Adventurous travel, by plane and by bike

17 06 2010

I made it to Dar es Salaam!! Which is even more exciting by the fact that, well, I almost didn’t make it. My first flight went from Boston to DC, where I had a 2:36 layover before heading out overseas on Ethiopian Airlines’ once per day flight to Addis Ababa (13hrs total, with a short touch-down in Rome to refuel). Then, 2 hours in Addis before a relatively quick flight to Dar.


Well, after boarding the plane in Boston and taxing down the runway, we stopped. And stayed there for about 20 minutes. A “computer issue” we were told. After 45 minutes, we taxied back to the gate. That’s when I started to worry. By 1.5hrs, I started going over what would happen if I missed my flight, calmed my self down and decided missing my flight was the least of problems I could have. After 2 hours and 15 minutes, we took off, and I was CONVINCED I would miss my flight. I got off the plane in DC with about 22 minutes before my next flight’s take off time, and asked someone which was to Ethiopian Airlines. “It’s down the concourse to our left, a long way– at least a mile.” and so, with my bags, I ran. and ran and ran and ran, making it to the Ethiopian ticket counter exactly 5 minutes before the flight time. They were about to give my ticket away! While I did feel somewhat bad for the person who was about to buy it and hop on the plane, I have never felt more relieved. And, as luck would have it, my checked bags miraculously made it too! (I don’t even understand how that is possible. I literally walked on the plane, sat down, and we took off in under 5 minutes. There was no time.)


On Tuesday, I moved into my room that I am renting in a house in Msasani Penninsula, a less beachy area with a fair amount of mzungus (white people) and more wealthy Tanzanians. My new housemates drove me on a quick tour of the neighborhood, and then we dropped one of them off at work. The other then took me to the bank, the phone store, and then dropped me off at the bike “store” (a collection of old, used bikes of all sizes and brands lined up in the dirt “yard” outside a very small open building, just one store in a series of similar open stores lining the street. Although I tried my best at bargaining the price– dropping 20,000 shillings or about $13 from the original offer– I probably still paid like $30 too much. But, it will be worth it in saved taxi costs (which could be 20,000 per day with where I’m going!), and it should be no problem to sell the bike at the end of the summer for at least half what I paid. I then jumped on my brand-new old bike and started riding home.

While the directions home were simple, of course I got confused and ultimately lost (what else do you expect from me? I was driven all over the place that morning.) When I still thought I knew where I was going, and thought I was relatively close, I was stopped by a police officer. (“stopped on your BIKE?!?” my housemates were surprised, they have heard a lot, but they hadn’t heard that one before.) The officer asked me, jokingly, if I had a drivers license. ha. After a bunch of questions about where I got the bike, where I was going, why…he told me I was heading the wrong direction and told me where to go. “That was nice of him!” I thought, and headed off the way he said. oh was I wrong.

One KEY phrase to know in Swahili: “Iko wapi ___?” or “where is ___?” If I did not know this, I’d probably be hopelessly peddling my bike around Dar es Salaam right now. Shortly after peddling away from the officer, I did not recognize a thing. I was in a much quieter area, which I knew was not right because everything on our way to the store was pretty busy. So I started asking people. Some pointed confidently in the right direction, others gave me confused looks and answers of no idea, and others gave me the best, most elaborate answers… in swahili. But, the great part about knowing the phrase “iko wapi” is that even if you don’t understand a single word of the answer, usually there is some sort of hand gesture that goes with it to point you in the right direction! After a long long ride (almost 2 hours for what should have been less than one!), I made it home. Turns out the police officer didn’t send me in the wrong direction, so to speak, just in the long direction. Despite not knowing where I was or where I was going however, I was able to enjoy the riding and take in the area knowing that at the very worst, I had my new phone with Andrei and Matty’s numbers stored. And the closer I got, the more confident people were in answering my question of “iko wapi Slipway?” (slipway being the closest landmark to my street that is well-known by most, and somewhere I was sure of how to get home from.)

This morning I biked into the NIMR office– on time, unrushed, and without getting lost. Cross your fingers that making it home is the same!

Msasani Peninsula is at the top: I live sort of over the "M" on this map. Mikocheni (look west of peninsula) is where I bought my bike. The officer sent me out to Oysterbay (south of the penninsula along the coast) and around. NIMR's office is on Ocean Road, south of Msasani Peninsula right about where the "sea view" label is on this map.

– Kristen Pfau




One response

17 06 2010

Hey kristen-
When I was reading your blog all I can think of was calling MTV and getting them to do a reality show on you! I am glad you made it in one piece- I’ve been so worried about you! Hope everything goes a lot more smoothly for you!
Love you,

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