Friday, December 29, 2006


Being on the island of Zanzibar, we couldn't pass up and opportunity to visit one of the fabulous beaches for a couple days. We heard the north was crowded and touristy so we headed for the east coast, to a village/beach called Paje.

Getting there was an interesting experience on its own as we opted to take a shared taxi out. Well, as it turns out, the drivers of the shared taxi are in with all the hotels as they wouldn't leave us alone. They wanted us to pick one of the hotels they showed us so they could collect a commission. Guess who forks out the extra $$s for that! Yeah, so when we told them we just wanted our bags and we would look around, the guy gave us some big story about how they are responsible for us and they need to register where we stay and bring it back to the police station, etc. etc. Nice try guy. As Paje was quite full, we got him to drive us to another village nearby called Jambiani. It was obvious the hotel there wasn't full but the owner sees us, starts speaking Swahili to the driver and then turns to us to tell us their full. Nice. So, we told the driver, we're going back to Paje. He took us back there and we just grabbed our bags and headed for one hotel which had a room free for a night. Those guys were really something. Of course, no names collected for the police station! I don't think they got a commission there either, good thing!

Anyways, once settled into Paje, we went out to check the beach out. Holy cow, they said the tide goes out far but I didn't think it would be this far!

We walked for quite a bit and didn't even reach the tide. It was a little nutty. The beach itself was quite beautiful though with white, powdery sand. Around 4pm in the afternoon, the tide came in, quite quickily too! The water was a beautiful turquoise colour. It was very nice.

Unfortunately, we were getting the remnants of a typhoon from India so it was a bit rainy at night and in the mornings. We did manage to get some nice time out on the beach though.

Food as another factor. There are a few restaurants with the guesthouses but we decided to try a small little shack by the beach for lunch one day. Noone else was there eating when we showed up but what the heck. We ask them for a menu, the guy spends 10 minutes writing up 5 choices on a notebook and gives it to us. Nice! :D We order and basically spend the next hour and a half to two hours waiting for lunch! It was about 20 minutes before we see this guy lug a bag of charcoal out to the grill. Hmmm... should have ordered a couple hours in advanced!

After a very long wait, we finally had our lunch. It was delicious, probably because we had to wait so long for it and I was starving by then! I think it was literal here when we said they had to go out to sea to catch our fish. :P

After a couple nights out east, we decided to return to Stone Town as the prices of hotels on the beaches were double what we paid in the town. We decided to forgoe any shared taxis this time and decided to catch the local form of transportation back to town. We weren't sure where to wait for the dalla dallas so we just sat where the locals were sitting.

After a while, a couple showed up but wow, did they ever jack up the price for us! The first two wanted 3000Sh each (about $3Cdn), we said forget it. Finally, the last dalla dalla which was packed!, took us in for 1900Sh total! I think we got a better deal than some locals. Not sure how but the going rate seemed to have been around 1000 to 1500Sh each. The ride back was so much fun! I love these forms of transportation. All the bags go on the top and we get squished in with the locals. It was funny because there are police checkpoints all over the island. As we approached one, the money collectors at the back who usually stood, told a kid to shove over and he sat on the bench. As he saw the cop approaching, he started shaking his head and smiling. The cop went to the front of the truck and he quickly ran out to talk to him. I'm not sure what the cops were looking for but they were definitely busted for something! :D

Inspiring individuals

We've met some pretty interesting individuals on our journey but I must say the travellers we've met in Africa have really impressed us. Up to this point, we've mostly met travellers like us who have taken some time off from whatever it is they were doing back home to explore the other parts of the world a little.

Here, in this short while in Africa, we've managed to meet a few individuals who are spending their time working for humanitarian efforts and volunteering their time for a couple years to better this region of the world. It's amazing to hear the journeys they've had and the situations they've gone through.

For instance, this guy we met from Denmark is volunteering in northern Uganda, near Sudan. I asked him if he ever felt like he was in danger and he said, not really but sometimes you hear gun shots going off around you. Hmm.. sounds kinda scary to me! He said he had to go through some pretty intensive training and orientation before being admitted into this volunteer opportunity. They would simulate real life situations such as dealing with difficult soldiers at border crossings, having to spend a day hiking to a refugee camp with different scenarios happening around you, or experience a kidnapping. All this to find out if you can handle the stress that comes with working in these conditions. Amazing.

It's been really inspiring meeting these travellers here. I wish them all the best and much success with the causes they've been working for.

