To Tanzania, at last

Dhow to Kilwa Kisiwani

In Mocimboa the sky was cloudless, the sun burning at 9am. Perhaps a reminder I’m slowly creeping back towards the equator.

The knock for transport to the frontiera comes at 2.20am. I wasn’t really sleeping anyway. As one of the first to board I’m given a spare tyre to sit on for the 3 hour journey. From the border post and immigration I must jump onto an artisan’s boat to be punted across the River Rovuma – the border proper. The river’s so low the boatmen have to get out and push the boat, then drag it, the sand audibly scrapping the bottom. And then with simple immigration on the Tanzanian side and a dalla-dalla (minibus) I make it to Tanzania’s first town, Mtwara. By lunchtime I’ve done so much it feels like the Queen of Hearts’ six impossible things before breakfast (3 strawberry flavoured wafers, made in Brazil).

Tanzania seems to have more vitality than Mozambique. The ocean seems bluer, the sands whiter and cleaner, the sky clearer, the people even friendlier, more interested in the world. Almost as if the people here believe they’re onto a good thing.

Next morning the dalla-dalla leaves within 5 minutes of me boarding. Like in Mozambique its still cramped. My legs are intertwined with a man’s who faced me so that if we accelerated too quickly I’d end up with a severe groinal injury. More importantly for the man opposite, if we braked suddenly – a far more like occurrance – he would end up with a severe groinal injury.

I make it to Kilwa Masoko, or just Masoko, without having to part with any more cash despite the decidedly dodgy looking ticket I bought the night before. Permit in hand, and conservation officer Prisca by my side, I go to the harbour. The speedboat she called for hasn’t arrived. I’m almost relieved, it means we have to take a dhow; sail up catching the wind. Though the World Heritage listed ruins on Kilwa Kisiwani island date from the 9th century AD, with most of what’s standing from the 15th onwards, stone age archeology has been discovered, representing 4000 years of continuous island living. I’m staggered by these ruins I’d never heard of, in such good condition. Prisca and I were alone, with the workmen conserving the stones.

Walking backward towards Masoko from the harbour Prisca asks me how I found the road.

‘It was good’ I say.

‘Really?’ she says ‘I came on it last week and it was not good.’

‘I came fro the south, from Lindi.’

‘Ah. The road to Dar is not good.’
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