Edit Blog Post
Published: September 1st 2013
I hopped off the Dala Dala at a roundabout near Paje, then dragged myself and my disintegrating backpack what felt like a very long way down the road. When I couldn’t be bothered to walk any further, I wandered into a little hostel of the generic kind found on backpacker beaches the world over. Thatched huts, hammocks strung up between wonky palm trees, banana pancakes, Bob Marley on the stereo. It could have been Goa, or Thailand.
I stayed in the eight bed dorm room, a construction of wood and palm leaves. It’s built directly onto the beach - there’s no floor - and in the low light the fine sand looks like a thick cream coloured carpet. The mosquito nets hang like rows of cartoon ghosts. In the morning you can see the tracks left where beetles have been wandering while you slept. Zanzibar is not cheap by backpacker standards – this was $17 a night.
Paje is a long, flat, straight expanse of blindingly bright white sand. So bright it makes you almost snowblind. At midday it’s a struggle to open your eyes without sunglasses on. The beach runs for a kilometre or so in either direction
from where I stayed. Almost all the hotels and bars are set back slightly, hidden behind a strip of palm trees. In the morning, when the tide is out, the sea is almost as far away as the horizon, and the boats look as if they’ve been flung far inland by some kind of natural disaster. It’s the best place in Africa for kite surfing, so it should come as no surprise that it gets very, very windy. I would of course have known this, had I bothered to buy a guidebook. When the tide was out and the wind was blowing and the sun was bright there was a disorientating quality about it, almost desert like, with the sea in the distance like a mirage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful beach. But it’s not a gentle, easy beach.
It’s most interesting at night. After dark thousands of tiny transparent crabs emerge from the sand, so fast and pale they’re barely visible. It gives the disconcerting impression that the beach is coming alive and shifting around you. Almost like a weird visual aura. Or maybe that’s just me. I was quite drunk.
It was approaching full
moon while I was there, so it was never truly dark. At night the moonlight through the clouds creates strange patterns, making the sky look as if it’s painted on a ceiling just out of arms reach. One night on the way home I caught a bunch of locals laughing at me because I was just stood in the middle of the beach, staring up at the sky. I kept trying to take photos of the moon, even though I know this is a completely hopeless thing to attempt, so my phone is full of pictures of blackness with a little white smudge.
What did I do on Paje, aside from shit descriptive writing? I did a yoga class on the beach, like a total wanker. I went diving for the first time in 5 years (which merits its own separate entry). I spent a lot of quality time with a book and a hammock. I got drunk at a beach party, nearly set fire to the bar letting a German boy teach me to light flaming sambuca shots inside my own mouth, went swimming in the sea at 3am then hitched a lift back on someone’s motorbike. It
Paje at low tide
See all those little dots on the horizon? They're the kite surfers' kites. At this distance they look a little like seeds floating in the wind.
was basically just like my gap year, only now I really ought to know better. At one point I met a fellow traveller who was born in 1995, causing a brief moment of existential panic, but I quickly squashed that with more beer.
I stayed on Paje for a grand total of 3 and a half days, by which point I felt I knew everyone on the entire beach. I moved on to Nungwei, the most built up and touristy of the beaches, purely because I wanted to dive the Mnemba Atol marine park.
A few details (because I always found Travelblog.org useful for this kind of stuff). I stayed at New Teddy’s (the $17 dorm), which amusingly has some kind of feud going on with Old Teddy’s (the entirely identical hostel directly next door), the sordid details of which were never fully explained. The best bars were Paje by Night (free Wifi!) and the Dow Inn, the only bar that was directly on the beach (though your feet get wet at high tide). I dived with Buccaneer on Paje, who I would definitely recommend for being friendly and having really knowledgable local divemasters who were very patient
with me when I sucked because I was diving for the first time in 5 years.
Tot: 2.01s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 14; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0268s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb