Tanzania & Uganda

Kazuramimba station
The passage of the twice weekly train between Tanzanian capital of Dodoma and the nearly inaccessible inland city of Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika draws vendors scurrying toward the train at full tilt to sell their produce.  An extended pause in the village of Kazuramimba around sunset attracts a colourful lot of friendly villagers.  Sugar cane, fresh fruits and ground roots seemed particularly popular.  This train is one of the rare links between the Indian Ocean and the inland Tanganyika region, and the many Burundians and Congolese (such as the one pictured) aboard are returning home from commercial trips to Dar es Salaam.
Dar es Salaam House
An example of English colonial influence in the thriving Tanzanian metropolis of Dar es Salaam.  Dar often gets bad reviews from travellers because there's essentially nothing to see or visit here, but I liked the cosmopolitan multicultural vibe that pervades the city.  Arabia meets Africa, Muslim meets Christian, Europe meets its colonials, Sea meets Land, and the Indian Ocean trade route for spices essentially terminates here.  Outsiders feel comfortably at home amongst the sophisticated and highly educated (by African standards) natives of  Dar and weeks of eating cornmeal mush and bland beef were blissfully ended by the profusion of tasty and well-cooked maritime treats available in Dar.

Mosque in Dar es Salaam
The arabian culture of Zanzibar and the African culture of inland Tanzania essentially blend together in Dar, overlaid with British infrastructure and organization and sprinkled with Indian adminstrators and merchants.  The Asian and Arabian influence is more pronounced in the affluent centre of Dar, where sophisticated commercial practices honed from centuries of maritime trading predominate.  However, poverty is the rule in inland Tanzania, where natural resources continue to be carted out to the sea and where there has been little development apart from basic infrastructure, which is still considerably better than in its even more impoverished landlocked neighbours.  Inland, the scourges of deadly malaria, a history of enslavement, and unfertile soil still take their toll with little relief in sight.  Unlike most sub-saharan African countries, Tanzania has managed to avoid civil war and ethnic labelling, in part due to the fact that there are no large dominant tribal groups but rather many small tribes who all consider themselves Tanzanian.   Language homogenization instilled by the socialist regime of Julius Nyerere (ki-swahili is spoken by everyone), further contributed to a cohesive national identity conducive to development, that is sorely lacking in many tribal war-torn African countries.

An odd tourist attraction in the Tanganyika lakeshore village of Ujiji.  Colonial British romanticise the historical encounter between explorers Stanley and Livingston.  Stanley's immortal words "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" were uttered here. Or perhaps not, as a village in nearby Burundi also claims to be the hallowed site.  In any case, Ujiji isn't waiting around for this historical dispute to be resolved.  They are constructing a new Dr Livingstone Museum and research centre in their sleepy village to attract tourism.

I entered Uganda at Kabale, near the eastern Rwandan border checkpoint along the main Kigali-Kampala road, and would later come to realize that it was the most pleasant town I'd visit in the country.  Local Kabalans are effusively friendly, so much so that at first I couldn't get myself to take their friendliness at face value.  Their uncomplicated blithe manner and openness to foreigners reminded me of Ghana in west Africa, and later on I learned that these two countries are often compared culturally.  Not to mention for their big smiles, low cost of living, devout christianity and very tasty pineapples.  Uganda, with Ghana and Malawi, draw a devout following of backpackers due to the relaxed, accommodating, honest demeanor and English language skills of their people.  To a first approximation anyway.  Though all three countries are developing slowly, they are mired in poverty and their subservient attitudes I believe will eventually be an impediment to their future economic growth.   Kabale turned out to be an unexpected place to score a nice haircut.  Black Africa poses a unique problem for straight-haired travellers looking for a competent haircut.  Street barbers only know how to cut hair with clippers.  In Kabale though, a local Indian shopkeeper led me to their barber Alex, who I later learned cuts the hair of every Indian in Kabale.  Today's Indian merchants in Uganda are a different generation from their predecessors who had been expelled by Idi Amin in the 1970s in an act of ethnic cleansing, leading to the economic collapse of Uganda.  Not surprisingly, the current dictator Museveni reinvited Indian merchants back into Uganda in the 1990s and the economy has since been picking up steam.  Most of the expelled Indians from the previous generation received asylum and are now prospering in first world nations like Britain and Canada.  Many of them claim that the expulsion was the luckiest thing that ever happened to them.  The dependence of African economies on Asian merchants and bureaucrats (not unlike the dependence on Chinese merchants in Southeast Asian nations) highlights the impact of cultural factors and prioritization of education on development.  It may be politically incorrect to talk about these factors but no remedy can be formulated without a clear understanding how they contribute to the economies.

Lake Bunyoni
Lake Bunyoni and its archipelago of islands was hands down the most beautiful place in Uganda for me.  I regret not having had more time to locate and visit the pygmy tribes at the far end of the lake.  Pygmies only live in central Africa, and are often described by travellers as "little, happy giggling people."  For some bantu Africans, they may not even be considered people.  Recently invited to Brazzaville to participate in a traditional dance show for foreign dignitaries, the Congolese president housed the pygmies in the municipal zoo.

railtracks in Kampaal
A backstreet local market in a suburb of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.  I managed to buy that last pineapple you  see on the cart.  For just US$0.25 a fruit, which they'll cut up and bag for you, Ugandan pineapples are of one of the great cheap and simple culinary delights of Africa.  Kudos also go out to pineapples in Ghana and Togo, where they were one of the cornerstones of my diet.

Kampala matatu station
Kampala's central station of matatus (shared Toyota vans ubiquitously used as public transportation in almost all of East Africa).  It's hard to believe how vans can get in and out of this lot, but they manage to do so very efficiently even in rush hour when vans fill up in seconds. Of course once they leave through one of the three street exits, they are immediately engulfed in the brutal traffic jams of central Kampala.  The narrow and windy hilly streets that wend through Kampala are a quagmire for traffic that can literally take an hour or more to escape.  Kampala has the dubious distinction of having some of the worst traffic in the world that I've ever seen, considering  how few private passenger cars circulate in such a poor country.