Africa Part 6 of 6 Zanzibar

Feb 13, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Brandyn's blogs, Tanzania, Uncategorized, Where we've been, Zanzibar

For part one of my Africa series, please click here
For part two of my Africa series, please click here
For part three of my Africa series, please click here
For part four of my Africa series, please click here
For part five of my Africa series, please click here

Back to Zanzibar

Bus to Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam
Arriving in Jambiani
Janus and Marlene join us
Shark Fishing with Janus
Our Last Days on the Island
Shantaram Review

We were dropped off in Arusha in a grocery store parking lot with our bags and one big box of souvenirs. We booked a room at Arusha Backpackers, I think that it was supposed to be centrally located and the rooms were cheap. We paid $20 to the front desk sight unseen. When we got to the room we were shocked at how nice a tent could be. The room had no windows, it was not big enough to have our bags rest on the ground next to the beds and the sheets were dirty. $20 is not much money, but anywhere else in the developing world $20 could get you a really nice en suite room with breakfast and A/C included.

One thing that I’d noticed but was only in the back of my mind when overlanding was the guards at the campsites. They usually all had semi-automatic rifles similar to a Kalashnikov. Now that we were on our own I really noticed it. We had to walk by an armed guard every time we were leaving our hostel and it made me a little uneasy. I didn’t know if it was necessary and I wasn’t sure if that meant that outside the hotel it was that unsafe. On the message board someone had written a note saying that they were held up at gun point within 10 meters of the hostel, the workers of the hostel advised us not to go out at night. Arusha is a neat little city during the day, on the main streets people were trying to hawk anything that they had; used CDs, feather dusters from ostriches, and bracelets come to mind. Arusha had international attention while we were there as it was hosting the tribunal courts for the UN against a number of the Rwandan government officials being charged with genocide. It was open to the public, but we opted not to sit in on the proceedings.

There was a large market in Arusha that we visited. We wanted to trade our sleeping bags for some paintings or other handicrafts. The market was pretty neat, everyone selling a variety of the same thing. We traded our sleeping bags for 3 paintings. One we got for our nephew, one was a two meter tall painting of a Maasai warrior, and the next was of an African sunset. I felt good about the trade and thought we did fairly well with the deal. We had one goal in Arusha and that was to mail our box of souvenirs home. We went to the post office which was only a five minute walk away from where we were staying. They told us that they didn’t send packages from that post office and that we’d have to go to the main post office way down the road. We paid 5,000 Shillings ($3.50) to get to the next post office and the woman said that they do not send packages on the weekend. We at this point knew sending a package from Africa was going to be easier said than done.

For a few pictures from Arusha please click HERE

The next morning we headed off to the bus station, where we were about to go on the trip from hell. When it was time to put our bags underneath the bus, we were told that it was going to cost us $5 because it wasn’t luggage and that we were transporting parcels. I said something like, ‘brother, the man on the way to Arusha did not charge me for my box. This is not a parcel; it is clothing that will not fit into my luggage. I am 99% sure that you don’t have to charge me.’ He let us on with a handshake and a smile. I guess he had to try to extort us, had it been someone else, he probably would have had $5.

I bought the seats before we went to Serengeti and asked for assigned seats at the front so that I could stretch out my legs a bit. I’d been warned by my friend who had been in the Peace Corps volunteering in Kenya that East Africans do not travel well. I was expecting the worst. The bus was going at a decent speed, it was comfortable, and no one had gotten sick.

About two hours into our eight hour journey we came across another bus from the same company that was stopped on the side of the road. We waited while our bus driver helped the other fix the tire. After about a 30 minute delay we were on the road again. Another two hours went by when suddenly our bus broke down. Instructions were shouted at us in Swahili with wild hand gestures motioning for us to get out of the bus while they fixed it. About a half an hour later, I see the same bus that we helped speed down the highway past us.

