Way back in the summer we had the opportunity to revisit Tanzania to meet old friends we had known 20 years ago. We didn’t want to impose ourselves on them, to stay in tourist accommodation or to travel in hired vehicles. So the alternative, at least as far as travel was concerned, was the bus! Friends had told us about the Scandinavian Express Bus Company which had as its logo “In God We Trust”. And we did -as well as in their buses.

The first leg of our safari was Dar es Salaam to Iringa. We were impressed by the efficiency of the Dar booking office, then by the punctuality of departure, but most of all by the care given to passengers. Where in Britain would passengers be handed a blue plastic bag for their rubbish, next a paper serviette, then a straw and a choice of cold drinks, and finally a small packet of tasty locally produced biscuits? Then, after reaching Morogoro and changing buses, we received a bottle of water and some sweets. Our only complaints on that journey were the somewhat unhygienic ‘comfort stop’ and the fact that when we did reach Iringa we had no one to meet us. That was because our hostess had been given the wrong arrival time. Nothing to do with the bus company, of course, but it was extremely difficult to persuade the many taxi-drivers who bombarded us: we did NOT want to “go to Don Bosco”, but to the area where Bishop Mtetela lived. But once that was sorted out with the use of our best Swahili -no problem!

Every journey in a Scandinavian bus went well -maybe because the drivers seemed to have an understanding with the police who manned the several checkpoints placed at strategic points along the road. It was not so however on our final journey when we had to travel from Morogoro by Aboud’s ‘Red and Blue’ bus. As we approached Kibaha, some 20 miles out of Dar, the driver was flagged down by a police officer who then boarded the bus and insisted he proceed to the court, a mile or so off the road. “Because he had been speeding” we learnt later. We were all mystified as to what was happening, and at first passed the time by chatting with the vendors of cashew nuts who suddenly appeared. We were concerned -and others were too -as to how long we would be delayed; we had a friend meeting us in Dar. How would she know? Fortunately there was a very friendly Muslim lady in front with a mobile phone and she kindly allowed us to contact Pru Eliapenda and let her know what was happening. Pru said she would come and get us. Meanwhile the driver was given permission to drive, with a police officer, back to the main road and proceed to the Kibaha bus stand. As this had happened, we needed to stop Pru driving on to the police court, so Betty stood out in the midday sun by the roadside while I tried, with other passengers, to get the driver to unlock the luggage compartment and remove our suitcases, which then had to be guarded. By that time, of course, the driver was allowed to proceed to Dar, but that permission came too late for those passengers who were already climbing aboard ‘daladalas’ and too late for us to stop Pru from coming to rescue us.

Just as Betty and I changed ‘guard duty’ I saw Pru driving past, eyes fixed on the road ahead. So we needed the use of another mobile¬≠phone! Problem solved when a kind Tanzanian offered to make a phone call for us.

We did have two or three journeys on rough hill roads, by Land Rover, but they were no near nowhere near as interesting as that last journey down to Dar es Salaam.

Mary Punt

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