Posts Tagged With: Dar es Salaam

Zanzibar!

We woke up at 5am, showered got ready and checked out of the hotel for the last time! We managed to get them to store our bigger luggage for the weekend to save us from having to lug it around all weekend. We grabbed a very quick breakfast and headed toward the harbour where the Kilimanjaro II was waiting for us. We were given some advice to make our way to the ferry a good half hour early to ensure we got on and got decent seats. It probably took us about 5 minutes to make our way down to the ferry and about 15 minutes to get through all of the checkpoints.

We boarded the boat and decided to find a seat up front on the deck for the view and to keep everyone feeling as good as possible. I spotted a spot right up front right away, but it was one of those things where I was wondering what was wrong with it since no one was sitting there; turned out it was soaking wet.  Luckily, I like to pack anything that I think might be useful like a towel and we ended up with the best seats in the house!

The scenery right from the harbour, to the fish market, to the little islands along the way were beautiful and definite postcard material. We were all pretty tired, so we were all pretty quiet and I think the girls might have slept a bit but I was too excited to sleep. I put in my headphones blared some dance music and just enjoyed the view.

We got to Stone Town in about an hour and a bit and since Zanzibar considers itself independent (but not really) from Tanzania we had to go through their customs. They checked our passports, yellow fever certificates and asked us all the normal kinds of border questions. It probably took us about 15 minutes to get through it and make our way into the city.

The Zenji hotel is where we stayed, it was about a 2 minute walk from the harbour and we got to stay together in a room called “Sense of Jasmine.” It was a really nice open concept room that had a double and single bed with a saloon door for the bathroom. What the hotel lacked in room views made up for it through its roof top café and the outdoor café out on the main street. I hadn’t had real coffee in just over a month and my first order of business was to get a coffee with a side of espresso!

Once we were all checked in and ready to get about our day we had to make some last minute excursion game plans. We decided to do one called the spice tour for that afternoon and a tour of Prison Island tomorrow; which gives us time to explore a bit on Monday before we take off back to Dar es Salaam. We came in a bit late so we had to take the private tour, but honestly it made it that much more special and memorable.

We got picked up by our driver and he took us to a spice plantation which was built specifically for tourists. There are examples of all of the different kinds of plants that they grow in large plantations elsewhere. This plantation is run by a community that makes most of its income from tourists and their crops. Our tour guide was very good and introduced us to all of the fruit and spices and along the way we were given a leaf cup to hold all of the spices. We got to see and smell different spices like cardamom, iodine, vanilla bean, pepper, cloves, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg (my favorite!!) and a few others. We also got to see how different fruit and produce grow like star fruit, clementines, coco bean, jack fruit, lipstick fruit, aloe vera, custard apple and more. We got to do a lot of cool stuff like trying a bunch of the fruit, drinking fresh coconut water, watching someone climb a coconut tree and getting hand made things made of leaves and flowers. After all of this they supplied us with a picnic for lunch, it was probably the best pilau I have ever had in my entire life! There were so many spices, some baked potato, fish and an amazing masala sauce! I could eat that every day and never get sick of it.

Once we were finished eating, our driver came back and picked us up for the second half of our trip which was an afternoon at the beach. When we got to a clearing down a little dirt road, we were asked if we wanted a tour of the coral cave. For 2,000Tsh we didn’t see a problem with that and headed over to the cave opening with our tour guide. I’ve never been educated on the slave trade, past the underground railway and what I’ve seen in movies; it was an eye opening experience to learn, on-site, how things got so out of hand. This cave was used to hide slaves at night from the British navy once this practice was exposed as a human rights violation. The cave didn’t used to have stairs so slaves were expected to climb down a rope and to go into the deepest part of the cave to sleep. When the slaves were bought and sold they were sneaked out a passage that leads close to the Indian Ocean where they would get shipped.

I learned a lot about how slaves were caught and brought to Zanzibar for the slave trade, I didn’t realize that it was such an intricate procedure with so much support behind it in those times. Warring tribes would sell the opposing tribe, people were kidnapped and tribe chiefs would sell their people for a certain price. The people buying and kidnapping them were from Arabian countries and were the middle men in this whole thing. Their strategy was to capture and buy individuals who were all from different backgrounds so that they couldn’t speak to each other and potentially escape.

The atmosphere in the cave is comparable to the atmosphere and feelings that I got while visiting Dachau (a German concentration camp). It just feels like there is a lingering energy of sadness and stillness. Having learned everything that I did in about a half hour and trying to sort through my feelings about this whole situation was difficult but I’m glad that I have a deeper understanding of this history.

After our cave exploring and history lesson we made our way down a little path toward the beach. This path turned into gigantic steps leading down to the beach; it was a workout in itself. We spent about an hour wading in the warm water, talking about the cave and what literature we should all look into to learn more.

On the way back to the hotel I was so tired I just fell asleep and woke up when we got back. The dangerous driving is still the same as on the mainland but the scenery is nothing but tall and healthy palm trees, plantations and greenery. We were all starving and decided to head over to “The Mercury Restaurant” which is named after Freddy Mercury from Queen. The view from the deck was absolutely gorgeous; we were there right in time for the sunset over the harbour. It was an expensive place to go but the view and the mood is worth it. I ate a lot, laughed a lot and talked a lot so needless to say as soon as I was finished my meal I was more than ready for bed!

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On the Road Again

Last night was our last night at the hotel; we had a little breakfast and got picked up around 9am by Rodney (the VETA IT teacher and the same guy who drove us to Mikumi National Park). I was all set to leave when Rodney told us we were headed to VETA instead of hitting the road right away, because he had to pick something up. We got to the school and headed for the computer lab where I e-mailed and facebooked my friends and family to let them know that this would be my last time communicating with them until I get home on Tuesday. After about a half hour and more goodbyes, Rodney was ready to go. It was harder to say goodbye this morning compared to last night but it was still nice to see everyone one last time.

