I wandered down the cobbled and broken Dar Es Salaam streets with confidence because that’s how you do it if you are a foreigner and streetwise and don’t want to be accosted by malingerers.
I was heading to the old ferry terminal to get to Zanzibar. I was dragging my bag and acting as though it weighed buggerall which it didn’t and it was 35 degrees with 90% humidity and every pothole and curve in the road I feel. My one wheel on my luxury bag was wobbly and made me look like a twat trying to maneuver these challenging streets. I had thought of using a taxi but the walk looked so close from afar. Which it clearly wasn’t. Idiot.
I pass buskers, beggars and all sorts of people all going somewhere, mostly with a purpose. The place was inundated with bodies and smells of spices, exotic fruits, animals and people. It was bordering on chaos but somehow it worked and the throngs of people moved in unison.
I could sense the ghosts of travelers past. Adventurous, wild and violent but the norm the way they moved. They must watch the movement of this horde with interest. This walk would not be too dissimilar a 100 years ago with a multitude of the buildings still standing from a bygone era.
The smells emanating from this place is complicated and very unusual. I would imagine in the past it would be more enticing than now but fascinating it is.
I eventually come across a mob with signs on their reflective jackets that say Porter. The ones without these are the connivers. They come for me but I am street wise so I ignore the first few and then as I get closer I almost succumb to this old one who seems to know what he is doing. As soon as he led me straight past the office with the big sign that said “ tickets “ I knew I had backed the wrong horse.
Being so streetwise I spotted a security guard who advised me to buy my ticket in the office. I agreed because I could feel the air conditioning and he had a shotgun. At this point a porter with the correct reflective jacket appeared and took over everything. I think I just realized that this process was going to work more smoothly with a motivated worker who needed any money he could get his hands on just to survive and galvanize his energy in ensuring me a seamless exit from Dar es Salaam.
I bought a VIP ticket just to be safe.
I walked following my dude very closely around queues a mile long and through a multitude of check points. I was watching my dudes every move as my sleeping pills were in my bag. If he had tried to run with the bag he would not make it, I had his number. He may have thought I was gay as I was right on top of him and that’s because if he ran I was just going to fall on him with my 100kg’s and take him out. I didn’t back myself in a sprint.
He then tried to separate me from my bag in a luggage tag queue. I was on him like a hippo on a gazelle and he realized not for the first time that I was South African and streetwise. At this point my eyes shot all around me to see who was in my space as there seemed to be people everywhere. My behavior was not that dissimilar to a chameleons looking for opportunities in the back of its head.
I think everybody knew I was a king as they parted when I came and almost bowed when I walked in front of a queue on the instruction of my dude. I could part water and I was a VIP and streetwise. We headed into the VIP waiting area which looked suspiciously like the economy waiting area separated by a wire fence.
My dude sat me down with my bag which now had a tag on it called “ Mike “. I felt a lot of comfort and sweat dripped all over me. I looked around at my VIP area to view the other guests and the decorative ambience that reveals itself with a metal shed with a fan (the other 3 broken) and very special misters that made my sweat taste less of salt.
All kinds of people sat around me in this waiting area. Some dressed as hippies and others like ninjas, eagerly awaiting the call to board. There was a fairly super motivation to board as this waiting area resembled a home sauna with 27 people in it.
I saw the rusted gangplank that looked rather well used and I was looking forward to testing its durability with my skinny little body.
I imagined the ilk of the previous travelers to walk this dock. I could feel them lingering never far. I could still smell spices and history lingering around me.