It was a journey of laughter and discovery as we shared anecdotes and funny tidbits that more than compensated for the weariness expected of a whopping 1800km, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.
We boarded the red Nissan Kampala Coach at Nakumatt and set off at 7a.m for the two-day road voyage using the Masaka-Mutukula-Bukoba-Biharamulo-Kahama-Singida-Dodoma-Morogoro route, what’s called the “Central Corridor.” Dar es Salaam was the destination.
As seeing is believing, the business magnets from Uganda, particularly importers, had been invited by the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to inspect this route and see for ourselves that it was the safest and most viable for the transit of their cargo from the Port of Dar to Kampala.
It’s because of their financial and business standing that they were escorted all the way by a Toyota truck-full of security personnel from the Tanzania Police Force, with the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police, Mr Nsato Marijani, in the bus with us.
After about 100km, we arrived at the Mutukula boarder post, where it took us only about 10 minutes to get cleared by the immigration officials. The bus was filled with a sense of euphoria the moment we reached Bukoba, stepping on Tanzanian soil at exactly 11: 35a.m.
We made a stop at ELCT Bukoba Hotel, just about 1km from Bukoba Port, where in tranquil ambience under the beautiful trees outside, we had a finger-licking lunch, the cool breeze fanning our faces while we enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Victoria yonder.
It’s here that Super FM, the only Ugandan radio station I could still get on my phone radio, suddenly switched to Swahili and started playing Congolese music pakalast! I lost my Orange network too and laughed at the smartness and fastness of the Vodacom “hackers”, who sent me a text message wishing me a pleasant stay in Tanzania!
Bukoba is dotted with huts of fascinating “architectural” design, with their calabash-like appearance, some crouching on the ground like a mother hen shielding its little ones from birds of prey. The Coca Cola bottles there are industrially gifted with slender necks, gracefully longer than a giraffe’s, metaphorically speaking!
Anyhow, we soon hit the road again, determined to sleep in Singida by Lake Kindai, but the journey was longer than expected, so we slept in Kahama, the effervescent mine town notorious for debauchery, hard liquor and awfully beautiful women. At Miami Beach Hotel, I fell for a stunner after she shot me a killer smile, but miserably failed to enchant her, thanks to my faltering Swahili and her nil comprehension of the Queen’s language. So I plugged my earphones in the right places and consoled myself by listening to holy hip-hop from my home boys Renee Emcee and No Hell of the Levite Clan.
Early the next day, we drove all day, only stopping for an early dinner at St. Gasper Hotel, where Joan Mulamula, the estate manager, massaged our fatigue away with her contagious warm-heartedness. The hotel is located 4km from Dodoma City Centre, along Morogoro highway and standing majestically in the compound is the historic baobab tree, estimated to be over 400 years old. Under its sweeping shade, east meets west, or rather, people of different origins gather to relax, enjoy sumptuous barbeque and drinks of all types, with traditional music gently sweeping in from a corner.
The meals here were specially revitalising and with darkness closing in on us, we embarked on our journey again. Enticed by the perfect condition of the road (Eng. John Nasasira should see it), the driver brought his foot hard on the accelerator and soon we were flying past Dodoma, all the while the tyres of the bus wailing exhilaratingly on the hard tarmac. I closed my eyes and made peace with God, just in case!
Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania and Dar remains the business city. Along the way, we counted about 13 weighbridges, where containers of cargo are weighed to ensure they meet freight standards and don’t choke the road with their heaviness.
As we drew closer to Dar, the business moguls among us, who were accustomed to covering such long distances by air, were rather gripe over their weariness, actually excited at having been part of this first-time adventure - a two-day on-the-road trip across the vast country. They had seen for themselves and agreed with TPA officials that “Uganda was no longer a land-locked country but land-linked!”
Close to midnight, we cruised into the soothingly glowing Dar es Salaam city, stopping outside the towering Paradise City Hotel that would be our home for the next two days. Completely spent, we were overtly glad that we had safely made it into “the haven of peace”.