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Monday, 25 October 2010

Tanzania Part 1 - Dar-Es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Stone Town and Nungwi

We began our visit into Tanzania with a ‘wonderful’ 13 hour drive day...what a start! We had to make it to Dar Es Salaam as soon as possible, so after a night spent bush camping we got up early and arrived in Dar. To get from one side of the city to the other without driving for several hours, we had to catch a ferry. We pulled up into the queue of cars and people alike. After waiting for about an hour (with a nice icecream break provided by a dude on a bike with a freezer strapped to the back) we were able to board the ferry. We all stayed in Ruby for the 10 minute crossing. It was amazing to watch, after the cars were on the people started swarming on to the boat carrying everything from mattresses to several children. There are no designated passenger zones so they all just squashed in amongst the cars as best they could.

Alternative transport across the water - unfortunately for only locals though

The city itself was pretty manic so we were all relieved when we pulled up into a secluded camp site right on the beach. As pretty as it was, we couldn’t become too complacent as in the toilet there was a sign that read: “The beach is not safe, do not leave the camp site. This is not a joke... Seriously.” We all had a chance to have a couple of beers on the beach and have some much needed showers. (Although clean we were not after a hot, but salt water, shower!) This was the spot we met our new temporary driver, Chris, who would be with us for a month whilst Mark went back to Oz for a wedding.

Next morning, and we all packed up our day packs to head off to Zanzibar which we’d all been looking forward to for a long long time...we hopped back on the ferry to cross back to the other side of town, this time as foot passengers and it was a totally different experience. From there we arrived at the ‘proper’ passenger ferry to get us to Zanzibar. We each paid $60 for the 2 hour journey. Included were some juice boxes and cakes etc which seemed to make the money slightly more well spent. That was until a couple of bites into the muffins, we discovered an infestation of tiny ants inside the packaging. Dammit! Hungry and tired I decided to have a wee snooze on the floor of the deck, only to wake up to find the floor was soaking wet and one side of me was totally soaked. To top it off as Zanzibar Island came into view the heavens opened and we were treated to a royal pounding tropical storm. Good start!

Nice early start on the ferry mant we got to see the stunning sunrise over the sea

Me having a 'wet dream' hee hee

The ferry dropped us off in Stone Town where we would be spending one day before heading to the beach paradise we’d heard so much about. Stone Town was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The buildings were a mish-mash of British colonial and Arabic influences. Most of the buildings looked as though they had been through several bombing raids and never been fixed up. This didn’t take away from the character though and it was an awesome day ambling through the narrow cobbled streets and doing some shopping in the market streets. We also had to pop into the Egyptian Embassy to sort out our Visas which after a lot of headaches and arguing we managed to organise a 3 month visa which would take 3 days to process.
It was also Kim’s 23rd birthday, and so a few of us rocked up the Mercury’s restaurant for a celebratory lunch pizza and beer. This place is named after Freddie Mercury who was born in Zanzibar. That evening we headed to a real nice hotel called Africa House where they serve you cocktails on their terrace overlooking the water. We all wore our best frocks and watched the sun go down with mojitos in hand. Very sophisticated for us homeless travellers!

The locals chilling on the beach watching the sun go down

Berbs, Sonya, me and Jen on our way to the hotel (I'm not entirely sure what's happened to my 2nd leg??!)

A token few (l-r) Gab, Ronald, Dave, Jen and Jules

When the sun had disappeared we walked down to the waterfront food market which was an amazing experience. Reminiscent of Marrakesh (Morocco), there were rows and rows of food stalls serving up local fish and meat dishes, most of which were served on a stick. They also had sugar cane juice which was really good. We sampled the local ‘pizzas’ which were pancakes with either meat or chocolate/banana inside. They were delic!

Kyle, Jen, Jules and Gab may have overdone it on the pizza!

Hustle and bustle

Seafood selection

After eating we wanted to go to a bar to have a few birthday drinks. There were 2 places we had heard about, one was the ‘white’ bar called The Dharma Lounge with was full of buddahs, incense and the best sound system we’ve seen/heard in Africa. After this we made our way to the 2nd ‘local’ bar called Reggae Bar. Unfortunately when we arrived there were not many locals in sight and to make matters worse no reggae music. In fact no music whatsoever. Game over. We decided to call it a night and head to our hotel.

