KUWAKARIBISHA ….Welcome to Stone Town

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KUWAKARIBISHA ….

Welcome to Stone Town

My first and lasting impression and thought of Stone Town is how it smelled.  What I saw from the air the first time we flew into Zanzibar and our first experiences of Stone Town will always stay with me.  First you see the azure blue sea.  The next moment you fly over what you assume are spice farms and then a confusion of roofs without a space in between came into view and everywhere you will see one of the more than 50 mosques.

Our first view of Stone Town from the air

Our first view of Stone Town from the air …

Roofs as far as you can see ...

Roofs as far as you can see …

Lots of coconut trees and spice farms

Lots of coconut trees and spice farms

One of the more than 50 mosques in Stone Town

One of the more than 50 mosques in Stone Town

You will always be attracted to something or a person if you like their smell. Stone town smelled stuffy … of the sea, of spices and of something rotten.  Its natural smell was of heavy decay, something that you cannot bottle and sell as a perfume, yet the smell took hold of me and I liked it, I fell completely in love there and then because of the right smell and pheromones, I started to romanticizing about the town.

Old decaying and dying buildings

Old decaying and dying buildings

The first time we arrived on Zanzibar, we were picked up by a very friendly Shakur, a taxi driver for the hotel where we stayed and also a registered town guide.  We immediately arranged a Spice tour for the next morning.   Five years and many trips later, Shakur is still our driver and by now has become a good friend to us.

Shakur our friendly  taxi driver

Shakur our friendly
taxi driver

On our first trip to Zanzibar we stayed at the Beyt al Chai on the border of Stone Town on Kelele Square.  It was a fairly newly renovated Botiqueish place.  Originally it was a traditional Zanzibari house and tea house, from which it gets its name. Management and reception was very friendly and helpful. There was a whitey called Paul who was originally from Kenya, who met us with cool drinks to save us from dehydration.  The other manager was Pius, not the pope, because this Pius is black and speaks Swahili, who offered to keep some of our shopping in the safe at the hotel until we got back from safari.  Apart from these two, there were two very tall and very friendly and shy Massai guys who carried our bags up to our room and who were always very friendly.   They hung around at night, supposedly to guard the hotel against unknown evil that lurks around at night.  Maybe the ghosts of slaves from the past.

The Beyt al Chai  Hotel

The Beyt al Chai Hotel

The Beyt al Chai was a nice hotel, there were only six really massive rooms.  In our room, the Beyt al Ajaib, one of the de lux rooms, the bath and toilet were built into the corner of the room like a Turkish bath house.

Our room name

Our room name

The bathroom

The bathroom

The rooms were richly decorated with furniture dating back to the days of the Sultans and the windows were covered with richly coloured organza and silk curtains.

Some of the furniture in the room

Some of the furniture in the room

Some of the furniture in the room

To get to our bedroom, we had to climb very steep staircases, eighty steps in total, because the room was on the third floor. With the humidity already high, it felt as if we were climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

A part of the many steep stairs waiting to be climb

A part of the many steep stairs waiting to be climb

The most outstanding feature of the room was its very high Swahili bed.  When I stood next to the bed, it reached to above my waist, I had to pull myself onto the bed!  If you are short like me, a stepladder would have been a big help.

Our imposing bed

Our imposing bed

As first time visitors, we threw our luggage down, changed into cooler clothes and went off on our first Stone Town discovery experience. Afterwards, when we went for a drink at Livingston’s Bar with its shutters closed in the middle of the day, we realized we were in the middle of Ramadan.

My first Konyagi ever

My first Konyagi ever

Kallie enjoying a cold Tuskers

Kallie enjoying a cold Tuskers

Inquisitive girls looking into the darkened Livingston’s Bar

Inquisitive girls looking into the darkened Livingston’s Bar

Only after half past six that evening Livingston’s opened the shutters and we could go and sit outside on the beach with our feet in the sand.  The shutters are closed because it’s a bar and it is out of respect for the people who partake in Ramadan. Muslims do not drink alcohol. Kallie had a baridi (cold) Tuskers beer and I had my first Konyagi, bitter lemon and Tabasco.  It all went down very well after an exhausting afternoon running around after all the exciting things to see.  Needless to say, the next night we were back at Livingstone’s for supper where we had a far better experience than our first supper.  Maybe it was just sitting there on the beach watching the sun set that made it more pleasant, we both agreed that evening that we want to come back to Zanzibar to do more exploring.

Sitting around on the beach at Livingston’s

Sitting around on the beach at Livingston’s

Kallie enjoying the cool breeze on the beach

Kallie enjoying the cool breeze on the beach

A beautiful beach scene

A beautiful beach scene

Locals doing what locals do on the beach.

Locals doing what locals do on the beach.

Sunset in Zanzibar

Sunset in Zanzibar

Our first supper on the island was at the hotel, because all the guidebooks rated the restaurant as one of the best.  We were really tired after the excitement of the day, the initial adrenalin rush was busy working itself out of our systems. What a disappointment!  The menu was extremely limited and when I asked for a Konyagi, they told me that they do not keep cheap alcohol, and Konyagi, according to them, is a low class drink.  The food was so unappetizing that neither of us can really remember what we had.  The service was slow, really slow.

We went to bed early and fell asleep quite quickly.   At exactly 4.30 the next morning we were woken by the most unholy and monstrous scream right there in our bedroom! I thought all the evil Arabian djinns that are still alive and well in the whole of North Africa and Morocco came down the coast during the night to scare the holy crap out of us.  It was only after a while that I realized that we were only about 50 meters away from a loudspeaker on top of a mosque and it was the muezzin doing his first call of the day to get the people to come and pray.  Believe me, after such a hullaballoo we couldn’t sleep again because our hearts were racing so hard.  Afterwards, when quite reigned again, we had to laugh about our ignorance of being in a Muslim country.

Serena Inn

Serena Inn

The Aga Khan’s apartment and there were definitely somebody staying there

The Aga Khan’s apartment and there were definitely somebody staying there

Our bedroom looked down onto Kelele Square, one of the towns more peaceful areas, but its name, which mean ‘shouting, noisy or tumultuous’ and tells a different story.  It tells a story of a terrible past when this square was the main slave market.  The building just to the right across the street from the hotel is called the ‘Mambo Misiige’ or the ‘Inimitable Thing’.  This describes the extravagance of the construction, for which thousands of eggs and allegedly the bodies of slaves were used to strengthen the mortar.  It was built as a private residence dating from 1874-50. The building later served as headquarters for the Universities Mission to Central Africa. A huge irony is that Sir John Kirk the abolitionist lived there from 1874-87 as the British Consul General.  Later it became a European hospital and in 2009 housed a number of government departments, a rundown building with soot coloured walls (the colour is because of the eggs u se during the construction).

Mambo Misiige’ or the ‘Inimitable Thing’ house… today incorporated in the new Hyatt Hotel they are busy building.

Mambo Misiige’ or the ‘Inimitable Thing’ house… today incorporated in the new Hyatt Hotel they are busy building.

Kelele Square, is a green grassy square lined with Hibiscus, Tamarind and Flamboyant trees. The Flamboyant tree originally comes from Madagascar, a sure reminder of colonial times because you find them wherever the British have colonized a country.

Kelele Square

Kelele Square

Flamboyant, Tamarind, Hibiscus and many more trees always offering some shade to passers-by

Flamboyant, Tamarind, Hibiscus and many more trees always offering some shade to passers-by

While we were staying in the hotel there were always three very strange-looking roosters with their chicken families in tow rooting around in the grass.  They declared ownership of the square by crowing their hearts out.  When I say strange-looking I mean really strange-looking chickens, with tall legs, thin as bean sprouts and no drumsticks of note, scruffy looking necks so unimpressive that I actually told Kallie that I will not eat chicken while we’re in Tanzania because those were authentic Tanzanian chickens.

The rooster looking for a good place to do his crowing

The rooster looking for a good place to do his crowing

There were always very noisy crows, called ravens in Tanzania, in the square as well.  They are smaller than our crows with greyish heads and necks and very talkative in their own language.  I believe there is a competition between the muezzin, the cocks and the crows to see who can make the loudest and the most noise.

