Day 312 to 314 (12th – 14th July) – Nungwe Beach

16 07 2011

The white sands and turquoise waters of Zanzibar are lovely…

Before heading north to the beaches we went on a guided walk of the old town learning a bit about the history of the city, its architecture and visiting the sight of the last official slave market in the world, now an Anglican church.

Now in the north of the island it’s great to be back swimming in the lovely warm Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is an island of idyllic sandy palm fringed beaches and we have found a nice family run beach fronted hotel for another of those holidays from a holiday.

The return sea crossing back to Dar Es Salaam was a choppy affair, a real chunder-fest. Over half of our fellow passengers were throwing up into little black bags, which were promptly collected by cleaners and any spillage or misdirected spray was quickly wiped up. The guy sitting next to Jen was sick on his feet; he was wearing flip flops. I was very surprised the room didn’t stink of puke, however we were later told it did. I guess the offensive odour of vomit must have slowly built in the cabin at an undetectable rate. Regardless of the smell we were sat in the middle of a room where over half the people were being violently sick for two and a half hours – the vast majority of these being locals. The sounds coming from some people were a little disturbing.

 

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Day 311 (11th July) – Stone Town, Zanzibar

16 07 2011

Stone Town is the one of the oldest of Africa’s cities, dating back to the 12th century, and was a base for some of the great 19th century explorers such as David Livingstone and John Speke. As we came into port on the catamaran Stone Town resembled Venice, not that I’ve been to Venice, just what it looks like on the telly. The heavily Arabic influenced and less so Indian influenced architecture makes for a very beautiful city. With its narrow cobbled streets and alleyways, squares and courtyards the old town is a real maze of rabbit warrens that are begging to be explored and get lost amongst.

The cornerstone the city was built on was a heavy trade in slaves and spices – fortunately it is only the spice trade that exists today along with lots of tourism. We went on a great spice tour which saw us visiting a small spice farm and guessing what spices we were looking at, smelling and then tasting. Very very interesting and great to see all those spices you have in the cupboard growing on a tree, bush or vine. We learnt that ‘all spice’ is a type of spice from a tree and not a combination of spices.

Obviously all the food is heavily spiced and really good – spiced rice and potatoes, masala, grilled meats and an abundance of sea food. Africa has shown itself to be visually breathtaking, culturally intriguing and a culinary delight.

 

 

Where most black Africans present themselves as clean shaven it’s hard not to notice that many black Muslim Africans sport some form of facial hair – whether it is a goatie, beard or horrible pencil moustache. As Zanzibar has a 95% Muslim population you see a lot of these bad tashes.





Day 309 & 310 (9th 10th July) – Chitumba – Iringa – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

15 07 2011

We are back on the road for possibly the low point of the overland trip – two solid days of driving 1,200km across Tanzania. We crossed the border into Tanzania and are gunning for the stunning island of Zanzibar. There has been plenty to gaze at from the truck; for one it is abundantly clear Tanzania is a far wealthier than Malawi.

The vegetation has turned greener still, now a deep tropical green. Banana plantations are wide spread – so to is a plethora of other fruits and crops; rice, maize, oranges, coconuts, tea. Individual self sufficient small holdings have made way for larger more mechanised operations. Adobe and thatch has been replaced by uglier brick and corrugated steel – so not everything is good.

We had an overnight stop in Iringa. Being at an elevation of 1,550 metres things got briefly chilly again. But as soon as that sun came up we were back in shorts and t-shirts again. Our arrival into Dar Es Salaam was greatly appreciated – for a city of only 2.5 million it was mighty hectic; Bumper to bumper traffic, heat, fumes, street vendors and markets all operating in far too small an area.

Anyway, we made it and we were staying in a lovely place on the beach on the outskirts of town. When we asked the bar man if we should take heed of the sign saying ‘Warning: inside camp = safe, outside camp = not safe’, he told us if you walk left down the beach you should be ok, but if you walk right down the beach ‘you will get mugged’. We chose not to go for that walk, but I’m sure we would have been fine.





Day 308 (8th July) – Chitumba

15 07 2011

Our last day on the ever so lovely shores of Lake Malawi passed by in a sweaty mess of sand, beer and perspiration; we were involved in a marathon beach volleyball match. When our calves could take no more jumping and diving in the sand Jen and I went on a run through the local village again meeting hoards of kids who took great amusement in running along side us screaming, shouting, waving and giggling.

After all that exercise that first (of many) Kilimanjaro beer(s) tasted too good sat out in a hammock on the beach enjoying the last views of Lake Malawi before the sun set and the sky drew dark.

I make the campsite we are staying sound lovely, and it was if not for the shower block. It is as though someone was given a modest sum of money to make improvements in the campsite and chose to spend all of the money in the bar. There are lovely seats and hammocks, a big flat screen telly, charging points, laptops for the internet and wifi. However, the guy in charge of improvements spent nothing when it came to the toilets and showers. For one there were only four toilets and showers for 100+ guests. More importantly the showers more closely resembled small shallow concrete pits more appropriately used for the slaughtering of livestock than for human bathing. The single tap that dispensed a pitiful dribble of luke warm water was a nice touch and the faint whiff of drains made for an altogether pleasant experience.

Lake Malawi is so vast it can easily be mistaken for an ocean. Boasting a stunning white sand shoreline that is void of those hit and miss modern architecture houses. Just small rustic dwellings – adobe and thatch homes blend into the surrounding countryside inoffensively. Whole villages can be passed totally unaware, almost perfectly camouflaged amongst the vegetation thanks to their natural building materials.





Day 306 & 307 (6th – 7th July) – Kande Beach

15 07 2011

Rustic: Of, relating to, or typical of county life or country people -see Malawi

Just driving through Malawi is a joy in itself. The landscape has become more… undulating, much greener and more populated. That brown desert has long since passed, so has that boring monotone scrubland and bush. Now we’re driving past green fields, rivers, countless rural small holdings, adobe homes set amongst the rural rustic countryside and the occasional hectic town.

Malawi is often described as ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and judging by some of the locals we have met and the many more we have seen from the truck this is very much true. When driving through small towns or villages we are greeted with dozens of smiling faces and waving kids all excited to see a bunch of westerners passing through their bit of the world. But then I thought, its 10am on a Wednesday, these kids should be in school!?!

It appears if you scratch at that nice, shiny and happy surface that shrouds Malawi you soon find some sad truths. Like the reason all those kids were playing on the streets was because Malawi doesn’t have any real formal compulsory education system. This fact soon had us noticing scores of kids working in the fields, collecting water from wells or carting stuff around. Being land locked Malawi has a real issue with exporting any goods or raw materials. This makes Malawian extremely poor country, so much so that while we have been here there has been a fuel shortage and no diesel. Being on a diesel powered truck this would be something of a problem if we didn’t have a whopping 2000km range on a single tank! Further problems come from Malawi being a peaceful country surrounded by a few of countries with ‘issues’. Malawi receives a large quantity of political migrants putting a large strain on a weak system that has seen unemployment rocket.

So, after driving east across Zambia we are now driving north, shadowing the western shores of the stunning Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi covers almost a fifth of the countries total area and can boast the most diverse marine life of any lake in the world. Visually it is quite special as it glints and glistens an emerald blue under that strong African sun.

Our camp site at Kande Beach is fantastic – Jen and I are in a wood and bamboo constructed beach hut at the top of a golden sand beach comfortably within earshot of the gently lapping waters of Lake Malawi. The first morning in the beach hut saw us have possibly the best lie in ever. Still in bed with the door and shutters open and a fresh gentle lake breeze blowing we watched the sun rise over the watery horizon as we slipped in and out of consensus from under the covers.

We took a short walk down the beach to take a look at a children’s day care centre and ate an amazing spit roast pig a guy spent the whole day roasting. Just a nice cruise for a couple of days.





Day 305 (5th July) – Senga Bay

13 07 2011

Today we crossed the border, leaving Zambia behind and stepping into Malawi. Our first stop wasLilongwe(the capital) for lunch and supplies. For one of the poorest countries inAfricathe Spar supermarket was kind of expensive. Last time I checked Spar was a crumby supermarket – how long have we been away?!?

 

We were soon back on the road and heading for the western shore of Lake Malawi. The scenery was steadily getting greener and we knew we were getting close as we started to spot street sellers selling fresh smoked fish. Our campsite was on the sandy shores ofLake Malawi and was really nice if not for being completely devoid of any hot water!





Day 304 (4th July) – Lusaka to Chipata

13 07 2011

Six hundred kilometres today – eight hours on the road…

Today saw us cover a huge chunk of Zambia, most of which was on really narrow roads with barely enough room for two lorries to pass. We are on a bit of a mission to get to the lovely shores of Lake Malawi.

This left little time for anything other than a run where we met a few local kids on our route who joined us for a bit, but they couldn’t keep up…