James McIntosh, March 17 2013
Saturday, March 2, 2013 – Tanzania
We were up by 4:15 a.m. and on our way by 5 a.m. (that actually means 5:30 a.m. because some idiots can’t apparently get it together). We headed towards the Tanzania border and while waiting for people to get visas we made breakfast and prepared our lunch for later, smack in the middle of the immigrations office parking lot. No big deal.
It was hot as hell and humid. We had a good 14 hour drive ahead of us so we didn’t waste much more time than immigrations needed before loading back in the truck. We slept a lot, read, drained every electronic we had, even did yoga in the back of the truck.
The next two days of driving ahead of us were really going to make it clear that Tanzania is no tiny blob on the map. It hogs close to a million square kilometers (943,000sq km if you don’t appreciate my generous rounding), and is nearly three times the size of the UK.
We arrived at camp long after the sun had gone to bed. Camp wasn’t anything exciting. I actually have no idea where we even were. Acacia had to reroute since an overland tour was robbed at gunpoint earlier this month at the previously chosen camp. So we setup camp fumbling around in the dark, quickly ate dinner, and called it a day.
Sunday, March 3, 2013 – Mikadi Beach, Dar es Salaam
We were up around 4 a.m. and testing Sabies shocks by 5 a.m. Roads in eastern africa hardly deserve to be called roads.
We had another 14 hour day ahead of us. I snagged the floor in the back of the truck and snoozed for as long as possible. Apparently we cruised right through Mikumi National Park and elephants, zebras, giraffes were all seen, but not by me. Apparently James is so desensitized he didn’t think to wake me up either.
We stopped at some local joint for lunch. It was a Vegas-style buffet that cost a whopping 10,000 Tsh (that’s just $6). I was absolutely stoked about an authentic simple Tanzanian meal.
James, apparently was too.
Back on the truck we repeated the same cycle as the day prior: sleep, music, yoga, read. After James finished the book he started yesterday and I was yoga-d out, there was nothing left to do, but make a drink and peek out the window for endless traffic jam and bold vehicle maneuvering entertainment. We all agreed if we were forced to drive in this, wearing a diaper would be required.
After 4 hours on the 10km nightmare stretch of highway leading into Dar es Salaam, (you thought Seattle traffic was bad?), we pulled into camp just as the sun was setting. We ran to change into our suits and quickly jumped into the refreshing Indian Ocean. It was absolutely packed with locals (imagine Mandalay wave pool). The water is clean and unbelievably warm (awesome, after putting those both in the same sentence I’m just now realizing why that may be). Okay, so it looks clean. The ginormous city of Dar es Salaam (with the first tall buildings we’ve seen in a few countries) can be seen towering before the ocean in the near distance.
Dar is home to over 3 million people (estimated population of Tanzania is 46 million). While not the legislative capital, it’s clearly the economic capital of the country. It’s a bustling city where the Arabic, Indian, and African influences create a dynamic and colorful place.
We chilled in the bar after dinner before packing our bags for Zanzibar. We’d be spending the next four nights in honeymoon central. This means camping wasn’t exactly an option for Acacia. Oh yeah, hello pillows and mattresses.
Monday, March 4, 2013 – Stone Town, Zanzibar
Nothing like a good 5 a.m. ping pong, wheelie bustin’, rubber burning, bumper car-style tuk tuk ride to start your morning off right.
We arrived at the ferry terminal in the city center with incredible windswept hair-dos ready for the quick ferry ride across the sound before boarding the much larger ferry that would take us to Zanzibar.
The ferry ride took 2 hours and we arrived in Stone Town before noon. We were left to explore a few hours on our own. Stone Town reminds me of Venice. Except on land. It’s a maze of spooning buildings that tangle worse than your white iPod headphones.
By noon we met up with the rest of the group to start our spice tour. We stopped in at a local place and ordered curries and traditional dishes which feature a hefty dose of the local spices.
With our bellies bleached of turmeric, we headed to the spice plantation. The spice tour was incredible. We were taken on a guided walk through a not-so dense forest filled with spice trees.
We saw lemongrass, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, vanilla beans, and gay-boy fruit. We then had a fruit tasting session which featured freshly picked coconuts, the worlds sweetest tasting mango (the entire group agreed), pineapple, papaya and banana.
Afterwards we made a stop at the slave museum before being let loose to get lost in the winding alleyways. James found another beanie and I gave into buying clown pants (the worlds most comfortable sweats, that happen to look like the seamstress was drunk).
There was an awesome hotel rooftop bar that looked out over the Indian Ocean towards the Bawi and Changuu islands closely offshore. We enjoyed our drinks and peanuts while watching the sun dip down into the ocean.
Afterward we went to meet up with the group at Mercury’s on the waterfront. In case you forgot, the Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was born on the island of Zanzibar and spent his toddler years stumbling around the white sand beaches.
Ridiculously excited about air con, pillows, and mattresses, we headed back to the hotel shortly after dinner.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 – Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar
We woke up early and had breakfast at the rooftop restaurant before booking it to a cafe we discovered yesterday that served us the first real coffee we’d had in seven weeks.
After our caffeine fix we met back up with the group so we could head north to the white sandy beaches and tropical paradise.
It was an hour and a half drive to the northern tip of the island. Although it was dumping rain, we all sat quietly hoping by the time we checked into the Sunset Bungalows the sun would be waiting for us.
Our rooms were absolutely awesome. They sat a short distance from the beach. The beach is incredible. It’s the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. The water is brilliant turquoise and you can see forever. The water is perfectly warm. The sand is pearly white. Unbroken, shiny shells line the shore, begging to be picked up.
