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Reflections: Tanzania – The Longest Bus Journey That I’ve Ever Had To Endure

Throughout the years, most of my overland journeys have been done via the use of local buses. I’ve taken many train journeys as well, but the bus is still the most common form of transport for long distance travel.

Without a doubt, the toughest journeys I’ve undertaken by bus have mostly been on the continent of Africa. There have been a few hard journeys in the Andes region of South America, but they all pale into insignificance compared to those that cross vast regions of the African continent.

The bus that contained me for 47 hours straight.

One particular journey that comes to mind was the crossing of Tanzania from West to East back in 2001. Liza and I had recently spent time in Uganda and Rwanda, and we were now heading across the vast open plains of Tanzania. With our next port of call being the beautiful spice island of Zanzibar.

Although Tanzania can be quite a touristy country, with a multitude of visitors each and every year. They tend to stick like glue to the coastal regions and the famous game parks, and very few venture to the West of the country.

I’d completed a similar route to this journey via train, some nine years previous but in the opposite direction. The train journery was a breeze compared to this slog. The total distance travelled was somewhere in the vicinity on 1250km (770 miles). Coming from Australia, the distance was no issue but the time it took was. Originally we were told it would take in the vicinity of 22 hours, an under estimate to say the least.

47 Hours From Nyakasanza to Dar es Salaam (it was tough going)

All up the journey took us a whopping 47 hours of which the last 15 I was basically hallucinating, due to complete lack of sleep (I just can’t sleep unless I’m lying down). At least half of the distance was done on unsealed roads, but at times unsealed roads are better than an unmaintained sealed road in Africa.

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It was the end of the wet season as well, and the bus got trapped in the mud on many occasions. Everyone had to get off and remove all their luggage to keep the overall weight down. The driver would then plough his way through, sliding from side to side with reckless abandon.

Driving through the mud on one ocasion, we passed a large truck that was literality burried in the stuff up over the height of the rear wheels. It was safe to say, that this truck wasn’t going anywhere fast, and would need to be dug out.

On another occasion I remember getting off in the middle of the night. A local tribesman came over to say hello, complete with his bow and arrow (he must have been on a night hunt).

The last few hours of this journey were a complete blur to me. By the time we reached Da es Salaam, I was half by delirious from lack of sleep and in serious need of a warm shower and a comfortable bed. Overland travel, you’ve got to love it……..

Your Thoughts and Comments?

Although not the toughest bus journey I’ve undertaken, it was certainly the longest I have ever had to endure. I’d love to hear of some other horror stories. Come on, there must be a few to tell.

A Little More About The Author

Jason has traveled the world extensively during the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across over 90 countries. This site serves as a chronicle of the images and tales from these journeys, as well as offering advice and general information for other like minded travelers.

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12 Great Comments So Far (Have Your Say)


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  1. The longest bus journey is not good for health. people who vomits during bus traveling they should travel from train. Africa is the wonderful place and bus journey is good feeling to Africa.

  2. Kristine says:

    47 hours?? Wow that is hardcore. The longest bus ride I’ve had lasted for only 12 hours and it was fairly comfortable. I’ve had my share of rough land travel aboard overloaded cargo trucks (while sitting on top of the cargo) but thankfully, they were only around 2-3 hours long.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Kristine, Yes it was quite the effort to see it through to the end. I know what you mean when describing your adventure’s upon cargo trucks. I’ve done a few of these myself, and they can be tough going. Just hanging on for hours on end, does tend to wear you down. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. No way I would have survived 47 hours in a bus!

    • Jason says:

      Hey Andi, I suppose the only way to not go through it, would have been to break the trip into smaller chunks. We though about it, but just wanted to get to the coast as quick as we could.

  4. Nope,
    I would never have made it.
    Maybe in my younger days, but nearing 60, I would have come close to death if I would stay on a bus that long.
    Things change quite a bit when you start approaching 60!
    Must have been as close to hell as you could get.
    Cheers,
    John D. WIlson

    • Jason says:

      Hey John, It was pretty bad, and I’ve seen my share of tough rides as well. Although we had a few patches of tough driving, it was the length of time that was just eating away at me. No sleep was the killer, and I was literally delirious at stages. I swear I was slightly hallucinating near the end, it just seemed to go on forever.

      I’m hearing you when you describe your age and how things get tougher. Although only entering my early forties, there’s no way I could sleep in many of the places I’ve slept before. My back just wouldn’t allow it!

  5. Dean says:

    That’s insane Jason! I have never undertaken anything like that. I do know what it’s like to have to get out and walk through the mud with my luggage though. Recently in Laos I was on a bus heading north from Luang Prabang, we ran into several land slides on the road and the bus needed to be lighter to get through the mud. By the end of it I think we had more mud on us than the bus did… But that’s travel! :)

    • Jason says:

      Hey Dean, If you had of asked me before the journey could I endure the 47 hours I would have said no way. It’s the sleep thing that got me in the end. I just cant sleep unless I’m laying down. Unloading luggage to lighten the load is something that you will no doubt see more and more on your journeys. Although it’s a pain at the time, lets hope we both get to have many more adventures such as these. Safe travels mate…

  6. Holy crap–that sounds like hell and makes all of my rides, even the bad ones, sound OK. I think I would have lost my mind. The length of time and the conditions sound brutal!

    One of my worst was in Mexico. The bus wasn’t what it had looked like in the brochure and it was smallish and rickety and felt like it was going to fall apart. There were two possible routes to take and the driver took the roller coaster option. Each time we took a curve, I thought we were going over the edge. I honestly thought I was going to die.

    Another time, I was on a bus for 12 hours (when it was supposed to be for just 8). That route was flat at times, which made it easier. But the bus was in poor shape. And full of bizarre characters that were fun to get to know.

    I’ve been thinking about having a contest on my site at some point–The Ultimate Bus Ride or something. You’d definitely be a top contender for what you went through. Glad you survived and can now tell the story!

    • Jason says:

      Hey Lisa, It was a bit of an ordeal at the time, but if it had gone to plan then I wouldn’t have a tale to tell. You touched on a point that’s quite relevant and that’s when your quoted a length of time, or you’ve spoken to others who’ve done the same route and your expecting a trip of a certain duration. Wether it be 8,12,24 or 48 hours, your expecting a length of that time. You sort of prepare yourself for whatever was quoted (I always add at least 25-30% in some of the more exotic locations). Any time over that amount seems to drag on and on and on….

      It’s funny you mention your bus almost falling apart, as I’ve also had to go through a couple of journeys where this has happened. One was in Morocco, but the funniest was in Malawi. I was standing at the front of the bus next to the driver and the bus had one of those dual front windows joining in the middle. The roads were very bad and the bus was shaking and rattling until the seals around the front window began to vibrate loose and the front window began to fall out. The driver just reached out with his arm and pushed it across to the jockey (the other guy on the bus) and he handed it to me. He just kept on driving, without missing a beat. Very funny…

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