The African Bus Ride- Always an Adventure!

In the crisp early morning Nairobi air, we boarded a shuttle bus heading for Tanzania, paid our $35 and settled in for the long, bumpy ride. This journey was about 8 hours and included one bathroom break and the worst immigration experience of my life.We pulled up to the Kenya-Tanzania border and had to get off the bus to get an exit stamp in our passports on the Kenya side before walking through the wire gate into Tanzania and heading up to the the immigration office there. Dozens of people were already lined up, so we joined the line, only to find out it wasn’t the right line. Finally, everyone was where they needed to be and in turn all handed in our passports and visa payments and then waited while the immigration officers disappeared into a back room with our passports. Slowly, everyone’s began to to trickle back out- except mine.  After waiting over 20 minutes, the bus driver came in and started yelling at me because I was holding up the bus and he couldn’t figure out why I was taking so long. I tried to explain to him that I handed my passport in with everyone else and it wasn’t my fault that it hadn’t come back out yet, but he still wasn’t too happy with me. After half an hour had gone by and there was still no sight of my passport, I began to get a bit nervous that maybe it was never coming out from the back room. So I stood there, with my face pressed up against the glass trying to get someone’s attention, when finally another group of passports emerged. The immigration officer began calling out names and when he got to the very last one he finally called “Canada, Crystal.”  I grabbed my passport, ran out the door and onto the bus (past the angry driver)  before anything else could happen.  About two and an half hours after crossing the border we arrived in Moshi after a fairly smooth ride, at least by African standards.
The ride back to Kenya however, was another story. This time we just bought a cheap ticket and boarded a regular East African bus. In my experience, this always equals an adventure where you often find yourself sharing the bus not only with an overload of people, but also with chickens and various other livestock. This trip was no exception. Trying to load everyone’s luggage, bags of fruit and vegetables and other products into the limited storage under the bus was hopeless and half the items ended up blocking the bus aisle, but at least we were on our way. The bus was full from the start, but we continued to stop and pick up more passengers, who sat on milk crates in the aisle or found a place to stand.  Across from me was a young mother with her new born baby who screamed and cried for almost the entire eight hour journey. Luckily, I had my ipod and was too afraid of dying to even attempt sleeping. The bus driver spent a good portion of this trip driving either in the ditch or on the shoulder of the dusty, pot-hole filled African road. After seeing two major car accidents where vehicles flipped into the ditch after catching the loose gravel, having the bus on an angle made me very nervous. It also made me realize that maybe I should start letting someone know my travel plans so if I do end up dead in the middle of nowhere, my family will know where to look!!  Along the route, we stopped multiple times for passengers to use the washroom (aka the bush at the side of the road) or pick up a Fanta from a street vendor, making this ride even longer. The highlight of this crazy ride however, was looking out my window and seeing a huge elephant standing at the side of the road, munching on a tree- not a sight you see everyday! We did eventually make it to Mombasa, got off the bus, grabbed our dirt covered bags and checked “surviving another African bus ride” off our to-do lists for this trip.

Categories: Africa, Blog, Where in the World | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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