Jambo! Jambo!

Everywhere we go here, we are greeted with a cheery "Jambo!". It means "Hello" in Swahili. Everyone is super friendly and will just greet you as you're walking by.

Surprisingly though, many Zanzibarians expect us to speak Swahili! I don't know if this shouldn't come as a surprise but we really do speak very little Swahili. All we really know is Jambo, Habari, Mzuri, Asante and Kwaheri (Hello, How are you, Fine, Thank you, and Goodbye). Yes, it's pretty sad.

This is such a great language though. It's has such a beautiful tone and rhythm to it when you here the locals chatter away. Hopefully we'll pick up a little more as we start our safari as it's used quite a bit in Tanzania and Kenya.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Underwater world

Every time we went to an island, we always thought about snorkelling but found some lame excuse not to go. After our first experience yesterday, I'm totally kicking myself for not trying it sooner!

We were both initially worried because swimming in the open sea is a little daunting for me so the guy assured us that he'd give us floaty devices (which ended up being life jackets). :P Sure, I felt a little silly but was much more comfortable in the water with it on.

It was a beautiful day but the sea was quite choppy. Luckily, they had some pills available for the sea sick weaklings among us. I was sure glad I took the pill but still felt a little quesy out there. Once we got into the water though, it was awesome. The first site we snorkelled at was just okay. It wasn't as colourful as I had imagined and the visibility wasn't great. I was also having some probems figuring out how to use the snorkelling gear and fins. Some introduction would have been nice but hey, why not jump in, swalled a ton of saltwater and figure it out for yourself. :D

The second site was totally amazing. I felt like we were in one of those huge aquariums you see. The water was turquoise and the ocean life was beautiful! Everything was colourful and we saw some pretty amazing things. A couple stingrays hiding behind coral, I was a little scared but they just stayed there. Saw a couple large jelly fishes as well and freaked! I was trying my hardest to swim away from them. There were tons of little ones though where you had no choice but to swim through them. They stung bad but we recovered okay. Lots and lots of sea urchins which were actually quite cute from our angle but definitely didn't want to get too close! We also managed to sea a "ship wreck". It was more like a boat but cool nonetheless.

To anyone who hasn't snorkelled and considering it, try it! It was so amazing being exposed to this underwater world!


While we were here in Zanzibar, we decided to join the highly recommended spice tour. The tour takes you out to the villages of Zanizibar island where you see the local spices being grown. The tour was interesting overall but I think the initial hype was a little too high.

We saw the clove trees and found out that the farmers have to sell their crop to the government. Unfortunately, they only get 3000Sh/kg. That's basically $3CDN! Cloves aren't heavy either so they'll need a ton! Of course, this means some of it ends up on the black market but apparently the consequences are quite high if you do get caught.

We also saw the tree that grows leaves for the "quine" family malaria pills. The locals use it for malaria prevention and cure as well by making tea with the leaves.
The guide also cut off pieces of bark from a cinnamon tree which was a nice reminder of Christmas at home.

The tour ended with a nice sampling of local fruit and a yummy lunch.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Random shots of Zanzibar

Traditional sail boats on the water.

Interesting architecture everywhere.

Seafood market at night. Our dinner on the grill!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On the way to Tanzania

We are now in Zanzibar! It has been an adventure filled 2 days since leaving KL.

Our flight to Dubai was alright, the Emirates airplane we were on was really nice! They even had cameras on the nose and bottom of the planes so we could see what the views are like! Both good and bad though, it's quite nervewrecking to watch the take off and landing, even more so with our flight from Dubai to Dar Es Salaam. More on that later!

We arrived in Dubai around 4:30am and had about 3 or 4 hours to kill since our connecting flight was at 10am. We had read that we can get visas to go out even if we were in transit so off we went! We checked with some others at the airport and they confirmed it was fine. As we went through customs, the guy all of a sudden said, nope you can't do it. We were like, what? We were told we could! He said, nope! Impossible! Hmmm.. feeling a little down now. Then, he starts laughing and says, sure you can! He's like why didn't you ask why? I told him he was so serious! So, he kept laughing at us as he stamped our passports. Once out, we asked the tourist info booth how we get to the palm tree island and the 7 star sail hotel, the Burj. He told us we didn't have enough time, everyone was sleeping, and the palm tree islands were closed (and still under construction). Sheesh. He then told us we can take a bus into the city centre close by to look around. So, we did! We hoped onto a public bus at 5am and headed to the centre. We got there and thought, hmmm.. maybe we shouldn't have done this. First of all, it was still dark and secondly, nothing was open! We got out anyways and waked around a bit but it seemed a bit seedy at that time of day. We then decided to catch a cab to the Burj. About half an hour later, there we were! Right in front of it, unbelievable! I never thought I would ever visit Dubai because it always came across as so extremely expensive! We took some photos from the outside (not allowed in unless you're a guest or you have a reservation with the resto). Then the guards told us which bus to take back to another bus station. We managed to find it and caught another public bus back to the airport in time for our connecting flight! That was a lot of fun and quite the unexpected adventure. Now we can check Dubai off the list!

