Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Ferry Tale: Our quick vacation to Zanzibar

Poor Ben has been stuck in Dar even longer than the rest of us, and I suspect spending too much time here could make you lose your mind (and give you the lungs of a life-long smoker).
So making the most of a bad situation (and since the immigration office wouldn’t open again until Monday anyway), we all jumped at his suggestion to abandon the big city and head off to Zanzibar for the weekend. After securing our tickets, we were soon enjoying the breezy shade from the top deck on the M/V Kilimanjaro II and living large.
A couple of blissful hours later, we were docking in Stone Town.
 (The tame (?) vervet monkey contemplates just what might be in all those shipping containers…)
Back in the day, Stone Town was a thriving and very active slave trading port, and (minus the slavery, of course) I wish I could have seen it in its heyday, pristine and majestic instead of crumbling and dirty. But the remnants are all still there and an active imagination can fill in the blanks.
We made our way through the labyrinth of narrow streets, dodging guys on motorcycles and bikes, stepping around kids playing marbles, and attempting to avoid the GIANT spiders precariously anchored to trees and neglected alleys.  We took in the elaborately carved mahogany doors, and I bought a very fabulous hat. 
 One of my absolute favorite things to do in the developing world is visit the markets, and my major objective on Zanzibar was to stock up on spices (they’re grown on the island!).
Plus I really like to haggle.
I got my spices, but other (possibly more interesting) things were for sale as well. I’m still a little haunted by the sight of a decapitated cow’s head (missing the skin on its forehead, tongue hanging out of a gaping mouth) that met me as we accidentally wandered into the meat market.
(No picture. You’re welcome.)

(A fisherman uses a lantern to search for fish from the nearshore at dusk. photo by Lesley Kim)
I don’t love the transport options in the third world, but they generally make for the best memories. Our destination was Jozani National Park via a…daladala I guess? It was more like an open-backed truck with a hard roof that would comfortably (‘merican-style) fit 12. At our last count, we were 29 (excluding babies and bags of rice), and while I’ve travelled in many vehicles I’d consider full, I don’t think that concept exists in Africa (there is ALWAYS room for one more…)
But alas, I digress.
The point of going to the park was to see these guys!
They’re endangered red colobus monkeys, and we got to sit and observe while our trusty guide told us about the medicinal properties of random trees growing in the forest. Trees (or more specifically the roots, leaves, or bark), can cure anything from dizziness to the hiccups to impotence (it turns out). 

(photo by Lesley Kim)
The ride back to Dar wasn’t quite as idyllic and actually brought back a lot of bad memories from my fisheries observer days. Instead of the open air, we were shuttled into a hot, cramped room where fresh air went to die. The waves got pretty big for the Sea Express, and soon the sound of loud retching filled the air. One poor man collapsed in the aisle, spilling his little plastic bag of vomit onto the less-than-thrilled passengers of the middle row.
At least Commando was on the satellite feed (that’s thick sarcasm, readers). The only other time I’ve seen that movie was in Zambia (Africans love the Arnold, apparently).
It was nice to be on land again.

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