Masai dude: “I would like to live in Norway. Is it sun there?”
Me: “Oh, my sweet summer child…”
Just to start off: How awesome do I look in that feature image? I look like I’ve been partying for six months on a mixture of vodka and painkillers trying to mask the failure that is my life…
Luckily, I was just in a bit of pain at that point (hey, it’s all about perspective!), having tried my hardest to rip my foot clean off getting out of a taxi at the ferry terminal. I’m glad I was there with Dom, Juliet, Panos and Mingnuel (yes, that’s his name from now on, guys), they made everything super easy for me ❤
So, over the course of about a month I’ve been to Stone Town three times. The first time I arrived on the ferry with my Germans and we went straight to the dalla dalla station heading for Kiwengwa. Like I said I had just sprained my ankle really badly getting out of the taxi, sidestepping the curb that wasn’t there and firmly planting myself in the concrete ditch… (It bears mentioning that none of the Germans managed to faceplant, so yeah… Once again, all hail my elegance…)
Anywho, the others fixed everything while I lay down on the ferry terminal floor like a suffering hospital patient and in the end we got on the ferry for our two hour trip to Stone Town. I’m specifically mentioning this because 1) I am garnering more sympathy for my near fatal injury(!!1) and 2) I really enjoyed my time with these guys so any excuse to put them in my blog is a good one 😉
Now, the security procedure into Zanzibar surprised me a bit. I thought I had understood the “semi-autonomous island”-thing, but clearly they take it a tad more seriously than I had imagined. You get off the ferry, fill out an entry form just as if you’re entering a new country, they stamp your passport and you send your stuff through x-ray (HIDE THE LOOT!!)
None of us had chosen to smuggle heroin on that particular day so we all made it through after waiting in line for what I felt was ages, (but my foot was hurting and I was feeling a little sh*t to be honest, so it was probably pretty quick).
We walked all the way to the dalla dalla station, which actually helped my foot. I’m guessing it had gone slightly stiff on the ferry and needed some movement. I caught that we were getting on the “117” and was wondering if Zanzibar’s minibuses would be OK or if they would be like the “Murderbus Express” the girls and I took in Malawi. Little gambles like that is what makes travel fun, people!
The question of “Am I actually dying in a fiery hellball of fuel with these guys today or are we getting to where we are going unscathed”?
Our little “117” finally came trotting along and the “conductor” took one look at us and deemed the price to be five times what the locals pay – because why not, right? I’m not gonna lie, this thing gets a bit annoying after you’ve travelled in Africa for a while… But we paid, got in and poor Mingnuel served as my foot rest for an hour (thanks, man <3).
These minibuses though… I can’t get over it. They keep repeating the word “capacity”, like “it’s capacity”. They have no concept of actual capacity here, guys. “This bus takes 15? OK, we have 21 people. It’s fine. It’s capacity. Thumbsup!”
I think they mistake the word “capacity” for “cramped to the point of turning people suicidal”, but I guess “capacity” rolls off the tongue better…
To make the longest story in history a bit shorter, we completely went past my stop because the conductor didn’t speak English and assumed all the mzungus were going to the same place so after I said goodbye to the guys at Bush Baby I went with the dalla dalla and got dropped off at some other beach lodge, where I angrily told the guy that when you book at “Kiwengwa Beach Hotel” you don’t automatically get a room at any hotel that happens to have “Beach” in its name 😛 So after a slight detour they finally dropped me off at my stop and I limped my pathetic way into the hearts of Ludmila and JV who took excellent care of me and my foot for three weeks ❤
My second visit to Stone Town was about 10 days later when Sabine (another German) and I went there for a day trip. Sabine kept saying “I need adventure!” so she wanted to get the dalla dalla into town, but after waiting in vain a good while she negotiated a price with a local instead (just us as passengers and it was the same price we paid for our first dalla dalla out to Kiwengwa, yeah…)
I told Sabine I had taken the dalla dalla to Kiwengwa my first day so I was now a professional and worthy of complete trust in such matters. I would get us on the correct dalla dalla back home, no problem. (This is not a foreshadowing text, guys, we actually got on the right dalla dalla, I paid half of what I paid the first time and we made it back just fine) #FixedPrice #NotSoMuch
Sabine had already been to the slave market so on my own I went through a depressing, but important tour, getting into all the death, disease, suffering and subsequent abolishment of slavery. The museum is very well done, there’s a lot to read, but it’s nowhere near as “wordy” as the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg so you can easily get through without spending a whole day. As an added “bonus” (if you can call it that) you get to go down to the basement and see the cells where the slaves were kept before being sold off… Superfun! Yeah, that was sarcasm, guys, it was absolutely awful. Dark, crowded, cramped… (I’d put a joke about the dalla dallas here, but even I can’t make that work this time). There’s no way any of us can imagine what that was like, but I think we can conclude it was somewhere south of Hell.
