“Is this where the dala-dala stops?” I ask the guy who is standing by a slight bulge in the kerb of the road.
To be honest I’m not entirely sure what a dala-dala looks like. But I have a feeling it’s basically a minibus. And whilst I’m massively apprehensive of it, I have little option but to try one out…
Somewhat tired, hungry and generally crotchety after 36 hours of travel and very little sleep, I’m making my way into the town centre of Arusha in Tanzania in search of much needed local currency, a SIM card for my phone and food.
The idea of time without a working phone/internet doesn’t normally cause a problem. But sitting in the back of the taxi on the way to the hostel from where the Nairobi bus had dropped me – I suddenly felt very vulnerable.
It was something I’ve never really experienced before. I couldn’t check on Googlemaps that we were going in the right direction. What would I do if something went wrong? There was no one next to me or on the end of the phone to discuss it with. I had to trust strangers. And in a country that I’d literally only just arrived in.
I wouldn’t say the taxi ride was entirely relaxing. A safari salesman came along for the two-mile journey and then they tried to charge me $30 for the pleasure.
In contrast, I’m totally converted to dala–dala transport. It’s cheap, frequent, and genuine. It might be crammed with people, but you are not ripped off as there are set prices. Strangers let you know when it’s your stop. And no one tried to sell you anything else.
Once you scratch beneath the tourism veneer then you start to see a very different country. One that is friendly and welcoming, like many places.
Today has been a bit of a lesson in trust. Who to trust and who not to, when to trust myself and when to trust technology. And how to make those decisions in a new place. There is no ‘right’ answer, but today’s steep learning curve has certainly made me think about it how those decisions are made.
Ironically, by the time I was back in a dala-dala, Googlemaps was once again reassuring me that I was indeed in the right place, not that I needed him right at that moment…