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Entries about stone town

Coasting Tanzania

the final days


Spending my last week in Tanzania getting my tan on…..guess where? ZANZIBAR! Which is where I think I left off with the last email a month ago. We had a night at the Jahazi Jazz Festival in Stone Town which was really nice at the bar on the sand, chilled out music, especially a band from Mali were great. We were introduced to 'Michael-Jackson-from-Stone-Town' ahead of his performance the next night at the Full Moon party – which we were late for but requested a special performance – though was funny a couple of hours before the festival was due to start thinking to have some pre-drinks and seeing that the bar was not even finished being built and the place was full of workmen. Talk about last minute, plus no one seemed to know WHAT was going on, drinks available? “yes”. “no” “yes” “no”. entrance fee? “yes” “no” “yes”…..but all went well. Then back up to Nungwi (still with the brits at this stage) where one night we managed to lose one of the guys and were searching the beaches for him but turned out he had dragged himself back to the room to bed, another night another one tried to swim home from another beach at high tide, the other guy (previously lost one) took off his clothes to swim out and stop him (the ‘rescuer’ cant swim well….all drunk of course) so they had left another guy on the beach who took the guys clothes not knowing what to do so when the other 2 got to the shore of another beach they had to wait in the reception of a beautiful resort in no clothes. Never a dull moment.

I went to a local disco one night and began to think the reason they have ladies night twice a week is to support the local prostitute trade. When all the others had left I went to Pongwe on the East Coast, had it all to myself besides a Masai watchman, got extremely burnt and had serious difficulties getting comfortable on the night ferry back to Dar es Salaam, even though it was quite luxury with leather lounges and air con! Check me out! Arrived at 6am in Dar and got the bus to Bagamoyo, the old capital of German East Africa. A nice seaside town, on one side of the street crumbling old buildings, the other side lovely new hotels and resorts. Went for a walk to the Holy Ghost Catholic Mission, where Livingstone’s body was laid before being taking back to the UK….i think this concludes my Livingstone trail. Had some student photos to pose for then on my way. Was ok with my room, even with a condom wrapper on the floor, until I lay down at night and spotted the actual condom under a chair. Don’t think I have moved so quickly in a long time as I did to get those sheets off me.

Another day went just out of town to the Kaole Ruins, remains of some 13th-15th mosques and tombs, some of the oldest in East Africa. They are situated amongst mangroves and were quite interesting, so hot though so had the afternoon napping in the shade on the beach. In the afternoon the shore fills with hundreds of fishing boats and makes an interesting walk. The next day was one of those travel days which just does not go to plan, in part because of another person just telling you what they think you want to hear, or wanting to help so bad that they will just make stuff up so they can appear to be of assistance. Planned to get the bus from Bagamoyo to Mlandizi then a passing bus to Tanga then another from Tanga to Pangani to retrieve my suitcase from Rasta Ally. I got to Mlandizi ok but then waited there in the stinking hot sun - its just a roadside truckstop type town - literally no shelter around the stand – as all the buses from Dar simply passed by all full, and the odd one that did come through maybe had room for one person and I was just being pushed all over the place. I've clearly lost some pushing and shoving skills since Ilongero days. So after 3 hours of waiting I decided I would just get a bus to Dar, then from Dar a bus to Tanga, so that went ok and I ended up passing by Mlandizi at 4pm, 8 hours after I had first been there in the morning. Talk about backtracking.

Back with my luggage – #1 regret of my life – and had a few days in Dar es Salaam which is not as big and scary as I had somehow had it built up. Instead of being mugged by my taxi driver, I was hugged. Has great street food, went to a few markets, a night out watching some live jazz and another at a bar with some great performers including another Michael Jackson who actually was really good and looked like him say early 90’s. met a bunch of people all stuck in Dar for some reason, one cycling through Africa stuck here for a month with visa issues, another constantly stoned german guy stuck here trying to sell his combi after driving it up from South Africa, an interesting mix. I read about an area with lots of textile shops and had to have a look…well I went a little crazy in a couple as they were the only shops I saw, then turned the corner and the are loads of shops with Kangas and Kitenge pouring out the doors. I had to run through, touching the materials and when people offered me to enter I could only pull a frightened face and say “no, I cant, no I cant” and run off. I really can’t fit another thing in my suitcase. But oh I love the, I had one traveller ask me “may I as why you DO have such a large bag? I have never seen a traveller with one like this before”.

