African shoestrings – Tanzania Day One Hundred and Twelve the last day!

Our last full day was spent just aimlessly wondering down the alleys and streets of Stone town, stopping to browse the bazaars, have a coffee or something to eat. We finished off the day with a meal at the Stone town bistro in the old dispensary building. The old dispensary building was in fact a charming old building that was restored to its former glory in the mid 1990’s. Built for one of the richest Indian merchants in Zanzibar in the 1890’s it was donated as a medical dispensary by the same wealthy merchant at the end of the nineteenth century. It stands four stories tall with decorative balconies that give it a sort of colonial feel. We dined there twice and each time with the sort of feeling that you were dining in the same sort of atmosphere that the British Raj would have done at the height of their colonial power. We felt the urge to look around at any newcomers in case they had handlebar moustaches, belonged to the coldstream guards and said “what old boy” every other sentence.

As we left the restaurant I suddenly remembered (I’m ashamed to say that I forgot) the cricket world cup! Australia was playing South Africa in the semi. Immediately the search began for somewhere that a) had a TV and b) had it turned on and tuned into the cricket. We searched high and low and eventually found one at a hotel not far from our guesthouse and seeing that it was tuned into the wrong channel I cheekily asked the lone resident if she minded if I switched channels. We sat down ordered a drink (we thought we had better) and then proceeded to cheer like madman as the game seemed to ebb and flow from one side ‘s advantage to the other. The porter, the receptionist and a few other members of the hotel staff weren’t the slightest bit interested in the drama that was unfolding in front of our very eyes, they found our reaction much more entertaining. Not so the lady who we had hijacked the TV from. She disappeared quick smart.

Those of you who saw it will recall that South Africa needed 9 runs to win in the last 4 balls whilst Australia needed 1 wicket…………….. Lance Klusener hit 2 successive boundaries and we shook our heads discontentedly. The staff looked at us puzzingly……………. The next ball and Klusener panicked and ran out his partner, Alan Donald (to be fair to Klusener, Donald was not backing up enough).

It’s a draw and due to some rule or other Australia earned the right to go through to the final. Now we’re both up and jumping up and down, shouting and carrying on whilst the totally bemused hotel staff looked on even more puzzingly.

OK, you had to be there!

Our final few hours in Africa were spent pretty much the same way as the day before. Aimlessly wondering the alleys of Stonetown soaking in the atmosphere and feel of the place for the last time.

We checked out of the Malindi and caught a taxi to the airport. During the half an hour wait or so I totaled up our expenditure. We had failed to keep to the original daily budget and ended up spending, on average, $130. This meant we had spent $3300 more than we had budgeted and work would have to be found almost immediately we hit London. Oh well, we shrugged, we did have great time. “What’s three grand in the scheme of things!”

It took about 20 minutes to fly back to Dar es Salaam with great views of the some of the surrounding islands shimmering in the heat surrounded by the deep blue and turquoise water.

We were looking forward to being able to easily find our way to the international terminal and crash for a few hours before our flight. That plan disappeared very quickly.

The airport that we landed at was not the main Dar airport so we had to get a taxi the 1.5 kilometres to the international airport. We didn’t exactly have a choice as to which taxi we took. Once we hit the deck our bags were taken by the airline staff and deposited straight into a taxi waiting there. The driver must have thought we were rich tourists ripe for plucking. He wanted to charge us US$12 to take us. Eventually after much haggling we got him down to US$5.

At the international terminal we went to stroll into the building and were stopped. “Yoo a not aloud to go in de terminal until de chick in coonta is opan” a rather officious lady told us from her desk at the entrance. “yoo will ave to wait over der” she vaguely gestured towards a courtyard with two bench seats already filled with passengers waiting for their airline “chick in coonta” to open.

We had no choice, we had to admit defeat.

As Stephan would say, “Africa wins again”

But Africa is so spell binding, so beautiful, so rich in nature at its best that it won the day we first set foot on its fragile soil.

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The Old Dispensary in Zanzibar, Tanzania

The Old Dispensary in Zanzibar, Tanzania



African shoestrings – Tanzania Day One Hundred and Eleven Zanzibar

After that sad little story (see the last post) we went further into depression and visited the Anglican Cathedral, site of the slave market. Apparently a group of missionaries came out to Africa to oppose the slave trade. They eventually found their way to Zanzibar and after its abolition of the slave trade, built a cathedral on the very site, removing almost any remnants of this ugly meat market. The altar stood at the same point as a post that was used for whipping the slaves stood. The floor was a symbolic red marble to depict the blood spilt to show potential buyers the strength or weaknesses of each slave and therefore justify the asking price.

Next door at the St Monica’s hostel we were shown the original holding cells for the slaves. About 1 metre tall and not that much wider they looked extremely cramped for one not to mention the dozens that were crammed in at any one time.

Wherever you go in the world there’s always evidence of man’s inhuman treatment of his brothers usually because of the colour of his skin, the religion he practices or the country he was born in. It seems to me that there is no end in sight and we are forever damned to be cruel to each other. The only species that has a consciousness of itself has been unable to capitalise on this gift. If anything it has used it to carry out barbaric acts in the name of intolerance of racial or religious difference. At least animals attack and kill in the name of survival.

But that’s enough of that!……………..The Busaidi Omani Arabs built the Arab fort in the seventeenth century as a defense against rival Omani Arabs, the Mazrui and the Portuguese, who they had recently kicked out.

Since then it’s been used as a prison, a railway depot and (only the Poms would think of this one) a ladies tennis club. Nowadays it’s been restored and used as an open air theatre and restaurant.

We went to one of the traditional dance shows held in the fort that evening. The ‘tucker’ was good but the dancing was at first interesting, then mildly entertaining and finally boring! I can only concentrate for so long when all there is on offer is a slightly different dance to the same tune, time and time again.

In the nineteenth century Zanzibar created for itself a niche market (to use modern marketing jargon) in the growing and exporting of spices. In the twentieth and twenty first centuries another market has grown from this industry, the spice tour. No, nothing to do with the good looking girls that prance around singing and dancing making squillions but the real spices.

We had read in a borrowed Lonely Planet guide, that Mr Mitu ran the best value spice tour. So taking that advice at face value we booked with his company and turned up at the prearranged meeting place only to be picked up by Mr. Sulaman tours. Apparently if one particular tour company doesn’t have enough paying customers to justify leaving they shunt them on onto a rival company. So there’s always a chance that the poor unsuspecting tourist will go with a tour company they haven’t booked with and may have not wanted to use. Somehow, though, I think that they are all pretty much of muchness. Certainly we had no complaints except for the weather. It literally hammered it down. Aswan, our guide, attempted to tell us how the different spices grow, when they are picked and what uses they have. Meantime we were getting soaked and struggling to hear his voice above the din created by the rain pitter-pattering on to the umbrellas and jungle vegetation. Nonetheless we were impressed by the number of spices grown. Cloves, Cardamom, Cumin, Turmeric, Ginger, Mint, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Coconut and Nutmeg, the latter I learnt to my amusement, is used as an aphrodisiac as well as for cooking.

We were transported around in a dala-dala; a small converted covered in Ute, with wooden benches either side, to a government farm where all these spices are grown. From there we were herded on to other attractions like the Kidichi Persian baths built by the Sultan Said for his Persian wife, Sherazade, 150 years ago and now occupied by a colony of bats; the Mangapwani coral cave which was about as interesting as the bat shit left by the Kidichi bats and Mangapwani beach for an extremely pleasant swim in warm tropical waters beneath the now dry but stormy clouds. In between all that we somehow managed to try Jackfruit, a sort of fleshy pineapple and Pamillo, a giant grapefruit and chew on the addictive sugary Zanzibar doughnuts. Not to mention sitting crossed legged on the floor of an open sided enclosure surrounded by banana trees, eating pilau rice and veggies in coconut sauce for lunch.

Its funny the sort of fellow travelers you meet. Once again we met with two Poms Deb and Andy, who had spent a few months in Perth and whose eyes watered over at just the mere mention of where we lived. I suppose to the rest of the world, we live in paradise; to us it’s just home. They were with a kiwi couple who were travelling around Africa with an 18 month year old baby. Now I’m all in favour in dragging kids around the world. When we took our kids, at the ages of eight and ten, out of school for a few weeks to go to Europe many years ago their teacher was fully supportive. “They will learn a lot more in those few weeks travelling than they will back in school”. But what possible experience will a child that age remember and the potential risk for disease is far higher for an 18 month old baby than a 8 year old. Still that was their choice.

We chatted with a Norwegian couple as well and later had dinner with them at Pychi’s (pronounced peaches). Pychi’s is a casual sort of place overlooking a small beach and, as is pretty normal in this climate, was virtually all alfresco. I find the Scandinavians fascinating people. Those that travel of course, because having never been to that part of the world these are the only ones I ever meet. They are one of the few races who can relate to the Aussie ironic sense of humour (provided they speak English well enough, which almost invariable they do). Stephan the Swede actually started to act like an Aussie after his 3 year stay in Oz. These guys (the Norwegians in case you got lost) were not as well traveled as Stephan but seemed just as able to appreciate our sense of humour as we all guzzled Calzone and pizza. Of course they could have been just polite and probably said after we parted “That was pretty boring! Strange sense of humour these Aussies have!”

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One of the many small streets in Zanzibar town, Tanzania

One of the many small streets in Zanzibar town, Tanzania