Dar,ArushaMap       Africa wasn’t on our bucket list–and not just because we don’t have a “bucket list.”  (We’re not old enough yet; don’t you have to be thinking about “kicking the bucket” to have a bucket list?) There are just so many safe, predictable places to visit in Europe, Latin America, and Oceania that the thought of braving strange languages, tropical heat and dengue fever in Africa never got any screen time in our minds.  Heck, Betsy doesn’t even LIKE international travel.

Then our valued friends of 35 years, Joe and Beth Volk, stopped in Atlanta as they set out on a two year, round-the-world trip (see their terrific blog, Simple Travel Our Way).  They had already

Joe & Beth Volk, plus Joanna Spear, last year in SE Asia

Joe & Beth Volk, plus Joanna Spear, last year in SE Asia

booked a private trekking safari in Tanzania, a year and a half out, and they needed a couple more people to round out the group.  Would we like to meet them there?

We didn’t answer for a couple months, but the thought kept emerging like a whale gliding in the ocean.  “What do you think about Africa?” one of us would casually ask.  “Joe and Beth are such great travelers….if we were to ever go…..”


Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

A year later we’re booked into Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on Turkish Air 603.  We’ve watched “Out of Africa” again, seen The Lion King musical and read a couple books about white colonists in the early 1900’s.  We’ve glanced at animal pictures and purchased an African bird book.  OK, we’re taking a lightweight approach–hardly Africa as Africans know it!  We won’t presume to learn much about a huge, complex continent, or even much about the little piece we’re traveling through.  Native culture and life intrigues us and we’ll be looking for moments of insight but our itinerary isn’t really about that–we’re on the tourist track. We’ll spend the first week in Zanzibar, a white-sand island, and the next week-and-a-half hiking after the Big Animals on the Masai Steppe.


Fish Market, Dar Es Salaam

We’re curious about real Africa.  We’re going  to learn what we can on the fly.

That’s what this blog is about.


Real elephant? Real Africa?

The Bug War

We know our costs. The flight to Dar Es Salaam: $2,000. Safari: $5,000-10,000, depending on length of time and level of coddling. Hotels: $100/night. We were not prepared, though, for the costs of The Bug War.

Africa has bugs, and bugs have bugs. We are told by various governments to come armed against all kinds of bugs. Thus, enter the “travel clinic.” Betsy shopped hard, bypassing the gold standards like Emory and Piedmont for an independent travel clinic. We saved hundreds of dollars between the 2 of us–and still spent $1,200 in arms. Well, shots in arms, both arms. I wasn’t willing to offer my butt. That includes pills, too. Immodium, cipro, electrolyte replacement, DEET 30, DEET 50, DEET 100, atovaquone-proguanil–do you really want all the names?

Like US taxpayers threatened with The War on Terrorism, we are willing to pay whatever it takes to prevail in The Bug War. Mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever (oops, not covered), hep B, tetanus–we’re locked and loaded for whatever may come. Of course, there’s still the chance those little sappers will sneak in on us when we’re least expecting…..




“I’ve got a feeling we’re still in Kansas, Toto!” Yes, we’re supposed to be in Africa now but this looks a lot like Atlanta. Thunderstorms in Atlanta last night blew up our itinerary and sent us home to sleep in our own beds. Now we’re booked on a 3:14 PM flight to Washington Dulles–plenty of time to make our 11:30 PM Turkish Air flight to Istanbul. But we’re anxiously watching the weather, as thunderstorms are forecast for Washington DC and our 3:14 flight has already been moved back an hour. We thought we had plenty of time last night, too.

So here we sit at the Atlanta airport where we can’t escape CNN pundits urgently debating the world’s problems. Just fix the weather, please!



Turkish Air

Jo and Betsy get acquainted

We landed between thunderstorms at Dulles with 4 hours to spare before our 11:25 PM international flight. At departure gate, we met up with Jo, a safari mate booked on the same flights as us. We all were committing our next 20 hours to Turkish Airlines, an unknown commodity. Turns out we had nothing to fear–we boarded a wide-bodied jet, settled in with the help of friendly flight attendants, went to sleep, and woke up 10 hours later near Istanbul after the smoothest flight ever.

Jumble of jets outside Istanbul terminal

The Istanbul airport is a bustling nexus of East meets West, filled with varied people and languages. There is such a jumble of jets moving in and out that many have to be boarded from the tarmac–there just aren’t enough jetways. Such was the case with our next leg to Dar Es Salaam.

While the flight to Dar wasn’t quite as smooth as the previous leg, the food, staffing, and movie selection were first-rate, and we arrived in Dar at 2:35 AM, breezed through customs, and found hotel transport waiting for us. It was 26 hours since we left Atlanta and, despite my apprehensions, Turkish Airlines made it an efficient and crisis-free trip.



Dar Es Salaam (1)

Dar from our hotel room, Indian Ocean in background

We arrived at our hotel, Tanzanite Executive Suites, at 4 AM, caught a few hours of sleep, and joined the rest of our tripmates for breakfast. After hugs, coffee and stories, it was time to explore the city on foot.

Dar is the principal city of Tanzania, a major African seaport and home to about 5 million people. It has a rich colonial heritage, beginning with Arab sultans and continuing with German colonels and English governors before returning to African control in 1961.

Sidewalks in Dar are narrow and often end abruptly....

Today it is an intriguing juxtaposition of first-world aspirations and third world realities, as some of the following snapshots suggest.



in one way or another pedestrians take to the streets, which cars don't willingly share.










Traffic round-about with public art and big-ass billboard











New construction on rickety legs!


Dar from harbour