Arriving at my hotel (Iris, in Livingstone/Kariakoo) at 4 a.m after two and a half days on the Tazara train, I slept for the better part of the day. Apart from that, my third time in Dar started as joyfully as the previous two (see here). I went out, happily strolling around some darkish streets, asking taxi drivers about the best place for dinner, and was rewarded with Rissa BBQ. Once again, I was full of joy watching local guests in colourful East African, Swahili or business attire, of Arab, Indian, African or mixed descent, all speaking kiSwahili with one another. As the head waiter greeted me warmly, I realized that I’ve encountered different forms of kindness on this journey. His was a very delightful, subtle one, tinged perhaps by his apparent Arabic background. He suggested I have red-snapper skewers and bread, and it was yummy. Two guys joined me at my table, and we had a great conversation about African-European matters. I love this place and its people!
A real treat for the traveller – a train ride with the Tazara, all the way from Kapiri Mposhi near the Copperbelt in central Zambia to Dar es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean. All the way, meaning every single one of the 1,860 kilometres, at an average speed of ca 30 km/h – I’m not kidding you. The time table and hearsay suggest it can be faster, but not in my experience. It’s a two-and-a-half day journey, in a four-berth first-class compartment (2nd class has six, 3rd class is seats only, and it gets really crammed once you’ve reached Mbeya near the Malawian border).
I finally made it! After a number of years during which I considered going, now Zanzibar was just around the corner – relatively speaking. It’s three-and-a-half hours flight to Dar es-Salaam, then two hours ferry, plus the odd transfer to airports and so on. Still, it was my big opportunity, and quite in line with the past few months during which music had been a dominating theme: Sauti za Busara, “Sounds of Wisdom” – African music under African skies!
And whatever effort it took, it was well worth it. Sauti za Busara is perhaps the best festival on this continent (“African music under African skies!”). It certainly beats Lake of Stars (Malawi) in its choice of more traditional music, or music which makes more use of traditional elements. And it focuses on East Africa. Or as one website puts it, Sauti celebrates Africa’s DNA. Let me illustrate this.
After getting stranded for one day at Dar es-Salaam airport due to technical problems of our Air Malawi carrier, I arrive in Lilongwe and am being picked up by my old friend Chimwemwe. She’ll be my guide and companion for some trips through this charming country, the so-called “Warm heart of Africa”.
My decisive song for Malawi is Lawi’s “Life is beautiful” (another hotel-room recording):
I encountered it for the first time three years ago, when I first attended the Lake of Stars Festival, and it hass always intrigued me with its emphasis on the beauty and joy of life in Africa. This is important. Joy, in chiChewa chimwemwe, like the name of my friend. I have seen few places during my travels, or even less so back home, with so much joy as here in Malawi. Against all odds, one should say. Continue reading →
When I realized that entering Tanzania overland from Rwanda was going to be difficult, amongst other things because visas are not issued at the border, and also considering the size of the country and costs involved in entering the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, I decided to deviate from my plan, took a flight to Dar es-Salaam and cut my stay short. After all, I wanted to attend a festival in Malawi in early November, and it felt like I’m running out of time. Seriously? Anyway, my plans changed, I planned on two weeks only in Tanzania. Air Rwanda was as impressive as Rwanda itself, and the flight was truly pleasant. On that note, I’ve come to love the airport announcement tinched in heavy Bantu r/l-mixups that wish you a “prresent frright” instead of a “pleasant flight”, that’s what it sounds like anyway.