Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stone Town and the Beach

Our ferry approached the island of Unguja and brought us to Stone Town- we had arrived in Zanzibar. Zanzibar was at one time considered the spice capital of the world and was the center point of trade between Africa and Indo-Asia - this gave it a mix of cultures that is evident in the food, people and architecture (which comes with a different type of scaffolding - logs tied with rope).

Stone Town itself is a maze of narrow twisting streets, similar to Venice, but minus the canals. It easy to get lost within, but that is also part of the charm. It is while wandering that you notice the architecture and get to appreciate that these people are really into their carved doorways.

It was one of the very few places we've been where we were told it was safe to walk at night, which we appreciated. Our first night we watched the sunset from one of the city's waterfront bars, while the locals were practicing their flips on the beach.

We had to take the obligatory spice farm tour, which turned out to be a great idea, except for one small part. We decided to do the bike tour version, so as to get a view of some more of the people, island, etc, while getting some exercise.

The unfortunate part was that after leaving town and going through the forest, it started to rain. Our guide assured us it wasn't raining, that it was a shower. Well, the shower lasted for most of the next 4 hours, so we were pretty soaked, but the temperature was warm enough that even Betsy didn't get cold, and the tour of the spice farm was fun. They would pull some leaves off a plant, crush them, and then we would smell it and guess which spice it was. We were not that good at guessing. Betsy usually guessed lemon grass, but when they actually did give us the lemon grass and told us this one would be easy, she guessed something else. Hugh wasn't much better. After the leaf test, they would then dig up the root, or pull off the bark, or whichever part the actual spice was made from, and then explain the process of turning it into a spice. The lunch they served us later was another taste test of many of the spices. Some of the spices also had other uses, even as lipstick.

They also grow tropical fruits on the farm and we got to taste some great stuff, including jackfruit, and here is our guide climbing the tree to get us a coconut.

During one of the heavier rain periods, we took shelter and the guides took the opportunity to teach Hugh a local board game, sort of a combo between nok hockey and pool.

On the bike ride home, the sun came out and we took a short break on the beach. Betsy eating Kashi bars in various locales will be one of Hugh's enduring memories of Africa. Here she is enjoying her favorite snack, which our supply of is quickly dwindling.

After stone town, we then moved to the beach for a few days. We chose a resort on the east coast beach of Jambiani. The beach was gorgeous and the water the most crystal blue either of us had seen - it was like looking at a postcard.

There were some strange things about the east coast beaches. One is that the tides are really dramatic, with the edge of the ocean moving about 1/2 mile between high and low tides. This allowed for great beach running at low tide, but made walks on the beach difficult at high tide when most of it was underwater. We were also surprised by how some areas seemed to have a lot of seaweed while others did not. We later found out that the seaweed is being planted and farmed, apparently to support the Chinese market. It is quite apparent that the Chinese are investing heavily in Zanzibar, and in East Africa in general. The seaweed does take away from some of the beauty, particularly at low tide. //. We went scuba diving again, and although it did not have the large species like Tofo, the water was warmer and there was a great variety of coral. Also in contrast to Tofo, there were not the strong waves to push the boat through, but we did have to wait for high tide to lift the boat off the ground.



  1. This is turning into quite a trip! I believe the official tally shows that "Betsy has been not been cold" 2 times. This is a record, no? Enjoy Kenya -- I have fond memories of my trip there in '96. Trading with the Samburu was a lot of fun.


  2. Also, for a reasonable fee we can airship some Kashi bars to an upcoming hotel. That would be quite a delivery!

    I think you should take a picture of Betsy eating Kashi bars in various places, tag them, and then have a slide show of Kashi.