A Travellerspoint blog

Rain in paradise

31st October 2010

No sunrise this morning. Instead, the sky is overcast. So the pitterpatter of rain I heard earlier was not a figment of my imagination then.

Mmh, this does not quite fit my image of Zanzibar, but hey, at least the sky will be a bit more dramatic for my photographs and the heat more bearable...

My stomach bug has cleared and I can't wait for breakfast. We get a fresh fruit platter and a choice of cooked food (pancakes, Spanish omelettes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs) – now I really don't want to go back to camping where my staple breakfast is cornflakes with milk (although we are occasionally surprised with a cooked breakfast).

AH has booked a snorkling trip, and I can't wait to go for a wander by myself – but this proves hard to accomplish, as Said, the guy who sold AH the trip, decides to accompany me.

Says something about agreeing with AH that I should teach him German in exchange for Swaheli.

The Maasai I see here are not really Maasai, he says, but putting on a show for Italian tourists.

Tourists are staying away from Zanzibar, in fact from the whole of Tanzania, because of the elections. (So what are we doing here??? What's the backup plan? None as far as I am aware!)

He doesn't anticipate any problems, though the outcome will be tight because „We are an educated people.“

I also learn 3 more Swaheli phrases:

„Tunaendelea“ - „let's proceed.“

„Lala salama“ - „sleep tight.“

„Badae“ (pronounced badai) – „see you later.“ Said decides that he has enough of the rain and leaves me.

I am still not sure what he wanted from me.

He never asks for a tip and never asks me a single phrase in German.

He says he is a Catholic, so I ask him about church. As suspected, there are no churches here in the north, so I can’t compare my Livingstone experience.

Said says the only two churches are located in Stone Town and that there generally is a good relationship here between Muslim and Christians. (AH later points out that Said is a Muslim name)...

I wander alone into the local village, which once again has an Indian feel to it. In the rain, everything looks a bit washed out, apart from the women's colourful clothes.

I feel safe on my own, even though I am the only white woman – and a woman in trousers as that.

A sign at the entrance of the village has made it clear that women should not show their legs and men should not be bare-chested.
No problem, as I am well-covered up. Too covered up today, as the rain pearls off my Factor 50 suncream...

The village looks poor, even though the tourist compounds are right next door. I wonder how this village has benefitted...

There are flattened plastic bottles strewn all over the dirt road...

A little boy races past me, playing with the rubber of an old tire; a woman washes her dishes in a plastic bowl on the street.

Most villagers seem to have gathered in the square by the school, presumably because of the elections today...

For lunch I try local snacks in the restaurant next to our compound. I have a dish made out of green peas and coconut milk and a drink made out of red flower. It’s called „Karkade.“ It’s apparently good for the blood.

I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely refreshing, tangy without being tart. It reminds me of hibiscus. (Now that I am back home, I’ve been able to check the drink on the internet. It’s indeed made out of dried hibiscus flowers and sugar.)

The rain is picking up, so I go back to our room until it’s time to pick up a tired AH from his snorkling expedition.

Said reappears (so „Badae“ really meant „See you later!“) and offers to show us the village.

I ask him about the drink I had, but he doesn’t know it. Instead, he gives me an interesting recipe for spice tea: cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and lemon grass. (Yes, my friends, I’m definitely going to try that back home. Did you honestly think Africa would change my „weird“ taste?)

This time we walk along by the seafront to the fishmarket. No fish left at this time of day, but a beautiful view.

There is seaweed wherever we look and step – the contrast between the green weed and turquoise sea is great for photos (less pleasing to the nostrils!)

We visit the turtle conservation station that the locals have started in 1993. Not that much to see, though it’s fascinating to see how individual the markings on older turtles are. The turtles look pretty much alike when they are young.

Turtles are only fertile from about 30 years. In the past, people have eaten turtles and so endangered the population. Now fishermen are paid to bring the turtles to the centre...

We walk back through the village which looks more friendly in the evening light. Said says it has benefitted from tourism, mainly through work opportunities.

Posted by TTraveller 06:46 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

„Just craving for my bed“ journey to Zanzibar

30th October 2010

When I asked the previous evening for some ice in my coke, I fleetingly wonder whether the water is pure enough to drink, but it's hot and I am really thirsty and an ice-cold cola is much more refreshing than a lukewarm one...

