Zanzibar days.....Ticket madness

Trip Start Sep 25, 2003
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55
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Trip End Apr 23, 2005


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Flag of Kenya  ,
Saturday, April 2, 2005

Factoid? You know you are getting old when.... you like more tracks in an airlines 'easy listening' section than in the 'rock' section....

Abstract: Went to beautiful Zanzibar for some diving and R'n'R on the beach, wonderful, bus to Mombasa. Train ride from Mombasa to Nairobi was like stepping back 50 years 1st class cabins, starched white uniforms... Got totally stressed getting airline tickets reissued, finally got them in Nairobi at the 11th hour after trying in Arusha, Dar, Zanzibar and Mombasa.

Nitty Gritty:
We had prebooked our tickets for the 4pm ferry from Dar-es-Salaam to Zanzibar where we hoped to rest up at a beach, dive, and seek out the ghost of Freddie Mercury... After we had fought our way past the touts on the slipway to the ferry, we boarded to find the ferry packed to the gills, it was Good Friday after all. We realsised later that the bozo of a ticket man had taken our return tickets instead of the outbound ones.... This turned out OK in the end but sets the scene for this entry where tickets, or the lack of them becomes a theme...

On arrival we once again fought our way past sundry hustlers and found a taxi driver who to our surprise charged us fairly, and sped of after dropping us at our guesthouse without waiting for a backhander... must be new at the game... Stone Town where the ferry docks is the Islamic medieval town which is still the heart of the Island.. the contrast to the other places in Africa we had visited was startling, narrow alleys and pathways with tall ornate dilapidated buildings sporting balconies and finely carved doorways all in a dusty state of disrepair, very atmospheric. Of course the sea was truly turquoise more so than anywhere we had seen before, the sand was like white dust... hmmm quite nice really. We found a great night market for a seafood BBQ dinner of grilled octopus and chips, unfortunately one (of many) hustlers who was worse for wear rather spoilt it by following us around the stall pointing out 'shrimp', 'octopus', 'fish' (even when it was chicken).

The following day we decided we should go diving and went to a small dive shop we had seen... before we know it we were trying to remember which way up a tank went, and how much weight to put on our belts (Rach overdid it and sank like a stone). Within half an hour we were amongst corals and fishies, great. The second dive in particular was spectacular, a small wreck and colourful coral...Unfortunately during our enforced surface interval Graham fell to sleep with his arm exposed and looked like some strange two tone strawberry Alpenleibe for the next few days....

We wandered around (and got lost) trying to find the Dalla-Dalla (Tanzania's Matatus) stand at the market, fortunately we kept asking for 'market' and eventually found it. The dalla-dalla on the island are flat bed trucks with home made wooden passenger compartments on the back, with fine wrought iron windows. After two false starts, and having left a sun hat and our food on the second, we found the correct one and headed off to Uroa and Tamarind Beach Hotel.... The ride was cramped but fun and we played 'pass the baby' as people struggled to get on and off with kids, at one stage the music must have stopped as one poor young chap was left literally 'holding the baby' as mum smiled and settled back to enjoy the ride unencumbered. She watched the guy get more and more concerned mum had got off and left him before taking her child back. We were booted of on a stretch of road and there was a nicely undeveloped section of beach housing our resort, it had a score of semi detached bunglows only meters from the beach and a pleasant bar/restaurant which turned out to serve great food.... Three full days of total vegetative state followed, on the second a party arrived and had a great live zanzabari band, a strange mix of African, sufi and calypso with middle eastern style lyrics, and no sign of Freddie Mercury....

On the day we had to leave we crammed back onto a Dalla dalla and it started to rain, if we get cats and dogs at home, this was lions and hyenas, it bucketed down flooding the road and the vehicle in minutes... imagine the displeasure of several of the younger blokes when they had to get off to walk past the police checkpoint, otherwise the driver gets into trouble for overcrowding... Graham was exempted, probably because no policeman is going to believe some skinny red and white guy would be wandering around the Zanzibar hinterland.

We hadn't really done justice to Stone town before so like mad dogs and Englishmen we went out in the midday rain and wandered around, Graham was determined to find Freddie Mercury's old house and it really wasn't worth getting soaked for...nevertheless we had a good afternoon before catching the ferry back to Dar es Salaam.

We had a long but uneventful bus ride to Mombassa the following day, the main highlight was a friendly immigration bloke on the Kenya border and the ferry across to Mombassa... We shared the bus with some North London Kenyan/Indians who reminded us of Kish, unfortunately their kids held a kind of needing the toilet relay and delayed the bus on a number of occasions..Graham kept mumbling about 'marathon for incontinents' but it was lost on Rachel.

The following day a different sort of marathon started the 'get the stolen tickets replaced' marathon. We went into Kenya Airways and saw the staff there who informed us we needed to go to Malaysian airlines as they had issued the tickets. Why our travel agent in Australia (STA - there named and shamed) couldn't have told us this weeks ago is one of life's mysteries. We asked for the address of Malaysia Airlines and they said, 'Johannesburg' hmmm that's going to make life simple then thought us... Agent in Aus, Airline in South Africa and we're in Kenya wanting to fly to Egypt, predictably it all turned very complicated and very expensive very quickly (or slowly depending on your point of view..)... we spent longer than we care to recall in this office before having to abandon the attempt until we reached Nairobi...to be continued...

After our initial visit to the airline we went to the train station to try to get our train ticket reissued (I told you it was a marathon-bear in mind it was 38 degrees and 99% humidity), luckily the station manager had our names on a list and was brilliant, come back at 6pm he said and true to his word, he introduced us to the train captain, and the steward, who then treated us like VIP's wonderful, hats off to Kenya Railways, can't imagine what the response would have been at Waterloo or Kings X back in London, actually I can 'on yer bike'...

We did manage a bit of sightseeing wandered round Mombassa's old town where a tout called us 'colonialists' for not giving him money for showing us somewhere we were going anyway... we had the best meal of Africa in a small Lamu restaurant and then spent an informative hour at Fort Jesus learning about the Omanis and the Portuguese and not forgetting the Brits who seemed to fight over the fort whilst the Africans just got on with life...

The train ride was like stepping back 50 years, at least in 1st class... white starched uniforms, cabins with two beds and a washbasin, silver service at dinner and zebras and impala to watch out of the windows... actually we did feel like colonialists perhaps the tout was right.

We went back to our hotel in Nairobi and after a shower locked horns with the airlines, we spent a whole day arguing, cajoling, begging, shouting down poor phone lines and generally getting more and more wound up.. by close of business we were ready to throw ourselves or maybe the staff out of the 10th floor window of Kenya Airlines.... After a much needed beer and picnic dinner in our room we went to bed feeling pessimistic... obviously some deity thought we had suffered enough because in the morning we sat at the reservations desk at 8.30 and one hour later we had the tickets! Hurrah!!!!, my ulcer, high blood pressure and nails may take longer to recover however.... We are looking forward to our flights and Cairo tomorrow...
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Where I stayed
Tamarind Beach Hotel Uroa Village

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