Some "down time" at the beach inc. death threats!!

Trip Start Aug 14, 2010
Trip End Jan 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Safari Lodge, Stonetown
Amaam Bungalows, Nungwi

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leaving the sandy beaches of Malawi behind we headed off up to Tanzania to what we'd really been looking forward to - Zanzibar's sunny shores.  We crossed the border reasonably early but were slightly delayed by issues with Pat's passports as he's travelling on a Swiss passport which lots of the countries don't seem to like and we were told he would have to go back to Malawi's capital (3-4 hours away) in order to get a visa. After lots of debating and too-ing and fro-ing with both the Malawi and Tanzania borders, it all got sorted by switching to his Oz passport (something he'll need to rectify at some point to get into Egypt). Dual passports in Africa are not recognised or liked. We'd recommend travelling on the more commonly known one rather than trying to save a few bucks here or there. It's just not worth the hassle.  Once across the border it was a long drive day as we started to make our way to Dar Es Alaam. We stopped for lunch in a crazy wee busy market town where as soon as you step out the door people were throwing bananas, mangos, apples, chickens (alive), potatoes and pretty much everything else at you as soon as you leave the truck.  
We were fortunate not to be on cook group that night so just had to get some stuff for lunch. We were craving carrots but couldn't find any then out of the blue some guy comes up to us and is like "you want carrots? I find you carrots. Stay here". We're a bit shocked given we were talking pretty quietly and not at all thinking we were being overheard.  Next minute the dude is back with a massive bag of about 100 carrots and he's offering prices at us, quickly slashing them as we look back silently in astonishment.  We only want a couple to knaw on the truck!! A bit of a negotiation and we walk away happy with a few carrots to increase our nutrition on the truck (most snacking so far has been on lunch bars and other chocolate / crisps). Jules even picks up a tasty avocado to have a nice sandwich - I opt for some chips from a street stall. YUM! 
Then we're off again and it's a long drive. Happy for me as I finish the second of the Millennium trilogy books and start Jimi Hendricks' biography (Room Full of Mirrors, awesome read by the way). We drive until it's dark then suss out a bush camp for the night, which again turns out to be some sort of quarry (Mark seems to have a thing for these!)  After a quick scope around it's everyone go and the tables, water cans, cooking stoves, coals and pots & pans are being pulled off the truck by cook group and some helpers. Then it's tents out and up in a few minutes and sleeping gear arranged.  It's quite a smooth operation with the boys tending to the fire and us girls helping out to chop onions etc and make nice the camp for the night.  We set up our tent behind the truck which the boys then quickly start to built the fire by!  The tent gets full of ash as they decide to throw leaves on there and as you can imagine we are well impressed.  It's up and out of the tent with our bags on our backs to move it somewhere else - bloody boys!  

There's a mix of people on the truck and with that and any other situation that means there are cliques and personality clashes.  This means that there are people you will help out in cook group (i.e. those that will help you back) and people that you leave to their own devices (i.e. those lazy people who sit on their butts every day whilst everyone else runs around helping out). Surprisingly the food on the truck has been really good.  There are 8 cook groups that rotate which tends to mean a range of food is cooked over the rota period.  The veggies are reasonably well catered for with vegetarian sausages and soya mince readily available at the moment.  The worst to date has to be when Kay and Ronald cooked T-bones for the meat eaters, served with mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots. For the veggies, one full tin of salmon each straight from the unopened can!!!! I suggested on her next cook group Jules serve unopened tins of corned beef to the meat eaters as revenge.  Just one example of the laziness of some groups and their inconsideration of others. After dinner it's cook groups responsibility to clean up and cook breakfast the next morning. Breakfast ranges from eggy bread, full fry ups, fresh fruit salads or cereal and toast.  Mostly it depends on the willingness of the cook group and the shops available for cook group shops which are sometimes done in 3 day blocks, especially if we're bush camping.  With no fridge on the truck it tends to make for interesting meals on day 3.  (Jules taking over the writing, Jen's going on a bit now...)
It's up early to continue on our way to Dar and finally get there mid afternoon.  To get to our campsite we have to queue for a bit to get a barge from one side of Dar to the other - this wait is a lot easier to handle when a dude rocks up on his ice cream bike and makes a fortune from us as pretty much the whole trucks gives in to a nice cold ice cream!  When given the nod good old Ruby squeezed herself on there with all the locals and off we went.  We arrived at Mikadi Beach Campsite and promptly made our way to the hammock on the beach - with a beer in hand of course.  There were quite a few Africans playing around on the beach (some local, some looking more like they were on their summer holiday!) but all the signs around camp exclaiming 'Inside the campsite = safe, outside the campsite = not safe.  This is very serious, we are not joking' kind of put a stop to any thoughts of going for a leisurely stroll along the beach.  So instead it's more packing / organising, showers (in salt water which no one was too pleased about!) and a few more beers with dinner which was prepared for us by the campsite (meat eaters was chicken and salad, veggies a lovely egg and vegetable crepe thing - meaties had food envy I reckon!)  This is also where we meet our new driver Chris who is covering while Mark is back in Oz for a wedding.  We instantly like Chris when he advises we won't be needing to cook for the four nights after we get back from Zanzibar as he has already sorted it - lovely!

