I arrived in Dar es Salaam in January 1987, employed – ‘posted’, as it is called in the expatriate jargon – by a large international oil company with several local concessions. Which was great, because that meant that the mundane things like accommodation, and transport, were all taken care of. And equally important, a generator in case of power failure, and the occasional tanker with drinking water if the pipes ran empty again. And there was telephone in the office, from which you could try to call long-distance if you were patient enough. Mostly, telephones didn’t work, so nobody had them. By the way, there were more things that didn’t work in Tanzania, at the time. And when I left, two-and-a-half years later, things hadn’t improved much.
But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy my time in Tanzania, on the contrary. Hardship posting, all right, yet spiced with lots of opportunities to explore the country, which had some of the most spectacular game parks and nature reserves of Africa. And thanks to a poor infrastructure these also ranked amongst the least visited, and thus least touristic. Add to that the Islamic influences along the coast, including mysterious Zanzibar, a former colony of Oman, and the odd traces of some 30 years of German colonisation – which lasted until the end of the First World War -, and there were actually some architectural attractions to visit, too.
Unfortunately, in those days I hadn’t yet developed the habit of writing regularly; there are no notes left of our travel experiences. And the few letters I wrote to my family back home, well, you don’t want to know. I recently re-read them, and they are dreadful, boring, and not very informative. So I have nothing else but some memories, and a stack of scanned old slides, a bit discoloured at times, to serve as input for this photo blog. Just a series of brief entries then, around a few pictures, to show how it was.
Dar es Salaam
Even though Dar es Salaam, at the time (we are talking 1987, here), already counted some 1.5 million inhabitants, you wouldn’t say so, if you wandered through the city centre. Essentially low-rise, either in the form of old colonial architecture or cheap 4-to-5 story apartment buildings, it had mostly a small-town atmosphere, although traffic could be horrendous.
A short distance north of Dar es Salaam was the old colonial capital, Bagamoyo, which had already been an important trading place for much longer, back in the Middle Ages. The way to Bagamoyo is lined by the most fabulous beaches, deserted except for the fishermen.
Mikumi and the Selous
Several other excursions were within easy driving distance of Dar es Salaam. The most accessible game park was Mikumi National Park, a part of the much larger Selous Game Reserve. On the way to Mikumi was the market town of Morogoro.
the south coast
The Tanzanian south coast was more difficult to access, involving lots of driving on poor roads, at the time. I went as far as Lindi, and I admired old Arab and German architecture in Kilva Kivinje, as well as the rural villages and the beaches along the way.
There are several islands off the coast of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar is the best known, and by far the most interesting. But I also went to Songo Songo, and omniously named Mafia Island.
The north of Tanzania is the most visited part, as far as the tourists are concerned. Here are the famous game parks of Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater, as well as Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro (regrets, regrets…).
Least visited is the Southwest, which, however, contains the lovely Ruaha National Park, the tea estates near Mufindi, and Mbeya, near the Malawian border.
Having reached the southwest of Tanzania, it was only a short hop across the border, into Malawi. Except that you had to have your hair cut in advance, because long hair – for men – was forbidden in Malawi. Oh, and women wearing trousers, also a no-no.
Having been to all the game parks in Tanzania – where I lived in the period 1987-1989 – I also travelled to Rwanda during this time, to what was touted as the ultimate safari experience, a visit to the mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans