Prepared for the worst

The goal for our first day in Tanzania was simple. We have developed a formula for arriving in a new country, that works very well for us: Don't drive far, simply cross the border, get a local sim-card and find an ATM in the next town. In Tanzania, we added the hope not to be stopped by police all to often. We had heard a lot about western Tanzania: the roads are terrible, the police stops you every few kilometers for bribes and to top it all up, a new border crossing. We are prepared to leave early and arrive late. 

First up is the border crossing. The motel we stayed at, was only 10 minutes away from the border. We arrived at the border quite early and we soon realized that this border was not so bad. There were no fixers and everything went super easy. The first stop was the health check. There were quite a number of people waiting in the room for vaccinations, so we expected that this would take a while. As soon as the officials saw that we already had our vaccination booklet available, we could go for the check, no need to wait for the vaccinations we already had. 

That was easy, next stop was immigration. Rwandan checkout was easy and fast, but Tanzanian immigration could never be that fast, right? 

Wrong again, not only were the officials very friendly, everything went very fast. We wanted a visa on arrival, so we were a bit concerned about the officials possibly making a fuss and wanting a bribe. But nothing of that, we paid the regular fees to two very friendly officers and everything went very smooth again. This felt too good to be true. 

It wasn't too good to be true, it was just good. We got our CPD stamped out of Rwanda very easily and into Tanzania very easily as well. Luckily, there were not outstanding fines to be paid in Rwanda from the 100+ speed cameras (well done us!), so we paid the road tax and we were in Tanzania! The whole process took less than an hour. We prepared for the worst, but we got the fastest and easiest border crossing so far. 

As soon as we had entered Tanzania, the roads were a lot worse than in Rwanda. Still tarmac though, and fairly good. Let's see how long that lasts. We were quickly stopped, but this was no police officer (looked a little bit like one though). The people working on the road had no job anymore and were hoping for a handout. Something we did not encounter in Rwanda, but we were very used to this in Kenya and a little bit in Uganda. We gave them the bananas we still had from breakfast and were off again. 

Two minutes later, we were stopped again, this time by a police officer. 'Here we go' is what we both thought. We saw the dark clouds gathering and were afraid that this would happen many times along the way. The police officer took us to the side of the road, looking very stern. We kept smiling and speaking Swahili, and his face quickly turned to a smile as well. He asked us what we were doing, where we live and about our jobs. As we did not do anything wrong and we said that we had no chai (official translation is 'tea', but it is code language for money). We were off to go again. 

We saw more and more of the country that reminded us of Kenya. We felt like we had re-entered Africa and we lightened up. The last part of the road to Kibondo was said to be terrible, so we just took every kilometer of tarmac and without a police officer as a blessing. Apparently, there were many blessings. The road was fully tarred and we were not stopped by police officers anymore. The only times we stopped, were to switch driver and to buy a snack. 

Mahindi choma is Swahili for barbecued sweetcorn and that is exactly what it is. We know this from Kenya. Young guys are often selling this along the roads, and we slowly grew an appetite. We stopped on the side of the road and two guys selling mahindi choma ran to our car with some followers. They put their arms in our car, holding three corn cobs each. Fortunately, we are used to quite aggressive selling techniques, otherwise we would surely be very overwhelmed. We already were a bit intimidated by all the boys and corn cobs in our car. We only have some cash notes from the border crossing, so we ask (with our best swahili) how much we get for 1.000 Tanzanian shilling. 'YOTE!!!'' a guy shouts, probably meaning we could get three corn cobs for 1.000 TZS, but as they were all shouting, it was difficult to really make sure. Our smallest note was 2.000 TZS and upon seeing that, the other guy shouted 'YOTE!!!'. So we decided to just take all six corn cobs to enjoy and hoped they would share the money. Funny enough, this encounter made us feel even more at home. 'Home' clearly depends on what you are used to.

The road to Kibondo went much quicker than we thought, as did everything today. When we arrived at the stopover, we went outside to score our sim-cards. We regard a day of border crossing as "okay" if we are able to cross the border without many issues and as "successful" if we are able to get cash and a local sim-card up and running on the same day. This day went even beyond. We had time to spare! Of course we used this time by waiting for our food, but that is something we have become used to by now. 

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