My aunt's alarm clock goes off at 4 and for half an hour we try to get out of sleeping mode, then get up and go to the airport. My Mom takes us, we normally pay in some or other way, and this time we used garden pots as the bribe.
Imagine: an aeroplane that is on time. We fly cheaply on One Time a South African airline. They do not serve any refreshments on the flights, so we bought out own and shared it between us. The flight feels very short, I suppose because we have to make a lot of decisions on the way. We have made no bookings except for the flight. We bought a Rough Guide, but with work and what not, had no time to read it, or planned the journey, so we used the fly time to the fullest. At
the airport we have to pay R500 for our visas - a lot of money. We did not book in our luggage so we did not have to wait at all, we just grabbed
our rucksacks and off we go...we really travel as light as possible.
Everybody is interested to take us somewhere for an extraordinary price in their air conditioned taxis - we head for the daladala (that is what they call lower class taxis used by the local people) stand. He sees us as his normal prey and wants 10$ dollars each. (All payment is made in American dollars). By now we know never to fall for the first price. In the end we paid 7$ for both! (According to the other passengers it is the "real" price). People get on, get off, and the
ride takes time, but we enjoy it so much more than organised tours where we are treated like sheep. The last stop is at the market
- and only a few touts are interested in backpackers climbing out of a daladala! We have to decide in which direction we want to go. We ask for some info at the nearest tourist shop and one of their workers takes us to the Pyramid hotel (I am sure he gets his cut). Steep steps take us to room 33 on floor 3. Price:
30US bed and breakfast for both.
We repack just the necessary things into a smaller bag and go for a walk to investigate the surroundings. Stone town, narrow lanes, no town planning here, old rundown buildings, million, no a trillion cats, Jumbo here, Jumbo there (this is the way they greet you here), people on bicycles..vibrant, noisy, fantastic. If you hear the bell of a bicycle you have to move out of the way, if it is a motorbike, you have to react even quicker....here the biggest vehicle gets the most respect; people on foot have no right of way at
all. The alley way is so narrow the we (Kevin and I) can barely walk next to each other...it is therefore not easy to get
out of the way of a guy on a motor bike!. Motor cars can only use certain area in Stone Town - fortunately.
Stone Town (or Mji Mkongwe) is located on the western coast of Unguja, of the Zanzibar
Archipelago. It was the centre of the spice trade and slave trade in the 19th century.
The architecture some dating back to the 19th century, reflects influences of the Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The name "Stone Town" comes from use of coral stone as the main construction material; this stone gives the town a characteristic, reddish warm colour Traditional buildings have a baraza (long stone bench) along the outside walls. It is used as an elevated sidewalk during heavy rains, and in other time to sit on.
We are also looking for another place to stay and we found the Warere (friends of ours, Juan
and Anita stayed here before) and decide to move here. Around 3 o clock we are really tired and tried to find our way back to the pyramid....and got hopelessly lost. (I truly love the adventure of getting lost!) We found the place, took a wonderful
cold shower (did I mention that it is hot here?) and after half an hour we are on our way to see the sun go down over the sea. Now this is a place where words are just not enough - dhows and snow white beaches, late afternoon soccer on the
beach, a super sunset....
The place to be after sun set is the street market. Here you can buy supper and the choice is
absolutely unbelievable - beef kebabs, chicken kebabs, seafood.....We try Mack's pizzas (not like Italian style pizzas - this is made Zanzibar style), chips and sugarcane juice....the joy of eating and liking off your fingers - what
more do you need in life?
We book a spice tour the cost is 15 US pp.
A mosque near the Pyramid hotel is alive
between 4 and 5 in the morning and we listen to the prayers to Allah over a microphone, the fan dampens the noise, but you will be hearing it at any hotel in Stone Town, there are lots of mosques in the area. A little more about the rooms: The beds are incredibly high and it really takes ingenuity to get onto it. There are huge mirrors and the mosquito net is a challenge. Since it is really hot here (September therefore spring time) you do not need a lot of bedding. The pillows are round and hard and very high. The shower has only cold water (no problem since it is hot anyway). The bathroom is 1, 4 x 1, 4 everything included and the toilet and again everything is wet after a shower