The best experience of a city or a town is living and moving around like an average resident of that city. My movements around Arusha have been through the use of public transport and walking for shorter distances.
After about a month of being in Arusha, a few days ago I took a 1 day trip to Moshi. Moshi is a town that is about 82km away from Arusha. A 2 hour bus ride. We left Arusha at about 10:30 am. We were supposed to leave earlier but our other travel companion was late. Had we left at 8:30am as planned, we would have taken a costa. A costa is bigger than a mini bus taxi but smaller than a bus. The advantage of taking a costa is that it is cheaper but it has many stops, because it also transports local commuters whose journeys are an average of 5kms. When others get off then others get on. The fare from Arusha to Moshi is TSh.3000/= So a journey that would normally take 2 hours would take 3 hours or so.
We ended up taking a bus. There is art to choosing a bus; you just don’t get on any bus that stops. You must assess the appearance of the bus. I didn’t understand why we kept letting buses pass us by. But my friend Jonas explained that you needed to be particular about the buses that you choose. If it looks old then you don’t want to be on that one because you will spend more hours on the road than you need to. Your best bet is choosing a bus that looks kind of new or choosing a new bus. These buses usually have vibrant colors and decent sound systems. We got a nice bus and we seated ourselves at the back of the bus. The bus trip cost us TSh.4000/= each.
It is important to note that the public transport costs in Tanzania are dependent on the fuel price. When the fuel price goes up then the bus fares go up and vice versa. The bus fare from last month might not be the one you pay this month.
I love road trips because you get to see so much. You are made an observer while the bus moves. Your eyes have a few moments to capture what you find fascinating and things that might raise questions in your mind. Scenes that stay in your mind forever. I love the scenery on the Arusha/Moshi road. Along the road you come across small towns with fascinating houses, shops and vegetation. Banana trees definitely thrive in this part of Tanzania. There are everywhere, so much so that it feels weird when I don’t see them anymore. I find that one of my favorite things about Arusha and Moshi is that there are a lot of fruit trees in everyone’s yards. Not just fruit trees, but also a lot of households have vegetable gardens. As you travel from one place to the other, you pass a lot of small and big farms with all sorts of crops and trees. I love that small scale farming seems to be the norm. You can grow most of the vegetables and fruits that you and your family need to eat.
As if not to be upstaged, the mountains and hills of this place also add to the magnificent beauty. Standing silently in their spots, with clouds hovering over and next to them. Give you a few minutes to take it all before they disappear .Adding a mystery that had me asking about these mountains. To which my friend’s reply was that he didn’t know because they were local mountains. Only the people who lived there would know best. I have developed a big love for mountains. I won’t be surprised if I relaunch into an avid mountain climber.
On arrival at Moshi Bus Stand, we took another car to Rombo, an hour away from the city center to go check out a car. While my friends were checking out the car, I was busy playing in a banana tree plantation. I love the appearance of banana trees. Those big leaves that many cultures use as plates.
Once the car business was handled, we headed back to the city center to get another bus back to Arusha. But before we left, we grabbed some food. We had ugali and fish with soup served with a side of green veggies. Next to the ugali and greens, they added a slice watermelon. My mind couldn’t reconcile hot food and a cold watermelon. It seems to be something usual here, so I just observed other patrons enjoy their watermelons. Anyways I enjoyed my food. I took a few bites of the watermelon. I don’t quite like it, I enjoy it on rare occasions. And this occasion wasn’t one of them.
At Moshi Bus Stand, we let some buses until we got into a fresh bus that was coming from Dar Es Salaam. There is no queue to speak of so we waited close to the door, leaving just enough spaces for the passengers that were getting off to pass. After they were all out, there was a scuffle to get inside. We had to hold on and push inside. Once in we moved to the back seat. My phone’s battery was about to die. Luckily, these long distance buses are equipped with charging ports. I plugged my phone and listened to the music that was playing in the bus.
About 30 minutes into the bus ride, Blood & Bone, an American movie started playing on the numerous screens in the bus. Instead of hearing the original movie dialogue, there is a recording of a guy who translates all the dialogue into Swahili. What cracked me up is that the guy would provide sound effects during fight scenes. I would have have loved to know how the other passengers felt about this. I wonder if the enjoyment factor is the same as when Swahili subtitles are provided. I for one know that I would not enjoy a movie translated into isiZulu by one person . I would rather there were Zulu subtitles for me to read from. I don’t like dubbed movies or dramas.One thing I absolutely hated about these bus rides is that the bus drivers have no regard for speed humps at all. They don’t slow down and the people sitting at the back seat are thrown up like a sack of oranges every time. I am sure the numerous speed bumps we went through are now imbedded somewhere in my DNA now. I violently felt all of them.
At around 21:00 East African Time we arrived in Arusha. It was great for me to experience another town. I need to see more of Moshi, so I will visit again and do a more in depth exploration of the city center.