It’s been a little over a month since I’ve returned from beautiful Tanzania. When asked “How was your trip?”, I feel at a loss for words – it’s hard to describe my experience there. I feel very fortunate that I’m able to travel as often as I have, enabling me to experience different cultures and expanding my worldview. Africa is a stunningly beautiful and complex place and it was an absolutely amazing adventure.
Here are a few of my favorite images and “Dear Diary” entries by date. It is highly recommended to read this post while listening to the song “Africa” by Toto to set the mood.
My family and friends all seemed a bit worried when I told them that Sarah (my close friend of 10 yrs) and I were traveling to Africa. It is a continent with a horrific history and an unfathomable amount of past and current violence but Tanzania is a relatively peaceful nation – it just happens to share a border with many troubled neighboring countries. The people we met and the places we saw are nothing short of amazing. Throughout my time there, I never did feel worried or unsafe – very uncomfortable due to heat, dirtiness, ridiculously heavy luggage, and squished transport – yes; but safety wasn’t a concern of ours.
Our various means of transportation consisted of planes, buses, shuttles, dalla dallas, taxis, ferries, and dhows. We were often one of a few tourists in all of the places we visited and were rewarded with breathtaking places and incredibly helpful, friendly people – the friendliest I’ve met in all of my travels. A majority of the people spoke some English but I wish that I would have studied Swahili before my trip, which would have been very helpful in the less touristy areas.
Tanzania is predominately Muslim so we had to get used to the daily Call to Prayers, which was 5 times a day starting at 4:45 AM, in every town – no matter how small. ‘The Call’ was often off-key, which gave us the giggles. We also had to dress conservatively by keeping our shoulders and legs covered for the most part (beaches were an exception). It was eye-opening to see the Muslim way of life. I wish the rest of the world (or the rest of the United States, for that matter) would have been able to see what I saw there – an abundance of love for their family and neighbors, celebration, and happiness – NOT terrorists in training. Just as there are Christian extremists, there are Islam extremists and the rest of the believers shouldn’t be judged as such.
Family life is central in Tanzania – almost everyone we met had several kids and people couldn’t fathom why we didn’t have children yet. “Where are your babies?” was a question we were asked several times. At first, Sarah and I talked about how irresponsible it seemed to have so many kids, as far as 1. the fact that it must be hard to afford to feed their kids (Avg Per Capita GDP is $509) and 2. the effect of all of these kids on world-wide population growth. But again, it’s a different culture and lifestyle – they may be looking at a majority of the world and think how irresponsible we are – destroying the air we breathe and water we drink, extreme consumerism, extreme materialism, etc. Even with the best of intentions, we aren’t living responsibly either.
We also found that as Americans, we were warmly welcomed. From my past travel experiences, I found that this isn’t always the case but having Obama as our president (whether you love him or not – I, myself, am a fan) has definitely improved our world-wide reputation. We found Obama sarongs, pictures, spray-painted concrete, etc – we even started saying that we were from ‘Obamaland’, which people thought was hilarious.
11/27/10 (Sat) – Into Africa
After almost 24 hours of traveling, I was beyond excited to get off the plane in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Once I hit the jetway – and felt the oppressive heat and humidity – it hit me that I was really in Africa.
After a very long, convoluted VISA entry process, I picked up my extremely awkward and heavy baggage and proceeded to the airport exit. Waiting patiently outside was my taxi driver – with my name on a sign as promised. My name was misspelled (I kind of like ‘Valentina’ – it sounds exotic) but it was still a nice welcome and a relief to not have to negotiate and barter with the other taxi drivers jockeying for position at the exit gate. We hit the road, onward to my hotel, and it was instant culture shock heading into town. I had forgotten (from a previous trip to South Africa) how crazy traffic is in Africa – first you get used to driving on the other side of the road but then there is the chaos surrounding the roads: people sauntering in front of speeding cars, cars passing bicyclists and pedestrians with mere inches to spare, and people are everywhere – just hanging out, off and in, the streets.