Kylie found his Buddhist soulmate

The birthday girl Kim doing some Tusker promotion

We were spending the night at a place called Safari Lodge, a cute hotel down a sequence of tiny alleyways right into the heart of Stone Town. It was pretty easy to find, although all the streets did look the same and made the early prediction that at some point whilst staying there I would most likely be lost. (More later...)

Next morning we were ready to hit the beach. For about $10 dollars on top of the cost of the transport to the beach, we could do a tour of Stone Town and also a Spice Tour on the way. Done deal. One of the highlights of the tour was to go to the site of the former slave market where the Arabs came and traded from all down the East coast of Africa. There has been a Christian church built on the actual site of the market but there are still 2 remaining dungeons where they were held before being shipped to the East. Incidentally, there are 50 Mosques in Stone Town and only 2 churches, this being one of them. The British commissioned it to be built when they abolished the slave trade. They were overseeing the building of the church for a couple of years, and as they left there were only a couple of bits of work left to do. One was to place 8 pillars down the entrance hall. This was done by the local workers. Our guide asked us to spot what was out of place with the pillars. They had been built upside down!! The British were not happy!

Heading down into the market lanes

An example of the 'bombed out' buildings

The church built on the site of the slave market (check the mosque in the background)

Chilling tribute to the slaves

This tiny dungeon would hold up to 75 slaves before they were taken up to the market to be sold

At the central Stone Town market - I love the random boat man in the foreground


This building was the Stone Town museum - also known as 'The House of Wonders'

The fort built by the British

An example of the Arabic influence in the town

The fort market

All the local dhows harboured along the beach
Whilst we did this, AK and Berber Dave stayed in Stone Town one extra day to commence their PADI Advanced Open Water certification. The boys did three dives in Stone Town (a 30 metre dive, a wreck dive and a night dive – awesome apparently) and then in Nungwe they finished their course with a ‘buoyancy control’ dive and a navigation dive. They loved it and the reefs and sealife they saw were stunning, but nothing too big, exciting or scary (i.e. no sharks, whales, eels or turtles).

For those that are interested, they did their dives with 'Bahari Divers' whom (the boys were told) were one of the few dive companies on Zanzibar to offer diving in Stone Town and on the north of the island at Nungwi. A single dive was 75USD, PADI Open Water course was 400USD and the Advanced Open Water was 330USD. The boys were looked after by a Dutch lady called 'Marjon' and they said she was very good.

The Spice Tour was very interesting, and although again hampered by a nice downpour, we went to one of the plantations and were shown all the different spices and fruit they produce. The main export from Zanzibar for many years has been cloves, and sadly due to so much completition now the trade is declining rapidly. We also were able to smell and taste everything that came out of the ground, including some fruits that were sour our mouths turned inside out.

Jen sheltering from the downpour under a banana leaf

The 'Muzungu' banana - named after us Whiteys us it is as red as when we burn in the sun!

Trekking through the plantation

We arrived at Nungwe Beach that afternoon, and the sun was finally out!! The beach really was awesome, so tropical with perfect white sands and amazing clear sky blue waters. It was like paradise. We were staying in a small hotal 50 metres away from the beach called Safina Bungalows. We got a double room with an en-suite for only $30 per night. It was by far the cheapest accomodation in Nungwe and it was perfect for what we needed. The only annoyance was the alley of shops you had to pass every time you went to and from the beach. Obviously, as all white people look the same, even if you’d only passed by 5 minutes before and been hassled by the usual ‘Jambo Muzungu, look at my shop,’ you would have to have the exact same conversation on your way back. Like AK and Dave, Sonya and Ish got some scuba fun dives in too (having completed their Open Water course in Lake Malawi) and the rest of the crew decided to do the snorkelling day trip the next morning as we’d heard Zanzibar had some of the best diving/snorkelling in the world.

