Zanzibar, a giant archipelago of which the “zan” in Tanzania is actually named after, is the most touristy place in Tanzania. The island has a town of Muslim and Arabic flavor and its streets so twisted and narrow, people get lost even with a map, picturesque beaches, dolphins, and windy beaches made for kite surfing Paradise. Just like highland and Savannah Tanzania, every location has it’s own geographic signature. These traits, but mostly the beach, attracts those who are looking for vacation. I thought about skipping this island, but thought the ocean would do me wonders. The ferry was nice, nice seats, on time, movies on flat screens, and air condition. The wavy ocean made people queasy, but that didn’t affect me. The shake and ramble seemed like a mother’s carese of her baby compared to the Galapagos lancha.
The island was hot, but not unbearable. The city looks old and historic. White walls with peeling paints stood firm in the background of the giant Karibu sign at the ferry dock.
Immigrant and health officer checked my yellow fever certificate, passport, and I even got a separate passport stamp. I might as well went to different country. The Indian ocean has the color of turquoise, but Stone Town is no place for a swim. Without trash trucks or appropriate plans, they dump their shit in the ocean, literally.
Tourist are everywhere as taxi drivers try to lead people around for a fee. The buildings all squeeze together, and the streets turn and twist that they are more alleyways than streets.
I will be spending, possibly, my last two days in Stone Town to get my Moçambique visa, so I left as soon as I came and took a dala dala to the Paje area, the eastern beaches of Zanzibar. I was told that the east beaches are more quiet than the northern part, where its more touristy. The north of Paje, Bwejuu, is even quieter. I was told it’s 30 per night to stay there, which I mistake as 30000 tsh. It was 30 dollars which was why I stayed for only one night, and I wish people stop using dollars instead of tsh. People should try to promote their own national currency for once.
As soon as I arrived I jumped in the ocean because once the tide retreats the ocean isn’t swimmable. The island is guarded by reefs, so waves don’t pass through and water only begins to saturate on the beach on high tides. The sand is white and almost snow like, but the wind is strong, so the tiny sand particles blow in your face and cover your feet as you walk.
I jumped in the ocean only to be greeted by hundreds of tiny blue jelly fishes ten minutes later. One slap right across my face and left a streak of stinging red. I asked a local about it and he told me it started happening couple days ago. The sand is white, and where the high tide ends are filled with pretty shells and dead blue jelly fishes washed ashore. I walked around the beach and checked out the tide retreating before going to get food and beer.
It was Friday, and I went to Paje that night. Only four people were in Bwejuu as far as I could tell. About fifty plus people were in Paje. They have party every night playing the shittiest trance music on the beach. People dressed as Massai but already lost what their tribe stood for partied with tourists, shitty music played till the morning. It’s not Cancun, but it tried to be. In a way, I rather talk to touts on the streets.
The next morning I moved to Paje, because its cheaper to stay there. People come here to kiteboard. In the morning, at least 50 Kites filled the horizon, in the reef area. The wind pattern traverses instead of moving perpendicular to the beach in the low tide morning. People brave the reefs to have favorable wind. Some people are standing on the beach with their instructor learning how to feel the wind. It looked real boring, but more importantly it is expensive. Every touristy thing is expensive in Tanzania. Some local even told me its more expensive because Tanzania is a poor country like it actually made any economical sense.
I relaxed on the beach and explored the nearby area with a friend, then went to a seafood barbecue, and went to bed early because I was not going to another shitty trance fest again.
The next day I walked to the blue lagoon to find snorkeling. It was quite a walk, it took the whole day for the round trip. I got there, the place is named after the hotel by the area. The tide rolled high and I swam around for a hour and only saw the fish and stepped on a sea urchin. At least it was a good swim practice as the tide pushes back inland while I tried to move outward to the reefs. Much to my suspicion, you need low tide to snorkel there, but tidal dependencies made the fishes that live among the reefs there questionable. I always thought high tight would occasionally bring the eagle rays and more marvelous creature to the area, but it’s Africa. They fish so much, there isn’t any fishes around because the reefs are broken.
I went back and drank beer and just chilled through the night. It turned out to be quite fun. I had many just chill and drank beer days in Africa, and they make me think maybe I should just go home. That’s exactly what I do on the daily anyways.
It was the Superbowl that night, at 230AM in the morning. I tried to follow the feeds, but slow internet bored me sleep. When I woke up, Broncos won and I was sad Cam didn’t pull through. When I checked the scores and read the news, it seemed like a bizarre game. Cam dropped the ball, quite literally, a few times, and the team did too. I guess you don’t need offense in the NFL.
