dala-dala bing bong
As nice as yesterday was to be busy doing nothing another day of inactivity on the beach would have driven us a bit stir crazy so today we were off on a trip to Stone Town. We were up early having sugar and lemon pancakes for breakfast whilst waiting for our taxi to arrive. The transfer, arranged through Echo Beach, was very expensive at $60 per person but we didn't have much choice in the matter.
We could have caught a local "bus" known as a dala dala which was more of a converted lorry with two wooden benches in the back. It would have been a fraction of the cost and such an amazing adventure to boot but we didn't have all day.
The number 324 would have taken over two hours to get to Stone Town and with the last dala dala back to Bwejuu leaving at 2pm we wouldn't have had much time to explore Zanzibar's capital.
So at 8:45am we left Echo Beach in the comfort of an air conditioned Toyota 4x4.
Hardly a kilometre down the tarmac road we passed the village of Bwejuu, a collection of tin roofed houses along a dirt road heading towards the coast. It didn't look particularly interesting. At least now we knew it wasn't worth walking to it from our resort.
At Paje, the next village along, we rubbed our bleary eyes as we couldn't quite believe when we saw a pair of Maasai Warriors waiting at a bus stop.
They looked so out of place fully dressed in traditional red and black stripped cloth, adorned with beads and carrying what looked like a spear.
At a fork in the road we headed west towards Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park. After briefly stopping at a police check-point and driving through the villages of Kitogani and Jozani we came to the forest.
The main attraction here were the resident Red Colobus monkeys, also known as Kirk's Colobus after Sir John Kirk, acting British Consular for Zanzibar in the late nineteenth century, who was also a keen botanist.
I read "The Last Slave Market" before this trip. It focused on Sir John Kirk's role in bringing the slave trade to an end and was fascinating.
The driver slowed down to a crawling pace not so that we could have time to scour the trees for the little ginger primates but so we didn't run any of them over. Apparently they don't have much road sense.
The speed restrictions were only enforced along a short section of the forest. Before long we were back up to speed.
within the boundaries of the National Park we drove through the village
of Pete, a collection of simple single-storey houses amongst the trees,
not too dissimilar to a Centre Parcs holiday village!
We emerged out Jozani Forest and drove through uncultivated shrub land which was in sharp contrast to Rwanda.
There was a noticeable absence of agriculture. In fact we didn't see one person working the land. There were plenty of road side stalls selling fruit and vegetables, so clearly someone somewhere must be busy growing them!
Known as the Spice Islands, Zanzibar is famous the world over for producing cloves. Much of the island was once a patchwork of plantations producing 90% of the world's supply but those days are long gone. Their share of that lucrative market has now shrunk to around 8%. There were certainly no signs of prosperity as we traversed the island. The ox and cart was still the most common mode of transport.
Then all of a sudden literally in the middle of nowhere we were totally shocked to see what looked like a grand presidential palace, an extravagant display of wealth and power. It was in actual fact the campus of the Zanzibar University in Tunguu.
Last night our driver (Hamza) reckoned that one day a new modern capital city will spring from bush around here as people gravitate to service the University. We'll have to come back one day to see if he was right.
It wasn't long before we reached the current capital, Zanzibar Town. Our first impression was a bit "shock horror" as we were welcomed by the very unattractive landfill site of Jumbi Garbage Dump.
At least it could only get better and it did as we drove through the suburbs, an area known as Mombassa. It was alive with people going about their daily lives, shopping mainly.
Shopkeepers and craftsmen plied their trade alongside each other as groceries stores and carpenters, butchers and mechanics, hairdressers, electrical goods and even computer repairers, all set up shop from tin roof shacks.
I got disproportionately excited when I spotted leaning outside one carpenters the exact identical wooden headboard that we had on our bed back in Echo Beach.
"Oh wow! Did you see that?! It's our bed!!" I blurted.
Julie looked at me like I'd lost the plot. After I rephrased myself I made a little more sense.
"I wonder much it costs?" I asked.
"Probably less than what it would cost to ship back home" Julie replied with raised eyebrows.
The urban shopping scene was made all the more vivid by the colourful cloth worn by the women in ankle length dress and head scarves.
