|June 22, 2010
We woke up and had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the ferry terminal. The hotel arranged a taxi for us and almost immediately as we exited the reception area we were faced by the same guy who hassled us yesterday. Much to our continued annoyance with him, he jumped into the passenger seat in the taxi and started trying to sell us tickets again. We told him we had them and he started to get a bit annoyed that we hadn’t bought them from him yesterday. I made up some stuff about how we walked around and just went past the terminal and bought some and so he just shut up. Thankfully, he shut up for the entire journey. When we got to the ferry terminal, our taxi driver just stood right in front of the boot and wouldn’t move, which made it difficult for us to get our bags out. It was really rude and quite honestly these two characters weren’t helping us form any other than a bad opinion of their city.
We joined the queue for the ferry to Zanzibar with mostly locals, all carrying loads of luggage, including mattresses and bed frames! The ferry ride was easy enough and the current was not too bad. It was really hot on the ferry so we were glad we’d bought water with us.
At the other end, we had to go through arrival formalities which seemed strange as we were still actually in Tanzania. I guess it is just to safeguard the island from illness and disease and control who comes in. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Imani Beach. The drive took us about 10 minutes out of the main town and before long we’d turned off the main road onto a bumpy, dirt track! I’d seen a sign on the main road for the hotel so I wasn’t concerned and thankfully the hotel wasn’t too far along the uneven road! As we reached the hotel, it didn’t appear to be much with plenty of construction going on around it but once inside we found a lovely, cool little beachside hotel. It is run by a young English couple and they were very welcoming. Our room was lovely, the communal areas equally so and a lovely beach view complimented everything else. We lazed around the hotel after some lunch and arranged for some diving tomorrow and a tour of one of the spice farms the day after. We took the opportunity, too, to test out the Indian Ocean and went for a brief dip in the evening – a nice way to relax and unwind after the sweaty ferry ride and dirty Dar!
For dinner we ate at the hotel again and tried some of the local curry. The food was excellent and I could easily imagine coming here and not having to leave for a few days. It made me even more frustrated that we’d “wasted” that day in Dar es Salaam.
June 23, 2010
We went diving today and the dives were done from Stone Town. There are a number of snad banks and reef areas just offshore here as well as a couple of wrecks. Our first dive was at one of these wrecks and was a deep dive. There was a guy on the boat doing his advanced course and he had to do a deep dive and we were glad to get a deeper dive in to make use of the advanced qualification we got in Australia. The wreck itself was fairly small but combined with some lovely reef and quite a lot of fish it was a really good dive.
After a lunch of fresh fruit, samosas and other local, deep-fried snacks, we headed to one of the sandbanks for our second dive. This dive was even better and we got to see a couple of eels up close, a blue-spotted ray that was close enough to touch, lionfish (close enough to touch but no-one is stupid enough to try!), cowfish and a massive kingfish. I’d had kingfish for dinner last night with my pasta and now I know what they look like when they’re alive!
After the diving we wandered around Stone Town and got some snacks at a little café. We got some more samosas and some other local, deep-fried snack. They like deep frying here almost as much as Americans!
We headed to the ferry terminal and bought our return ferry tickets – we thought it would be better to arrange this now while we were in town rather than try to arrange it the day we wanted to leave, complete with all our bags! We got a taxi back from there to the hotel and I realised I was short of money compared to what I had left with this morning. I had used an ATM to get money out for diving and somewhere along the line this amount had reduced itself by a few thousand shillings (about $50). I was annoyed as I had no idea where it had gone and even though it isn’t a lot of money, it is the first time on the entire trip we’ve “lost” anything. I can only think of one possible explanation but that involves pointing the finger at someone for which I have no evidence and certainly couldn’t complain about. We’ll just have to write it off to experience and Elizabeth will just have to starve for a couple of days!
We both fell asleep when we got back from diving and I woke up just after 5pm, having missed the start of the England game. After a quick shower I headed to the bar only to find out that the cable box was not working at our hotel and the owners and headed off to a bar up the road! We were just about to settle in and watch a film when there was a knock on the door and it was a phone call from Simon, the owner. He’d arranged for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the bar they were at. We’d missed most of the game but we were able to catch the last half an hour or so, with Elizabeth being able to watch the US game on a different screen, too. It was really funny as the US scored just as the final whistle went for England so the whole bar seemed to be celebrating together for a split second. We decided to stay there and grab a pizza for dinner before we watched the final matches of the day where Germany and Ghana qualified meaning that England will now face Germany next. Oh dear!