The raven trying his utmost to outdo the muezzin

The raven trying his utmost to outdo the muezzin

Breakfast was yet another first!  Again we were the only people in the dining room. Again there was a lack of service but nevertheless, I ordered macon and eggs and when the food arrived on my plate there were these two funny looking white stuff, apparently eggs.  I could not agree because there was no yellow or yolk, the yolk was the colour of a bad margarine, a very pale yellow and I swear not fit for human consumption.  I could not eat it and immediately the Tanzanian chickens came to mind, it was revolting and I felt sick.  Fortunately that did not last long because we had to get ready for our Spice Farm trip.

A lot of changes have happened since our first trip in 2009.  In 2014 the ‘Mambo Misiige’ building changed its name and it is now part of the nearly finished brand new Hyatt Hotel.  The Beyt el Chai has also been sold and underwent a lot of renovations and is now a real boutique hotel with the name Beyt el Salaam, highly priced.

The slightly better dressed rooster, still with snap stick legs and his harem of hens ...

The slightly better dressed rooster, still with snap stick legs and his harem of hens …

More tales  will follow soon …

THE VICTORIA FALLS …

THE VICTORIA FALLS … “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight” (David Livingston)       

Victoria falls in all its glory ...

Victoria falls in all its glory …

After we had a quiet time at the hotel we were fetched by our taxi and dropped at the entrance to the falls where our guide met us.  Gateway Safaris, who did all our tours are very efficient and prompt, when they say you will be picked up at 15:00, they mean it and will are there on time.

At the parking area at the falls you will find a typical Africa scene with so called warriors doing a war dance, ululating and waving around their assegais and shields, all dressed up in cattle hides.  I don’t think any one of them even know what it meant to be a warrior in yesteryear living on your guts and to survive in the wild.   The moment you turn your back on them, out comes a cell phone and they are talking to somebody or listening to music.  I find it very funny but I also know people who are not from Africa just love watching this action and confirming to themselves that this is wild Africa. 

There are also a whole bunch of curio shops, but again, that is another attraction that we do not look at, we are used to all of this in South Africa.  Make no mistake it is very busy at the gate, but our efficient guide took our passports and dealt with everything quickly and off we went to see the falls… a first for me, but Kallie has been to the falls as a youngster.

Markson ... our guide telling us all about our trip ...

Markson … our guide telling us all about our trip …

 

Welcome to the falls ...

Welcome to the falls …

What you will pay to do the falls tour ...

What you will pay to do the falls tour …

Rules ....

Rules ….

We followed the Victoria Falls Footpath guide, we were handed a map while our guide explained all about ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or “the Smoke that Thunders” to us. 

After David Livingston listened to all the stories of the local tribesmen, he set off in search of the place that thunders.  On the 16th November 1855 he was taken by a dugout canoe to an island which is today called Livingston Island that overlooked the largest curtain of the falling water.  Being a true British citizen he named the falls after Queen Victoria of England and he wrote “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight”.  To be quite honest, the first time I saw a glimpse of the falls it took my breath away.

The famous Livingston statue

The famous Livingston statue

In a world of my own ...

In a world of my own …

Doing what I do best taking photos and forgetting everything else ...

Doing what I do best taking photos and forgetting everything else …

We came to Livingstone’s statue and after we took a few photos of the statue I got closer to the edge and got into a world of my own.  I did not hear the guide telling more of the facts, I just stood there taking photos and staring at all that was on display in front of me …

Thinking back I was like a small child in front of a sweet counter where you should make a decision and you cannot… I could not decide where to look, I was just totally overawed. 

As I came back to reality, I turned around and for a few moments was totally flabbergasted… I thought Livingston and I had been transported to a place in Nepal without me realizing it!  I just stood there staring at the two Buddhist monks on front of the statue until I realized that it is just two people in bright orange raincoats and that I am still standing close to the proper falls. 

The orange raincoats that confused me for a moment ...

The orange raincoats that confused me for a moment …

And then we went on the long walk following all the nooks and crannies to get close to the edge ever so often.

The start of the walk ...

