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A Winding Journey With Many Stops The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes "sight-seeing." ~Daniel J. Boorstin

Dala-Dala's in Dar es Salaam

TANZANIA | Sunday, 27 January 2008 | Views [4486]

my dala-dala that I took to work every day in Dar: the Mbagala Rangi Tatu!

my dala-dala that I took to work every day in Dar: the Mbagala Rangi Tatu!

Transportation in Dar: scenes from the mzungu girl on the dala-dala.

I would consider myself to be an adventuresome person. In the past I have enjoyed activities like skydiving, freefall, whitewater rafting and traveling to “out-of-the-way, locals-only, if-you-get-lost-noone-will-find-you” places. But nothing – NOTHING – could have prepared me for the unique experience/thrill/power-prayer-time that is public transportation in D’salaam.

“But what,” someone might ask, “is a dala-dala?” In order to truly discover the answer to that question, they need to ride one. But if that is impossible, perhaps I can paint a mental picture of what it encompasses…

Imagine a mini-van/minibus, usually Toyota or Isuzu and an early model. Inside everything is stripped so more seats can fit in. (Think no trunk space).

Once the seats are all in – and covered in vinyl – it becomes necessary to upholster the ceiling with your choice of loud, gaudy “budget hotel lobby” carpet – preferably with some sort of fringe going around the edge – and install some sort of pipe as a handrail on the ceiling. On the outside of the bus in is necessary to paint a brightly colored strip all the way around with “City Bus” stenciled on the side and the route stenciled in white on the front above the headlights. After you have the basics down you can decorate your dala-dala with inspirational messages like “God is Great” or “Viva Manchester United” or “Still Alive” on the back and front windows.

Now the dala-dala is ready for passengers. If you want to catch a dala-dala it is important to master the “forward-jostle” method, as well as the “Yo! I want on that bus!” wave. Once mastering these important methods has been accomplished, you wait at the side of the road for awhile – usually enough time to gather a small crowd of similar like-minded people. Seeing your bus approaching you try out your wave … and get a wave back from the conductor as it speeds on by. Frustrating, but not an uncommon occurrence.

Another bus approaches and you are delighted to see that it is stopping. As you run towards the door you can estimate that there are at least 30 people crammed inside. No matter, at least 5 more will fit in, 8 if there are small children.

Practicing your “forward-jostle” you are able to physically get your front half and feet on the bus and at least one hand on a cleverly placed pipe. The rest of you is hanging off the bus but the conductor swings up and presses you in a little more as you speed off. The conductor, whose body is currently very close to yours and actually keeping you on the bus, is excellent at multitasking as he is somehow able to hold on, collect money, make change, make small talk with passing dala-dala’s, yell out the stops and remember when and where you want to get off. As you approach your stop you can yell “susha!” and off you go, still alive to see Manchester play and praise God!

For only 300 Tanzania Shillings [about 28 cents US] all these thrills can be yours. Nothing in the US can even compare.

Transportation in Dar: it’s a wild ride.


Tags: adventure, africa, dala dala, dar es salaam, mini bus, tanzania


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