I am making a new aviation rule…before you buy a ticket, the agent should be obliged to tell you that his idea of a “small” plane means twelve seats where the pilot might ask you to move behind him to balance the plane….and where there is a big noisy propeller in front of you…and where the door slams closed like a car…and where you can hear the automated voice saying something or other “was not available” as you took off and you could only pray that she wasn’t talking about the engine or another important piece of equipment…and where you can see every time the pilot is looking down instead of ahead. They should…but as I am learning while leaving Zanzibar for Arusha, Tanzania, they don’t tell you those things here, just let you discover them for yourself.
After THE long bus ride, I spent two days in Dar En Salaam. When I crossed the border into Tanzania, the rain was fierce and was bag got soaked. All of the clothes in my sides pockets were wet from rain and gravy brown water that covers the streets. When I stepped out of the shower to grab fresh clothes, I quickly learned that I had no fresh underclothes or tshirts and that my only dry clothes were the ones already inside my plastic laundry bag. So, I had to decide…gravy water stink or sweat smell. After deliberating on the question, I finally decided that at least the sweaty stink was my own and I had no idea what was in that water, so I had the pleasure of smelling like dirty laundry as I headed out to find someone to wash my clothes. It took me two days to find someone, but I am back to smelling relatively fresh again.
From Dar, I bought a ferry ticket to Zanzibar which is about a three hour ride. I was SURE the ticket agent said to get to the dock at noon, so I spent the morning leisurely getting ready, go to the store for snacks, and just enjoying time with nothing to do. At 11/42, I was ready to head out, when I looked at my ticket again and learned it LEFT at noon. Now the port was close, but I had to take some tips from The Amazing Race and offer the taxi driver a few extra bucks to get me there on time..he did..and practically knock over a few children as I ran to my boat and was the LAST PERSON to get on. The ferry was hot and crowded and I was ready for a rocky ride. As I passed the VIP sign pointing upstairs, I remembered seeing those magical three letters on my ticket. I would never buy a VIP ticket and usually wouldn’t even have gone up there…not my thing. But after my ferry dash, and at that point already in stinky clothes…I picked up my suitcase to check it out. Now…this was not exactly Kim Kardashian and Kanye VIP, the there were couches and the quiet mumble that said a bit of cool air was being pumped in. It felt divine!
As I waited to exit the ferry, the line was long and slow, so I say down. A woman nearby smiled because she had the same idea. We started chatting and before we arrived at the customs desk, we were already fast friends who agreed that if she could not find a room, she could share mine because my only option was a double room. This hotel had to be good because they even offered a shuttle. I was excited to see a guy holding a sign with my name on it and asked if my new fried Naomi could join him for a ride to the hotel arranged for her by the customs agent. He had no problem with her joining our shuttle because he just started walking. The hotel was only a few blocks away, but nestled in the right streets, so the shuttle they offered is a guy who go to the ferry port and waits to walk you to the hotel. Naomi checked out the recommended place and was soon back at my hotel ready to share. We discovered that my double room only had one bed…so we got a free upgrade to a spacious three bed dorm room.
Naomi was great..an immediate friend…smart…easy to talk to…funny…flexible…and brave. She just finished volunteer teaching in Malawi for three months and will spend the next six months touring Africa on her own. Her home is in the UK, but she is planning to spend the next years teaching internationally.
We shopped. We ate! We took pictures! We laughed! We took a Blue Safari to the beach! It was just a fun few days of hanging out in Zanzibar getting to know a new friend.
Stone Town, the main area in Zanzibar is a World Heritage sight because of the beautiful old architecture…especially the handcrafted wooden doors! The streets are fun to wander with small shops and cafes along the way. The beaches look beautiful when you take a boat away from the mainland, but I wouldn’t consider Zanzibar to be a paradise type of island…but it had a cool feel.
At night, there is market where men with names like “Mr. Happy” or “Mr. Polite” sell all kinds of simple food items like fish kabobs, shawerma, and a delicious “pizza” made using tortilla-like dough, Nutella, and bananas. That Nutella pizza prompted a chance for me to do one of my favorite things…matchmaking! We found out about the pizza from an Aussie guy in line who let me have a taste. He chatted about heading to Malawi….exactly where Naomi had just been. As she says, “in a blink of an eye,” I told them to exchange email addresses…which they did. I am hoping for a future success story to add to my collection.
By the way…I am so comfortable on the plane that my seatbelt is off and I’m just hanging out and enjoying the clouds at my fingertips. Too many clouds to see Mount Kilamajaro, but I hope to catch a peek sometime soon. Plane is landing and whatever wasn’t available on take off is not available again…and it feels like a roller coaster…but the new lush green landscape found under those clouds is incredible and I see out runway up ahead. Is it appropriate to hug a pilot if you are on a “small” plane? Because…that’s what I want to do.