Coming on the heels of some trying experiences in Malawi, Tanzania and its people reminded us why we fell in love with Africa in the first place 2 years earlier. We stayed 45 days but only saw relatively little of this vast country, so will have to return soon.

Tanzania

Quick Summary

Time in Tanzania: October 30 - December 15, 2010

Route: mad 3-day dash from the Malawi border to Dar es Salaam (so friends Jo and Abe could get to Zanzibar), catching our breaths and recharging on the quiet beaches south of Dar, driving south along the coast in failed bids to get to Kilwa and Mafia island, back to Dar, then 10 days in the Usumbara mountains, on to the north coast, flying out to Pemba Island, returning to Tanga and driving up the coast into Kenya

People: as far as socializing and connecting with the average person on the street, our favorite in Africa; a genuine, pleasant, relaxed, helpful and engaging people, Tanzanians stick to their Swahili mantra “pole pole” (go slowly) in many aspects of life; other Africans consider them lazy, but we met plenty of hardworking and realistically ambitious Tanzanians who know how to appreciate what they have in life; most feel proudly “Tanzanian”, which is a welcome contrast from the often-destructive tribalism in other African nations; if you avoid the tourist-trap northern safari circuit or Pemba Island (the islanders are amongst the worst and greediest people have ever met anywhere!!!) you can’t help but enjoy your time amongst the warm Tanzanians

Food: everyday diet is simple but heaven when compared to Malawi; even small villages have a variety of fresh meats, fruits and veggies so self-cooking is easy; in local restaurants you can always find a decent curry and tanzanian chicken is excellent; better still, $1 gets you a filling lunch just about anywhere in the country (rice, stew sauce, a couple of chunks of beef and a soda); we’re also fans of delicious roadside bargain produce that is sold by the bucketful; pretty much all the hotels and lodges we stayed in had good food (expensive by local standards but the cheapest in all Africa on the international tourist scale) and we had excellent home-cooking while couchsurfing in Dar and Tanga; seafood is also very fresh and dirt cheap on the coast and, amongst other feats, we mastered cooking octopus; overall, in 45 days we were never hungry or disappointed by food

Roads: generally poor and it is a challenge to drive this large country even if you stick to well-traveled routes; transport is likely to be far better in a few years thanks to rapid expansion of solidly built and wide paved roads; luckily, most Tanzanians are relaxed and respectful drivers, signal for turns, exercise calm and patience and do not lane-weave in heavy traffic, which considerably improves the driving experience; dishonest petrol stations

Distance covered: [to come; all driving except flight to Pemba Island]

Highlights: easily accessible but not touristed gorgeous beaches just south of Dar; realizing Dar is not the crap town we thought it was; buying tailor-made Swahili outfits; getting re-inspired about positive social enterprises in Africa; making meaningful connections with many people; the political rallies on election eve; cooling off in the Usumbaras; feasting (Roger’s 5-star 5-course meals in Changani, hearty-n-heavy home-cookin’ on Joseph’s Swiss Farm, fresh cheese and jam from the nuns in Lushoto, fun and educational communal meals at Mambo View Point, Bao and Juan’s seafood extravaganza in Dar, a week of non-stop gorging at Eddie’s in Tanga, Africa’s finest baguettes, pate and pizzas at Capricorn... just to name a few :-) )

Low-lights: Pemba Island (don’t go! ever!!!); Dar traffic; nearly drowning TianMa; exhaustion due to our initial dash to Dar; overeating watermelon... and some other foods; TianMa and our laptop breaking down; oppressive heat; not getting even a glimpse of Kilimanjaro; indecision, disagreements and gloom over determining our African “exit strategy”

Impression: really reminds Juan of China over 20 years ago; a diverse land with stunning landscapes, relatively healthy wildlife, strong national identity, ambitious and optimistic people, and abundant natural resources, Tanzania may well have a very bright future ahead (if short-sightedness, greed and exploding population do not derail it first); for tourism, it offers much beyond bland high-end safaris and Zanzibar holidays (research the “second tier” destinations and drive the side roads off the beaches).