Next was Mafia Island, south of Dar es Salaam where you board the boat at Nyamisati village. The bus guy was calling me his fiancé, so to get him to lower my fare for my suitcase, I shamelessly asked if I married him would it be cheaper, or free even. This worked and I got a good price as well as a bus full of friends - Noone seems to like the bus guys. I did send a bit of a casual ‘im boarding a boat’ message to Mum & Dad as it was not……attractive. The roof was caving in etc and where the driver stood to steer it at the back there was no direct view in front of the boat but thankfully there were no waves and we made it safely to Mafia. Only after lining up for hours to try to get a ticket in a very tightly packed crowd to be told repeatedly that they are just waiting for the ticket book. Turns out that was a lie – surprise – and I don’t really understand the problem but a few hours later I was fighting my way aboard the ladder to get on, not afraid to throw an elbow here and there. I'm BACK! When you arrive its absolute mayhem as everyone tries to get the luggage from below the boat and board the smaller boat – a little like a titanic scene – to get to the shore. I was caught up in the craziness of this even though everyone is going to get off anyway so why the rush? Madness but you look back and laugh.

I spent a couple of days in the port village of Kilindoni, I know ive said this a lot but… STARS!!! Had a funny moment when a lady showed me where a guesthouse was and told me to visit her at her market stall the next day. She was fully covered in her buibui except her eyes so laughingly she lifted her gown to show me her shoes so I could recognize her. Walking down the beach in Kilindoni is interested as all fishermen are at work on their boats and fishing lines and the shore is lined with dagaa – interesting yet stinky. I got invited to help some people lift some logs of wood which they were happy to see I was able, then the beach becomes deserted besides a german guy I ran into who looked something like Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway. I understand why everyone in Singida told me if I went to Mafia I’d be eating lots of coconuts….LOTS of coconut trees. Everyone is very excited to try their English, which can be funny when I am exciting to use my Swahili so sometimes just get told “speak English”.

I didn’t see any other tourists until going to a lodge for sunset views one evening and being invited to dine with a Yemeni man and the Tanzanian guys he was taking around as his guides, which was fine until they left the table and it was just the 2 of us, he was tryng a bit of wooing, then after a couple of beers he seemed to be quite racist so while he was arguing about his bill I slipped on out of there. Also spent a couple of days on the East Coast where the Chole Bay Marine Park is. Stayed at a lovely lodge just out of the marine park and to get to the beach you usually have to pay $20 park fee so the lodge owner hid me under the seat in his car to get me there then wrote me some things to say if any rangers ask what im doing, which was to say 'I am volunteering with Utende Frontier and searching for this tree which is used in herbal medicine'. Thank god no one asked. Went snorkeling, to save $$ just told the beachboys to take off the motor and paddle so no fuel necessary, plus you get longer on the water and I more enjoy the boat ride.

The water was stunning, especially once out on it. I was in a little wooden sail boat (dhow) and all was fine as one of the guys buckets out the water every now and then – a standard on most boats here – until just as we started to head back, a hole they had obviously repaired with glue in the past came open and the water started gushing in. I plugged that one with my toe and 2 or 3 more popped open. I was a little nervous, mainly about my camera, the water wasn’t too deep, but the guys were like no worries its fine 'hakuna matata'– I could tell they were a little nervous though, then one ended up in just his undies as he had to use all his clothes to plug the holes. When we got back to shore I was like “you WERE worried hey?” and he was like “Oh YES! haha”. Also funny talking to the Maasai working at the resorts when I ask if they swim “no Masai are scared of the water” “how about all the seafood? You enjoy?” “No masai hate eating fish”. Wrong place to be!

I decided against all advice (typical) to hire a bike and ride back to the West coast and about 1/3 up the island to Ras Mbisi. What a mistake, after passing 'Fakh Stationary' (mwahaha) 7 hours in, grazed bottom from the bike seat, absolutely drenched in sweat and muscles spasming as the roads soon end and it is all sand, which is impossible to ride on, and a nice helpful guy shows me a shortcut to get to the beach which is not a shortcut and then I get there and have 15 minutes before I have to return so I can get back to Utende before sunset. So painful but would I admit it? No. I had my kanga over my head and have to laugh as often happens when I’m pretty well wrapped in Tanzanian fabric and get called common Tanzanian names such as Hadija or Mwajumaa by people I pass. Tanzanians have a great sense of humour.

After setting up our dinner for 2, the lodge owner offered me to try ride his quad bike which was fun until you realize he may like you. It is quite an awkward position to be in, doubling up on a bike, while realizing this so it was encouragement to up the speed. Dinner was by candle and for 2 the next night as well, where he just came out and told me he wants a white wife so he can have a diverse family. When I told him I have a boyfriend at home, he told me to take a photo of him and show my family. I have to say, he did have the most amazing passionfruits (I don't know why this is sounding rude and dirty) but they sweetest most delicious fresh passionfruit juice I have ever had!

Unlike the mountain areas where all the kids know “HULLOOO” on the coast it is all “BYE BYE…BYE BYE BYE BYE”. Very cute.

Once back to mainland I headed back up to Dar, then back again further down the coast to Kilwa Masoko as a base to visit some ruins. The beach there was nice once you pass the rubbish, and the ruins on the nearby island Kilwa Kisiwani really interesting once the drama of getting there passed as they tried to tell me white people aren’t allowed on the local boat to get there, of course so you hire your own boat. So I went on about racism and how it is no different to getting on a dalla dalla and if that happened in Australia they would be called racist.....and they eventually gave in. woohoooo. I had no Plan B. Pretty amazing setting as the backdrop to the ruins - scattered all over the island so prepare for some scorching sun and not much shelter - is the beautiful water which by the end of the day, sweaty and red as a lobster I was dying to jump into.

Other than that, more beaches in Dar, the most amazing chocolate brownie I have ever had, several meatball subways and steers burgers, and I somehow found myself back on Zanzibar last week for the 4th time, just to kill some time before heading home next week. Once again enjoyed Stone Town, sitting on a step on a Friday, the Muslim holiday...or holy day (still unsure what to say), watching as the lady at the corner shop hands out lollies to passing kids....and me. Getting a whiff of the towns gutters after the rain. Putting fresh papaya onto my foot full of sea urchin barbs, passing by Ben Bella secondary school (was he not an Algerian dictator?), being offered the biggest bag of weed I’ve ever seen (of course the first ive ever seen) to go with my bangle at the markets, getting greeted by maasai in italian and responding to them in swahili who then respond to me in english, watching a scary trend sweeping some country in europe of white speedos. So, it seems, this will be my last blog from Africa (don’t plan on doing much off the sand this coming week). Thanks for reading (if I’ve still got you) .


Posted by neerg_08 05:52 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zanzibar stone_town nungwi kendwa dar_es_salaam mafia_island chole_bay kilondoni kilwa kilwa_kisiwani kilwa_masoko ras_mbisi bagamoyo kaole_ruins Comments (0)

Vegimite. Coming to a Masai village near you‏

Up the mountains, down to the coast and return to Zanzibar...AGAIN

Back in Stone Town, Zanzibar! Still absolutely in love with this place. As much as I try to visit other areas and get inland etc, can’t help but come back to the coast. Where was i…..

Arusha turned out not to be AS full on as I’d feared (big town anxiety) and I think especially the area I was staying was definitely not the nice area so people probably just assumed I was not worth bothering. I hadn’t noticed my last time here in April, or the first couple of days this time due to the rain but one day it cleared up and looming over town is the very impressive Mount Meru. It looks especially stunning in the late afternoon as the sun sets and just the tip glows gold. I did some shopping, found ice cream. For my last safari in Africa I joined another group and went to Tarangire National Park. The drive there is really great, alongside Meru and then through dry plains farmed by Masai. Alongside the road are teenage Masai dressed in all black with their faces painted white (as in Ace ventura, I was half expecting Jim Carey to jump out) as this is the traditional dress they wear during the healing period after circumcision, though I would assume these guys would be there just to get photo money. The park is beautiful, dotted with baobabs and perfect ‘umbrella’ acacia’s and with a vary of landscapeds from hilly scrublands to sprawling golden grassy plains. We saw elephants while waiting in the carpark to enter and loads more once inside. Some lovely bird life which usually doesn’t interest me but there are some very pretty colours, also plenty of ostriches, wildebeest, zebras, and a few distant lions. A lot of the time we couldn’t stop for long as we would get swarmed by ‘sleeping flies’ which REALLY hurt when they bite and can carry sleeping sickness. The safari itself was great though and we had all been promised a lot longer (double the time) in the park by the boss.

NOTE to anyone planning to come do a safari in TZ – DO NOT USE AFRICAN SMART SAFARIS!!!

Long story short – you know I’m good at this – we ended up in a huge fight with him and pretty much all the staff, then they all turned on me and said I am the bad person trying to guide the 3 German people also complaining in the wrong direction and I brainwashed them to think they didn’t enjoy it. I was “a very bad girl’, ‘colonial days are over’, we still got to see the animals, whats the problem? “Yes, you had 6 hours, 12:30 – 4:30”…hah this, guy used to be a lawyer yet he can’t count? But my favourite was when I pointed out their contract stating a full day safari recommends AT LEAST 7 hours, and everyone tried to convince me that ‘at least’ means ‘less than 7 hours’. I was having a real laugh. Actually, even better than that was when the boss, in his ridiculous shiny cream pinstripe suit, jumped up and ordered “CALL THE EMBASSY”. Hahah again in hysterics. I was ready to start cursing Arusha, but then as usual after a bad experience someone was able to turn it around and when I went back to my guest house I had a really funny evening with the Masai who run the place, in particularly one woman who I had a real laugh with about marrying her brother as he stood there very nervously laughing. The people working there come from a Masai village a couple of hours away, arriving in Arusha in groups to run the guest house for a couple of months and do various other business such as selling jewellery before returning. She was dressed in her beautiful blue and red shukas, fabulous jewelery, and just kept brushing my hair back and saying “nakupenda sana” “ I like you a lot”. We discussed the details of the marriage and worked out I could go home and study then come back here for work. I had to tell her I would not be able to carry buckets of water etc as I am a lot weaker than Masai women, and told her I have tried before to carry a bag on my head and failed (I did try once and I think i shrunk a couple of cm’s. apparently something you have to do from a child). Then with a goodnight hug she walked me to my room….then entered with me and shut the door behind which had me a little confused as we sat there awkwardly on my bed. Until she presented me with a gold bracelet, and came back a little later with a necklace also. In return I gave her a tube of vegemite, telling her most other nationalities don’t like it but maybe Masai will. She at least pretended to be grateful. She even called me the next morning to make sure I got on the bus safely. We passed Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi and it would have been the perfect day to stop in Moshi and snap some photo's of it as it was sooo clear...ahhh next time.

