Tanzania: Zanzibar Spice Tour and African Dance Dinner

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

June 19 – Tanzania: Zanzibar Spice Tour and African Dance Dinner

Guy climbing coconut tree to get us coconuts

Today was great.  We started out the day by sleeping in, which is a nice way to start any day.  We had breakfast in the hotel, and at 9:30 departed for our “Zanzibar Spice Tour”.  Our guide Harry first took us to Maruhubi Palace which is the palace the third Sultan of Zanzibar built for some of his wives.  It had multiple bathrooms, an aqueduct, and some other cool plumbing features.  But it burnt down in 1899 so all we could see were the ruins.

The Spice Tour

The Spice Tour was very interesting.  Harry took us to a plantation which grew curry, ginger, and bananas.  The weather was overcast and it suddenly started to pour during our tour (which was outside, of course), but we didn’t mind because it was horribly hot.  So we walked around a rain-forest area digging up spices in a downpour.  The spices are especially interesting because this is one of Zanzibar’s main exports, but also interesting because spices are so very cool for the senses.  We spent the entire day seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting the different spices and fruits of the island.  After the first plantation, we piled into a taxi and zipped off to another one.  This second plantation had a huge assortment of agriculture.  Some of the spices we saw: vanilla, lemongrass, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cinnabar, mint, and nutmeg.  We also saw and ate a lot of interesting fruits: litchi, jackfruit, HUGE grapefruit the size of a large cantelope, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, custard apples, and some other things that I can’t possibly remember the names of but were very yummy.  The guy in the picture above climbed a coconut tree and threw down a bunch of coconuts.  Then he cut them open and we drank the coconut milk and watched him make baskets out of the palm leaves.  We also walked quite a lot through some amazing countryside, and by this time the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.

Here is Dennis in his “palm tree attire”:

After the Spice Tour, we were taken to a local restaurant where we had beef, fish, and rice that was delicious.

Stone Town

The area we are staying on Zanzibar is called Stone Town, but really it’s the only town on the island so it’s hardly ever referred to as such.  Jon and I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the windy alleyways looking for souvenirs (“curios”) and logging in at the Internet Cafe.  We ran into Vanessa at a store where she was looking at trading beads, and met the father of an excellent photographer.  This photographer takes most of the postcard pictures for Zanzibar, and has a lovely calendar so we bought a few postcards to send.  We also walked to the evening market to have some sugar cane juice:

African Dinner Dance

We decided to go to the Old Fort to see the traditional African Dance plus dinner show.  I think they had good intentions, but it really wasn’t that good or informative.  The dancers were wearing t-shirts, and we never got a description of the significance of each dance.  Dinner was interesting, though.  There were a lot of local dishes with octopus, chicken, meat, and some samosa type stuff.  And the Aussies got up to dance with the dancers, which was quite amusing.  But two hours and a lot of drum beats later, we were beyond ready to leave.  Juliette and I walked back to the hotel, while Jon stayed with the Aussies for a little while.  Apparently, the dancers pulled Jon up to dance as well.

African dancing

Tanzania: Zanzibar!!

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Jon in Zanzibar

Finally – the Crusade has come to a brief respite in Zanzibar.  We’ll be here for 3 days to sight-see and scuba dive, and we’re thrilled to have a few days in something other than a tent.  We got up this morning, packed up our tents, loaded excess baggage on the Kiboko bus-truck, and schlepped our stuff on taxis to the ferry.  The ferry to Zanzibar was a two-hour ride, air conditioned (I’d almost forgotten what that was), and we all slept for most of the way.

The Hotel International

When we got to Zanzibar, we passed through customs and met our Kiboko Zanzibar Guide, Abdul.  He took us to some taxis and we went to the Hotel International where we got settled into our rooms and ordered lunch.  Jon gave our two HUGE bags of dirty laundry to the front desk and we’re very excited to have clean clothes tomorrow.  Jon went with the Aussies to run some errands (read: to buy beer), and I spent a half an hour trying to get the electricity converters to work in the outlets so the laptop gets some juice.  Our room is on the top floor (the fourth), and is nicely air conditioned with its own bathroom.  Can’t wait for that shower tonight.  I might sleep in the bathtub just because I can.  Then again, the mattress is much more inviting.  The beds are four-poster beds with mosquito netting on it.  I definitely feel like I’m in Africa.  The steps to the 4th floor are incredibly steep, so we’ll be minimizing the trips up and down the stairs as we break a sweat climbing them.  Good training for Kilimanjaro, right?

Zanzibar Tour

At 3:00, we all met in the lobby to take a “street tour” with Harry our Zanzibarian guide.  He took us to the market, a few churches, and many sights that are pertinent to the slave-trading history of Zanzibar.  I didn’t realize, but this was a major port for the slave trading industry.  Although it’s not something they’re proud of, the people of Zanzibar have done a lot to pay tribute to the slaves that suffered as a result of slavery.  It’s very touching.

One of the churches on the tour of the city, which is also where Freddie Mercury was born

Zanzibar is 98% Muslim, and I felt disrespectful walking around in a tank top so I put on a long-sleeved shirt despite the heat.  The women here are covered from head to toe in Muslim attire, so even my shorts were pushing it.  The people are used to tourists and don’t seem to mind our attire.  And while I don’t necessarily agree that women should have to cover themselves, I don’t want to disrespect the culture either.  The call to prayer happens a few times a day, just like in Istanbul.  It definitely reminds us of last summer in Turkey and makes us smile.  I love the dedication they have to their religion, it’s so refreshing.

