Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Southern Cross - Arusha and Tranquil Zanzibar

18th - 24th August - Arusha to Zanzibar

Arusha - 18th to 19th August.
Another 4 hours of driving and we arrived in Arusha for the night. We met up with some 100 other travellers, most with Absolute Africa. We were supposed to be changing trucks, but the one we were meant to be going on was still in the workshop. So we stayed with our Pluto. We have another 18 people joining our truck but some on our truck were joining another truck. So we lost a few people but gained quite a few more.
We were introduced to our new tour leader Kanyo and Temba our new driver. Temba is also Zimbabwean, and was pleased to know that there was a fellow Zimbo traveller on board. Kanyo is very organised, and that night briefed us about the next two days worth of travelling and what to expect. We had two long days of travelling to reach Dar Es Salaam, before getting our ferry to Zanzibar. We needed to be up for the next 2 days at 5am to leave by 6am. Kanyo referred to time as ”ish ish” East African time. In other words depending on traffic, road conditions and the amount of toilet stops on the way we should be in camp each day by about 6pm – ish ish time that is! And for the next two days it was definitely ish ish time for sure. Both nights we were in camp well after dark. Everyone was shattered and waiting for 5 days rest and relax in Zanzibar.
Arriving in Dar Es Salaam also known as “Peaceful town”, Dar Es Salaam offered sanctuary to the Turkish people who had been travelling along the coast and was therefore given this Arabic name. We camped on the beach shore. Dave was a happy chappy and hurried himself to the ocean for a swim while I joined the girls for a drink on the beach. It felt good to finally be off the truck after 2 long days travelling. Tomorrow we are being picked up in tuk tuks and taken to our ferry across to Zanzibar.

20th - 24th August
The next morning our tuk tuks were ready and waiting for us. At least 14 of them. Now it was a race to see who was going to get there first. There were cheers as we would over take another tuk tuk. The tuk tuk driving was crazy! The drivers squeezed their way trough the traffic, mounted pavements and let’s say we were met with a lot of cars and larger buses/trucks hooting at the tuk tuks. We all arrived in one piece, Shevy found her sea sick tablets and took one before we boarded the ferry. As it always goes in Africa, there is no polite queuing and the majority of the people pushed and shoved their way to the front. T.I.A and Hakuna Matata – who cares we’re on holiday! Shevy seemed to be ok on the 2 hour ferry ride to Zanzibar, mind you she slept for most of the time. Arriving in Stone Town, the girls were told not to wear anything shorter than the knees and to cover the shoulders, likewise for the guys too. Ramadan had just finished and the locals were in full swing celebrating. It was more for respect of the culture and religion. Kanyo had told us we would be able to wear what we wanted, even our birthday suits when we get to the north end of the island when we were on beach timeout.

After arriving in Zanxibar we were directed to our hotel. From the outside it looked like a run down building but the inside was done up to a very clean modern finishing. We quickly dropped our bags off and met our tour guide from Zanzibar who was taking us on a spice tour. On our way to the spice farm, it started pouring down with rain. Our first rain since we left London! Mind you it only last for 2 hours. Unfortunately for us we arrived at the farm while it was still pouring cats and dogs! We all stood under a shelter while the guide explained about the farms and all the spices. We noticed that the local kids were making necklaces, rings, bookmarks etc from palm leaves. One showed Dave and I how to make a book mark. Don’t ask us to remember how it was done! As the rain continued to pour down we were given ”local” umbrellas to start our spice tour with. These were big banana leaves. Worked perfectly! Soon the rain eventually stopped. We tasted everything from cinnamon, vanilla, to coco beans. There were also litchi’s but they were sweet to start off with and then gradually got sour. I have got a perfect picture of Shev eating one! Her face is classie, must have been just at the time it was turning sour. We aslo were shown the black and red pepper plant. After the tour I managed to buy some interesting flavoured coffee and Shev found some curry powder she liked.
That night we headed to the loal market to get dinner. As we mentioned earlier it was the end of Ramadan, and the locals were all out celebrating. So we joined in the festivities. Seafood was by far the most expensive, with one food stall wanting 12,000 shillings for a plate. The US$ conversion was $8, still cheap but Kanyo said we should not pay more than 3,000 shillings for food that night. So we went on the hunt for a cheaper option which we eventually found. It was called a pizza but it was almost like a crepe but they filled it with beef, onions, egg, tomato, mayonaise and cheese then it went onto a hot pan and then flipped like a pancake. We managed to get two with salad for 800 shillings! Now that was cheap and it was delicious! It just goes to show that where ever in Africa you are, the prices will always rise for the muzungus (Swahilli for White Traveller). But if you are good at trying to negotiate the price down then it works out. We also tried sugar cane lemonade, Dave liked it but it was a tad bit too sweet for my liking. After dinner we made our way back to our hotels.

 The next morning was a free morning, some had gone on the Prison Island tour, others had gone to swim with wild dolphins. A few of us decided that a nice long sleep in sounded way better since we had been up for the last 8 days at 5am! It was a much needed lie in for sure! Dave and I wandered along the harbour in search of markets. We didn’t manage to find any but I did find a jewellery store and thought I would pop in to see if they might have any charms that I could get for my charm braclertte. They didn’t have any but they did have a silver necklace pendant in the shape of Africa with a small tanzanite stone on the side where Tanzania is. I liked it and thought it would be a nice momentum for me to have oaf our trip throgh Africa. At first the price was US$80, but I managed to get the lady down to US$40! I left the pendant on the counter while Dave and I looked through the backpack for our money. We gave the money to the lady and she took it and we looked at her as if to say and where is the pendant, and she did try her level best and insisted that we took the pemdant. I was very much prepared to empty our day pack on the counter as well as empty all our pockets, but she realised we weren’t stupid and gave us the pendant. Lesson learnt, don’t turn your back away!

 We were picked up around lunch time or ish ish time in Africa for our transfer to the North Island. I
never expected the ocean in Zanzibar to be so crystal blue and clear and white sand too! Four days here was a much needed break from truck life. Everyone pretty much did their own thing here and only met up for dinner and drinks in the evening. The one evening we all ended up in bed at 3am! One thing is for sure that the bar will stay open only if the party is still going. The one night they didn’t even end up closing as most people stayed up to watch the sunrise. The four days here was either spent relaxing in the sun, going for long walks on the beach, getting body massages or sitting at the bar drinking cocktails during happy hour while watching some amazing sunsets. We did a day’s excursion snorkelling. I was a little nervous to be honest as I am a snorkel virgin. When we arrived at Mnemba Atol for the snorkel Dave jumped in before me. Once in the water he was explaining to me how the snorkel worked, and told me to put my face in the water. I freaked out a little but after 2 or 3 freak outs I eventually got the hang of the whole breathing thing. The fish were amazing. After 2 hours of snorkelling, (it didn’t feel like 2 hours) we went to another beach where the locals had cooked us fresh tuna for lunch. After a full day in the sun we returned to our resort sporting a nice lobster red colour.

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