Tue, 22 Jul 2008 16:40:59 +0000
Zanzibar Index TAZARA Day 1
Today was another visa day, dominated by the hunt for a Zambian visa. Apparently Namibia, Botswana and South Africa don't require visas, so it'll be a while before I have to go through this again.
I got to the embassy at 10:00 to hand in my passport and the visa fee. But the lady didn't seem awfully optimistic that I'd get my visa the same day. "They're not doing visas today" seemed to be the verdict. But then, "oh, maybe". I had to come back at 2:30. I tried to impress upon her the urgency of the situation, but then had to wander away momentarily defeated.
I also had some shopping to get done. From the conversations I'd had with the TAZARA veterans the other day, it seemed that I needed "plenty of food". I'm not entirely clear why the restaurant car is considered inadequate, but it seems that they only accept the local currency for whichever side of the border you happen to be, and the money changers and vendors tend to concentrate their attention on the third class passengers at the other end of the train. In any case, it didn't seem like a bad idea to stock up. I got two litres of orange juice, two packets of crackers, a pot of jam, a packet of sweet biscuits, and two bars of chocolate. I'll get bread and bananas tomorrow. That's quite a lot of food, although I'm assuming that I'll still use the restaurant car.
For lunch I went to City Garden to try the buffet. For less than 10 USD you get a really nice buffet meal, in a luxurious oasis away from the streets, surrounded by tourists and businessmen.
I was there because I wanted to try something Tanzanian, but I don't think any of the food I ate was particularly local. Doesn't matter, I stuffed myself silly.
I needed to use the Internet, and since it was so slow at the hotel, I opted for the most expensive-looking place I could find, in the shopping centre in town. Nope, not really any faster at all. This will probably be the pattern at least until I get to South Africa. I have the latest news, and I should be able to upload blog entries, but I won't have much bandwidth left over for anything else.
I also finally bought my book to keep me occupied during the train journey. After reading the Amazon reviews, I got "Glass Books of the Dream Eaters". Looks like it should keep me occupied for a fair while. Processing the payment required the use of one of those ancient mechanical swipe things. I don't think I've seen one of those used in over a decade. That's what I call a legacy system.
So then back to the Zambian high commission, where I didn't have high hopes that my passport would be ready. Especially observing the deeply disapproving frown on the lady's face as she searched through the piles of forms. And yet, there it was, my passport, with a visa stamp in and everything. Hooray! What's more, since this visa doesn't include a photo, I can now shave without confusing the border guards. Double hooray!
The next thing I needed was a knife, in order to cut open my orange juice cartons and spread jam on my bread. And it wasn't easy to find, either. There's a small market near to the hotel, but it really only sells food. So instead I marched up the Bibi Titi Mohammed road to a big market I'd seen earlier. Or at least, I tried to. I walked a hell of a long way, but couldn't see any sign of a market. Instead, I did pass a big western-style "Shoprite" supermarket, and there I got a packet of 12 plastic knives. I don't know if they'll work against the the drink cartons, but somehow I'll get the things open.
Dinner was collected from various street vendors, mainly the little circular batter things that are so delicious. I hope they have those in Zambia too.
And that was my day. Not very adventurous, but I feel that I'm all set for the big train journey. I hope it actually does run.
Zanzibar Index TAZARA Day 1