In need of a quick dinner in Stone Town there’s no where better than Forodhani Gardens where dozens of street vendors offer to cook you up a line of fresh food, largely seafood based
. Not surprisingly there’s a lot of competition and repetition between vendors and the menu essentially consists of fresh seafood skewers, samosas, various breads, soup, Zanzibar pizzas and sugar cane juice. Our favourite was the Zanzibar pizza; more like a stuffed crepe than a regular pizza with a choice of chicken, vegetable, fish or fruit filings – delicious!
With only one full day in Stone Town, we took the opportunity to see the source of Zanzibars fame as the spice island and went on a "Spice Tour". Aboard a mini-bus with about six other tourists we set off to the centre of the island to a spice farm where we toured the farm seeing and sampling various spices and fruits including coffee, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, oranges, mandarins, star fruit, vanilla, peppercorns, chillis, bananas, lemongrass, cacao, pineapples, ylang ylang, curry. Accompanying us on our tour was a small band of local lads who would help the tour guide picking fruits, etc but were very creative and made all sorts of products for us from banana leaves and other foliage and by the end of the tour Alex was sporting a new hat, glasses, tie and bracelet and Lauren a bag, hat, ring, bracelet and frog necklace! This was of course all in the hope of a tip and so we obliged (at least they are being creative rather than just sticking a hand out like so many others) before we were herded back into the minibus to go for lunch
. Having stopped at a small shelter in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, we were served a fabulous lunch of spiced rice, vegetable curry and spinach cooked in coconut milk. The finale of the spice tour is a visit to Mangapwani beach on the west coast of the island not too far north of Stone Town, where the main attraction is a cave purported to have been used to hold prisoners for the slave trade. With a poor recommendation in Lonely Planet (plus the fact they were tacking on an extra charge) we opted not to visit the caves in favour of spending an hour on the beach. The path wound down some steep steps and we emerged from the darkness onto probably the dirtiest beach we have ever set foot upon. It was a fairly narrow strip of beach maybe 200 metres long, but the tide line and above was thick with an assortment of manmade garbage (plastic bottles, food wrappers and a surprisingly large number of shoes) and organic matter (cow poo, dried fish, orange peel and seaweed). The garbage coupled with the jagged rocks at the waters edge really had us scratching our heads as to why they would bring tourists to such an eyesore of a beach, but yet how easy it would be to clean it up and make it passingly attractive. After we’d all walked to the far end and back it was a unanimous decision from the group to persuade the bus driver that we should just return to Stone Town rather than waste any more time on the beach!
Stone Town’s most famous son is the late Freddie Mercury who was born (1956) and lived on the island until he was eight years old when he was sent to boarding school in India (due to the uprising in 1964 his family also left the island for good)
. There’s no consensus as to which house the Mercury family actually lived in and therefore not surprising that several enterprising locations make the claim. There’s also a bar which doesn’t claim to have any connection to Freddie but has taken the name of Mercury’s. It has a pretty good reputation for food and for watching the sunset and so we made our way there for dinner. The food wasn’t fantastic, but we enjoyed watching the locals flood on to the beach around sunset to play soccer and the sunset itself was simply glorious. Besides the beach soccer, the other activity that many of the locals engage in on and around the beach is tumbling – and I mean this in the sense of gymnastic tumbling not falling over. The boys do handflips, backflips, somersaults and leaps down the beach into the water, some of them getting so much elevation you’d think they were using trampolines! And if you can’t tumble, just throw yourself off the elevated promenade into the sea below…. The rush of people to the beaches around sunset really creates quite the party atmosphere every evening.
Stone Town is a wonderful little town with a unique vibe and we spent our final morning wandering through the narrow alleyways, browsing the many stores and stopped for coffee-cum-lunch at the Zanzibar Coffee House. Zanzibar is well known for its spices and spiced coffee and with Sarah’s love of coffee we had to at least sample the spiced coffee….the verdict? An “Excellent” from Sarah, but Derek was less than enthused by the spice combination.
Bob Marley picked us up in his taxi again and delivered us to the rather small international airport. Power outages are not uncommon in Zanzibar (they had one in December that lasted for three months) and we discovered on arrival that the airport had no power, so after checking in we had to open up our suitcases for a cursory manual search as they couldn’t x-ray them. The same went for security, and it was a little unnerving to be boarding an aircraft with so little checking in place. Fingers crossed for a safe transfer back to Nairobi….
Bob Marley is not dead but alive and well living as a taxi driver in Zanzibar. And so, with the music matching the laid back vibe of the island it was a pleasant ride back to the hustle and bustle of Stone Town. Returning to the Clove Hotel, we were given the same room and having stowed our belongings set out to find a decent internet café and some dinner. The Clove Hotel does have a lovely terrace with a seaview and WIFI, but with work to do Derek needed a high-speed connection and a quiet environment. Not unusually, given the maze of narrow streets that comprises the unique Stone Town, we had some trouble finding the highly recommended Palace Internet and while Derek worked away Sarah and the kids watched Brazil's final warm-up game for the World Cup against Tanzania being held just across the water in Dar Es Salam. (Brazil won at a canter 5-1)