Once Upon a Bus Stop

Buses are a great way to travel in Tanzania; you get to see so much of the countryside, meet engaging people and observe interesting parts of everyday life along the way. It takes some skill and determination to find the right bus company and get a good deal on your tickets, but if you’re up for the challenge, it’s well worth it.

On our three week trip in Tanzania, we took four 10 to 12 hour bus rides on four different carriers. Our experiences ranged from a terrifying trip on a rattling, dilapidated tin can that was something out of Jurassic Park, to a cushy, spacious coach with an onboard magazine, television entertainment and a complimentary beverage. In spite of the variety in coach quality, the competence of the drivers was reliably consistent. Their frenetic hooting and violent swerving around the shoddy roads was alarming at first, but once we realised the sheer skill of these drivers, we learned to trust them completely.

The best part of travelling by bus in Tanzania is the bus stops; they’re such vibrant, colourful places. I love the contrasting energy of departing travellers waiting anxiously for their journeys to begin, and arriving travellers excitedly hurrying off to their final destinations, glad to be safely back on terra firma. And then there are the vendors, entrepreneurial traders, frantically peddling their wears, even banging on the sides if busses to get the attention of passengers, and running alongside moving buses with baskets help precariously above their heads. Samosas, cassava chips, cashew nuts and cold drinks, sunglasses and trinkets, bottles of cooking oil and hand crafted wooden spoons. Finally, there are the taxi drivers, waiting like vultures to catch the next arrival and seize the business of an onward journey. I like to just sit still for a while, and watch the never-ending activity bubble and simmer around me as I await the start of my own journey.

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