Dalla Dallas are Tanzanian public mini busses on crystal meth. Designed to hold about thirty-five passengers it is normal to see them crowded with twice that number during rush hour in Dar es Salaam. Getting a place on board is a harrowing experience attempted only by Tanzanians without cars or foreigners either low on cash or slightly nuts.
All the dalla dallas stop at the same place so you must know where you are going. In our case we were heading to the VSO offices in Masaki. The bus with Masaki written on front was what we wanted.
The first step of the journey was easy. We walked from our hotel to the bus stop that is past the Tasty Bites Indian vegetarian restaurant and the crow enjoying a dead-rat-breakfast. It is about four blocks from the fruit and vegetable stand.
At the stop we crowded around the sidewalk with the other perspective passengers eagerly eyeballing the road for the Masaki bound dalla dallas racing each other and two abreast, to be first at the stop. In the world of dalla dalla drivers traffic rules are always open to interpretation and the competition for passengers is job one.
When the dalla dalla stopped the fun began. I fought my way to the front of the crowd, pushing Debbie before me, to reach the door. During the process it is imperative to grab any part of the door frame that offers a hand hold while avoiding sharp metal edges. This hand grab is vital to keep the other commuters from pushing you to the sidelines. While shoving with the other hand and both hips we got aboard. Success was owed to size, aggressiveness and determination with a large measure of humour, laughter and loud groans thrown in.
As the bus raced to the next stop I was wet with sweat but felt like a million Tanzanian shillings.