Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Camilla in Zanzibar

I was very excited about going to Zanzibar, even the name of this tiny Tanzanian island sounds exotic and cool. We flew into Dar es Salaam before getting the ferry so we could have a quick look at the biggest city in Tanzania. The first thing that surprised me was the heat. You see, Rwanda feels like the Norway of East Africa a lot of the time. Thats not to say its not warm, but in the rainy season in particular you can certainly catch a chill, and I know some volunteers that actually have proper duvets on their beds. So me and my travelling companion Rose spent a sweaty first night in the YMCA  in Dar es Salaam. I tried to restrain myself from doing the dance when we checked in as I wasn’t sure that the man on the desk would see the funny side.

Another thing I noticed about Dar was that there was a good book shop. I know its a sad thing to get excited about, but while they do exist in Kigali, they usually only sell a bizarre mix of out of date French books and imported Economist and Oprah Winfrey magazines at the most ridiculous prices. But the main difference I noticed between Dar and Kigali was that there was much more happening on the streets. You tend not to have street vendors in Kigali, but in Dar they were everywhere selling grilled corn, bits and pieces for your mobile phone, biscuits and bottles of water to name but a few things.

So the next morning after having our little exploration of Dar, we headed for the ferry to Zanzibar. As soon as we started to look for one, it became a game of ‘dodge the touts’. The touts are like lions circling impala, they sense the fear, they smell the fresh meat of tourists who don’t know where they are going and they go in for the kill. But sometimes you can lose them by hiding behind lorries or hanging back and going down a different path and....well...that’s about it. Unfortunately being white is an extreme disadvantage when trying to shake off these people as you stand out somewhat.

But once we were on the ferry, the journey to stone town in Zanzibar passed without event, unlike the ferry journey on the way back where both of us had to fight to keep our breakfast down. One of us managed it, the other didn’t...There is definitely a reason for sick bags other than for writing the essentials of Swahili on, which is what Rose did because we didn’t have any proper paper to write on on our flight. Talking about Swahili, after a year of trying to learn a bit of Kinyarwanda I have to say that Swahili totally messed with my brain. Every time I tried to speak it only Kinyarwanda would come out of my mouth, its like its got a hold on me that language.  

So we arrived in Stone Town, the main town on Zanzibar, ready for some rest and relaxation. Fortunately for us there were lots of lovely little coffee shops and restaurants to chill out in, and the food on Zanzibar was really good. As much as I love Rwanda, its not really a gastronomic paradise if we are honest. I like brochettes and chips very much, but you can get a bit fed up of them. So it was amazing to eat couscous and Zanzibari stews and curries with spices in them. Stone town was a maze of little narrow streets with children running along them wearing colourful headscarves or the stitched caps of the traditional Muslim dress worn by the vast majority of the population here. And it was so nice to drink cocktails on the beach, watching local boys play football as the sun went down.

During our time in Zanzibar we went on a spice tour, sat on the beach and swam in the sea and generally chilled out. Good times!

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