Exotic Muslim Island

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
1
21
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Trip End Nov 21, 2009


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Where I stayed
Stone Town & Beach Resort

Flag of Tanzania  , Zanzibar Archipelago,
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An early day but we were leaving our truck and cook behind because we were taking a ferry to Zanzibar.  We had to take the ferry back to other side again and then board our super-fast ferry to the island.  The ferry took a little over two hours and it was pretty nice.  It came complete with some horrible local drama TV show with English subtitles.  It was very funny to watch!  I’ve seen better Youtube skits than this.  It provided some entertainment at least.  We arrived to the island and had to get a passport check for some reason.  Zanzibar is owned by the Tanzanians but kind of has their own government.  I think the Prez is appointed by the Prez of Tanzania.  The place was incredibly hot and filled with a  ton of Muslim people.  Tons of guys with Muslim hats, and most women with either a partial Burqa or a full one covering all but the eyes.  It kind of takes some time to get used to but is not really that bad.  But I'm also not the one wearing an all black burqa in tropical weather.  We were escorted into a bus and drove to our hotel which I decided to upgrade because it only costs $5 and I could use a night alone.  Even though I have a tent all to myself.  The room was funny, as soon as I opened my bathroom door I could see the top of the hallway again.  The room behind me and mine was actually sharing a bathroom but the top of the wall was missing so we could talk to each other while showering or using the toilet.  Good thing they were from my group.  We had a few hours to do our thing and a few of us made our way to an Italian restaurant and ate some pizza.  The food was decent and did the job.  I walked around a bit by myself and then decided it was jog time.  So I asked the hotel guy the best way to run and then I set off through the streets of Stone Town.  At first I felt kind of sick(pizza), but after a bit I felt good and enjoyed the run.  Of course I was getting a lot of looks from the locals because they probably don’t get too many white dudes with a big beard, head shaved, shades, and wearing brown clothing running at 4pm for fun.  I was sweating like a pig and wanted to take the shirt off during the run but remembered that it was ill advised to do so because it was a Muslim island.  So I didn’t.  The run was great but I had to change quickly because the group was meeting up to get a drink at some famous hotel called the “Africa House” and going to watch the sunset over the ocean.  -We made it to the hotel and the place was pretty cool and of course filled with tourists.  A cloud blocked our view and we just talked for a bit.  Drinks were followed by dinner at a fish market which was awesome!  It was just a bunch of stalls set up in a park that sells kebab’s of fresh fish.  There were all kinds of different fish.  Walking into the place was craziness!  All the guys fighting for your business and offering discounts.  There were all basically the same but there also guys selling pizza things and sugar cane juice in addition to the fish stalls.  I walked the gauntlet and settled on the first stall we ran into.  I picked 4 kebabs of I think shark, barracuda, blue marlin, and maybe tuna.  With coconut bread.  I think I picked those kinds of fish because let’s face it, you can’t exactly buy shark, barracuda, or blue marlin in your local supermarket.  So it sounded cool to me!  I received my food heated up and went to work.  Since they took all the meats off the stick, I had no idea which fish was which.  Three of them were freakin’ fantastic, and the other was kind of fishy tasting.  I ate up and for some reason I started to feel a little uneasy.  Not sure if it was the food or in my head.  Maybe food in the street phobia!  I also ate a banana and chocolate pizza(more like a pancake).  One word -  WOW!!!  Tried to find some after dinner drink place big enough to accommodate like 15 people but had to break up a bit.  10 of us settled on a hotel bar which was a bad choice.  We kind of had to ask for them to seat us and then as soon as we sat down a local guy from the bar asked all of us if he could sit down.  We kind of looked around at each other and finally said okay to him.  He pulled in a chair and sat next to a girl who was next to me and she shot me one of those looks like she was pissed.  He started to talk to us because we were right there.  Usually I don’t mind and it is actually pretty nice to talk to a local, but I think we were all just trying to have a chill night out and not really into meeting new people.  Unluckily for the guy, he was kind of weird and just seemed to ramble on and on about something.  What it was, I have no idea.  I was only half listening and couldn’t really give a hoot.  After about 15 minutes of him talking, he asked a few of us to say something to remember us by.  It was too late for my brain to work and I was trying to put together a great quote and came up empty.  By that point, four of us non-verbally told each other that we wanted to call it a night and go home.  We said our nice-to-meet-you’s and left the other six to the mercy of him.  I’m sure he was a nice guy and probably just wanted to learn something from a bunch of tourists, but we weren’t really in the mood.  