Next stop - Mtae. Head up the Usambara Mountains to Mtae, a tiny village perched on the ridge of a mountain, without electricity apart from a few generators, no cars or even motorbikes, just bicycles, and the only way out are the 3 daily buses from 4-5am. A few skipped heartbeats along the way, winding along the bumpy, narrow road on the edge of the steep mountains, and certainly not the ideal place for the driver to get out and let a couple of the younger guys working on the bus have a practice. My room at the guesthouse was just big enough for my bag, but to open it I had to take it out into the corridor (outside, next to the huge pot of water constantly heating over a charcoal fire for our warm buckets of shower water). The first morning that I started my hike with Rogeros (?), my guide, was very foggy and COLD and we couldn’t see much so first we climbed down the mountain to see some caves where a traditional healer – still commonly used in the Usambara region – stays, one for living, another for work. Then we climbed back up heading to Mambo view point . I am so unfit, I thought I was going to have to be helicoptered out. It was worth it in the end, as the fog cleared and down below you can see where the gold, green and red Tsavo plains – stretching all the way up to Kenya – are met by the mountains. Passing through villages along the way I came to think it must be the fresh mountain air but people in the mountainous areas seem to be sooooooo nice! Even kids, who don’t ask for anything but for a picture so they can look at themselves. All day I heard “HAAALLLOOOOOO” from all around, even when I could not see anyone, or “UPIGE PICHA” (take a picture). So gorgeous as some really young ones get so excited screaming “HULO” and waving big with both arms up while running to get a closer look they almost lose balance and fall. The houses all have 2 tiny windows and a teeny door – no big mama’s here, life is tough in Mtae – and most are painted a pink-peach colour by mixing water with the earth of the area. I think Mtae is in the lovely phase of just starting to get visitors, but not many and knowing that the few who do come to the area generally go to Lushoto, the nearest town about 3 hours away. Everyone is amazingly welcoming and the kids haven’t been handed out enough money or lollies or pens to start associating these gifts with foreigners. The only not so friendly person was a young kid who I saw throwing around a chameleon on a stick. I told him its not a toy and put it in the bush, and then he ran alongside me for a while angrily chasing me with a stick. Fair enough, it was his toy.

I even met an Australian at the sunset view point which was beautiful (the viewpoint, not him) and his group invited me for dinner. After a tough day hiking, my first question was whether there’d be beer which was funny as he was the only Aussie in the group and apparently the only one who had asked that earlier on as well. I had a another day of hiking, through more mountain top villages, steep farms, fertile green valleys and to the peak of one mountain with the hut and fences of a chief of the area a long time ago “how long Rogeros? How many years ago?”…”many years”, a characteristically well informed guide. Up there I was serenaded with ‘Happy Besssday” by a group of kids and had a quick photoshoot. I couldn't recommend paying this beautiful place a visit more strongly. I felt so at home and the man running the guest house was just the sweetest and treated me like a daughter, as well as the attached mgahawa where the man whips up some great meals (beans comparable to Ilongero, and VEGGIES!) I stayed at Mtitu wa Ndei Guesthouse I here, basic, but all part of the experience and they'll bend over backwards for you.

After Mtae, back to Lushoto, a small town in a fertile valley. I decided to go for a walk around town but after 5-10 minues that’s it. All the hikes are ‘expensive’ as they are ‘cultural tourism’ organizations so they support the community but by this stage I really just wanted to say can’t you just take out the community support fee, I just want cheap cheap? So I just did a day hike through the lovely Magamba Rainforest, but my feet were by then starting to reject this exercise and fall apart so I was happy to get back to town and into my thongs. Good excuse to put the hiking shoes at the bottom of the case and throw the grotty clothes away.

Next stop, Tanga, Tanzania’s 3rd largest town which had me pretty unmotivated. It was actually really laid back. Once you get away from the bus stand, no one really hassles you, the seafront area is nice, and its quite enjoyable. I stayed at a pretty nice place, one of the older men there is Mnyaturu (the tribe from Singida) so Bula was back. Not much to do in Tanga on a rainy day, especially a Sunday. The days are pretty hot and steamy but the evenings so mild and beautiful it’s impossible to stay inside. Ramadan ended while I was here, and being back in the largely Muslim coastal area was nice as there are 3 days for celebration for Eid, especially in the night as everyone goes out for fancy food, the ice cream shops suddenly appear from nowhere bursting with kids and there was such a nice atmosphere. I went for a bite and sat with 2 old ‘spinsters’ who bought me dinner of fried potato slices and delicious coconut chutney (which is also served at the front step of my guest house here in Stone Town). One of those nights I know I'll look back on and feel all warm and fuzzy. When people take you in, when everyone appears happy, it is all about family and love...really kicks those crappy moments and crappy things people do in the world out and replaces them with hope for humanity when you see the core of what life is about and human nature. Ahhhh.

