My original plan after summiting Kilimanjaro was to slowly bus my way through Tanzania, really getting off the beaten path. There was some great hiking in Lushoto, some cave paintings in Kondoa, the Udzungwu Mountains looked beautiful, and in the West there is a whole area mostly dedicated to that time when two people met and one of them said, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” But I was pooped and all I wanted to do was sit my ass on the beach. So I went to Zanzibar.
I was told that I could take the bus from Arusha in the North to Dar Es Salaam in the East and still have enough time to catch the tourist ferry – you have to take the tourist ferry because the local ferry has been having a tendency to sink lately. My bus left at 5:45AM and 10 hours later, we still weren’t in Dar. I had missed the last ferry. Fortunately, the 15 minute charter planes between Dar and Zanzibar are only about 70 bucks, so I climbed into a 10 seat plane and skipped over to the island.
I decided to stay on the East coast of the island for two reasons: it was quieter so I could just sit undisturbed on the beach and I found a hostel there. Averaging lodging in Zanzibar was north of 40 bucks a night and I was only paying 12, which was an epic win.
I honestly don’t have too much to say or any narrative about my time in Zanzibar. I’ll instead just give a lot of little WRITTEN snapshots into my life there for 10 days. I stopped taking pictures after a while because the beach is the beach is the beach. Very beautiful, but it just doesn’t change a lot.
I rented a motorbike while I was there which was great. It gave me the freedom to set my own schedule, not have to pay for a tour any time I wanted to go somewhere, and I could try lots of different restaurants, cause the food at my hostel was not the best. Unfortunately, the police in Zanzibar love pulling over white people, so I got pulled over at least 10 times. Not for speeding – my bike couldn’t even go faster than 60km/h (36mph) – always just to look at my permit. I did have a possibly forged Zanzibar motorbike permit, but the first time a cop stopped me, he was a real hard-ass. He threatened me with a court date and prison and I knew it was time for my second bribe of the trip. They don’t really teach you about how much to bribe a cop in Africa while you’re in high school so I paid him 30,000 schillings – 20 bucks or an African fortune. Everyone agreed I over paid. I was just happy to be done with him. I was able to sweet-talk myself out of every police stop after that; I was a little wiser and the cops were a lot nicer.
My bike only broke down once. Unfortunately, it was on my longest day of biking. Fortunately, 90% of my day was spent driving around absolutely deserted streets. The chain fell off my motorbike about 10 feet past a mechanic. I also had just been to the ATM. It took 10 minutes to fix and I think I grossly overpaid the guy 10 bucks. I’m a giver.
My daily plan was go to a fancy resort for Italian people, eat lunch at their restaurant, and then use their beach chairs. It worked wonders. I ate well too.
I drove into the “big city” of Stone Town one day. Mostly because it was where the only ATM on the whole island was and I was low on cash. It was about 90 minutes by motorbike, an hour by car. I loved the long distance drives because the island really is beautiful and there is virtually no traffic. The city of Stone Town itself is REALLY uninteresting. There are just some winding streets that sell the same shit you can buy anywhere else in Africa, and there is a minor obsession with Freddy Mercury of Queen since he was born there. That’s about it. It was a good day though.
I stupidly/geniusly drove 2 hours across the entire island just to go to a full moon party. The party was fun, but certainly not as fun as advertised, but what was better was I met up with a large group of Americans studying abroad and got to explore the other beaches. While the Northern beaches are objectively better, they are over run by loud white people. On the east coast, I could walk along the beach and not pass anyone for 30 minutes. Tropical bliss.
Instead of paying for a full spice tour, I would just stop at spice farms whenever I wanted to. I ended one tour early to which the guy was very confused and implored, “Wait! You haven’t even seen the lemongrass!”
I was on the East coast but about 30 minutes to the North there was a bay that was advertised as the perfect place to watch the sunset. I almost killed myself getting there on the unmarked speedbumps, Zanzibar’s favorite method of speed control. When I got there there were clouds covering the sunset. It was still pretty though.
The main feature of the East coast is the Jozani National Park. Famous for their Colobus monkeys. When I first drove by the park at night in a taxi, I snickered at the “Monkey Crossing” sign. Over the next 10 days, I drove by the park four times during the day. Three of those times I actually saw monkeys crossing the street. The park is very small, but very personal and charming. I actually stood at the base of a tree where there were about 15 or 20 monkeys just lounging in the heat. The mothers eyed me suspiciously, but the men just kept eating leaves. They led a pretty cool life.
Honestly, if I wasn’t doing any of things listed above, I was probably doing nothing. My days were spent waking up, trying to do an activity like see the monkeys, I’d be done by lunchtime. I’d read my book while eating lunch. I’d go sit on the beach and read. Then, I’d go eat dinner, reading my book while waiting for my food. Then I’d go to bed around 9. Not a bad life at all. It just doesn’t make for very good blog posts.
I definitely got too lazy while I was there, stuck very deeply in my rut. I knew I was going to have to muster the energy to leave at some point, but that was always tomorrow’s problem. Today, I’ll just read the next chapter of my book.