No driver, luggage or power yet all is resolved

Trip Start Mar 22, 2012
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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What I did
Stone Town

Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Sunday, March 25, 2012

          When it is time to leave the safari camp this afternoon, Rama shows up to take us to the airplane which is sitting by the ranger station waiting for us.  It is a much smaller plane than before.  There is only room for 4 passengers in this one.  The pilot is not here but he drives up shortly in a truck with the tourists we saw in the game reserve yesterday.  Oh my gosh, there are 5 passengers and the pilot.  Luckily we do not have a copilot so one of us will have to sit in the front seat.   The pilot announces that it will be an hour flight to Zanzibar and we are going there first – yea!  The other tourists, Germans,  are not pleased because they are going to Dar es Salaam.   Stuffing the luggage into the plane proves to be a challenge.  Everything small gets put into a tiny storage space underneath the plane which has a broken lock!  Lovely.  I have visions of my bag falling out over the forest and landing on a village on in a herd of impala.  Our bags, which aren't that big, have to be stuffed into the airplane.  One German couple sits in the back seats and the suitcase are piled around their feet.  I call shotgun so have to climb into the plane across the pilot's seat and he tells me not to touch anything which is hard to do in the confined space.  Then the other tourist and my hubby have to climb in behind the pilot seats.  I have about an inch to spare between me and the co-pilot wheel.  I am flapping over the edges of the seat and my arms have nowhere to go without touching some sort of instrument somewhere.  I end up flying with my camera held to my chest and my stomach sucked in and my arms crossed high on my chest and my knees drawn up as far as they will go.  It’s possibly the most uncomfortable seat I’ve ever had and by the time we take off, my butt is numb but I can’t move to change position without risking death to all of us by pushing something inadvertently.  Plus it’s blazingly hot until we take off and gain some altitude.

            Finally we are flying and I think I made a serious error in sitting in the front because I can see everything that the pilot is doing and he is making me very nervous.  I’ve never seen a pilot fiddle with his equipment and knobs and buttons and dials and gizmos as much as this pilot did in this tiny little plane which I would have thought should be good to fly on just one setting for each knob/button/dial.  But no, fiddle, twitch, plug in, plug out, turn, twist, push, flip, pull, punch, flap, poke, prod, knock, tap,  and on and on and on.  Every so often the pilot is talking to someone on his headset and I then notice that he is plugging something into an object he is holding on his lap.  He talks for a while and then he fiddles around with the object on his lap again.  After he did this about 5 times I realized he was plugging in his iPod and then unplugging it for his headset when he wanted to talk to someone.  Yikes.  What if he needed to talk and couldn’t get plugged into the headphones on time.

            It was with great relief that I see an island that can only be Zanzibar show up in front of us and he starts maneuvering to land the plane.  I am so cramped that I am in pain and I just want out of this plane.   Luckily, he flew fast so maybe that’s why he was fiddling so much and we got there 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  He lands and taxi’s to the terminal and unloads our bags which we pick up and just walk into the terminal and out the front door.  The poor Germans have to hop back on the plane and fly to Dar es Salaam but luckily it’s not as far.

            Again, we are supposed to be met by someone who is to take us to our hotel.  Nobody is out there with a sign and our name on it.  This time, we are not alone in waiting for the nonexistent  driver.  There are three or four sets of people waiting for rides that haven’t come.  We try to ignore the toots and taxi drivers and porters.   We are 15 minutes early again so we wait for those 15 minutes to pass and give the driver an extra 10 and then my husband asks the taxi manager if he knows anything.  Luckily we had a phone number, not that our phones were working, but the taxi manager called and the driver said he was on the way.  What’s nice is the taxi manager spoke in English the entire time too so my husband could hear what he had to say not one of the " blah, blah, blah" conversations and then you hope they have told you the truth.

            Finally our driver shows up and now we explain to him that somewhere in the airport is supposed to be our large black dive gear bag that should have been delivered a couple of days ago.  We go to the ZanAir office and it only takes me about 20 minutes to thoroughly explain the entire situation/scenario to them.  Nobody seems to know anything about it and phone calls are made.  There are 5 men sitting in the office and not a single one of them is wearing anything that looks like they are ZanAir employees but each one of them is quizzed on the bag and do they know anything.  Finally, one man seems to step up and take responsibility and says he bets it is still in customs and he will go find it.  My driver takes me back outside and around to the customs entrance where I am not allowed to go since I’ve already exited.  The ZanAir man comes to the door with a large black bag but it is not mine.  I explain that it is a duffle bag and has my initials on it in large white paint.  The next bag he brings is mine.  Joy, oh joy.  Our dive gear is here.  We pile into the van and our driver takes us into Stone Town where we will be staying at Kholle House.

            The ride into town is very interesting.  It seems like a typical African country with people walking  or riding bicycles or hanging onto trucks and going every direction while carrying all manner of items in bags, on their heads, on their backs, in ox carts, in donkey carts, in baskets with trucks and vans being used as taxis: noisy, smelly, just wonderfully exotic and African.  Our driver turns down a couple of alleyways and parks the van and says, OK, we walk from here.  We’re looking all over and not finding anything that entices us to exit the van.  The building we are parked in front of is derelict with windows gone, doors blocked and sagging and trash and debris up against the walls.  The building next to it is under construction and looks like they have been working on building it since about 1950.  Our driver has our bags so we have no choice but to follow him.  My hubby is rather leery but I assure him it will be fine.  When my daughter and I visited Marrakech, we were led down a shady, disreputable looking alley to our hotel and it was one of the nicest places we’d ever stayed.  So I’m sure it will be the same here, I tell him, fingers crossed.

            After a few twists and turns, we walk up to a freshly painted building with lovely wooden doors and into the lobby which is quite dark because the electricity is not working.  This is our hotel though.  My hubby still isn’t sure and asks to see the room before we decided to stay even though it has been paid for in advance.  It’s hot and dark in the hotel so we can’t see much.  Hubby climbs up the stairs behind the desk clerk and seems to be gone a long time but when he returns, he’s in a much better mood and says the room is quite nice.  Guess we will stay.  We get welcome drinks again.  Then they take our luggage upstairs for us, thank goodness, because we are on the roof.  It’s two flights of stairs but the house was built before engineers knew to make the stairs even and at a certain height so climbing these stairs several times every day was quite tiring.

            The room is lovely but rather warm as the sun shines on it in the afternoon and there is no power for the ceiling fan or the A/C.  We decide it is time to explore and from what we have heard, the power goes off every Sunday for most of the day but it will come back on at night and we will have the A/C.

            We walk through the town with the map they gave us at the front desk.  We do not have to wind through the odd little alleys and back ways to get to the main street but just turn a couple of corners and we are right on the water by the ferry terminal.  OK, very nice.  We follow the map to where the dive shop is supposed to be located and this takes us through the park.  The park is located on the water front and every night, vendors set up numerous tables to sell food, drinks, snacks, fruit, “pizzas”, and other fares.  Supposedly it is a good place to eat.  Tonight we just wanted to walk through it but that’s impossible to do without getting accosted by someone who twists everything you say into a promise that you have made to buy food from them.  My husband is very bad at interacting with them.  He is too polite to ignore them and keep walking but he stops and talks to them and then suddenly he’s agreeing to buy something, if not today, then tomorrow.  Takes us some time to move from one end of the park to the other.  Finally we are free and find the dive shop which is closed by now. 

            Around the dive shop are numerous stores and also restaurants.  We look at the menus to Monsoon, The Spice Route, Archipelago, Tembo Hotel, and more.  Finally, we decide to eat at The Spice Route, Indian food.  It also is two floors up where the stairs are uneven and hard to climb.  They offer us a seat by the window in hopes that there will be a bit of air to cool us.  They have a generator so the lights are on and the fans are running.  The staff tells us that the power should be back on over the island by about 6:30.  6:30 comes and goes and we get our food and drinks and their generator dies.  The staff comes around with candles for each table.  The island power comes back on and as the fan starts running, it blows out the candle on our table.  Then the island power dies again.  Staff comes around with another candle for our table.  The generator comes back on and the fan blows out the candle.  The island power jerks to a start, the generator dies, the fan blows out the candle, the power dies, the generator starts and dies and we eat in the dark and the heat.  This is the theme of our entire meal.  The generator couldn’t keep up with the starting and stopping as the island power tried to come on again and run but with so many air conditioners and lights trying to start all at once, it was taking the island power a long time to get going.  The candle being brought to our table to be blown out as soon as any power started again was very humorous though.  It kept us giggling at the circumstances because what else are you going to do.

            Finally the generator came back on and stayed on and shortly after that, the island power came back on and stayed on.  It was about 9:30 p.m.  We had finished our meal and were waiting for our bill which without their computer, they were having a hard time adding up the figures. 

            Having traveled to some odd places in the world, we usually carry flashlights with us (or torches if you are English) so we would have been fine to walk home in the dark but lights are now showing in various buildings and restaurants and the night market is alive with lanterns and strings of lights.  Our hotel is easy enough to find now that we know the shortcut between it and the main road so we walk back without a problem, climb the uneven stairs and turn on the blessed air conditioner in our room and prepare for bed and also prepare the diving the next day.  It gets cool enough during the night that we actually have to get under the covers so having the A/C off during the day wasn’t too bad.  We have a good and comfortable nights sleep until 4:30 a.m. when we find out we are next door to a mosque.  Well, at least the call to prayer was a real person and not a recording.  The man had a remarkable voice so it was pleasant to hear him and then fall asleep again.

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