Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 147 - Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, Tanzania

My tour organizer called at 6:15am saying he wouldn’t be able to pick me up (but I paid for it!).  So I had to take a cab.  To make matters worse the credit card was not working so the clerk said go to the ATM and give the 152,000 schillings to the cab driver and he will return it to him.  Gave him 3000 schillings as a tip and he was happy.  Told me where to go once I got to the ferry station.  I couldn’t get any information on which dock and no sooner the cab driver was inside with me and guided me to the correct boat.

Stone Town

One of the many dhows amungst some freighters

Got to Zanzibar and I had to go through immigration.  What?  I thought I was in Tanzania?  Found out later Zanzibar was originally not part of Tanzania but they seem to have kept the immigration routine in place.  Good thing I brought my passport as I thought about leaving it at the hotel in a secure box.  Then they asked me for my yellow fever vaccination.  Oh, no. That one I did leave behind.  I had to beg and plead for them to let me on the island and eventually had to fill out another form stating I had received the vaccination.  Now to look for my driver.  I was told he`d be holding up a card with my name on it. It was now 9:30 and he was nowhere to be seen.  Great.  I forgot his name and the guest house I was staying at.  Stupid. And most of the cabs were gone.  The usual guys hustling for fare were present.  I waited... and waited.  I thought I had been scammed again and at this point I also thought the guy in the cab would take off with the hotel payment.  I stayed calm.   Finally at 10:15 the guy shows up.  Sigh.  The guide tried to decide what to do first and was surprised I had booked 3 tours as there wasn’t enough time.  This was not the organized tour I thought it was.  We decided on the prison island tour first but that was a dead start as we went to the docks and had to find someone.  Several times we started the car to go only to have one of the locals run up and say wait 10 more minutes.  Finally an Italian couple arrived and we were on our way but not after some heated discussions between the “boat captain” of the canoe and another guy.  The water was very warm and a beautiful turquoise colour.  Amazing.  Our guide gave us a brief history of prison island.  In 1820 it was bought by an Arab who used it as a prison for the misbehaving, feistier slaves during the slave trade era to prevent them from escaping.  In  1893, a prison was built but never used for its intended purpose.  The island was then used as a quarantine area for yellow fever victims and turned the prison into a hospital.  Now it`s the home of Giant Albabra tortoises.  Some as old as 180 years.

Prison Island

The prison

Framed medical records  of the people interned on the island, the date and the boat they came on.

One giant tortoise

This one is 180 years old

 The spice tour was next where I toured a government run farm. Everything from turmeric, ginger, aloe, jack fruit, pepper trees, chilli, cardamom, lemongrass, cloves, cinnamon trees and more.  The cinnamon trees were quite impressive, the “sticks” as we know them, are dried tree bark and the powder is simply the sun dried crushed bark.  White, black and red pepper all comes from a pepper tree.  I tried the unripe green balls, pepper alright.  Hot too.  Turmeric, a root,  is used to colour curry and vegetables as well as a cure for acne.  The lemongrass is used in food as well as a natural mosquito repellent.  Got a demonstration on how to climb a coconut tree as well.  This guy was quite the character.  Drank the juice (Zanzibar’s coca cola he said) and ate the fresh pulp from the inside.  Very refreshing.

Cinnamon tree bark

Pepper on a branch

Pepper trees

 Can't remember the name of the tree but not sure I'd climb it.

Tour done and I told my driver I wanted to try some local food so he took me to his favourite place.  All eyes were on the white guy (mzungu, as we are affectionately known).   Had ugali (made with manioc or rice) with a salsa sauce, bean sauce and some kind of fresh fish.  All was very good.  The rest of the day I spent walking around the maze of narrow alleyways in Stone Town. Stone Town is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region and India. There is also the famous Zanzibar doors. These are massive and made from either teak or mahogany.

 One of the many alleyways in Stone Town

Indian tailor shop.  their shops had the dried leaves hung over the doorway.   

Not sure what they did in this shop but he want 5USD for a photo.  I gave him a dollar.

One of the famous Stone Town door

Found myself at the Africa House Hotel on the terrace watching the sunset.  Amazing place!  Met Denise, the owner who had bought and renovated the place with her husband 12 years ago.  They even had various water pipes and the barman would set you up if you decided to partake.  No, I didn’t.

Views from the terrace At the Africa House Hotel

Side note:  Hakuna Matata, no worries in Swahili.  Very common expression in Zanzibar. Brought back memories of watching Lion King with my daughter and Pumba’s famous catch phrase.

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