The Muslim faith and traditions were introduced by the Sultan of Oman who ruled Zanzibar and much of the Swahili coast from the late 17th century onwards.
Despite being a British Protectorate from the late 19th century the Omani lineage continued in some form of power until Zanzibar gained independence in 1961.
As if the Zanzibarians didn't have enough shopping opportunities we soon passed the thriving market of Soko La Mwanakwerekwe.
It consisted of a very large white-washed building, the length of a football pitch, complete with traditional Islamic architecture features like horseshoe arches and rounded ridged what you call 'ems? Merlons? Crenellation? Anyway, it had a great medieval look to it.
As we drove past we couldn't really appreciate how large it was on the inside. Perhaps it wasn't at all! There was plenty of activity outside in the open air. It was heaving with traders.
They spilled out onto the streets and set up their stalls some literally on the pavement. One caught my attention by the way they had piled their fruit and veg into neat little pyramids.
At first I thought it was an incredible feat of balance but looking closer at the tower of citrus fruit there must have been some trickery involved. The clusters defied gravity with one yellow round fruit balanced on top of another.
It could only have been hidden sticks holding the structure together like a molecular diagram.
We continued to drive through the various neighbourhoods reaching Mkunazini which means 'new city' in Swahili.
Here awful apartment blocks changed the landscape into a prefab concrete wilderness. They were built in the late sixties with the help of East German engineers, which is why they're known as Plattenbau. They clearly hadn't been maintained since their construction and were now in a serious state of decay.
We reached Creek Road, the boundary between the narrow alleyways of Stone Town and the sprawling rest of the city known as Ng'ambo, literally 'the other side'.
Our driver dropped us off at the Serena Inn Hotel. It was the perfect place to begin our day in Stone Town. It eased us in gently, as you would expect from a five star hotel, it was stylish, elegant and most welcoming.
We walked through the foyer to the terrace area at the back overlooking the sea front. The coast of Africa was only 23 miles away but it was too far to see. There were several islands just a short distance away, Murogo, Panje, Bawe and Changuu.
The latter was the smallest and also known as Prison Island because the British built a jail there. It's now known for the Aldabra Giant Tortoise Sanctuary.
The view out over the water was most evocative of Zanzibar's Arabian past with several dhows ferrying to and from the harbour.
They ranged from small dug out canoes with shark fin sails known as mtumbwi, to larger boats like mashua or jahazi both capable of carrying passengers or cargo.
All of which would fall into the generic Dhow label! Ancient vessels weren't the only ones in the water. Sparkling modern yachts were also moored in the bay and large commercial ships made their way to the busy port.
We walked around the hotel grounds and ended up in its Ndele coffee shop where we enjoyed a decent cup of coffee. How very civilised.
They even had internet "newspapers" to catch up on what's happening in the world. Nothing much, so it seems.
Caffiened up for that extra energy we were ready to explore Stone Town but first we tried to exchange some US dollars into Tanzanian Shillings at the hotel's reception.
"Are you a hotel guest?" asked the cheerful guy behind the desk. The moment I confessed to not being a resident (although technically I was a 'guest' having just had a coffee) his smile disappeared and he became quite dismissive. "We only exchange for our guests" he said.
When I asked him where I would find the nearest bank he waved his hand in the vague direction of the door. I couldn't feel any anger towards him however because I pitied him, his uniform included a badly fitting red tea cosy on his head!
We had arranged to be picked up at 4pm outside the House of Wonders, a museum on the harbour front, so we decided to first find our bearings and headed off in that direction.
Walking down Shangani Street and then Kenyatta Road it wasn't difficult to imagine Stone Town in its heyday as one of the most intoxicating cities in the world. The colonial splendour of the buildings was still noticeable. Most were in desperate need of repair but a few had seen some investment and looked wonderful.
We soon found ourselves squeezing down a narrow alleyway filled with a number of food stalls frying away on little gas rings.
It smelt of a kebab shop at midnight after the chucking out time rush. Needless to say we weren't tempted to stop for a snack. In fact we couldn't get out of there quick enough. It felt unpleasant, claustrophobic and quite a death trap.
The alley opened out in front of a crumbling yet still imposing wall. The serrated edge of the castellated battlements was that of the 17th century Old Arab Fort, also known as Ngome Kongwe.
It was built by the Omanis to defend Stone Town from the Portuguese from whom they had just wrestled control.
From here we crossed the road and walked through the Fordhani Gardens a pretty green space between the fort and the harbour with tree lined paths and a bandstand in its centre.
A group of youths gathered around the shelter. If it was back home we would have felt intimidated by loitering kids. Mostly because they would have been drinking super strength cider from a 2 litre plastic bottle and threatening people as they passed by from beneath the anonymity of their hoods.
Here in Zanzibar they openly laughed and smiled amongst themselves and towards us as we passed.
At the end of the park we found the House of Wonders, a striking white building, three floors high, wrapped with columned balconies and topped with a clock tower.
It's known as Beit Al Ajaib and was once the palace of Sultan Barghash. It's now home to Zanzibar's Museum of History and Culture.
Having found our rendezvous point for later we decided it was far too early to immerse ourselves in a museum. So we took a mental note of our location and headed back towards Kenyatta Road, avoiding the short cut through kebab alley.
After popping inside a shop called Zanzibar Gallery to buy a few postcards and a map of labyrinthine streets of Stone Town we suddenly acquired ourselves a guide. We hadn't asked him to give us a tour, the cheeky opportunistic bugger took it upon himself to follow one step behind us spouting off facts and figures about the Shangani Post Office.
I respectfully asked him to get lost, calmly but firmly repeating myself with a "No Thanks" or a "We don't need a guide" and a "You can go now" but he didn't.
My patience was wearing thin as he completely ignored our rejections no matter how increasingly agitated we got. (we had a lot of huffing and eye rolling going on)
I'm not a naturally confrontational person but I had my "fuck off" face on and had to bite hard on the tip of my tongue to stop anything from slipping out. To be honest I wasn't really angry with him. Good luck to him, we all need to make a living somehow.
Of course I'm only saying this with the hindsight of knowing we did eventually shake him off. If he had refused to leave I would have probably cracked and got myself arrested.
So thankfully we finally got rid of him by fleeing down the first dark alleyway we came across in the hope he didn't follow. It was a simple tactic.
He chose to stay on the busy Kenyatta Road to catch other unsuspecting tourists.
The narrow passage down which we escaped linked up with Barghani Street which may have been a street in name but was itself nothing more than a slightly wider alley. There were several interesting tourist shops down here, most selling the typical crafts like wood carvings, beaded jewellery and bright fabrics.
One especially eye-catching store sold intensely colourful paintings of animals and nature. This high contrast style is known as Tingatinga and named after its originator Tanzanian painter Edward Said Tingatinga.
Stone Town is a protected UNESCO world heritage site and its most renowned attraction were the incredibly ornate wooden doors. They would grace any museum in the world. I had read about them and it was no exaggeration to say they were a thing of beauty.
Not all doors were works of art, in fact very few could be called attractive but there were the odd one or two every now and again that were absolutely exquisite.
Some doors were studded with heavy brass rivets and hung inside very decoratively carved frames whilst other doors were themselves delicately carved.
Stone Town was not just an architectural museum and tourist trap, it was a vibrant living city with plenty of grocers, ironmongers and butchers filling its network of lanes. Most of the properties were residential.
Children played in the streets whilst the women shopped and the men generally sat around, drunk coffee and chew the cud. The only exception to the rule were the tradesmen who were busy at work.
We passed one of many tour companies offering a "Freddie Mercury" tour of Stone Town. The flamboyant lead singer of rock band Queen is certainly Zanzibar's most famous son.
He was born right here in the Shangani district but at the age of 12 he was sent to boarding school in Mumbai and then his family relocated to London when he was 18.
I never was their biggest fan so I wasn't desperate to see all the different locations loosely associated with his childhood.
At the end of Barghani street we came to a crossroads known as Joe's Corner or Jaws Corner as someone had painted on the wall, complete with an artist impression of a smiling Great White Shark.
We stood in the square wondering which way to turn when we saw a sign, not divine intervention but a small wooden plaque on the wall advertising the Green Garden restaurant.
We had nothing better to do so we followed the arrows down Soko Muhogo street. The sun was now directly above us and the streets offered no shade, so it was a good time to find some shelter.
Following a few twists and turns we arrived at this green oasis in the middle of the maze. After the oppressiveness of Stone Town's narrow alleys the big open space was welcomed.
It had a bar and lounge area under a large makuti style thatch but we decided to sit outside beneath the overhanging branches of the many trees filling the garden.
It was such a comfortable laid back vibe in a relaxing space. We took the weight off our feet and refreshed ourselves with water and an iced coffee.
Whilst we weren't hungry we felt obliged to order something so we shared a delicious albeit very runny hummus dip.
Julie demurely dipped her flatbread into the hummus whilst I scooped so it wasn't exactly sharing. Before we knew it the dip was all gone.
It was so reasonably priced we ordered another one, and this time I was a little more considerate with my dipping!
It was so relaxing here we weren't in any rush to leave.
We had to leave eventually of course and we set off back into the labyrinth. For a very brief moment we knew exactly where we were but it didn't last long. A few corners later and we were lost again but that was all part of the charm.
The houses continued to amaze, whether it was their spectacular front doors, stunning windows and ornate balconies or their beautiful fading colours. We kept on heading vaguely Southwards until we reached a reasonably wide road.
I thought it must have been Creek Road until we followed it and reached an even wider road that was the actual Creek Road.
With a history of leading us miles away from safety I stood at the boundary of the old town and decided that perhaps we should head back into the backstreets as soon as possible.
We walked along the busy Creek Road until we met the first left turn. It was the Sultan Ahmed Mugheiri Road which as luck would have it lead us to the one place I really wanted to visit during our time in Stone Town but didn't have a clue where it was; the site of the former slave market.
From a ticket booth at the side of the St. Monica Youth Hostel we bought tickets for $3 each. As we entered the building a young lad appeared from nowhere saying "Excuse me, you must have a guide".
"Yeah, right" we thought and tried to fob him off but he insisted "no, no, you need a guide. It's included in the price.... but you can tip me later if you like"
He was polite and we liked his cheeky style so we accepted his offer. He introduced himself as Charles.
We entered the hostel and stood in the hallway as he set the scene for the slave trade.
Slaves would have arrived here in their hundreds after an arduous journey from deep within the African interior. Some from as far as Rwanda and the Congo would have been marched across the country shackled to each other chained from collars around their necks and cuffs around their ankles. The weak died along the way or were brutally killed if they slowed the caravan down.
On reaching the coast they would be crammed onto a dhow and ferried over to Stone Town to the largest slave market in the world. As barbaric as it all seems, it wasn't an illegal trade, it was all above board. In fact the Arab traders had to pay import tax per slave. This fee forced a final cull of the slaves with the weakest thrown overboard to avoid paying.
Once on Zanzibar they would be herded into holding pens to wait for their sale. We followed Charles down a stone staircase into the dungeons below the hostel where we entered one such holding pen.
It was a dark damp room with a doorway so low that even Julie had to watch her head. Once inside the headroom was no better. I couldn't stand up straight.
Cold concrete slabs like a mortuary filled the sides.
In the far end three narrow slit windows barely allowed any light in nor did the air flow well. With three of us in there it felt claustrophobic but when Charles said "records show on average seventy five slaves would have been forced into here" our mouths just hit the floor.
Chills ran up the spine.
They could have been held here for days with no sanitation in such barbaric conditions. We couldn't get out of there quick enough.
Charles delayed our exit slightly as another couple entered the chamber. He invited them to join us but they refused. They didn't leave though, instead they hung around within earshot of his history facts.
Back up in the fresh air we walked towards the Anglican Cathedral to an incredibly moving memorial in the centre of a patch of grass.
Five slaves stood in a pit chained by the neck.
Men, women, old and young, their expressions hollow capturing the numbness they must have felt at the auction. To have reached the market alive would have been a miracle but their ordeal was only beginning.
This powerful and poignant sculpture called "Memory for the Slaves" was the product of Swedish artist Clara Sörnäs and made in 1998.