After I got out of there I checked out the Anglican Church right next to the museum, Sabine had told me “everyzing is wrong in ze church…” and she was right ;-D The baptism fountain is right inside the door, not up by the altar. The marble columns inside are the wrong way around (top is bottom) and it just looks kind of funky. But it’s a cool place to see if you are a bit of a geek like me. I’m not religious in any way, shape or form, but I really like the buildings (churches, cathedrals, monasteries etc). Craftsmanship. I also found it cool that the church is right next to a mosque. Faith in humanity a tiny bit restored 🙂
Sabine and I walked through the streets of Stone Town randomly viewing shops and sights. We saw the building where Freddie Mercury was born and I had to once again marvel at Zanzibar’s claim to the singer. He was born there and moved between India and Zanzibar quite a lot when he was a child, but in before even he was fully grown the family settled in England and as far as I can tell Freddie Mercury fully embraced his new homeland. I read an article written by a female traveler noting the slight hypocrisy of Zanzibar laying claim to Mercury while not exactly embracing everything he stood FOR (gay rights, liberalism, gender equality, etc)… It was an interesting piece, I’ll try to find it when I have internet (I’m in Africa, guys, I’m totally writing this offline).
After “Mercury House” we went to Maru Maru to have coffee/tea on the roof terasse and I FOUND GOOD ICE CREAM! Yes, it was that big of a deal. Trust me. Africa no know ice cream, people!
Anyway: Stone Town can be very charming if you can navigate through all the tour guides, stalls, shops, street vendors selling anything and everything and the restaurants/eateries wanting customers. Every now and then you’ll come across a Masai wanting to have a three hour conversation as well… Mostly they just want a cultural exchange, but don’t be surprised if, after talking about random stuff for 15 minutes he wants to sell you something *lol* (And if you’re female they will wonder where your husband is and why you’re traveling alone… I try not to get too offended by this, which always works unless they get downright unpleasant. But that nearly never happens).
We meandered along through the streets to find the Old Fort, which now is just an old fortress wall surrounding even more salespeople. If you need souvenirs it’s another good place to go look for them, they have a lot of beautiful paintings and some awesome woodcarvings. I bought a little stone box for my godson, Erik, here. When you open it a little stone snake slithers out. It was pretty cool 🙂
Also. In Stone Town you can see fish. Lots of fish. Weird fish, normal fish. Technicolored fish. White fish. Mostly dead fish. And some squid. (And also: other stuffz!) Seriously, just like everywhere else in Stone Town, you can get almost anything at the markets ;-D
I was so proud, I spent a whole day in Stone Town and only bought one souvenir. And it wasn’t even for myself! HaHA! Granted, I saw a wooden chest with a secret compartment that I wanted to buy as well, but you know what? I ended up letting it go. Cause I’m just that good… (or at least I’m that good until the next time I got to Stone Town and bought two paintings and a bracelet, but hey…) (The gift I bought was a stone box you can open and when you do a snake’s head (also stone of course) pops out. I bought it for my godson, Erik, he was thrilled) 😉
So yeah. Third time’s the charm! I left Kiwengwa with a hotel booking and high spirits. I was gonna find my little hotel (how hard could it be, right?) and then I was gonna find the Norwegian Consulate to hand in my vote for this term’s election (how hard could it be, right?) #Woop!
My driver and I spent 25 minutes finding the hotel from where google maps said it was. Stone Town has some small *ss streets, guys. It’s like a maze, no joke. But, I have to admit, even though it induces severe frustration it is also part of the inevitable charm of Stone Town. I spent four days there this time and I still got lost. Every. Damn. Time.
(Then again, I can’t step out of a taxi without maiming myself, so I should probably just shut up).
I had planned to be in Nairobi at this point so I had contacted the embassy there planning to show up and turn in my vote, but after what is now affectionately called “The Ankle Incident” I extended my time in Zanzibar to the point where I had to find some way to do it in Tanzania. Imagine my surprise when I googled it and found Norway as a (tiny) consulate IN Zanzibar! Fabulous feelings of relief ensued. I contacted the ambassador on Twitter (lol!) to let her know I wanted to vote and after spending an inordinate amount of time searching for the tiny, tiny house (with massive coats of arms on the front) I stepped inside and finished voting in about 23 seconds. I got to speak Norwegian with someone other than my family for the first time in forever. It’s strange, but that feels increasingly weird the longer I’m gone. I don’t know why… Psychologists, debate.
It just dawned on me that this might be one of the most boring posts ever on this blog…
“I went to Tanzania, met some cool people on a not-so-cool train, sprained my ankle, voted and waited for my tour group. Don’t you wish you had my life?”
Well, I finally made it to Nairobi. I’ve been to the Serengeti and that post will be better, faster and moar. I promise. Cause I saw two leopards. Two. Leopards. I just need a few years to sort through the pictures and videos 😛
Queue random pics of Stone Town to end this thrilling tale of a Norwegian Invalid traveling: