Finding our way in Stone Town
Trip Start Jun 11, 2011
19Trip End Jun 26, 2011
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Stone Town is incredible. We arrived at the Zanzibar airport yesterday afternoon and waited about 40 minutes before our luggage finally appeared. We didn't mind waiting – we were just happy it arrived with us. Once we walked outside the airport from the luggage collection area we quickly spotted our driver who was taking us to our hotel in Stone Town. Chiijo told us some historical facts about the islands as we drove. We parked in what would could be called a parking lot if you use the term loosely and walked through the narrow, winding alleys of Stone Town to our hotel. It seemed easy with Chiijo guiding us but we would learn soon afterward it is not. Our hotel is a freshly white-washed beacon against the greying walls of crumbling plaster that surround it
Our room is very clean and beautiful with a mosquito net draped over the four poster bed and Indian-inspired furnishings. It was tempting to just go straight to bed even though it was only 5pm, but we were travel-weary. Our bodies were sore and our minds exhausted. We decided to take a fast shower which did wonders to cool us down and make us feel refreshed. We then went downstairs to the coffee house to enjoy our welcome drinks included with the room. We both chose delicious iced cappuccinos with ice cream, which was almost as refreshing as the shower.
Starting to feel pretty poa, we took to the streets. We decided to walk straight in one direction so we wouldn’t get lost. We quickly realized that was impossible – there are no straight streets here. So instead we got lost. These narrow alleys don’t fit cars but that doesn’t stop people from driving their scooters through the otherwise pedestrian and bicycle only streets.
We ended up on the main road where we had entered, swarming with people and dala-dalas, the local shared transportation, much like tro-tros in Ghana. We walked through a fish market where vendors were selling everything imaginable – we even saw a few fish. We decided we should try to find a bank so we could get some local currency as so far we were tipping in US dollars and we were tipping far too much and we had limited one dollar bills.
Actually, we found several ATMs but not a single one was working. The first had no money, the second did not have an international network like Plus or Cirrius or Maestro
Eventually we did make it back and discovered it was only 7:30pm. We had forgotten to eat dinner but we were really exhausted and hesitant to get lost in the alleys again so instead I tried to get on Skype. We connected to the free wi-fi but it had no Internet available. We decided to unplug the router outside our room to try to reset it. Wolfi wrapped his arms around my legs and lifted me up high so we could reach it. I had some trouble pulling the plug out of the socket. Once it was out it was clear what the problem was – the router has a European plug and the wall has a UK socket. How the heck they got it in there before is beyond me and there was no way for me to get it back in
We did some more wandering and ended up at the sea front. I am pretty sure it was hotter by the water than in the partial shade of the buildings we had come from. By now our time was short so we started back in what we thought was the right direction to our hotel. We asked a local how to get there but he insisted on taking us as it was too far. I am glad he did guide us or we may have never found it.
The hotel staff greeted us like long-lost friends and welcomed us back in. We were going to walk back to the taxi parking area with our large bags on our backs. I wasn’t looking forward to it as I was pretty sure we would not find one of the more direct paths there. But one of the guests we had talked to at breakfast was there waiting for a taxi he had ordered and he said we could share with him
At the small airport we checked our luggage and then had some time to wait. We decided to find some food. I ate some chicken samosa and managed to drip samosa grease on my skirt. I tried to wash it out in the bathroom but just ended up with a samosa grease stain surrounded by a water stain. The good news is that the samosa was pretty good!
Our flight left when (we hoped) all customers had boarded rather than on a schedule, leaving about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. We flew in a small but very new and clean plane to Dar Es Salaam and had to be guided down the back halls to the check in counter. First we had to go through security, which is where we lost our travel companion. He got held up over some jars of jam he had in his carry on. We hurried on to the check in desk to be issued our next boarding cards then somehow ended up at a customs desk. It wasn’t until after they had cancelled Wolfi’s visa that they realized we had actually gone the wrong way and should be in domestic departures instead of international. They cancelled the cancellation of his visa and we turned around and found the right way to our waiting lounge for the flight to Kilimanjaro.