… You cannot get there in a car because Zanzibar is very far…
Sheepherding, complete with thousands of baby chicks, is the best way I can describe the ferry ride from Dar Es Salaam to Stone Town Zanzibar. It made for a chaotic scene. The non-climate controlled port building was a people-watching dream. You had tourists with huge backpacks (like us), farm animals, women with young children, families, single travelers, locals and business men… all in every skin color.
Thankfully, the actual ferry was nicely air conditioned inside with a sun-soaked deck outside. We elected for the AC and Aladdin, the live action movie, playing on the TV for our long ferry ride.
Stone Town sits on the western coast of Zanazibar. The old port city is a maze of winding roads and alleys. Given that the roadways are quite narrow, bicycles and motorbikes are insanely abundant in the city. The architecture displays a wide mix of different styles from Indian to Persian to European to African. Bazaars, mosques, cafes and shops line the alleyways for one’s viewing pleasure, all while taxi drivers and vendors harass you as you stroll down the passageways. Stone Town was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Alas, much of the buildings are deteriorating due to the coral stone used to build them. This particular stone requires constant maintenance. Huge, heavy wooden doors adorned with intricate brass details shutter the doors of most domiciles. This city has a very storied history… the Portuguese ruled before the Germans and British decided to take control, at which point the Zanzibar Revolution commenced and the island joined Tanzania. Clearly, there are A LOT of missing events in my highly condensed version of the island’s history.
We rested our heads at the Shangani Hotel along one of the main drags a couple of blocks from the water. It was a decent little hotel, with delightfully cold air conditioning in the rooms, a rooftop restaurant with views out over the surrounding buildings, and a shop in the lobby. After receiving our typical huge, metal key, we climbed awkward, forward sloping, old wooden steps to our third floor room. It was decorated with two large, four-poster beds that took up much of the space in the place. Plus, a desk, wardrobe and bench were crammed inside. Oh, and one can’t forget the mini fridge that took up yet more floor space! Once we figured out how to operate the AC unit, we changed the season in the room from summer to winter almost immediately. Score! However, it did make for a chilly night huddled under the covers perched atop our rock hard mattress. Why must Africa be obsessed with such uncomfortable sleeping pallet.
We spent much of our time in Stone Town shopping for souvenirs, and quite successfully, I might add! The great abundance of cheap shops was beneficial. I ended up coming home with far too many new summer dresses that I certainly did not need. Anywho… Hubs and I meandered the narrow, winding alleys, swung on trees (as you will see pictured below), and ambled in and out of a multitude of boutiques. We bartered with shop keepers, and strolled to the beach for a look. That evening, we enjoyed fruity, colorful drinks with the group at a rooftop cafe just in time for sunset… at the aptly named Sunset Bar in the African Hotel. It was an incredible sunset out over the water, too. We later dinnered at the Archipelago Cafe-Restaurant, which had some ridiculously fresh, and delectable, seafood. And cats… everywhere. Several dined with us at nearby tables on the patio. Thanks for the recommendation, Q!
After dinner we aimed to meet Helen and Marie at the Taperia for drinks. However, they were nowhere to be found. Oh well, Hubs and I shall have a few drinks ourselves! The upper terrace provided some excellent people watching opportunities and just a nice ambiance. It also was home to another shop that was… confusing. Japanses Chiropractic Massage and a Tingatinga Art Gallery all in one!!
My luck continued on our final night… I woke up with pink eye. Fuck. Can I go one trip without getting sick or injured? Anyway, we are in Africa, how in hell do I procure antibiotics?!?! Especially when the “doctor’s office” isn’t open yet. Alas, I was delighted to discover that Africa’s healthcare system is not even remotely as controlled as it is in the States. I was eventually able to get into see some sort of medical-ish person, who advised me to go to the pharmacy (conveniently attached to his office), and inquire about eye drops. For 28,000 Tanzanian shillings, I acquired the needed eye drops without any sort of prescription or documentation. Win! I can keep my eye after all.
Now for the hour and a half van ride to the northern beaches… only two more days remained on our African excursion.
The ride up was far more rural. It was also full of road construction. My favorite part of the construction zones were the “cones” to cordon off the side of the road they were currently working on, indicating that us travelers were not permitted on that portion of the “highway.” Large rocks served as barriers to guide drivers to the correct side of the roadway. Use what you have! More of the small, basic shops lined the motorway, much like other parts of Africa. Coming from a first world country, I cannot imagine living as they do. It absolutely makes me appreciate our creature comforts from home.
During the rainy drive, quiet whispers were being exchanged with a member of our group and a couple of other people in the van. All I could overhear was that this particular person was booking an emergency flight home due to something that may or may not have happened the night before in Stone Town. Confused, the Hubs and I quietly consulted one another about what was going on, but did not pry. UNTIL this group member departed. She believed she was poked with a needle and contracted a disease the night before and required immediate blood testing… uhhh, what?? Zero evidence of such. Moral of the Story: Sometimes these travel groups contain less-than-stable, somewhat unbalanced, psychologically challenged humans. In layman’s terms… nutty as a fruitcake. We later discovered her roommate had become increasingly annoyed with her psychosis.
Back to the fun stuff! Beaches… Day ONE:
Greetings, Kendwa Beach and the Seaview Bungalows. A pleasant surprise met us with this resort. Yes, I even called it a resort. Nicely appointed rooms with a less hard mattress (we’d been plagued with rock hard mattresses the entire trip). However, our AC was a tad fickle. That also may have been because we tried to keep it as frigid as the last place, and the AC could not handle our request.
Seaview Bungalows had quaint rooms scattered amongst the palm trees. paved and rock-lined walking paths wound you through the grounds out to a sandy area littered with palm trees. Once you navigated the palms, you approached the restaurant and well-stocked, beach front bar. The group spent the day relaxing in the sun, savoring neon colored fruity spirits, and basking in warm ocean waters. I continued demolishing the books I had, having only one minor breakdown when my Kindle froze and would not restart. I could get used to this.
Several of us took a stroll to a nearby hotel for dinner that night. We had a few drinks, exchanged a few stories, and enjoyed the warm weather. That first day ended as we all returned to the resort with full stomachs. It was then that I discovered an adorable, tiny kitten in the hallway of our building. The faint meows emitting from the little orange puttytat where delightful. The sound distracted from her very sharp claws. Mike, one of our counterparts, clutched the kitten and snuck over to the deck he was sharing with his significant other. That significant other, Nicola, promptly informed him, “You can stay in that chair with the cat. I’ll bring you a blanket.” When asked whether he would spend his night outdoors cuddling with the kitchen, he replied, “Maybe.” And then said, “I’ll name him Steve.” Alas, no one took Steve the Cat home with them. Not that Customs ever would have let us through.
Beaches… Day TWO: RAIN
Dammit weather! Why are you being so disagreeable?! We are at the beach, and would love nothing more than getting some sun. What was more frustrating was that the morning gave us sunny skies with breakfast, but the moment we returned to our rooms to change for a beach day, the rain commenced. And not even remotely softly. It POURED. Every now and then it would slow, but it never fully dissipated. We were only taunted with slight glimpses of blue sky.
The day was spent reading in our room, along with a 40 minute workout, of course. Obviously, I was still ignoring the injured ankle. The rain eventually yielded mid-afternoon, but left us with a cloudy sky. We moseyed down to the beach finally.
Since I forgot the handstands under day one, and day two was full of gloomy skies… Enjoy some handstands!
That evening we were treated with a Full Moon Party and a traditional African dinner. As the name suggests, these parties occur around the time of the full moon, and typically involve food, music, and a rather large party. The meal was buffet style, which was interrupted by rain of course! After moving their beautifully adorned tables back under cover, the dinner launched! And as luck would have it, the rain ceased. We gorged on scrumptious food and adult beverages. Then the music began. Unfortunately, my stomach decided now was the time to become cantankerous, and I quickly strode to our room. At which point, I lost my stomach. Dinner and dancing festivities were over for me. Luckily, we managed a group photograph prior to my stomach failing me miserably.
Kendwa… Day THREE: SUN!
Of course of final day was sunny… it was only a partial day, and we’re departing. Damn you, weather! We enjoyed a final breakfast in Africa… my usual eggs and a croissant. At the urging of Q, we booked a flight with Precision Air to ferry us from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam instead of using the unreliable ferry. The flight was so much easier than we ever would have thought. We even took off and landed in Dar Es Salaam before we were scheduled to take off from Zanzibar.
On to the depressing and deplorable Emirates… and Dubai (not deplorable).