Armstrong Adventures travel blog

Culinary delights in the outside night market, Stonetown, Zanzibar. The kabobs are...

Dana fully accessorized on our Zanzibar spice farm tour. Pineapple leaf glasses...

Ahhhhhhh. Zanziblue!

D&S pet a 30 yr. old sea turtle in the Zanzibar "aquarium"....

View of the fishermen's boats on Zanzibar

Our spice tour guide retrieves a coconut for us to sip from....

Tiny town along the Tanzanian roadside. Men pull the wood wheeled carts...

Fishermen's kids swim naked in the crystal clear waters of Zanzibar

Muslim children in Zanzibar. They aren't supposed to show their faces to...

The lush, green Tanzanian countryside as seen from the main road. The...

Kids in a doorway of Stonetown, Zanzibar. Muslim adults won't pose for...

Roadside general store in Tanzania. We passed 100s of these type of...

Captain Vanilla and Pineapple Princess don their superhero gear to protect Zanzibar's...

Kids along the road in Tanzania.

Snow's coconut palm drinking hat. This is the day before I got...

A little shell collecting at our campsite outside Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


After about a week in Malawi we crossed into Tanzania, losing one hour at the border. We are now in East Africa. As we moved up towards rainy season the countryside continued to be more lush and cultivated. We drove through some impressive torrential rain showers. The towns we passed through were bustling with activity.

After two days of bouncing along rough roads we found ourselves in the capital, Dar es Salaam. We weren't all that impressed with Dar, but to be fair we only saw the port to head over to Zanzibar. We spent two nights in Dar, one before Zanzibar and one after. Both were extraordinarily hot, muggy nights. When I think of Dar, I think of being eaten by mosquitos and trying to sleep in a pool of sweat in a tent that felt like a sauna...not the best memories. But, it was the gateway to paradise, so well worth the uncomfortable nights.

Zanzibar is a 2 hour ferry ride from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the Indian Ocean. It was briefly its own country after independence from the Arabs in the 60's, but it is now part of Tanzania. From about the 12th century was a principal trading link to India, Persia, and Asia mostly for ivory, spices, and slavery. It wasn't until it became a British Protectorate in the late 18th century that the slave trade out of Zanzibar was outlawed. The link with Persia and the Middle East brought the influence of Islam both in culture and in architecture, both still seen today. It's a beautiful, tropical island that is now referred to as the Spice Island. Because of it's climate they can grow all varieties of spices and over the last few centuries spice plants have been introduced from various parts of the world. It is now one of the top producers of cloves in the world.

We took a very entertaining tour of a spice farm. In the 60's when the Arabs left, the land was redistributed and families could apply to get 3 hectares of land. Many of the families planted all the different kinds of spices now grown on the island and run tours. It was facinating. We saw a clove tree, introduced from Indonesia. Only the Tanzanian government can export cloves so the farmers have to sell it to the government and can't make very much money from it. We saw a vanilla plant, a parasite vine that has to be planted on a live tree to live. Once it is growing on the tree it gets most of it's nutrients directly from the host tree. I never knew (nor really thought about) where sesames come from...a plant that looks like a cross between a snap dragon and a sweet pea. They also grew lemon grass, ginger, tamarind, cinnamon, black pepper, and cardamon. In addition to all the spices they had 15 different types of bananas, passion fruit trees, mango trees(which were not in season, unfortunately), guava trees, pineapple plants and coconut trees. One of the guys from the farm climbed the coconut tree barefoot and brought down a fresh coconut and cut a fresh palm frond that fell to the ground. After the climber cut open the coconut for us to drink the milk he and our guide went to work whipping up all sorts of fun things from the palm frond. The guide made me a basket and a small frog, and the climber made Snow a funny looking hat. Those, together with the "sunglasses" our guide made us from the leaf of a pineapple plant and we were fully accessorized for jungle living (see pictures). Our tour was just Snow and me so it was more of an informal walk through the planation finding different spices and fruits. In the beginning our guide was really more interested in trying to sell us marijuana, but when we didn't show much interest he got back on track talking about the farm.

We spent a the first night in the main town on Zanzibar, Stonetown. It is built around a huge fortress that also housed the slaves before they we sent to Asia. The heart of Stonetown is a labyrinth of narrow alleys filled with children playing, muslim women selling a few tired fruits and vegetables, and old men playing chess. It's easy to get completely lost, but since Stonetown is bordered on 3 sides by water, eventually you come out to the waterfront and realize where you are. We loved wandering aimlessly taking in the sites and smells of the small town. We visited the Night Market in a waterfront park. It was a haphazhard arrangement of stalls offering various seafood grilled-to-order. I stuck to the fish, but Snow tried the grilled crab.

Then we headed to the north tip of Zanzibar to the village of Nungwi. We arrived in paradise! The prefect, white sand beaches broken up by rocky outcroppings were the picturesque settings for evening beach walks. Unfortunately, Snow started to feel sick on our hour drive up to Nungwi, and he went downhill from there. He spent 3 days in bed, with frequent urgent trips to the toilet. We only took a couple beach walks and he never even swam. I snuck in one quick dip with Kylie before we left.

It was a bummer to be in paradise and have Snow be so sick, but we were both very thankful that it happened there when we weren't moving everyday and living in a tent. We had our own room, and even our own bathroom...a first since Swakopmund, Namibia. So, of all places to get really sick, Snow picked the best.

I really didn't think he had malaria since he hadn't yet experienced chills; the only symptom that really differentiates malaria from a host of other pleasant diseases you can pick up in Africa. But, since you don't mess around with malaria, it seemed like a good idea to have him tested. So as not to disappoint, after we knew he had malaria, the chills set in. It would have been comical if it weren't so disturbing.

We had a ceiling fan in our room, but he was so cold I turned it off. It must have been about 95F in our room. I was in my bikini, too hot to put on anymore clothes. Snow was curled up on the bed shaking violently, teeth chattering loudly. We don't have any warm clothes with us, but all our laundry was laid out around the room, recently dried. I covered him up with every piece of clothing we had, including a shirt around his head, then wrapped him up in the sheet on the bed. I laid next to him to try to share some of my heat. All we could do was lay there and wait it out. We figured it would last about 30-45 minutes. It seemed like 2 hours, but I think it was closer to 45 minutes. It all ended with him declaring he was going to vomit. All I could think of was, "not on all our clean clothes!" Fortunately, we had just gotten him off the bed before he unload the 2 liters of water I had forced him to drink all day all over the floor. Neither one of us could imagine how we were going to get him to drink that much more water and an IV seemed like the best option. So, we abruptly packed up everything, piled into a taxi and headed for a hospital in Stonetown. For more on the story on Snow's bout with malaria, see his entry entitled Snow Gets Malaria.

We loved Zanzibar and would highly recommend it to anyone in the vicinity. It was a nice break from bouncing around on the the truck. Hopefully, someday we'll get back there and really get a chance to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Dana




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