Nairobi to Malawi Trip – Part 1: Planning, Packing and Preparation Tips

Posted on in Lifestyle

When I undertook this trip, I used to post on my WhatsApp more than my Ig, and those who followed the journey asked so many questions, and I gave my word that I will blog about it when I came back.

I came back and then a funny thing happened – every time I sat down to write about, I couldn’t get a complete draft, and so I left it for later.

Fortunately, since you are reading this, it means I finally got to writing it, even though it took 3 months to get here.

The Road Trip by Bus Route

Nairobi – Dar Es Salaam (7 days) – Malawi Lilongwe (7 days) – Dar Es Salaam (1 day) – Nairobi by bus

Trip Motivation

My friend Chifundo Chilera, from Malawi was getting married, and since I was in between jobs, I decided to take advantage of the time and travel through Tanzania. I had always fantasized about the idea of solo travel, and when the chance came, I took it.

Trip Preparation

Someone asked me if I used an agency to plan the trip. Nope, did not. I prepared for the trip by reading relevant travel blogs such as Rioba, and Victor Matara, and …

What I carried

I also made sure to have the following items

  • All relevant travel documents and their photocopies i.e. Kenyan passport ( a visa is not required for Kenyans to travel to Tanzania and Malawi), yellow fever certificate (taken at City Hall and costs 1500 payable via Mpesa pay bill number)
  • Clothes, shoes, jewelry and toiletries
  • Travel bag – I had two because well, I was going or a wedding, and I could not wear jeans and a white tee 😉
  • Water and snacks
  • My rosary and prayer book,
  • I also carried the following books – Lean In, The Prince by Nicola Machiavelli, and the Communist Manifesto, but barely read them though out the trip because well, I was having such a nice time, reading took a back seat.
  • My phone, camera and charger.
  • Small tripods, my Mifi, which I did not use.

Travelling to Dar (16th April 2019)

The initial ideal first day of travel was supposed to be the 12th, because I wanted to spend a few days in Arusha to visit the Tanzanite Centre, the Meserani Snake Park, and to hike around, but I couldn’t. the next two days were the 13th and 14th which was a Sunday, and I could not on both of them because I fear the number 13 (it’s a real phobia) and so there was no way I’d travel on that day, and the 14th was a Sunday, and it makes no sense to travel on a day of worship if I can avoid it, so I booked a seat for the 15th.

However, on the 15th, I woke up late and got caught up in the Thika Road jam, and therefore could not make it by 5:45am which is the exact time the bus leaves the station. I cried that morning. But it taught me a lesson, which I needed to sleep early in order to catch the bus on time.

So on the 16th, I was there by 5:15 am and Nairobi to Dar by bus (Dar Express) took me 16 hours.

The first stop along the way was in Namanga border. At the border, the clearance system is very fast. Provided you have all required documents – passport for Kenyans. Another important thing about this border is that, the exit and entry clearance desks are adjacent to each other, so the process does not take very long. A lady who had two daughters, but did not have the birth certificate of one of them was turned back, and she had to go back to Nairobi. So, if you’re ever going to use that route, make sure you have all documents.

Along the way I saw

  • Mt Meru
  • The Milima ya Samabrau
  • Milima ya Upara

We passed through the towns of Arusha, Moshi and Tanga. I was lucky I sat next to a guy whose acquaintance I made, and who explained the importance of various towns and the landscapes that I saw.

The bus I used was very comfortable, and also had nice window curtains and a working charging port. I also liked the service of the conductor, as he was very helpful. They also had a verified person who helped those who wanted to exchange KES to TZSHS at a fair reasonable rate. (1-21 KES)

We had several stops along the way for food, and personal relief. The buses in TZ are quite slow, and they also pass through weigh bridges to ensure that they are not carrying excessive luggage and personnel.

I arrived at around 10pm, and my Uncle, who is a priest, was waiting for me. That welcome gesture, really warmed my heart, and is a memory I cherish.

Dar –Es- Salaam ( 17th to 23rd April 2019)

I stayed at the Don Bosco Community Centre, in Oyster Bay.

My uncle is a priest in that order, and while he took a flight to Nairobi the next ay, he left me in good company. The community was also warm and friendly, and I will forever be indebted to them, for their kindness and love.

The idea was to stay a day and then leave but the Rector insisted that I could not travel on Holy Thursday or through Easter, and so I stayed and had the most wonderful and introspective Easter I ever had in my life. Only God knows what happened in my heart in that place. I stayed through to Easter Tuesday, because the buses to Malawi had no available seats on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday.