Where ever we were the "other couple" weren't too far away.
They continued to hover, keeping their distance but still eavesdropping on Charles' interesting facts
"Why do they not join us?" asked Charles.
"It's because they don't want to pay you a tip at the end of your tour!" I said which made him smile.
The final part of our tour concluded in the Anglican Cathedral Christ Church. Its a story that began with Dr. Livingstone and ended with the abolition of slavery.
Whilst David Livingstone was in between his explorations up the Zambezi he would base himself here in Zanzibar. He encouraged missionaries from the Universities' Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) to spread Christianity and oppose the slave trade.
Through their work especially Bishop Edward Steere and that of Sir John Kirk the British Consular the Sultan Bargash closed the slave market in Stone Town in 1873.
In celebration work on building a cathedral on the site of the former slave market began almost immediately.
Near the altar a circular piece of marble commemorates the spot where the whipping post was located. In a barbaric process to promote the slave's physical strength they were whipped by the tail of a stingray and those who cried out the least would fetch a better price.
Charles continued to explain the various features of the quite plain interior.
"The wooden crucifix to the left is made from the tree beneath which the heart of Dr. Livingstone was buried" he said.
"Did I hear you right? His heart?" asked Julie. "Yes" continued Charles "his companions knew that his body should be returned to Britain but his heart belonged to Africa".
This story was too much for the "other couple" to ignore and they joined us for the remainder of it. The embalmed body of Dr. David Livingstone was carried to the coast and then over to Zanzibar. All in all it took 11 months for his body to reach Britain where he was given a hero's funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey.
Charles gave us some time to walk around the cathedral at our leisure. Julie decided to take a pew. She wasn't feeling very well. She's been building up a temperature all day.
I went up to the altar to take a closer look at the copper panels that covered the back. They were twelve biblical figures (not disciples as I first assumed) with their names in Swahili.
Much of the construction and design was supervised by Bishop Edward Steere. Sadly he died before the Cathedral was completed and he was buried here below the altar.
After a short while we left the cathedral with Charles. The "other couple" had already done a runner and left as predicted without paying a tip. Shame on them. We wanted to leave a tip but it's always difficult to know how much to give. We settled on $3, the price of our ticket.
Julie was deteriorating fast and asked Charles if he knew where was the nearest pharmacy. He gave us a few options but the nearest was just around the corner towards Creek Road.
It wasn't a pharmacy as we expected but a local dispensary. Julie was getting even hotter under the collar as she worried what witch doctor concoction she might be prescribed. She had visions of having to drink some bark, spit and cow dung preparation.
As it happened when we asked for "paracetamol" they pointed to a familiar packet of Panadol.
Julie was relieved although she still had me checking the Use by Date before she was OK with it.
We paid 6000 TzSh (just under $4) which was actually cheaper than a prescription in the UK. (except Wales where it's free!) and sat in the shade outside the dispensary. Julie took two tablets straight away.
We waited for a while. It was a great place to people watch as it seemed to be at a busy crossroads.
Back into the warren of alleyways we returned. Our aim now was to find our way back to the sea front which was easier said than done.
We meandered our way through the streets, stumbling across the Hamamni Baths.
Outside some touts were giving the bath house the hard sell trying to get us to pay them as a guide but we decided to skip this attraction.
The beautiful doors of the Nawi Masjid opposite the Hamam Baths were impressive but our attention was caught instead by a passage (I assume) out of the Quran written in Arabic and English on the whitewashed walls.
The old town continued to charm and fascinate us.
From here we followed Kajificheni Street North reaching a street called Changa Bazaar. As its name suggested it was the place to shop.
We're not big shoppers but we were drawn into one that sold soaps and cosmetics made from locally sourced ingredients like seaweed and coconuts. We left having with a handful of small soaps and a bottle of coconut oil. Paid for of course, we didn't walk out with them.
Now the seal was broken we couldn't stop ourselves. We bought postcards in the next shop and a rather fetching tunic in the one after that.
As we followed the shops down Hurumzi street we saw the walls of the Old Arab Fort again and realised we had by some chance come full circle. We were now at the back of the House of Wonders.
With another two hours before our arranged pick-up we decided to have a look around the museum inside.
Apparently it's called the house of wonders or Beit Al Ajaib because it was the first place to have an elevator installed on the island. I don't know if it's true but it's a lovely story.
It was originally built as a ceremonial palace for Sultan Bargash on the site of a previous 17th century palace, then from 1911 it was unimaginatively used as office space by the British colonial government and after the 1964 revolution it continued as the HQ offices for several political parties.
There were plans to return it to its former palatial splendour and convert it into a luxury hotel but they never came to fruition.
Some dignity was finally restored when it opened as the Zanzibar's Museum of History and Culture in 2002.
We walked around the front where we saw the first items of note, two impressive rusty old bronze cannons. They were Portuguese and dating back to the 16th century.
As we entered the House of Wonders through the enormous front door Julie noticed a red post-box in the foyer. She rummaged in the bag for our postcards.
It said in bold white letters "Barua Letter Next Collection 1030hrs" so there was no reason to doubt that it was a post box.
We checked with a member of staff that it was in active service and not just a museum piece. She replied with a nod of the head (or was it more of a wobble?) so in went the postcards.
to say that was the last we saw of them!
We paid $6 each to enter, twice what was listed in the Bradt guide book but there we go, inflation happens.
It was a light open space dominated by a full sized dhow in the centre with steel pillars surrounding the courtyard rising the full length of three floors.
We walked around the ground floor browsing the mildly interesting displays on Swahili culture.
But the prospect of two more floors of the same was too much for Julie to bear. She found a wooden bench and sat down with such a tired look on her face.
"You go up" she said "I'll be alright down here" She was still feeling unwell, the panadols hadn't worked yet.
Whilst she took a break I skipped upstairs to the first floor and popped my head into several of the rooms. In one of them was the medical chest of Dr.Livingstone but I didn't find it.
To be honest I paid little attention to the artefacts as the best attraction were the huge and stunning carved doors of dark mahogany with excerpts from the Qur'an highlighted in gold.
I went up another level and opened a door onto the balcony. I don't think I was supposed to be there as it was filled with scaffolding.
Undeterred I carried on.
I hurdled a few crossbars along the length of one side to have a look at the view over the rooftops from the back. Church spires and mosque minarets pierced the skyline above the red roof tiles.
There was such a randomness to the buildings. The higgledy-piggledy town planning of Stone Town was easily apparent from this vantage point.
Moving on I walked along to the South balcony where I was surprised to see a large amphitheatre inside the Arab Fort.
I read later that they host several performances of traditional music, dance and drama in its open-air theatre. That would have been worth seeing, if only we had known about it in advance.
The best view of all was the sea view looking west towards Tanzania.
There's something very soothing in looking out over a great expanse of water. I don't know why but it does calm the soul.
I had been on edge walking around the balcony. I guess I was worrying that I was trespassing but as soon as I saw the sea a calm washed over me.
Utterly captivated I stood there gazing out to sea. I don't know for how long I was there, probably only a minute but it felt good.
I rejoined Julie who wasn't feeling any better. We still had another two hours before our pick-up so we decided to find some lunch which would include the added bonus of somewhere to sit for a while.
One recommended in the Bradt travel guide and wasn't too far from the House Of Wonders was an Indian restaurant called Radha Food House. What drew our attention to Radha was the "pure vegetarian Indian cuisine". That was right up my street!
It was very easy to find just down a side street off Kenyatta Road.
Inside it was modestly decorated with white washed uneven walls and a red tiled floor.
It had a certain rustic charm to match its musty smell.
The place was empty which didn't instil confidence, nor did it smell like a curry house, then when the waiter appeared and he wasn't Indian we began to worry!
We both had "should we stay or should we go" racing through our minds. Ultimately we were just too tired to get back up again so we decided to go with the flow and crossed our fingers that our bowels wouldn't follow.
They had an extensive menu. It even had a whole page of their cigarettes selection! To eat I was spoilt for choice but quite out of character we were unadventurous. It must have been comforting for us to opt for our familiar favourites of Tarka Dal (or Dal Fry as it was described here) and Dal Palak, a spinach curry.
