After a long working week, I decided that it was time to hit the beach, I thought of fishing and Pangani conveniently filled my mind. After 4 days of Google search without success of acquiring a contact, I would go blindly. At least I had some ideas on available tourism programs and accommodation and most of all, how to get there. By some coincidence on the eve of Friday a friend found his way to me with an x-ray film, he needed me to interpret it, one of his porters was having terrible knee pain. And somehow on the same Friday, in the evening we got talking about Pangani. He gave me a number of a friend in Arusha who gave me a number of a friend in Pangani. Rasta Kassim was going to be my tour guide, coincidentally he was traveling to Pangani on the same day I was, Saturday15th September. My budget was 50USD equivalent to about 78,000 Tshs. I had already spent 11,000Tshs on a chicken tikka pizza the night before.
The brochure I downloaded mislead me into thinking that I could get a bus straight to Pangani from Arusha only to find out that I had to go to Tanga town (simply called Tanga) then take another bus to Pangani. Having slept in Arusha the night before, I had just added about one and half hours to my journey, not a biggie I would sit back and enjoy the ride.
I arrived in Tanga at around 3:45 pm. This is my home town but I had not been there for probably a couple of months close to a year, seeing Tanga again made me feel like a prodigal son, lost and found. Different faces, new houses but somethings hardly changed- the streets were the same, rundown and covered in that familiar soil. They brought back memories of times I walked the streets with my grandmother to visit friends or went to work to see my mum and have lunch in town. It was like something that was long dead was suddenly awakened, memories came gushing forth and for a moment my will to pass through was weakened. This state of nostslgia didn’t last long though and at around 4:25 pm I was in the mini bus to Pangani. Because Kassim was running late from Dar, he gave me the number of his partner Rasta Ally who I would meet at the main bus station.
From Arusha to Pangani I had spent 17,500Tshs for transport and 4500Tshs for snacks; 22,000 Tshs.
YMCA – a bed by the beach
Riding to the bus station, I saw a number of accommodation sign posts by the road side, I committed the paths to memory and decided that I would go back to YMCA once I knew where the main bus station was. After a couple of calls, I finally met Rasta Ally who had just come from a football game on Kassim’s request and didn’t seem enthusiastic. After we got over the weirdness of seeing each other for the first time and dispelling our anxiety and prejudice, I headed to YMCA despite his suggestion that I stay at a near-by cheaper accomodation, Sea stop, which would be half the price. Being alone and with darkness quickly encroaching the skies, I felt that I would be safe in a place without questionable integrity. YMCA is a faith based organization and I have known it in Moshi, it was twice the cost but I could trust them.
From the ‘Idara ya Maji’ stop I had to walk a couple of meters to YMCA grounds, I was greeted by friendly staff and I felt relieved that the place was relatively new and wasn’t crowded. They have 5 rooms that can accommodate two people at most, a relatively big camping ground and the beach was just down the slope:-) I loved my room and after dinner I went to bed soothed by the gentle sounds of the ocean waves and a cool breeze.
Dinner was 7000Tshs, bed and breakfast was 20,000Tshs so to this point I had spent a further 27,000Tshs.
A first and a second meeting
I woke up to the smell of the ocean and the chirping of birds. My first thoughts were on what I would do and whether I would have time enough to get back home. After breakfast I immediately called Kassim and was relived that he was in town, we agreed to meet by the ferry. Instead of taking a dala-dala ride from YMCA to the main bus station, I walked. I got lost and was back on track. Walking down what felt like a deserted road I felt like a twist of Alice in wonderland, a small girl in the middle of a large garden by the ocean. I felt in peace with myself, there is something about nature that captures your soul and fills your heart with contentment. I felt the need to give more purpose to my travels and was over powered with ideas of things I could do. May be I should start with funding a deserving development program of some sort.
On reaching the ferry I was welcomed by Ally again and I finally met Kassim for the first time.
A tour bike and very brief stories
When I met him, Kassim was setting things up in his new garments store, I was impressed that he had the idea of branching out. He was the second tour guide I know who owned a business, the first was Richard in Karatu who had started his own hostel. Kassim was not born anywhere close to the cost, about 14 years ago he left his father’s home to start a life of his own. His journey landed him in Pangani where he learned the tricks of the tourism trade and would later partner up with Ally. Their company, Karibu Pangani Cultural Tourism, is about a year old.
Ally on the other hand, being the last born in his family had spent a fair amount of time at home and consequently joined school late. He completed his primary education in 2001 and unfortunately his father died shortly after. He passed on an opportunity to joined military school and embarked into the tourism band wagon which helped him rent his own place and help out two of his cousins who would later on become a military police and a prisons guard respectively.
And there was me.
After going through their itinerary, I decided that with the short amount of time that I had, I would go for a bike tour. Even though I have a language advantage and so I can practically discover a place on my own, I love hiring a tour guide. By doing so, I support their trade through local market and also with their social skills I get to talk to people I would have otherwise shy away from. In this occasion I met Mosi and Petro. Mosi is a fisher man whom we passed by while riding, he was making a new boat which he priced at 10 million Tshs once it is done and rolled into the water. Quite a friendly guy who allowed us to take a closer look at his workmanship and also let me in the boat, an opportunity to admire his work at a closer distance. This man was proud of his work, this boat was his legacy.
We met Petro at a beach side camping ground owned by nuns. On our first encounter he was inquiring about Lushoto, how to get there, how much it would cost and where to stay. Luckily, I had Thobias’s number so I called him up and was able to answer the questions. Petro was also concerned about the beautiful flower shaped shells he had picked up from the beach, that was it. We later met at Shimoni where we stopped to cool off from the heat and have some drinks. It was here that I found out that he was a Portuguese electrician working in Switzerland, not long ago he had quit his job to travel. His first trip was in Nepal where he spent two months after which he landed in Tanzania through Dar-es-salam. In fact he arrived in Pangani from Bagamoyo on the same day I did, only earlier. Besides the obvious want to sight see, he has a nobler purpose. He wanted to contribute to children welfare and was searching for organizations or charities that were worthwhile.
Paths entwined- conicidence, universal attraction, will power- call it as you please
So a friend came to me seeking for help, he addressed a need he never knew I had by giving me a number of a friend who gave me a number of a friend who had a friend meet me at the bus station. Then we met a stranger who through his own search for a purpose inspired me to follow my heart.
From now on my travels have found a new purpose, helping out!
You can say this whole adventure was filled with coincidence or what ever you wish but I think after the few life defining moments I have had that there is no such thing. Some people we meet we will never see again in our life time and others we will develop some kind of relationship- friendship, business partnership, courtship. From these encounters there are lessons we consciously or unconsciously learn and thus are all meant to be.
What was my purpose for meeting Kassim and Ally? I helped correct the spelling and grammar error in their flyer. And I hope that from this piece you will remember my recommendation and give them a call when Pangani calls.
Kassim Mganga mobile: +255784916494, email:firstname.lastname@example.org
In the end of the day I spent a total of 81,500Tshs which was 3,500Tshs above my budget and I didn’t go fishing. Despite spending a whole day travelling and having only 3 hours for a guided tour, spending slightly out of budget, no fishing and a long tiring trip back home through 3 connections-it was well worth every moment and dime.