Too impatient to wait for the sun, we got in our suits and took off to explore the beach. We strolled down the impressively clean beaches, and although the sun wasn’t yet making her appearance, we had to wear sunglasses because the white sand was so bright.
The rest of the day was spent hanging at the beach, drinking at the many resort bars and having dinner with the group.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 – Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar
We got up by 8 a.m. and had breakfast at our restaurant. We then headed straight for the ocean. Our quick swim turned into a full-blown swimming lesson. Apparently my froggie-style wasn’t making the cut, so James patiently taught me how to swim. It started dumping rain, and since it was so warm in the water, we stayed put and carried on. Huge raindrops sprinkled into the ocean before rebounding, and and as far as we could see the ocean transformed into an elaborate Chihuly piece of art.
A few hours later our tummies suggested it was time for lunch, so we escaped the rain and headed to the restaurant. We snoozed in the hammock and awoke to crisp sunshine. Back into the ocean we went for several more hours until happy hour rolled around. For the rest of the day we could be found in beachside hammocks with mango mojitos in hand.
Hey, we worked four solid weeks of camping for this.
Thursday, March 7, 2013 – Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar
Today we were up early and had breakfast before I took off by 8:30 a.m. for snorkeling. James, although fighting a nasty cold, would spend the day diving (video footage in development). Yeah yeah, PADI will be on my résumé before 2014, but for now I’m stuck cruising above water. Lucky for me, visibility here is crazy good.
We boarded a wooden sailboat and cruised 2 hours north and then around the island to the eastern face of the island. Eventually we dropped anchor near Mnemba Island. It’s a private island, but based on the two plus dozen other boats, a prime snorkel spot.
I apologize, I’m no marine biologist, so this will be sound something as simple as Dr. Suess. There were zebra fish, bright fish, big fish, little fish, neon fish, sea urchins, mosquito fish, and lots of coral. A pack of nearly a dozen dolphins curiously cruised closely by, which was definitely the highlight of my snorkel day.
We stopped at a beach on Zanzibar island just after noon and were treated to freshly caught tuna fish and freshly picked fruits.
We made the 2 hour trip back to sunset bungalows and James and I quickly jumped into the ocean before boarding the boat for the booze cruise.
The booze cruise started at 4:30p.m. and was well stocked with everything required to create a dangerously fun evening. We sailed south and an hour in we anchored on a sand bank which felt like it was in the middle of the ocean. The water was still perfectly warm, the white soft sand sparkled under the clean blue-green waters. We jumped off the top of the boat and quickly discovered hundreds of starfish surrounding us.
Standing waist-deep on the bank you easily had a dozen starfish within reach. So of course we (ok it might have just been me) tested our African cargo-head balancing skills.
I think I set the new Guiness World Record with about seven and then we sailed back to the beach.
Lets just say we got our money’s worth on the booze cruise because we don’t have anything to write about past about 6 p.m.
Please note, comments are closed for any Acacia members at this time.
Friday, March 8, 2013 – Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam
It was a rough morning in paradise. We somehow made it on the shuttle by 8:30ish to make the drive south back to Stone Town where the ferry departs from. It was pouring rain and even by 10 a.m. wasn’t showing signs of letting up.
Needing fresh air and trying to replace some lost items from the previous evening, we set out into the rat maze for an hour and a half. We then boarded the ferry and snoozed the whole trip. We jumped off in Dar es Salaam and were given a generous hour to get water, snacks, checkout the city, etc.
By 4 p.m. we were back at Mikadi Beach and of course already missing Zanzibar, went immediately to jump in the ocean.
We spent the rest of the night in the bar (not drinking) and researching our next adventure (Uganda gorilla tracking vs. Mt Kilimanjaro).
Saturday, March 7, 2013 – Dar es Salaam to Arusha
By 4 a.m. the obnoxious alarm woke us up and we were on the road by 5 a.m. ready to tackle a long day of driving.
By 9 a.m. we rolled into a gas station parking lot and setup our entire kitchen. Out came a dozen boxes, food crates, stove, tables and dishes. We made beans, toast, crap coffee, and then packed it up and carried on. We laughed, imagining what would happen if someone did that in the states.
The roads in east Africa are horrendous. There are semi-permanent “road closed” signs every few kilometers. These aren’t exactly safe either. We saw a Kilimajaro Express (one that’s used by locals and tourists equally) dumped upside down and backwards on the side of the highway just an hour after they went whizzing around Sabie. So the 350 km drive took us a good 11 hours.
We rolled into the creepy campsite around 4 p.m. The neighboring river was home to some hungry crocs, so we were left with just about nothing to do besides take a walk outside camp. We returned to camp, looking forward to a cold shower.
Still chatting it up thanks to the low cement partition separating the boys and girls bathrooms, our convo was interrupted by me freaking out. My shower-head decided to switch from releasing clean water (slightly rust tinted water is our new norm) to dumping thick, chunky dark brown something all over me. The only other girls shower spewed out the same mess, so I hauled muddy ass and invaded James still-clear shower. In all seriousness James had to ask me to “look after the water while I stick my head back in.”
Zanzibar days are clearly over.
Sunday, March 8, 2013 – Dar es Salaam to Arusha
After an eventful night of playing monkey chaser, we were out of camp by 7 a.m. We had a 350km stretch to cover before arriving in Arusha. We had an hour in Arusha to get supplies for the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and make some research-based decisions on adding yet another country to our Africa itinerary.
Here we come big five!