Two hours went by and finally the bus was up and running again. We left around 8 in the morning and were supposed to get in around 6 PM. In two less hours than the truck took for the same journey. Accidents in Africa are a peculiar thing. When accidents happen, no one does anything. The driver stays with the vehicle to make sure that no one poaches from his belongings. We’d seen accidents on the road that were probably there for a few days while they were waiting for someone to help them clear it up. We came across an accident on the way which covered about 75%of the two lane highway. We went off-roading with the bus a short distance after being idle for an hour. At this rate we were going to get to Dar es Salaam way after dark, which we’d been warned that was the last place in Tanzania you’d want to be at that time.

For pictures from the drive to Dar please click HERE

We got into Dar es Salaam about 13 hours after we’d left. We were hungry, tired, and anything that either one of us did was annoying so we were very excited to, after paying a hefty (but we were assured a normal) taxi price, finally get to the hotel. We had some of the best Indian food we’d had in months and slept like babies. I was awoken by the call to prayer at sunrise. It is the Muslim version of church bells. It can be a beautiful sound and being that it was the beginning of a new chapter; it was almost too beautiful to comprehend.

There are two fast ferries in the morning from Dar to Zanzibar. The first is at 9:30 and the next is at 12:30. Our goal was to make it to the post office, get our luggage at the hotel, and leave by 9:30. We stayed at The Jambo Inn, which I would highly recommend. The owners were really excellent people, they were centrally located, and the food was awesome. They have their own car and driver so they will give you a lift anywhere (within reason) you need to go. The power was out that morning which isn’t uncommon but it meant that the two ATM machines near our hotel weren’t working. The driver sped past one post office telling us that they didn’t send packages from that one, only the main post office. Maybe the people in Arusha weren’t lying to us after all.

We got to the post office right as they opened at 8:00. The doors didn’t actually open until 8:15 or so, African time. The package that I wrapped so carefully had to be opened and inspected then covered with brown paper before we could go to the counter. When we got to the counter we got the price for the air-mail which was around $130. We asked if we could pay with visa, ‘no problem,’ Cori and I both heard, but that wasn’t the case. Big problem. I went to seven different ATMs, running all around Dar es Salaam. Not one worked. It was still Ramadan so I couldn’t buy water even though I was sweating my rear end off. I grabbed Cori; we admitted defeat and knew there was no way we were making the 9:30 ferry. After about 30 minutes we finally found an ATM that worked. We pulled out cash and went right to the woman, paid, kissed our package goodbye and good luck, and went back to the hotel.

We now had some time to kill and my beard was getting unruly, so I went to a barber close by. The barber had a beard past his neck. It was longer in front than the sides; it was your typical Middle Eastern style. I told him that I wanted for my beard and the hair on the side of my head to be the same length. He responded with, ‘that will not look good.’ I guessed at that point that I was going to look like him. When I was finished, my beard was much longer in the middle than on the sides and I looked vaguely similar to my new friend behind the shears.

For a few pictures from Dar es Salaam please click HERE

We hopped on the 12:30 ferry bound for Zanzibar. It was almost more exciting the second go around because I knew what it was that I was missing out on by not being there. Petrol in Zanzibar is around $1.75 per liter or $7 a gallon. Taxi drivers for their license, we were told, had to pay the authorities $5 per day, even if they did not get any fares. These two factors weigh in on the cost of getting around and make it bloody expensive to do so. We paid $35 ($15 less than a legit taxi) to get to Jambiani. When we arrived, Martin from The Oasis Beach Inn greeted us with open arms and gave us the best room in the place. This was our home for the next 10 days.

The second time was much different than the first. When we first got here we were all in such a hurry to do things and get in as much of Zanzibar as possible. That is sacrilege here or in any place like it. Clocks don’t exist and if they do they certainly don’t matter. The only thing that is on time is the tide and even that is fairly unpredictable. It was so important for us to arrive on this day because it was (hopefully) the last day of Ramadan and we could hang out and have a proper time with our new friends. We ordered food and didn’t care that it came two hours later. It was excellent as always. Martin seemed so happy to see us that he invited us out that night with him and Steve, the local dive instructor that we went snorkeling with last time we were here.

