Saturday, October 26, 2019

Zanzibar - Pongwe Beach

After breakfast the next morning we walked a few blocks to the van that would take us to Pongwe Beach, our last stop on this Africa trip. We began the 90 minute trip through the outskirts of the city over some rough roads being repaired in preparation for the upcoming rainy season. The roads the rest of the way were in good shape and appeared to have been well made, something not always true in Africa.

Pongwe Beach Hotel consists of several cabins stretched out along the beach away from the main lodge, restaurant, and bar. The temperature is still high, but we have a nice sea breeze to keep us somewhat cool. The beach is flat and the tide goes out about a mile. The water is cool when the tide is in during the morning hours and bathtub warm in the afternoon after the sun has had time to warm the shallow water.

We have everything we need here which is fortunate since nothing is within walking distance. We can take a boat ride and go fishing or hire a guide to take us on a tour to a spice farm or a forest where we can see monkeys or even a trip to another island. We were happy to just stay here and enjoy relaxing in the sun and water.

We are joined at dinner by singers and bush babies. Bush babies are small animals that live in the trees and only come out at night. Cute little things, this one came in part for the bananas guests are encouraged to feed him. Unfortunately for the species they are a popular food item and in great danger of being eliminated.

Our flight to Dubai left at midnight so we had an evening drive to the airport. We passed several mosques, reminders that this is a Muslim island. Each village we passed included several speed bumps to slow the traffic. Once we reached town, the traffic slowed considerably. Crowds of people were out for an evening stroll, food, and shopping. The many bicycles and scooters zipping along the side of the road made driving even more fun. Fortunately, the roads are plenty wide for cars and trucks.

The airport is quite small, but security was tight as it must be for an international airport. We passed through two security checks and three passport checks including one where our pictures were taken. Our one worry was that we had been told we could only have one carry-on. Nevertheless, the guard tagged both of our carry-ons and we passed into the waiting room where we had access to a gift shop filled with books, clothing, and souvenirs. After a short time, we walked to our plane and took off for Dubai having ended our sojourn in East Africa.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Zanzibar - Stone Town

Zanzibar was an independent nation in the early 1960s when most of the African colonies gained their independence. However, its small size and concern over the interest Arab nations had, Zanzibar decided to unite with Tanganyika to form the nation of Tanzania. Originally settled by Arab traders, it became a slave bazaar and spice island. Stone Town is the original city. The central city still has the narrow winding streets one expects in old cities and towns built before the age of cars and their wider street requirements. Since our hotel was in the middle of Stone Town, we had to walk about ten minutes from the car park. Given the heat and humidity, we were thankful that the porters took care of our luggage.

Our Hotel

Emerson Spice Hotel is a great old building with two or three large rooms on each of the first five floors. On the sixth is a rooftop restaurant. Each room has a theme based on an opera or one of the owners favorite actresses including Katherine Hepburn and Dorothy Lamour. Our room, Violetta, is dedicated to the lead character in Verdi’s “La Traviata” based on Alexander Dumas’s “La Dame aus Carmelias.” Decorated in shades of violet and blue it looks like a courtesan’s boudoir. Fortunately, it also has air conditioning and a nice balcony in the shade where I sat to watch the city activity. A couple of street vendors compete with the shops. Carts, motorcycles, and pedestrians keep up a constant motion so there is always something to look at.

Street Scenes
We had not arrived until 3:00 so we showered and rested until time for a G&T at the rooftop bar. Mango Travel already made a reservation for our dinner so we did not have to think about what to do. The five course meal was headlined by Kingfish in coconut sauce and accompanied by a fine South African wine. Everything was perfectly cooked and described in detail by our waiter. The cool breeze as the sun disappeared over the horizon made for a perfect ending to the day The next morning began with breakfast atop the hotel. A breeze and canopies kept the temperature down so we could enjoy the breakfast of fruit and eggs cooked to our specifications. Following the meal we made our way to the lobby where we meet Joseph, our guide for the tour of the city. We began with a walk through the market, similar to other markets we have seen although it did have a much stronger emphasis on spices.

