When the travel bug bit me I didn’t even know I had been bitten. I was living and working in Mombasa. After looking for a job for one year after graduation, you realize that that dream job may not really be forthcoming so you take the first thing that comes your way and try to make it work. My first job was a sales job for a publishing company in Mombasa. My task was to sell advertising space in a business directory. Now, being a Coastal town, Mombasa is hot. So I would be out in the glaring heat walking from office to office trying to convince business owners to sign up (and pay) for space to have their businesses featured in the directory. Most business owners had never seen or heard of this directory before and were skeptical about visibility. Others wanted to sign up but not pay. Well, that would mean that I did not have any earnings at the end of the day since I earned only a commission, dependent on the number of sales I made in any given particular month. Often times I would just get doors slammed in my face with a firm ‘No, I am not interested’. It was tough! I have great respect for salespeople around the world. That job is HARD!!! But it toughened me up and taught me important life skills. My second job was quite a reprieve. In a different field from what I had studied, it gave me an opportunity to learn a lot and ultimately led me to my current profession.
Anyway, I was talking about travel so let me get back to that. The year is 2007. This one day I reconnected with a former friend of mine on graduates.com (does anyone remember this? It was the best thing tha happened before FB haha). He was in Tanzania at the time doing a sales promotion for some organization he was working for. And jokingly he says ‘Why don’t you come over?’ And just like that, that afternoon, straight from work with the clothes on my back and my handbag I go the bus station, pay for a ticket and get on a bus (I think it was called Tahmeed) to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. I was thrilled to be going on my maiden trip outside of Kenya. It was supposed to be an approximately 8 hour overnight trip and we would arrive in Dar es Salaam the next morning. About 3 hours into the trip, however, the engine started overheating. This slowed down our journey considerably. At some point, the driver pulled over and before the engine had cooled down, tried to open the radiator to add some water to cool it down. He immediately yelped as the steam scalded his hand. So now we had two problems. Overheating engine and injured driver. We are in the middle of nowhere, it’s pitch dark. A couple of passengers went to the front and together with the ‘turnboy’ tried to give the driver some first aid. I heard them speaking in hush tones then someone calling out, asking if anyone had tea leaves. In my head, I am wondering, tea leaves? Are we cooking tea now? I guess no one had any tea leaves. More hushed tones, then someone called out again, this time for Colgate toothpaste. One passenger came up with a tub of toothpaste and one of the first aiders applied some of it on the driver’s scalded hand. My first travel-related lesson learnt. Always carry a first aid kit when travelling. And always have one in your car when driving. But also, have handy information about possible first aid treatment for various injuries.
After the engine cooled down somewhat, some water was added to the radiator and the driver was able to continue driving, this time slower than before, seeing that he was only using one hand. Every so often we would stop, wait for the engine to cool down, add some water to the radiator and resume the journey. Eventually, several hours behind schedule, we arrived at the border town of Lunga Lunga. Normally this would just be a short stopover and then the journey would continue but we had to wait for daylight in order to get the radiator fixed. Those passengers who could afford it went to sleep in some guest houses nearby. Those of us who could not slept in the bus till morning. In the morning one passenger who had gone to spend the night in a guest house did not return to the bus. I think he overslept. After waiting for a while and not knowing exactly where he had gone, the driver decided to leave without him. The bus was driven to the mechanic, we waited as it was fixed and then set off.
It was a long tiresome journey. When we arrived at Dar es Salaam, every part of my body was aching. I met my friend and immediately went to take a long shower. It helped that the shower had very strong pressure and I would direct it to my neck and back and that felt like a very good massage.
I honestly don’t remember much about Dar es Salaam so this post might be inappropriately titled. I did not have a phone so I have no photos to make reference to. I remember going to a shopping mall, at that time shopping malls were not really existing in Kenya so this was fascinating to me. I remember going to Shoprite supermarket and basically, that’s about as far as my memory of Dar goes. I need to go back and have a proper orientation of the city and maybe I can do a proper ‘Tanzania” post.
We drove back to Nairobi via Arusha then Namanga. The trip was less arduous than the trip to Dar. The next day I got on a bus and went back to Mombasa. My first trip out of Kenya was quite interesting. I can laugh about it now. From then on, I knew I wanted to travel. Far and wide. Go everywhere. See everything. The travel bug had bitten me. And it was not the last time I would travel out of the country with only the clothes on my back.