Day 49 –
S: Our 7.30 am taxi to the ferry, was a little late this morning even though I had sms’ed him directions last night. We had actually got into another taxi and driven 20 metres when he rounded the corner. We let the 2 taxi drivers sort it out which they seemed to do, good humouredly, with us eventually getting into the taxi we had booked. He assured us that we would get there in good time even though we didn’t move in the traffic for 10 minutes at one point. He seemed to know all the back routes and we stepped out at the ticket offices to a barrage of touts trying to sell us tickets. Fortunately, fore-warned is fore-armed and we knew exactly which ticket office we were going to use which also had a lounge attached. We would be traveling to Zanzibar on the Kilimanjaro III ferry which takes 2 hours.
We bought tickets for first class at USD40 each which meant that we could travel inside in comfort. It was really quiet as there were so few people in first class. L: Steve had had his Stugeron motion-sickness pill as he does not handle sea-travel very well.
We met another tour guide, Jako while buying the tickets and he also gave us some pointers.
The security is quite strict and our luggage was scanned, but they did nothing about the pen-knives that Steve carries. We had to show our passports too. The ferry trip was rather uneventful and the little black “sick-bags” were left in their pockets in our seats ;-). Of course, I, on the other hand, loved the trip and took many photos while Steve focused on the horizon……
S: Two hours later we were disembarking in Zanzibar!! We were checked for our yellow fever injection certificate.
We were hounded by touts again, offering us taxi rides and accommodation. Luckily, I had booked in at the Karibu Inn, by phone, because of a recommendation from Riaan and Julianna who we met at the Kenyan Embassy. So we decided to walk the kilometre to the inn, passing the Palace Museum, House of Wonders and the Old Arab Fort on the way. At the Forodhani Gardens we turned up an alley to our inn.
L: Well, after lugging our bags all the way, it was a bit of a climb to the third floor, up these really steep steps to the room. The door has a key and a padlock!! Inside……ok, wait, it is very clean with fresh linen and a spotless en-suite. Other than that, hmmmmmmm, I can’t say much. The floors are painted with red stoep (balcony) paint! 3 blue floral curtains cover the windows that have shutters too, which I finally managed to open to see the sea. There is a patch of blue showing, but the tops of all the roofs that you see are such an eye-sore. There is air-con and a fan though, as promised.
On a walk-about, later, we compared prices, but decided to stick with what we had for USD50 instead of spending USD 80 to 100!!!
We popped in at the Indian restaurant, a stones throw from the Karibu for lunch. The Spice Route was neat, but lunch was spoilt by Steve’s Curried Calamari being extremely chewy. I had a lamb and spinach dish which was quite nice, but should have been kept warm while on the table. When I went to use my card to pay, the owner asked me what I thought and when I said that Steve was not that wowed, she insisted on giving us a free dessert. Yellow ice cream is an acquired taste, which I acquired really quickly. Steve is still debating, ha ha.
We walked around Stone Town and saw the Old Fort which has the local artists showing their paintings, jewelry etc. It was pretty interesting with a lot of talent. After that Steve could hardly keep his eyes open so we came “home” for a rest.
On our way in, the owner moaned at me for not switching off the air-con. Steve had put it on, so I was a bit miffed that he assumed it was me, but then I asked why he had gone into the room……He assured us that he had not, but he would have to climb on the roof to know otherwise so that freaked me out a bit.
I hurried Steve outside and to the beach to see if we could see the sunset and then, all was forgiven. I forgot our Rapunzel Tower and ugly curtains and red painted floor as the sun set over the water and the dhows sailed lazily into our scene. Wow!!!, there are those times when I just marvel at God’s beauty.
S: While Lesley was busy trying to get the best out of the sunset, I only need one or two photos, I was having a look at the boats being built and repaired on the beach. It is really amazing how they start off with a piece of bent tree when shaping a rib for the boat. Then an outline is drawn on the wood and a adze is used to cut the piece into shape. Once ready the sides that are not essential to the support still retain the rough shape of the tree.