From the market it is just a short walk to the slave market and museum. Like other places where slavery was a major part of the past, Zanzibar has taken several steps to make sure that this dark blot on its past is not forgotten. The museum is filled with panels of text and pictures that bring the issue of slavery up to the present. Today, Zanzibar is looking at the idea the marriage sometimes can be a form of slavery when a man divorces one wife so he may marry another. The ugliest part of the museum is the downstairs pair of rooms where slaves awaited shipment. The rooms were too low for standing tall and too small for the numbers that were kept there.

Upon leaving the museum we crossed the plaza to see the sculpture of chained slaves awaiting shipment. Then we entered the Anglican cathedral where we enjoyed a short rest as we admired the furnishings including a cross made from the tree in Zambia under which David Livingston’s heart is buried. The rest of his body is in England. Livingston is much admired in Africa for his anti-slavery work.

Our next stop across town was the Africa House built by the British as a place where they could enjoy a drink and fine food overlooking the water. We took the elevator to enjoy the view. In retrospect we should have stopped for a drink and a real rest as the day was getting hotter and we were getting more tired. At least we made a stop to get some cold water and then a stop in Memories, a souvenir store where we did buy a couple of souvenirs before heading out again. Joseph then led us past the Old Fort, the Palace Museum, and the House of Wonders. The House of Wonders was closed for repairs. The House of Wonders is so-called because it was the first in East Africa to have electricity and an elevator. We chose to merely look at the others from the outside as it was now near 1:00 and we were totally sapped by the heat and humidity.

Sea shells and coral are used in the mortar

The British Club

Upon returning to the hotel, we learned that Mango Safaris (our marvelous travel agent) was providing us with dinner at Hurumzi, sister hotel to Emerson Spice. We needed a guide to lead us there that evening. While only a couple of blocks away, it required six turns as we walked through the narrow streets. Four flights of stairs took us to their rooftop restaurant where we were treated to another fun dinner in the style of a typical Zanzibarian wedding. Each course we served family style accompanied by music and dancing. As the previous evening, we thoroughly enjoyed eating in the cool of the rooftop as we enjoyed the setting sun and accompanying entertainment.

Being greeted for dinner
Stairway to the rooftop

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Leaving for Zanzibar

Kitela Lodge
Our flight the next day was not until noon, so Felix stopped to show us a piece of property he has purchased where he plans to build a B&B as he earns the money. He has the land planted in corn to bring in some income and has already purchased a load or bricks to begin construction. He says it will be more rustic than Kitela, but still will offer a nice place to say while visiting Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro.

Felix's Corn Field
Felix's Bricks
We also stopped at a Tanzanite showroom. They had a Tanzanite mining display and lots of jewelry for sale. This fancy place also had every imaginable kind of Tanzanian arts and crafts for sale. We spent about 45 minutes to see it all. We made no purchases before we left for the airport.

Security and luggage checks on this trip have been interesting. We had been warned about too much weight and that the weight total would include ALL of our carry-on luggage including cameras and lenses. Jim was so concerned he left his long lens and CPAP machine home rather than be overweight. But no one weighed any of our carry-ons. They seemed totally uninterested in that. In fact, in a couple of the airports, they did not even have a scale. The only time our bags were really weighed with a purpose was when we got on the jet leaving the country from Zanzibar. There we were told we could only have one carry-on, but the guard put stickers on both of them anyway. No problem.

Security was equally hit and miss. Two of the airports were really nothing more than air strips so there could be no security checks there. Of course, these were small airplanes taking us only to another small airport, so security wasn’t really an issue. When we flew out of Nairobi to Ol Pejeta, I wore my metal leg brace because I was concerned about the weight issue. When I triggered the x-ray machine, I offered to show them the brace as I had in Portland. The guard said, “No problem. I trust you.”

Our flight from Manyara to Arusha where we changed planes for Zanzibar was the bumpiest yet. The pilot never found any calm air. Upon our arrival at Arusha, we identified our luggage, took a quick bathroom break and climbed on the plane for Zanzibar, about an hour away. We passed Kilimanjaro, but only had a quick view of the peak above the clouds.