Is Zanzibar Tanzania? And Dolphins :)
Island hopping - the first battle
Last week I left you all with the trains arrival at the historically exotic Dar es Salaam. It feels good just to say the name out loud: Dar es Salaam...
I aimed straight for the hotel my sister and I had agreed on. Marguerite, David and Sean (from the previous blog) joined me at the hotel since they had no other arrangements. The "family" was still together :)
I spoke to the receptionist who game me a room number. I knocked on the door and there she was! My 5 year younger sister was standing in the door in flesh and blood!! Apart from a million online messages and a bunch of Skype calls, this was the first time we saw each other after nearly 2 years and 7 months!!! She had arrived in Tanzania just to see me (and to spend her vacation in an exotic place).
We all agreed to go out together that night at a famed Ethiopian restaurant. So technically I got a little ahead of myself in terms of countries and culture. But I've had plenty of Turkish food while on the road so it's not a first offense. My sister (Tove), Marguerite, David, Sean and I sat around a small low table at the restaurant and enjoyed the atmosphere. The food was served and we all agreed to share. And as per custom we ate with our fingers to soak up the full Ethiopian experience. Imagine that? A German, a South African, an American and 2 Danes had to travel all the way to Dar es Salaam to meet each other in Tanzania ;)
Dar es Salaam.
The next day Tove and I went out to find the port. For whatever reason security let us right in, so we ventured around for a while. After speaking to a lot of people we finally got in touch with Mr Gayo, who appears to be the main contact for a vessel which goes to Comoros. If all goes well then Comoros will soon become country number 113.
Dar es Salaam port - a very big place!
I didn't initially think much about Dar es Salaam. But as the days progressed I got to see more and the cities charm started to get to me. After just 3 days in Dar I was in love. What a city! The National museum was good value for me. There is an art gallery, a section about colonialism, the struggle for independence, cave paintings throughout all of Africa, the presidents old cars and more...there was plenty to read and I think I could have spent a full day there.
In terms of food you can find it all in Dar. As mentioned, on our first night we had Ethiopian, but we also manger to try the local Tanzanian cuisine along with Lebanese and Indian food. The botanical garden is a very small place, but a nice breath of fresh air. Furthermore Dar borders the Indian Ocean which provides for a nice backdrop in several places. We also managed to locate Kariakoo market, which is a must see for anyone who has never set foot at a local market place.
The GIVE team of June 2016.
Thomas is an American who works for www.GIVEvolunteers.org which is an NGO that combines humanitarian work with adventure travel. Thomas had been following the Saga long, before he contacted me to ask if I could come and visit him and the volunteers at GIVE. Sean by the way, had left to Moshi so he could summit Kilimanjaro. And Marguerite and David had also left Dar in order to go and explore Zanzibar. So when Thomas was ready to receive us, we met up with him at the Zanzibar ferry. He's a great and energetic guy who I liked from the moment I met him. Along with about 30 young volunteers we boarded the ferry and left Dar. 90 minutes later we approached the island where we had to show our vaccination card and have our passports stamped, before we could officially enter the island.
A truck picked us up and drove us all 1 hour northeast to a guesthouse called Baby Bush Lodge located at the light blue Indian Ocean between palm trees and soft white sand. That would become our base. Not bad at all.
The GIVE project in Cairo (Zanzibar) has been going for 4 years now.
We were introduced to the GIVE team. John is Thomas' good friend and colleague who is fond of shouting WHOOOOOOOO! And YEEEAAAAH!! Kelsey and Jules are both upbeat, charming and energetic. Dominica has a contagious laugh and the 5 of them form a super strong team which is impossible to dislike. The roughly 30 volunteers are mostly Americans in their early twenties along with a few Brits. Spirits are high and everyone is fun to be around. For some of the Americans this is their first time overseas. For some it's the first time in an airplane. And for at least one of them it's the first time to see the ocean.
The school will open in July 2016 and it's already massively impressive. This is only a small part of it.
The volunteers spend 14 days in Tanzania before returning home. About 8 days are spent on constructing a school and educating local students. The rest of their 14 days are in connection with adventurous experiences: Swimming with dolphins, interacting with monkeys, shopping locally, going on a Safari and for some even summiting Kilimanjaro!
Most of these volunteers are students and the vast majority are women. It kind of makes me want to go back in time and be an American student. The guys are super cool and the energy is really high. I'm such a dinosaur... I recently read a post on Facebook that said: "I've reached an age where I no longer need to be drunk to fall asleep on the couch". Yup, that's me. Another FB post simply read: "I hope that on the day I die, I die early in the morning, so I don't waste a day working".
The picture is from downtown Dar es Salaam.
Zanzibar. That sounds pretty exotic too! And it is. It's "the spice island" in the same way Caribbean Grenada is. It has got beautiful beaches and the color of the ocean resembles what I've only seen in the Bahamas. Driving around on the island could resemble many tropical places in the world. The slave market history of Zanzibar is not complete unlike the history of Cape Verde or São Tomé & Príncipe...but the twist is that in Eastern Africa it began with the Arabs and not the Europeans. However the Europeans soon followed: Portuguese, German, British...and let's all keep in mind that slavery began in Africa long before any outsiders arrived.
I remember hearing about Zanzibar for the first time long ago. It was at a workplace where a colleague had recently been to Zanzibar with his wife. He was completely taken with the island and blurted out: "IT'S THE ISLAND WHERE EVERYTHING COMES FROM!!"
We had the chance to meet with John who is a member of the Danish travelers club. He's going around the world on his 11th month now.
That has always had me curious and I intend to explore more of that aspect of the island. But that is also good news for something completely different. Namely that an island with a high level of production must also have export. And to me that means BOATS! I had already found a mention online that there might be good odds for finding a boat from Zanzibar to Comoros. So one day I joined Thomas for a meeting in Stonetown, which is the main town on the island. Afterwards we ran a few errands and then stopped by the port. A large containership was being loaded in the background when we met Ibrahim. Ibrahim thought we wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. So did everyone else. But slowly he understood that we required a boat to Comoros. "Sorry, not possible! Only from Dar es Salaam", he said. We thanked Ibrahim, exchanged telephone numbers and left. 15 minutes later Ibrahim called to say he remembered something. Thomas and I returned to the port and Ibrahim led us to a shipping agent. This agent advised us of UAFL (United African Feeder Line) which operates a ship that frequents Comoros twice a month. Soon thereafter we met with Captain Shaffi who is the agent for UAFL in Stonetown. He's a really pleasant man who has sailed the seven seas for 35 years. The captain gave me the contact details for the responsible person within UAFL in Mauritius where the head office is. I emailed him and the following day I received a reply stating that they don't take passengers.
Very well. Is that a dead end then? Hahahahaha!! Don't make me laugh like that ;) For those of you who have been tagging along for a while, you know this is not a dead end. We always keep on keeping on. And some of you might even remember a similar situation in 2014 when I needed to go from Iceland to Canada. The charterers of the vessel said no, but the owners said yes. So now we need to approach the owners and let them know that I'm not a simple backpacker and let them know about the Saga.
I have 2 sisters. It's hard to work out which one is the most crazy one?
Ross Offshore has been the financial sponsor of the Saga right from the beginning. But they are more than that. They made the arrangements for me to get onboard the ship from Iceland to Canada 2 years ago. So they will also give it a try with the owners for this ship, which is owned by German DAL (Deutsche Afrika-Linien). So right now it's a waiting game. Meanwhile let's not forget Mr Gayo in Dar. He could also be the key to reach Comoros. Alternatively I'll pull a Jack Sparrow and strap two turtles to my feet...
The picture is from downtown Dar es Salaam.
Tove (my sister) and I will be joining the GIVE volunteers today on a day trip. Among other things we will try to swim with dolphins if they are willing to come close. And who knows...maybe a dolphin knows something.
In short: Yes! Zanzibar is Tanzania. But it wasn't always so and its worth taking a quick look at the interesting history of it. Or you could just drop by at the national museum in Dar ;)
The current average for time spent in each country is at 9 days. If we are unable to bring that down to 7 then we are looking at a 5 year journey.
Until next week...
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - dolphin whisperer
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga