A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

We left Ibo Island with Oscar and Alexandra and headed for the Tanzania border. We spent three long days driving to Dar es Salaam on mostly dirt roads. On our drive, we drove by a school soccer game right as a goal was scored. The students went crazy and charged the field in excitement. Given the enthusiasm, we decided to stop and watch. It was great fun and we were welcomed by two local teachers. We turned out to be an even bigger spectacle than the game itself. We were surrounded by children the whole time who watched us more than the game. I even found a small boy sporting a football jersey from Clemson University, my alma mater, so I had to take a photo.
IMG_6627.jpg The road from Mozambique to Tanzania
IMG_6646.jpg The boy with the Clemson jersey...he was so shy it took me forever to get this photo
IMG_6647.jpg The soccer match (some kids were playing without shoes)
IMG_6673.jpg The trusty car- Jeff calls it the Swiss army knife because it has everything you could need (fridge, water supply, extra gas tank, it's amazing!
Dar es Salaam was our first exposure to a noticeably different African culture - Swahili Africa – a melting pot of Africans, Indians, and people from the Middle East. The city is also largely Muslim. Given the large Indian population, we were excited to eat food other than fried chicken and chips (fries). We ate so much butter chicken and Naan that we had to be rolled out of the Indian restaurant . . . two nights in a row. Dar es Salaam was mainly a stopover on our way to Zanzibar, but it also provided an opportunity for Jeff to get a haircut and for us to resupply (including buying contact solution, which has been surprisingly hard to find). Most importantly though, we had hot water showers at our hostel – amazing – and were able to watch a movie in the theater, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (so so).
IMG_6675.jpg Downtown Dar es Salaam
IMG_6686.jpg Grabbing a tuk-tuk to the movies
IMG_6694.jpg A sign in our hotel in Dar (thank God they let me in :))
After two days in Dar es Salam, we took a ferry to the island of Zanzibar. You almost want to say it in a whisper…”Zanzibar”. Many travelers have spoken highly of Zanzibar, so we were really excited to get there. It definitely lives up to the hype. I don’t know if it made international news or not, but there was a large Zanzibar ferry accident the day before we left for the island killing about 200 people. We actually found out about the accident sitting on the ferry. A local passenger was reading an English language newspaper in front of us with the front page heading: “Ferry Accident Claims 208 People…” Needless to say, some of the locals appeared nervous.
IMG_6738.jpg The view from the ferry into Zanzibar
Zanzibar is a larger island, so we divided our time between the old city of Stone Town and the beach. Stone Town is made up of narrow alleys running every which way, making it very easy to get lost. Our map was basically Jeff’s compass on his watch that kept us going mainly in the right direction. It is the commercial center and heart of the island. We basically just wandered around town and watched life unfold. Many of Stone Town’s residents are conservative Muslims (a lot of burkas) and contrast sharply with the Western tourist population visiting the island. One of my favorite stops was the night market where we were able to sample local food including mishikaki (marinated meat kebabs) and sugar cane juice. Of course, Jeff loved the grilled meat and I thought the juice was to die for; I only wish I could find more!
IMG_6754.jpg An alleyway in Stone Town
IMG_6769.jpg A view from the top of one of the museums
IMG_6812.jpg Market in Stone Town
IMG_6849.jpg Ahh, a nice coconut drink :)
After getting our fill of Stone Town, we headed for the northern beaches and participated in a spice tour en route. For centuries, Zanzibar was a key stop on the trading routes between Europe and the Far East and spices were one of the main products passing through Zanzibar. The spice tour was by far the most touristy thing we’ve done in a while. Spice tours take tourists through plantations on the island were spices are now grown. On our tour, we met an Australian couple who were in their 70’s and still travelling. I was very impressed. After the spice tour, we spent two nights in Kendwa enjoying Zanzibar’s legendary beaches. The sand is sugar white and the ocean transparent blue- it doesn’t suck here that’s for sure :) We parked ourselves on the beach for a full day and just relaxed.
IMG_6863.jpg Guide showing us a spice fruit
IMG_6883.jpg Jeff and Oscar with their leaf ties appearing dapper
IMG_6905.jpg An old cave where the Arabs used to hold slaves before they were sent abroad
IMG_6943.jpg Jeff relaxing at the beach
IMG_6966.jpg The water was paradise!
We had a great time on Zanzibar. My only complaint is that we didn’t spend more time at the beach. Early on the fifth day, we temporarily parted ways with Oscar and Alexandra and headed for Moshi, Tanzania. We are planning to meet back up to go on safari through Serengeti National Park and the Ngorgoro Crater in about ten days. In the mean time, we are going to try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. We’ll write after we’ve hopefully (keep your fingers crossed) summitted the mountain!