The start of the walk …

The Zambezi at the falls site is over 1 000 kilometres away from its source and at the falls it reaches a 1 708 meter width and cascades some 100 meters into the 1st gorge below.  Just imagine all the mist and rainbows you can see there! 

During the peak months, from March and April, an average of 500 million litres of water per minute creates that veil of spray, but during those months it is so dense that sometimes you cannot see the falls.  During the dry season the average flow drops dramatically.  We did the tour and wandered in and out to all the viewpoints.  The craziest one is where you stand on Zimbabwe’s side of the falls and watch the crazy people from the Zambian side swimming around at Devil’s Cataract.

 

A beautiful view of the falls with the rainbow ...

A beautiful view of the falls with the rainbow …

The falls around every corner ...

The falls around every corner …

... and more ...

… and more …

Catching the rainbow and looking for the pot of gold ...

Catching the rainbow and looking for the pot of gold …

There were rainbows wherever you looked

There were rainbows wherever you looked

 

At the end of the rainbow ....

At the end of the rainbow ….

We wove in and out to all the viewpoint taking hundreds of photos and while inside the rainforest we saw a rhinoceros head formed out of the stem of one of the trees next to the pathway.  Apart from the falls we saw trumpeter hornbills, monkeys and other birds while wandering along towards the bridge.

The rhino on a branch of  tree ...

The rhino on a branch of  the tree …

 

The rainforest walk ....

The rain forest walk ….

People swimming in the Devils Pool ...

People swimming in the Devils Pool …

The futher we walked the mistier it became ...

The futher we walked the mistier it became …

As we reached Danger Point it became very wet, but it was all worth it … we did all of the points:

 

A drawing of all the view points on the walk ...

A drawing of all the view points on the walk …

  1. Main Falls… 93 m depth
  2. Devil’s Cataract view… 73 steps but worth it
  3. Top of Devil’s Cataract and Livingstone statue
  4. Horseshoe Falls … 95 m depth
  5. Rainbow Falls … 108 m depth
  6. Danger Point, Eastern Cataract view … 101 m depth… there is no rails at this point.
  7. Bridge view
  8. The Knives Edge can be reached from the Zambian side of the falls.

Another view of the falls ...

Another view of the falls …

Close to the bridge ...

Close to the bridge …

Off into the sunset  the went ...

Off into the sunset the went …

And then the long walk back began.   By then I knew my legs had had it and my toes did not want to work with me any longer.  I was very happy when I saw the restaurant and entrance gate because I knew the end was near.  We got back to the hotel well ahead of time to finish up and to get ready for our night out at the Boma … and then I walked into the hotel and stared at the flight of stairs… I knew I had to get up there and to the room … victory at last and I could go and soak in the bath for a while!

At the coffee shop ...

At the coffee shop …

More curios to buy ...

More curios to buy …

The curio shops filled of gifts ....

The curio shops filled of gifts ….

Enjoy your stay at the Falls ...

Enjoy your stay at the Falls …

But before I say goodbye, let me first get something off my chest…  Firstly if you are keen on taking photos, forget about a rain coat for yourself but take something to protect your cameras and equipment.  You can get wet and will dry off quickly. But, do rent a big umbrella if you plan on taking photos, your guide can stand in his bright orange raincoat with the umbrella over your head protecting your camera while you stand and shoot as much as you want to without worries.  The best lesson I learned was that old saying of, if the shoe fits … well make very sure that they fit you properly.   I took my reliable Merrills with to do all the walking, and sure they would’ve been great if it was on dry ground.  They were made for normal walking, but it turned out that they were very slippery on those wet rocks.  Walking round turned out to be a matter of survival, no slipping and dropping your camera or toppling over the cliffs, by the end of the walk my feet were killing me.   The damage to my toes were done properly, so much so that three weeks later I still have a blue big toe nail that I have to hide away under red nail polish.  Lesson well learned!

My nemesis ... descending was easier than ascending ...

My nemesis … descending was easier than ascending …

The famous Merrills or as some people refer to them ... my car guard shoes ...

The famous Merrills or as some people refer to them … my car guard shoes …

And now I am going to take a break and visit Zanzibar for two weeks … will tell you all about my trip when I am back!