we spent a week chilling on Zanzibar island. it’s a large island about 3 hours by ferry away from Tanzania. the time we spent there was divided between two cities: Stonetown and Nungwi.
Stonetown, on the southern side of the island is a rather large city, with the most interesting part being its core right next to the ocean. it is filled with old narrow mazelike streets that wind their way around crumbling colonial buildings. the main attraction here is to just spend time wandering around and getting lost, which we did. the atmosphere of the city is a cross between colonial and middle eastern. there is a large Muslim population so you see a lot of people walking about wearing robes of various kinds. and on the west side is the ocean, a brilliant absolutely pale blue color, with wooden boats bobbing up and down in its waters. the shore is lined w/ sand and palms. Stonetown is definitely a picture-perfect vision of an old city by the sea.
the city is filled with all sorts of nice restaurants and we visited many of them. we had good African food while sitting on cushions on the floor. we had western food at a place called Mercury’s, name after Freddy mercury who surprisingly was born on Zanzibar island. we ate at a delicious seafood restaurant, where our table was literally in the sand on the beach and we were waited on hand and foot. in the end, we kind of went overboard and spent too much money on food, but it was worth it.
while we were in town, we checked out some of the old landmarks like the old palace and the infirmary. these buildings looked really cool on the outside, but the inside wasn’t nearly as interesting.
one night, when we were leaving a restaurant, we saw this large millipede, and then right afterwards, I saw the biggest snail Iâ€™ve ever seen. this thing was as long as my hand. humongous.
after a couple days, we left Stonetown to go to the beach town of Nungwi. the previous night, we had an altercation w/ the owner of the hotel we stayed in. he wanted to arrange us a taxi, but we didnâ€™t want to go at 8am when his taxi was leaving. he got totally pissed off and started bitching at us saying we only care about money and basically accused us of being cheap bastards. we told him that it wasnâ€™t about money and that we just didnâ€™t want to wake up early, but he wouldnâ€™t listen since he was totally drunk. the following day, we got into an altercation w/ our taxi driver. I wont bother going into details, but he was flaming pissed, totally yelled at us, and said that we would see what happens to people that piss him off. ahh, sometimes it’s so nice to interact w/ the locals! 😉
Nungwi is a small village, and is roughly divided into a small town where only locals hang out and tourists hardly venture, and the strip of coastline that is packed with tourist guesthouses, restaurants, and bars. it’s a great place to spend some time, relax, and get away fro it all. we were totally lazy for the next few days. we slept in. we hung out on the beach and did nothing. we ate at the local restaurants which actually pretty much all had crap food and were overpriced. we spent every night drinking for hours at whichever bar we chose that night. not being much of a drinker, caryn stayed in most nights, so Joey and I would just head out on our own. it was nice to be able to just hang out w/ a friend and have some drinks.
the most popular bar on the beach was a place called chollos which was next door to us. one night, out of nowhere, like 30 people all showed up wearing costumes made out of black garbage bags. it was like a crazy whacky SF costume party, but instead it was here on the beach in Africa. so random! turned out that all these people had been on an overland truck tour and were celebrating the end of their tour. one night the “world famous dj Marvin” played and practically everyone on the island came to dance to cheesy music. even the Masai were rocking out and showing off crazy dance moves.
we found a scorpion in our hotel room one night. for the next several days I was afraid of walking around inside w/ the lights off.
one day we walked down to the local “aquarium”. this was a place where there was a closed off natural lagoon, and there were a bunch of sea turtles inside. you could feed the turtles kelp and they were huge. you could even swim w/ the turtles if you wanted to, but we didnâ€™t. some old guy did, and totally manhandled the turtles, holding on to them, and pulling them out of the water. “look at them!! they’re so beautiful and docile!” he would yell as the turtle frantically struggled to get away from him. it was painful to watch.
we walked back along the beach and just took in the beauty all around us. Iâ€™ve never really been a beach person and donâ€™t care for the beach too much, but sometimes I really understand why everyone loves it. thereâ€™s just something about the sand, waves, and sky that blend perfectly together. as we walked, we watched the waves come crashing onto the shore. we saw tons of little local children racing around the beach. we saw large wooden boats, most of them only partially built just laying on their side waiting to be finished. little Muslim girls, covered almost head to toe, giggled and jumped around near the water trying to avoid getting wet. tiny white crabs scrambled along the beach, ducking into their little homes when we approached. it really was a nice walk…
our last night there we ended up meeting up w/ dan, a guy from America who I had exchanged emails with a long time ago. this was back before either of us had left on our rtw trips and we had been so excited and couldnâ€™t wait to get started. and here we were, me one year into my trip and him 7 months into his, here on Zanzibar island. we talked a ton about how our trips had gone, what we had seen and done, and what we still had ahead of us. it’s always cool to cross paths with people on the road. we hung out w/ him and his friend Alex, ate at an all you can eat barbecue on the beach, and then caught a taxi with them on the way back to Stonetown the next day.
our last night in Stonetown, we realized that maybe we left Nungwi a bit early. all of us probably could have used some extra time on the beach. oh well, there’s still more time for that. our last night in Stonetown, we went out to the night market. a bunch of people set up food stalls near the water. the whole area is smoky from all the grills going at once. people yell to try to get your attention, selling their small skewers of food. each grill was loaded w/ a variety of different skewers, each a different color: pink lobster, light grey tuna, brown beef. all of it was quite good, and the atmosphere made it even better. the whole time in Zanzibar, we had been really sheltered, eating at places specifically designed for tourists, so it was nice to eat w/ the locals the way they do. the next morning, we walked around Stonetown for the last time, and then we took the ferry back to the mainland. The ferry ride back was much smoother than on the way there.
ahhh… it had been a really nice week on the island…