Tanzania holiday post part 2…
I finally met up with Natalie at the ferry port in Stone Town on Saturday afternoon. She had two friends with her, Arina and Jacob. They had all travelled from Zambia on the TAZARA Railway – something I would like to do one day. I hadn’t seen Natalie since our VSO SKWID training back in August! So it was nice to see her again.
Introductions to Arina and Jabob made, we wasted no time in getting out of the scorching sun and into a taxi to go to Nungwi, north of Zanzibar. Since we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, we checked out a couple of places before settling into the Jambo Brothers lodge. It was no more than 100 metres from the sea and was nice and inexpensive… after significant haggling of course! Haggling is a must-do in Tanzania for any goods or service that doesn’t have a fixed priced menu. It can get very tiring sometimes when all you want is a taxi ride home but have to negotiate the price from a ridiculously high to just a fair amount!
We had a few stunning days in Nungwi. Lounging, swimming, reading, eating… and learning to do somersaults(?)!
The highlight of Nungwi was going snorkelling off Mnemba Island. We had a really fun day out. Sail boat trip out in the morning. An hour or so of snorkelling seeing lots of fish; but no Nemo unfortunately 😦 Freshly cooked tuna and rice for lunch on the whitest and sandiest beach I’ve seen. Equally stunning scenery on the boat trip back. Thumbs up for 15 USD!
We then went down to the East coast town of Paje. Where the entourage of Natalie’s friends from Zambia arrived and met up with us. We spent a very rowdy British/American/Canadian Christmas together. We were all staying at Mustapha’s Place and met some (crazy) guys who call themselves the Daring Dynamos. They’ve cycled all the way from England, raising money for War Child!
For me, the highlight of Paje was Worm School! I think we were talking about party tricks or something and Natalie said she’d like to learn. So I began teaching her. I’m not sure I can repeat Michelle’s throwaway comment which had us in fits of laughter but it was memorable to say the least!
After almost a week in Paje where we did more lounging, swimming reading and eating, we all moved on to Stone Town. Different activities this time. I think we all had enough of the sea by this point! So it was mainly exploring the maze of the closely packed buildings and alleyways on foot. Some went shopping, some wanted spa treatments or sight seeing. So we mostly split up during the day and met back up for dinner.
We were sitting in the Livingstone bar/restaurant one evening and my jaw dropped at a serious instance of serendity. Tara, another VSO volunteer but based in Rwanda, just casually strolled to the table next to ours with her parents. Nat and I were on the same SKWID course as Tara! So once we got over the shock of such a coincidence, we combined tables and caught up with what’s been happening in our countries.
We met up again for New Year’s Eve and had a great time eating and dancing at the Tatu bar/restaurant, then Livingstone, then back to Tatu again. The New Year celebrations themselves got off to a slightly shaky start with the DJ neglecting to turn the music off (or even down) for the countdown. And everyone’s clocks were different so there were several different countdowns. However, I insist that ours was the loudest and therefore correct! All in all, it was a fun night!
Our stay in Zanzibar drew to a close soon after the New Year and the group went separate ways. Nat and I went back to Dar to plan our journeys back to Lusaka and Lilongwe respectively. We had to buy our tickets etc. which was no easy task in the chaos of Dar. As a treat, we went to the Quality Mall one evening. After considering a bucket of fried chicken for dinner. The price of which was the same as my coach ticket back to Lilongwe (1500 kilometres away)! We had a pretty average pizza, which wasn’t even close to “Mr Incredible Jumping Position’s Zanzibar Pitza”! And watched the Life of Pi in a very nice but also very cold cinema.
With that, our awesome holiday was almost over. We just had to endure our epic journeys back to Lusaka and Lilongwe. Nat was rejoined by Arina and Jacob, and they headed off on the TAZARA again. I was booked on the bus to leave at 4 am the next day. So the very nice people at the Econo Lodge let me kip on their reception couch AGAIN!
I had arranged to get a taxi to take me to Kariakoo, where the bus was leaving from. It’s only 10 minutes walk but is in a bad part of town. So the owner of the Econo Lodge, Ashad, recommended I get a taxi. Which I had booked. However, he failed to show up! I also slept in and only woke at 3:50! Mad scramble to get all my stuff together and into a different taxi, which was thankfully available outside the lodge. Rushed to Kariakoo and jumped straight on to the bus which actually started to leave.
Another 24 hours of travelling ensued. But thankfully, I wasn’t ill this time and knew roughly what to expect. I even managed to get some hot food (“chips malai” = chips omlette) at one of the infrequent stops.
Near Iringa, well before the actual border with Malawi and Zambia, an immigration officer came on board and inspected everyone’s passports and travel documents. It was here where I witnessed an unpleasant act. For reasons unknown to me at the time, the officer began beating this one male passenger. The slapping started from inside the coach and continued until they were both inside a hut near where we had stopped. Several minutes later, the passenger came back on board and the coach moved on. I subsequently heard that the beating started because the passenger was being “uncooperative”. In any case, it was rather shocking to see such barbarianism in action.
Eventually, we arrived at the border town of Kasumulu. The coach parked up (on the road) and we stayed overnight. Again, no communication from the coach staff. Luckily, my neighbour on the coach knew roughly what was happening and explained it me. We had to wait until border control opened in the morning. The border opened at around 8 am and we had to walk to the border this time instead of staying on the bus like we did coming from Malawi. We were processed in decent time and I found out we had to walk across the demarcation zone and actual border itself.
It was here where I witness another shock moment. I was walking with a Malawian who was also returning. After being processed and having our documents stamped by immigration, we were both stopped at the border bridge by a plain clothed immigration officer, who inspected our documents again. My passport was fine but my fellow traveller knew what he had to do… and after a very brief conversation which I didn’t understand, he went into his pocket and took out some cash and passed them across. With that we were allowed to cross the bridge!
The border bridge itself was full of parked up trucks and the odd person loitering. As we were walking across, my friend told me to walk quickly in the middle of the road and hold on tightly to my belongings. He explained later that it’s been known of bag snatchers here. Presumably preying on the victim not being able to return to either side of the demarcation zone. Not really a pleasant thought or experience.
I officially re-entered Malawi without issues. Once I figured out which office and queue to attend! There were no instructions on display unfortunately. I then found out the coach had to remain at the border for the whole day! Apparently, this is normal procedure to have every piece of luggage and cargo inspected. So that any duty is paid on any commercial goods.
This is where I really lucked in. While hanging around at the border, I met a very nice chap who was taking his imported car back to Zambia, via Malawi. He was a great guy and offered me a lift to Kasungu, which I gratefully accepted! My house-mate Robin then kindly drove 2 hours to come take me home to Lilongwe. I was shattered by the time we got home.
So, the reason why I haven’t posted about this series of misadventures earlier was because soon after getting home, I fell ill with malaria! I was treated at the VSO designated clinic and got over the actual malaria pretty quickly with quinine. However, finishing the full course of antibiotics (ciprofloxacin) was not so easy. It basically made me feel like vomiting all day. So I wasn’t able to eat and had no energy for just over a week.
Consequently, I lost several kilograms. According to David, another VSO volunteer, I looked like a malnourished Chinese refugee at the time. Thanks mate!