Travel is to be in motion – slowly with bus Nairobi to Arusha
To move from one place to another can be done the fast way by air or at a slower pace on the road. For us who enjoy the journey itself, being in motion, a 6-7 hours bus trip can be an exiting experience in itself. So we where exited about bus Nairobi to Arusha in Tanzania.
A bit more than just half way between Nairobi and Arusha we crossed the border to Tanzania. To cross a border in Africa is a study in diversity, bureaucracy and more or less organized chaos. So you may wonder why on earth take the bus instead of saving time and fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport? These experiences; slow traveling and being part of the buzz are a good reason. On the border you will have to queue up on both sides and you get to see, smell and listen to the buzzy life going on everywhere.
This bus trip also offers a journey through a typical East African landscape. We traveled with Riverside Shuttle bus. You can book and pay tickets on Internet, very convenient and it worked perfect. The will pick you up at your hotel or at the airport. The first part of the journey is through Nairobi and you will get an impression of how this million-city come to life and the big traffic problems they struggle with. There was some queuing out of the city to the airport, but nothing compared to the queue the other way, into the city.
It is a small bus, maybe around 20 seats and the standard is nothing to boast about. But it is not so bad that we got nervous and the driver was driving carefully most of the time. Since traffic accidents are a big problem in Africa, this is something you have to consider. Riverside is used to take western tourists down to the big and famous attractions north in Tanzania; places like Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro and Serengeti. At Nairobi airport the last passengers came on board and no seat was empty. The luggage is stacked on the roof. Its not much room inside for hand luggage, actually no space at all, you will have to store everything between your legs and under the seat.
At 8.00 sharp the bus went from Nairobi center and an hour later we where just on time driving out from Nairobi airport. Nairobi is situated on a high mountain plateau, 1800 meters above sea level. And September is the dry season. First part of the trip goes over sun-scorched savannah plains in an area with many cement factories. The dust is worse than normal, red sand together with grey cement dust makes it hard to bread and you will definite need a shower when you reach your destination.
Further south we pass large estates with huge greenhouses. Here much of Kenya`s flower production is based and Kenya is a big flower exporter. Eventually the savannah becomes more open and the soil turns gradually redder. Termite mounds appear and sugar mountaintops get nearer and nearer. Occasional a Masai walk along the road with his cows and goats. And suddenly the bus attempted an emergency stop because a herd of goats are crossing the road. We also spotted wild antelopes and herds of camels.
Closer to the border-city Nmanga, it is more densely populated and we spotted more and more herds shepherd by a Masai boy or man or both. The bus stops just before Nmanga for a 15 minutes break. This is the only stop where you get the opportunity to go to the lavatory or buy something to drink and eat. So remember to bring a lunch box from start. I am not sure you will find the food at this place very tempting. At the border it will be too hectic and chaotic. You will not have time to anything else than queuing for a visa or getting your passport stamped. We applied for a Visa from home, but that’s not really necessary. But it was nice to be able to choose the smaller queue where they only stamped your passport. In any case, you will have to fill in forms and they will give you the forms in good time at the bus.
Crossing the border is the experience who makes this bus trip worth it. The system works and most of the time it will only take around an hour to pass the border. But you can be unlucky . . . On our bus everyone got their papers and then it was off to Arusha, only 108 kilometers left!
And again the soil changed colors, from red and back to greyish/white. It’s easy to spot the color of the soil. Just look at all the big termite mounds along the road. We are still driving through the savannah landscape with big and small acacia threes full of the Weaverbirds nests. But now we can sense high mountains in the horizon shrouded in mist and smaller sugar top mountains on the left side. The landscape north of Arusha looks like a desert, but with obvious signs of large bodies of waters cascading down from the mountains during the rain season. Arusha is located at the foot of Mount Meru, a huge black mountain 4565 meters above sea level.
When arriving in Arusha, simply enjoy all the attractions of this area. It is something for every one.
We took the bus back to Nairobi 11 days later and this time the bus trip took only 5 hours, no traffic into Nairobi!