We get up super early and head to catch the 7am ferry across to Zanzibar.  We sort tickets and get some 'breakfast' from the ferry ticket office.  The juice is yummy and the wee muffins we get are good too, until I later hear that people found ants in theirs!  Damn me being such a pig and choffing it in a few mouthfuls - mmmmm, ants for breakfast.We board the ferry and are ushered up to Foreign Class where we pretty much have the open upper deck to ourselves.  It is a nice chilled journey, not too bumpy and all is good.......until the tropical storm decides to descent on us!  Luckily we are just pulling into the port as the skies really open.  We all huddle into the middle under the shelter and wait, and wait, and wait for a break in the rain so we can get off the boat.  We meet the guy Daniel who Mark (who snuck off instead of coming over on the ferry with us!) has arranged to look after us while we are on the island and he walks us to our accommodation to Safari Lodge - yes walk, in the pouring rain and we are soaked through!  

A quick change of clothes and we are all back out to head to the Egyptian embassy in Stone Town to sort out our visas.  This turns out to be a bit of a balls up as they would only issue the visa from that day (14th Sept) and it would only be valid for 3 months - for us this was fine as we fly out of Cairo on the 9th but the whole debate began over 'what if we breakdown and get into Egypt later than expected' (we were due in on the 8th Dec meaning we would have 6 days leeway before needing to be out of the country), let's get a multiple visa blah, blah, blah and it all just turned into a nightmare.  In the end we put the passports in to get visas and Ronald (who wasn't coming out to the beach) offers to go back three days later to pick them up.  Easy solution and one that could have been reached in half the time but hey, that's the joy of travelling with 16 other people!  That was an hour of our lives we couldn't get back so decided the only thing for it was to head out for a lunch of pizza and beer (as it was Kim's birthday she got to choose and we were all quite happy with that!).After lunch a few of us hit's the shops!  Some major bartering went down and there was one shop which we all liked stuff in so we went for the big 'buy in bulk' power purchase.  We didn't really get very far but everyone except me and Jen bought what they wanted.  We don't like getting ripped off so we walked away from the pants and dress we had looked out (until about two hours later when we were back in town for cocktails and I caved and got the pants!)  A week and a half later with about 8 wears already - they were definitely worth the money!So shopping done we head back to the 'hotel' to get ready for a night out for Kim's birthday.  
We start at African House with cocktails to watch the sunset (so touristy it's ridiculous!), then head to the night markets for some seafood from the stalls (which was not a delicious as it looked - should have opted for the fresh banana and chocolate pancake instead!) and to finish the night off we head to 'Dharma Lounge' which seems to be in the middle of nowhere and is empty.  We liven it up a bit and love the music (good old R&B) which most of us love but Kim hates (and it is her birthday night!).  We stay only for a couple and call it a night.  

We later read in a magazine that it is the happening place to be but that is doesn't liven up till at least 11pm - we were there around 9pm so that was the problem! 

