sunnuntai 28. lokakuuta 2012

East Africa by bus, part 2: Moshi – Arusha – Nairobi

Now in this part there are not too many things to know about the buses. From Moshi to Arusha there are bus connections all the time – just show up and pick a bus. The journey takes around 1,5 to 2 hours.

After the serene and well-planned city of Moshi, Arusha can be a bit of a cold shower since it's freezing in the mornings and the center is somehow chaotic. There are many local hotels to choose from if you're on a low budget. But there are also high-end options.

We found an amazingly beautiful hotel in the hillsaide about 20 minutes drive away. Ecologically build (but with a swmming pool), courgeos views and the most tastefully decorated lounge. This Karama Lodge hotel would be perfect for honeymooners after/before their safari.  (In the near future, we will publish a Honeymoon package where this combination will be included.)

For safaris and Mount Meru climbs, Arusha is definately the place to be. The city itself is perhaps not very interesting, but the location is amazing. And there are some activities that you can do in Arusha. Our minds were blown away by our visit to Shanga Shangaa project, where disabled people make the most beautiful handicrafts. The setting is like you just stepped to Europe – big lawn as a lounge area with nice sofas and great service. But once you see the monkeys playing in the nearby trees, you will remember you're still in Africa.

Another interesting destination within the city is a Maasai Cultural Tour in a maasai village just a bit outside the city. You can just take a tour or you can go hiking with them in the mountains for 3 days – or volunteer and stay for weeks, or months... years?

Kids in a traditional Maasai house called boma

And of course, there are the national parks like Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area just 5 hours drive away. These are some of the Africa's most beautiful safari destinations. The biggest yearly migration of the wildebeest, the ”biggest natural amphitheater” in the crater, all the big 5.

Our safari organizer, Dennis is an amazing guy who owns he's own small ecosafari company. He is born in Kilimanjaro, but knows all the national parks like his own pockets. He can also take people to visit local villages to get an understanding of the lifestyle around Serengeti.

When it's time to head to Nairobi, it's been made quite easy. There are shuttle buses which you can book from most hotels, for example from Impala Hotel. These buses will take you easily to Nairobi through the amazing sceneries. And the road is brand new! This journey takes around 6 hours or more. The good thing abut shuttle buses is also that you can get straight to the airport and some hotels before the bus goes to the city center.

If you are flying to Arusha, keep this in your mind - you might save some money by flying to Nairobi instead. But then you'll have to purchase a visa for three times. Once in Nairobi, once when entering Tanzania and once again when you're entering Kenya again. 

perjantai 5. lokakuuta 2012

East Africa by bus, part 1: Dar es Salaam - Moshi

This blog has been very quiet for some time, for a good reason – we've been traveling. And now I want to share some travel tips with you.

Now in East Africa (in the world in general?) there are three main ways of transport. The most convenient one is to drive with your own car – you get the scenery, possibility to stop wherever you want and more importantly, whenever you want (toilet brakes are a bit scarse). Second most convenient one is probably flying. Not very cheap, sometimes not on time, but generally quicker than going overland. Then thirdly there's the way most of us use – bus. (There are also some train connections and of course ferries at the coast and big lakes.) Of course the good thing about buses is that they are ecological and you get to travel with locals.

You can also walk like the Maasai or bike or hitch-hike (not recommendable!) or take daladalas (local buses) from one town to the next...

Dar es Salaam skyline

Well, we took a bus to go around the region. The route was Dar es Salaam – Moshi – Arusha – Nairobi – Mombasa – Tanga – Dar es Salaam, and then back to Zanzibar. The aim of our traveling was to meet our cooperation companies and to see some hotels and tourist attractions. But there's a lot in this experience that would be valuable for anyone traveling Tanzania & Kenya by bus!

Dar es Salaam was our starting point. Now, Dar is a very chaotic city with massive traffic jams and plenty of people who are ready to ”help” you in the hopes of some extra money. As for us, we are very familiar with Dar, but less familiar with the bus companies that operate the route Dar – Moshi.

The main bus station, Ubungo, is far from the city center and in the traffic jams it might take an hour to reach the place. Also, the taxi will cost almost as much as your bus ticket. So even though the main bus station is the easiest place to find all the bus companies, compare prices and get tickets (all while at least 5 people explain to you how you should follow them and that and this bus doesn't exist), going to Ubungo is not the best choice. Then again, it is important to get your ticket beforehand, because without it you will end up in the most horrible bus that no-one wanted to book.

There is a place in Kisutu in the city center where there are several bus company offices. This is the place to go, at least if you're heading up north. You will find a square in the end of Libya Street, accross from the petrol station. Go there and ask around to make an educated choice. Dar Express wasn't good but wasn't bad either – maybe Kilimanjaro Express would have been a better choice.

It takes around 10 hours to reach Moshi, there were 2 resting stops on the way. Most buses continue to Arusha, which is another 1,5 extra hours.

Khamis in Moshi with our freshly bought ngoma (drum)

Moshi is a nice, well-organized city and therefore preferrable option over Arusha if you ask me. It's also the best place to be if you're thinking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The mighty mountain is very near, but almost constantly covered by clouds. Hint: If you don't have time to climb Kili, you can still get near to it and enjoy some beautiful waterfalls and nature! And if you're too busy to even do that, then at least drink the beer (and if you don't drink alcohol, drink the Kili water). People in Moshi are very proud of their mountain.

There are several nice and budget-friendly hotel options in town. Also there are plenty of restaurants, and if you don't mind the taxi ride to the suburbs, you'll find even more nice restaurants and some popular bars, such as Glacier.

Kilimanjaro in the early morning, just before the clouds get to it

If you are enchanted by the mountain or just by the fact that Moshi is a nice city and the weather in there is somehow human-friendly, there are many volunteering options there. We would recommend Tanzania Volunteers.

We would have loved to stay longer in Moshi. Thanks to our wonderful host! I will come back! And climb Kili!

If you want to climb Kili, please contact Colors of Zanzibar - despite the name, we know these things. And we know the best guides now.