Mombasa to Arusha

by on February 22, 2014; Africa; Kenya; Tanzania

After Malindi we spent a few days in Mombasa and it really did feel a little like coming home when we stepped through the doors to Nirvana backpackers. The same great people were there, we cooked dinners together, watched DVDs and just chillaxed. We probably stayed a few too many days since we were so comfortable. Unfortunately we had to move on eventually, so we packed our bags and decided to get a Simba Coach to Arusha in Tanzania, the most likely spot to organise a safari into the Serengeti. We went into town the day before to purchase our tickets and reserve our seats on the bus. What would be a simple phone call (or email!) back home turns into a three hour round trip walking through two different offices until we find the right guy to speak to, sitting on stool on the the side of the road, no where near either of them. The idea of “let your fingers do the walking” hasn’t quite reached Africa yet. We paid upfront and he hand writes us out a ticket and sends us on a way with a reassuring smile. Our slight misgivings were for naught though and the bus was present and waiting in the morning, we even left a little bit early. Just out of Mombasa, some people hopped onto the bus and took standing positions in the aisle as there were no seats left. We assumed that they were only coming along for a small part of the journey but as it turns out, most of them stayed on the bus until just before or just after the border. It was a fairly long journey, taking around 7 hours in total through mostly dusty dirt roads but it was fairly comfortable (less so for the people standing in the aisle I imagine) and the driving was reasonable.

Once at the border we all had to disembark and walk across, meeting the bus again on the other side. It was a strange experience crossing on foot with the tiny customs office on the side of the road. We did notice that some people remained on the bus at the boarder, so we wondered if there was a bit of under the table crossings going on. All in all it was a fairly painless process, the lines were short and no bribes were required.

Once we crossed into Tanzania, we were pleasantly surprised at the clean streets and the nice tarmac roads. We also noticed that the houses in the rural villages in Tanzania seemed a lot nicer, being built from mud bricks or having a facade instead of just the bare mud and stick construction we got used to in Kenya. It seemed quite strange since Kenya was supposed to be the economic powerhouse with Tanzania being poorer country – although maybe this wealth is simply concentrated at the top.

Our arrival in Arusha was somewhat less pleasant, being greeted by a group of aggressive touts. One particularly bad one was a guy who took our bags off the bus (all the while we’re following him telling him to put our bags down) and put them in his big wooden wheelbarrow thing so he could carry them to wherever for us. We told him no and took our bags out of his wheelbarrow, so he then tried to demand money for the service he’d provided of taking our bags out of the bus. After shaking off that guy we had another tout who seemed a bit nicer, who said he would take us to the taxi stand. It seemed inevitable, so we followed him to the stand and grabbed a (slightly overpriced) taxi to our accommodation. To our surprise, the tout jumped into the cab with us. We were initially getting flashbacks to our arrival in Thailand, but he was just taking the opportunity to try and sell us on a cheap Safari. We arrived at our accommodation in the early afternoon, somewhat worse for wear, but happy with the inter-country bus service.