Day 316: A Proper Bed Please!

Tue. 25th June 2013

All aboard the Skylark!Today we are off into Dar Es Salaam, to a hotel (woo!) and to a proper bed (woohoo!). The next two days are probably going to be our only chance to explore the city but we are also looking forward to having more than 4sqm of space and a hot shower with non-salty water. Some people are just so fussy! There is no point in getting there too early though, as our room won’t be ready, so we settle down for another lazy morning in the campsite enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the surf on the sand.

A good place to relax before heading into the cityMid-morning, we ask for a taxi to take us into the city and when he arrives, we go the usual process of haggling over the fare. The bigger issue is around whether or not he knows how to get to the hotel and once again, this turns out to be a case of ‘yes’ meaning ‘no’. Whereas Sabie had to do a long detour right around the outskirts of Dar, the taxi can take advantage of the ferries that run to and fro across the few hundred metres of water at the narrow neck of the bay.

While we were relaxing some folk were hard at workAs we get close to the ferry, we notice that the taxi is overtaking a line of stationary cars. No sooner have I twigged that this is the queue for the ferry than the taxi peels off down a side street and the driver turns round and asks for TSH3,000 (about £1) to give to ‘his friend’ to let us jump the queue. It turns out that ‘his friend’ is the policeman  controlling the slip road into the ferry terminal and we’ve just contributed to corruption in a developing country – though by the looks of the other cars at this side entrance, we aren’t the only ones.

Its just jam packed on the ferryDespite our queue jumping, we still have a short wait before we are jam-packed onto the ferry. The taxi is nose to tail and door to door with other cars all around with pretty much all of the remaining spaces being filled with foot passengers. There is no chance of getting out to take photos and only snatched views of the bay (estuary) with fishing boats pulled up on to the beach. Everything is hustle and bustle. No sooner is all of the space filled than we are off and 15 minutes later, we’ve made it to the far side and there is a great surge as people jostle down the loading ramp.

A crowd of fishing boats tooAll through our journey, the taxi driver will make or receive a phone call and jabber away on his phone. We would have had no idea what he was talking about but every now and then we’ll hear the phrase ‘Hotel Nikko Tower’ and then we know he’s still trying to sort out the directions. Once again the GPS and map app on our phones help to guide him to the right place. We’re soon dumping all of our stuff in our room and creating a big pile of laundry on our bed – after nearly two weeks camping, pretty much all of our clothes are in desperate need of a clean.

Hotel Nikko Tower - home of the trampoline bed!With hindsight, it was a mistake to leave the laundry until we got into town. Because the showers and tap water in the campsite were salt water, we assumed that (yes, there was the mistake) there was no point asking about laundry. Only this morning did we see the notice offering laundry at a fixed price per bag.  Paying the ridiculous per item price for the hotel laundry was out of the question but, surely, there are bound to be per kilo laundrettes in the city? Well, maybe not. With a bit of help from the hotel we do manage to find a laundrette though they do charge per item albeit at less than half of the hotel’s rate. We’re desperate, there aren’t any obvious alternatives and there is more than we can handwash so reluctantly we say yes. Probably the most expensive laundry of our entire trip.

The most expensive laundry of our trip!If sorting out  our laundry was one priority, the other is getting the SIM in my phone activated. Its been frustrating to have paid for it and not to be able to use it. Bing (Google = evil) helpfully pops out the address of the Vodacom shop and so after dropping off the laundry we head there. The shop itself seems to be fenced off but in front there is a gazebo in Vodacom livery with a woman sitting at a desk. I explain the situation and she says ah, yes, its TSH1,000, then you need to fill in this form and give me a copy of your passport (another delay while I trudge off to a copy shop). Then you need to wait 72 hours. What do you mean, wait? Yes, it is a government requirement.

Looking out at the streets of Dar from our hotel balconyLater, as we wander a little further around Dar, we find a proper Vodacom shop and they confirm the story whilst Janet gets a SIM for her phone too – as we are separating later this month, it may be helpful to both have local mobile phone numbers. We both just have to wait until we get back to Tanzania after our side trip to Kenya and the Maasai Mara before we can use them.

It's a mosque - there is going to be a 4:30am call to prayerSo, we didn’t quite get what we wanted with our phones and the laundry ended up costing more than we liked but, surely, my third wish of a comfy bed for the night would work out? Alas not. The hotel seemed to have confused beds and trampolines. Whilst my preference is for a firm bed (albeit less firm than a 1” mattress on the ground) soft and squishy would have been OK. Softy and bouncy is definitely not (think Tiggers but without the fun, fun, fun).

The hotel did, however, redeem themselves. Apparently, it is in the Indian quarter of the city and so the restaurant specialises in Indian food – and it was sensational. One of the best Indian meals we’ve ever had anywhere, and certainly the best on our trip. So, once again, things have worked out well for us.

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