Wednesday, January 12, 2011
My Vacation through Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa
The trip began at 5am on Christmas morning when my friend and I had to wake up super early to take the 6am bus from Kigali to Dar es Salaam, 28 hour bus ride. The trip could have been shorter but the bus frequently stopped for bathroom breaks and snack breaks. There were many staff members on the bus some of them drivers. I don’t know how many drivers but as least three. While one was driving, one would be sleeping on a little mattress placed in the isle way in the front of the bus. Between the hours of 11pm and 4am we stopped the bus for resting because they say it is too dangerous to drive at this time. Police can pull the bus over and ransack everything. So we stopped at an area with a few restaurants, and just sat there for 4 hours. We finally arrived to DAR at 10am. After a very long 28 hours, during which my ankles swelled up almost double their size, simply due to the lack of movement. That was terrible and the swelling took 2 days to go down to normal. Dar is a coastal city in Tanzania. It is huge with lots of tall buildings. It was weird arriving to a place like this. There are almost no tall buildings in Rwanda. It was like arriving in NYC, after living in the middle of nowhere for almost a year. Anyway we went straight to Zanzibar which is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Dar. It’s one of 3 major islands off the coast of Tanzania. We stayed in a hostel for 1 week there. We went swimming with the dolphins, went to Jozani forest to see the only red-colubus monkey’s in existence. We saw the old fort which was built by the Portuguese. We walked through a museum about the colonization of Zanzibar, the building was the first to get electricity. The people of Zanzibar thought the building was on fire when they saw electricity for the first time. We went to the beach and saw the ruins from an old freed slave’s school. We saw a slave cave where they use to hide slaves. Many blacks from Zanzibar were taken as slaves in Arab and Indian countries. Slaves for America and Europe were taken from West Africa. We saw the location where they used to auction off slaves and where the slaves lived. It was 2 tiny all cement rooms, one for the men and one for the women and children. They had to lie on top of one another to all fit in the rooms. There was also a model of slaves that were chained together. They would chain them together with others from different tribes so that they could not communicate with each other. The rest of the time in Zanzibar was spent shopping and laying on the beach. After Zanzibar we went to Dar es Salaam to stay with my friend’s friend who is an expat working with JSI and SCMS from USAID. In Dar we relaxed and enjoyed the big TV and the cool air conditioning and the hot showers. One day we went sailing on their boat. We sailed to an island where we had barbeque sea food. I tried octopus for the first time and actually liked it. We went to an amazing Sushi restaurant, and a ton of other really nice restaurants with food that we cannot get in Rwanda. Like Thai, Italian, Chinese and an amazing sandwich place. My friend got a really bad ear infection so we also got to see the Tanzania Peace corps office to see the doctor. The office was triple the size of ours with double the staff but the same number of volunteers. Both countries have about 170 volunteers even though Tanzania is 100x the size of Rwanda. Anyway after Dar we took a bus straight to Mombasa. The trip was suppose to take 8-10 hours but ended up taking 15 hours. We stopped at customs and one of the passengers owned a business and brought over 300 boxes of juice onto the bus. Nobody could store their bags under the bus all the bags had to be with the passengers. And all the passengers had to wait 4 hours for all the boxes to be unloaded and counted before we could continue. We finally arrived way late. But Mombasa is great. It is the second largest city in Kenya. And it is an island though it is only separated from the main land by a very short distance. You can walk across via bridge, but the buses take a ferry across. This was a very large city. We stayed in a rather nice hotel that had air conditioning. We had no guide book and no idea what to do so we wondered and found a coffee shop. In the coffee shop we met 3 Peace Corps volunteers from Kenya. One of the girls wrote down all these things we should do in Mombasa and that is what we spent the next 3 days doing. It was so great. She recommended this juice shop which was amazing and their burgers were also amazing. She told us about this local Swahili food place that had amazing curry and pita sandwiches called a swarmama. We ate their twice. She gave us prices for things so we could not get ripped off. Kenya and Tanzania are filled with tuk tuk’s remind of the antique car rides in amusement parks. They take you anywhere within a short distance. They are really fun and I wish we had them in Rwanda. We went to a local coffee shop where you sit on cushions on the floor to drink coffee. We met a girl from the Netherlands who had been doing an internship in Nairobi. She was headed home after Mombasa and was just waiting for her bus to leave. So we took her to our favorite restaurant and favorite shops. Have I mentioned the shopping there and in Dar was amazing? There is hardly and selection in Rwanda. Every shop has all of the same things but that is not the case in Kenya and Tanzania. The tourist shops had some of the same thing but there was always something new in each shop. Anyway that’s really all I have to talk about. It was a great trip. I can’t wait to take another vacation. Maybe Ethiopia next!