L: By now, there was a lot of activity on Stone Town’s beach with children playing soccer, fishermen returning to shore and everyone thinking about making or getting their dinner. Steve had read about the market stalls on the promenade and was keen to try their fare. I was very hesitant as I do not handle strange food very well. He chose some chicken for him, mussels for me with a salad and flat-bread costing TSH11 000 (R70). It was very little food and not great so we popped along to the restaurant on the pier for Steve to have a wrap and a tasty sea-food soup for me. The power had gone out so we had a candle-light dinner watching all the ships out at sea. What a life.
Steve saved the day when he pulled out his torch and shone our way back to the inn where we were shocked to find that the generators was powering the air-con, fan and lighting in our room and believe it or not, enough warm water for a shower.
And as I write this, Steve is “lights out” …………
Day 50 –
L: Rise and shine. We got up and ready for breakfast as we had booked to go on a spice tour today. We were sitting at the breakfast table with a flask of hot water to make our coffee and 2 side plates each and a knife and fork. Eventually it dawned on us that the breakfast included was only to be toast, coffee and juice. Not sure which part is eaten with a fork.
S: We were told while we waited for the tour guide in reception that when the eggs are bad they do not serve them and I also think bacon does not feature. Ok, then, just tell us. Our tour guide arrived and we set out with another 7 people in the mini-bus. The shocks can no longer keep pace on these roads and with this driver so we jiggled and bounced the entire way across the island of Zanzibar.
We headed northwards along the coast approximately 15 kms to a spice farm which is one that is especially used for demonstration. We passed a lot of other mini-busses doing similar spice tours in the area.
Our guide took us for a walk through what looked like a jungle. Every now and again, he and another assistant, stopped to haul out a root or pick a leaf or a nut or a fruit. It was wonderfully informative and interactive. We learnt so much about cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, ginger, star-fruit, jack fruit and everything found on the island. We got to taste everything that they cut down by spearing it with a knife attached to a branch and slicing open for us. Most of the time, we, the French, Germans or Julie an American lady that we met who lives in the Caribbean were able to guess what we were finding, but there was a lot that was foreign to us too.
It was very hot and humid and even with all the fruit supplied on our walk, we went through a lot of water from our back-packs. All the while in the forest, we were given things made out of leaves – a frog to go round our necks, the guys – a tie, sunglasses etc, so cleverly made, but in the end a little cone was made as a collection plate and passed around.
We were taken to several different spots along the way, collecting spices and ingredients to be used to make our lunch and various oils made from the products that were offered for sale. At last we arrived at our lunch spot. There was an enormous table set out with all types of spices, soaps, lotions and potions to buy. Later, we were invited to take our shoes off and sit on the mats laid out and we were served lunch in plastic containers. We dished up Rice Pilau, Spinach Parcels and Chipati bread as well as a vegetable sauce to accompany everything onto our plastic plates and used a spoon to eat everything. It was heavenly and we soon forgot about how or where it was prepared.
On thinking about it later, we realised that we had not been given a thing to drink and all the guides did not even have a sip of water along the way. We were able to use the toilet in the home where we were served lunch. It was in a outside room. It is as if one brick is left out of a paved floor and you squat over that behind an old curtain, in the pitch dark!
Off we sped to see an underground cavern, Mangapwani, on the beach, filled with coral where slaves were hidden during the slave trade days. According to the story, the slaves were lowered into the cavern by rope whereas now, there is a treacherous staircase to get up and down. There is a fresh water stream right at the bottom which the locals still use to get fresh waypter for themselves. Of course an extra dollar was charged by our guides even though it was open to the public. (The spice tour was USD13 each, including lunch).
Then we were treated to a beach stop, for an hour. It is a beach used mainly by the local fishermen on the one side and then the Serena Inn busses their customers in for a swim and lunch, every so often. I had not yet found a suitable beach for a swim so I took the plunge and had a marvelous swim all by myself between some rocks as we had not been told about the beach trip and had to go in in my t-shirt and black panties which looks like a bathing costume to most people, anyway. Don’t worry, girls, quite respectable still. Ha ha.
