Well, it was bound to happen. And I guess we can call ourselves lucky that it didn’t happen until we got to Africa. We got hustled. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hustle as much as the next gal, I just prefer to be the one doing the hustling.
To be honest, I’m not even that mad about it. It took us 4 weeks to figure out that we got ripped off, so the money was already long gone. It all started back in Dar es Salaam when we were buying bus tickets to get to Moshi and the base of Kilimanjaro. We were each charged extra on the bus tickets because the kid selling them wrote down the city after our stop and we (like fools) paid for the extra distance, not knowing there was an extra price difference. Then once we were on the bus, we were conned into ‘paying for our bags to be stored under the bus.’ You can read more about that trip here. Anyway, we figured out that this was all a ruse when we bought tickets from Moshi to get back to Dar, where we were charged less than the original ticket and there was zero bag storage fee. In total, Lim Safari (the bus company) got an extra 40,000 shillings out of us. Aka a whopping $18.34. Hey- it may not seem like a lot, but that will get both of us 2 decent meals here!
The real African hustle came once we were on the bus back to Dar. But I’ll let Jeff tell that part, since I tuned out and pretended to sleep.
After the 10 hour bus ride from Dar es Salaam to Moshi at the beginning of our Africa trip, Cara and I were dreading the return journey. We were hoping that we could fly back to Dar, but alas tickets were out of our budget pricing. However, this bus ride was so good (not sure that’s the right word, in fact I’m sure it’s wrong) that I started taking notes on my phone and when I finished and copied it into Word to edit it, I had almost 2 full pages. 2 pages of single spaced, size 10 font, normal margins (aka not all the cheating stuff we did in college to make a paper long enough when there just wasn’t anything else to say) notes on the ridiculousness of the bus ride. I have added a precursor here and decided to just post the rambling note taking, as it was way more entertaining than anything I could edit it into.
We were told our bus would leave at 7am after coming from a different town, but knew that it wouldn’t actually leave at that time. After watching quite a few busses barely come to a full stop in the station to load up with new people, we knew we would have to be on our toes for the arrival. The guy that sold us our tickets the day before told us he would make sure we got on the bus, but really wasn’t paying attention. I saw them pull in and asked him if it was the right bus, and he looked up (barely) and said nope, but at that time our bus wasn’t visible, so once they cleared the other busses I asked again and he jumped up and took off. Great start to the day running after a guy through a crowded bus station…again…
Getting on the bus and getting rolling was uneventful, even though it was 45 minutes late. About a half hour after rolling out of the station, a random passenger started walking up and down the aisle passing out puke bags and asking people to buckle up. After watching 36 children and 5 adults roll up in a dalla dalla a few days before, this safety talk was quite the surprise. In all fairness, at a random traffic stop a cop did board the bus and check a few seat belts, so maybe they are trying to encourage safety in some situations. But enough post trip additions, everything after this are the notes I took directly during the bus ride:
Buckle up and pass out puke bags, then yell a bunch in Swahili.... Going to be a rough ride? Wave a book with a foot on it... Home podiatry? Then an herbal remedies book? Then diapers??? Including a demo pouring water on the diaper. Now newspaper... This guy has been yelling for 45 minutes and shows no sign of stopping... Uric acid is bad? Yells that and points to stomach and joints and other gestures. Hard to figure out what he's selling now... Back pain I think now, walking up and down aisle holding back.... Something about tomato sauce and chips and lasagna, this is getting weird. Cell phone waving and sodium benzoate and electronics. maybe I could offer him money to shut up.... Science experiment time... Big bottle of white liquid and mix in little bottle of red drops. Shake it up and yell a bunch more... Punch a hole in the lid and let people taste it by squirting a little on their fingers. More about sodium benzoate. What the hell is going on? Something more about tomato sauce... Maybe it was red concentrated tomatoes? Half full water bottle from the diaper experience gets waved around again... More gesturing and trying to get people to raise their hands for something. No one does. More yelling and gesturing at his stomach and this time the guy across the aisle raises his hand and seems pretty into the pitch. I have no idea what is for sale right now though. Is this worse than the crappy movie and music videos we watched on the way here? I think so. Eat something and it will go to your stomach and that deserves more yelling and gesturing. More looking for raised hands, but the guy across the aisle is into his phone again and not participating. Doesn't discourage the yeller. SODIUM BENZOATE!!! showing something on a cell phone, makes it to the back and it's an article about 5 reasons to kick the habit of drinking diet soda. What. The. Hell. Live click bait? Whatever is going on now a few people raise their hands. Still haven't seen him sell anything to anyone. Over an hour of yelling now... Now there is a laminated newspaper page and the only thing I see is a roasted chicken taking up most of the page. Maybe chicken is bad too? Something about the heart and the head and yells with his eyes closed a bunch. More eating gesturing and this time it seems the topic is effects on the head. Another newspaper laminated this one front page and another huge chicken picture. Doesn't hold it up long enough for me to get the headline into Google translate but the only word I get besides ‘chicken’ is ‘formed,’ so maybe ‘malformed chicken.’ Now a picture of a kid with a giant swollen head in a hospital. Maybe because of the chicken? Inspects someone's gum. I think it's the poison he's been talking about? After and hour and 15 minutes seems to be getting a bit horse but he's not slowing down... Now the gum is getting shown seat to seat pointing at ingredients. He found something.... It was quiet for a bit while that happens, now back to the regularly scheduled yelling. Now onto getting sores or something on your face. Another newspaper article, I think it's pictures of tumors and growths, but really not sure. If you eat raise your hand? Couple of hands after some very passionate talk. Maybe now on to the topic of bowel movements? No one raised hands for something about Ariana and it seemed to throw him for a loop. Not for long though, back into the bag of tricks for another newspaper article. Can't see anything on this one though. Now getting some feedback from someone or at least an answer to a question... The water bottle is back. Something about lips now.
