A very small ticket for a very long journey

Kigoma Travel Blog

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Well. I got off the train yesterday afternoon after 42 hours across Tanzania. The trip was mostly inspired by Paul Theroux. and mostly as a bid to see the "real" Africa. As always with these things my sense of adventure let me down. and rather than bonding with my Tanzanian co-2nd-classers I mostly stared out of the window, watched the bush go by and read a 1000 odd pages of trashy literature.

Still, it was quite the experience.

There was only one other tourist that I spotted on the train, which left me feeling like quite the adventurer. And while it's somewhat disingenuous to claim to be experiencing a country when you're hanging out with the middle class in a sleeper car, there's a lot to be said for wandering around a railway platform late at night as the train stops to be reconfigured. A lot to be said for seeing a sleepy little town light up for it's bi-weekly action, dozens upon dozens a vendors hawking their wares to the briefly present travellers (incidentally they try to sell crappy wooden masks to the locals as well). And, most of all, there's a lot to be said for being imersed in someone elses cultural norms without the veneer of tourism removing the details.

Actually, I did meet one very interesting chap who I somewhat regret to chatting to some more. He's exploring Tanzania with his friends after finishing his studies in international relations and human resource management (interesting combo). As well as being a nice fellow, he was also even more enthralled by the prospect of watching his country go by the windows than I was. And that, in and of itself, was something to see.

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Apparently not to Kigoma.

Actually I should be more precise. There are tourists here - I had dinner last night at Kigoma's swankiest hotel (food was mediocore and taxi was tres cher) and there were definitely people there. However, in terms of backpackers... nada.

I've met missionaries (the youthful college-age type), NGOers, UNers and archeologists, but no no one else who's slumming it in East Africa. And I's wondering why.

My guess is that this place's main draw are Chimps. And chimps are expensive. The other reasons to come here are if your overlanding from Rwanda via Burundi, but, for reasons to be discussed later, that's not so popular. This is not to say there aren't any tourists here, but they must be slim enough on the ground that I haven'tt spotted them yet.

Off to try (again) to get a ferry ticket. Wish me luck.
I am certainly not the first to note the surprising number of chickens on bus in the developing world. The phrase chicken bus has considerable usage amongst the backpacking community to describe the colorful experience that gets you from A to B via as many potholes as possible.

Still, I've been wondering why chicken transport is so common. Is there some governmenty policy that requires the equalization of chicken density across the country? Or perhaps the chicken is the local equivalent of the money belt - never let it leave your side for fear that you could lose your passport (or something like that)? Or maybe chickens need or minimum travel distance before they are appropriately exprienced (or "seasoned", if you will) and ready to be consumed?

Part of my befuddlement come from the following thr facts:
- Chickens are ubiqutous.
- Chickens are cheap (at least judging by the price of street food and also the price of goats - yes, I do know the price of goats)
- Transport is expensive, at least when measured in chiken units
So, why move chickens?

So I found myself a place to kip in Kigoma. Other than some leaks (now fixed) and lock issues (also fixed) and toilet seat problems (being fixed), it's pretty awesome for $12 a night.

I got TV.

I got verenda.

I got armchair.

And, most importantly of all, I got a very, very big bed.

How big is big? I hear you ask. Well, it makes Cal King look small. It's abut the size of of three single beds pushed together. If you left something on the other side you would have to mount an expedition to get it back. Needless to say, then, as soon as I saw itm I thought orgy. Of course this plan would require orgy partners, who appear to be few and far between in this town (though, on reflection, that may just be a property of life in general).

(Also, as someone who's recently been accused of being a poor bed sharer, it reassures to know that, at least somewhere, there's a bed big enough for even me not to hog.)
photo by: heiss