Tanzania: Jambo!

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Swahili is definitely the most fun language in the world! Is there a better way to greet someone than to say “Jambo!”, or to relax with a “Hakuna matata”? Definitely not.

We arrived in Dar Es Salaam from Addis Ababa after a three-hour delay in Nairobi (during which Kenya Airlines served us a delicious restaurant lunch, so fair play). We were headed to a beach lodge – Mikadi Beach (www.mikadibeach.com – GO THERE!) – just across the water, so after a quick cab ride we literally paid 4 cents to ride the ferry over to Kigamboni. It was getting dark, but we started walking to Mikadi anyway. Lucky for us, a friendly local stopped us and told us we were crazy – we were BOUND to get mugged on the road (more on that later), and so he waved down a tuk-tuk (awesome little three-wheeled cars) which took us safely to Mikadi.

Ah, heaven! We had booked a “banda” (a little thatch wooden hut) right on the beach, and it was absolutely idyllic. We could hear the waves lapping, and were just a few steps from hammocks, beach chairs, the bar. We were REALLY looking forward to just relaxing for a bit as we’d been rushing around cities and things for quite some time, plus bro was still getting over his Ethiopian sickness.

There’s not much to say about our first few days at Mikadi, because we LITERALLY didn’t move from the beach. It was fantastic, we really needed the rest. We had a great time lounging with more new friends – Nic from the UK, Toby from down the beach, Daani from South Africa, Foster, Haden and Lucas from Zambia/London. We were lucky to have another excellent group of people, especially as it wasn’t really safe to leave the beach lodge, which is heavily guarded by Maasai warriors. Back to the mugging thing, an English couple we met who ignored this advice and went for a walk down the beach were mugged at knife point in the middle of the day, losing a camera and some cash. The mugger was nice enough to stop as he ran off and hand back a passport and a credit card, so it wasn’t all bad, I suppose!

Things picked up a bit about three days into our six-night stay. We had made friends with Graham, a Zimbabwean who’s now one of the part owners of Mikadi Beach. He’s an amazing guy and very helpful and hospitable – he’ll take excellent care of you while you’re at Mikadi. Anyway, one evening he invited a group of us out and drove us down the road to Lulu’s, a local haunt. Oh. My. Goodness. WHAT a trip! Lulu’s is a bar, run by the most cheerful and friendly Mama Lulu, where locals perform (dancing, tricks, etc.) for tips. There were about 150 people in the audience, seven of them being white (our group), and we were treated to a bizarre show of dancing to traditional African tunes, a Michael Jackson impersonation and some serious shaking and grinding by the female dancers to attract, um, customers!

Graham told us that when there are white folks in the audience, the performers put on an extra good show, just in case one of us was a talent scout for some major phenomenon like American Idol or The X Factor. Not this time, I’m afraid, but Lulu’s will produce a star yet! We were encouraged to go up to the stage to give the performers a tip, but while doing so the tipper is supposed to do a little performance of his or her own…which I did! I pulled out a classic dance move that many of my contemporaries will be familiar with – the-hand-behind-head-grab-opposite-ankle-with-other-hand-and-bring-knee-and-elbow-together. (Enlighten me, dear readers, if there’s a name for this. I think one Mr. D. White might know…) Anyway, I got a MASSIVE round of applause. Trust me folks, I’m HUGE in Tanzania!

A couple of days later we set off from Mikadi Beach for the island of Zanzibar, where we were to meet my dear San Francisco friends Christine and Victor. It was an easy four-hour or so ferry ride across (it can be done in two, but we bought the cheap tickets) and Christine and Victor arrived in Stone Town from their safari trip later in the afternoon. It was AMAZING to see them – I feel so lucky to have friends who would make the effort to come all the way to see me!

Anyway, once we were all settled we went out for dinner at Mercury’s. Freddy Mercury was born on Zanzibar, and about ten places claim to be the house where he was born, though no one seems to know for certain! Afterward we had an early night as we got up early the next day for a spice tour of the island – something Zanzibar is famous for. The tour featured a bus trip with about 20 other people into a forest that we walked through seeing vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, etc. and tasting fresh fruit right off the trees – lychees, starfruit and oranges – delicious.

We then had a lunch of rice and vegetable coconut curry – again extremely yummy. (The food has been another amazing element to our journey overall – let’s just say I’m in not in QUITE as good physical shape as I was when I left…). After lunch we were taken to see a giant cave where slaves were held after slavery became illegal, but some naughty folks were still up to no good. The caves were right by a beautiful beach, and we were given some time to relax and take in the gorgeous scenery. Zanzibar is absolutely stunning – bright white sand and electric blue water. Another place to travel to NOT with your immediate family – it’s far too romantic for that!

After the tour we were dropped off in Stone Town where we went for a stroll and had a drink at the Africa House hotel bar, famous for its incredible sunset views. One drink became several and soon enough we were very peckish so we walked to the nearby seafood market (right up my alley, I know – there was some meat and veg fare, however!) and bargained for some delicious local food on sticks and things. Lovely for the tastebuds, again not so good for, ah, fitting into my clothes!

The next morning we were up early again to take a bus to Kendwa in the northwest of the island, where we had three more days of beach lounging planned. We stayed at a gorgeous place called Kendwa Breezes, where bro and I were lucky to share a giant canopy bed sprinkled with flowers. Like I said, DON’T go to Zanzibar with your brother! Sigh.

Regardless, we were right on the beach and Christine and Victor had carted loads of celebrity trash mags over from the States (my guilty pleasure, I admit), so I was in Kardashian/Hilton/Speidi heaven. We spent all of the next three days on the beach, interspersed with some lovely dinners and drinks out, and one particularly memorable evening when Joseph and I stayed out late tearing up the dance floor with the local Maasai warriors. Very amusing to see these guys in their robes and beads, massive spiked spear thing in one hand, a beer in the other.

After five days with Christine and Victor, I was absolutely distraught to see them leave and sobbed my little eyes out when we saw them off at the airport. It was such a treat to get a little taste of home! After saying goodbye, bro and I spent the rest of the day in Stone Town, shopping for souvenirs and things, before getting back on a ferry to Dar Es Salaam. This time we were on the fast ferry – good thing, as we had heard it could be choppy and I got HORRIBLY sea sick. What a nightmare – I haven’t felt that rubbish in a while. Luckily we had booked a decent place to stay (Safari Inn, very good value) in Dar for our last night before heading to South Africa, so I was able to sleep it off.

So, all in all, though I didn’t see THAT much of Tanzania overall, what I did get to experience was absolutely fantastic and I’ll be back for Kili time* sooner rather than later, no doubt. (Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular local Tanzanian beers. It’s slogan is “It’s Kili time! Make the most of it!” It was “Kili time” regularly during our stay in the country, and we DEFINITELY made the most of it!)

As Rafiki most famously said in The Lion King, “Asante sana, squash banana!”

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