Tanzania - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 62

Just past the border crossing into Tanzania

Tuesday 13th May

The border crossing was a hive of activity this morning with customs inspections everywhere. Trucks and people were everywhere with the usual compliment of moneychangers and traders loitering around. Our truck passed its customs inspection with relative ease but the next problem was with passing through the immigration offices into Tanzania where another surprise awaited us. This time, we both had to pay $50 each for our visas into Tanzania! Fortunately, we still had a $100 bill and reluctantly handed it over. The staff was friendly and showed me a piece of paper with all the visa fees listed for each country so we did our best to put on a smile – what else can you do?

Now running dangerously low on currency, the last formality was some kind of road toll that the driver had to pay before we were allowed to travel on the Tanzanian highways (I use the word highway extremely loosely – the road is so bumpy that it’s taken me half an hour to write the last few paragraphs). Once again, the drive, Kenny, came to me to ask me to lend him some more money, as they would not accept his Pounds. I dug even deeper into my private stash and found my last remaining large denomination banknote which was a €100 note. We changed it on the street for a $100 bank note (lousy exchange rate but we had little other choice) and Kenny was able to pay his road toll. Kenny now owes us $60 & €100 and the trip is not over yet.

We’ve paid $185 in visa fees since we got on the truck, have lent the driver as much again and are now critically low on funds of any kind. Kenny stopped at a bank just past the border and I was able to change my last $10 bill for some Tanzania Shillings (just over nine hundred altogether) but I doubt this will get us very far. There is another larger town just up the road and we are hopeful of finding a bank there where we can either use the ATM or exchange some traveller’s checks. We can only hope.

I’ve now depleted one of my laptop batteries and have just over an hour left on the spare so I will have to shut the thing down until we can reach a power outlet. We won’t reach Arusha until late tomorrow, as the journey is taking longer than expected.

We’ve now arrived at a camp-site somewhere in Tanzania where we will stop for the night before another very early push tomorrow morning. We’ve just eaten and it’s now a quarter to eight and we are getting ready to settle in for the night. Hopefully, we will make it to Arusha tomorrow before it gets dark. We stopped earlier in a town called Mbeya to change some traveller’s checks and to have a bite to eat. The first bank we went to wanted $10 commission for changing the traveller’s checks but the next we went to only charged 1.5%. The forty-five minute wade through all he red tape was worth it to get my hands on at least some local currency. I changed two €50 checks into Tanzanian Shillings and we all felt a lot better after having a good bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. I picked up the tab for all four of us, as the two drivers have been very good to us and very accommodating. If it were not for the honesty of the local shopkeeper at the restaurant, I would have paid the equivalent of $75 instead of $7.50 for the four of us to have a meal with drinks. Much like the Zimbabwe Dollar, the Tanzania Shilling converts at approximately one thousand Shillings to one US Dollar.

Tanzania is a much prettier place to drive through compared to Zambia. Zambia was quite boring (with the exception of the lots and lots of Baobab trees that we passed) whereas Tanzania looks quite picturesque with rolling hills and cultivated land in many places. We also drove through an area of dense woodland that reminded me quite a bit of Europe. We have also been much less hassled by the local police here. We’ve driven through a couple of checkpoints but have been waved on each time.