Next morning it's off at 9am for a Stone Town city tour, spice tour, traditional lunch and then off to the beach.  (Jen writing again, you've been warned!) The Stone Town tour focuses mainly on the issues the island had with slavery in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where hundreds of thousands of people were kidnapped and forced into the slavery trade often being sent off to the middle east.  We are taken to slave pits where between 50-70 people were confined in the a tiny underground cell with only a small window for ventilation.  For the 11 of us on the tour the room feels claustrophobic and stuffy we can't even being to imagine how 50 people could be crammed into these spaces with little room to move or stand and no ventilation or toilets. The rooms were designed to see off the weak so that only the strongest and hence most tradable slaves survived.  It's a shocking reminder of the injustices that form a large part of the island's history. We also get to have a look around the old fort and the food markets before we head back on the bus and off to the spice tour. 


The food market complete with full fish and meat markets was an interesting place teeming with locals trading. Stepping over the fish guts and blood trails from the butchers whilst trying not to breath in the pungent smells was and interesting experience. Veggie Jules stomached it way better than me to get some awesome pictures of the markets.


The spice tour is a pretty interesting experience as we pull up to a plantation in the middle of nowhere and are greeted mostly by more horrendous downpours causing us to quickly escape the van to shelter under the nearby wooden shelter.  We reluctantly have to leave the shelter to start the tour after unsuccessfully trying to gain an umbrella from one of the guys at the small stalls nearby. 
The rain eases off as we venture into the plantations. The younger guide runs off to fetch various spices and comes back each time with ginger, cardamom seeds, mint, cinnamon, turmeric, jasmine, ylang ylang, cloves, vanilla pods, lemongrass and peppercorns - all of which we crushed in our hands and smelled the strong aromas.  We even tried some of the ginger and cloves which both burnt out tongues!  

After the spices we moved into fruit territory, our guide would bound up trees knife in mouth and then we would try the various local fruits, many were quite sour but the passion fruit was amazingly refreshing especially after the hot spices.  


Then it was coconut time, which Jules had been looking forward to all day.  A local lad appeared out of nowhere with a piece of rope and started climbing easily up the tree whilst singing along to us the "Jambo, jambo" song.  This tree must have been about 3 times the height of any other tree we'd seen, it was huge to the point where we could not make out the boy as he reached the top and started chucking coconuts down to the guides below.  It was impressive how easily he bound up and down the tree the whole time singing to us, waving at us and on the way down occasionally holding on to the tree with just his arms and showing us his feet.  It was a stellar effort and the lad didn't even let the fact that his trousers were falling down for the last third of the descent put him off his joyous mission.  

 We tried various conditions of coconuts from very soft and slimey to the harder variety we're more used to. Next we head off back to the minibus first stopping to sit down and try some of the spiced teas and local fruits.  The grapefruit was my favourite, not at all sour as we're used to back home, only nice and refreshing.  Jules raved about the cinnamon tea (I just can't get my head around tea and tried only a small sip of each, thanks Sonya for finishing off what I couldn't, not that it was a chore for you!).

Whilst we sample the local produce some young local boys make the girls baskets and frog necklaces from leaves from the coconut trees and the boys ties and hats. 



Then after a quick shop around we're off to the tour guide's house for a traditional meal cooked by his wife.  The house is a concrete shell with no apparent furniture but we're shown into a living area where cloths have been set out for us to sit on and our meal places set.  The food is soon served, a combination of rice, beef stew, a spinach dish and vegetable stew/soup, the veggies get some fish as an alternative. The meal is amazing, spiced with the locally grown produce and so fresh and filling. Next course up is a platter of fresh fruits, watermelon, papaya and pineapple.  We feel full and spoilt. As we're helping clear up (something Daniel has only seen African Trails clients do, must be our habitual training on house duties from day one) the rain starts to beat down again and within seconds the covered porch of the house is filled with the neighbourhood kids taking shelter.  As always both the kids and us can't resist the photo opportunities.






After we've had our fun with the photo taking it's time to head off up to the beach for the R&R we've been looking forward to. We arrive at the Safina Bungalows in Nungwe early afternoon, check into our rooms for two nights (not sure yet what the plan is for the third) and then head to the beach to suss out the surroundings.  As always we end up in the bar and end up staying there for the next 9 hours, we all eat some very tasty food, ranging from calamari to burgers to curry (Ish, you're Indian in Africa do not expect curry like your mum makes - it ain't gonna happen!!!). It's a good way to ease into our first night at the beach. The next day it's time for some snorkelling action and we head off to the beach at 9am to catch the boat. Unfortunately this morning we find out about our first possible theft when Lara realises she has lost a shite load of cash.  At the time we are not sure whether it's been taken by one of our 'guides' or more worryingly by one of us on the truck.  It happens on two more occasions after this so unfortunately we do have a dirty thieve living amongst us - but we'll go into this more in a later blog!  

Anyway, back to the day......It's a local run trip using traditional boats (Dhows) and local guides.  We pile onto the dhow with our bags and flippers ready for the c2 hour boat trip to the Mnemba Atoll around the other side of the island. It's a choppy ride to say the least, just getting into the boat we get soaked up to our bums, but we're about to go snorkelling so who cares. We do a very time consuming and frustrating pick up along the way where the two girls being picked up from a flash resort are reluctant to get on the boat which can't get close to the water's edge without getting beached.  They finally give in to our annoyed faces and shouting from the guides and strip down to their bikinis to wade through the waist high water to the boat. Then finally we're off again. After two hours I'm getting a tad seasick and looking forward to getting out of the boat.  We arrive not long after, sort our masks, put on our flippers and then dive in.   We are all off except Kay who has dived in, swum off face down (as you do!) and then realised she doesn't have a snorkel in - wondering why you were running out of breath Kay?!  It's pretty cold given the lack of sunshine on the island at the moment. 

We snorkel for about an hour and a half seeing a variety of fishes around the coral. After some underwater picture attempts from the girls (much to cameraman Gab's amusement) and a false dash after a turtle, we're last on the boat as it heads back to the nearby beach for a spot of lunch.  The weather at this point is looking worse and worse and we're fearing lunch in the rain.  Instead, as we head away from the atoll the clouds clear and sunshine blazes across the water no doubt enhancing it's inhabitants activity and appearance.  Ah well, at least it's not raining for lunch, which is rice, fish and more local vegetable stew followed by bananas and watermelon. Then it's back on our way and it's a slow ride back, possibly because they're tired from dinner or because they're still harrowed from this morning's rough journey. 



Either way we're glad to be back on the beach when we dock and it's straight to the apartment for a much needed shower. After getting all cleaned up we are off to the boys room (Ish and Pat) to help them shave their heads.  We are getting right in there with our small nail scissors until we work out to use the clippers properly!  Then it's pretty much time for dinner and some drinks again. We gather at the same beach bar for the night which turns into quite a late one for most of us.  The next day we wake with not fun tummy's after a restless night's sleep. We have a major lie in then decide we're sick of the crap apartment we're paying $35 a night for and since we've not yet paid for a third night decide to check out the competition.  

We're easily swayed by the over water suite complete with air con, fan, balcony over the water and big comfy bed.  Sold! We go back to Shitfina Bungalows to collect our gear and check out, it's around 12.30pm and unaware of what time check out was, head off to reception to hand in our keys.  There we are met by an extremely unhelpful and downright rude prick who insists that check out is 10am and we now have to pay for a full night's stay. We start to politely advise him that we were not informed of what time check out was and that we have not been well and as soon as possible have come to check out. This falls on deaf ears as we're told check out is at ten (as it is all over the world he claims - having never left Africa I'm sure, we laugh this off naming various places where checkouts can be as late as 12pm or 2pm.)  He then insists there are signs around the area stating the check out time, we know this is a lie and ask him to take us to the signs he claims are displayed around the place, he unsurprisingly refuses. Now it has become a battle of wills - we could pay the $35 in a second but this is about principles and anyone who knows us knows that you don't attempt to blatantly lie to us and treat us like mugs nor should you think we'll back down especially when we're feeling tired and pissed off.  

