. We were all dumped unceremoniously at the nearest point between the countries, and told to hitch. Arrival at destination was about 2 days later than intended; nice one TAQWA.

Since these journeys I  hope to never be heard complaining about a commuter train running 10 minutes late!

The Tazara train service from southern Tanzania near the border of Malawi, up to Dar es Salaam. The scenery was beautiful and the train didn’t break down once. It was running about 12 hours late though, which unfortunately resulted in a middle-of-the-night arrival and the one really scary incident that befell me in Africa.

On a more positive note, Tanzania has amazing tomatoes. Everywhere.

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