Monday, August 31, 2015

Stay Away From Western Tanzania

Western Tanzania is a great many things, but it is definitely not a place you should visit.  

Sunrise over Sitalike, near Katavi National Park
Many people would say Western Tanzania is something to survive: grueling 10-12 hour bus rides on some of the worst roads I have ever traveled, connecting dusty towns with 10 light bulbs lit at night (I counted); squat toilets; and no running water, let alone any that is hot.  So definitely stay away from Western Tanzania.

"Road" between Sumbawanga and Sitalike

How big vehicles going opposite directions pass each other on 1-lane dirt  roads

But Western Tanzania is not something to be only survived.  It is not worthy of only surviving.  It is worth so much more.  So stay away.

The people treat "wazungus" (white people; foreigners) like people, not attractions or worse, dispensers of money, food, candy, pens or paper.  You know why?  Because we don't come here.  I went five days without seeing another non-Tanzanian and a lot of guest house operators couldn't tell me when the last non-Tanzanian had stayed there.  So don't give them someone to remember.

Since we don't come here, it's not a show or an attraction or an industry, it's just life in Tanzania.  Occasionally very primitive, always incredibly dusty, and region-wide noticeably poor, but full of dignity and enterprise and energy.

Carrying the day's water home at dawn in Sitalike
Madam Luz's bar

Waiting for someone willing to pay for a ride in Sitalike

Fellow passenger beneath the seat in front of me between Mpanda and Kigoma

Collecting drinking water out of Lake Victoria at dawn in Katonga

Water taxi in for repairs in Kibirizi

Sidewalk CNN in Kigoma

Water taxi port and dry dock in Kibirizi
Bus station food court in Sumbawanga

Katavi National Park

Keeping a look out for elephants and poachers in Katavi NP
If Western Tanzania taught me anything, it is how much tourism has changed (read: ruined) various places around the world because by comparison, Western Tanzania is unchanged.

So stay away from Western Tanzania.  We'll just ruin it too.

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