Bad error of judgment. I wake up at 2.30am and have the runs. The only way to more or less stop them is to lie still. As soon as I get up, I need the loo again.

Trouble is we have chosen a tent spot according to the view rather than according to public conveniences.

And for the first time I've only brought the absolute minimum of items into the tent (I'm getting really fed up with lugging so much stuff back and fourth). I did not expect to need medication, which is safely locked in the inside of our truck.

The only useful item locked in the outside compartment of the truck are some all-in-one incontinence pants.

I am so grateful that I bought them, especially when I find out that there won't be many toilet facilities on our journey today...

Our truck drops us at the small ferry which crosses over to the financial district of Dar. Dar looks sophisticated and ultramodern from the water with its sparkling skyscrapers in different geometric shapes.

We have half an hour to exchange money and go shopping before catching the big ferry to Zanzibar.

Things go badly wrong for AH and I. He says he forgot why he was meant to go into the exchange bureau because I kept reminding him to take his Malarone. (He had been under mosquito attack all night after he had forgotten his anti-bug sleeping bag liner in the truck, and Dar is a hotspot for Malaria.)

Anyway, he comes back from the exchange buerau with small Dollar notes. I stare at him in disbelief.

Our tour guide has told us since yesterday that we need sufficient Tanzanian Dollars for Zanzibar (...which incidently turns out to be untrue. Most places want Dollars and give bad exchange rates for Shillings, but of course we only know this in hindsight.).

The exchange rate is worse when you exchange small Dollar notes, and what's worse: We've lost time and our chance to go to the supermarket.

Let's just say the walk over to the big ferry is not one of the crowning verbal exchanges of our marriage, as we are both hot, bothered and extremely irritated.

It doesn't help that I have not been able to eat breakfast and are beginning to feel faint. Where are the banana sellers when you need them?

This part has a happy ending, as AH spots a banana seller in the distance just as we arrive at the port. He manages to buy a big bunch of bananas for me - probably at tourist prices, but I don't care. A banana has never tasted so good!

The big ferry is surprisingly modern and prompt. I just sit on the upper deck, hoping that my stomach will hold out.

To distract myself, I snap a few photos, but only those I can take without getting out of my seat.

As the skyline of Dar disappears and small islands with English looking lighthouses appear, my mind is already in a nice comfy bed somewhere on the island of Zanzibar. Oh, what bliss to have a bed tonight and a roof over my head, rather than a foam mattress and tent canvass!

I manage to dose as the boat rocks gently from side to side, a much smoother journey than travelling on the truck where I get bumped off my seat every time we hit a pothole or speed barrier (of which there are many!)

Stone Town finally comes into view. First impression: Grand buildings, many in desperate need for repair and a lick of paint, but still impressive, even in their faded glory.

My bed is still more than 1 hour away. First there is the haggle for the right taxi price and then the drive in a local minivan to Nungwe at the northern-most tip of Zanzibar.

The women's attire and the palm trees remind me of Goa. (The population here is apparently African, Arabian, Indian and Persian.)

We are told that there are elections tomorrow. One would think that there is only one party to vote for, judging by all the supporters in green and yellow on the streets...

Finally, we get to the Amaan hotel. A twin bedroom with two generously-sized beds, mosquito nets, a huge fan to provide air conditioing and our own ensuite bathroom. Working hot water! My own fluffy white towel! Even ORGANIC showergel and bodylotion.

I'm gonna stay here! (At least until I have recovered from my stomach bug

Posted by TTraveller 06:12 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Long journey to Dar Es Salaam

29th October 2010

We are leaving at 5am today, which means getting up at 4am, and packing and dismantling a tent in the dark and in the cold (for the first time, the tent is wet with dew.)

AH comes with me to the longdrop toilet cubicle and shines his torch not just on the toilet seat, but also behind the toilet and under the roof, casually remarking that this is where snakes like to hide.

Eeks, thanks for telling me! I am glad I was blissfully unaware of this on my two previous night visits to the bog. (All cubicles have solar lights, but they have not been working.)

We only have hot drinks and rusks for breakfast.

It's still dark outside and huddled in my sleeping bag, I fall into an uneasy sleep as the truck rattles and bumps along.

