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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

The Tale of Two Tours

Today, I took two tours.

Right now, you might be thinking something along the lines of, "Is two walking tours, in 33° heat really a good idea for someone with extreme sleep deprivation and a bum knee?"

Well... if that's what you were thinking, you're right. No, it was not a good idea. At all.

But... I never make the same mistake twice... I usually make it 5 or 6 times, just to be sure.

It had been a real conundrum for me, trying to figure out whether or not I was going to take my laptop with me on these two tours.

Which was the lesser of two evils?

  1. Heading into a dangerous part of town, a single white female, totting around a $3000 computer?

  2. Leaving it at a low-end motel that charges a mere $30 per night.

I didn't honestly think that I could deal with the anxiety of leaving it at the guesthouse for the day, while I traipsed around the city centre of Dar es Salaam. That was completely beyond my comfort level. This computer really is my kryptonite... and I realize when I'm walking around with it, I am flaunting quite a large price tag.

I pride myself on being able to conquer any situation thrown my way. If you spend long enough looking at my travel history, you will see a pretty not-bad track record for both getting into hot water, getting out AND getting by. When people caution me about the hazards of traveling alone… it tends to go over my head. My only real fear is being mugged.


The mugging... not so much... bring it.

The taking of my computer? ... Paramount fear.

I have to admit, the canvas bag I purchased is quite heavy and burdensome. It may hold my heavy laptop, but it's aggravating trying to grab something in a pinch.

What do you do though? Suck it up, I guess...

In order to prepare for my big day of tours, I took some necessary precautions and hid wads of money and various credit cards into a multitude of secret locations, scattered around my room. Places such as my dirty laundry sack, toiletries bag, the book I'm reading... all the key places thieves tend to seek out first off, but I have never claimed to be brilliant in the art of deception. I also stashed some American bills under my left sock, and some Tanzanian shilling under my right.

I've never walked around with money in my feet.

It's an odd thing to have to do, but thinking realistically, if my bag got snatched, I would have nothing. Not only would my computer be gone, so would my passport, my identification, my credit cards, my cash... my mental state of mind... and so on.

Unfortunately, however much confidence I pretend to ooze, as I saunter along, and no matter how tightly I grasp my belongings with my Kung-Fu grip, robbery is still a common form of violent crime all over the world... and any traveller can fall victim. I have been there. It's not fun.


Tour #1 - Kariakoo Market

Frank and I

I had plans to do this tour the day before, but there were many issues surrounding it. I had booked through GuruWalk, an international community for walking tours that connects tourists with local tour guides.

The tour guides, otherwise known as gurus, are usually university students, history buffs or just locals wishing to improve their language skills.

I had booked "The Kariakoo Market Tour & History" through the online app, and had been given a meeting point and location, but other than that, I hadn't had any contact with the guide, which is quite odd.

The morning at my guesthouse was a bit of a shit show, trying to secure myself an Uber pickup without any data, and ill functioning WIFI. After about an hour of full on nightmare, I finally walked out into the main street and just hailed a cab myself, though it is highly recommended you don't do this.

This is where I met Frank... and it now became Frank's responsibility to deliver me to my tour meeting point. Our dialogue was VERY basic, as Frank's knowledge of the English language vocabulary did not exceed 10-20 words. The instructions I provided were quite clear though... I needed to go to the Stanbic Bank @ 53 Sikukuu Street. Easy, peasy, monkey squeezy. Unfortunately the Stanbic Bank was not located at 53 Sikukuu Street. It didn't take long to figure out the locations didn't jibe, and Frank & I spent much of our time be-bopping through congested market roads, searching for my destination and trying to sort me out. When we finally found the Stanbic Bank, Frank bid me adieu, thinking I had a bank appointment... which nullified all my previous communication efforts.

To avoid being left to my own devices, in Dar es Salaam's most dangerous part of the city, I asked Frank to take me back up to Oyster Bay and Coco Beach... but then I had a brilliant idea.

Would Frank be interested in showing me around Kariakoo Market tomorrow?

I did want to see the market, as intimidating and threatening as it was. Granted, Frank was NOT a tour guide. His English was limited and he had absolutely nothing to contribute to Tanzania tourism or my knowledge of the area. But damn, if he wouldn't make a great buffer.

He agreed... for 50,000 shillings, of course... and it was a date.

He picked me up at 9am and off we went. I had my computer bag strapped to me... money under my feet... my passport strapped across my stomach... and I was ready to explore Kariakoo. Every single stitch of me was on high alert. No one was getting my stuff!! And if they did, well, due to my bum knee, I couldn't have properly chased anyone, had I tried.

To describe Kariakoo as busy is an understatement. It was claustrophobic. The place was literally humming with hectic. Had my canvas bag not held a multitude of various compartments, I am confident that the majority of my belongings would have been pick-pocketed, as various people thrust themselves into me, several times during my short excursion.


"Sorry, ma'am!"

As much as I knew everything was secured to the best of my ability, it was still tense feeling the role of the target. Walking along the streets of Dar es Salaam, through the chaotic Kariakoo market, knowing I had wads of cash hidden under my feet, was a bit of a surreal experience. This money, which wouldn't realistically see me through a month back in Canada, would have the power to change someone's life here.

It's a very sobering thought.

It's funny how you have the capability to put your entire life into a stranger's hands when you are traveling. I didn't know the first thing about Frank. In fact, I wasn't even confident he WAS a taxi driver. Communication was nonexistent and for all I knew, he was going to have me rolled & robbed in the market.

Believe me, the thought crossed my mind a couple times.

But today, Frank let me live.

AND keep my stuff.