This road trip was a lot of fun and was a nice change of scenery for me. I got to sit up front with Rodney which meant I got to make sure that he didn’t blast anymore Shania Twain or Celine Dion with the bass cranked. I was also really thankful that we had done a quick grocery run yesterday considering that we didn’t stop once for food or anything else besides gas. I did try to subtle tell Rodney that I could go for lunch but I think something got lost in the translation; he just started talking about how he wanted to have ugali and that he was hungry, but I think he meant it more as a statement than anything else.

There wasn’t anything too interesting to really mention, the only thing that stood out was the insane traffic once we hit Dar es Salaam. We were switching lanes every couple of minutes to gain inches and almost cut off an ambulance since we were sideways and blocking two lanes. Luckily the car keeping us from merging moved ahead a bit and we squeezed in. We were in rush hour for a while and then went a bit off road. Rodney told us that we were actually going to meet his parents before taking us to the New Africa Hotel, so we went along with it. There wasn’t much of a point in meeting them besides saying a quick hello and taking a few pictures, but it was still nice to see a more intimate home setting.

We got a call from Anthony letting us know that the ferry bureau closed at 6pm and that we had better get a move on if we wanted to get to Zanzibar. We made it to the hotel with seconds to spare, got checked in, through our bags in the rooms and ran back down. Anthony was already downstairs waiting for us, and through sheer luck he knew the cruise company and asked them to stay open for us since it was nearing 6:30pm. We were running across the street when Anthony told us what the costs were so we had to make a quick bank detour and then fast walked as quickly as we could without getting hit by oncoming traffic or talkative pedestrians. We bought our tickets which are priced according to locality, so we had to buy the more expensive tickets; but they were worth it!

I can’t even attempt to begin explaining how epic it was to sit down, take a deep breath and then make my way upstairs for dinner. I was so tired, I had a wicked headache and I could sleep for a month; but the food I ate that night was a hundred percent worthwhile. It was a Thai restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel which overlooks the harbour. The atmosphere was very lively, they had karaoke and dancing and the restaurant off to the side. There was also a big football (soccer) match on and everyone was up there watching it and cheering them on. I picked what I wanted to eat and drink in about a millisecond and could not wait! I ordered a green vegetarian curry with steamed rice and spring rolls; A-MA-ZING! I’d recommend this restaurant to anybody traveling out that way, it was so good.

The only part of this whole experience that was a tad unfortunate was that my harbour view room was right underneath the dance floor and that wasn’t about to help my headache. On a positive note though I was so excited to wake up at 5am to grab the ferry over to Stone Town at 6:30pm that I didn’t care.

*Sneak peek of the harbour while we were taking off*

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Poa!

Got more exercise today on the treadmill, would have loved to have jumped in the blue lagoon pool that we have at the hotel, but I haven’t seen one person in it which I’m taking as a red flag to stay out. Afterwards we got some time to catch up on our e-mails and sun tanned until about 11:30am when we got picked up. Also, just before we got picked up we got introduced to a man from Monaco who has been traveling from Nairobi to Morogoro and across Africa from there. When we first walked out of the hotel lobby, we saw a large crowd of people around an orange car taking pictures and looking excited. We were beckoned to come closer to take a look at the car by the bystanders and so we checked out the car and got to talking to the person involved.  The car that he was driving was one of the very few electric cars in Africa and it was a big event to see it. The people traveling have also done amazing trips such as driving from Shanghai to Paris!! It must have been the most amazing road trip ever! Overall, it was great seeing the excitement and energy that the community was bringing in to welcome this new technology.

We went to St. Gasper today to help organize the staff members that they recruited from VETA. We put all of the names into Excel and made tables to categories which staff members were being placed & when they were expected to start. We had some time to ourselves to relax in the Gardens at the hotel and I got to read more of my book (which is getting more intricate, imaginative and interesting just FYI). We got a bit of a grammar lesson in Swahili; we learned that “poa” means “cool” and “safi” is the formal version of poa. Afterwards, we headed back to the New Dodoma Hotel for dinner (in love with their mix veggie curry & naan!) and some drinks to unwind.

We got to go out to the local bar again after that with Lucas and a Chef from Dar es Salaam who promised to make me some Tiramisu (my all-time favorite dessert!) sometime next week. It was a lot of fun too because I introduced them both to some of my favorite songs. I’m a big country music and Club music fan which they seemed to love – especially Taio Cruz and Shania Twain (lol).

We’re supposed to make our way over to St. Gasper tomorrow for the big conference that’s happening, but there won’t be much on site work to do. Hopefully we will have all of the morning to ourselves, the afternoon to explore the Dodoma Market and then head over to the hotel to observe how things have come together. I’m really looking forward to having a laid back day on Canadian terms! – Workout, Suntan, Shower, Breakfast, Exploring, Observing, Dinner & Celebratory Drinks!

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Catch ya on the Flip Side!

I’m up bright and early, somewhat packed and about to go and make myself a big breakfast & coffee; but I wanted to write a quick post first!

If anyone is interested in following my flights online, just click on the links below to see my progress! (The first flight leaves around 5:00pm)

Montreal to Zurich: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWR87/history/20120511/2100Z/CYUL/LSZH

Zurich to Dar es Salaam: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWR292/history/20120511/1545Z/HKJK/HTDA

I’m still in total disbelief that I’m heading to Africa today! I have had a lot of amazing support from friends, family and great encouragement from absolutely everybody who hears about this trip. It means a lot to me to know that I am going to be helping others and that I have an amazing support system back home. So, overall, I am excited to head out and I am looking forward to keeping everyone posted on my African adventure!!

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