Posts Tagged stonetown

The view from up here

Living in East Africa has its definite benefits – one being the opportunities to travel (or maybe its just the mindset as the opportunities exist in just about every place and often much cheaper than here!). With minimal planning you can hop on a small plane and end up in some exotic locale for the long weekend. And while the end location is often the subject of many of my other posts on this site – getting there in the 4, 6 or 12 seater light planes is often part of the fun and half the beauty.

Flying over the Indian ocean and around this country in general offers some amazingly beautiful seascapes and scenery which can really take the breath away. The opportunities for aerial photography are truly amazing and so I’m always anxious to try and land a good window seat this purpose. There is just something about being up high and having this different perspective that makes the patterns and colours we can’t see from the ground so remarkable.

Over the past couple of years I have collected a number of pictures from these various flights which I have been meaning to make into a blog post and share with you for awhile.




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So what do you reccomend doing around here?/ In your face, Lonely Planet

On a number of occasions now while in transport to my destination I’ve found myself sitting beside locals and quickly brought into a friendly conversation.  I have read that Tanzanians have a reputation as being amongst the friendliest people in Africa and they are living up their reputation so far, often chatting up the person beside them if the chance arises. The other thing about these encounters is that people are so quick to exchange mobile numbers. There really appears to be no pre-requisite establishment of a relationship or interest in continued contact before asking someone for their mobile number. I think my record so far after one month is an offer to exchange numbers about  7 words spoken into the conversation.

In these aforementioned situation-  as the new arrival interacting with a local who clearly has much more knowledge of the area – I’ve asked on a few different occasions what there is to do or what activities/sights/events they would recommend for me to do in Dar es Salaam/Zanzibar/or any given destination.

The pride of New Hamburg...

Now I don’t claim to be a professional statistician and I’ll readily admit that my sample size here might leave some pretty huge holes in the proof of my theory – but the answer has been the same each time. They say “not much” to do there – just “meet people and talk with them…get to know the people and that’s what I would reccomend”. I figure that might be understandable if you were asking that question cruising down the 7&8 Highway into New Hamburg, Ontario.. (No disrespect to North America’s largest operating water wheel meant)

–but in this first situation where I was on the plane flying into Dar es Salaam for the first time – we were talking about a country’s largest city, a place with over 3 million people ..surely there is something you could recommend  for a wide-eyed, fresh off the plane young man to do here (even through Lonely Planet dismisses my new home saying there aren’t many ‘sights’ and “an increasing number of visitors bypass Dar completely…”). Needless to say, the best times thus far have just involved hanging out with the people we’ve been meeting and not so much packing our days with sights and to do lists.

the boats of zanzibar at sunset

Another example was on the ferry to the island of Zanzibar, a world famous tropical African paradise just off the coast from Dar. This was the Eid weekend (Sept 18-21st) which celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan and we were excited to be there for the big celebrations. On the ferry on the way over, I met some folks who lived in the main city of Stonetown and eventually the topic came up and I asked what he recommended doing during our visit. But same result…not much to do, just walk around, talk to the people, make friends and chill out. No mention of Omani mosques, Portuguese forts, the rich history of the last operating slave market in the world, or the famous beaches and coral reefs that make this one of Africa’s most visited destinations.

mosque & church in Stonetown, Zanzibar

Well, I’m sure you can guess where this is going but it turns out they seemed to know what they were talking about and the best time we had on our long weekend getaway to the island was indeed not in the Lonely Planet.  We met a young man named Elvis who was a tour guide in the old slave market area in Stonetown, Zanzibar and our whole long weekend changed.  On a brief side note, the slave trade history in Zanzibar is  a very fascinating story and although nothing much really remains today of the this place where millions of humans were bought and sold each year – its a must-see place to visit and try to understand from the tours and historical plaques.

It’s a tough thing to capture – the camera doesn’t record it and the friendships formed are always difficult to record in words, so I won’t try to go into much detail of the adventures and inevitably fail. All  of us being immature guys we got along great right from the start when he opened up to us about his quest for the love of a muzungu lady.  We ended up spending the whole weekend with Elvis, just touring around the winding, narrow streets of Stonetown saying hi to everyone he knew in town (i.e. the whole population) and visiting the nearby island beaches with him and his friends. The jokes flowed and good times were had by all. We even had the opportunity to visit his family home just outside the city and sat around and chatted with the extended family for awhile.

Overall, an excellent Eid long weekend and we barely opened the Lonely Planet book…

Elvis & family

p.s. Maybe it would have been a good idea to open the Lonely Planet book….Zach and I didn’t bother learning before hand that passports were required to pass through customs at the island docks and didn’t bring ours.  I can now say that I have  ran through an official customs station and successfully hid from their customs officials  - a fine addition to any resume.

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