To Tropical Tukuyu: The Bus Preacher And Other Highlights

School summer break in Minnesota is school winter break in Tanzania. But truth be told, a long break from school during warm weather holds the two in common. And with my time off of school in July, I took advantage by seeing a new part of the country: the tropical southwest down to monster Lake Nyasa.

Tukuyu would be my base for the week. Lake Nyasa is the body of water just southeast of it.

I had heard much about the lush green hills, the clear, crisp lake Nyasa, and the small villages that surround it. First I had to get there.

Here are the photos and video I took of life along the way…

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Leaving my home, Iringa, early in the morning, I was all settled down into my comfy bus seat in the second row passenger’s side. The giant front window spread before me from which to view the Tanzanian terrain, and I was anticipating a pleasant six hour ride along one of Tanzania’s best corridors.

Yep just sit and relax…

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“Yesu!”

“YESU!!”

Who was saying that? What is “yesu?”

A man started declaring this word and many more to all the bus. At first I thought it was just a guy talking loudly on his cell phone while standing to put his things away in the overhead compartment. He was directly behind me, and I looked back briefly to see his head cocked to his left. Yep, must be on his phone.

But the conversation was going on and on, and he was evidently the only one talking. The bus conductor (the guy who collects money and oversees all the exits and boardings on the bus) was sitting near me in the front. With the man continuing to shout like he was barking orders, I tapped the conductor on the shoulder and asked if he could tell that guy to be quiet.

A passenger directly in front of me said of the loud man, “He’s just preaching.”

“Just preaching?” I thought. Apparently, preaching is given quite a wide range of permissible outlets.

But I dropped it.

The preacher, however, continued his loud, million-words-a-minute rants without pause. After a few more minutes of this, I tapped that nearby passenger on the back. This middle aged man in a cream-colored suit turned to me, and I asked, “Could you tell him to be quieter?”

The passenger offered an empathetic look, but told me that the guy will only preach for about ten more minutes.

Disappointed but malleable, I changed my gears to take advantage of this unique slice of Tanzanian life. I got up and walked past the preacher to the rear of the bus and took some pictures and video of the guy.

My fellow passenger was right. The man stopped after about ten minutes. Then he put away his bible, said a few last words, and started to approach people with their hands reached out. I suddenly felt silly for my complaints as these folks were evidently happy the man was there, as they paid him for his service. The preacher collected a half-dozen offerings. Then almost as soon as I sat back down in my seat, the bus slowed and then stopped into a weigh station, the preacher exited, and I thought, “What the world was that?”

It was this:

Oh, and “Yesu” is Swahili for “Jesus.”

Twenty minutes into the several hour journey and one Swahili sermon later, we were back underway. Hilly terrain defined the route–sometimes through trees; sometimes through open hills.

We passed Mafinga and the way to Mafindi, where the paper mill is.

We stopped a few times for passengers/rest stops.

Well into our way, I took out my map and asked the middle aged man in front of me where we were. We were nearing Mbeya, the capital city of my regional destination.

This man was a diminutive 50-ish guy with a dark brown fedora to top his cream colored suit. He looked to me like he was in education or mission work. I shared that I was headed to Tukuyu; he said he was as well. This was a pleasant surprise as now this gentle English speaker would be able to help me switch buses at Mbeya on my way to Tukuyu.

Indeed, we pulled into the main station at Mbeya–a large lot that lie just shy of the city itself. We disembarked, and my friend directed me to the correct dalla dalla (the vans that transport people on local routes).

Mbeya bus station
Dalla dallas at Mbeya bus station

Soon we found and boarded ours.

From locating to boarding our dalla dalla, and then even once we waited to leave the bus station while seated in our dalla dalla, several locals tried to sell us stuff–now through the windows. And this kind of aggressive salesmanship occurred the whole way down from Iringa to Tukuyu–first with our bus, and then with the upcoming dalla dalla stops.

Each time our transport slowed for a station, people there would run alongside to sell candy, drinks, and even produce to the passengers. For one such stop on our dalla dalla to Tukuyu, it was cabbages; the next stop, it was potatoes.

Salespeople at Mbeya bus station

It all looked something like this:

***

Now on our way to Tukyu, and despite the speeds at which the driver took us up and down hills and around corners, the views became evermore beautiful on this southbound road.

Tea hedges and banana trees

From open, dry highlands where I live; to the cool air and pine forests we drove through along the way; to the rich greens and warmer tropics of Tukuyu, Tanzania is known for its quick-changing climates. And we now entered one that had me feeling like I was in an entirely different country.

My friend got off at the stop just before mine. I got off at the Tukuyu main bus stand. Then I walked to a guesthouse whose signs directed me behind some of the buildings surrounding the bus stand square.

One of the businesses lining the Tukuyu bus station
My guesthouse, “Kivanga,” straight ahead

Down the alley and to the right, I walked down a couple steps to a dining area/bar. On the left side of the bar was the reception and hallway of rooms. On the right side of the bar was a hallway of more rooms. I got one of these. And for only 6,000 shillings (less than $4), I was delighted–though the bar would be noisy.

The next day I would hire a guide to show me around to three sites of Tukuyu’s famous geological splendor. My guide would throw in a fourth, an encounter I didn’t imagine I’d be making during my time in Africa–visiting a witch doctor.

Next week is all about that character.

For now, after getting my things put away, I walked about town. We end this post on some shots of Tukuyu, Tanzania:

What say you?