Mwanza is the closest town, a 15 minute 300TSH (15p) dala dala ride from Bwiru where the laws of physics, particularly size and volume, don’t seem to apply. A dala dala is a minibus, but those that run them see only a tardis. On the outside they sport their destination and slogans such as “Manchester United rule”, “Jay Z” or, what could be a statement of fact or hilarious tongue in cheek, “Death Ride”. Inside they’ve been reworked – all seats removed and metal school seats welded to the floor in an impossible number.
On the side of the road you wait for them to drive by and pick you up – they are never ever full. What I mean by that is that they are never deemed TOO full. If the seats are taken there’s always standing, or sitting on your neighbours lap. I’ve had many a kanga covered boob or bum thrust comfortably and without embarrassment in my face for the whole journey – I’ve often had to respond in kind. If you’re sitting and someone comes on to stand with a baby, then you’re handed the baby to hold. Many times I’ve sat, a toto (child) on my lap, my feet on a bucket of tilapia fish heads, attempting to practise my Swahili greetings with the woman next door to me, who might happen to be holding a chicken. Bongo Flava and other examples of Tanzanian discography, or occasionally Bob Marley, blare inside and out.
You signal where you want to get off by slapping the side of the bus to make the driver aware, but the likelihood of being able to look out of a window to see where you are is slim. I prefer to stay on to the end where I am then disgorged onto the sidewalk at the centre of town. It’s a hot, stinky, sardine-in-a-tin kind of ride and notoriously they are driven by the worst drivers but personally I love it. As well as the experience itself the drive goes through all the villages and if you get a window, you get a visual overload of colours and cows and pineapples and fires and decorative shop signs and street stalls and chickens and children wrapped on to backs in stunning kangas…
Mwanza is BUSY. Roads are consistently jammed with taxis and piki pikis (motorbikes) and vendors’ stalls and bikes loaded with sugar cane. It’s hot, there’s dust in the air and there are always hundreds of people in the road, on the sidewalk, in shop doorways. That being said there’s a really laidback atmosphere.
The buildings have an art deco look about them and in them are shops that sell absolutely everything; but ONLY that one thing. I buy my writing paper in one shop but have to go to another to get a pen; I buy my tobacco in a completely different place from my rolling papers.
The street vendors employ more diversity and at the same one you can buy phone credit, bananas, water and cigarettes. You need a good few hours for a shopping trip but there are loads of nice places for goat curry, rice, beans etc to break up the task and you can easily end up just sacking off the shopping and people watching instead.
So I’ve included more of what I’m now referring to as my ‘surreptitious snaps’ – my camera feels somewhat ostentatious considering the poverty around me and as I’m not keen to have fruit hurled at me I’m currently snapping when I can rather than when I want to but hopefully you get an idea of the place.
I’m attempting to sort out WiFi this week so should hopefully be able to blog more regularly.