June 24, 2010
Our final day in Zanzibar and we were heading out on a Spice tour. We were picked up by Baloo, our guide and we headed about 10 minutes away from our hotel to one of the largest spice farms on the island. It is hard to really describe this tour because it was all about the smells and tastes – our guide walked us from one bush to another to eat, smell and feel the different fruits and spices they grow on the farm. We tried a wide variety of fruits such as passionfruit, grapefruit, mandarins, Seville oranges, starfruit and many others. On top of this, Baloo seems to be quite a budding chef and walked around telling us some of the wonderful things you can make using just the things grown on this farm. It is difficult to disagree when he said that the people on this island are never short of fresh, great tasting food!
We also got to see one of the locals climb a huge coconut tree before providing us with two coconuts to drink the milk from. After trying similar in Thailand, neither of us were too keen but the milk here had a completely different flavor and was really refreshing! We also had a guy walking with us making things out of the leaves and these included hats for both of us, a necklace for Elizabeth and a tie for me. Elizabeth also got a really funny pair of glasses that only the picture can do justice to! There was also a fruit which the locals used as makeup and Baloo demonstrated by making Elizabeth’s lips, hair and nails bright orange!
We even had a stop for lunch which included some homemade dishes using a whole range of spices we’d tried as well as two teas – one made from lemongrass and cinnamon and the other with vanilla. The food and tea was so amazingly tasty, it was hard work to force myself to stop eating!
The tour was excellent, if a bit hot walking through the farm, and the tastes and smells were amazing. My hands still smelt of many of the spices even after I’d gotten back to the hotel and showered off!
In the afternoon we watched Hotel Rwanda on the laptop, feeling that we ought to watch it before we headed there! It was actually a pretty good film and seemed to present a decent version of the despicable events which unfolded in the country in the mid-1990s.
In the evening we hung out in the “tree-house” at the hotel given that it is the coolest place to be and chatted to some of the other guests before grabbing some dinner and lazing around, enjoying the tranquil environment on our last proper night in Tanzania (we’re sleeping at the airport tomorrow night as we have a 4.30am flight!).
June 25, 2010
We weren’t heading out of Zanzibar until the 4pm ferry so we were grateful that the owners let us use our room as late as we wanted to during the day. We got up and had a leisurely breakfast before just hanging out around the hotel. We packed up and showered and vacated our room, grabbing some lunch before we left as we had no idea what we would be able to get at the Dar airport. The food took forever to arrive and we barely had time to eat it and pay our hotel bill before our taxi had arrived to take us into Stone Town for the ferry.
The ferry ride was much rougher than the journey out here and many people resorted to lying on the outside decks to get fresh air. Elizabeth and I were both feeling bad and the only way I could blank out the movement was to put my iPod on and close my eyes. This seemed to work just long enough to get us to Dar es Salaam!
Once outside the ferry terminal we were hassled everywhere by drivers. Given the trouble we had coming into the city when someone tried to get into the taxi, we were careful to try and get a decent taxi. We got in one which seemed OK but it turned out one of the windows didn’t close properly. We spent the entire journey to the airport really wary of someone trying to get in through the partially open window. It was still daylight when we left the port but it soon turned to dusk and was quite dark when we got to the airport. Thankfully, we got there safely and after an argument with our taxi driver and his “agent”, we finally got our bags. We had agreed a fee of 25,000 Shillings with the “agent” but on arriving at the airport they told us there was a 5,000 airport fee. I didn’t have any change so had to give him 30,000 first of all and he refused to give me change. I stood and loudly argued with him and when he saw people were looking, he finally gave in and gave me the money back. The driver didn’t speak much English and I reckon the extra money was purely because we had the other guy in the car. Anyway, they didn’t get it!
The entrance to the airport is open air so we decided to head into the terminal and wait for our flight in there. It was about 7pm when we arrived and our flight was not until 4.30am. However, the security woman at the terminal would not let us in as it was not time for our flight so we had to sit out in the open. We didn’t have much choice so we picked a bench and kept a close eye on our belongings. I managed to read my way through an entire book in about 5 hours and by midnight we were both getting tired, moody and eaten alive by bugs! The decision to move around midnight was made for us as some old lady came to our bench, dumped her suitcase behind and just disappeared off into the car park. Not that I’m a suspicious person normally but I didn’t fancy sitting next to an unmarked, unattended suitcase and so we moved to another area. At the same time, another lady from security came up to us and told us we should go inside if we didn’t want to sit outside. We were grateful to be inside the terminal, even if we had another couple of hours before we could check in! And to think, we did all this to save about $40 in hotel and taxi costs!