April 17, 2003

Zanzibar, The Spice Island

I arrived in Zanzibar yesterday after spending the night in Dar Es Salaam. I arrived from Tanga earlier than expected as it took us only 4h15 rather than the 5h30 expected. Which means that of course we were driving -very- fast and that you'd better not look too much in front of you if you don't want to have an heart attack.

That said, I found my way to YWCA (5000TSh) which is well situated for me as it was close to banks, Coastal Travels ($ cash advance from VISA), Rickshaw Travel (Traveler Cheques from AMEX) and incidentely the British Airways main office. YWCA was not as bad as the Lonely Planet mention, it as 5* compared to Mombasa hotels. Breakfast was included and you can have dinner for cheap here (1300TSh) though don't expect great things, but at least it's food.

I took the (fast) ferry (Sea Star 2) from Dar Es Salaam to StoneTown at 10:30AM ($35, 2nd class). It took about 2h30 while it is supposed to take 1h30 and it looks like the slow ferry that supposedly takes 3 hours do it in something more close to 5 hours....and the sea was good so...who knows.

I took a room at the Florida GuestHouse in StoneTown ($10) and booked some diving at One Ocean. I tried to get sone cash via Coastal Travels (No ATMs in Zanzibar) and my card was declined by Barclays. I suspect that again they are fucking up the connection with VISA as the same happened to me in Nairobi at Barclays while it was working at Standard Chartered (though Coastal Travel uses Barclays...). When leaving the office I bumped into Roger and Cheryl (or more exactly they bumped into me) and we rejoined later to have dinner at the Sweet Easy restaurant (excellent Swahili food, around 5000TSh) and had some cocktails at the African House (former British Club).

This morning I went diving around an island located in the north-west of Zanzibar which is called Mmeba Island. Quite good visibility and ok dives though it was 2 drift dives so I did not take that many pictures.

I went back to StoneTown and tried again to come at Coastal Travel. I came in at 4:25PM and the woman after I told her I wanted to try again to get some cash told me that I was 10 minutes late and that they were closing...mmm fine no need to argue this is Africa. When leaving I notice the sign that says 3:00PM-5:00PM. I come back in and ask her at what time she closes. She tells me 4:30PM... 'what's the 5:00PM on the sign ?' - 'that's the time I leave from the office'. And she even did not bother looking at me while I was talking to her of course.

As it happens, as the authorization somewhat take 30 minutes to get from Barclays she did not want to move her ass more than 2 minutes. And who knows maybe it would have taken 28 minutes.

Avoid this office like the plague. They deserve to be out of business.

I went eating tonight with Roger and Cheryl on the market (next to the old fort) where local people cook food on the streets. You can get lobsters, crabs, octopus, tuna, marlin, chicken, etc... grilled and a couple of others things at rock bottom prices, roughly you eat more than enough for 1500TSh (1.5$).

Zanzibar is a very nice place and I'm glad I went. I can thank Saskia and Wies for somewhat giving me the necessary impulsion to change my mind and go over Tanzania. That's definitely better than Diani, it is way more cultural and you have more things to do around and this is quite cheap as well for just about anything. I will definitely stay here at least a week

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