November 21, 2017
I can say with certainty that things are well underway. I feel like I’m actually in the thick of my vacation now that I’ve passed through the early parts of my agenda and content that I’m in my travel element completely once again.
These past couple of days were spent on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. The largely conservative Muslim region is a hot spot to westerners on beach holidays. The contradiction is vacation-goers sporting bikinis while sipping on excessive amounts of alcohol in a land where local women are largely covered in niqabs, hijabs, and at a minimum, longs pants and shirts with wrist-long sleeves. This clash has caused occasional issues with tourists ignorant or defiant of the customs leading to angered and sometimes outraged Zanzibar citizens. Luckily, I didn’t see such clashes and have only heard of it, both first hand and otherwise. Largely, Stone Town (the old, colonial town in the west and the major port city) is where customs must be adhered to a respectable degree and the beach resort and hostel areas on the other coasts is where the tight rules of conservative Islam are relaxed.
I arrived in Stone Town on November 19th, the day I wrote my last entry. At that time, I was contently typing away with a beer in the hostel tiki shack restaurant and bar, but earlier it started with the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town.
I said goodbye to now friend Amani Prosper, the brother of my coworker in the USA. It was a short, but great visit with the family, but the ferry was calling to whisk me away to Zanzibar. Since I didn’t opt for the $50 V.I.P. ticket, the $35 regular ticket got me in a well-kept compartment of the vessel, however, even with relative timeliness, finding an open seat was a typical “Hi there, is this seat open?” scenario. It was stuffy, too, and compact, which was far from ideal as I was still tired from the night before, but after making our way out of the port, we were granted access to the deck on the seaward side of the boat, opening up to fresh air, a nice ocean breeze, and nice views of passerby gigantic shipping container ships and other ships. This was, until the breeze turned into a whipping wind and it just POURED.
The rain refused to stop and after getting through passport control, my plan to walk around Stone Town was shot and instead elected to taxi it straight to the hostel on the other side of the island in Paje.
I met some cool people at the hostel. I got the chance to meet and hang out with a couple of Brits, a few Germans (there were so many Germans), and another from Colorado, Ellie. The non-Americans I got to know more-so in the hostel confines over casual drinks and food, and one fun night at an area club/bar. Ellie and I spent more time together. We were in the same room as a couple of the German girls and had good conversation right off the bat. We weren’t hanging out every waking moment but it was funny that when we did our own things, our paths crossed very soon after. I found it fascinating how she studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and just completed a two-month Swahili language immersion and was taking a little time to relax before heading off to a rural village outside of Mombasa, Kenya. She in return took interest in my previous travels and experiences, which I very much enjoyed sharing with her. We became friends very quickly.
With limited time for organized activities, I booked a solo trip for a spice tour. It’s about what it sounds like, it’s a tour consisting of looking at and consuming spices, but it is also more fun than that. It was partial day of walking around a spice farm where they did indeed have a wide variety of spices growing.
The guide would take me around to each plant, explain what it is consumed in and what ailments it may alleviate. Many came with a good old sniff sample and some I got to taste, such as the ginger root. Towards the end, we got to see an entertaining man shimmy up a coconut tree, chanting and dancing his way to the top and along his descent. Let’s just say he made it look easy and if I attempted I probably wouldn’t be pretty!
We celebrated the successful climb with sipping milk out of fresh coconut and I was awarded a woven crown and necktie by the child who was following in wake for the much of time. This, of course, was for my newfound title of “King of Africa”. Naturally this was a touristy thing, but I had fun with it nonetheless. After seeing so many spices and fruits on the way, we got to enjoy the fruits of their labor in dishes prepared by a widowed women foundation who benefit from some of the proceeds of the optional goods for purchase after all of this. The food was very good, consisting of Pilau rice, a curry dish, fresh fruits sliced before my eyes, and a prepared banana dish. Still proudly wearing my crown and tie, it was time to head back the hostel.
With some day to seize yet, there was still time for an afternoon of walking the white sands of Paje Beach and a couple of $2 half liter Kilimanjaro beers over an ocean view as I sifted through my photos of the day. Not a bad way to cap off my day in Paje!