Silver

Busy doing nothing
Sunday 16
th October 2011

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We woke really early, excited to get up, get out and go see the beach. We weren't disappointed by what we found. It was stunning, palm fringed, white sands, turquoise sea, absolutely picture perfect tropical paradise.

 What made it even more idyllic was we had the place to ourselves. For half an hour we walked hand in hand up and down the coast without meeting another soul.

It was such a lovely feeling walking barefooted along the powder soft sand we couldn't help but smile, inside and out. We radiated happiness.

A little further down the coast we came across this chalet right on the beach.

"Oh wow" said Julie "how amazing would it be to live there?"

It was set amongst the palm trees and looked so quaint with its thatched roof.

We took a closer look. It didn't appear to have been lived in for quite some time. It had certainly seen better days. It needed a coat of paint, the iron shutters were rusty and the roof did look in need of repair but what a location.

I've often thought that our destiny is to end up living in a hut on a beautiful unspoilt beach somewhere. Well, I think we just found it on the East coast of the Michamvi peninsula looking Eastwards out over the Indian Ocean.

"A little lottery win and we'll be back" I said.

Echo Beach wasn't the only resort on the beach. To the South was Andy's Karibuni Bungalows and further to the North was a resort called Breezes.

They were all as devoid of guests as ours.

By the time we got back to ours staff were beginning preparing the tables in the main hut for breakfast.

The "hut" was a remarkable structure. From the outside the huge thatched roof was impressive enough but once inside you could fully appreciate the traditional design of the makuti construction.

With the exception of a reed screen along the beach side there were no exterior walls. It was open to the elements.

It was all nicely decorated, divided into a lounge area filled with beautifully carved teak furniture and a dinning area with tables laid with crisp white linen.

Two seven foot carved Masai warriors stood guard to the restaurant with a couple of large sea shells and a fully blown out blowfish for company.

On the bar itself stood a large, colourful if somewhat bizarre wooden Dodo. It wasn't the only wooden wildlife about the place. Roaming the lounge was a life-size crocodile and giant turtle.

From the earth coloured walls of the bar and kitchen traditional wooden masks looked down at us whilst we tucked into our breakfast.

We both began with a bowl of fresh fruit salad.

It was all freshly prepared and not laid out in a buffet which was refreshing. There was an option of a cooked breakfast but we both went for sugar and lemon pancakes instead. It was a very good choice. They were clearly made by someone who knew a good crepe when he saw one.

We had read (in the brochure) that Echo Beach was run by an English couple Sue and Andy. He was a trained chef and before moving to Zanzibar they used to run a B&B in the Loire Valley, France.

Keeping us company for most of breakfast was a cheeky little puppy who went by the name of Ashkari. Whilst patiently waiting for some scraps (which he didn't get from us) he spent most of the time scratching and biting himself. Clearly flea ridden, poor thing.

There was also a large Great Dane called Umbaya lolloping around the resort somewhere. He was a handsome chap and already a little grey around the muzzle despite only being five years old.

Completing the menagerie was a resident donkey. We had heard it earlier but not seen it. It used to roam freely but I think it's now kept within an enclosure to the back.

After breakfast we met who we assumed to be the owner Sue but turned out to be a friend, Alex, helping out whilst she had returned back to England for a while.

She told us that number seven was now ready for us to move into. It was the first floor room of a two storey building.

The room itself was very similar to the one we stayed in last night, with a four poster bed draped with a mosquito net and decorated with fresh flowers. Traditional wooden statues, masks and artwork gave it that local feel.

The best feature was the balcony. We had nothing on the agenda for today and this seemed to be the perfect place to do it.

It was as large as our bedroom with a couple of chairs around a coffee table and a wonderful (despite the garish zebra print!) large day bed on which we could sprawl ourselves. It was spacious and private which was exactly what we wanted.

Swathes of red fabric billowed in the breeze as we looked out through the coconut grove towards the sea.

It was absolutely lovely.

After about an hour of lounging about (and unpacking) we returned outside to have a look around the resort.

It wasn't at all large. It only had four or five detached bungalows and three double storey accommodation all positioned within an attractive garden loosely arching around the swimming pool.

Being a non-swimmer pools do nothing for me. I've often wondered why they have swimming pools in a resort that's located so close to the sea but I guess some people prefer the enclosed environment of a pool to the more exposed andpotentially treacherous ocean waters.

We moved on to the beach itself where the resort's rustic charm continued with parasols made from woven palm leaves and the loungers were coir rope tied around a wooden frame.

They looked most uncomfortable, like an implement of torture but they were surprisingly comfortable. It was like lying in a hammock without the fear of falling out. Some had a thin cushion over the top which were even more comfortable.

We lay down and settled into a Zzzzzanzibari snooze.

After not much more than ten minutes however I got bored. Looking out to sea I noticed that whilst the tide seemed quite high up the shoreline waves were breaking some 300m out. This skirt of crashing water must have been the edge of the coral reef.

I was itching to get out there and explore the pools.

It wasn't long before Julie was following me, in our flimsy flip flops, trying our best to navigate a way through the patches of seaweed and more importantly avoiding the black spiky sea urchins. A prick from one of those nasty bastards would have been most painful.

We had packed proper wet shoes and we should really have fetched them from our room. They would have given us much better protection and a lot more confidence.

