Published: October 9th 2011July 7th 2011
We started our adventure in Zanzibar with a little alternative tourism. We decided to catch two different ferries to the island, arriving an hour apart. The plan was to wander around Stone Town, the historic heart of Zanzibar, without a plan, to see how long it would take for the two of us to ‘find each other’. After four months of spending every day together, it was a solitary experience to walk around Zanzibar on our own with the constant anticipation of bumping into one another. By lunchtime we were reunited somewhere in the bowels of the labyrinth that is Stone Town. Zanzibar was the centre of both the spice and the slave trade in the 19th century and home to people of various cultures, including Moors, Arabs, Persians, Indians and Europeans, the combination of which makes up the Swahili culture found along the Kenyan and Tanzanian shoreline. All these influences can still be found today in the people, the architecture, the food and the way of life of Zanzibar and in particular historic Stone Town, probably the most fascinating place of our African adventure. Day after day we would get lost in Stone Town, absorbed by the architecture, the delicious
food and of course the ever-present touts, who would try to sell you everything, from souvenirs and spice tours to BBQ fish and weed. We’re not sure if it was the BBQ fish or the Indian curries that caused Kam to get sick. In any case on the second evening of our stay in Zanzibar Kam’s tummy started to play up. By the next morning she was spending most of her time in the bathroom of our guesthouse and as breakfast was being served she even fainted, waking up shortly after to tell me that under no circumstances was I to take her to the local hospital. Meanwhile, for me, seeing Kam in such a bad state was scarier than any number of hippos and elephants. Our guesthouse was in the midst of renovations and with the incessant hammering becoming unbearable, we decided to find another place to stay. Kam, being the toughie she is, within a couple of days was back on her feet and more importantly enjoying some yummy pilau rice. In fact her reluctance to stick to a strict diet of water and bread and insistence on eating spicy foods meant that it took over a week
Kam's favourite place in Zanzibar
The fresh-cane sugar juice-stall!
for her stomach to fully recover. On the upside we met up with our friend Christoph, whom we had previously met in Malawi and Dar es Salaam. And with each passing day the touts were starting to get to know us and becoming less persistent in their harassment.
So with Kam feeling better, we decided to rent a scooter and ride around the island for a few days of beach hopping. The guy renting us the bike assured us that our international driver’s licenses would be sufficient. And sure enough towards the end of the first day on the road we got stopped by a couple of cops who wanted to check our license. And sure enough they didn’t think my international driver’s license was sufficient and told us to follow them to the station. So we played dumb. “Did we do something wrong?” “Have we broken the law?” “We thought this license was all we needed.”
Cop: “But this license is only for cars, not for motorbikes.”
Me (desperately): “It’s a scooter, not a motorbike.”
After repeatedly asking whether we had done something wrong, the cop changed his tune and told us that we could keep riding but that
we had to come into the station tomorrow instead. So Kam, being the gutsy one out of the two of us, asked some more. “Have we broken the law?” The cop just got annoyed and eventually he told us that we wouldn’t have to come to the station if we just took the scooter back to Stone Town the next day. We were pretty sure the guy was just after a bribe but at the guesthouse that night we organised a Zanzibar license, which put us back 10 bucks, but was worth every cent. For the next few days riding around the island whenever we got stopped by the cops, which happened on average twice a day, after seeing our official piece of paper, they would grudgingly let us go. The rest of our little beach hopping trip went off fairly smoothly. Well if you don’t mention the fact that we stacked the scooter riding through sand, that I got sunburnt again and that Kam got sick again, let alone cranky at the fact that it was her non-meat eating month and she had to watch me feast on delicious fresh seafood every night. Actually there were some brilliant moments
as well I suppose, exploring the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar, lazing around in hammocks, drinking the best chai in Africa and tearing up the roads Easy Rider style. Not to mention enjoying the vast empty beaches and snorkelling for pretty fish.
We finished our Zanzibari adventure with a couple more days strolling around Stone Town, enjoing gin and tonics while watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean, finding local pubs hidden away behind dark alleyways and bargaining for spices and tea at the markets.
There are more photos below