Posted by geldere 21:40 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Off The Beaten Path: Mozambique II

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

Our journey to the town of Pemba was one of our more interesting experiences. Public transportation in Mozambique leaves extremely early, 3, 4, 5am, etc. Before the sun rose, we took a matola (pickup truck) for two-hours to a big intersection with the hope of catching a passing bus heading north to Pemba. The bus was supposed to pass the intersection around 7am… Well, for one reason or another, we missed the bus. With no other known option, we decided to wait at the intersection with the hope of finding other onward transportation to Pemba… We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Nothing showed and for four hours we stood in the blazing African sun. We were frequently surrounded by curious children who gathered whenever we applied sunscreen - a totally foreign concept to them. When I pointed to the sun and my skin, it dawned on them that we weren’t just applying lotion randomly. We were about to throw in the towel when one of the locals flagged down a petrol truck for us on its way to Pemba. In classic African style, we fit three people in two seats and headed north. Thankfully, at least, we knew we wouldn’t run out of gas!
Our initial plan was to sleep in Pemba for one night and then head to Ibo Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago the next day, but, after our journey to Pemba, we were totally exhausted, so we decided to spend a day enjoying the beach and hostel. The hostel boasted a ton of free activities, including archery and kayaking, so of course, Jeff did them all. We were under the impression that getting to Ibo would be complicated, so we asked around for advice and, as luck would have it, met a very nice woman who lives on Ibo and would be returning to Ibo the same day we wanted to travel. She was even willing to give us a ride in her car to the dock and a lift on her boat. Fantastic timing! So, the next morning, we drove with Lucy on badly maintained dirt roads to the dock and then boarded her crewed, motorized dhow. It was a lovely boat ride (calm, blue sea, mangroves, birds, etc., remarkably similar to Florida) and once we arrived on the island, Lucy offered us a room in her house for a few days and we took her up on it :).
IMG_6156.jpg Relaxing in Pemba
IMG_6200.jpg Pemba at sunset
IMG_6218.jpg Jeff on the Dhow crossing to the island
Ibo is similar to Mozambique Island in that its heyday was back during Portuguese occupation and not much has changed since they left. Most of the buildings were again now in ruin. We spent our time on Ibo walking around the island, viewing the old Portuguese forts, and visiting Christian, Muslim and Hindu cemeteries. We also took a guided day trip to the nearby island of Karimba (highly recommended by Lucy). Our boat rode to Karimba weaved through the mangroves and we spent our day on the beach collecting amazing seashells, walking through the village like the pied piper with a gaggle of children behind us, and having lunch at a local restaurant near the beach. The color of the water was fantastic - it was a turquoise blue and continued to get even more beautiful as the tide went out. Because the tide levels vary dramatically here, the water almost empties out completely and a land bridge is created from island to island. So, in the afternoon at low tide, we hiked back to Ibo on foot across sandbanks and through the mangroves. It was a great day and we capped it off with another lobster dinner! Did I mention I love the islands?? :)
IMG_6282.jpg What used to be downtown Ibo
IMG_6336.jpg The old fort at sunset
IMG_6377.jpg Jeff on the island of Karimba before low tide
IMG_6393.jpg This was the best- a sign to indicate to please not use the beach as a public toilet- the locals thought it was hilarious we took a photo of this
IMG_6433.jpg Our gaggle of kids that followed us through the town
IMG_6457.jpg Walking back at low tide- where we were walking was completely submerged a few hours before
IMG_6502.jpg The old Christian graveyard on Ibo
IMG_6509.jpg The oldest man on the island came to talk to us about the history and his experiences- he only spoke Portuguese so Lucy translated
We were enticed by Lucy to go with her to the “sandbank” (what we would call a sandbar) for snorkeling and relaxation. We took her boat out to a gorgeous patch of white sand rising out of the middle of the ocean. It looked like a deserted island surrounded by turquoise water (almost transparent). For lunch, we ate grilled fish and coconut rice under a makeshift tent while Anli, one of Lucy’s boat captains, pulled up these fantastically red starfish. We also snorkeled around and caught some rays to combat our horrendous farmer’s tan - it felt like paradise. Needless to say, we felt like we had arrived in a Corona commercial. We barely made it back to Ibo for sundowner drinks at the fancy Ibo Island Lodge which has a really great viewing deck on the roof.
IMG_6542.jpg Our first glimpse of the sandbank
IMG_6561.jpg The very red starfish
IMG_6565.jpg Relaxing in my own corona commercial
IMG_6597.jpg On our way back to Ibo from the sandback
areal_ibo_..matemwe.bmp Photos courtesy of Lucy- aerial view of the sandbank (that tiny sliver between the two larger islands)
Banco_de_areia11.jpg View of the water and sandbank
Our time in and around Ibo was wonderful, but, alas, all good things must come to an end. Next stop, Tanzania. We’ll write more soon!