The water is so warm here and the sandy beach is clean and soft.
Back in the bus, we thundered out over the really bad terrain, with no shocks, making it a rather uncomfortable ride with everything jiggling about. Phew. Julie and I were giggling as we tried to stop certain parts of our anatomy from moving out of place……..
We went back up to our room to shower and change and a while later went to the Buni Cafe for a cappuccino and an early supper. I had a delicious fresh tuna stir fry while Steve enjoyed a tuna panini. We met a young Brit called Tim and had a chat. There was no way that we were going to risk missing out on another Zanzibar sunset so we rushed down to the beach in time to see the setting sun. Wow, Zanzibar beauty. The huge red orb hung around above the surface of the sea and soon slipped out of view.
Once again everyone was done on the beach and at the Forodhani Gardens playing soccer and showing off, doing back-flips in the sand and some crazies jumping off the promenade. It was really entertaining. The usual food market was in full swing with all the stray cats waiting for a hand out. There are scores of them, right Bruce?
Freshly squeezed pine-apple juice made for a good night-cap.
Day 51 –
L: And now, 5.30am and it is pouring!! I love the rain, but on opening the shutters from one of our 3rd floor windows, it is a sad sight looking out at all the roofs in Stone Town. One could be forgiven for thinking it is a shanty town and the rain brings a smell of urine and dust so unlike the fresh earthy smells of home.
S: We rushed downstairs in anticipation of a fuller breakfast, oh wait now – toast and coffee and a small piece of watermelon (which I don’t eat). L: Steve has now nicknamed breakfast Fast Break as it takes 5 minutes to eat and then he is still hungry.
S: We had decided to go to the ticket office first to buy our tickets for the ferry trip tomorrow. It was a good thing we did as trying to find it was a bit of a mission. What with dodging the water puddles and the traffic around a place as busy as the port was good fun. Especially with Lesley trying to get the cars to wait while she tried to negotiate the puddles, to no effect. I managed to find the kiosk eventually and stood in the queue just before it started to rain. I met a couple from Johannesburg, Shaun and Cathy, and we had a bit of a chat while getting wet. They had also driven up from Johannesburg, South Africa, but this was the furthest they were going.
Once I got to the front of the queue it was fairly easy getting our tickets for our return trip tomorrow. We will be leaving at 09H30, hopefully. Then it was negotiating the traffic and puddles “pole pole” as they say in Swahili, back to the Palace Museum for our first history lesson on the Sultans of Zanzibar. Entrance fee $3 each. The building looks really run down, but there is evidence that it is being renovated.
It was really interesting looking through a building that is much older that what we have experienced up to now in South Africa, except for the castle. Earlier we had been to The Old Fort which is reported to be the oldest building on Zanzibar. In the palace there is a room which Princess Salme (youngest of the 36 children) used who was one of the many children of one of the sultans. Her claim to fame is that she eloped with a German merchant, Rudolph Heinrich Ruete, to Europe and settled there. When he died she earned money by writing a book about her life growing up in Zanzibar which was the first insight the Western world got of life here.
The thing that I also found fascinating is the incredibly intricate carving of some of the furniture displayed.
The next planned museum, between the Palace Museum and The Old Fort, was The House of Wonders. Unfortunately the front door was open, but there was no access to the building as they are busy renovating it. A pity really as it is reported to be worth a visit. Maybe next time.
After the long walk to the ferry and back to the museums in Stone Town we were so excited when afterwards we passed an Italian Ice-cream shop. Yay!!! This is something that we have missed as you don’t readily find ice-cream (that has not melted and been refrozen) or much chocolate. Steve braved the avocado pear ice-cream and I had chocolate ice-cream, it was heavenly, tee hee. I know, avocado ice-cream sounds weird but Steve assured me it was really nice. We had been offered avocado juice at breakfast in a hotel before but were not so brave that time even though we both love avocados. A group of 4 Durbanites followed us in too. Seems there are quite a few South Africans here.
