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Archive for november, 1998

Prison island (and a few giant tortoises)

november 30th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 30.11.1998

Prison Island (Changuu) is the most popular island to visit from Stone Town as it is only a short boat ride (about 10 minutes) away from town. Actually, everybody seems to visit this island… The island was in the 19th century owned by an Arab who used it, as the sign says, for housing “recalcitrant slaves”. Basically, unruly slaves were to the island for discipline. Later it was owned by a British General who actually built a prison and it was used it as a quarantine station.

The island offers the largest tortoises we have ever seen, and visitors can take a walk around the island sightseeing the old prisons and various other historical artifacts. That is it… I must say i was a bit disappointed. OK, giant turtles were quite intriguing (they were brought to the island around 100 years ago!!!), but otherwise… So, after a short walk around the island we hit the beach. It was said, that this was one of the best beaches on this side of Zanzibar… well… it could be good, but there was one big problem… the temperature of the sea was just right, water blue, but… we were soon bitten by many jelly fishes… eh, every paradise has a problem…


Karibu Zanzibar, the island of spices

november 29th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 29.11.1998

Let’s go to Zanzibar… All I ever knew before is, that is an island faaaaar away with sexy name… Oh, and beside that, Freddie Mercury (Queen) was born there…

So, the our boat was already waiting for us… At first, I was thinking to go with a dhow, but as this is supposedly illegal and as it takes too long (just a few weeks before i saw Michael Palin travelling from Dubai to Mumbai on a dhow), we kinda agreed on something a bit faster… actually, we bought tickets a fast boat, Flying Horse, for 30US$… (two ways). Actually, this was quite expensive, especially compared to what the locals pay… but ok, i will earn (someday in the future – hopefully) much more money than them… 2 and a half hour trip is quite uneventful. Ok, you can feel when we hit deeper waters, as the waves became bigger and bigger, but that was it… To keep us awake and not bored, a movie “Jungle Book” was on… but it didn’t do the trick 🙂

Funny, but when you arrive on Zanzibar, you have to do again border formalities… (at first we just walked through, and only after 5 minutes of walking, we were turned back). Actually, Tanzania is almost artifical form. Its an union of Tanganyika (mainland) and of Zanzibar (though don’t ask me whether Pemba or Mafia Island fall under Zanzibar or Tanganyka). But the border is straightforward, they just check whether you have a valid Tanzania visa and give you a stamp (and they check yellow fewer certificate). Unofficially i heard, that this border control is to restrict poor from the mainland massively going to the relatively reach island…

Remember our friend John from Arusha? Yep, he was there with us.. and he immediately offered us a hotel… Narrow street hotel. We checked it, it was great, almost luxurious after spending last 10 days in holes or tents… Two rooms and nice cold aircon device, though it was a bit on a pricy side – 20US$. Quickly i opened the Lonely planet and picked another recommended guesthouse… and guess what? Yes, it was cheaper with 15US$, but luxury devices, as fridge, TV made us splunge into the narrow street for extra 5 US$… (actually, it was not a bad decision to go with that John – he really bargained us a good price – a tout from the street quoted the price 30US$, while in the hotel said 25US$).

And we really liked the atmosphere of Stone town, so we decided to stay here for a few days… Yep, Foradhani Gardens was our open-air restaurant with cooked seafood right in centre of Stone town on the waterfront. Though gardens are not much during the day, but in early evening they just sprawl with activity…

A few next days will be busy… 🙂

Back on Video Coach express… this time without video…

november 28th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 28.11.1998

Last night it was raining, so Arusha transformed into Finland – a land of thousand lakes (well, all the potholes were full of water). It was an early start, as this time we decided not to make again a mistake of starting late – so, departure was around 6:30 🙂

This time we got an extra baggage… a guy, presumably one of the owners of the safari agency that we went with, is also going with us to Zanzibar… some “business” to do… lets call him John (or was he David??). Thats OK, as he arranged us a bus tickets, and they were of quite lower price than the other way around… OK, bus was… well… different from our first Coach. First of all, there were much more sits in the bus (5 seats in a row), and secondly… there was no TV, despite the name Video Coach… 🙂

Funny, but i guess the sits in the front row are reserved for mzungus. So, we got another mzunga for companion for the next 8-9 hours… And that was OK, as she was quite interesting, a stewardes from Switzerland travelling around Africa – alone… This time i felt much better, as people were not so much staring at us. I guess, after almost 10 days in Tanzania we also got a bit “adjusted”…

Trip itself was uneventful. No puncture, nothing really special… Of course, this wouldn’t be Africa unless… There was a woman sitting infront of us (dare I say, “big momma”). Apparently going on some kind of business or just visiting family in Dar. And she had a HUGE bag… Full of roasted fish… and she was constatly eating them, and at the end we smelt like rotten fish 🙂

But that was not annoying, just funny… Annoying was entertainment. On a way to Arusha we were watching either film, either music videos… This time we got music… Volume was turned to the max, and loudspeakers were really under pressure… Problem was, that there was ONLY one cassette, and that it was playing whole 9 hours… So, ladies and gentlemen… let me present… BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS…

Damn… i stopped listening reagge after that bus ride… Interesting was, that people will still singing the song… even when the cassette played for the 10th time…

We arrived to Dar just before darkness… Again Jumbo Inn, and a short walk around Dar… but not too much… we decided to go directly to Zanzibar, and maybe do some serious exploring in the last days of our trip…

A first time on safari…

november 27th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 22-24.11.1998

Lets go to safari. The car came for us in time. Driver was only like 10 minutes late and that was excellent in »african« time… Jeep was quite big, made for 4 tourists including the driver, cook and a guide… Well… there were 6 of us, so, we had to squeeze a bit. Other 4 tourists consisted a couple from UK (he did some voluntary work for a few months in a village near Moshi) and two girls from Denmark (quite annoying, but they had an interesting gadget, a digital camera!!!).

