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The Habdogs' Adventures

Dar Es Salaam ot Nairobi via Zanzibar

TANZANIA | Sunday, 26 January 2014 | Views [289]


Day 31 - Tuesday 7th January 2014.  Dar Es Salaam to Stone Town (Zanzibar).  

It was a relief to get out of the tents thismorning as it was so hot and humid overnight. We all dosed up on motion sickness medication over breakfast before boarding the tuk tuks that were to take us to the ferry terminal.  With 3 of us literally jammed into the backseat of a each tuk tuk, limbs were tucked in very closely to our bodies as we weaved in and out of the peak hour traffic with tunes blaring from the proportionally oversized speakers. After surviving the first part of the transit we then boarded the passenger ferry (apparently for passengers both dead or alive - yes, we boarded a ferry alongside a coffin) for a 2 hour rough seas challenge. What didn't help was that the man sitting next to Sam informed her that within the preceding week there had been a ferry accident secondary to rough seas in which more than 8 people were killed, and that the ferry involved was even bigger than ours. We later found out that the accident occured on a different channel but this information was too late for the nerves on the way over.  

We all arrived in one piece to the boiling heat of Zanzibar. Contributing to the heat was our long pants and covered shoulders in order to respect the local Muslim culture. It was a wonderful feeling to walk into the air conditioned hotel lobby to find out that we would be having four nights in air conditioned rooms in actual beds!! After settling in we headed off with Rob and Kathleen to explore Stone Town and the local markets for the afternoon.  The buildings in Stone Town are a mixture of old and new, the streets narrow  and winding alleyways. Some of the others in the group described it as the African Venice. The boys only lasted half an hour in the markets before disappearing off in search of a cold beer, leaving the girls bargaining away. The markets were brightly coloured and bustling with tourists as they contained many souvenirs - paintings,  clothing, woodwork and jewelery.  

Tonight we ventured to the seaside night markets for dinner. There were lots of little food stalls piled with different foods such as kebabs, seafood,  fruit and vegetables,  all which were individually cooked on the BBQ. Our favorite though was the pizza and the shwarma. The pizzas were like BBQ filled crepes and could be sweet or savory. Of course, we had to try both! All the stalls had names such as 'Mr Happiness' and  'Mr Fantastic', and some even had the same name.  One particular 'Mr Fantastic' claimed he was the original and the other 'Mr Fantastic'  was the "photocopy".    

Learning Points:

1. It is difficult to find a beer in s Muslim-predominant town

2. Zanzibar pizza is amazing and definitely going in the cookbook when we get home

3. It's hard looking at so much seafood and not being able eat it (due to likely food poisoning)    


Day 32 - Wednesday 8th January 2014. Stone Town to Nungwi Beach (Zanzibar).  

After a wonderful nights sleep in a bed with aircon we were ready to explore what Zanzibar had to offer.  First on the itinerary was the 'Spice Tour'. With our guides we walked around a plantation full of many different fruit and spice plants/trees including jack fruit, passion fruit,  mangoes,  coconut, banana, avocado,  star fruit, cinnamon,  nutmeg, ginger, peppercorn, lemon grass, clove and tumeric, just to name a few. It was a great experience trying to guess each spice after smelling and tasting the leaves/fruit/roots/bark. We also had a fruit tasting session followed by a demonstration by one of the butterflies (local coconut tree climbers).  

We them travel north to meet Vladia and Wes at our next destination,  Nungwi Beach. It was beautiful and our accommodation was the best yet. In the afternoon we went on a organized sunset snorkeling/booze cruise. We would just like to confirm for all those concerned that the snorkeling was pre booze. The boat we were on was a traditional wooden sailing boat called a dawa. We also had our own local band playing up the front of the boat to which we sang and danced to as we swayed in the ocean swell. The sea was so salty you could even float when shaped like a banana! After dinner we continued to party the night away at a local bar with Vladia leading the way in true form.  

Learning Points:  

1. In addition to an orchard we would like to have own spice plantation one day.

2. Again,  one could never get sick of seeing an African sunset.

3. We also new it was supposed to be easy to float in salty water but not that easy.

4. Vladia sure does know how to party.    



Day 33 - Thursday 9th January 2014. Nungwi Beach (Zanzibar).  

Todays itinerary consisted of a snorkeling tour to Memba Island, a 2 hour boat ride (on a dawa) around to the east side of the main Zanzibar island. To say the least it was a rough ride and the strong smell of fumes from the petrol leak didn't help the queezy tummies. Suprisingly no one was sick. As we had divers on board our snorkeling was divided into two sessions to match their dives. It was a bit rough but we still had great visibility (10m+) allowing us to snorkel along the edge of the reef. We saw many species including triggerfish, flutefish, fingermark snapper, squidies, flounder, angel fish, nemos, sea snakes and moray eels to name a few. The ride there was bad but the ride back was worse. We were sitting up the front of the boat and each wave would crash over the bow and drench us. It was that rough we had to enter the protected reef and risk becoming beached on the coral due to the low tide. It was a very slow ride back but it certainly beat the alternate route of guaranteed rough seas and vomit.  

After looking at many many paintings in the last few days this afternoon we finally bought one from a local artist. The painting is of the Masai people. Exhausted from a big day in the sun on rough seas we had a night off partying,  however a few of the others went out to a beach party drinking Konyagi (local spirit).  

Learning Points:

1. Apparently applying sunscreen 4 times was still not enough with both of us sporting pink skin

2. Our seamen initiation was not particularly fun    


Day 34 - Friday 10th January 2014.  Nungwi Beach to Stone Town (Zanzibar).  

Unlike the party goers we woke up feeling fresh this morning and ready for another day exploring Zanzibar. Unfortunately this meant leaving beautiful Nungwi Beach. Once back in Stone Town, first on the itinerary was Prison Island. Prison Island was originally set up for the slave trade but was never actually used for this purpose as the slave market was ceased before it was ready. The island was subsequently used for quarantine purposes before people and goods were allowed to the main island. These days it is used as a resort and tortise sanctuary. We were expecting to see a couple of tortises but nowhere near the number we did. The ages ranged from freshly hatched to 180 years. The tortises aren't native to the island, rather they were given as a gift from the Seychelles in exchange for spice plants. We were told that over-population was becoming a problem but we certainly didn't expect to see an 127 year old male tortise chasing down a somewhat younger female and do the deed in front of our eyes. It was one of the funniest but most disgusting things we have ever seen let alone heard.  

After returning to the main island we went to visit the slave markets. All the slave chambers except for 2 have been demolished. It was difficult to imagine that 75 women and children or 50 men could fit in such a small space let alone survive the heat and poor ventilation. It really was survival of the fittest. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the local markets followed by a group dinner at an Indian restaurant.  

Learning Points:

1. Apparently there is no such thing as too old in tortise world.

2. Seeing the slave market brought the concept of slave labour into a whole new perspective.    


Day 35 - Saturday 11th January 2014.  Zanzibar to Korogwe.  

With 2 fellow truckers struck down with gastro (or as Vladia calls it, "Zanzibar belly") we are all a bit concerned our good luck streak of health might be running out. What made it worse today was the 12 hour transit day we had ahead. We survived the ferry back to Dar Es Salaam, sad to be saying goodbye to Zanzibar and the air conditioning,  but also excited about venturing to the greatly anticipated Serengeti.  Despite the long drive we again enjoyed the scenery. We are now driving through flatter plains of red soil, acacia and boaba trees with tall rocky mountain ranges that appear to arise from nowhere.    

Tonight we camped at Korogwe,  a campsite Vladia refers to as the "shit hole". In summary,  it was pretty basic camping in the middle of nowhere but to be honest,  any campsite was going to be a shock to the system after the last 4 nights of luxury.  

Learning Points:

1. It's hard to believe it'd be possible but Sam's supervision of hand hygiene has become even more strict

2. When it comes to camping and over landing we have all become a bit soft after Zanzibar    


Day 36 - Sunday 12th January 2014.  Korogwe to Arusha.  

After a comparatively 'short' drive we arrived at our campsite (Snake Park) in time for a late lunch. Unfortunately we couldn't see Mt Kilimanjaro on the way due to the clouds. Snake Park is also a reptile and wildlife rescue sanctuary housing crocodiles, at least 10 different species of snakes and a variety of birds. The campsite however is best known for its Medical Clinic which specializes in snake antivenom, supplying much of Africa. We were very lucky to have arrived on snake feeding day as it only occurs every 2 weeks. Baby (live) chickens are released into the snake cages and the snakes are left to help themselves until they're full, and then the surviving chickens are removed and safe for another 2 weeks. It was fascinating watching the snakes strike and then swallow the chickens whole but we did feel sorry for the trembling chickens huddling in the corners of the cages.  