Even so, I quite enjoyed the challenges of wading through the minefield of pin cushions but I'm not too sure about Julie. It wasn't really her idea of fun!

The excitement raised a little when a fish darted across the water trapped in the puddles but it wasn't enough to hold our interest. We soon gave up on our reef expedition and turned around after only reaching a third of the way towards the white surf line.

We headed back towards the shore and aimed for a boat stranded on the beach. I don't know if it belonged to Echo Beach or local fishermen. It was a creaky old wooden vessel but it did have a canopy for shade.

The most interesting part was its anchor which was sunk into the sand a few metres away. It looked like a multi-headed sea serpent.

I think I was getting serious withdrawal symptoms from not having things to photograph!

We decided it was time for lunch and left the beach for the restaurant. There was plenty of choice with a full three course meal available if we wanted to pig out but with our half board rate not including lunch I'm sure it influenced our choice to only have a main course. Although to be fair the prices were quite reasonable at $10/$15 a dish.

I thoroughly enjoyed my spicy tomato pasta arrabiata despite the stodgy cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. Equally Julie also enjoyed her two small tuna steaks despite them being a little over cooked for her tastes.

After eating we stayed at our table, had a few ice cold Kilimanjaro beers and made the most of the free wi-fi available to upload some Rwanda photos onto facebook.

Just for the sake of a change of scenery we moved to sit by the pool briefly before deciding it had nothing going for it and moved back to the loungers overlooking the beach.

From here there was plenty of activity out there keeping me amused. Locals cycled past, most of those heading back towards Bwejuu had an octopus hanging from their handlebars.

In the water people were wading through the rock pools collecting crabs in buckets or punting slowly across the shallow water in a small boat spearing fish and octopus as they went along.

After an hour of sitting in the hot sun we went for a stroll along the beach where there was a nice sea breeze to cool us down.

Ahead of us one of the busy fishermen had come to shore with his catch of the day, moored his boat and walked off into the interior.

We waded in to have a closer look at his wooden canoe with stabilisers, known locally as a ngawala. It barely had but a few flakes of paint still left on it, the rest was just the bare wood bleached by the sun. I was tempted to get in to try it out for size but I was a little shit scared of the fisherman returning with his spear and getting a little irate.

So we moved on, past our little thatched beach villa, past Andy's Karibuni Bungalows and onwards.

Just walking along the beach was so relaxing, strangely more so than lying on a lounger. I suppose putting one foot in front of the next is quite meditative whilst the mind can quickly fill when you're idle.

We kept on going. "Perhaps we'll come to the village of Bwejuu?" I said but it must have been some distance away as we never came across any sign of it.

Not that there was anything to see or do in Bwejuu itself but I'm sure it would have been interesting nonetheless.

 Before reaching the curve in the coastline we turned around and headed back where we bumped into three women walking with such poise balancing their harvest in buckets on their heads.

Each one walked barefooted, dressed in a colourful wrap around skirt and headscarf trying to out do each other to have the biggest smiles.

In their buckets were crammed with crabs caught from the coral pools. Being a crab on this beach was certainly a perilous life. It's no wonder they have evolved into the colour of white sand.

Back at Echo Beach we returned to our loungers.

It wasn't long before Great Dane Umbaya joined us. He sat between Julie and I looking out towards the beach.

The occasional pat on the head or a scratch behind his ear kept him content and he didn't move from our side for over half an hour. If anyone didn't know any better it looked like we had brought our dog with us on holiday.

Then out of the blue he shot off chasing sea birds.

After another half an hour of watching the lolloping hound get nowhere near the gulls we returned to our room. We planned a siesta on the day-bed.

Out on the veranda the drapes hung still as the cooling sea breeze was absent and the temperature soared. After five minutes of sweating like pigs Julie retreated inside to the relief of the air conditioning. I baked for a few minutes longer before joining her.

Our refrigerated room was probably the perfect temperature for the few hours sleep into which we instantly slipped.

When we awoke it was dark and we were hungry. We put on our glad rags and dressed up for dinner.

Dressed in linen from top to bottom we walked to the restaurant. There we a few more guests here tonight. We had hardly seen anyone all day. I suppose October is the low season for tourists even if it's not a bad time of year to visit Zanzibar, weather wise.

On the a la carte menu I had the choice of a starter of guacamole which sounded boring but it was far from it.

It wasn't the usual green paste but instead a roughly chopped blend of avocado, tomato and other loveliness. It was more of an avocado salsa and was ridiculously delicious.

I could have eaten that by the bucket load! But I had to make do with a small ramekin's worth.

Julie had garlic mushrooms which again hit top marks in taste, all buttery and garlicky. It may sound a simple dish but it's amazing how many places get it so wrong.

She followed it with steak which she couldn't fault even if it wasn't the tastiest she'd ever had.

For my main dish I had the uninspiringly named vegetable gratin. Despite also looking unimaginative in the bowl it really tasted good. The peppers, courgettes and other assorted vegetables all bound in glorious cheesiness was a perfect comfort food.

Full and content we retired to the lounge area for a drink.

We didn't stay long.

Julie wasn't feeling too good with the onset of swollen glands and a high temperature. So after skyping Hannah we headed back to our room.

The short walk back along the path was lovely. The sweet smell from the blossom in the garden, the sounds of the waves gently lapping the shore and the tree rustling in the breeze, and the light from our villa lit up like a lantern guiding us home. A lovely end to a lovely day.

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