 Zanzibar Spice Tour

 We were all shuttled onto a bus in the am for our Spice Tour.  We were taken around the city of Stone Town and given the history.  We first went to the Slave Museum which is held in an old auction house that is original.  We saw where slaves were held in the basement with shackles and chains and could fit up to 75 people in a tiny room.  I remember the guide saying that when they were being auctioned off, they would whip them to see if they screamed.  The ones who made less noise were sold for more because they were thought to be stronger.  Slaves here were bound for the Mid East and not Europe and the Americas.  We then went to an old Portuguese Fort.  Nothing really impressive about this place I have to say.  It just looked like some old fort that they threw in a bunch of shops and restaurants.  Didn’t learn anything here.  Next we went to a Spice Market and Fish Market.  The place was filled with two types of people: the ones buying something for themselves, and the tourists taking pictures of them.  I just walked around aimlessly through here enjoying the sights, sounds and smells.  Next we drove about an hour up to a government ran plantation.  We basically walked around the woods for an hour smelling and tasting all kinds of plants and spices. The list included: vanilla, lemon grass, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, turmeric, cocoa, and cardamom.  We also saw all kinds of tropical fruit hanging from trees.  We saw a guy climb a really tall coconut tree and bring some coconuts down while singing some African song.  At the end of the walk, we tasted all kinds of fruit and a few different types of teas that were fresh from the ground.  In all it was awesome tasting! Back on the bus again and we were heading off to lunch which was supposed to be a traditional African meal again.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say, FINALLY!  We were so hungry by this point.  We drove and came to a neighborhood that looked pretty shabby and most of the buildings were just cement walls with nothing else.  We were all looking at each other and thinking…WTF!  The bus finally stopped and all we saw was a house with cement walls, bars on the windows, and some torn looking yellow curtains behind the bars.  Again puzzled.  We walked up and the front door opened and we saw the floor had a huge mat on it and a bunch of bowls, spoons, and cups arranged in a circle on it.  We each found a spot and waited for the food to come out.  Looking around the place while waiting, we saw nothing.  The walls were bare and lifeless.  Walking back through the hallway to the bathroom, we could make out a few bedrooms but the curtain was pulled on it so I have no idea what they had inside.  The bathroom was a squat toilet with no shower.  The kitchen was a dirt floor which was used to make our lunch on.  And there were no ovens or microwaves.  Only wood burning kettle pots to heat stuff in.  The meal was another fantastic dish that was well received by all.  Followed by a few different varieties of fruits that seemed to keep coming and coming.  I’m guessing the house was owned by the bus driver or by someone the tour company knew and they were only doing it for the cash.  Because it wasn’t anything really official.  We were then dropped off at our new hotel for the next two nights in northern Zanzibar.  Which was right on the beach and had all the blue water you could handle.  Awesome!!!  We were two to a room and since I am alone in my tent, I have to share with the other guy who has his own tent.  Unfortunately it’s a 69 year old guy who has recently decided not to wear deodorant and has kind of been ostracized by the group for not doing so.  We arrived kind of late as usual but made our way to the beach as quickly as possible.  The beach is kind of weird because it only has small sections and then a lot of the hotels and restaurants are up on stilts hanging over the water so they take up much of the available beach.  We had a swim for a bit and dam it was nice to be there.  It was exactly what we all needed.  It’s hard stuff to be on a super long vacation.  You have to throw in some beach time now and again.  After the refreshing swim, I decided it was time for a massage since a masseuse was conveniently located right there.  I picked the 1-hour deep tissue massage.  I laid down and the African woman went to work.  About 20 minutes into it, I decided that she has probably never been to any kind of formal training before because she lacked the necessary skills to give a quality massage.  She was basically just rubbing oil over me and applying some pressure.  That may sound good on paper, but it really wasn’t that good.  I compare that massage to something a girlfriend or boyfriend might give the other right before they want sex.  Basically like the massages that I give.  No technique, random moving of the hands, and either too much or too little pressure.  It was better than nothing though!  Later in the evening we all met in the hotel restaurant/bar and had some drinks and dinner overlooking the ocean.  Food was marginal.  Since I was super tired, I went to bed right after dinner and woke up about an hour into sleep and immediately felt sick.  So I made a run for the toilet and stood there waiting to vomit.  After about 15 minutes or so and nothing came out, I gave up on the idea of vomiting even though I was still feeling sick.  Went to bed but couldn’t lay on my stomach or else it would hurt.  

 Zanzibar

 I woke up early because a bunch of us were going scuba diving and we had to meet early to beat the tide.  My stomach was hurting only about half as bad as the previous night but it was still worrying me because of the inherent dangers associated being sick while diving.  There were seven of us and one snorkeler in the small boat and we were doing a 2-dive half-day.  It took us about 15 minutes to reach the first site and we all suited up and got ready to go.  Background in my diving experience: I got my dive certification like 5 and a half years ago and have only dived 3 times after my initial school.  And the last time was 3 and a half years back in Guam.  Being that I wasn’t that good before, I was incredibly rusty this time.  I also sometimes have a problem pressurizing my ears underwater because I have one bad ear.  We all went over the hand signals and paired up.  We jumped in the water and started to descend and about a meter down my mask was badly filling up with water including my nose.  I readjusted my mask and tried to go down again.  It filled up about the same but I was better prepared to handle the water this time and became quite good at clearing my mask underwater.  I also learned that it is possible to have your nose filled with water and still breathe through your mouth.  My ears did pretty well with pressurizing and we went as deep as 18 meters.  There wasn’t an overabundance of spectacular things to see but I used it as a refresher dive for myself.  After about 45 minutes underwater, we surfaced.  We took a pretty bumpy boat ride for about an hour and made it to our next dive site on the other side of the top of the island.  We suited up again and went at it.  This dive was a lot calmer for all of us that haven’t dove for awhile.  There were also a lot more amazing things to see on this dive.  We saw a turtle, a huge lobster, a guitarfish, lionfish, pufferfish, stonefish, and a whole lot of other kinds of fish that were really neat to see.  We came back up after an hour even though we still had plenty of air in the tanks.  I realized after this dive that I wasn’t built for diving.  My supposed good ear was hurting kind of badly but manageable.  I guess I’ll have to stick with recreational diving in exotic places while on vacation versus going up in diving certifications.  We made it back in plenty of time to get some lunch and some beach time in.  Afterwards, I went to find a pull-up bar so I could do my workout routine while I was feeling good.  I walked everywhere and could really only find a slanted coconut tree on the beach.  I would prefer to not do it in public so all the locals wouldn’t have to sit and stare, but as long as I got to workout, that was all that mattered.  That and a bunch of local boys were working out there the previous day.  I did my thing and got the weird looks and stares.  Oh well!  Some tourist woman said to me while passing, “you’re fit!”  And her husband was right next to her.  Creepy!!!  Shower and then it was time for our end of trip party partly organized by myself.  We again had the same theme as before where everyone spends $5 on some horrifying costume and wears it to the party.  We also threw in a new party twist.  Everyone chose out of a hat a random statement that they had to try to say to someone throughout the night without getting caught lying.  I made 8 out of 24 questions and some of them included: I had sex with a midget, and I once tried out for the Olympic team in _____ sport.  I ended up grabbing the statement: I was a child genius and I graduated college at 16.  I ended up not even trying it but for some reason I was talking to someone and I had the perfect chance to slip it in but didn’t realize it until it was too late.  The night was pretty good.  I bought some fake Afro hair thing that went around my head and some clothing pins.  The only problem was that I forgot the clothing pins in the truck and couldn’t get them.  So I just had my fake hair and some handmade tie thing that was given to all the males on the Spice Tour.  Most people were dressed on the traditional African sarong’s because we never really made it to a good market to buy something.  So they had to make do.  The night was fun.  We had a seafood buffet right on the beach that was pretty darn tasty!  The night was filled with talking and drinking.  I decided not to drink and get too carried away but others decided to.  They are on vacation so they are allowed to.  One woman later in the evening decided to dance on the table and ended up losing her balance and falling over backwards and off the table.  Kind of scary at the time but funny later on.  Another guy and I asked if there was a dance club somewhere nearby we could go to so we could do something more than just sit and talk.  We were told of one and went to go check it out before we brought the group.  We took a wrong turn while walking and met two local kids(18 years old) and they said it was closed that night but they knew where one was at outside the beach resort.  I recognized him somewhat from earlier that day and he the same with me as the bearded white guy working out on the beach shirtless.  We said sure and followed the sound of the music.  After about 5 minutes of walking, we didn’t really like the looks of things since we were walking away from the safe and secure area into a no lights neighborhood with lots of people walking around.  We just told them we were going back to meet our group and they went with us.  More of the same as before it was getting to be kind of late and the tide was close to taking our dinner table with it.  Since there are a few single eligible people on this trip, it’s kind of like a reality TV show.  People trying to sleep with each other and everyone knows it and as soon as it happens, the rumors start to circulate.  On the last trip it was one girl who ended  up sleeping with the tour leader.  This trip it is two UK people who insist there isn’t anything going on.  But you can see the flirting happening.  By the end of the night, the two UK people started to kiss for the first time and since it was the last night, they basically walked up to us and told us they are going for a walk.  If they wouldn’t have, we would all know anyway because we all share rooms.  All we need is a camera following us around all day and night to make it official!  Throughout the night as well I was talking to the young local kid who we brought back with us.  He was actually pretty cool and very intelligent.  I doubt he tried to take us anywhere to rob/kill us but you never know.  Again I was thinking what a shame it was that this bright young kid was born here in Africa and not somewhere in the western world because he was probably doomed for nothing in life.  He was working on a boat doing something and barely making it by.  I could have talked to him all night but was too tired and went to bed.
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Comments

cwald
cwald on

So Gorgeous!

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