Night came around, and the crescent moon was spotted. Ramadan was over. We went out with Martin and Steve to a small place down the beach that was owned by some Italian ex-pats who had been living here for quite a while. We had a whole lot of beers and didn’t pay for one. We were introduced that night to a traditional bar food in Zanzibar called chips mayai. It is a quiche of sorts, a dish with French fries, onions, and peppers, all sautéed then eggs poured into the dish then baked. Chips mayai is incredible and very cheap.

School was out so a lot of the same kids that we played football with were hanging around. ‘Jambo!’ was being yelled from all around. It is one of the best greetings in any language. It can be a long and drawn out jaaaammmbooo, or it can be a quick and easy jambo. I think that this is my favorite greeting I’ve used.

We went on a tour of the local school with the principal Mr. Farid, who is a legend around there. We learned far too much about the school and how it was nearly impossible to do well without some kind of outside help. He explained to us that the money given to the school was just enough for the most basic supplies and salaries. Most of the kids would have to buy their own uniforms, books, and everything else needed to attend school. The kids sat 45 to a room on the floor. Kids’ lessons would be given in Swahili until they reach the 7th grade, after that the classes are taught in English.

That evening we were introduced to a man named Mohammed. Mohammed had been addicted to heroin most of his adult life. The first time we saw him; he was sickly and looked a stereotypical junkie. Martin told us that he was staying on the floor in the back and not to be afraid of him. He said that he was going to help him get clean and keep him away from Stone Town where he had access to his former life. Mohammed asked if I had anything to help with his stomach; because he was detoxing, and coming off of the drugs, his insides were in distress and causing him to go to the bathroom many more times than normal. I gave him some stomach blockers (an inch). Then he asked me for pain medicine, sleeping pills, or anything else we had to ease the next few days’ coming misery (a mile). I gave him a few sleeping pills and hoped he would look and feel better in the next coming days. Mohammed would eventually become a friend and a confidant but right now he was a drug, not a person.

For pictures from Jambiani please click HERE

After getting sick of looking at my beard with a long goatee I decided to shave it all off. Just after I shaved, I went outside to get confirmation that I didn’t look too weird from Martin or Mohammed. At that moment, I saw Janus with golden locks growing from his Scandinavian face and felt like I had made a huge mistake. We were so excited to see Janus and Marlene. It had been since Kande Beach in Malawi we’d seen them last. We immediately had a few beers and caught up. We heard their safari stories and shared ours. We talked about what we may have missed in Kenya; after hearing the stories we still do not regret the decision to end the trip when we did.

It was awesome to have another guy around to shoot the breeze with. We all walked to Paje which is the town next to Jambiani it is around 8 kms away. It was a beautiful walk all the way along the beach. We stopped into a few places along the way so that we could get some cold juice. When we arrived in Paje we couldn’t believe what a different feel it had. Everyone appeared to be high on something or other and we decided to go back to Jambiani.

We waited a while for the Dalla Dalla (pronounced Dah-Lah Dah-Lah) to come around. The Dalla Dalla is an overstuffed people carrier which will get you from any village on the island to Stone Town. We hadn’t at this point taken a Dalla Dalla, but will have a few stories to tell about them later. The Dalla Dalla hadn’t come after 30 minutes so we decided to get a cab rather than walk back the 8kms with 18 liters of water.

The cab cost us $4 which clearly meant that it wasn’t legit because it wasn’t expensive enough to be. The cab driver made us pay up front so that he could get petrol. They sell the petrol in liter water bottles. Our cabbie put one liter in squeezing the bottle aggressively into the tank. Then he took the empty but fume filled container and blew in it then sucked air from it getting some of the fumes into himself. We had one more stop we had to make before we were going back to Jambiani. We had to pick up some drugs for our cabbie. We stopped by a shack on the road and picked up a few joints which we begged the man to please not smoke while he drove us to our destination. He reluctantly agreed but drove like he had purpose. His purpose was much different than I would have liked. The car was being driven like it was stolen and we were all being thrown around the car as it weaved and dodged pedestrians, vehicles, animals wandering, and rocks in the road. We were probably going 50kms an hour through tiny village streets all of us feeling like total jerks for being with this guy and putting everyone in our path in danger. We finally hit a rock and the car stopped and couldn’t be restarted. The four of us jumped out and ran to Oasis and were happy to be out of the car.

For pictures from when Janus and Marlene join us please click HERE

Birthdays are a funny thing for me. They’re really not that big of a deal for me. Nonetheless birthdays happen and mine was going to be celebrated in Zanzibar. I woke up and had breakfast. I told Mohammed that it was my birthday, he responded with, ‘yeah, okay.’ I guess people in Africa think much less of birthdays than in the west. Janus and I were going shark hunting that morning. The last time I was in Jambiani Captain Kiko and the others had caught a large shark they agreed to take us out with them.

Before we left on the trip, we had to beg Martin to translate for us to Kiko that we wouldn’t sue him if something happened. That Janus and I both had travel insurance. Lastly that Cori wouldn’t kill him if something happened to us. Reluctantly Kiko agreed to take us for $15 for the two of us. I kept thinking about how awesome it was going to be to catch a shark for my birthday.

I was out for blood, which is so out of character for me. We got on the boat and into the calm waters off the coast of Jambiani and turned the motor on to take us through a break in the reef to get us out to the open ocean. When we got on the boat Janus and I noticed a large buoy with a long rope attached. The rope led to a large piece of coral about the size of a human torso. The heavy large piece of coral was attached to a razor sharp piece of bamboo. Neither our captain nor crew spoke English so they couldn’t explain the crude mechanism. The bamboo was to be driven through the back of the head of the shark using the weight of the coral to help drive it in. The rope would then give the shark enough room for the shark to tire itself out while the buoy made sure it wouldn’t go under. I was starting to see why they might have been worried about us going with them.

The sea was rough. Super rough. The boat was tilting side to side at least 30-40 degrees. Not only were we trying to not throw up we had to worry about not being tossed around. They tossed some chum in the water and baited up huge hooks with tentacles from an octopus. They wouldn’t let us actually hold the line; we were strictly on an observational trip. We watched them fish for shark for about an hour and realized that we weren’t going to catch shark and that smaller fish were eating the bait. This whole time Janus and I were staring at the horizon trying our best not o vomit. Neither of us did throw up that day. We went closer to the reef to try and catch smaller fish for dinner. In total we caught about 6 fish within a few minutes. Kiko gave us his snorkel and we got to check out the reef. It was exhausting because the ocean was so rough.

After about five hours we’d had enough. We were both ready to get back on solid land, have a beer, and relax. The tide was a little too low at this point to go to shore so we messed around a bit and came in shortly after lunch time. We let the guys from the boat keep the fish and only took the experience with us.

For pictures from Janus and I shark fishing please click HERE

That night we were going to go to Vuvuzela, a dance club in Paje to celebrate. We were going with Steve (dive master) and (Captain) Kiko to drink a few dozen beers and listen to good African music. When we arrived in the parking lot, we were getting extorted by a security guard for money because we weren’t local. Steve told us that this wasn’t Jambiani, this was more like Stone Town or Dar es Salaam and that we couldn’t mess around. We went inside the club while Steve handled it. The club was fairly empty. Music always seems to be way too loud in empty spaces. We heard some really good Nigerian reggae, some Kenyan rap, and of course some Bob Marley. I would love to get my hands on some of the music we kept hearing every time we went to clubs in Africa and wrote down some of the names, but don’t have any idea where the paper went. If anyone has some suggestions, please leave a comment below.