Posted by geldere 22:17 Archived in Mozambique Comments (1)

Off the Beaten Path in Mozambique I

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

It was a long and complicated journey from Cape Maclear, Malawi to Cuamba, Mozambique. In brief, it went like this: matola (a pickup truck that carries passengers and goods in its bed), minibus, second minibus, second matola, Malawi border, bicycle taxi, Mozambique border, second bicycle taxi, and (finally) third minibus. It was insane, seven different transports. Along the way, we met up with a Swiss-French couple and two Korean guys . . . all making our way to Mozambique Island. It’s nice to join up with other travelers for a few days to swap stories, share advice, and work through the logistics of traveling together.
IMG_5586.jpg Sitting in the back of a matola leaving Cape Maclear
IMG_5594.jpg Our bicycle taxi border crossing
Once we arrived in Cuamba, we bought tickets for a train from Cuamba to Nampula leaving the next morning. Ticket buying in Africa is a total free-for-all. At first, people form a line, but once the ticket window opens, all semblance of a line breaks down, people run, cut the line, push, etc. We also checked into a hostel with our new friends which, I have to say, was by far the dirtiest and most rundown place we’ve stayed. Thankfully, it had mosquito nets, but no running water. Taking a shower meant pouring cold water over your head. Flushing the toilet meant dumping water into the toilet bowl to dilute whatever was in there. Always an adventure :) Lastly, we ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the market. The only thing on the menu was roasted chicken over rice. It was surprisingly fantastic and cheap.
We left the hostel for the train at 4:30 in the morning and were able to sit together in a six-person cabin. The train journey was a memorable experience! It was fascinating to watch the country side go by and even more interesting to observe and interact with the locals. The train stopped frequently, every half hour or so, and at every stop people from the local village would mob the train selling food (mostly produce) and drinks. Jeff almost lost his mind when we found someone selling strawberries, which we haven’t seen since South America. They cost was a whopping $1.50 for a huge bowl and our whole compartment enjoyed eating them. One of the Koreans who we were with was an adventurous eater. He tried almost everything the locals had to offer, including roasted fish on a stick. It’s was also fun to watch all the local children clamor over each other just to wave at us. In between stops, we passed the time trading travel notes. It’s so interesting that even though we were American, Korean and Swiss, we conversed in English (the most common language among travelers).
IMG_5640.jpg The mountain view from the train
IMG_5676.jpg Jeff from the train
IMG_5699.jpg A woman carrying both produce and her child
IMG_5741.jpg The train mob selling their goods
After almost three full days of travel, we finally arrived on Mozambique Island. Seeing the Indian Ocean was a breath of fresh air. The water was an amazing shade of greenish-blue and our travel weariness eased almost instantly. Mozambique Island is a unique place. It was the capital of Portugal’s colonial empire in Africa for decades, but has been deteriorating ever since. It’s like you’ve entered a different time period when you arrive on the island. The buildings are crumbling; the narrow alleyways are lined with bougainvilleas; and small children follow you down the street just to see what you’re up to. We stayed at a great hostel, Ruby Backpackers. The owners were extremely friendly and the hostel had hot, running water! It was very exciting - don’t take it for granted people :) We spent our first full day wandering around the island and exploring an old fort on a nearby island which we walked to at low tide.
IMG_5782.jpg The old fort at low tide
IMG_5836.jpg Small children wanting their photos taken
IMG_5857.jpg The old hospital...apparently still in use in some parts!
On our second full day, we took a guided tour of a huge fort on the on the north end of the island that was built around 1550. We also visited the oldest European structure in Africa - a small church built in 1522. As we walked from place to place, small children would run up to us and say “photo, photo…” They were so cute and loved to see themselves on the camera screen, they would always laugh hysterically when we showed them their picture. As a cap off to the day, we found a fisherman walking the streets who sold us over five pounds of lobster for $12…we ate very well that night :)
IMG_5858.jpg Jeff had to include this kid...he thought he was adorable
IMG_5898.jpg The fort used up until the 70's
IMG_5907.jpg Oldest European structure in Africa
IMG_5954.jpg More historic though run-down buildings
P1020001.jpg Post-lobster dinner
We decided to cap off our time on Mozambique Island with a dhow trip to nearby Goa Island (a dhow is a small, handmade sailboat). Goa is known for its beautiful beach and an old lighthouse. We spent a few hours walking around, climbing up the lighthouse for some great views, and swimming in the Indian Ocean. The sailing to and from the island was a little rough at times, so half our boat got seasick.
IMG_6080.jpg The lighthouse on Goa
The next day, we said goodbye to our new friends and headed north along the coast to Pemba and Ibo Island. We’ll write more again soon!