So it went something like this, we refuse to pay the money claiming no one informed us of the check out time either on arrival nor did they come at 10am to check if we intended to stay on, in turn they try to claim that they've missed out on business as people came at 9am to get a room which he had to turn away, we laugh off this claim knowing and stating that we know of at least 4 unoccupied rooms in the apartments and that he's blatantly lying to us.  He doesn't take kindly to two white girls putting him in his place and after claiming that we think Africans must be stupid and that we're trying to take advantage of him he resorts to threats. "I am a good man but I can make things very bad for you here on Zanzibar" I jump on this like flies on shit, "Excuse me did you just threaten our lives over a $35 room,  because if that is the case we will be advising Daniel and African Trails of this and you will never see any overland business ever again." his response of "No it's not a threat I'm just saying I can make things bad for you here in Zanzibar" send me into a fury to which Jules firmly asks me to move aside so she can try some good cop action. We've had enough though and say fine we'll pay the $35 as long as he promises not to send someone to break our legs or worse as we leave the beach, the gravity of his threat seems to sink in as I say that we'll be getting the rest of the gang to leave immediately for fear of our safety (all a show for this prick of course) and he caves saying we can leave without paying but that we should remember check out time is 10am everywhere in Africa! 

After that fun adventure, we check into our little bit of luxury at Ahmann Apartments far enough around the corner we feel safe, and we relax on the balcony for a bit of down time.  That night it's cocktails with the girls (and Ish)  as the boys have a lads night out (BBQ & beer on the beach).  We head to the poshest place on the beach and order numerous happy hour cocktails and tapas. Whilst trying to get a number of group photos using the self timer, the waitress comes over with yet another round of cocktails but doesn't quite seem to understand the reason for the flashing coming from behind her. In a very confused manner, not helped by our laughing, she manoeuvres her arse right in front of the camera and proceeds to serve our drinks as the camera snaps away behind her.  The pictures below hopefully capture the moment.  



Next it's time to try the 3 stage scenario shots from Ish, 1. Sip of drink, 2. Blow up doll. 3. Big smile.  This lead to some of the scariest photos of the night (Kerry in particular!) and Sonya and Lara forgetting it was a fake sip of the drink and hence not being able to complete stage 2 of the photo but instead almost wetting themselves laughing! In true old lady style, after we gorge on the food we're all too tired to carry on with the night and retire early.  


We have an awesome sleep in our air conditioned room after watching a bit of random African telly which involved two men pretending to be cops and beating a guy with sticks after they steal the clothes he's selling, then try to sell them back to his mother - all very, very weird and we couldn't figure out if it was some sort of hidden camera or some sort of soap!  That morning we left for Stone Town via minibus around 10am.  As soon as the boys entered the van the magnitude of their big night out was both felt and smelt! Hungover and reeking of booze the boys were very quiet on the trip back. Us girls were all reasonably chipper.  




Once back in Stone Town we mostly chilled out for the afternoon.  We made it to an internet café where I was able to Skype the folks - Mum it is ok to look at the computer whilst you talk to it, I know it's weird but it's weirder watching you act like you're talking to the heavens!!! Regardless it was great to catch up with them as they're the only conversations from home we've had in the near five weeks we've been gone.  Then it's an agonising next hour as I try in vain to upload more blogs for you lovely people to read.  Not only is internet slow, connections come and go and the computers in the non wi-fi areas are old skool! All making it pretty hard to get stuff uploaded.  So no we're not being lazy but this is Africa and it's mostly out of our hands. After another detour of the night market it's an early night and up early for the ferry back to Dar. At this point I have again managed to get a really bad stomach and vomiting before we leave :o(  On the ferry back it becomes clear that it's going to be an interesting ride when the crew come round offering sick bags to all passengers.... 2.5 hours later and we've survived one of the worst ferry crossings ever, with only one vomit from the group (sorry Ish got to be named & shamed!) but countless near misses and plenty of productiveness from other travellers.  We're all very thankful to reach the other side and get off the boat. Upon arrival we all realise we don't have a clue where Chris, our new driver whilst Mark goes home for a mates wedding, and Ruby are... Kim then gets a number of texts come through explaining that there's only one ferry a day to the Dar Port on a Sunday and Chris is stuck over the other side. We're advised to go get food and wait for his updates.  We find a fast food type place and settle in expecting a long wait. Thankfully we're not waiting too long before we see Ruby peeling it round the corner. And so begins our adventures with Chris and Ruby, and writing this in hindsight what adventures they have been...............

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