When the sun rises, we are back in Africa: Baobab and Acacia trees, baboons, even a Masaai woman crosses our path.

We get temporarily stuck on a mountain road (road works...), which means that we are only entering Dar just before rush hour.

AH does not recognize anything until we reach the fish market. It reeks of fish. The smell is nauseating in the humid afternoon heat. Only the desperate would buy a produce that has already been left out in the sun for a whole day.

It is more bearable to be on the road than high up in the truck, and so I join the others for a walk. I've by now become quite proficient in climbing down the ladder at the side of the truck, even when the „proper“ staircase has not been pulled out.

It's fascinating to study what women are wearing. There are only a few women in Western clothes, and even fewer in jeans.

I see a woman in an Arab Muslim-style outfit. The black gauze is see-through in places, so the outfit is somehow more revealing than many Western outfits.

Even fully veiled women manage to look attractive, almost alluring, through their dramatic eye make-up.

People seem to pass each other without paying particular attention to each others' looks. Even our group in shorts and T-shirts does not seem to warrant a second glance, even though I feel a bit underdressed. (I have not seen a single African woman exposing bare legs.)

My second study group are the bikers. It's amazing how much can be carried on a bike. It's not unusual to see 4 sacks of charcoal balanced on the back of a bicycle. I would guess that each sack weighs about 15-20 kg.

Other cyclists have loaded their bikes with wicker baskets - wicker baskets at the back, wicker baskets at both handles - to transport their fruit and veg...

We are queuing for a ferry that carries us across the bay to a more traditional area of Dar and along the coast to our campsite.

Sandy, white beaches, turquoise sea, palm trees swaying in the wind – but the sun is sinking fast, so there is no time to admire a view I know so well from posters advertising holidays in romantic, far-flung places.

And this aint paradise for me. What the posters don't show are the mosquitoes for whom this place is also heaven.

And the strange African plumbing. I find out too late that blue and red knobs are often mixed up and that I should have used the blue knob to have a hot shower!

Posted by TTraveller 06:02 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

The challenge of the unexpected

4th November 2010

We have arrived in Kudu Lodge, and I have been looking forward to update my travel blog, but unfortunately, my Netbook is out of power and refuses to charge up...

This means that I will probably only be able to update the block when we are back in England, as none of our days here can be described in just a sentence or two.

We have for example been in Zanzibar for 3 days at the time of the Tanzanian election, which was a real experience.

Luckily, I handwrite most of my notes before I type them in the Netbook, so I should be able to reconstruct what we have been doing from my handwritten scribbles...

Posted by TTraveller 08:45 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

African English dinner

28th October 2010

We have decided to treat ourselves and eat a three course meal in the restaurant.

We are told that we would be picked up in the bar. The bar is a cosy roundhouse lit by candlelight. When I ask for a gin and tonic, the bartender points at a plastic pouch with local gin and says he can serve this with soda.

I am not adventurous enough to try this concotion, so decide to forgo my usual anti-malarial drink.

The bartender brings us to the restaurant, lighting the way with a kerosin lamp. Even though we have now been in Africa for 2 weeks, it still surprises me how quickly darkness falls.

Our arrival is greeted with a drum.

I am looking forward to finally seeing properly what I am eating rather than trying to decipher my food in the light of an unpredictable windup torch. However, the restaurant is in semi-darkness, as it is only lit by kerosin lamps. I like it though, as the atmosphere is cosy and romantic – or would have been if it had not been for the English couple who keep answering their mobile phone during dinner.

The only area where electricity appears to be used is in the kitchen in the evenings, which leads to the strange phenomenon that my camera batteries are handed to the kitchen staff for a recharge.

The food could have been served in a good English restaurant. The only difference is that we have an African waitress whose Swahili is probably better than her English.

We have tomtao soup, lamb steak with new potatoes, spinach, red cabbage (prepared sweet-sour with raisins German-style) and sugarsnap peas followed by chocolate cake with either tea or coffee (They even offer a selection of herbal teas. I can choose between peppermint, chamomile and hibiscus).

Once again we have to be walked back, as it is so dark despite the „proper“ night sky with thousands of stars.

Posted by TTraveller 01:20 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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