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One of the reoccurring discussions between some of the ladies on our trek is exactly when and where we’ll be staying in certain types of lodging. Our trip itinerary told us that we would have five nights in hotels, 21 days participation camping and 2 nights of full-service camping. We thought we’d have the full-service camping (whatever that means) in Livingstone. But nope – we lived in the same kind of tents we had for the week and half before. One thing that is for sure, in Zanzibar we’re told we’d have four nights in bungalows (or 4 hotels) and the word bungalows rolls off our tongues like ice cream sundaes dripping in chocolate sauce. “Bungalows with ensuite bathrooms,” we say. I think I am more excited about this than actually seeing Zanzibar.
We take the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. Two new people will join our group of 14 travelers and Mazza (Raymond stays behind in Dar Es Salaam with the truck) when we arrive.
Our accommodations aren’t exactly bungalows but when Nellu and I are given a double bed with clean sheets and a big ensuite bathroom, there’s no complaining from us.
There are many activities we can do on the island of Zanzibar but most of us decide just to spend our first day in Stone Town, the old part of Zanzibar City designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its reflection of Swahili culture – a unique mix of African, Arab, Indian and European traditions.
For dinner we head down to the Stone Town night market. Just a note to future travelers: beware the night market. We’ve attended many night markets in our past travels often finding fresh and delicious local fare at local prices. The Zanzibar market offers anything but. The only fresh meat is the tourists arriving for dinner to a park full of men ready to hustle in the foreigners and over charge them. In these cases, it’s always unclear who works for who and how much things really cost. And even when you think you know, it changes. We’ve been traveling so long, we should know better than to put ourselves in that kind of situation.
Nellu and I left in a huff after making an embarrassing scene and got a more reasonably priced dinner at the full service restaurant less than a block away from our hotel.
Today we’ll be leaving our hotel in Stone Town and heading up to a beach up north for two nights but first we go on a spice tour. With its diverse spice and fruit plantations, Zanzibar became a center for spice trade in the 1800s (and also unfortunately, East Africa’s main slave trading port.)
We take a few hours for a guided tour of the spice plantation and then drive to the beach.
Our accommodations here are much more like bungalows.
Our room has a big bed, with nice linens and a mosquito net hanging like a canopy. Mosquito nets are very important in this part of the world where malaria is active threat and therefore very important to me. You see, unlike everyone else in our group, Nellu and I are not taking anti-malaria pills. We met so many people who took them in South America and had a bad reaction to them – everything from weird hyper-negative dreams to hangover-like symptoms. Our extended travel also means that we’re visiting many parts of the world with different strains of malaria. Different strains of malaria can be resistant to different drugs, meaning that we would possibly have to invest in several different types of malaria pills, all which need to be taken for a prolonged period of time.
So instead of pills, we chose to focus on bite prevention. This means that from before dusk till after dawn, we keep ourselves covered with clothes and copious amounts of DEET.
That night we thought we saw a mosquito fly inside the mosquito net as we were getting in. We casually looked for it and couldn’t find it so we went to bed thinking it either got out or was just an apparition. I was certainly getting paranoid enough to think I saw things.
I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to two dreadful problems: 1) the power and therefore the fan had gone off and 2) that horrible sound of a mosquito doing a dive bomb past my ear. ArGH!
“Nellu, there’s a mosquito in our net,” I whispered loudly “Do you want some more DEET.”
“No,” I heard him say gruffly.
I pondered for a minute whether or not I should try to get out of bed in the pitch black darkness to find the mosquito repellent. I would certainly expose myself to more mosquitos if I left the comfort of our net. But if I didn’t, I would surely get bit by the one flying around inside the net. Oh where’s my headlamp when I need it.
I finally convinced myself to get out of bed to find the repellent. I found the shelf where we had left it without making too much noise and jumped back into bed in a similar fashion to the way I did when I still believed there were monsters living underneath it. After reapplying the cream to every piece of exposed flesh, I also convinced myself that it would be best to sleep underneath the sheet despite the heat. Oh, do I hate these little bugs.
