Dar es Salaam to Mikumi – our first full day in Africa

When I woke up at eight (there is a seven hour time difference – ahead – between here and home), the first thing I did was open the curtains to look out the window. We knew when we arrived that the hotel was near the water, but oh my – what a view! I saw the morning sun shining on the Indian Ocean, palm trees, sandy beach, green grass, and people swimming; not what I expected at all as my first daylight impression of Africa!
As I got ready for the day (boy did that lukewarm shower feel good after two days of travel!) the power flickered a few times. We had breakfast: tea, coffee, freshly made juice (melon, mango, passion fruit, I’m guessing), toast & marmalade, cheese, homemade yogurt, and fruit. There were also cereals and pastries available. We ate overlooking the water, watching people swim. Agnes, our hostess who had checked us in late, chatted with us over breakfast, telling us stories about Tanzanian food and how delicious it is when you get out of the city. She  told us that the beach is safe for swimming when we return later in the week, as long as we don’t take any valuables with us.
We got our things together and got ready to be picked up by David, our driver, at 10:30 for the trip to Mikumi. We settled up with Agnes, and told her we would see her again at the end of the week, then headed out. Oh, the heat! It was 30*C and quite humid. It’s the kind of heat that makes you sweat even when you are doing nothing. We stopped at the bank machine to take out some Tanzanian shillings. 100,000 TSH is approximately equivalent to $60. We’ll use cash as much as possible while here to avoid subjecting ourselves to credit card fraud.
Although the distance from Dar es Salaam to Mikumi is only 300km, it took us six hours to get there. As we got out of the city and drove through the countryside, I saw so much of what I had imagined in my mind. The people, the clothing, the busyness, the colours… It stood out to me were the lack of shoes on so many people (future Enactus project?). There were people everywhere along the route, walking, biking, working… Houses were small and close together.  I saw women sweeping their steps, hanging their laundry, and washing their doorways. I couldn’t help but notice only two females during that 300km stretch who were sitting down – all others were working while I saw numerous groups of men sitting and chatting.
We saw women carrying babies in slings, and full buckets or goods on their heads. We saw groups of school children, playing and working. Boys were cutting the grass along the side of the road using scythes. We saw a large group of people gathered together for a funeral. There were a few churches, but not everywhere like we see on our landscape. The churches I saw have roofs, but are more of an open-air concept. Walls, but no windows or doors; the same for schools.
We stopped along the way at a local market for a bathroom break and to get something to eat. That was an experience as I navigated an open pit toilet in in long skirt! The market was busy with locals, and many approached us to sell us things. A little boy tried to sell me bananas and a man approached to sell me flip-flops. We opted to share some french fried potatoes in the car and were back on our way to VETA Mikumi.
My first experience with wild animals on the side of the road took place just as we entered Mikumi National Park. The busy, main road from Dar es Salaam to the rest of Africa goes through the park. There were a number of baboons frolicking along the side of the road. We then passed by giraffes and elephants. It was amazing.
We arrived at the campus around 5pm and were greeted warmly by Ludovic Saronga. He is a Tour Guiding teacher at the college and has known Jim for a number of years while working on various projects. The students got us settled into our rooms at the campus and we joined Saronga for a beer in their restaurant. We told him more about our project and what we hoped to accomplish while in Mikumi. He made some suggestions of entrepreneurs we could speak with and took us to meet our first one, Dale, before dinner.
We sat at an outside table and had an interesting and informative conversation about his business until it got dark, and Jim had to use the flashlight on his phone to provide light for me to finish taking notes! We had a tour of some of the property and he gave us permission to use his name and details in the curriculum we are writing.
Back at the campus, we had dinner with Saronga – white rice, “local” chicken & peppers (which I took to mean one of the chickens that had been walking around the restaurant), a spinach dish, and another dish I was unable to identify, but had peas and lentils. It was all delicious, but was so much food! During dinner, the power went out and the town went dark. Saronga explained that this is a common occurrence, and a barrier to business. Internet connection was also an issue. By this time, we were exhausted, so made plans to meet for breakfast at 6:30am so we could go on safari at 7am.
I was hot and full and so tired! I had a cold shower to cool down and was asleep by the time my head hit the pillow.

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