Some kilometers from Arusha roads suddenly became gravel, and soon it was time to turn towards the national parks (if we continued on that road we would come to the western part of Tanzania, quite many hours later). On »safari« highway we passed many small villages, Lake Manyara, and some of the most unbelievable »moon« scenery…

Serengeti…
Sometime in early afternoon we finally came to the big plains of Serengeti… On a way towards our camp we saw many zebras, giraffes, and plenty of other animals that i really don’t know name of… We even saw a few lions and a cheetah family resting in a shade… Nice…

»Serengeti highway« was incredible… in bad condition, but still, some really speed through it… And our jeep was flying and madly bouncing, and we were just holding for our life inside… Almost all cars are 4WD vehicles, with empasis on jeeps… so, seeing a Mercedes limousine was a surprise… What was not surprising was the fact that it broke down 

Safari trips include several »game drives«. The point is, that you see big 5.

That means, you sit in the car and try to see as many animals as possible, with a special emphasis. A lot depends on your guide, cause those guys have an incredible vision!!! Usually the best drives, and the game is the most active, early in the morning and late in the afternoon… During the heat of the day, all animals try to hide in the shade, and there is little possibility to see any hunting… Actually, did I mention heat before? It was really hot, though different, more dry, heat from Dar.

We went on a budget safari and that meant camping… setting your own tent, while all food and drinks is included in the package (ok, you have to bring your own water, and there was no possibility to buy either beer, water or anything else – the last possible place to buy water was at the Serengeti National Park entry gate). We were taken to a camp somewhere in the middle of Serengeti, I have completely no idea where we were… far away from civilization for sure, as the night was really full of shiny stars (and there was no light pollution anywhere close). The camp itself didn’t have any fence, so, this was not the most reassuring thing. But, it should have guards awake (and i stress AWAKE) during the night… Tent was funny… well… a bit on a small side, for two tall guys… but ok, we at least won’t be cold during the night… The night? Well… interesting one… actually, excitement started only then… First of all, all the tents were around a small campfire, where cooks were preparing the food (there were in total some 10-12 tents around). And then we went to sleep… a few minutes later our »guards« went asleep as well… Then the fun started… First came baboons, then hyenas… And they were all trying to get remains of our dinner, which were thrown on the fire (!!!??!). So, the animals started fighting, and were making the most impossible sounds… When they were not fighting you could hear bones crushing sounds… And hyenas… they are just like huge dogs… and as there was no fence, they were passing a few centimeters away from our tents… all that meant an unforgettable show that kept us scared and awake whole night… I shouldn’t forget our guards, guides, drivers, cooks… they were all sweetly sleeping, probably that was like a lullaby for them…

Arusha wilderness…

november 27th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 27.11.1998

We came late night back to Arusha… so, we have some for planning our future trip. Let’s climb Kilimanjaro… 🙂 Cool, lets do it… And it hit us… well, guys… basically, you cannot afford it… it costs 500US$+ for just a few days, and you already spent almost half of your budget in the first week… damn… what a disappointment, no Kilimanjaro… Mount Meru is cheaper and lower, but the weather isn’t favorable, and we are a bit not interested to stay in Arusha for a few more days…

What about trip to the west, towards central Tanzania and Lake Victoria… not a bad idea, but we were put of by reports of extremely bad roads and 24 hours trip on a bus… We were even thinking about going to Usumbara mountains, but at the end we reached no decision… So, it was a time for another Kilimanjaro beer and a strange, but tasty pizza in the restaurant just across the road…

At least we had a chance of a tour around Arusha… we weren’t staying in the best part, its kinda doggy, there near the stadium. But we liked it. And the guesthouse was quite lively, lots of foreigners, though encounters with them were brief. Honestly said, Arusha isn’t the place to go sightseeing for a week. Streets are in terrible disrepair and some potholes are bigger than cars… and after rainy day, Arusha transfers from dusty to muddy… At least they had a nice market, where we got loads of fresh fruit and some souvenirs…

Then, we decided to do some trekking around Arusha, towards Mount Meru… We desperately wanted to see Tammy falls (as recommended to us by a friend from airport), but locals weren’t too anxious to take us there… they were mentioning military, ransom, danger, … so, still don’t know what is so special by these falls and why it was dangerous to go there… So, we agreed a day trekking with a local guy, to some native villages, waterfalls…

I was surprised. Just a few minutes from the guesthouse, we were in completely different environment… small houses, african cows and smiling children and fabulous landscape… What a contrast to Arusha, now i could imagine how people can stay in Arusha for more days… We started venturing into the forest, and so close to the town you could already observe columbus monkey in the trees… Great landscape, passing different villages, house and people doing the ordinary business (i guess they weren’t used on seeing mzungu there, as that day trip wasn’t on itinerary of big agencies…). After a few hours we came approached some men, who were, deep in the forest, cooking their own “fire water” – i guess that was a bit on a illegal side. Funny guys, i guess that was for their entertainment and of course profit. Well, drink really tasted like fire… and probably it burned away my liver… they were drinking it pure in large quantities, but i would prefer mixing it with a lot of water or juice… Adi was more daring tasting it, and he almost regretted it 🙂

After a few hours we arrived to a small village… interesting stuff… apparently our young guide will marry a girl from this village… but unfortunately he doesn’t have enough money, yet, to buy a few cows to get her… From there we hitch a ride on a pickup… well, the pickup was so full, that it eventually broke up… sooooo… we had to push it… hehehe… fortunately after a couple hundred meters the road went downhill, so we all jumped on… just… I didn’t even think whether the brakes work???!!! Apparently brakes worked…