Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: The relaxing town of Nungwi and Stone Town (April 17-23)

Current Location: Stone Town, Zanzibar
Highlights: Beautiful beaches, local dhow builders, and some history of Zanzibar
Upcoming: Leaving Zanzibar and Tanzania for Kenya and the Island of Lamu.

Once I returned to Zanzibar and met back up with Aaron, we headed for the north shore and village of Nungwi. We took a hired bus for the 1 hr ride north (3000 TSH = US$3.5) and checked into an inexpensive place to stay called "Paradise" which was right on a beautiful white sand beach. We negotiated a price of US$8 each per night (included breakfast) for a small, no frills room with bed, light, fan, and mosquito nets, and I immediately felt the stress and tension start to disappear.

In the 4 nights we stayed in Paradise, we heard lots of stories form other travelers, but before I go into some of them, let me tell you what I did. Most of the time I walked along the beach. I watched local dhow builders build dhows without any power tools or modern carpentry tools. They drilled holes with a sharpened device turned using the rope on a stick pulled back and forth along a rotating shaft. They shaped wood with hammers and chisels (made from re-bar), sharp axe heads, and sometimes a small saw. They then used huge locally made nails to fasten the various shaped planks, boards, and tree trunks together and filled all gaps with kapok fibers. It takes them about 6 months to make a medium sized boat. I watched each day at 2-4pm the local fishermen bring back their catches. Some fishermen used small dhows and nets, others a hook and line, and some just swam out with a snorkel and long pole with a spear head on the end. Their catches composed of many different things: large fish such as tuna or sailfish, small fish like sardines, exotic fish that included parrot fish, poisonous scorpion fish, tropical eels, and sting rays with bright blue dots. As well as fish, there was always an assortment of marine mollusks such as octopus which they literally battered with big sticks on the beach to make them tender, squid which they carefully filleted to remove the ink sac, and cuttlefish. The kids spent their time at low tide collecting small fish and shelled mollusks that resembled snails and clams from piles of rocks they had stacked up and baited with old coconuts. When I was not walking along the beach I was swimming in the warm waters, and when I was not doing either of these, I usually wrote on the laptop.

However, I did spend one whole day and a part of two others reading a fiction book. This is very unusual for me. I never read fiction. Most of the reading I do is factual like science books or travel guides, but never fiction. I decided to give it a go and chose a book from a selection they had at the reception. It was a Jane Whitefield book called Shadow Woman. It was about a woman who hide people, took them out of their present life and gave them a new one, but the man she was hiding was being pursued by two ruthless killers, one a sophisticated and beautiful woman and the other a calculated male. I just excused myself from the world and all the people around me and let myself become engulfed in the book. It was a great book.

We met a lot of interesting people while at Paradise and they in turn had some interesting and scary stories to tell of their travels. The most scary were told to me by a Norwegian woman called Ingrid. Her and her male and female travel partners had had a rather a traumatic few days which went like this:

The guy was walking along the street in Dar es Salaam before coming over to Zanzibar and he was approached by a man selling cigarettes as you frequently are. He bought a pack, but in his haste did not notice that they were not in their clear plastic wrapper. Just 10 meters along the road, two Policemen approached him and asked to look in the cigarette packet. As well as the cigarettes, there was some "hash" and he was arrested for buying drugs. They marched him off to their Police vehicle where they put a gun to his head and demanded money. He was carrying US$500 as he had just come form a bank and was on his way to a travel agent to purchase an airline ticket and they did not take credit cards (like most places in Tanzania). The Police took the US$500 and demanded that he return the next day with other US$2000 for they would come looking for him. Somewhat traumatized, he went to the American Embassy who set up a "sting" operation to try and catch the Policemen. Unfortunately, it was not like you see in the movies and they sat by the side of the road in a vehicle marked "consular vehicle" along the side and the Police never showed up. I am not sure how this incident was followed up.

The next story Ingrid told me was about her friend German friend Eve. Eve had become extremely ill and they had to rush her from Nungwi to a doctor in Stone Town, a Dr. Mehta, actually. Dr. Mehta did a malaria test as she had all the symptoms of severe malaria, but said it was not malaria, just very bad flu. He then gave her an IV of something and charged them US$100. She bounced back and felt much better for the next two days, but then become extremely ill again. As they were about to go back to Dr. Mehta, a local business owner told them not to return to Dr. Mehta. Apparently, he has a scam with white travelers with malaria where he gives a negative result on a malaria test, gives then an IV which makes them feel better, then when they feel bad again and return he treats them for malaria. The result is that he can charge for two visits and treatment not required. Instead of returning to Dr. Mehta, Eve went to another clinic where they said she had cerebral malaria, a very serious and often fatal kind. She was treated and is still recovering fully.

Aaron being robbed 3 times is actually quite tame by comparison, thank goodness!

Our few days in Nungwi ended far too soon and we returned to Stone Town where we are now. The weather has been cloudy and rainy over the past few days, but this morning it was sunny so we walked around town to take some pictures and visit the Old Slave Market. I will not go into this much now as I am going to write a Special Diary Entry and the Zanzibar slave trade, but briefly, we visited the site where literally 1000s of slaves were sold and many many more died from terrible conditions or from being whipped.

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