The club didn’t fill up and we were in bed around midnight. It was a pretty awesome birthday with some great friends, my favorite person alive, and was in the most beautiful place on the planet. Janus and Marlene had to leave the next day and we were running low on funds. So we had to go to an ATM and the closest one was in Stone Town. We all waited for about half an hour for the Dalla Dalla to pick us up. When it did it was already pretty full of people. They put their bags on the roof and we squished down next to one other. We stopped about every minute to pick someone else up. We’d stop every two minutes to pick up firewood that we’d have to drop off along the way. We’d stop every five minutes to let people off. The ride in a taxi would cost a minimum $45 and take about 45 minutes. This ride would cost $1 per person and take between 2-4 hours. I counted when we got on the Dalla Dalla 20 people, at our maximum we had 45 people packed into the back of the elongated pick-up truck. We had other people’s sleeping children on our laps, our feet resting on one another’s, and handbags wherever they’d fit. Everyone was happy, no one complained, and the kids were particularly fascinated by us and gave us all warm jambos.

About two and a half hours later we were in Stone Town seeing our friends off trying not to be too sad about it. A big thanks and hugs go out to both Janus and Marlene for meeting up with us.

Over the next few days I read Shantaram. For those of you who have thought about reading it but don’t know if you should make the commitment, I wrote a review for you. Spoiler Alert

There was more of the same; eating amazing foods, reading up on India getting sad about leaving our friends on the island. Mohammed was starting to look much better. He was looking healthier and acting more like the great guy he turned out to be. We had some really good talks as he was an excellent conversationalist with perfect English. We talked about everything from history and politics to drugs, life, and business.

Jambiani is windy at night so the likelihood of Malaria is much less there than in many other parts of the island and especially the mainland. Jambiani, he told me was named after a traditional harp-like instrument and the sound that it makes sounds like the word Jambiani. He told me that Zanzibar didn’t want to join with Tanganyika but felt forced to because of lack of resources so they reluctantly agreed. The name Tanzania comes from Tanganyika (the name for the mainland) plus Zanzibar (name of the archipelago) Tan Zan ia.

Mohammed said that he had been addicted to drugs for most of his life. He said that Zanzibar was a key part of the smuggling route out of Africa. He said that he was involved in small time crime and robberies to pay for his habit. I wouldn’t have believed him if I had met him that day, but the man before his transformation didn’t make me doubt it.

It is funny being American because almost everyone we talk to in every country we visit knows something about American history and politics. It is always so fascinating for me to talk with people about the history of their country, especially in Africa. Tanzania is no exception. I won’t bore you with details, but the history section on Tanzania’s Wikipedia page is worth the read.

We learned more about our new friends daily. Captain Kiko had fought and was injured in the war with Uganda. Martin had been a police officer before working for the guesthouse. He’d traveled all over Tanzania finding fugitives and hauling them back to Dar for trial. Mohammed, now being clean, wanted to buy scarves and become a business man selling them to people on the beach. Steve had been all over the world. We talked with him about Colorado. He even has a child in Switzerland that he talks with often. Everyone had such a unique story.

We left Jambiani to a flood of hugs and best wishes. It is somewhere I know we will return.

For our last few days in paradise please click HERE

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a terribly written novel written by a criminal. You remember the old adage that tells you not to trust a person with two first names? Well I’m telling you; don’t trust that a writer with three first names can produce anything good. Greg Dave Rob is a self absorbed ugly scum bag who escaped from prison just like his character Lin who sometimes called Linbaba. Linbaba escapes from a maximum security prison in Australia and comes to India. When he arrives in Bombay he has an extreme ‘bromance’ with an Indian local named Prabu. Prabu shows him the ropes of the city. These are actually mini tests that an old mafia boss, who Linbaba later has an oedipal crush on, has set up for him. Linbaba falls in love with a woman named Karla. She hardly knows he exists. All he writes about is how beautiful she is.

Linbaba ends up becoming amongst many other things

a ‘doctor’ in the slums.

a money launderer

a drug dealer

a freedom fighter in Afghanistan

all the while being annoying and over using adjectives for everything he describes. If you want to read a story that describes people’s eyeballs for 50 pages, talks about how beautiful a woman is who he doesn’t end up with at the end for 100 pages, and BS’s you for 850 more pages; Shantaram is for you.

This concludes my Africa Series.

I sincerely thank you very much for reading.

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