Posted by geldere 09:40 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Malawi and some R&R

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

Malawi is a small, finger like shaped country located between Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania (smaller than Pennsylvania) and it packs a lot into a small space. Our first experience with Malawi was in the capital, Lilongwe. It’s pretty much what you would expect - large, crowded, and busy. We set ourselves down at Mubuya Camp, a lively hostel just outside of the Old Town, and from there spent two days exploring the city and planning the rest of our time in Malawi. The biggest draw is Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. Since it’s Malawi’s most famous attraction and alone could keep you occupied for weeks, we decided to orient our travels around the lake.
IMG_5304.jpg The Wilderness center in Lilongwe "How Tall Are You" Sign
Our first stop was Nkhata Bay. Malawi is interesting and unique geographically compared to other places we’ve seen in Africa. It reminded us a lot of Brazil. In fact, the town of Nkhata Bay is often likened to St. Lucia. We travelled via bus then combi with some other backpackers. It is always makes for interesting conversation finding out what other people are doing in this part of the world and how they got here. After being landlocked for some time, our first views of the lake were particularly spectacular. It is so enormous that you can’t see across it - it looks like an ocean. We stayed in a little, Caribbean looking hut, right on the water, which made created a pretty relaxed vibe. One of our goals in Malawi was to spend more time relaxing, so we spent time soaking up the sun, reading, and watching the local children play in the water. Since Jeff can’t sit still very long, he also made use of the free kayak and snorkeling gear provided by the hostel.
IMG_5354.jpg View of the Bay
IMG_5372.jpg Jeff on the deck of our "caribbean hut"
IMG_5378.jpg Jeff kayaking and chatting with some local boys in their canoe
On our second day in Nkhata Bay, we went scuba diving. The visibility in the lake was great and there were lots of fish, so we really enjoyed it. Over 90% of the fish species in Lake Malawi are endemic to the lake. The main fish were cichlids which have the most interesting behavior. The mom fish swims around her babies fending off predators and if she senses real danger they form a ball and swim into her mouth. We saw it twice - really amazing. We also saw the elusive dolphin fish. They mainly come out at night and are the lake’s largest predator fish. They also filmed part of the Planet Earth series at Lake Malawi if you want to check it out. What was especially nice about diving in the lake?...no sharks! :)
IMG_5417.jpg Some local boys enjoying the view
IMG_5426.jpgGetting ready to enjoy some Thai food :)
IMG_5434.jpg Sunrise at Nkhata Bay
As a side note - if you want to know what happens to your Salvation Army donations, look no further than Africa. The locals wear all sorts of American t-shirts, including “Race for the Cure”, “GAP”, “Boise High School”, “Alzheimer’s Awareness, and one local was even sporting an official US Postal uniform.
We then headed to Cape Maclear. It’s a legendary backpacker spot and has been on the backpacker circuit apparently since the 1970s. Getting there was a task, as it tends to be. Since we arrived late at night, we couldn’t see our surroundings when we checked in, but in the morning, we woke up to a lovely beachfront view and the locals going about their daily lives (fishing, washing, etc). We soaked up some more sun, caught up on our emails, and went to Thomas’ for lunch which had tasty chicken and chips (french fries). We also got mobbed by some children on the way back from lunch who wanted to hold our hands and entertained a small boy carrying water by giving him high fives. They were adorable!
IMG_5482.jpg Jeff chatting with local children at sunset
IMG_5501.jpg Beach view of some locals swimming/washing clothes
On our second day in Cape Maclear, we took a boat trip out to an island in the lake for some snorkeling, fishing, and lounging. We didn’t catch any fish using line and a hook (local style, no rod), but caught a few fish barehanded with bread as bait. The snorkeling was great since the fish were so colorful and numerous. We also went to dinner and met a really nice high school student named Edward, 22-years old, whose life goal is to go to law school. He was extremely excited to talk with Jeff about being a lawyer and they had fun discussing law school “hypotheticals”. He told us that law school is understandably expensive- but then he told us it cost 30,000 kwatcha per semester which comes out to only about $200...we are constantly reminded that people here are extremely poor and even $200 is a lot of money to them.
IMG_5567.jpg Fish eagle on the right about to touch down at grab a fish
IMG_5571.jpg Boat ride back to our hostel
IMG_5581.jpgSunset in Cape Maclear
We head to Mozambique in the morning and revert back to Portuguese (sigh). We will write more soon!

Posted by geldere 10:36 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]