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Sunday, October 18, 2009

How to get a bus

In Mikumi - half way Dar es Salaam and Iringa or even further Mbeya - there is no office for the buses. The plan was to buy a return ticket from Mikumi to Dar before I left. Scandinavian Express won't just stop in Mikumi. And if it does, it for sure does not have a seat available. All seats must be reserved.
So, how to get a bus.
It starts with having faith.
You go on the bus from Dar to Mikumi on Wednesday. For that bus you have a ticket. Well actually you have a ticket to Iringa or Mbeya, just get out earlier. In Morogoro - at two thirds of the way to Mikumi - there is a Scandinavian bus stop with office. You get out. Talk to an older guy. Write down his phone number. You tell him that you want to return on Saturday. No, Saturday. You repeat Saturday about 10 times until he does not say Thursday or Sunday anymore. You are supposed to call him Friday morning. You get off in a hush hush way in Mikumi. All fine.
Friday morning you are in a Landrover crossing Mikumi National Park. You call the guy - have no name - and the line is really bad. You explain him that you want to go back from Mikumi to Dar on Saturday. No, Saturday. Repeat Saturday a few times. He tells you he has to check with people in Iringa. Ask for some confirmation. Bus leaves at 'white bridge' in Mikumi. Can't pick me up anywhere else. No idea where that bridge is. He hangs up. In Tanzania people don't confirm the end of a conversation. No 'ok' or 'bye'. Just hang up. Leaving me a bit puzzeled.
In the afternoon you just call the guy again. He actually confirms that I can go with the bus. Hurray.
Saturday morning you try to find the 'white bridge' - don't leave it to the last minute. There is none in Mikumi. There are no bridges here. However, there is a 'weigh bridge'. All the passing trucks and buses must be weighed. So that's where I'll have to be.
You make sure you are at least 20 minutes early at the weigh bridge. With all your luggage (or, as they spell it here sometimes: lukage).
Then you wait. At 13:00 there is of course no bus.
Finally at 14:25 there is a bus. You run along with the bus - it's not waiting, just getting weighed and move on - and a guy running with your heavy backpack trying to open a compartment in the meantime. You don't hop onto the bus until you are sure your backpack is stowed away and the compartment closed. You jump into the bus. The guy there escorts you right away to chair 44. He knew I was coming. The local girl that was sitting there is chased away (I reserved the chair for the complete ride: Iringa to Dar, so Iringa to Mikumi she was just lucky).
About 2 hours later you get off in Morogoro. So far I did not pay a shilling. The older man right away comes up to me.
You go into the office. The man knows you have seat 44. You pay for your ticket - full rate Iringa to Dar (well, that's 18000 shilling, as opposed to 15000 shilling). They swap around some carbon copies and you are off.
Apparently the whole chain works. Just requires some faith and trust that all will work out. In the end I was at 20:00 at the Scandinavian office in Dar. Not really a 4 hour ride, but hey, you are there. Only drove for 2 hours in the dark - something you'd want to avoid.

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