They arrived in white ceramic bowls on stainless steel trays and looked very unattractive. We cleaned our hands with our anti-bacterial hand wash, picked up our roti flatbread and tucked in.
Oh my sweet Lord, they were delicious!
We were so relieved. They tasted too good to be bad. In no time we were wiping the bowls clean.
I washed mine down with a sweet lassi which was refreshing although it had a few lumps which were hard to swallow. Uugh!
With plenty of Tanzanian Shillings still in our pockets we left Radha and popped down Kenyatta Road to a shop called Memories of Zanzibar.
We remembered seeing earlier a range of makala board games from large table top ones to small portable "travel sized" ones. We bought ourselves the smallest version possible!
Time seemed to be slowing down as we still had another hour before our pick-up. We didn't want to risk getting lost in the alleyways so we ambled slowly back along the front.
We ended up following a street down to a sandy beach. It wasn't all loungers and parasols but was instead a busy boatyard with small boats leaving filled with tourists on their way to the nearby islands.
"I wish we were staying the night" I said.
With hindsight it would have been a great idea. There was much of Stone Town we hadn't seen, the Hamamni Baths, The Old Dispensary, The Old Customs House, the Palace Museum. We could have visited the turtles and taken in a show in the Arab fort.
Next time perhaps.
We continued to the Fordhani Gardens where after a few minutes we saw someone waving frantically at us from inside the House of Wonder's car park.
It was our driver trying to catch our attention. He was clearly eager to leave!
We ignored him at first. There was still half an hour before 4pm but all we were doing was walking around wondering what to do until then.
"May as well head back early." I supposed.
Back in the car, which was like an oven inside, we drove along the harbour front.
It was a very busy area, especially around the ferry terminal.
My thoughts turned to the sinking of MV Spice Islander I. It was only last month when it left here for Pemba Island with over 3500 people on board but it never made it.
Somewhere in between it lost its engine power, and capsized; 2967 people died.
As we retraced the route back across the island I'm sure we fell asleep for parts of it. We sat in silence for the most part fading in and out of consciousness. Our driver did slow down when we drove through Jozani Forest and tried his best to spot a Red Colobus monkeys for us.
Then he stopped, got quite excited and pointed into the trees shouting "There!"
He was right, we did spot one high in the trees but having literally come face to face with the Golden monkeys in Rwanda we couldn't muster up much enthusiasm for this encounter.
However, as not to offend, I tried my best to fake interest and got my camera out to take a few snaps.
It wasn't long before we were turning off the road onto the track that lead down to Echo Beach.
We were absolutely shattered. The day had taken its toll on us. The sensible thing was to go to bed and that's exactly what we did. We headed straight to our room and slipped into a few hours of sleep.
Our resurrection wasn't easy. We could have easily slept through until tomorrow but we forced ourselves to get up.
A cold shower helped.
Whilst enjoying the downpour from the rainstorm shower head I noticed a sea water saltiness. I shouted to Julie "This isn't so much Fawlty Towers but more Salty Showers!"
Now as a joke goes it was barely humorous but in our vulnerable state of exhaustion we were crippled with laughter. It was fortunate I was in the shower as I pissed myself laughing!
Awake and squeaky clean we walked to the restaurant for our supper. Once again the standard was very high. For starters we had crab cakes and a blue cheese risotto as tasty as they could possibly be.
And for our main course I had vegetable pancakes which was very fresh and delicious whilst Julie tried the Barracuda. She had never eaten Barracuda before but it sounded so exotic on the menu she had to try it. When it arrived it looked amazing on the plate with a portion of Lyonaisse Potatoes. She thoroughly enjoyed her supper.
After we had eaten we skyped Hannah, uploaded some photos onto facebook and checked the news. We read that Kenya had sent soldiers into Somalia to rescue the recent tourist hostages. The fundamentalists responded by saying "the towers of Nairobi will be toppled". On our way home we have a five hour stop over in Nairobi airport. That was now deeply troubling Julie.
We headed for bed wishing we hadn't heard the news!
ęCopyright 2000 - 2022 Colin Owen