For the six days I was in Dar-Es-Salaam

  • I visited Coco Beach on the first evening, with a lady friend I made called Maureen. The beach is a ten minute walk from the residence, and we spoke about life, and guys. At the ocean, we watched children play, and ships coming in. I also bought cassava crisps. My recommendation is to have them with chili as opposed to salt, the taste is much much better
  • I learned that if you want to remove the husk of gingers much faster, lightly soak them in cooking oil and rub them between your hands and the husk will come off easy
  • Apparently snakes like staying beneath lime tress, and so be careful when picking limes that have fallen on the ground. Did not see the snakes myself, but it make me careful when picking limes
  • I visited the Kariokoor market. The market is a bust of activity, and they sell almost everything. The market is not so different from the ones in Kenya. What I wanted to eat, but could not, were roasted plantains and mshikaki, that smelled so good, but when I remembered I had a serious bout of typhoid a few years ago, I dared not.
  • I also visit the Bus Rapid Transport system stations in Kariokoo market and spend more than an hour watching the coming and going of the buses and the passengers. This was interesting for me as an engineer as there have been talks of introducing the system in Kenya, without much success. It was also important to understand the public transport system of Tanzania. I also took videos which I shared with a classmate of mine (hi Mike!) who is passionate about transport engineering.
  • I visit the St Peter’s Catholic Church, the Azania Lutheran Church, the Askari Monument. These three are not far from each other. Visiting the Catholic Church was important for me as I am one. When I visited the Lutheran church, they were preparing for an Easter service and I was impressed that their architecture is very similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church.at the Askari Monument, there wasn’t much to see, as it is a monument of a policeman in the middle of the street, at a roundabout, and all I did was walk around the roundabout and go on about my way having ticked it off my list.
  • I visited the national museum of TZ, known as the – Makumbusho ya Taifa ya Tanzania – this was one of my favourite places to see. I spent almost 4 hours at the museum carefully combing through whatever was on display.
  1. There is an amazing evolution exhibition done as a partnership between a university in Spain and the government of Tanzania. Some of the cool things in that particular exhibition are learning about the Laetoli footsteps, seeing some skulls and mandibles that I had not seen before like that of the Taung child.
  2. Other sections of the museums cover the political development of Tanzania and the life path of slavery, from its conception to its abolishment, and some aspects of the First World War and the struggle of independence that Tanzania endured in order to be a free country.
  3. Though displayed outside and under the mercy of the elements, the vehicles Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used to establish TANU roots in the quest for independence, among them several Rolls Royce that he was gifted by the British colonial state (A paradox indeed) were a sight to see.
  4. Another shocking, mind boggling, conversation changing and eye opener thing I discovered was involvement of the Chinese in Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s. This makes so much sense since china was/is a communist state under Mao Zedong and Nyerere was a socialist who pushed socialism ujamaa in Tanzania.
  5. There is also a memorial exhibition and are for the US Embassy bomb that happened in Tanzania in (insert year).
  • Had a photoshoot for myself and my blog with Nias Aim Click whose rates are affordable and quality of work is high.

Bagamoyo

On the 22nd of April, we went to Bagamoyo town, which is a two hours’ drive from Dar Es Salaam.

The name of the town is born from 2 names – bwaga moyo; and it is originally a slave town. Slaves from the interior of Tanzania were chained and brought to the town for auctioning. In later decades, the slave trade was abolished, and the town because the home for ransomed slaves, who formed Christian communities.

We visited

  • The first church to be built in Tanzania main land, and it was through this church that Christianity spread to the rest of the mainland
  • Next to the church there is the area where a slave museum has been erected. There should be an entry fee, but there was no one to charge us, so we got in for free and went through the small museum.
  • The beach. When we visited the beach, the tide was low, and so it was fascinating to watch the tide come in amidst the rain. We also saw the fishermen come in with their boats full of fish. We had lunch by the sea, played beach games and those who wanted to swim, swam.
  • I made my way to the fish market, and watched the different types of fish being scaled, and the seller’s selling. I missed the initial fish auction, and I hope one day to see it. An intriguing thing is how smelly but full of activity the auction area is. This section of the trip was very important for me as a Christian, as it made me understand some passages of the gospel much much better – such as the disciples being called to be fishers of men.
  • We also visited the place where the first cross was erected in Tanzania.

I did not make to visit the cemetery where the salves were buried, but some of those I was with, managed.

The drive back to Dar-Es-Saalam was long after a long day, and I am glad I had the company of the youth staying at the Don Bosco community house as they had interesting stories and songs, and questions about Kenya.

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