Tuesday, November 30, 2010

dala dala

On the morning of my third day's stay in Zanzibar I was running to catch my transportation, except I really didn't know what I was looking for.  The street market it was located near was abuzz with commotion, people walking to and fro, others cramming themselves around food stalls, all of which I tried weaving in and out of.

I made plans that day to go to the opposite side of the island to visit friends I had met on safari. I was craving relaxation, and on top of that, I was craving a location where I could actually lay out on the beach.

The man, which my two star hotel employs as a five star concierge, spent a great deal of time researching the best mode of transport for me to take to the resort.  When I declined the initial private taxi offer which would cost me $60 each way, he provided a second offer of a small group van costing $10 each way.  I was perfectly content sharing a van with a few other people for a fraction of the price of a taxi.

The evening before my excursion, however, the concierge gave the unfortunate news that the sharing van didn't pass by my friends' resort. Again I was faced with the prospects of having to subject myself to an astronomically priced taxi ride.  That's when the concierge chimed in, "then again, there's always the dala dala."  "The what-a what-a?," I replied.  He tried explaining, but already had me sold with the words '$2 round trip ride', so failed to listen to anything else.  Thankfully I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

As I turned the corner of the last fruit stand, I saw the top of a moving vehicle, with a sign indicating it was the one I needed, just about to leave the station.  Before I had time to process anything, I waved them down and grabbed hold of a hand which was helping me on.

A dala dala is the local transport, and due to the number of side glances I got, I'm assuming is not regularly frequented by tourists.  I was squeezed onto a bench, already filled with people, that lines the walls of the truck. I couldn't understand why the conductor was waving more people in, but I soon found out. When there wasn't a centimeter of space left for someone to squeeze onto the bench, the narrow aisle way left to walk in and out from was lined with kneeling bodies. There was no sense of personal space.  Elbows were jammed in faces.  Heads were laying on laps. And we were encompassed in male body odor.  On top of that, diesel fuel was hurdled towards us the entire hour long drive.  I gasped for air, wondering how the locals could live to a ripe old age when their lungs had to be filled with soot.  

But I relished the experience. I sat wide-eyed, trying to absorb everything that went on.  I counted the heads of 27 people jammed into the truck bed.  I watched as bikes, potato sacks, and other items were thrown on the roof and then taken down just as quickly when the person departed. And then there were the awkward conversations I held, initiated by men whose faces were two inches away from my own.

So I logically suggested it to two Americans I met the next day who were planning to visit the other side of the island.


Rach said...

Hi Claire,

My name is Rachel, I am Meredith (Meynders) Munoz's sister in law.

We were told told that you recently lived/live in The Netherlands and I would LOVE to talk (email) you about that. Chad (Mer's bro) and I would love to move there in the near future since Chad and our girls can get citizenship there very soon.

if you ever get time, could you email me about your experiences there? What area you lived in, what you did for work...you know just about life for you.

I am excited to read more of your posts, Africa seems amazing.

my email: rachel . meynders @ gmail . com

Nana & Grandpa Toyk said...

Claire, I'm Meredith's Mom and have heard about you for a while now. I love the dala dala and look forward to reading your whole blog!
It's great to follow you girls adventures. Meredith is having one in Honduras and it's all exciting!