L: We wandered on up the road and found our lunch spot, the Stone Town Cafe. We have no self-catering facilities, not even a kettle so we have had our lunch and supper out each day. We thought that we would find bread and cheese for lunch, but, for me it has been lovely not to have to think about or prepare our meals and we have been quite happy with the food so far. Well, lunch was no exception. Steve ordered orange juice and it tasted a bit more milky than we are used to, but I quite liked it. When it was half finished they rushed in to say that they had given us the wrong drink…….It was seaweed juice!! Steve turned a bit green, but recovered soon enough when they brought real orange juice while I had the “nori” juice.
Lunch was really good. Steve had skewers of meat (mishkaki) with chips and I had a steak sandwich. Great fare. We sat in the comfortable chairs and caught up with the blog, ending with a great cup of coffee each served in a pan-like pot.
S: We were getting warm again and Lesley was longing for a swim when we passed the Dhow Palace Hotel. ($110 per day for a double room) You can see in to their amazing swimming pool in the foyer. We were, very kindly, shown around the hotel by Raja, but alas, Lesley was not invited to swim. L: I hear my girls saying they know why??? S: There are not many elevators in the buildings in Zanzibar, it seems. We climbed up three floors to the roof to see the view. It is lovely to see the ocean and the beach and the boats as long as you overlook the rusting zinc plate sheeting roofs.
We walked up the narrow streets, squeezing against the walls each time a car sped through and nearly having a heart-attack when a truck passed. And all the while the count of how many people try to sell you things, continues. We have learnt the Swahili word for “I don’t understand – sielewi” and that has helped – a lot.
L: Back home. I climbed back up to the tower while Steve found the little supermarket for water, shampoo and a teeny tiny choccie. He got caught in another rain storm so we both showered again in the afternoon as we had been wet off and on from the morning. The rain is not cold though. I must mention, that one thing our hotel has been good for, is warm showers. When we arrived and they told us that we had to give them 30 minutes notice before taking a shower to warm the water, we were very skeptical, but they sure have delivered.
S: After reflection we have decided that three nights in Stone Town is more than enough on a limited budget. A spice tour is a must and they are fairly cheap. It is however not necessary to take a stone town tour as, with a good guide book, you can do the sightseeing yourself. If you have more time and money then you can include other trips to the nearby islands and the various ruins. It also depends on how interested you are in the history of the place. Like I said most of it is available in guide books and on-line.
L: We went to a restaurant, Archipelago, on the beach front for our last supper on the island and really enjoyed it. Steve had a tuna steak with his rice pilau and I had a vegetable curry with mine. And sticky date pudding with caramel sauce. We have so enjoyed our puddings today!
Steve chatted to the boat builders while I watched for the sunset, but with the cloud cover you could hardly see anything. I was taking photos of the boats and noticing a lot of smoke from one when I saw the dark storm clouds crowding in on the bay. It was quite a sight. We did not stay on the beachfront for long for fear of getting another drenching………
S: Now that we have settled the bill at the inn, the air-conditioning is not working, hmmmmmm. We finally worked out that there is a light that shows in the foyer when our air-con is on so that is how they knew that we had left it on when we left the room the first time, sneaky.
Our night desk clerk has been having phone calls with the manager trying to sort out the electrics and it seems there is a separate supply from the street which has gone belly up. Fortunately we still have light and a fan working. It has been a little cooler today and it looks like we will have to do without the A/C tonight.
Tomorrow we will be back in Dar and after picking up our vehicle we will head for a nearby camp site, about an hour and a half’s drive away, as after taking a motion sickness tablet I know by tomorrow afternoon I will be sleeping so we will not be driving anywhere far.
On a technical note: We have bought a local SIM card for my phone, which is a Samsung Galaxy 2, in every country so far and then buy a data bundle, which in Tanzania is rather cheap. For about R200 I got ‘unlimited’ internet access for a month. My phone can be set up as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot (thank you, Jane) so Lesley’s Blackberry and iPad as well as our laptop can connect to the internet. Surprisingly, along the main routes we have travelled, internet access and speed has been reasonably good.
L: And, yes, we know you have been waiting for us to post for a few days, ha ha. Night, night.