Winding Down in Stonetown

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February 24th 2018
Published: March 11th 2018
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One could foresee that our journey was coming to its conclusion. On our last day in Nungwi, at Makofi's, I actually shaved. I had not shaved since mid November, a week or so before we embarked. Oh I had trimmed my beard once every couple of weeks, but standing outside the shower area, ankle deep in white sand with the temperature hovering in the mid to high thirties, I pulled out my trusty Mac 3 and proceeded to prepare myself for a return to... what? I do not want to call it 'civilization' as Africa has its own form of civilization that, in just as many ways that we perceive it as behind us, it has also leapt far ahead of us as well. It was simply a sign that change was in the offing.... we only had a week left. We taxied from Nungwi on the northern tip of Zanzibar, back down the west coast about half way down the island. Here we changed direction, heading north by north-east on a peninsula of land known as Machamvi. It was here that the second sign of our trip winding to an end appeared - one of my leather sandals fell completely apart. After being worn for all but a handful of our 90 days in east Africa, they had succumbed and given up the ghost. Now I knew for sure that we were heading back to Canada - to the snow and the rain and the cold where sandals lose their status behind hikers, wellington boots and thick socks. I decided to make the vacation in Africa a permanent one for these friends of mine - I tied them to a tree in the brush behind our cabin and said goodbye.

Where Makofi's was a pleasant surprise, offering comfort and enjoyment for a small price, the Kae Funk resort proved to be just the opposite. Monica had been stating from the beginning that we would end our adventure on a high note - luxury in Machamvi before a couple of days of shopping in Stonetown. However, although Kae Funk definitely has the potential to be something very special, it never really delivered. To start with, our driver had a real problem simply finding the place. It took an extra hour to weave in and out of the single lane dirt roads and find the resort - they have not bothered to put up any signs signalling the route. At least our driver entertained us with a monologue concerning the corruptness of the government and how anyone who has spoken out publicly tends to mysteriously disappear. Much of his tirade circled around the fact that Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika in 1964 and became one country, Tanzania. However, the islanders perceive themselves as quite different and unique from the mainlanders, and with the heavy tourist industry in Zanzibar, they view themselves as being 'milked' by a corrupt mainland government.

We finally arrived at the Kae Funk resort, prepared to spend three nights in luxury and leisure. The bar and reception area are located about a two minute walk from a fantastic beach. There are ten or twelve cabins that extend up a hill and face the inlet water to the west. We were in cabin #8, located in the highest row and giving us a fantastic view of the sunset each evening. However, there were problems with the infrastructure from the beginning. Each cabin had a large ceiling fan that was essential to battle the relentless heat, however, the power needed to keep these fans going kept tripping and surging. They kept replacing the fan itself, however, the problem seemed to be more with their power system. We slept in another cabin the second night and its fan only operated at half speed. Monica especially could not find comfort in the humidity and heat. We spent the third and final night back in our original cabin, however, the power kept going in and out continuously. Since we were located high up on a hillside, power was also necessary to pump the water. Not only were we often without relief from the fan, we were also without running water and workable toilets. Food was another issue as the resort was somewhat isolated and they only offered a BBQ buffet each night. Monica and I felt we had little choice but to purchase the BBQ dinner at $15 a shot. The first night we had some wonderful white snapper - the second night was barracuda which I found to be much like octopus and not on my list of favourites. On the third day, we ordered a separate dinner of our choosing at breakfast, and this was much better. The other short coming of this place - though no fault of their own - was the tide schedule. We awoke each morning to the tide being in, but by noon the tide had receded leaving the beach too rocky and the water too shallow to swim in. The tide did not come back in until late afternoon so one had to endure the afternoon heat without access to the ocean. However, one has to adapt. Monica and I wandered down the beach and found another quality resort - the Sunset Beach resort. For ten dollars each, we were given access to their pool, towels, and lounge chairs. On top of that, the twenty dollars was redeemable at the bar for either food or drinks. We spent days two and three in this locale, enjoying a wonderful pool and ice cold beers.

We befriended a number of people while here. Andy and Oona were a German couple from Hamburg who were actually flying out of Dar es Salaam to Zurich a week later on the same flight as us. We also found a Canadian threesome - Eric, Viola and their son Craig from Nova Scotia. Craig was in real estate and he organized the whole trip for his parents. They even had a rented car as Craig had an international license.

On the 21st of February, we hired another taxi and drove across the island to Stonetown, located on the west coast of the island. We had booked only two nights in our hotel - the Island Hotel - and had not decided whether to stay a third night in Stonetown or ferry across and spend a night in Dar before heading home. Stonetown is one giant shopping maze. The city is roughly diamond shaped, with drivable roads circling around the outside. Once inside, cars are virtually useless as the entire area is simply a giant labyrinth of shopping kiosks and food areas. Many of the alleyways are only a few feet wide and one has to be aware enough to dodge scooters and bikes. It is very easy to get lost and locals can always be found to act as a guide for a small price. Monica had planned on us finishing in Stonetown and doing all our shopping here. Outside of the usual hats and shirts, we found a coin man who actually drilled holes in coins, either in the shape of Africa or many of the safari animals, hence making a necklace or bracelet from these coins. Monica also purchased a large wooden bowl carved from the famous baobao tree of Africa. With all the shops and all the constant bartering, Monica was very much in her element. I, constantly soaked with sweat, simply endured and adapted.

For pretty much the first time, we actually had air conditioning. We kept our room at about 18C, which compared to the outside air of just under forty, made our room a virtual freezer. We purchased a ferry ticket - VIP level - for the ride across to Dar from Stonetown. We decided to stay a third night in Stonetown and so booked a room at the Golden Tulip hotel, directly across from the ferry. We had booked the last ferry of the day on the 24th, four PM, and planned on stopping at a Pizza Hut, half way to the airport, for dinner. Our flight was not scheduled to leave until 11:40 at night. We checked out of the Golden Tulip around noon, leaving our bags in storage. We then spent the final few hours of our adventure in the hotel pool. (My suit was frozen solid inside my bag when I opened it in Vancouver).

I cannot complete this piece without mentioning Farrokh Bulsara. Our first restaurant that we visited in Stonetown was a place right on the docks called Mercury. The walls were filled with pictures of Farrokh Bulsara and his history. He was born in Stonetown, a Parsi whose family were Zoroastrian in faith. He grew up in Bombay and Zanzibar as his father was employed by the British consulate. In 1964, when Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika, there were riots and protests and many Arabs, Indians and Muslims were killed. Bulsara's family fled to England. Farrokh was 17 at this time. Living in Middlesex, Farrokh found his niche - music - and Farrokh Bulsara became Freddie Mercury. Need I say more? He is an icon - a tragic hero of rock music - here in Stonetown.

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12th March 2018

auld lang syne
Great record of your travels, Marty and Monica! Enjoyed them all. Freddy Mercury...yep...tragic ending..and there is also Ali Farka Toure from Mali...a favourite of ours. If you go back, Marty, will you look for your sandals? You must be home now and savouring each moment of your African adventure....
19th March 2018

What an amazing trip!! I'm finally getting caught up on your adventures and looking through all the pictures, thanks so much for sharing :) all the best, Sue

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