A Travellerspoint blog

The Perfect Beach of Matemwe

The final day of my African adventure as well as open-water diver certification!

sunny 28 °C
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Written: July 25, 2007

I don't know why I do it to myself. You know when you realize you have a wound and you try not to touch it or get salt on it? I'm that guy that rubs salt onto it to see how much pain I can handle. That must be the reason why I decided to get my PADI open-water diver certification when I am such a terrible swimmer and dislike the water!

I can honestly say, it was the toughest thing I've had to do on this trip. However, the victory and experience of swimming with the fishes and exploring shipwrecks were well worth the troubles.

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I spent most of my days in Stone Town doing the 4-day PADI open-water dives. After the lessons and dives, I usually surfed the net for a bit at the internet cafe next door of my hostel and had dinner at my customary stand at the Forodhani. I had gone to one stand at the end since one of the guys serving wore a Drogba Chelsea F.C. jersey and I made fun of him. I ended up going back to the same place for dinner 4 times in 6 days (kingfish, marlin, mussels, lobster and squid.) The prices (though slightly overcharging) were astoundingly cheap and the food fresh! The experience of sitting by the sea and watching the sun set as you eat your fresh seafood was exquisite.

On my last day in Stone Town, I had dinner at the Archipelago (where I first had a Zanzibar Pweza: grilled octopus/squid in spicy sauce) and then watched a Taarab music performance at the Zanzibar Serena Inn.

In my week in Stone town, I've developed a routine: Get up, have breakfast, wash-up, class, internet, dinner, read, sleep.
The routine almost felt like normal life.

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I spent my last full day on Zanzibar island in the beach town of Matemwe. The beach had perfect white sand and was pretty much deserted. While I was at the restaurant of Matemwe Beach Hotel, I was asked by their staff to help figure out why there was no sound in the front/back right speakers. I quickly used my problem solving skills to deduce the problem and now I am satisfied in my knowledge that my engineering education was not in vain. A few "Asante sanas" from them and I was on my way to the beach when one of them asked, "Are you Christian?"

What a strange question I thought.
I replied, "No, Atheist", to confused looks.
I then added, "Canadian!" and smiled, they smiled back.

Karibu sana

Posted by NomadicOne 01:24 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Whoa! We're halfway there, whoa! Livin' on a Prayer!

A period of reflection and lists!

sunny 25 °C
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Written July 22, 2007

So I've been writing a lot recently due to my abundance of time. It's coincided with my halfway mark of my trip and this is a good time to reflect.

The Good: So much to mention from the people I've met (travelers and locals), the things I've seen, the experiences that I've had and lessons learned. All of the above have made me a more enriched person. From mopeding on Hvar, going to a refugee camp in Palestine, seeing Auschwitz, food from different countries and cultures, being under the stars surrounded by new friends and wild animals, it's all been amazing.

The Bad: A few to name and they include movies I've seen on the trip, paying extra sometimes as a single/late planner, being mistaken for Japanese/Chinese/Korean or even worst, American. Annoying touts/salesmen.

The Ugly: A few minor one such as the lack of reliable/accessible internet (we take it for granted). Lack of private space in many hostels. Lack of clean facilities and the heightened danger of traveling alone.
But most of all, it's the loneliness. Ones you feel even when you're surrounded by people or even in huge populated cities. While I'm a very independent person and I like being by myself many a times, "No man's an island."
I've been lucky in making some friends along the way (which does not come natural to me) but it makes it even more difficult to leave. The hardest part about traveling alone is the loneliness that comes with missing family and friends, old and new. But there's an easy solution: Like a bad hangover, get some more (beers and friends!)

Some of the things I've learned:

  • The world is crazy with complex issues. But inherently, most people only want simple things: egality, freedom, prosperity, a future for their children and most of all peace.

  • There is no greater fear than fear itself. The most dangerous animal in Africa is not a lion, snake, spider, croc, etc. It is Man itself.

  • No matter how much society or humanity has progressed, it can revert back to barbarism and cruelty in a flash. Those who have the moral courage must take a lead in such prevention.

  • There is so much to see/learn in this world that its endless but one must keep striving to enrich one's life!

Some of the things I've learned about myself:

  • Damn I read fast!
  • Man I hate the water and I'm a terrible swimmer
  • I must be slightly masochistic since I like to make myself do things that are challenging and make my life difficult for myself (like diving when I hate swimming)
  • I still love space and flight
  • I have terrible flirting skills
  • I've learned a lot about how to be more social, communicative than since I traveled 4 years ago on my last big trip.
  • I really should learn how to dance (simple: Lessons with Dave Chesser)

Movies seen: Rater 1-10, 10 being the best.

  • Last King of Scotland (8)
  • Blades of Glory (7)
  • Unknown titled Turkish space movie (1)
  • Littleman in Turkish (1.5)
  • Ripley's Game (4)
  • Leelo and Stitch 2 (3)
  • Amazing Grace (8.5)
  • Freedom Writers (6.5)
  • The Fountain (4) (I hate Hugh Jackman)
  • Nigerian exorcist movie (1.25)

Books read:

  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Children of Hurien
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  • Mine Boy
  • Velocity

People I've met up with:

  • Rhett
  • Andrew and Dana
  • Martin
  • Baris
  • Catherine
  • Thomas

Posted by NomadicOne 00:46 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The Spice Island - Zanzibar

Learning how to dive!

sunny 28 °C
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Written: July 21, 2007

Though its been difficult being on my own again, communication with old and new friends as well as the beauty of Zanzibar has helped ease those feelings. That and the 5-Chaptered-248-page book read within a day in order to be tested for the PADI open-water diver certification course.

Although I've already shelled out a lot of money in Tanzania, I think this will be a good investment in the long run especially with the Great Barrier Reef of Australia looming in my horizon.

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After my last post, I got on a plane and flew to Zanzibar. While that sounds normal, my flight was anything but thus. I don't know what I was expecting for $55, but it was definitely not the 5-seater airplane and a captain wearing a pink Lacoste Polo in shorts, sandals and shades. The flight was a great experience and reminded me of my love of flight (I had/still want to be an astronaut growing up). I think I might look into flight lessons when I get back to Canada!

Speaking of home, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is out and unlike the last two books, I didn't buy it immediately and read it. I will when I get the chance in Dar es Salaam or Dubai!

I had some grilled kingfish, marlin and mussels as well as naan/chapati at the Forodhani street market for 3600TSh ($3.50) tonight. I only hope it doesn't make me sick like it did for Maja especially since I'm diving all day tomorrow!

I am very much looking forward to meeting up with Yuki in Japan in a week!

Baadaye!

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Afternote: My streak of bad movies continued with my Dar express bus ride. The Nigerian movie featured (in 4 parts) possessed people, evil mermaids, a miracle-performing priest wearing red robe and dreads like a Rastafarian and people paying money to the clergy, dancing and praying to get rid of evil spirits.

Posted by NomadicOne 00:26 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Arusha - The City where even the Banks will steal from you

The end of my safari

sunny 28 °C
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Written: July 19-20, 2007

While one could say that we were coming back to civilization, the girls' would say that Arusha was anything but that.

It was definitely good to get a hot shower, recharge our batteries (literally and metaphorically) and get a night's sleep in a bed instead of sleeping bag. Also while Samuel, our safari cook, did an excellent job, it was good a restaurant meal at the L'Oasis Lodge.

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After spending half the day at Tarangire national park, we spent the rest of it at the Snake Park, Maasai Museum and some conveniently closely located craft shops. I quite liked some of the Maasai carvings and great animal paintings being sold but there was no way for me to send/bring it back. AT the snake park, we realized that the snake we saw being attacked by dwarf mongooses no more than 5 metres away from us wasn't the Green Mamba (Poison: Lethal and death within 10 minutes) but rather the arguably nastier Green Boomslanger 9Poison: cytotoxic, 7 days to die starting with internal hemorrhaging requiring full body transfusion).

At the Maasai museum, we learnt that their houses were framed by acacia branches then sealed with dirt/water/cow dung. Also, circumcision is performed at 14 years of age without anesthesia and if the boy cries, they're not a warrior (forever treated as inferior).

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Day 4: In the morning after the cold night at Nnnnngorongoro, we had breakfast early and left for the Crater. The landscape of the whole area was truly magical and surreal as can be seen in some of my pictures depicting blue-green vistas, mountains, plains. It had such a diverse variety of colours, landscapes and animals. Nogorongoro Conservation Park is attached to the Serengeti and animals move freely between these two areas as well as the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya. We saw numerous animals in this small area but the highlights include cheetahs and a black rhine (only 500 in Africa!)

We then spent our final night at the Jambo Camp where Erico and I bargained and bought purple Maasai blanket/cape. I also helped Erico bargain for 2 masks and small carvings for his brother. We ended the night by finishing the beers and playing various card games (including a Brazilian hybrid of Big 2/Crazy 8s, which I hated)

July 20, 2007:
As I am sitting in the Dar es Salaam domestic airport, awaiting my flight to Zanzibar, I can't help but feel a little bit sad and lonely without my safari friends. After a less-than-pleasant bus ride to Dar, I convinced myself that there wasn't enough time to buy a ticket and catch the last ferry to Zanzibar. The cabbie and a hawker then convinced me that the 15 min flight could be a good option for $55 USD. I decided to go with it to save myself the grief and have more time in Zanzibar. However, I should've expected the sudden increase cab fare from 2500 TSh to 20 000 TSh. I got it down to 12 000 in the end though still not to my liking and wondering whether I would find any accommodations. What was funny though was that the hawker had been a safari cook and knew "Super" Jalala, our tour operator salesman in Arusha.

Even now, I am missing the quirky humour of Erico, my new Brazilian friend who offered his and his parents' place if I visit Brazil. I miss Maja's antics and Ida's travel stories.
I ask myself, how can anyone want to hurt those two girls like their attackers did? I'm sure everyone feels thankful that it wasn't worse and I hope that they can continue to enjoy the rest of their trip safe and sound.

Now, as I sit hungry and unsure about what happens next, I can only hope I keep meeting people as cool and generous as Ida, Maja and Erico.

Baadaye

Posted by NomadicOne 09:29 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Starry Night with Zebras, Buffaloes, Bush Pigs and Hyenas!

Written: July 17, 2007

overcast 8 °C

Perhaps it was the laughter of the hyenas or possible the family of wild pigs scouring around our campsite, maybe it was the 2 buffaloes grazing nearby or the herd of zebras we had to avoid when we tried getting back to our tents, something told me I wasn't in Canada anymore.

Huddling with the 2 Swedish girls and my new Brazilian friend under the starry night in (the very difficult to pronounce location of) Ngorongoro Conservation area campsite, I felt a sense of regret at not being able to appreciate sights and moments like these more. Earlier in the day, we had a early game drive in the Serengeti where we saw numerous lions including a lioness watching a herd of buffaloes ready to pounce. We also saw a cheetah and numerous jackals, hyenas, ostriches as well as typical grazers and browsers such as buffaloes, antelopes, impalas and gazelles. As we left the Serengeti, we each stood with our heads through the open roof and sang our national anthems (Canadian English/French version of course).

Since the campsite in Ngorongoro was approx. high above sea level, it was incredibly cold and everyone had to put on as much clothes as possible. Many animals were also known to wander into the campsite including dangerous ones such as elephants, buffaloes and hyenas! Instead of calling an early night, we decided to finish our box of wine by the campfire with a tour group traveling from South Africa to Kenya. Their guide, Anthony from South Africa, had an incredible amount of knowledge about games and history of Africa. He also told us that his favourite place was N. Mozambique to see game and in South Africa, Zululand. It was at this campfire that we heard a bush pig attack a can pf peaches, used a flashlight to spot buffaloes grazing no more than 5-8m away from us and heard the celebratory laughter of hyenas. We also had to avoid the zebras grazing in the middle of our camp when we tried to get back to our tents from the campfire.

The night sky showed the Milky Way clearly and I spent some time spotting streaks from falling stars.
The whole night was an incredible and surreal experience.

Posted by NomadicOne 01:18 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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