Friday, January 11, 2013

Christmas on the Indian Ocean

So one of my favorite kids movies is Muppet Treasure Island, come on, it's a classic, and the line that always struck me the most out of it was when Gonzo says, "Off to Zanzibar to meet the Zanzi-barbarians!" I remember asking where Zanzibar was and the best answer I got was, "It's a tropical island."

Fast forward a little bit and guess what Zanzibar isn't all that far from Malawi! Vacation engage! I went to Zanzibar with Shira Stites from my environment group for Christmas and New Years.  getting there was quite the battle.  Once we crossed the border and paid a ton of money for our visas we got on a bus to Mbea where we spent the night with every intention of taking the train the following morning to Dar es Saalam.  Well, all good intentions aside, that kinda failed.  Come to find out the train left yesterday, sad.  So we got on a bus to Iringa which is basically the half way point from the border to Dar and spent the night in Iringa.  The next day the bus to Dar, which should have only taken 6 hours was a whopping 14 hours thanks to two back to back traffic accidents going through the mountains. If you think traffic sucks in America well quite frankly, you're wrong.

Dar was huge! Coming from the village in Malawi it was super impressive, any building over 3 stories is basically a skyscraper now and that place was loaded with them.  We spent a couple days in Dar, long enough to poke around a bit and buy tickets for the ferry out to Zanzibar.  The ferry to Zanzibar was really nice but getting on it was a mess.  You almost felt like a man in combat fatigues stood up with a bull horn and announced that this was the last boat out of Vietnam.  People everywhere, well dressed people too, all shoving and pushing to get through this tiny door at the security checkpoint. Which was pointless because the ferry wasn't even there yet! It was still coming back from the island! People jumping in line and no one saying anything either, that would not fly in America.  If you had tried that in America the other travelers would declare you an
 enemy of the state and then fight over who got to keep your three piece set of Samsonite luggage.

The ride to Zanzibar took about an hour and a half and finally getting there was great. We checked in to our hotel, Zenji, which was really nice and then wandered around.  Stonetown is beautiful, just the city itself and I don't often say that about cities.  We walked around looking at the old buildings and, as strange as it sounds, the doors.  Stonetown is known for it's beautifully carved, antique doors. It's easy to get lost there too.  The little back streets and alleys twist and turn between tall narrow buildings and the only way you can back track it by trying to remember if you turn left at the carved hippo or if you have to keep going until the hindu temple.

At night we went to Forodani Gardens, the park along the water front where the local restruants and fishermen set up tables for you to wander around and pick your dinner.  Lobster, mussles, squid, octopus, all kinds of fish, breads, fresh juices, everything.  You walk around and point and they grill it right there.  It was fantastic, people always say they never eat street food when they travel because they don't want to get sick but when it's fresh caught and fresh cooked it's just perfect.

We also went on a spice tour, Zanzibar is also known as the Spice Island and they grow all kinds of spices there, vanilla, curry leaves, cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, nutmeg and on and on and on. 

After Stonetown we split up for a couple days, I went north to Matemwe to go scuba diving and snorkling for a couple days. There were so many fish and different types of coral to see, it was beautiful.  I've loved diving in lake Malawi but the Indian Ocean is really impressive. 

After diving I went south to Paje to meet up with Shira for a couple days where we chilled on the beach before going back to Stonetown and flying out on the 1st of January. 

After getting back to Malawi I was promptly sick with some kind of stomach bug for a few days, urgh.  I will never miss being sick here, it's so much worse here.  A week later it was time for Close of Service Conference and drumroll please.......Monday April 15th I am out! I can't believe how fast two years have gone by.  The next few months are going to fly by as well. 

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