Much easier on the way back
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Most paintings follow similar themes: Maasai warriors, gyrating Africans, dhows in the sunset or shadowy Stone Town side streets. One that catches our eye immediately is a large portrait of a guy who looks like Saddam Hussein. Behind him are several crosses bearing names like Gandhi, Milosevic, Bob Marley, Pope John Paul II, Hitler, Malcolm X and, bizarrely, George Best.
"Excuse me," I ask the painter, a Muslim guy with a rasta hat sitting in the corner, "is this Saddam Hussein?"
"Hero? Wasn't he a dictator who killed thousands of his own people?"
"Yes. Very good man. Many Americans killed. These are other fallen heroes," he says, pointing to the names on the crosses.
"So you like Milosevic too?"
"Yes. Very good man. Many Americans dead."
"And Hitler? You must love him."
"Yes. Very good man. And you see I have Bob Marley too. Very good music."
"Well, it's certainly unique. I can't think of many painters who would have Idi Amin resting in peace next to George Best."
"Yes. Unique. You very good man - how much you pay for it?"
You can still visit the slave dungeons that are underneath the neighbouring Catholic hostel. The dungeons comprise two small rooms that housed the slaves before they were taken to the market. One room, probably five square metres, held fifty men and the larger one,
To buy the ferry tickets we have to go to the ferry terminal at the northwest edge of Stone Town. There are many touts here and they are all very insistent. Because there isn't really anywhere to go apart from the ticket booths, they have you as a captive audience and are reluctant to leave you alone. Jane decides to take a different approach from the usual polite "no thank you". The first guy approaches.
"Ah, hello my friends, where are you going? I can help you buy ticket!"
"Hneva ma, ze tu mate tolko vela ryb a nemate tu tresku. Ja mam rada tresku. Zanzibar je pekny," responds Jane in her native Slovak. ("I'm sad because you have so much seafood here yet you don't have any tresku [fish salad]. I love fish salad. Zanzibar is nice though.")
The guy looks a bit surprise but, to his credit, he responds in kind.
"Yurgen shleppen haff ze kleineshpugel, remdee hoikel poikel barden blurgee blugel."
"Mas peknu koselu." (I like your shirt.)
"Nimka roopy doopy dongel."
"Ah, la voola bella shnolka nosty tama."
This walk and talk has gathered the attention of several other touts, intrigued by the battle of wits between the Slovak-speaking mzungu and the local guy making up his own language. By this time we have reached the ticket office. We walk inside where the touts cannot follow.
The 400-capacity 'Flying Horse' ferry is reassuringly large and modern, not made out of wood and it even has seats on it. All foreigners are immediately sent to the 'VIP Lounge' of the boat, whether they want to be or not. This is the upper-most deck, a large space with
Two Dutch guys join us as the only other wazungu on board.
"Ja, ve came on zis boat from Dar. It voz awful, vosn't it, Jurgen?"
"Oh, ja, Ruud, it certainly voz! Ze mattress voz not comfortable und ze boat voz bouncing a lot."
Jane and I look at each other but say nothing as the Dutchies whine about their experiences in the VIP lounge.
Predictably, the 'VIP Lounge' fills up with basically anyone who wishes to be in it and by the time we set off at 9.30 PM, it is squashed up like any other form of transport in Africa. And one lady decides to talk loudly the whole night, either to her companion or to her friends on the phone, which rings constantly when she is not on it. The boat rocks like a bunch of long-haired teenagers all the way and a mouse even finds his way into our little stash of chocolates. With all this going on we barely manage a wink of sleep all night. However, having survived the HMS Suicide the other night we are not complaining at any of these inconveniences. And in a rare case of poetic justice in this part of the world, the chatty lady ends up puking her guts out and making sounds of genuine agony.
Dar es Salaam. Another of those mysterious-sounding place names that Tanzania specialises in. In 1874 Dar was nothing. Now it is home to around five million people, seventy percent of whom live in what the government-types call non-planned housing - basically, slums. In a recent survey of two-hundred non-Tanzanians who thought Tanzania's capital city was Dar es Salaam, one-hundred percent were unaware that the capital is actually Dodoma, the boring inland administrative town.
Dar has a cosmopolitan, upbeat feel to it that we haven't sensed elsewhere in Tanzania. People seem purposeful, shop-keepers look busy, the man on the street wears shoes and the ladies have a kind of elegance. Buildings are upright and maintained and even the market shacks appear to be cared for. Sadly we don't have any more than a day to spend in Dar, as we had not planned to come this way, and we are so tired that we spend most of the day sleeping. A city for the 'come back to another time' file.