That morning I decided to head north, for better beaches, against my better judgment. I began to like Paje, mostly because I can comfortably do nothing. It felt at home. There is a cool bar, a cheap place to sleep, friendly people. The beach brings that kind of feelings. I wanted to move on.
I went to Nungwi, the north, the touristy place. I regretted going so early. I sat in the back of a converted truck and got there for cheap. The beach is more blue and picturesque but it didn’t make the place better. In Nungwi you can see the sunset, because it is at the northern tip of the island. The sunset was beautiful, the beach was more fun to swim in, but there doesn’t seem to have the camaraderie among others I felt in Paje and else where. People go there for their couple vacations.
People selling you tours and Massais selling you other shit talk to you from time to time. The fee isn’t unreasonable, but I’m not eager to book anything. My train to Zambia leaves next Tuesday, which gives me a lot of days to do nothing. If I choose to spend some flying money I can go to Mafia island which I think is a really good idea, but the 20 minutes flight is quite expensive.
People come here and really stay here. It’s chill, it can be cheap, and for cold climate Europeans, there is the beach literally 10 steps away. It is the Montañita effect. People come here and they party hard, and they go to full moon parties and they eventually forget to leave. Even the hotel owners forget how much you owe. Some girls get an African “boyfriend” and stay till they absolutely has to leave. They told me that Massais here are even worse than the ones else where. They are basically male prostitutes. The other group of “annoyance” are the “beach boys”. Teenagers who sell you tours on the beach. Massais and beach boys hate each other, I don’t know the reason because they provide completely different services. I don’t really find both annoy except the few who called me china with a specific high tone that just makes me what to use the n word.
What is worse is the children. In Paje, they come to you, ask for food, ask for water. Then with confidence, ” You buy me football, tomorrow, at 10AM”. Ask you to take photo and then ask for money, just like the London mime. The children are developing the beggar mentality, and it makes me wonder what will make of them growing up. I’m not someone with much emotions, but the children made me feel sad. Africa can be a sad place, if the children are like this now, where is the future?
I do have hope, for every child playing with their water bottle car on the beach asking me for free stuff, there are others going to school. Some of them will pull through and make this continent a better place. I don’t really blame Tanzanians for all this. It is the others my who shaped them. Tanzanians don’t need to kill lions to feel they have a bigger dick. They are not the ones who kill their animals. The Massais were once a proud tribe people. There weren’t any beach boys. The tourist made it this way. The outsiders put them through changes they weren’t ready for. The outsiders shaped Africa, and in a way made things worse. In Nungwi, the locals even try to cheat money from other locals, not just mzungus. It is sad.
The people in Nungwi are much better nourished than Stone Town and Paje. There are fish, and more food. Teenagers work out on the beach and do acrobatics and bboy. In Stone Town, drug addicts stroll the streets asking tourists money for “food”. I had some octopus that reminded me of tripas, and no they don’t want the free food, just some money for ” food” please.
Fishing is big here, so big that I saw people carrying tiny baby sharks not even a foot long back ashore. It is sad. One beach boy asked me if I like to do a snorkel or this tour or that tour. I asked him about deep sea fishing. You can even do that for a price. He proceeded to show me pictures of people posing with giant catches. Then he talked about fishing by the mnemba island, which is where the snorkel he is trying to sell. I told him fishing by mnemba is going to kill their snorkel business, but he just said OK. People in Zanzibar tend to say OK when they don’t understand, so I told him of mzungus keep killing lions in game reserves, then there will be no more safaris for people to sell. He seemed to understand then.
The best part about Nungwi, and it actually can overshadow all the bad parts, is the stretch of beach outside of Cholo’s bar. It is active. People do acrobats here. Every evening people play volleyball. Swim, beer, volleyball, and couple flips make a beach interesting. I miss the serenity of Paje, and how I can just drink beer and relax all day long. However, I like how I can put in a couple hours of volleyball in more.
The weather in the morning hasn’t been so wonderful. It was cloudy, with a scatter of rain. However, the evening, with its fiery sunset, is wonderful. I made some local friends doing flips on the beach even thou I absolutely can’t get any bounce on the sand like they do. Day one the skill level was average, but the second day, the tricks for complicated and more entertaining. Between all the eating shit and bail outs I play volleyball couple steps away.
Two days was all it needed, and all the touts along that beach know me. I talked to them and fed them elaborate lies for fun, and soon they just greet me and there was no selling anymore.
One of the girls that stayed there for months told me to try to eat at this place. It has the price of local food, but the food is cooked well. I walked 20 minutes and had food there. Price of local food? More like price of mid higher end Dar. The food? One of my chicken was undercooked, I might get salmonella. There is another place near the local market that is actually better, and cheaper. It doesn’t matter how long they have been here, it doesn’t mean they know everything.
So far, I have seen so few Americans in Tanzania, I actually miss meeting Americans. One girl who goes to Yale in Arusha. The Texan Californians on Kilimanjaro. A guy from Baltimore and two girls from Frisco in Paje to hear my Superbowl talks. And how about people from south America? Zero.
I talked with guy one day just chilling on the beach. He was probably bored and I definitely was. He said his dad married another woman in Germany and lives there. He studied to be a physician in Germany and worked in Kenya. Then he came back to Zanzibar because his mother lives here. He works as a receptionist now, but he got an offer coming as a physician in Stone Town. He then proceeded to show me box moving game on his phone. He said it took him 3 hours to figure it out and wanted to see if I can solve it. Fifteen minutes passed and I kept trying two combinations that didn’t work. That got him bragging and talking shit. “A girl did it”. ” Even n*ggas like me solved it”. For someone educated in Germany, he is still pretty racist and misogynist. I played stupid ass phone games since I was a kid. The shit talking got me bit fired up and being pissed off is the fuel to my engine. Within two minutes, I realized I just needed to combine my two previous approaches and solved the box puzzle. I showed him the congratulation sign, but he wanted me to show him how I did it. I showed him and it made me think he never solved it but tricked me to do it for him. We parted way soon after, but between the touts and random encounters, I was never alone in Africa.
I can’t decide if I like Tanzanians or not. I have some really interesting conversation with many, and then I see people with absolutely zero dignity walking. How can I respect them if they don’t respect themselves. I see rude people. “Chino! Japanese! Korean! Ogaliwa!”. Some of them just yell it out nonstop. I didn’t mind much when central and South Americans called me chino, they don’t see Asians often and they are just intrigued. However, these Tanzanians, they saw plenty. From my observation a lot of Asians go to Zanzibar, so they know. They are just a bunch of African racist and they would sure like it when if I use the n word on them. I mean for a race where slavery and racism had been common, they didn’t seem to mind much to categorize others they don’t know with stereotypes. The less rude ones just say my friend.
At the same time, I did get a bit of laugh out of calling Tanzanians who just fucking can not stop calling me china, Japanese, or Korean, racists.
” Konichiwa Japanese! You looking to snorkel?”. “I’m not Japanese bro”. ” Chino! Korea!”. “Guess again”. ” Konchiwa!!”. ” I don’t want to talk to y’all, y’all fucking racists”. It stuns them and I get a bit of laugh out of it. A proven method to deal with savages who lie is to talk over them. The louder it is the more authority you have. It is completely against the rules of civil debate, but everyone does it and it works in Africa.
Nungwi WiFi was shit. At least back now,e I was staying, they pretend they did pay for the WiFi, but they haven’t paid shit. So I succumbed and got a phone card. 5000 tsh, for 3GB of internet. That’s a dollar for a gig, cheap as shit. Didn’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. Oh, actually I know. They nano cut my sim card with a butcher knife and the card is forever stuck in my phone. Just the thing I tried to avoid.
Life is good on the beach, volleyball, acrobatics, and snorkeling. I went to a dive shop and found a map where I learned there some reefs. All the reefs are easy to get to early in the morning when its low tide. Most of the reefs are broken because of the fishing and boat activities around Zanzibar. I still saw some stuff I hadn’t seen before. Sitting on the beach drinking beers at night after a long day of doing stuff. No wonder people stay here forever.
I saw a bad piece of news on a Thursday morning. They changed the train schedule to Zambia to Friday, not Tuesday. I cut my beach vacation short and took the ferry back.
Traveling in Africa is different. Every new place I go, I wish I stayed at the old place. I want to go back to the oxygen depleted peak of Kilimanjaro, pitch a tent and just sleep there everyday in my down jacket. In Dar, I wanted to go back to Nungwi. I got used to snorkeling and doing nothing. It was good. Dar is the only place I never want to go back.
Every time its something new. It is not the dystopic landscape that puts me back its the every day faces lack of emotion and smile that set me back this time.
I finally got through to Tazara on the phone. I can’t get on the first class sleeper train, but second class will do. I’m not big on luxury especially when luxury is quite relative speaking here. I can not wait to get out of Dar.