I arrived at our hotel (a basic hostel-like place) a little after midnight. Sarah was supposed arrive from Los Angeles around 2AM so I got settled and ended up falling asleep. At 4:45, I woke up abruptly as the first Call to Prayer of my trip was starting (which at the time, sounded a bit haunting). I then realized that Sarah hadn’t shown up yet and started to get worried – her flight was supposed to be only an hour an a half later than mine. I got dressed and headed down to the front desk to inquire on her whereabouts – happily, she just happened to walk through the door. The airline had lost her luggage (and we’d have to make a trip back to the airport the next day to pick it up), but she was safe and sound.
11/28/10 (Sun) – Acclimate – Dar es Salaam
Sarah and I spent our first day catching up on each other’s lives, getting acclimated to ‘Africa life,’ and dealing with our intense jetlag. We went to an ATM to withdraw some cash (Tanzanian Shillings) and found that the largest bill denomination was $10,000 shillings (about $7 US) so we had no choice but to roll around with a fat wad of bills (hidden and stored in various places, obviously). We had read in our Lonely Planet guidebook (our bible for the trip) that politeness, courtesy, and greetings were extremely important in Tanzanian culture – but we had no idea that we would be saying “Jambo!” (“Hello” in Swahili) to almost every single person that we met on the street…I estimate that I said “Jambo” about 5,000 times during my 3 week trip (and I honestly don’t think that this estimate is an exaggeration).
11/29/10 (Mon) – Journey to Moshi
We often used the phrase “It’s Africa” – as in anything can happen and you should always have a backup plan or two (or three). Our estimated 8 hour ‘luxury’ (air conditioning = open windows) bus journey to Moshi (a town at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro) turned into 13 hours after our drive shaft broke and we got a flat tire. We arrived in Moshi hot, smelly, sweaty, dirty and had the first, of what would be many, “best showers ever” of the trip.
11/30/10 (Tues) – Moshi
The next morning we walked around Moshi town, saying our “Jambos!” to just about everyone we met. We watched sidewalk seamstresses at work, booked our budget safari, ate amazing Indian food, and went on a ‘Coffee Plantation Tour’ near Mweka which consisted of our tour guide, Frank, and his buddy, Big Poppa, driving us by some coffee fields – and they were great about stopping every 5 minutes for Sarah and I to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
We had the opportunity to try banana beer and banana cider, while listening to Frank’s entertaining reflections about the book/movie ‘The White Maasai’, the current Tanzanian president, and the most recent Tanzanian elections.
12/1/10 (Wed) – Safari – Lake Manyara National Park
After bartering for new sunglasses in Arusha (I found the missing sunglasses that evening in my bag, naturally), which was an experience in itself, we started our wildlife viewing adventure with our Belgium safari cohorts, Max and Ghistaan, to Lake Manyara National Park. It was a beautifully diverse setting with marshes, savanna, baobab and acacia trees – we saw thompsons, gazelles, impalas, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, velvet monkeys, water buffalo, hippos, dik diks, and lots of baboons.
12/2/10 (Thurs) – Safari – Ngorongoro Crater
Sarah and I were initially planning on skipping the Ngorongoro Crater because we thought that it was going to be too touristy but we are so glad that we went. We were greeted at the park entrance by a group of Maasai people who were peddling their jewelry, spears, and “photos with a Massai” (for a price). The Maasai people are a nomadic ethnic group who are now being ‘strongly encouraged’ (read forced – by taking away land access) by the Tanzania government to discontinue their nomadic lifestyle. This is sad in itself but we couldn’t help but feel part of the cause (as tourists) that is exploiting them.
While in the Crater, we saw zebras, clownbirds, impalas, ibis, gazelles, lions, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, kori basta birds, and wild cats. There is nothing like the feeling of the wind in your hair, watching wildlife all around you, while standing in the back of a very bumpy safari vehicle – although I did get a few centimeters from getting a serious concussion.
It was a great day that ended with a very uncomfortable drive back through Arusha at night – I’ve never breathed so much dust, diesel, or smoke, nor seen a car dodge so many people, in my life. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way here and there were numerous times throughout our trip that I thought for sure that we were going to hit someone or get hit by cars ourselves.
12/3/10 (Fri) – Journey back to Dar es Salaam
As far as African bus rides go, our return to Dar es Salaam was fairly uneventful. We still can’t get over what we’ve been calling ‘The Garbage Issue’ – there is garbage everywhere (primarily plastic bottles) and it’s normal for people to throw their garbage out of bus windows, off of ferries, etc. Like many countries, there isn’t a solid infrastructure in place for garbage collection or pickup so I guess the thought is just to spread it around? I think the U.S. still has a very long way to go in regards to recycling but I guess it’s comforting that at least we have recycling programs. Sarah and I used our fair share of plastic bottles while we were there so now that I’m home, no more plastic water bottles for me – I just keep picturing the-size-of-Texas “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” growing larger and larger…
We arrived at the bus station in Dar and bartered heavily for a cab – “No Mzungu (white person) price!” was another common phrase we used throughout our trip as the first price quoted for a service was usually more than double of what a Tanzanian would pay. Bartering is fun at first, but after a while, it gets tiring.
That evening we went out for dinner with Micheal’s (Sarah’s boyfriend) friend, his wife and child and several other expats to Oriental – the most expensive restaurant in Dar es Salaam. We paid about $25 US per person for our dinner (twice of what our lodging has cost us), but it was nice to take a break from our budget traveling lifestyle and get out of the Dar ghetto for the night.
12/4/10 (Sat) – Ferry to Zanzibar
After several days of dust, diesel, and smoke, it was quite a treat to head to the islands (Zanzibar and Pemba). We took the “luxury” ferry which was accurate in its title – there were beanbags on the top deck, it was sheltered from the sun, and the view along the ferry route was spectacular.
We arrived in Stone Town, Zanzibar at sunset and could see the cool, rustic, rundown buildings, kids playing and swimming along the shoreline – it was such a happy, positive vibe – much more so than the big city of Dar and the rest of the mainland. There is definitely something to be said for ‘Island Life’ – I absolutely love it.
After disembarking the ferry, we bartered with a taxi driver and settled into our basic guesthouse. We consulted our Stone Town map and set out to explore the narrow, windy, maze-like streets. It’s easy to get lost in Stone Town, but the people are so friendly that they’re happy to walk you to where you need to go – without expecting anything in return. For dinner, we settled on the Forodhani Gardens evening street market where vendors sell Zanzibar pizza (an omelet-type treat), yummy spicy soup, kabobs (tables upon tables of chicken, beef, and almost any type of fish you can think of), fresh fruit, and sugar cane juice, which is made while you watch.
We went to a hip hop show in the Old Fort – literally a crumbling ruin with concrete stadium-type seating. We listened to Bongo Flava (Swahili Hip Hop), which I loved. As the only Westerners, Sarah and I instantly had several suitors sit by us and asked us anything from “Would you like to have a love affair?” (Sarah) to “I think that I would like very much to marry an American woman” (me) to “You are charming. Do you like [Hip Hop artist] 50 cent?” (me).
We finished off the evening by dancing to reggae music at Livingstones with our new Rastafarian friends, Iray and Abu Babi.
“Hakuna Matata” is a phrase that is heard frequently here as, apparently, there are no worries on Zanzibar.
12/5/10 (Sun) – Exploring the soul of Zanzibar (Stone Town)
I’m usually not a ‘city’ vacation person; I’d much rather be exploring nature and wildlife – but I LOVED Stone Town. UNESCO declared the whole town as a ‘World Heritage Site’ and with good reason. You can see the mix of Indian, Arabian, African, and European influences all around you – there’s so much fascinating history that it’s almost overwhelming. We had a great time just wandering around town – it is a photographer’s dream: rundown buildings, amazing architecture, beautiful doorways, women in their colorful headscarfs, bicycles – just about everything seems interesting and beautiful.
Upon leaving our guesthouse that evening, we walked by a community hall and were invited to witness a Muslim wedding by the groom’s brother. “You are most welcome” he said as he encouraged us inside to take in the music, dancing, and contagious happiness. We tried to be discreet by sitting in the very back but being the only Westerners, we got a lot of double takes. Everyone was so welcoming and we were served (in this order) popsicles, gum, a bottle of water, and beef kabobs. We were on our way to meet some fellow travelers for dinner so we unfortunately had to leave before the bride arrived, which would have been wonderful to see, as well as the actual ceremony.
12/6/10 (Mon) – Spice Tour
We usually try to avoid tours but the Spice Tour sounded interesting. It didn’t disappoint – we were able to see, smell, touch, and taste nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, and pepper – growing in their natural habitat. We also got to sample star fruit, jack fruit, and my favorite, custard fruit.
After an amazing lunch, we stopped at the Persian Bath Palace and Mangapwani Beach – our first swim in the Indian Ocean for this trip.
12/7/10 (Tues) – Off to the beach (Jambiani)
After breakfast on our guesthouse rooftop, we ran a few errands and made arrangements for a shuttle to take us out to a beach house on Jamibiani Beach (east side of the island) which we were referred to from fellow travelers Steve and Jen (from Alberta). Our shuttle/tour guide, Baboo was full of funny phrases. He asked “How do you survive?” when I told him that I’m from ‘cold’ Seattle, then coined me as “Giraffe Girl” because of my tall backpack and asked us to come back into town to “shake our skeleton” (dance).
An hour and half later, we found ourselves in paradise – behold clean, warm, pure turquoise water of the Indian Ocean and a blindingly-white sand beach. There were a few local kids playing on the beach but other than that, it felt like we had this special place all to ourselves. That night, our caretaker/cook, Isa, made us an amazing curry fish dinner (yes, I ate fish – it wasn’t ‘fishy’ fish) and we asked him tons of questions about his family and Jambiani-town. After dinner, Sarah and I relaxed in the lounge chairs and read our newly bought Africa books – ‘The White Massai’ and ‘The Shackled Continent’.
12/8/10 (Wed) – Unofficial Jambiani tour
We woke up with the sun, had a fresh fruit and egg breakfast, and went for a Jambiani-town tour with Isa’s dad. We visited the hospital (Jambiani Clinic) and received a tour from Dr Hamza. The doctor had different graphs in his office, charting the incidences over a 10 year span of different diseases that affect the Jambiani people – primarily malaria (which has decreased due to increased awareness), hypertension, and asthma.
After the hospital, we went to see the town’s Muslim primary and nursery schools as well as other local sights. Isa’s dad finished the tour at his house, where we met some of his family. It is so interesting to compare how different our lives are, yet there are so many things that are similar…
12/9/10 (Thurs) – Paradise City
After a long walk on the beach in the morning, Sarah and I settled in for a day of watching locals harvest seaweed, reading, and swimming. It was a good day.
12/10/10 (Fri) – Time to leave Jambiani? Apparently not…
We were a little hesitant to leave our idyllic paradise but Sarah and I had arranged with Baboo in Stone Town to leave Jambiani to start our adventure to nearby Pemba Island. We got all of our stuff packed up (again, hating our heavy backpacks) and waited for our shuttle to arrive… and waited… and waited… No pick-up – damn Baboo.
Again “It’s Africa” – so we decided that it was meant to be for us to stay a few more days in Jambiani – luckily our beach house was available for a few more nights, so more beach-walking, reading, swimming, and relaxing for us.
12/11/10 (Sat) – The not-recommended Dolphin Tour
Again, we aren’t ‘tour people’ but had heard good things from fellow travelers about the Dolphin Tours outside of Kizimkazi. We left at sunrise and were then uncomfortably part of the chaos that ensued, which was 6 to 7 boats chasing down a large school of dolphins. We asked our guides to please let us just stop to snorkel, which they did, and the dolphins ended up coming our way anyway. It was really cool to be in the water with them and to see them up close but I wish it was under better circumstances.
The rest of the day was filled with wading in the water during the seaweed harvests, as well as soaking in the sun, sights, and culture. Our last evening ended with reading, a swim in the warm Indian Ocean and Isa made another incredible meal for us. Ah, paradise…
12/12/10 (Sun) – Return to Stone Town
After a morning swim, we headed back to Stone Town. We were sad to leave our beach but excited to get back to the ‘big city’ with restaurants, internet, and yet-to-be explored areas of town. We planned out our day, which started with our second trip to the Zanzibar Coffee House. I’m not sure if it was the feta crepe, the greek salad, the chocolate cake, or coffee (OK, maybe we went a little overboard with the food) but we both felt sick afterwards – me = serious caffeine jitters; Sarah = stomach flu. I picked up our ferry tickets to Pemba Island and ran a few errands while Sarah figured out her upcoming trip to Uganda and tried not to get sick (no luck there).
12/13/10 (Mon) – Pemba Island
The ferry to Pemba Island was much less delightful than the ferry to Zanzibar – we scored seats that were outside and mostly sheltered from the sun but once we took off into the rocking sea, the diesel smell and smoke was horrible. We were sitting by a mom and her 6 kids (all kids ages 8 and under) and once the ferry attendant passed out the appropriately titled ‘Sick Bags’, one kid threw up in his, then another, then another, and so on.
I have a horrible gag reflex so it took everything in me to not jump on the bandwagon. The situation reminded me of the scene in ‘The Goonies’ where the character Chunk confesses to all of the bad things that he’s done, one of which was when he pretended to throw up and dumped fake puke onto a movie audience, which caused a chain reaction of puking everywhere.
3 1/2 miserable hours later, we saw land. Our mood instantly improved – until we neared the Mkoani ferry landing. It was CHAOS. Hundreds of people on the dock yelling, pushing, pulling, waving their arms – it was crazy. One man was pushed into the water next to the ferry, then another, and once we docked, porters jumped onboard trying to ‘help’ us with our bags. Policemen were using their billy club-like sticks to hit people back to allow people off the ferry – I wish that I had gotten a picture of the craziness. We decided to push, elbow our way through, basically doing whatever was necessary to get the the ferry terminal. In hindsight, we should have allowed a porter to help us with our bags because by the time we drug ourselves to the terminal (a nice long walk away) I was ready to chuck my heavy backpack into the water – a porter would have been worth the $1. While we there, we bought our return ferry tickets – if our first impression of Pemba was any indication of how the rest of the island was, we didn’t want to risk a sold out ferry for when we wanted to head back to Zanzibar.
Next up, transportation. We were headed to the northernmost part of Pemba so it was a couple hours drive away. Taxi drivers were offering their services for ‘mzungu prices’ so we declined and decided that it was time to take our first dalla dalla ride. Dalla dallas are privately owned mini-buses that primarily locals use to get around. The attendant threw our 50+lb backpacks on top, along with baskets, fruit, and other local goods. We then waited while the attendant proceeded to pack literally 50 people in the our vehicle – babies, chickens, fruits – all packed in awkwardly. One interesting observation from the ride was a lady was breastfeeding on the dalla dalla (and not discreetly). While I feel that women should be able to breastfeed anywhere, I thought that it was interesting that in a conservative country where you have to keep your legs, shoulders, head, and sometimes face, covered, that pulling your breast out is OK.
After a long, uncomfortable, albeit beautiful, 3 hour drive, we reached the end of the road (or at least as far as our dalla dalla would take us) and were dropped off in Konde. English-speakers are more rare on Pemba and there aren’t many tourists that visit the island (we met/saw a total of 10 tourists during our time there – 2 of which were Peace Corp volunteers). A group of curious local boys came around to help us – one helped Sarah find a bathroom, while the others who could speak broken English were curious where we were going and what we were doing as “we don’t see many tourists here”. We conversed for a while with our broken Swahili and their broken English, along with hand gestures and lots of laughter. Since bicycles seemed like the only mode of transport in this town, we were starting to wonder if we may have to spend the night in Konde, where there is no lodging to speak of, and as I motioned to my tent when asked where we would sleep, the boys thought that was hilarious. Finally, a man came around and ended up finding us a taxi to Verani Beach; it cost 4 times the price of our dalla dalla for 1/5 of the distance but “It’s Africa”.
After our shuttle was stuck briefly in the mud, we made it to Verani Beach, which wasn’t quite what we expected. There were cows wandering everywhere and the bungalow that we were to stay in was still in the process of being built – and had lots of creepy crawlies in our dark, dank bathroom – millipedes, worms, scorpions, mosquitos, etc. We were ready to jump in the water to wash off our dalla dalla ride but was told that since the tide was out and that there were sea urchins everywhere, we’d have to wait until morning. Bummer – we’d have to shower with the creepy crawlies instead.