On a side note there is a baby with pierced ears and drawn on eyebrows 3 rows up. Weird.
Another newspaper and looks like a photo of a protest. More yelling with eyes closed. The label gets torn off the bottle and the bottle handed to someone. Now adding some white drops to the bottle. Cap on, shake it up, turns white and cloudy. Something else added and now it's clear again. It smells, based on his face when he opens it, now the rest of the bus gets to smell it seat to seat. Guy almost eats it going back up the aisle when we hit a speed bump. More drops go in the bottle. Now it's purple/pink. Something for the ears or affecting them? Asks a question and gets some hands, and then drops his speech to answer his phone and stand in the aisle and talk on it. Hooray quiet for a minute. Phone call over and back to preaching the evils of who knows what. Another newspaper about I don't know what. The back of it is up now and shows a hamburger and cigarettes. Message I get is 'this shit will kill you' but I don't think that's quite right. The herbal remedy book is back! As is the pink liquid in the bottle. Gets a full water bottle from a passenger. Adds some to the pink stuff and returns the good water back to the passenger. I think something like "you need this book or you'll die a painful death" is being yelled.
Another side note. Two people have gotten off without the bus fully stopping now. Slow down enough to disembark at a run and take back off.
1 hour 45 minutes and still going strong. Problems with sinuses and the heart now. Is this pill bottle the point of all of it? Is this the real sell? Maybe it's a powder or liquid not pills. Some sort of laminated letter is out now. I feel like it's the guarantee of purity and/or quality. A certificate is out now. Nice and colorful. Stuff must be legit. Oooh a certificate from a college is out now. Laminated for officialness. He has all the certs and letters, super legit. Rafiki gets yelled a few times. I hope this is the closing speech to his friends... Nope. Although it may be recap phase time as tomato sauce gets yelled some more and the passion has been renewed. The pink water is back. Bottle gets flipped around a few times. The medicine gets added and the liquid stratified, shake it up, and now it's yellowish. And I think some stuff precipitated out.
Two hours in. Still yelling, but he counted some hands and seems to be joking now, so maybe it's almost over. Not holding my breath though. Books are back out, I think it's time to make some sales! Lady behind us really wants one and is waving her money around. Makes quite a few sales, so I think the money to shut up would've been expensive... One sales trip down the bus isn't good enough, another couple minutes of the hard sell and he makes another trip and sells some more. Another last call? This shit will save you! Trip number 3 down the aisle. More about eating and the dude isn't even tired. Another trip down the aisle. One or two more sales. Still not enough, more yelling. Now he's talking about malaria and typhoid. This shit must be really good. Almost two and a half hours in. Still stuff in the bag so still selling. People are still buying. Some people are buying another bottle. Now just the bottles are 5000 shillings. Book and bottle was 10000 and people are nearly jumping out of their seats for the chance. Must be a good pitch. Still not enough. 2.5 hours and the hustle continues and people are chomping at the bit to get more.
2 hours and 45 minutes and he seems to have milked every sale he could. Music videos kick back on as he sits down. Jumps off at a bus stop rest area likely to get back on a bus going the other way
Fucking snake oil salesmen.
*And that my friends was all I wrote. Despite the snake oil salesman preventing me from napping, I enjoyed Africa immensely and would recommend everyone go to Tanzania if they can. Just don’t climb Kilimanjaro.