Knud Henrik's diary 12 July 2006: Zanzibar, Spice Tour, Stonetown and Jambiani

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Africa revisited



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Last updated 2007.11.21

After checking out the beach at Oyster Bay Japhet dropped us next to an ice cream parlour and we said "goodbye and have a nice holiday" to him, as we'll not see him again until the July 18 when we return from Zanzibar.

Next morning (Sunday 9 July) we packed our things and went on by foot. Leaving a single bag in the custody of the hotel, we had repacked our stuff in four backpacks, so that we were able to carry everything. On the way towards the port area we headed for the oldest ice cream parlour in Dar es Salaam, just to realise that it was not yet open, it was too early in the morning or maybe it was closed for the Sunday(!?). Then we headed for a patisserie, just to realise that that place had been taken over by a shop selling mobile telephones (more !?). Anticipating that little was available on the boat we asked about a place to buy some bread and were directed towards a combined ice cream parlour and café, just what we needed.

At the ferry terminal we once again had a chance to exercise the African national sport: waiting. When the gate was opened we had a chance to exercise another sport: squeezing ourselves and our luggage through a 90 cm wide gate at the same time as some 200 other passengers, most of which had a lot more luggage than we were carrying. Fortunately, we had the luck of positioning ourselves so that we were among the first half to board the boat and we were lucky to get hold of a group of chairs, so that we were able not only to sit down but also to sit together. Then, another go of the waiting sport.

After a little while we realised that we were the only white people on board. We had been so economic to book us on one of the slower boats, 2˝ hours sailing time instead of 1˝ hours. However, when departure time was nearing a number of other white people boarded as well. We had just arrived early.

The ride was smooth and non-descript. Upon arrival we once again had to passed immigration. It felt a little weird to have to go through the full procedure once again when in fact we were coming from another part of the very same country. But formally Tanzania is a federation of two states, Tanganyika on the mainland and Zanzibar. On the mainland Zanzibar is considered to be just another region of the country, whereas the Zanzibari people attempts to retain as much independence as possible.

Through the ferry ticketing office we had booked a hotel on Zanzibar and we were told that they had a pick-up service. To our great surprise a taxi driver was indeed awaiting us at the ferry terminal, with the name of the hotel written on a piece of cardboard. Later we realised that it was a very good idea to book a hotel with a pick-up service as we otherwise would have had serious difficulties finding the hotel. The only city on Zanzibar, called Stonetown, is a mace of very narrow streets, some of which have names but none have signs telling the name. After having checked-in we strolled through the town to find a restaurant and we had great difficulties finding the way back. Actually, we got lost completely and asked for directions at a local police station and only with the kind escort of a police officer we were able to find the hotel again.

The main activity of the following day was the absolute must of Zanzibar, a spice tour: a guided tour to various farms producing a great number of the different spices, for which Zanzibar is famous. Though the activity by itself and the organisation of it in particular is an ugly tourist thing, it is very interesting to see many of the well known spices as whole plants instead of the dried, grounded substances sold in small plastic bags in the shops in Europe. Some of the spices can be seen in a special picture gallery here.

The day before we had made a booking at a very good and famous restaurant but were on waiting list. Back at the hotel we were told that there was room for us at the restaurant. We went there just to realise that there was room for the two of us, not for the whole family. Rather disappointed we strolled on to find something else, and ended up having some seafood snacks on the beach. Having learned the lesson we had marked the position of the hotel as a waypoint on the GPS navigator and we found our way back to the hotel fairly easily.

Next morning we packed our things once again and stuffed it all away in a little storeroom at the hotel, while we went on strolling through the mace of Stonetown, confiding in the GPS navigator. After having arranged for the return travel to the mainland we went back to the hotel and were picked-up by a shuttle bus, which brought us to the south-eastern shore of Zanzibar. By the second try we found a suitable hotel (though a little too expensive, 60 US$ per night for all five of us, including breakfast - our most expensive stay so far) in the little village of Jambiani, where we are now staying in a little bungalow, all of us in a single room, in three double beds. Here, only a little fence is parting us from the Indian Ocean some 7-8 metres away (at high tide that is, some 500 m at low tide). Coordinates: S 06 19' 34.7" E 039 33' 03.7".

This morning we have had a nice little walk out through the more and more shallow water, seeing a lot of the interesting shallow water marine life. Also, we got close to a number of seaweed fields, where local women grow a special kind of seaweed on strings tied to pegs squeezed down into the bottom. The seaweed is sold as the raw material for the production of a natural consistency additive (I read about a Danida funded project initiating this production years ago). Allegedly, this seaweed is good business, and indisputably a great number of people were working in their fields for the time of the low tide.

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