Another notable fact about Zanzibar: apparently Freddy Mercury (of the band Queen) spent part of his childhood here.  So we walked by the apartment building where he lived, and Harry brought up Freddy Mercury more than once on the tour.  This prompted the Aussies to ask every change they had: “Did Freddy Mercury eat here?  Was Freddy Mercury ever at this sight?  Is this were Freddy Mercury bought fish?”.  Quite funny!

The Evening Market

The street tour ended at 6:00, and we came back and freshened up a bit.  At 6:30, we met Brendan and Vanessa our guides who were going to take us to their favorite spots.  We went down a bunch of windy alleyways and ended up on the shoreline at an evening market.  The first thing we had was a sugar drink made of sugar canes.  The guy takes the sugar cane and puts it through a press and the juice falls directly into a bucket.  It’s delicious (not exactly clean though!)!  Then we walked around and looked at a bunch of the stuff people were selling: wood workings, necklaces, bracelets, bowls, spoons, statues.  All very cute.  For dinner, Jon and I had some kabobs, chips (fries for the Americans), and then found our way to the Zanzibar Pizza booth.  Zanzibar Pizza is a sort of crepe but with more dough.  Mohammad – the guy running the booth – was wearing a “Cafe Du Monde” apron (a famous beignet & coffee place in New Orleans) and dishing up these pizzas made to order.  They were divine.  We split a meat pizza and then a banana pizza with chocolate.  I’m definitely not losing weight like this.

Masai Beadwork

After dinner, dinner, and more dinner, we went back to one of the jewelry dealers to bargain the price of some bracelets.  This particular section was run by some of the Masai people.  They’re the ones that look like something out of the National Geographic, with the huge earlobes and piercings.  Saroni, the Masai we were talking to, makes excellent beaded jewelry.  There were some beaded sandals that I loved but they didn’t come in my size (of course).  He offered to make some for me but we won’t be in Zanzibar long enough.  So we bought two bracelets and Jon got a necklace with University of Florida-colors which is silly since he’s not a necklace-wearing type of guy.  But it looks good on him!   Saroni had to enlarge one of the bracelets and Jon’s necklace to fit us.  And since I couldn’t find sandals that fit, he says that I had “feet like and elephant” and Jon had a “head like a lion”.  He also taught us how to say “Cool like bananas” in Kiswahili.  I guess the translation isn’t exact because a guy we tried it out on later said “What about bananas?”.

Internet Cafe

Then we went to an Internet Cafe that was recommended by Brendan our guide.  We ran into him and Vanessa there, but the lines were down so there was no connection happening.  It turns out that most of Zanzibar connects through one of two different wireless service providers, and this particular cafe used the one that was down.  So we waited a while and then moved on to another cafe.  This next one, unfortunately, didn’t have a disk drive that works so I still haven’t uploaded the most recent pages.  But that’s the way things are here in Africa.  Jon was falling asleep in the cafe so we left and navigated our way through the windy dark streets back to the Hotel International.

Tanzania: Overland Trek to Dar-Es-Salaam

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, Tanzania

Baobab Tree

Up early again this morning for a long drive to Dar-Es-Salaam.  We’ll take a ferry to Zanzibar tomorrow morning.  Zanzibar is like the Holy Grail to us right now.  We’ll stay in a bed and breakfast and there are supposed to be excellent restaurants and fast internet connections.  We speak of it as if it were paved in gold, although any room with a door and a shower is the Ritz for me!

On the way there today, we stopped in a valley full of Baobab trees: HUGE white trees known as “upside down” trees.  According to Brendan the guide, legend of the trees is like this: the Creator first planted the trees in a cold climate.    But the Baobab tree turned white from the cold and complained.  So the Creator moved the trees into a forest.  But the rainy climate caused the trees to wrinkle and they they complained again to the Creator.  This time, the Creator was annoyed with their complaints.  He took them out of the forest and threw them as far away as he could.  They ended up upside down in Southern Africa.  And this is why they’re large, white, wrinkled, and upside-down.  They’re phenomenal!  Vanessa the guide says the the tree above is probably about 1000 years old.

The highway we were on (it was actually paved – a real highway!) passed through a National Park.  So we got to see more zebras, elephants, impalas, and some beautiful storks!    It’s funny though, how quickly we’ve been jaded by these sights.  Half the bus was asleep during the trip.  “Oh yeah, elephants.  Snore.”

We arrived in Dar-Es-Salaam at rush hour and wow are these drivers crazy.  Not only do they speed and cut people off (something we New Yorkers are used to), but they do this with a flatbed full of people.  Jon saw one pickup truck with 19 people in the back.  Unbelievable.  He and the Aussie boys had a monster round of “punchbug” going on during the ride, and a city like this is the ideal place to do it.  It’s a monster game because they completely whallop each other when they see a VW bug.  Dennis actually had welts.

Our campsite is right on the ocean, although we’ve been told not to venture out of the campsite or we’ll get mugged.  The sea is very nice, but lots of seaweed!  We setup camp, and Jon and I cleaned out the truck and helped to make dinner (we are on duty today).  Unfortunately, dinner was a lot of fresh vegetables that we had to cut up so the duties were duty-full today.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.

After dinner, the gang started a game of beer-pong.  Basically, it’s ping-pong with beer bottles on the table.  If you hit your opponent’s bottle, then they have to drink.  I haven’t played ping pong since I was fifteen, so I was penalized with multiple beer-drinking for my sorry ping-pong skills.  If you can even call them skills.

Jon and the Aussies have this ongoing joke where – if they successfully play a practical joke on another – then the prankster “owns” the victim.  So Dennis played a joke on Jon and consequently “owned” him for the rest of the night.  As a result, Jon could only talk in a ridiculous voice and couldn’t use his legs as part of the “ownership”.  It was quite funny and had us all in hysterics.  Jon and I think that this trip would be very different without the Aussies to liven things up!