Mwanza is the second largest city in Tanzania after Dar Es Salaam- which a lot of travellers I've met have tried to avoid. It is situated on the lower east side of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake and is sometimes too far out of the way for many typical travelling routes in Africa. While in my second week of travelling here, I began to plan out a vague journey for myself to lead me towards the Malawi border. I wanted to see as many diverse parts of the country and considering I had been to Dar, Zanzibar, Moshi and had done the northern circuit safari, I felt like I wanted to see what this lake side city had to offer. I read that it had Indian and Arabic influences, that it was surrounded by giant boulders and that it had more of a village feel than a city feel which together drew me in. I considered my options to get South from mwanza towards Malawi and it seemed less straight forward than I thought, having talked to some people and read some info in a Lonely Planet I found. After Arusha I thought, why not, I'll go an then figure it it afterwards- and boy am u glad I did.
It was a 10 hour journey to Mwanza from Arusha on one of the craziest bus rides id ever been on (and that's saying something) and considering we were driving faster than the speed of light, leaping over multiple speed bumps along the way and the fact we had no seat belts, I was sure we would crash. But luckily we didn't. It was a lot different to the relatively smooth ride id taken from Dar to Moshi, and there were moments where we were plummeted out of our seats at high velocity that I thought id gotten whiplash or even cracked a rib. This is Tanzania, I realised. I embraced the experience.
I took a taxi from the bus depot 10kms from the city, to a hostel id decided on from my lonely planet but when it was booked out I was sent next door to enquire. I managed to get myself a double room with cable TV (very basic room and TV FYI) and a decent working fan for 12000tsh/$6 a night. I paid for three nights . That evening I headed out in search of a recommended restaurant close to my guest house - Kuleana Pizzeria- which took me ages to find, many detours and many stops to ask directions. It was getting dark but I didn't feel uncomfortable in this town and after is finally had dinner and headed back in the dark, I was given directions from people on the street without any other motives from them which was refreshing.
The next day I went to Hotel Tilapia which I had heard about from a traveller called Justin id met briefly on Arusha. I stayed there for a few hours looking out over the Lake and had some lunch while I uploaded all of my recent pictures and blogs on their fast but expensive wifi. On my way back I planned to stop and get info on one of the nearby island reserves which is where I met Liliana, a lovely Italian lady who had been loving in Canada for a few years. We decided to skip the expensive reserve and she took me to Capri Point instead for a beautiful view of the lake and the boulders. After an afternoon of hiking, chatting and realising we had a lot in common, we had a juice and then decided to meet up later at Tilapia for dinner. It was Paddys Day and there was nowhere in town with any Guinness or craic, so I ordered a Jameson Irish coffee at Tilapia to feel somewhat patriotic. I felt bad that I could to properly celebrate it but there's many more Paddys Days to come. Later we both headed back towards our hotels in the dark which wasn't so bad although I did feel slightly paranoid as I would anywhere, so I just looked confident and walked back to my hotel fast, after id said goodbye and 'Safari Njema' (safe trip) to Liliana who was leaving the next day. I put on a movie on my TV and relaxed in bad wondering what I would do the next day
The next day proved to be great for me and it was one of those epic cultural days where I integrated with the locals at the markets and managed to get by with some of the Swahili I had learned. I booked my bus ticket to Iringa for the next morning which was relatively easy but I felt the sense of being ripped off yet again. It seemed easy enough to get from mwanza to anywhere except with the train apparently as it turned out to be suspended indefinitely. I bought some local made sandals for $6, took a daladala (minibus) to a beach resort Liliana had mentioned, which left me at the end of the road and I had to walk 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back to the road later on. The walk was beautiful and I greeted local families, saw animals grazing, spotted the lake shimmering in the distance and felt the African sun on my skin. The hotel was super posh and I had to pay $2 to visit which entitle me to a free drink, which was fine. I ordered a vegetarian Caesar salad which looked delicious, but when I was a few minutes into it I realised there was shredded chicken in it. I was in two minds whether to eat and not waste it or eat around it. So I tried eating some of it out of curiosity which instantly felt wrong. It was interesting because the taste was familiar to me but I didn't like it, like I used to, and so I began to eat around it. I met some lovely waiters form india who I chatted with before leaving to head back to town. I greeted some more little children on the road side on the way back before I waved down a daladala on the road. I got a takeway dinner that evening from Kuleana and decided to use it as my bus food for the next day. I once again chilled our with a movie on and fell asleep.
Mwanza to me, was a great choice for a traveller. There were not many muzungus (foreigners) around and the overall vibe here was different to anywhere else is seen in Tanzania. It was tropical, it had a mix of Hindi women, Arabic women, African women and ex pats which was quite nice and the architecture had a lot of contrast, with both Mosques and Hindu temples scattered around the middle of town. The people there were friendly even though the staring thing still happened, they were very nice once I started a conversation. My next stop would be Iringa where I planned to volunteer with a family I had met online or if the timing wasn't right, I would spend a day and then head to Mbeya and on into Malawi.