Here I am, I've made it back from Zanzibar (unfortunately) and I know you all dearly missed my sparkling commentary over the weekend!
"Zanzibar"...even the name conjures tantalizingly exotic images. Housemate Michele #1 and I arrived in Stone Town after a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride and were greeted by a mob overzealous taxi touts. It is with very good reason that they are nicknamed "papasi" or "ticks" by the locals. One man was particularly pushy: "MY taxi, you come to MY TAXI! I DRIVE BEEEESSSSSSSTTTT TAXI! this way! over here!" and so on. He was extremely irritating but he agreed to take us to our hotel for under a dollar. However, we decided to walk a bit further after Mr. Pushy punched another driver square in the face. (yikes!)
So, after settling in a bit, we decided to spend the rest of our evening wandering around the Forodhani Gardens. The gardens are essentially a very large, flat, grassy place that rests neatly against the ocean. Historically, this was one of several stops made by the many, many slave ships that frequented the island. These days, the place comes alive in the evening with food stall vendors, displaced Maasai selling trinkets, and sunburned Europeans. I realized that I am not near as audacious as I once was...it was only with tremendous reservation that I tried the street seafood. And even then, I fed most of it to the feral cats lurking about. I blame it on the Tulsa Health Department Food Handler's Class...all I could think was: "surely this seafood has been in the 'danger zone' of bacteria growth longer than the acceptable 2 hours." *Sigh*, ignorance really is bliss!
But, no worries, I survived and so did my digestive tract. We decided to leave for Kendwa - (a small village about an hour away)- at 8 am the next day. The ride was uneventful but extremely interesting. Kendwa is just about as isolated as a village can be, so we zipped right through a number of very colorful rural Zanzibari towns. Mud huts, thatched roofs, dirt roads, half-naked children, lots of cows and chickens, traditional clothing...it was incredible. And I amend my previous statement: the minibus did very little "zipping"- the roads were even more pitted with pot holes than those in Dar...so the driver kind of putted along trying to weave out the best route. I am very glad to be barely over 5' tall...the lanky aussies in the bus kept slamming their heads against the ceiling with very impressive force! Half the roads were also flooded, due to the rains, so I was very relieved to arrive. Plus, I kept getting very promising peeks of the ocean through the trees...which were nothing compared to what I was about to see.
In a word, spectacular.....in several words: breathtaking, beautiful, magnificent, remarkable, awe-inspiring, stunning, and purely heavenly. The beach at Kendwa has the whitest, softest sand that meets peacefully with nearly neon turquoise water. Seriously, I've NEVER seen such a beautiful place. The colors were just so remarkable, so perfect, and entirely out-of-this-world. I knew Zanzibar was famous for unparalleled beaches...but wow! And the place was practically deserted! We spent the whole day in the sun and sand, reading, splashing around, enjoying the absurdly cheap hour-long massages....zanzibar = paradise! Our hotel, a little banda on the beach, even had hot water and a shower massage!!! ah, does life get any better?
I will post pictures as soon as I figure out how to compensate for the fact that I left my USB cord at home. I KNEW I forgot something important...but alas, hindsight 20/20.
So I was incredibly reluctant to leave the beach, but we headed back for a couple of hours of shopping in Stone Town before we caught the 4:00 ferry back to reality. Though horrifically overpriced due to super enthusiastic tourists (like myself), Stone Town is shopping bliss. Perhaps I'm just spoiled from my India shopping experiences, but I certainly did not expect such steep prices. In Dar, everything is pretty cheap- aside from the imported items like the $24 GQ magazine I saw once. So, unless you're a GQ reader, I suppose reality can be nice sometimes.
Anyway, the labyrinths of ancient stone town were fun to navigate and the hawkers were less annoying than the taxi touts, so I am very excited to go back for the Dhow Festival in July. I plan to fly next time, however, as the ferry ride home was an extremely bizarre experience.
Mistake #1. Leaving the open air deck, (we were getting drenched by an unusually tormented sea.) Mistake #2. Choosing to sit all the way at the end of a row, against a window in the airline-style seating...(soon to be most unfortunately trapped.)
So the story goes: the little ferry was chugging along determinedly, regardless of the fact that the ocean was tossing us around quite violently. It was the Indian woman sitting next to me who vomited first- though my hat is off to her for remaining enviably elegant even in the throes of extreme illness. Luckily, she managed to catch all of it in the little black bag tucked into the seatback pocket. Maybe it was the relentless tossing, maybe it was the fact that the cabin was extremely hot and stuffy, maybe it was the ever-lingering smell of...well, you know...in the air, but it was only a matter of time. First, the man behind me vomited with such force that I lunged forward fearing a very disagreeable shower. But no worries, he missed. Then, several more people around me succumbed to the same unfortunate fate- I held tight to my little portable fan (thanks granny!), nose plugged, and stared at the horizon. "not me not me not me not me not me" was my very stubborn and entirely ineffective mantra. When it seemed the entire cabin, some 150 people, were keeled over, green-to-the-gills and retching violently...I was a goner. I reached for my little black bag, and said good-bye to my lunchtime samosas.
At the time, I was miserable; now, it's pretty darn funny. Really, what a (horrible) sight! And that poor cabin crew...running around furiously trying to distribute those pathetic little black bags..."BAGS!!!!" they'd scream, "more bags! we need more bags! for godsake, MORE BAGS!!!!!!!" It was ironic too, because no one (except for those damn fortunate aisle-seaters) could get up and move outside...because frankly, we were all too scared to cross the line of fire. The ride couldn't have been over soon enough, and everyone practically ran for the exits.
And so ended my Zanzibar adventure...(sorry to gross you out, haha)Until next time, kwaheri!