I woke up the next morning with a sizable bite on my thigh. Of course, Nellu didn’t reapply any DEET but I got bitten. And the culprit, she had passed out on the mosquito net. She was so drunk off my blood that she didn’t even flinch Nellu came in to smash her – leaving a blood stain on the net.
Neither of us came down with any symptoms of malaria during our trip. But if I had to do it again, I would certainly take malaria pills for the camping-outside-for-a-month-in-Africa portion of our adventure.
We still joke from time to time, wondering if we’re malaria free. Apparently malaria can lie dormant for months (and in some cases, for years). Nellu told me we can get tested when we go home, but he’ll need him to explain that one to our doctor who surely thinks I am a hypochondriac (He’s still nice enough to patiently walk me through the more reasonable causes of my various illnesses).
The day took a turn for the better when most of the ladies on our trek kicked off a spa day with a basic beach yoga session (taught by yours truly) and followed up our morning sun tan session with at home spa treatments in Caroline, Line and Kristine’s air-conditioned bungalow.
We headed back into Stone Town for one last night.
Nellu and I hadn’t done much exploring on our first time through, spending most of the day finding food and catching up on some much needed internet time to set up our accommodations in Nairobi. So we did some real sight-seeing and browsing today. I’d like to call it browsing rather than shopping because Nellu and I really shouldn’t be buying. We have no room to carry anything else in our bags and no money to spend on things that we don’t absolutely need. There’s nothing like spending months on the road to drive a wedge between you and your inner consumer. So we browse.
There was one store close to our old hotel that had a good variety of items at reasonable set prices (aka no aggressive haggling). The ladies of Zanzibar have beautiful colored wraps that they use for both dress and head coverings. I decide to buy one to use in decorating the home we don’t have. I find a navy blue, white and yellow pattern. But while I am searching through the stacks of wraps, Nellu was doing a little browsing of his own – furniture browsing. (He tells me now that he was technically “mask browsing”).
He approaches me and says, “Hey, there’s this side table that I want you to see.” The side table in question is adorable. It’s in the shape of an elephant and not too big. But the idea of buying furniture on an island off the coast of Africa strikes me as crazy, especially when we still have four more months of travel to go. But its relatively cheap price gets me thinking that we actually could go for it. It really is cute and we’ve only bought one other item in Laos for our future lives.
We decide to assess shipping costs before making a decision. To ship from Zanzibar to the U.S will cost us about $90, which is too much especially since we could not guarantee it would ever get there.
But there is another way. When we set up our round-the-world airline ticket with oneworld, we found we couldn’t get from Nairobi to Dubai without first flying through London. When we heard our friend Eric would be visiting another friend in there in February, we extended our layover for a few days so we could see him. If we could get the table to London, Eric might be able to bring it back to the States for us.
We rush over to the internet cafe across the street:To Eric: Hello there – Nellu and I fell in love with this little elephant coffee table that’s only $55 in Zanzibar. It looks like we’d be able to get it to London on our baggage allowance. We’re flying British Airlines which allows 2 bags checked up to 23kg each. We’d get this table packaged for about 9kg-10kg. Any chance you might be able to take it home on your baggage allowance. We haven’t bought it yet :) We may also try to get it to London and see if it would be cheaper to ship it home from there. What do you think?
Despite the time difference, we got a prompt response from Eric:Sure, I’d be happy to help out. I’m only bringing one suitcase so will, I’m sure have extra allowance. Can’t wait to see you! Xx, E
Yay! It’s so nice to have friends so supportive of your impulsive purchases. We run back across the street and buy the table.
Before we return to our hotel, we settled on a name for the newest member of the home we don’t have – Mini Mazza. (Nellu and I have a thing for naming inanimate objects and plants.) We’re hoping that Mazza sees this as a our affectionate tribute to her and not, “Why did these people name and elephant table after me?”
More to come…