Anyway, I took a bus to a village about an hour away on the waterfront to see the Tongoni ruins, the remains of a mosque and tombs from the 14th/15th century. Really atmospheric as it is set amongst bush and baobabs near the mangroves and tiny fishing village. The buildings were built from coral reef brought from Persia and some still grow coral. On the way back the driver of the car worried that there would be police up ahead and the car was over-filled, so he made one of the guys put a kitenge on the front of the car “put the flowery one” and told us all to start singing if we see the police as it was still Eid and he hoped they would just let us off. That was funny, another moment when laughter and smiles erase unite EVERYONE.

After Tanga I headed down the coast to Pangani at the mouth of the Pangani river. The beaches aren’t amazing but are lined with coconuts and the odd cow leg. I hired a bike for a couple of days and crossed the river on the ferry to ride to some other beaches and villages. I actually really enjoyed riding around, much nicer than walking and I only fell off once. The only thing is along the main road when trucks or buses pass, they obviously see my stiffness and just as they pass honk the horn and then turn around to look out the window and laugh at my reaction. Mzungu are funny aren't we? The few streets around the river have buildings and doors similar to Zanzibar so that was nice too, little did I know I’d be there/here in a few days.

I was here for the 3rd and final day of Eid and as usual everyone was out and about, the women and girls looking especially fabulous in amazing clothes, makeup and beautiful henna painted up their arms. I was adopted by a couple of young rasta guys who have a tourism office but ended up just helping me as a sister “dada Nicole”. Maybe we bonded because of the state of my hair after the beach, the humidity and wearing a hat which had created a dreadlock appearance. I met a group of brits and have been travelling with them since, getting a boat over to Nungwi - one of the northern beaches of Zanzibar - and although we all thought we were going to die at some point during the trip, arriving on the turquoise waters at the beach made it worth it. I got

to leave my big bags at Rasta Ally’s office in Pangani, and use his tent he left at his rasta friends lodge in Nungwi. We stayed here, and you can imagine a lodge run by a bunch of rastas is quite and experience. The beach here is beeeeeeeeautiful, lots of Masai, lots of Italians and LOTS of white speedo's. A night out at Kendwa Rocks, the beach party, had similar consequences to when I went there on my tour, but was just as fun. Came to Stone Town this week and by chance there is a jazz festival on so a few of us are staying to see that and then head back up to the northern beaches. Yesterday we did a day trip to Changuu Island (Prison Island) where there is a sanctuary for endangered giant tortoises. Also did some snorkelling and wandered around the island. Of course each night I have been at the Forodhani night markets , getting in as many REAL Zanzibar pizzas – as well as learning to cook them - (the copies on the mainland are no good) and as much seafood as possible, and we have found a bar with sunset views and happy hour at the same time so have been there 6 times so far in 3 days. Last night we went to Livingstone’s, a bar on the beach here in Stone Town for the opening night of the festival with some jazz bands which was great and today heading back up to the beaches for Kendwa Rocks again, tonight featuring Michael Jackson! We met him last night, he must’ve had more surgery.

As always, amazing getting lost in the alleyways, admiring the beautiful doors and architecture…I really don’t think I could ever tire of this.

Happy Fathers Day all you Baba’s.

Posted by neerg_08 05:47 Archived in Tanzania Tagged safari zanzibar tanga stone_town nungwi arusha forodhani tarangire_national_park mtae lushoto pangani tongoni_ruins Comments (0)

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