King for a day at them spice tour

Trip Start Dec 28, 2009
Trip End Jan 12, 2010

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Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Saturday, January 2, 2010

You never want to have the feeling of just wanting to get through a day and move on from one place, especially when you're only on vacation for two weeks and particularly especially when you're on a place like Zanzibar. As much as I would've loved to stay in paradise and sip cocktails on the beach, we only had so much time in Zanzibar. And with it all being spent in Stone Town, there was no more beach time and nothing but excruciating heat to deal with. The last night we were in Jambo there was no fan throughout the night and the quality of sleep was so poor, I would've settled for fitful. It's the sort of sleep where you're sweating so much and so uncomfortable that even when you do fall asleep, it never feels like you actually ever did because you're waking up so often.

The last thing Rachel and I wanted to accomplish before leaving the island was to go on a spice tour. Since Joy had done one when she was in Zanzibar earlier, it would just be the two of us. Well, the two of us, plus Bran, who we were wondering what else he could mooch off by us continuing to book through Mr. Hilali. Hilali had organized pretty much everything we'd done on Zanzibar, so it was appropriate that he not only put together our spice tour, but arranged for us a ride to the port as well to buy our tickets for the overnight ferry. On the ride to the port, he was trying to start friendly chit-chat with us and started talking to us about America. When he found out I was from New York (don't ask me what this upcoming connection is, just roll with it), he asked me if I knew 'Swahznigga.' Excuse me? That started getting a little uncomfortable as he kept repeating the word and Rachel and I looked at each other wondering what the hell was going on. Finally he added, you know Caleeforna? Ohhhhh, Schwarzenegger. Good times with bad accents.

Most spice tours that get organized through the commercial brokers in Stone Town take you out to a large plantation and is apparently very commercialized. The tour Hilali worked out for us was much smaller; it was basically on a spice farm and it was just the, now, three of us. We had a great tour guide, Hassan, who was friendly, informative and had this enjoyable little English verbal tic in which he added 'them' before every noun.

I was nervous about the prospect of walking around outside for a couple hours with the state of my stomach, but whether the aroma of the herbs and spices helped, or my body decided it would just behave itself, the tour actually made me feel better. Briefly, anyway. While Hassan led us around to the different spices and fruits -- jasmine, coroman, cinnamon (the queen of spices), cloves (the king of spices, because they are forced to sell it to the government as its biggest cash crop), natural lipstick, massive jackfruit, starfruit, pineapple (which I didn't realize took a full year to grow), vanilla -- there was a kid, who was only referred to as 'boy' running around cutting the spices so we could smell the samples. The whole time he was whittling things and weaving objects out of plants. We had no idea what was going on. The kid was like a little monkey, the way he gracefully and easily climbed up, down and around trees. And yes, I realize in our hypersensitive society it's 'racist' to describe anyone who's black as a monkey, well, grow up, because this kid got around branches like he'd born in them.

When the tour was concluding, we found out what he'd been making the whole time out of the plants. A tiara, purse, ring, necklace and bracelet for Rachel, a crown, watch, ring and tie for me. All this in a little over an hour. As I said, this kid was crazy. We stocked up on spices and filled up on fresh fruit before leaving Hassan and 'boy' with a generous tip to head back to town. We reunited with Joy with a mere eight hours to kill before we had to be in the port for the ferry. It's amazing how much time you can pass with one lunch, some souvenir shopping and a sheesha, especially with the 'relaxed' service approach of Tanzanian waiters. We ended our time in Zanzibar, the way we started, with a meal and a couple cold ones at Mercury's. Beer doesn't taste quite as good as good mixed with Imodium, but this is the scenario I had no choice to face with a dodgy stomach going square up against an overnight ferry ride and an eight-or-so hour bus ride coming up back to back. Adventure travel at its finest.
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