Our second flight from Dubai to Dar was fine until we tried to land. We were both watching the view from the nose and I was a little surprised at the angle we were going into the runway. All of a sudden, the pilots aborted the landing and took off again! I was like, what's going on!? Ian said they aborted it. Hmm.. that is never a good thing. As we take off again, it felt like the plane stalled and I thought we were going down. Thank goodness that wasn't it. The pilot came on and told us all that they had to abort the landing because the flight tower had given incorrect landing information and they have to try again. Oh, that's great. At this point, I turned off my video view, not good to watch it again at this point. I kept my head down the entire time until we safely landed the second time. Was I ever glad to get off that plane!

Arrival in Dar was fairly uneventful. Our visa application took a while longer than expected but quite easy other than that. First impressions of Africa is that it's somewhat similar to India but smells a little more pleasant. :) It was a bit more unsettling though because many people seem to be just hanging around and looking quite restless so we weren't sure what to expect. All that worry was quite unnecessary though as many people we've met have turned out to be very, very friendly. We met a restaurant owner at dinner whose name is Ali Baba and sat down to have a chat with us about Zanzibar and stuff. He was originally from there and a complete hoot.

This morning, we caught the second ferry into Zanzibar. On arrival, as expected, we were greeted by touts who tried to bring us everywhere. We couldn't shake this one guy off at all and by the end we had 3 guys following us around. Zanzibar is a very, very confusing place. It's a complete maze which is amazing but difficult when you're lugging your backpack around in the middle of a hot day. We told one of the guys which hotel we were looking for and he took us to this locked up building and told us this was it. It had some trouble with the cops and shut down. UH HUH. Come on, this is an old trick. So off we went again by ourselves and this other guy said he can show us where Flamingo (the one we were looking for is). He actually did! Even though he was actually selling another hotel to us. Gotta give him some credit for being honest. Anyways, we're now checked in and roaming around the city. We've gotten quite lost and found this internet cafe on the way back (we hope) to our hotel.

Zanzibar is magical. I really enjoy it so far and am looking forward to discovering more. We'll post photos later (if we can find faster connection). :P

Monday, December 18, 2006

New continent!

We leave tonight for Tanzania! A mighty late flight at 2:10am with a stopover in Dubai and then we land in Dar! One night there and wednesday morning, we catch a ferry over to Zanzibar and hence begins our African adventure. :)

We'll be in touch soon from the other end of the equator!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Moving on ...

It's time. We're moving onto the next leg of our journey. We won't be heading back to India at this point so guess what's next? Yep! Africa. :D Scary and exciting!

After much research and contemplation, we have decided to book an overland safari through the east. This was no easy task! We contemplated doing it ourselves but that didn't last very long at it doesn't seem that easy to get to all the game parks, etc on your own. Public transportation is scarce in some areas and we're not the hitching type or driving ourselves in Africa type so overland it is! There are many, many overland companies out there and it's difficult to decide which countries you really want to hit. Anyways, with much thought, we picked a safari which goes across Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. It looks like we'll be going into Congo as well if we decide to do the Gorilla trek (depends on Ian's passport situation). For those interested, here's our
trip! The highlights for us include the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater, Masai Mara Reserve, and being at the Equator! The Gorillas will be quite cool as well.

We'll be heading to Zanzibar to chill out for over a week before meeting up with our group. Zanzibar sounds very cool. Nice old town to wander through on one end and deserted beaches on the other. Can't go wrong. After that, it'll be camping for 21 days straight! All I gotta say is, we better see some amazingly huge animals out there! :D

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Who's getting hungry?

More lunch shots for the foodies! First is mine, chicken and bbq pork rice, and the second is Ian's. Curry Laksa! Yum yum.