12/14/10 (Tues) – Verani Beach
As promised, we were able to swim (with shoes on) the next morning which was wonderful. Although the setting wasn’t what we had envisioned, it was beautiful. We had a mellow day of reading in the sun and took a walk along the beach at sunset. We ran into some boys (all brothers) along our beach walk who, as friendly as they were, asked us for “pens?” or “money?”. It’s frustrating that, as good as their intentions probably were, previous tourists who had given these things have created a cycle which encourages local kids to essentially beg for money (or pens, or whatever). We found this to be the case in most areas that we visited, which was discouraging.
12/15/10 (Wed) – Back to Mkoani
We felt that we had seen all we needed to see in Verani Beach so we had the owner of our guesthouse arrange a dalla dalla pickup the next morning. We had asked for the earliest pick up possible (6AM) so that there would be a possibility of us riding in the front with the driver but when our ride came at 6:45, the dalla dalla was already crammed full, mostly with women and children. It was a better ride this time, at least more entertaining anyway, as the kids were fascinated by our skin and hair color – lots of staring and smiling.
Once in Mkoani, we were greeted at the dalla dalla drop off by the assistant manager of the Jodeni Guest House. We hadn’t secured a place to stay at that point so we ended up walking 700 meters uphill to our lodging. Again, we were ready to get rid of our backpacks again but once we saw that the guest house had hammocks, showers, and a beautiful view – Hakuna Matata.
That evening, we went for a walk down the road – the Pemba countryside is stunning. It’s incredibly lush with rice and banana fields, palm and fruit trees everywhere. As we walked, we saw couples farming their fields with hoes and lots of families hanging outside their houses – we called out the only Swahili greeting/phrases that we knew as we passed by – “Jambo”, “Habari” (How are you doing?), “Poa” (good/cool). The kids couldn’t contain themselves when they saw us – “JAMBO!!” they’d cry several times while we walked by, running to meet us on the street, following us until they were called to turn around to go home – we felt like celebrities.
12/16/10 (Thurs) – Our Shamiani Island adventure
After a great sleep, we were ready for another adventure. We had read about Shamiani Island and had received some tips from fellow travelers that we met in Verani Beach, so we set off in a dalla dalla towards our destination. Once we reached the end of the dalla dalla route, again friendly people came around to help us find where we needed to go. We were sent off with a young boy who led us through a village towards the boat harbor. Kids started shouting “Mzungu!” and “Jambo!” as they ran to catch up to us and soon we had a pack of kids (and a few adults) following us down to the harbor. Once we got the harbor, Sarah and I exchanged glances as the harbor wasn’t what we pictured – we were in a large muddy cove, with wooden dhows in various stages of repair everywhere around us. There were several fisherman hanging around and some of them spoke broken English as we tried to explain where we wanted to go and then negotiate a price. Once all was ‘settled’ we waded in super nasty water to get into a dhow. We assumed that it would
just be us and the captain but 2 others – deckhands, I guess – jumped on board. We were pretty sure that our requested destination may have been lost in translation but we figured that it would be an adventure!
The boat ride was pretty mellow and the scenery was beautiful. When we arrived at our destination, we were a bit skeptical as the beach we were docking at was rocky and not what we read about i.e. white sand. “Shamiani?” we’d ask. “Yes, yes” they’d say.
They led us down a path and after 20 minutes of walking, I could hear the ocean ahead of us. It was like a movie – we came through a clearing a saw this amazing white sand, turquoise water, and hammocks before us. There is a lodge on the island (Pemba Lodge) but it currently didn’t have any guests so the caretaker was quick to ask if we wanted any soda, lunch, whatever. We had brought our lunch so we bought a Sprite and proceeded to relax in the shade.
We were wearing our swimsuits but didn’t feel like giving the guys a ‘show’ – that was probably part of the reason that they had agreed to take us but we didn’t feel like being gawked at. We met a massage therapist walking on the beach and she asked us to take her picture so that we’d remember her when we came back (and would buy a massage) – she was very sweet.
After a few hours lazing in our idyllic cove, we headed back to the boat. The ride back was exciting to say the least. The wind had picked up considerably and there were several times that I thought for sure that we were going to be dumped into the water – that part didn’t bother me so much but neither Sarah nor I brought our drybags to hold our camera gear – it could have been a very expensive swim. Once the wind died down a bit, we proceeded to pick up a few locals on our route back – I wouldn’t have guessed that anymore people could have fit into our boat, but like the dalla dallas, there is always room for more! The old woman who was cozied up next to me seemed fascinated by my skin color – she’d stare at me for a bit, then would look at her skin, then look at mine, then my hair – it was cute. As we made our way back through the mangroves, we saw lots of kids bathing and swimming and as soon as they saw that there were mzungus on the boat, they’d either jump in the water, run away, or wave furiously and yell “Jambo!”
Once we returned to the harbor, the kids started to gather again so Sarah busted out her secret ice-breaker – the Aerobie – for entertainment. As expected, the kids loved it. As we walked through the village, back to our dalla dalla pickup, we played Aerobie with the 30+ kids that tagged along with us.
We had a luxurious dalla dalla ride back to the harbor (less than 10 people) and took a walk down to the pier. There were a few local boys showing off their diving skills so we had a great time talking with them – and they loved getting their picture taken.
12/17/10 (Fri) – Misali Island
The next morning we set off for another adventure – this one was much more low-key. We took a larger dhow to Misali Island, which is part of a marine conservation area.
This was yet another beautiful place – we snorkeled and saw a ton of bright fish, colorful coral, and other sealife. After a light lunch of rice (the birds ate our fish), we walked around the island to various beaches and explored caves (which are said to hold the spirit of their ancestors inside.) There is a turtle-nesting beach on one side of the island but unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to see any cute baby turtles.
The only thing that wasn’t ideal on this island was the rats – we could hear them rustling through the bushes and saw a few during our walk around the island.
12/18/10 (Sat) – Back to Zanzibar
Our last day in Pemba – we would have liked to stay a few more days but I was due home soon and Sarah had to leave for Uganda, then onto the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet up with Chuck’s cousin Amy. We were dreading the ferry ride back to Zanzibar and hoped that it would be much better the second time around. As anticipated, the ferry landing was chaos but our gameplan was to have Sarah stay with the bags and I stood my ground in line to ensure that we could secure good seats (outside but in the shade). Yes, even I can get tired of the sun – the malaria-prevention medicine made my skin so sensitive it felt like it was on fire.
The ferry ride back was much better than the ride there so we felt pretty energized when we arrived at Stonetown. The first thing we noticed after we arrived was how many tourists were now there, as it was now the start of the ‘high season’. It’s amazing the difference in a week – I know that we are tourists as well but some are just so embarrassing – they are just plain rude (from what we witnessed).
For our last night, I splurged (aka not a $15 a night room) and got us a room at the Tembo House Hotel. We felt like we were in the lap of luxury with our swimming pool, air conditioning, TV, and hot water showers. We visited our favorite haunts for the last time – ate spicy soup at Forodhani Gardens and had dinner and passion fruit drinks at our favorite rooftop, Morracan-style restaurant ‘236 Hurumzi’. A great end to a great vacation.
12/19/10 (Sun) – Last day in Tanzania
Sarah and I said our sad goodbyes that morning as she had to catch her plane to Uganda. Part of me was sad that I wasn’t going with her – although I hadn’t had much of a desire to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo, I felt like I was in ‘travel mode’ and could have continued on. I also wanted to see much more of Africa and knew that visiting Congo would be an amazing, possibly life-changing adventure. Plus, I would have loved to see Chuck’s cousin Amy. The rest of me, however, was so happy that I was going home to see my husband, family, and friends and getting back to my comfortable life.
12/20/10 – 1/22/10 – Out of Africa – Epilogue
What an experience! I still feel like I’m adjusting to real life at home. I had a rough couple weeks when I returned, mostly due to persistent jet lag, a stomach bug, the side effects of the malaria-prevention medication, and the sudden lack of sunlight. I don’t consider myself a Scrooge but it sure was nice to miss out on all of the stressful Christmas hoopla. Before I left for my trip, I was already feeling like things were getting out of hand with all of the advertising and the general push for a material culture and mass consumerism – and this was all happening before Thanksgiving. I felt much more so after being reminded again how others live with much, much less and are just as happy or, in many cases, much happier than those who have the most ‘toys’. I’m grateful to all of the people that I met in Tanzania that have reminded me of this – Asante sana.
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© 2023 Jamie V Photography
Weddings, Portraits, & Travel
site design by mesmerizing designs