A journey to the capital- Gombe fails!

My trip to Dodoma- the capital- was a relatively decent 11 hr bus ride. I was happy to have two travel buddies and a third woman who wanted to join us(she went to lushoto for 2 days) managed to get on the same bus as us- mid way through!  We thought it was meant to be and thought it meant everything would be relatively easy by Tanzanian standards.

We hopped ina taxi and went straight to the train station. The woman said we had to come back in the morning because the man selling tickets had alredy left but she suggested the next train left on Wed. I was already calculating and preparing to spend 4 days in Dodoma.

 We all awoke early, had our free breakfast- white bread, a boiled egg amd tea- and walked to the train station. i was in shock when the man said the next available tickets in the only first class cabin(that held 2 people, we were 4) was february 6th! What?!! I didn’t think that was right. It gets worse. tickets for 2nd class weren’t available until February 16th. We wandered off dismayed and I already forseeing  defeat.   Alexis mentioned hiring a car coulld be a possibilty or catching buses.

We headed to the bus station and inquired about tickets to Tabora- half way to Kigoma where the train also stops.  I asked in my broken swahili if there were 4 tickets available the same day and it went to Tabora. “Hakuna matada’ ( no problem). I find this expression annoying as I always hear it at bus stations. Usually it’s accurate and I need to just relax and go with it. We walked back to the guest house quickly, packed all of our stuff and went back to the bus station. We were waiting for the bus to arrive before they sold us tickets and grabbed some local food for lunch. meanwhile, Alexis, who was watching our bags in the tiny makeshift “office” was told by a police man (or so he claimed) that the bus company wasn’t going to Tabora as they said but rather ending their service in a town 75 km (50 miles) outside Tabora and yet they assured us it would be no problem to hop on a truck into Tabora. hmmm

When we called him on it, a guy who spoke broken english was wanting to convince us that it was no problem. no worries. sure. Lie, then have 4 white women needing to hitch hike, at who knows what hour because the roads are complete shit and breakdowns are common.  What may be a 10 hr bus ride can easily become 15 or 20.

We we’re all frustrated. I considered the next possiblity as going to Kahama. I finally received an email from Gombe (after I bought my Dodoma bus ticket) whom advised to go Moshi- Kahama, Kahama- Kigoma. I know the train would take a while but I imagined it would only be a matter of days rather than a month to get a ticket. And taking a train would be a cool intersting experience.

When we quoted 40,000 tshillings ($36) to Kahama my friends began questioning the trip. we already paid 20,000 ($18) to get to Dodoma, and from Kahama we still would need another bus to Kigoma. In bus rides alone, the cost was going to be around 70,000-80,000, plus sleeping. Unfortunatley my guidebook had no information for the town of Kahama and when my travel buddies decided to go in different directions I realized the best and safest plan was to go back to  moshi.

We even considered flying but it involved a lot of hassle and huge expense. As much as I want to see where Jane goodall spent so much of her life, there’s always another opportunity and I can see chimps in Uganda and for a lot less!

I felt slightly defeated but knew getting on a bus to Kahama alone was not safe. If I arrive at 3am and have don’t have a clue of any place to stay, I have to rely on the taxi driver and hope he speaks a tiny bit of English! Not likely in a small town that doesn’t see any tourist- or very few.

a part of the problem in Dodoma is that hardly any one spoke English and too make things more complicated bus departure was written in Swahili time rather  than Western time. I had wondered how buses were leaving at 12:30 in the afternoon for 10-15 hr distances. The best time would be early morning. 12:30 Swahili time is 6:30am. there you go. There aren’t many tourists in Dodoma so not much tourist infractrure or people speaking english.

I was so thankful to get on a bus at 6:30 in the morning back to Dodoma. I questioned if I would be stuck in Dodoma but luckily I was at the bus station before sunrise and a man helped me (and my travel buddies) get on a bus and he didn’t speak any English. Moments like these make me question why I put myself in this experience. It’s a challenge and definitely not a walk in the park. I’m thankful I know enough swahili words to get by but also regret I didn’t take more time to learn. I could have a much better grasp on the language by now. oh well. I also didn’t think I would stay 3 months in Tanzania!

The bus ride was they worst bus ride I have experienced yet. I took a different bus company and I don’t know if it happened to be the particular bus or where I was sitting (all the way in teh back) but there the shocks were gone. I probably bounced out of my seat over 20 times. I didn’t eat much because I didn’t want to puke out the window. i thought my insides were going to come out of me!  Not fun. Meanwhile, a mom on the other side of the ailse had a baby (1.5year or so) in her lap for 10 hrs! The baby never made a peep, except when she wanted milk. She must be used to it! i held the baby when we had a toilet break and continued to hold and play with her once we got back on the road. We hit a few bumps and I was concerned she’d start crying but with she just laughed. It also helped I was making the funniest faces when we bounced.

I’m amazed at how people deal and go with the flow. I realize how many conveniences we have in the States and what they may accept as part of the system and part of their life would never ever be tolerated back home. Tanzanians are flexible and take what life throws at them. Maybe that’s how it is when you don’t know any different. We do what we know. The more we know the more choices we can make and the more difficult we become.

I could go on and on…

Hope all is well,

sending my love



One thought on “A journey to the capital- Gombe fails!

  1. Wow, what an ordeal! I can imagine you must have thought, “what am I doing here?” many, many times on that trip. One of those experiences you hopefully laugh about later, maybe much later. I’m so glad you chose the safer route and returned to Moshi. Smart girl! Sometimes when things are too difficult they aren’t meant to be.

    I recently spoke with a woman who has spent a lot of time in Fiji. She says when she goes to the bank it takes all afternoon to complete a transaction because everyone who works there isn’t in any hurry to do anything. It was frustrating the first few times but she had to accept it if she was going to live there happily. It seems like many places don’t have the concept of efficiency that we have. Probably pros and cons for both ways.

    I love the way you tell your story. It’s always fascinating and unique.

    I Love you so much,

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