Step one: Zanzibar

 Week One of Epic Trip 2012 – Tanzania: Zanzibar

Map of Tanzania, take a look.

Perhaps it is sad to say that there was nothing sad about leaving Malawi, but if there is it is lost on this happy soul. Happy as a clam I embraced Swahili — not that I say more than “Jambo” = “fine”.

It goes like this:

Tanzanian: “Jambo?”

Me: “Jambo”

Tanzanian: “Karibu” (welcome)

Me: “Asante” (thank you)

Tanzanian: how are you my friend, where are you coming from, what is your name, when did you come, do you want to buy some paintings/ jewelry/ spices/ tours, maybe I can give you masage/taxi ride/slap [Jim’s insertion in this post].

Me: Jeje, no thanks, no thanks, no thanks, no thanks…jejeje

Now time this for 18 and you get a good idea of my so-called ‘interaction with the locals’.

Had I been an Arab trader 400 years ago, just cruising in my Arabesque ship, I too would have dropped the sailor’s life in a heartbeat and looked into the wonders of the magnificent island of Zanzibar. But I don’t believe I had a past life as an Arab sailor, an Indian trader, a Portuguese slave-buyer, an English colonialist, or anyone else who has become enthralled with this breezy archipelago. My first ever-ever encounter with Zanzibar is as a curious tourist; happy days. My biggest worry, in fact, is to be judged as some infidel sleaze by the Muslim population for showing knees and/or shoulders. The shoal I was wearing today slipped to reveal a shoulder as I was walking down the street. “Oh my god woman, cover up! What do you think this is, a porn film?” Thankfully it was only Jim who said this.

It takes 12 hours in a bus to go from the city of Mbeya (see map) to the commercial capital of Dar Es Salam. The sun was not yet out when we got to the bus depot, and in template temperatures of daybreak I sat on a little wooden bench behind our bus and had a spiced cup of tea from a flask a young girl was serving. Perhaps one of the tastiest cups of tea of my life. The ride was mostly spent exploring other gastronomical novelties, as one should always do when

Sea weed harvesting, East coast Zanzibar.

around bus depots in this region of the world. The chipatis were the best, though the donuts, fried rice cakes and spicy home-made crisps were also very good. Needless to say I had a belly ache from all the fried foods by the time we arrived and had to settle for a cup of tea for dinner. The highlight of this most comfortable ride was going through Mikumi National Park. The bus dashed through picture-perfect scenes of zebras grazing, giraffes being tall, a wet elephant and a sleeping buffalo.

Since then the scenery has changed a bit to a deranged city, a touty port, a vast ocean, and e voila, the dream that is Zanzibar. We are armed with cameras, so I will not bother describing what you will be able to see as soon as we upload the pics, but I will say that a handful of juicy dates for the equivalent of $0.15 as soon as I got off the ferry into the island is only the beginning of a most delicious exploration. We spend two beachy days in Jambiani — East coast of the island — and though didn’t consent to any of the 200 offers of a masage, we have been salted, soaked, dried and fried and have come out as relaxed as a cooked noodle. Now in Stone Town for a couple of days. All is well.


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