Friday, March 12, 2010

Ferry to Zanzibar

Day 40: Zanzibar, Tanzania
This morning we left Mikadi Beach and took a local ferry across the harbor to the main ferry port of Dar es Salaam. Our ferry to the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar was canceled twice, so we had several hours to wander around the city center before our ferry departed. Dar es Salaam did not seem like a very friendly city, and our experience trying to get lunch was frustrating. After our original ferry was canceled, we had about an hour until we had to be back at the port, so a small group of us walked a few blocks to a cafe, where we ordered lunch. A few of us ordered toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches with chips (fries). As has been our experience in Africa so far, even if someone doesn't understand a request, they usually smile and say, "No problem." After half an hour, we were getting anxious because we needed to get back to the port soon. The waiter finally brought one sandwich from the kitchen – untoasted and with no chips. Upon pointing to the menu and clarifying the order, the waiter acted like it was the first time he had heard the request. He went back to the kitchen and after some back-and-forth in Swahili, he came back to the table and said he would bring our sandwiches. We asked if we could now have them to go since they had taken so long, and he nodded. It was now five minutes until we had to be back at the port, and there was no sign that anything was happening in the kitchen, so we had to just leave and pay for our sodas. We felt badly that they probably ended up wasting food, but we didn't expect to wait for an hour for toasted sandwiches.

Once we arrived back at port, we discovered that the second ferry had been canceled and we now had yet another hour until boarding. Frustrated that we had missed out on lunch and sweating buckets from the horrific humidity, we ate some crackers in an outside waiting area. After a while, we were told we could go into a passenger lounge where there would be free food and drinks. We swiftly made our way to the lounge and wondered why we had not been there the whole time. The air conditioning was on full blast, and the blue glass windows made the room seem even cooler. There were fridges with free water and juice … and free ice cream. Jackpot! I indulged in my luxurious mango ice cream and pineapple juice as I gradually cooled and my sweat evaporated.

Ferry, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania © Matt Prater
A ferry cruises past the waterfront of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

We finally boarded the ferry. It was over two hours across the choppy sea to the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar considers itself separate from Tanzania, so I actually received a stamp in my passport even though I didn't receive an exit stamp when leaving Dar es Salaam. Upon arriving in Stone Town, Zanzibar's unique history became apparent in its enchanting Islamic architecture, spice markets, and Indian and Chinese restaurants. We hopped on a bus and rode an hour to a stunning beach on the northwest coast of the island, where we would stay in an actual hotel with actual beds for the next three nights.

Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania © Matt Prater
The clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean make for a tranquil setting at Kendwa Beach on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania

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