Some dhows moored up on the beach

Tropical paradise

A few of the boys playing some beach volleyball as the sun goes down (you can just make out Matt, Berbs and Kenji)

We headed out (in the rain of course!) on a traditional dhow towards the swimming spot 2 hours away. The spot lies around the edge of a private island where people can pay $1000 per night to camp there (!!) so we were told not to get to close as it’s illegal to set foot on the shore without permission. We all got our flippers and masks on and jumped into the water. Kayelene seemed to be struggling with something in the distance so off I swam to check she was ok. As I got nearer I could hear her saying ‘there’s something wrong with my mask!’ Upon closer inspection, she had forgotton to attach a snorkel to her mask and was confused as to why she couldn’t breathe underwater. Only Kayelene!!! The reefs were pretty cool around the island, although the rain had made everything much darker then normal and the colours of the fish didn’t pop as much as they would have done in the sunshine. After an hour of so Jen and I started to get cramp in our legs. We headed in to the shallows slightly to rest our feet for a minute only to chased away by a shouting security guard patrolling the beaches. Apparently even 20 metres off shore is not took me a little while to get my mask on all the while the guard frantically shouting at me to ‘go away, go away!’ I shouted back something offensive along the lines that I was trying to go away and to f off. As I swam away I heard a little voice shouting back ‘Thank you’ from the shore. I must have scared him?

On the way back from snorkelling on the dhow in the blazing sunshine

Gab upfront making the most of the view whilst trying to avoid sunburn

Snorkelling over we jumped back on the dhow to go into shore to have a BBQ fish lunch. Just as we got out of the water, what do you know, the sun came out. Sod’s law. We warmed our cockles on the bea ch in the sun before getting back to our resort only to find that after not applying sun cream due to the rain overhead, we were all totally burnt to a cinder and suffering from mild heat stroke! Early night for us.
That day, I had noticed that I might be missing some money from my purse, so I sat down and did some calculations and found I was down $200 and 200,000 shillings (equivalent of about $120). Booooo. I could only imagine it must have been some time during the Spice Tour. I mentioned it to the tour guide who Af Trails uses each year, and he said he’d look into it and was really disappointed and sorry about it; but I knew realistically I’d never see that money again.

To lighten the mood, the girls and boys decided to seperate for the night, the girls (and Ish) for cocktails at a nearby ‘posh’ hotel and the boys for a BBQ and beach party involving buying a wheelbarrow full of beers and chatting up the ladies from another Overland truck that had arrived that day (AK: giggity!). It was a good night had by all, the girls having to retire earlier than the boys to previously mentioned heat stroke, which saved us the roughness that the boys were feeling the next morning.

The girls!! (Me, Sonya, Ish, Kerry, Jules and Jen)

2 for 1 cocktails - bring it on!!

Back on the minibus to Stone Town again, we got back in time to check into Safari Lodge again, finish up any shopping we had missed and head to the night market for last cheap and tasty meal in Zanzibar. AK stayed back at the room as he had picked up a bug that had recently started to circulate around the passengers. I decided to just pop out, have some pizza, and bring some take-away food back for Ad. So on my way with the other guys, I mapped out my route home in my head, no problems there. Easy peasy. The time came to go home, and off I went at a fast pace looking straight ahead of me to avoid any unwanted attention. I got to the entrance of the alleyways and followed my mental map. Now, anyone who knows me will know that I have absolutely no sense of direction, and after 20 minutes of walking I ended up back outside the alleys again but on the other side of town. Hmmm. What to do...I was looking around nervously trying to spot people I’d be able to ask for directions without being robbed, stabbed, kidnapped etc. Eventually I decided on a taxi driver who pointed me back in the way I had come out. Walking on again for some time, I this time decided the ask a group of very old gentlemen sitting out on a step looking harmless. This process of selecting safe targets to help me went on for some time, until I heard an angel’s voice shouting out ‘Lara!’ from a turning on the right. It was Kim! Thank God I was rescued. Apparently they’d seen me walk straight past the correct road twice before deciding to ask me what the hell I was up to! Home sweet home I arrived back at the room still clutching onto AK’s pizza although with my hand shaking rather a lot more then normal. Never again.

We ferried it back to Dar Es Salaam this time avoiding any free, possibly but-invested snacks, and were met by Ruby and new driver Chris to head towards Arusha for our next stop, Snake Park camp site and then on to the Serengeti and NgoroNgoro crater for more (expensive) fun.

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