Monday 16th July

How fickle some people are - especially when tiredness creeps in.  By the time we set off from Doha for Dar Es Salaam, Thomas had concluded that he had seen just about everything of Doha airport – and indeed the Middle east – that he was ever going to need and the desire to spend any longer here had gone.  The plane from Doha to Dar Es Salaam was just as comfortable as the one from Dublin, albeit that the plane was a little smaller and the 5 ½ hours from Doha passed quickly.

This then brought us to the experience of Dar Es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport and it did not disappoint.  No fancy multibillion dollar construction resembling modern art as in Doha.  This airport is pure Africa.  From the runway it looks a bit like Aldergrove from the 1980s, but upon exiting the aircraft, you are just deposited into a long corridor where all humanity are trying to queue (not very patiently or orderly) for a visa (if you haven’t already got one pre flight) or are filling in landing cards.  There are several “officials” trying to direct people into whichever queue they need to be in and eventually you wind up at passport control.

From the airside of passport control you can see the melee that awaits you in collecting your luggage from a single luggage belt in a room too small for the quantity of people that a couple of modern airliners can deposit in an hour, but before that there are the earnest government employees trying to work a passport control system that looks like that in the UK or US, but has all sorts of loopholes / shortcomings operating.  At any time, one of more random travellers seemed to be ushered through without checks to the perplexed looks of the rest queueing.  One official took a look at Dan’s visa (which was stamped by the Tanzanian consulate in June 2018 – just like all the rest of ours) and  decided that this was an entry stamp and because the visas we had were single entry visas, concluded that Dan would have to go back and queue and pay for a new visa.  One of her colleagues at visa processing thankfully however managed to convince her otherwise and Dan was back with us.

After navigating passport control and collecting all of our bags (Yes – Dublin airport managed not to lose any of the 15 bags) we found Felix – our trusty driver - who would take us to the Econolodge - where we were staying overnight - from the airport.

The bus journey from the Airport to the hotel was another slice of true modern Africa.  Stalls all along the dual lane highway, selling everything a traveller could possibly want.  And when you stopped at the lights, a parade of goods from bubbles, to local maps to fruit and veg  and firewood ensued.  A casual look at any item virtually forms a contract between you and the seller so much so that were were kind of glad that the windows on the bus were closed.  We are going to have some fun travelling here – no doubt!

Road etiquette is again, very “developing country”.  The rule of the road is stay clear of anything or vehicle where you might come off worst in a collision.  Priority is always given to the largest vehicle – especially if that vehicle doesn’t belong to the driver and is – say a bus with a load of kids4schools workers in it!  It is also a case of making a path where you need to go and just doing whatever illegal move is necessary.  Welcome to driving school Africa!

When eventually we reached the hotel, gasps (indeed!) of disbelief from a few greeted their reading of the sign pointing down a tight alley to the hotel.  What have you done to us, Robin?  Bible lesson #1.  God judges people by their heart (their inside) rather than their cover.  As for hotels, so does Robin, because despite how unpromising the exterior and lobby of the Econolodge looked, the comment (from the same unbelievers) when they got to their room was, “I’m really rather disappointed.  This is actually a lot better than I was expecting”.  Well, lets hold off on congratulating ourselves too much just yet

After a quick shower everyone headed out for something to eat.  We were recommended a restaurant by the kids4school staff which was started off “just opposite the hotel” then became “take a right then a left”.  We think however we found the said restaurant, based on its menu a little further away ( I have  a feeling everything in Tanzania might be a little further away) and it did not disappoint.  Basically a street barbeque, everything could be witnessed first hand before ordering and what we saw was good.  Everone was fed on chicken and pepper steak along with two rounds of soft drinks for £40  (Yes - £3.50 per head.  I’m hoping they open up soon in Belfast!)

We then headed back to the hotel around 9pm as tomorrow would be an early start – the bus to Dodoma was picking us up at 6:00am.  Everyone was told to meet up in the lobby of the hotel at 5:45am or risk being left there!

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