How observant are you? The hawk-eyed ones out there will have realised that I have completely missed week fifty-eight. That’s down to a mixture of boring rides, laziness and lack of 3G signal. But mostly laziness. You honestly didn’t miss much in week fifty-eight, but in the interest of keeping you FOMOs happy (Google it, Grandma), here’s week fifty-eight in one quick summary.
Week Fifty-Eight: Wasn’t Worth Writing About
Distance: 308 km / 191 mi
Elevation: 2,752 m / 9,029 ft
We spent the whole week cycling on a highway and it sucked. Since we didn’t want to fork out for the coastal national park entry fee, we just had to suck it up. Over 300 km on a busy, hilly highway. Did I mention it sucked? Anyway. We got to Dar es Salaam on time thanks to some longer-than-planned rides. To cheer ourselves up we went for BBQ and got very drunk. Standard.
Week fifty-nine was way more interesting…
Week Fifty-Nine: Do Not Trust The Yellow Vests
Country: Tanzania (inclu. Zanzibar)
Distance: 92 km / 57 mi
Elevation: 383 m / 1,257 ft
Ferry: 74 km / 46 mi
It’s so darn easy to check-in for travel, be it a plane, train, or ferry. Even with bikes, it’s not rocket science. Yet getting the boat to Zanzibar was a dreadful experience, thanks to so many interfering scammers.
We’d reserved the 9.30am ferry online. Of course you can’t pay online — stupid — so they advise you arrive no less than three hours before departure to pay. Since we didn’t fancy such an early wake-up call, we paid the day before departure.
When we arrived at the ferry port by tuk tuk, we were instantly surround by men in yellow vests, the porters. We literally couldn’t get out of the vehicle. They forced the tuk tuk driver to park outside the cheap ferry and tried to get us into their tickets office, despite us protesting we already had a ticket for the expensive ferry...
Side note: Everything we’d read online said to book the ferry expensive ferry — Azam Marine (Kilimanjaro). The cheaper, slower ferry is poorly maintained, often over loaded, and has a history of sinking.
Azam charge in US dollars. A brutal $70 for two economy seats. Having finally battled through the porters to the Azam booking office, we tried to pay with that 2009 $100 note we’ve been carrying since it was refused at the Tanzanian border. It was rejected, as we kind of expected. We were told to change it at the bank. Four banks refused to take the note. Seriously, do not come to East Africa with notes more than ten-years-old.
We went back to the ferry terminal and asked to pay in local currency. Yeah, we could... but it would cost us more. £5 more. What a con — but that’s the least of it.
We arrived for the ferry at 8.30am the following day. Again the yellow vests flocked around us like flies on... They tried to grab the bikes to carry; they yelled instructions in our faces; they were a nightmare. One in particular douche bag ushered Dan to an official-looking desk inside the port. He said it was where you pay for luggage, such as bicycles.
Dan went through the whole rigmarole: forms, a different office, waiting while the cash was paid in at the bank, issuing a receipt. Now here’s the dodgy bit: the guy wouldn’t give Dan the receipt. He refused to even show him it. On we went through security, where again people just won’t let you do things for yourself, in the hope they’ll make a quick buck out of you. We batted them all away and made it to the departure gate. It’s here we were told to pay for the bikes...
That yellow-vested-douche-bag-porter was still in tow with the receipt and received some rather unsavoury words from Dan (being ripped off is Dan’s pet peeve, if you remember). The cheeky bugger hadn’t even carried anything to warrant a porter fee! He then handed Dan the receipt he had kept secret, which clearly stated we’d paid for a porter service, not two bicycles. It was only 12,000 Tanzanian shilling (£4), but still. He’d blatantly lied to our faces. Worst kind of person.
After paying a further 20,000 shilling (£6.85) for the actual bikes this time, we watched them being loaded before taking our seats to Zanzibar. The whole situation was made more complicated and stressful than it ever needed to be. It also ended up being £71 when it should have been £59.20. All because greedy people wanted to make a few quid. So word of warning if you’re heading to Zanzibar: Do not trust the yellow vests.
Zanzibar has a very interesting history. For a start, Zanzibar is an archipelago consisting of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba. Unguja is informally referred to as Zanzibar and is where the capital, Zanzibar City is. Its historic centre, Stone Town, is also a World Heritage Site. Zanzibar is now a semi-autonomous region in Tanzania, but was once its own country. Its been a real melting pot of nationalities. Persian, Indian and Arab traders once used it a base for voyages between the Middle East, India and Africa. The Portuguese where there for a couple of centuries starting from the early 1500s. It then came under the influence of the Sultanate of Oman, whose son went on to become the first Sultan of Zanzibar. It was he who developed the Arab slave trade, with 50,000 African slaves – ‘black ivory’ – passing annually through Zanzibar’s port in the mid-19th century. His successor was forced by the British to abolish the slave trade. Of course, the control of Zanzibar eventually came into the hands of the Brits, although it became a protectorate rather than a colony like the mainland. When Tanzania, which was originally called Tanganyika, gained independence in the 1960s, it united with Zanzibar to become Tanzania.
The islands are famous for producing cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. It’s why they’re often referred to as the Spice Islands. The people here are very different to mainland Tanzanians, too. In fact, we read that islanders would consider themselves Zanzibaris before Tanzanian. Zanzibar is also almost exclusively Muslim, unlike mainland Tanzania, which is predominately Christian. We actually noticed more mosques and muslims the closer we got to Dar es Salaam.
Our first few days on the island were spent lazing around on a quiet beach on the east side of the island. We managed to bag a beauty hotel for a bargain price. Alcohol and daytime meals were a little tricky, as it’s currently Ramadan (a month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown). Trust us to head to a Muslim island during Ramadan. And guess when it ends? Yup, the day we leave.
You’d think that would be enough excitement for one week, wouldn’t you? But no – we’ve saved the best ‘til last… Dan’s family arrived this week. Well, half of it. His mum and brother, Jacob, landed and met us in Nungwi, in the north of the island. We haven’t seen them since we went home for a family wedding last June. It was so good to see familiar faces again – for real, not just on an iPhone screen. What’s more, they brought treats! Scotch eggs, Cadbury’s, Walkers crisps, English newspapers, books and finally, an Aero Press.
We spent a lovely four days together drinking beers on the beach, taking a dip in the sea – when it wasn’t raining – and working our way along the beachside restaurants tasting all the fresh seafood. Not to mention saving a starfish and excavating a beach. We’ve had some much-needed switch-off time. Now we’ll head back to Zanzibar City to meet Dan’s sister, Alice, to complete the family holiday (unfortunately Dan’s dad was too busy at work).
East Africa Children’s Project
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