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The Road to Arusha

The Road to Arusha

After our brief stay in Dar es Salaam, we packed our bags for Arusha– the third largest city in Tanzania and in the northern part of the country near Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti (which extends into Kenya). After another nice “working peoples” breakfast, we rolled out in our bus driven by an Arushan native, Mr. Charles, who has transported our group skillfully so far throughout our trip. Driving is a wildly exciting and equally terrifying endeavor. The roads are usually unmarked and overpopulated with cars, motorcycles, buses (known as dala dalas because they cost a “dollar”), three-wheeled vehicles (known as tuk tuks) and people. Travel is in the left lane as opposed to our norm of driving on the right side of the road, evidence of remnants of British colonialism in the 20th century. Horns are the language of the streets– a honk can mean “look out!” or “I’m passing you” or “get on the bus!” I have seen only one traffic light in the city. The largest and most frustrating intersection of Dar es Salaam is at Ubungu where a single police officer directs the traffic during the day which can back up for more than 6 hours at any time (ask Dr. Fleming about his experience in Dar traffic).

Part of our assignment for Dr. Fleming’s East African Environment course is to create a transect of the 550 kilometer drive to Arusha from Dar es Salaam; for every 30 minutes of the drive, we documented characteristics of environment such as vegetation, elevation changes, urban influence, soil type, and whatever else we observed. The further we drove from Dar, the more agriculture we saw– corn, coconut palms, mango trees, cashews, and more in harmony with shrub land and tall grasses and other native trees. Along the way, we bought mendezi (similar to a Chinese donut or sweet, fried bread), cashews, and corn for snacking which were all incredibly delicious. We also stopped at a gas station where we were greeted by a small monkey who provided entertainment to us then weary travelers. More than 300 miles and 12 hours later, we arrived in Arusha and were graciously hosted to a late dinner by the accommodation staff.

Despite the incredibly long and bumpy ride in our bus, our group delved into the African environment and observed more than just the urban landscape. As Bret Jennings said, it’s like driving to Gulf Shores from north Alabama– the cities are accommodating and interesting, but to understand the roots of a culture you must also see the natural environment and the different way of life.

Robby Thompson

Robby Thompson received his diploma in the morning and jumped on a plane in the afternoon bound for Tanzania. He received his Bachelor’s in Business Geography and will begin his Masters of Science in Geospatial Science at UNA this summer. Robby studied in Schmalkalden, Germany in 2012 with the Magellan program, then Paris over Spring Break with UNA Study Abroad. Follow his next Study Abroad adventure, will it be his best?

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