Travelling to Stone Town, Zanzibar

We bump along safari rutted roads which soon change to a pock marked road and then to a smooth highway where we zip along at what feels like breakneck speed.  I check the speedometer and we are not speeding, just a sharp contrast to the last week of crawling along in search of animals.

I’m excited for the next part of the trip where we will be sleeping in real beds and have the opportunity to be clean daily.  I look out the window at the scenery that passes too quickly, though at times details are clear.  People sit on the porches, lounging in the hot sun, while the work of their homes piles up around them.  I mentally complete the work of painting, repairing and landscaping to create a prettier picture.  There seems to be no urgency here.  I wonder how the people are able to relax with so much work?  Perhaps there is a balance and my life and the one viewed here are at either end of the spectrum.  I wonder if my seemingly endless lists of to-do’s and must-do’s rob me of the present.

We meet up with the other group to tour a coffee plantation.  John and I are excited about the prospect of a proper cup of coffee.  We stand through the inservice of how coffee is made, though there is no opportunity to either sample the wares or to purchase a cup of joe.  I think of how this could be marketed and envision a coffee shop where one could buy a coffee and have a snack while relaxing in the beauty of the plantation.  I wonder why this has not been created and decide that the only ones that would partake would be tourist folks who have been on a camping safari and have climbed Kilimanjaro without a proper cup of coffee.  Its still a pretty place and there is a proper toilet that includes toilet paper.  I wash my hands and let the water run over them, while I wash them not once, twice, but three times.  I look in the mirror and for the first time in a week look at my face.  I smile at my reflection, happy to be back to civilization.

We arrive in Arusha, a third world place mixed with first world, a city struggling to be current.  The car horns honk incessantly while the goats amble down the centre of the road.  There are smooth concrete sidewalks that gradually turn to rubble.  There are people begging for food while they stand in front of a restaurant.  There are well made buildings, high-rises mixed with shantytowns.  There are many big name companies represented, and I wonder about the salaries that are earned.

We stop at a gift shop, there are no locals shopping here, it has been created for tourists.  It is a pretty place, with sculptures, restaurants, coffee shops and expensive bric-a-brac. It is an oasis in a sea of poverty.  I feel guilty, as its clear this place is not open to the people who live in this city, the people that call Africa home.  This pretty place is for the pampered, spoiled people who only visit. For two weeks we have had the opportunity of seeing the place on the same level as the guides and now we are back to being sheltered from the people.  Our experience will now be more pedestrian and like the sculptures surrounding us, fake.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

We meet with the Director of our Safari experience.  She asks us for feedback, we  provide, though its soon clear that she is only interested in positive feedback.  She seems to regard us as spoiled.  It is doubtful that any of our suggestions will be put to use for subsequent groups.

We find out from her that our flight to Stone Town, Zanzibar will be delayed for several hours.  At first it will be four hours, then later we are told it will be six hours. They have found a Safari lodge for us to wait.  We have no rooms, no access to showers, but we are in a pretty place.  There is a pool, bar and restaurant.  Our mountain of luggage and lounging bodies occupy a large portion of the bar area.  I order a cheeseburger and fries and  relish every bite.  It tastes most excellent and rivals any burger I’ve had back home in  beef country, Alberta.

It’s finally time to go to the airport.  We get through customs as a group and then sit around and wait as minutes turn to hours and then several more, Africa time.  In what seems like forever, the time arrives to board the plane to Zanzibar.  We have been waiting all day.  We arrive the next day at 1:00 a.m.  The humidity immediately assaults despite the early hour.  My clothes instantly stick to my body and my body greedily sucks up the moisture.

We are greeted by our tour guide, such a friendly man with a beautiful smile.  We begin to walk towards the waiting bus and then a shout causes us to abruptly stop.  One suitcase has gone missing and we must all check our bags against the claim checks to find out the claim check that corresponds to the missing bag.  This is akin to solving the theory of relativity at this very late hour.  We all work through this task and the bag is found after checking the last tag.  We climb aboard the air conditioned bus and amble through the narrow streets of Stone Town.  I’m excited to explore in the light of day, but for now my eyes are forward as I travel ever closer to a shower.  We arrive at the Dhow Palace, obtain our room keys and haul our too many bags up the three flights of stairs to our room.