MONDAY 11 NOVEMBER – BUS AND BORDERS
We hitched a ride from Tiwi Beach into Mombasa with a Dutch couple in their Toyota LandCruiser. They dropped us off in the centre of town and we went and sat in the Pan Cafe and had some cold drinks and some food.
I left Linda there with the gear and walked up to the office of C.A.T. bus company at the bus station to see about getting tickets to Tanga, over the border in Tanzania. The young guy behind the counter told me that I couldn’t buy a ticket to Tanga until he was sure that he had sold as many tickets to Dar es Salaam as possible. I argued that this was stupid, as they had a sign on the wall advertising tickets to Tanga for KSH120, but he was adamant. “Come back at twelve o’clock,” he said.
So I went back to the cafe and told Linda, then walked down to the Post Office to see about ringing Scotty [or driver friend from out 1989 Kumuka Overland]. It was going to cost KSH354 for a 3 minute call, which was way too expensive, so I flagged that idea away and went back to the cafe where we decided to go down to the bus station and pester the ticket man.
This plan worked…and he sold us a ticket straight away! I settled down on the floor to guard the stuff while Linda went off to try and send a fax to Scotty.
The the bus station was a hive of activity, with people coming in and out with luggage and the constant uproar of the matatu stop just outside. The bus was due to leave about 4 p.m. and at around 3pm, a few Wazungu began to appear, so that by the time it came around to 4, there were 11 of us. The bus left at 4:30 and lumbered out of Mombasa and down to the Likoni Ferry. We all had to disembark for the crossing which took 45 minutes by the time the ferry had crossed the 400m stretch of water and everyone had reboarded the bus.
About 20 km south of Likoni, the bus turned off the main road and headed west out into the bush along a rough dirt road, which wound its way cross-country through open scrubland cleared for agriculture, and patches of rainforest. The road was bumpy and the going slow but it was a pleasant piece of country, with low hills behind which the sun was setting. As darkness fell, the air became cooler and filled with the smells of the African bush: damp earth, vegetation, and woodsmoke.
By the time we reached the Kenyan border post at Lunga Lunga, darkness had covered the landscape with its soft warm shroud. We lined up at the Customs window to have our passport stamped. Verification of our currency declarations followed, then a baggage search, and finally we were free to sit outside in the sultry air while a search was made of the bus.
There was a 6 km drive to the Tanzanian border post at Horoboro, where we again had to disembark with our gear and lineup for passport stamps and currency declarations. The formalities took less time, but then we had a long wait while the bus was searched before we were finally free to move on into Tanzania.
Half an hour after leaving the border we once again stopped, this time for a cursory police check of passports, which the officials obviously couldn’t be bothered with, then we set off for the 2 hour drive to Tanga. I stood for most of the way so that a woman who had been sitting on the floor all the way from Mombasa could have my seat. The road was so rough and pot-holed that it was more comfortable to stand anyway.
We arrived in Tanga at 1:30 a.m. and along with the German girl, we hired a taxi to take us to the Bandarini Hotel on the main street. It it took a few minutes to raise someone at the hotel, but soon we were asleep in a fine old room, complete with a mosquito net, and a selection of old books in the bookcase.