We ate Jackfruit and beetled in & out of the narrow, crowded market streets. I would like to be able to lay claim to the photos above, but Frank frowned upon pictures being taken. I didn't necessarily have small bills to give as tokens of appreciation, and I didn't really want to be distracted from my possessions or my next step.

Word has it that you can buy anything in Kariakoo, and I'm going to go a step further and confirm this. They had everything AND the kitchen sinks. A lot of kitchen sinks too, from what I could tell. Office chairs, pieces of wood, textiles, stationary, brooms, car parts, fruit, light fixtures, shoes, paint, furniture, phones... the list goes on and on. It was actually too much at times. There were too many things and too many people, that it resulted in trying to maneuver your way through, as opposed to appreciating the market for what it was, a market.

It finally got to the point I wanted out. Frank was far from an interesting companion or tour guide... and I tired quickly of trailing behind him. Getting into the car and exiting the market was a relief of gargantuan proportions.

On the drive to my next tour meeting location, Frank spoke.

"Kariakoo. Very big. Very busy. Kariakoo very busy. Very big. Kariakoo. Very big."

He probably said this 4-5 dozen times, and for lack of better conversation, I allowed myself to fall into the monotony. Every time he gave his dialogue, I would follow up with, "Too big. Kariakoo too busy." To that, he would nod profusely and begin his repetitious declaration again.

It was almost mesmerizing.


Tour #2

This was a GuruWalk tour, as well. But this time, the guy showed up! Score.

From the very first moment with Derrick, my guru, I knew this tour wasn't going to be great. His English was limited, but his speech had been practiced to an almost disjointed perfection. It was a flat, inarticulate mumbling of facts, and I quickly tuned him out altogether, only throwing in an obligatory "interesting" or "awwww" or "uh-uh" to be polite, and to give the impression I was somewhat engaged.

He definitely had an abundance of knowledge, but the delivery was lacking. As soon as a question was thrown in or he was interrupted mid-thought, he had to reboot.

The heat was violent and I became more preoccupied on finding shaded areas, than on paying attention to the surrounding architecture. My knee was also beginning to give out, and with each step, I felt an unstable hesitation of balance. For anyone that isn't up to speed, a few months ago, I managed to tweak my knee. Throughout the summer, it progressively became worse, and only recently has started to see improvement. I am determined to not reverse my recovery, but I have to be very careful with the amount of activity/inactivity I allow.

I don't think it was particularly intentional, but Derick was oblivious to anything around him but his own dialogue. He devoted all his energy to his speech, and he sauntered along the unobstructed path, ignorant to the hazards I encountered, as I desperately tried to keep up. While he spewed out random historical facts, I dodged oncoming traffic and slogged my way over brick piles, tree roots, boulders and potholes.

The chivalry was definitely absent.

Our path eventually led us to the Dar es Salaam fish market. I have been struggling to try and describe the smell of this particular fish market. It was like nothing I have ever experienced... nor do I ever hope to experience it again.

Putrid? Rancid?

Those adjectives don't seem strong enough. They do not do it justice.

I have read that strong odors may cause people to feel a burning sensation that leads to coughing or wheezing... but this stench bypassed any of that. The nausea was immediate and it overwhelmed the senses. As much I was trying to become desensitized to the odor, but plugging my nose and limiting my inhalation, the stink engulfed me.

Imagine an enormous, dirty, wet, messy and contaminated warehouse... and then add the decayed stench of unrefrigerated, decaying fish, discarded fish pieces, rotten fish guts, discarded bones, blood, urine, rats, hordes of people...

On Tripadvisor, someone wrote; "Go here if you have absolutely NOTHING else to do."

Even then...really, really think about it...

There was nothing... nothing... hygienic about the Dar es Salaam fish market... nothing.

Right there and then, the mixture of the rancid fish market and the magnitude of the African afternoon sun beat me right down, and I felt myself losing control of my ability to function. I became so weak that I almost collapsed. My inflamed knee did nothing to assist in supporting my deterioration.

I had fallen prey to heat exhaustion and my entire body ballooned. It got to the point where I could barely even make a fist and putting one step in front of the other was a laborious task. I could feel the flames in my face, as my body temperature elevated at an alarming rate. I was sweating profusely, the entire city was spinning around me and I knew I needed water, shade, air conditioning and a seat. Immediately.

None of which I was granted.

Derrick rambled on & on... like he was reading from a textbook, completely blind to what was happening right beside him. Finally I spoke up, "I need to finish this tour right now and go home. I'm sorry."

No... he begged me to go on, citing only a little bit more... and looking back now, I really wish I had just jumped in a tuk tuk and left him in the dust. He led me down some steep, sodden stairs that opened up into a small market alley. It was the typical tour guide commission grab. I was suddenly surrounded by people desperate for me to buy their wares. My smiles and patience faded, and claustrophobia added itself to my current list of ailments.

As far as I was concerned, my tour was over and I took it into my own hands to find shelter before I collapsed.

Heat exhuastion at its worst...

The amount of money I threw at Derrick to make the tour go away was obscene... and I'm kicking my poor self about it now. But what's done is done, and I have to put it out of my head and move on.

I have included a comparison photo here for everyone to see.

The first one was about 15 minutes after I left the tour. I was in a tuk tuk and heading back to the hotel.

The second one was taken approximately 45 minutes after I arrived back at my airconditioned Q-bar guesthouse. I had just finished drinking copious amounts of water, splashed my face in the sink until I started to feel human again and then lied on the bed until my dizziness disappeared.


Derrick sucks.

So does heat exhaustion.

... my poor knee...

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