East Africa Day 4 – Zanzibar

October the 1st.  My Sri Lankan thread bracelet, given to me by the Chief Monk of Sri Lanka in Kandy, fell off today after nearly 6 months….perhaps my luck is running out!  I woke at 7:45 am.  Luckily, I had packed the evening before, and just threw a couple of things in my bag and set off to Nungwi, a beach area in the North.  I realized that I had left something very important in my room  – my camera battery!  I thought about getting the minivan to go back to the hotel, but decided instead to phone Manch Lodge and ask them to find it and keep it for me.  I didn’t have their number, so called Cathy, and she found it for me.  I phoned the Lodge.  They’d found it for me.  A relief.  I said I’d be back on Saturday to get it and stay another night.

The journey to Nungwi took about an hour.  On the way, some police hitched a ride to their station.  We got off after travelling through Nungwi’s mudhut and cinderblock village.  I had a little look around, and opted for Union Guesthouse, a nice, clean room and a decent, friendly atmosphere.  $30 for a double room.  I dropped my bags off and had a breakfast of bread, omelette and fruit with tea in their restaurant.  Then, I went back to the room and slept for an hour, having weird vivid dreams of Lindsay with a Japanese fringe, and of Crystal….strange and bizarre!

I woke up groggily, and put some sunscreen on before heading out for a walk.  Nungwi is where they make all the boats and Dhows, and the sound of wood hitting wood and sawing filled the air during the working day.  Children ran around playing in the half-turned and over-turned dhows.  Old fishermen tied knots, making nets.  Men hammered the bottom of dhows, testing strength.  I wondered to a natural aquarium.  It cost $5 to get in, but was well worth it.  The aquarium was a natural lagoon, choked with lots of algae, and full of green turtles.  Green turtles are the second biggest species of turtles, and Nungwi tries to conserve them.  The turtles here are ones that became injured and caught in fishermen’s nets.  The fishermen take them to the aquarium, where they get paid well.  It stops the fishermen eating them, or using the shell, or the skin for oil.  I fed the magnificent turtles seaweed, dropping it in the water, and watching the huge, graceful creatures glide up to the surface and munch the seaweed, blowing water out of their nostrils as they do so.  They had leathery skin, and beautiful shells.  The guide said they would be released back to the sea when they are big and strong enough.  He then showed me and tank where the baby turtles were swimming around.  Some were kept in isolation in water in little red and green coloured bowls, just floating around on their own.  These, he said, were sick, and so needed to be alone, but they were getting better.  He pushed a bowl lovingly into the shade of the tank out of the sunlight.

We saw a python and a fierce monitor lizard too, breathing heavily.  He also showed me around 50 dolphin skulls.  10 years ago, during the night, the villagers woke up to find over a hundred dolphins beached.  Nobody knows why.  They buried the dolphins and after a few months retrieved the bones.  He also showed me the skeleton of a humpback whale – a huge animal, with heavy ribs larger than me, and a huge head.  This whale, too, had been washed up 4 years ago.  I saw the conservation work that they were trying to achieve here, and I was impressed.  They clearly cared a lot about their sea and their animals.

I then wandered through the village, and had a real sense of being in Africa.  This, too, was the type of village I had seen many times in the news on TV….poor, simple people.  Children playing with sticks, women sitting in doorways chatting, dressed in colourful shawls, men smoking and playing board games or involved in some kind of DIY carpentry.  Beautiful, rural and rustic scenes of sun-baked Africa.  After this I wandered to the beach and lay down to read Giles Toden’s thriller, Zanzibar, a fitting novel indeed.  I then headed to a restaurant to escape the sun, ordered a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich and a cake, and wrote this diary.

The sunset over the little boats rocking quietly in the turquoise sea.  Maasai tribespeople, their dark ankles and feet adorned with white anklets and bracelets, beads hanging from their necks, ears and waistbands, walked slowly past with a cheery ‘Jambo!’  As the sun got lower, villagers came out to play football, and cartwheel and somersault playfully and happily down the beach.  Groups of women and children with buckets on their heads became as silhouettes in front of the burnt orange sun and shadowy boats.  Such evocative scenes will have to stay buried in the memory, as I didn’t have my camera!

The sun went, another night began.  I went back to bungalow number 3, showered, changed, and went to Jambo Brother’s restaurant.  The scene here is very laidback….a few tables nestled on the beach, candles giving them a warm, fuzzy glow.  The air was still.  So, this was the ‘Ibiza’ of Zanzibar then.  This was the ‘crush of accommodation’ so sneeringly referred to in the Lonely Planet.  It seemed perfect to me.  If this place is touristy and tacky, then what of the Maldives, Ko Phan Yan….any island that attracts many more tourists than here?  It seemed perfect to me.

I ate a delicious grilled fish with lemon sauce and rice, and garlic bread with cheese, washed down with a Tusker beer and then a Serengeti.  After the beer, I felt really tired – exhausted in fact…maybe it was the beer, maybe it was eating alone, maybe it was the slow love songs piping softly from the restaurant stereo.  Whatever it was, I was ready for bed.  It was 10pm.  I slept soundly under my mosquito net, and had vivid dreams once again, which I’ve put down to either the magic of Africa or the magic of Tusker beer.  The first dream was of me, my Uncle Roy, Uncle Keith, my Dad and my Mum.  Uncle Roy was in good spirits, and had been drinking – not surprising as he was an alcoholic.  Suddenly, he turned violent, and started fighting my Uncle Keith.  I went upstairs but didn’t want to tell my mum or dad.  .  When we went down, the whole house was smashed.  12 pool cues in the pool hall I don’t actually have in my house were broken in two.  It was a weird dream.  My Uncle Roy has been dead for nearly 20 years.

In the second dream, it started with me being somewhere on holiday, and I can’t remember where, but I was surprised to see my work colleagues Jamie Gibbons and Yuki, his wife, then Crystal, who told me she had been out every night getting drunk and had met Dom Mooney – my football strike partner whom she’d already had dinner with secretly – loads of times.  Then Ian Longdon appeared and we were in an office in the dark where little robots were doing a ridiculous dance and firing little plastic pellets at us as we rolled around laughing.  It was hilarious.  I woke up laughing and couldn’t stop for 5 minutes.  Weird, weird dreams!

Author: Neil

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