We also visited the Masai Museum and learnt about their tribal traditions and lifestyle. Of interest was the importance of circumcision in their culture. Males are circumcised at age 15+ which marks the beginning of their 'manhood'. They are then sent away to the land for 6 months and upon their return they are considered warriors, and are entitled to a wife (or two or more). If the boys are not circumcised or show any signs of weakness during the procedure (crying/flinching/tears), which is performed without any anesthetic,  then they are never considered men and are not allowed to marry. Female circumcision is now illegal but is still occurring illegally in ~ 30% Masai women. The women are circumcised at age 10+. The mortality rate for women is quite high, largely due to sepsis. Similarly to men, uncircumcised women are not allowed to marry. The circumcision 'status' of a Masai is obvious by their dress, as with each 'milestone' their traditional attire changes.  

Learning Points:

1. We are thankful that neither of us are chickens or Masai

2. Habby's love for snakes is still matched by Sam's hate

3. We miss having a washing machine    


Day 37 - Monday 13th January 2014.  Arusha to Serengeti National Park.  

Our Serengeti trip had finally arrived and to say that we were excited was an understatement.  For this part of the trip we left the truck behind,  taking two 4WD instead. Unfortunately we also left Vladia behind too as she was unwell with the flu.  In our vehicle, which we of course called 'The Spotted Genet', we had Godfrey our guide (Captain GG), Wes (Frog), Sarah (Bush Buck), Charlotte (Rhino), Rob (Lemur), Kathleen (Night Hawk), and ourselves (Mongoose and Leopard). We first had a 3 hour drive to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Gate which was located just before the lookout over the Ngorongoro Crater. The view was just incredible and only added to our excitement.    

Our lunch spot was the most entertaining yet! The Kites, birds of prey,  had learned over the years that our lunch packs contained chicken,  to which they had taken a liking to. Habby, being Habby, thought he would be fine sitting on the front of the vehicle by  himself whilst others remained in the car or sat under the tree with other groups hoping to improve their odds of not having their lunch stolen.  What happened next would make a perfect slow motion picture... Habby, drooling over his big piece of chicken, lifted it slowly to his mouth,  but just as he was about to take a bite in came the first Kit,  knocking his delicious piece of chicken out of his hands,  quickly followed by the second Kite that retrieved it for itself. Poor Habby was left standing in shock as the rest of us rolled around in fits of laughter.    

As we drove around the outside of the Ngorongoro Crater towards the Serengeti National Park we stopped at one of the Masai Villages. The men and ladies put on a small show for us, encouraging us to join in with their dancing. Essentially the dancing involved jumping as high into the air as possible at which the men were very good and the women not so. Afterwards we met some of the children at their school and were invited in to some of the Masai peoples homes to have a look. The houses are huts constructed with wood and mud, with 3 internal divisions -bed for the husband (and wife on  special occasion only), bed for the wife and children, and the kitchen.  

We ended up running late to the campsite as we kept spotting more and more animals. The wide open plains were like one massive paddock of animals, but all were mixed together. There were zebras, wilderbeasts, warthogs, hyenas, impala, Thompson and Grant gazelle. In the more mountainous area we saw giraffes and elephants, and the rivers and ponds were full of hippos. The most exciting animal we saw though was our first wild lion. There were 2 lioness sunning themselves on top of pride rock.  We took a lot of photos!    

Similarly to the Okovango Delta,  the campsite was not fenced off from the animals so there was a lot of nervous excitement about the prospect of waking up to find a lion sleeping beside your tent. The same rules also applied in that the bathroom was off limits overnight unless you were desperate and had a brave/stupid tent mate to walk with you. We were advised to stick our torches out of the tent first and have a look around before committing to exiting the tent. There were a few people feeling very uncomfortable about sleeping in the tents but we thought it was great going to sleep hearing the lions and hyenas in the distance.    

Learning Points:

1. If Habby protected his food like Hazel (the sheepdog Sam's family tease her about copying) he wouldn't have lost his chicken

2. Wild lions are even more spectacular than expected

3. Habby thinks that Sam is just like Michael and never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. Sam however disagrees with the truth of this statement.      


Day 38 - Tuesday 14th January 2014. Serengeti National Park to Ngorongoro Crater.  

It's a big statement but today was the best 24 hours of the trip so far! We were woken up at 1am to the sound of rain on the tent and were worried  that the balloon flight was going to be cancelled so we were very relieved to wake to clear skies at 5am. After a check for eyes around our tent with our head torches we made a quick dash to the safety of the vehicle that would take us to our launch location. At the launch location we were not only greeted by our balloon but a pride of 14 lions. It was amazing! We were able to drive within 5m of them and some walked right up to our 4WD. With the balloon about 100m away we were nervous about getting out of the car and into the balloon without being eaten. Our balloon was apparently the third biggest style in the world, and held up to 16 people. Our take off was slightly delayed because of the lions so we weren't in the air for sunrise,  but it was beautiful nonetheless and you couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces for having seen the lions anyway.  

The balloon ride was much smoother but louder than we expected, lasting for ~1.5 hours in total.  At the start we flew quite low to the groud, gliding over the hippo pools and grasslands where hyenas and antelope were. Due to the rains the animals had dispersed themselves across the plains,  so when we saw a heard of zebras in the distance we started gliding towards them. Halfway across we looked down and saw not only a pair of lions, but 3 cheetas lying close by. This was amazing and very unusual because the cheetahs are competition to the lions and if in the right mood the lions would try to kill them. We had a relatively smooth landing with the assistance of a few trees, and were met with full bubbling glasses of champagne. As the bubbles hit  empty stomachs there were soon many giggles as we tucked in to our 5 star breakfast in the middle of the Serengeti. It was honestly like we'd won the tatslotto!   The serene air of fun and excitement lasted all day. Still full from our Champagne breakfast we 'forced' down brunch and then piled back into our 4WD for more game driving. We lost Wes but gained Laura (Moose), keeping the rivalry between our two trucks going all day. In our defence the other team really started it when they tried changing our name to 'The Spotted Genitals'. Again the game drive didn't disappoint. We saw a pride of lions (likely the same pride we'd seen earlier in the day), a leopard and baby cheetahs. To top it off, on our way back to Ngorongoro Crater from the Serengeti we saw 2 male lions. Admittedly,  half tbe fun of seeing them was us immaturely yelling animal noises at them to get their attention for a photo.  

After dinner we played a game called Werewolves and Villagers which involved a lot of deception but was really fun. The campsite again wasn't fenced off, and tonight we had some visitors. On our way to bed from the bathrooms we made our first cardinal mistake... not looking around before proceeding to walk. We walked unsuspectingly to within 10m of a bull elephant that was naughtily drinking from the water tank, startling it and subsequently scarring the living daylights out of us. Now you'd think that after listening to Vladia's regular warnings about the importance of standing still when one found themselves in such a situation this is what we would have done. However,  Sam's legs had a different idea and before Habby knew it she was off at full speed to the closest bathroom, embarrassingly the boys! Apart from the initial shock at our presence/stupidity the elephant went back to drinking, our heart rates and nerves recovered and we happily live to tell the story.      

Learning Points:

1. The Serengeti exceeded all expectations

2. Habby doesn't do a great lion roar. However apparently (to the lion) Rob does a mean dog bark.

3.. If Sam's natural instinct when faced with danger is to run, then lets hope she doesn't come across any other wild animals as she might not be so lucky next time.

4. It only takes 16hrs to become a balloon pilot.  New hobby???

5. Even the bush toilets weren't safe with one of the other boys almost peeing on a buffalo.    


Day 39 - Wednesday 15th January 2014. Ngorongoro Crater to Arusha.  

This morning we went on our last Tanzanian game drive into the Ngorongoro Crater. Driving into the crater was breathtaking. It was like driving into a scene from the Lion King, an oasis full of animals. As far as the eye could see there were zebra,  buffalo,  wilderbeast,  elephants,  rhinos, antelopes, hyenas, many species of birds including flamingos,  and best of all... 4 male lions playing with their kill (wilderbeast). Once again we were left grinning from ear to ear as we drove around the crater hanging out of the 4WD roof. It was the shortest 4 hours as before we knew it we were driving up and out of the crater and on our way back to Arusha.    

Back in Arusha we went to the World Heritage Centre which hosts a large art gallery and is the biggest broker for Tanzanite. The girls were in heaven! Apparently Tanzanite is a finite crystal and is expected to run out within the next 8 years. Some of the artwork was amazing but unfortunately too expensive. Back at the campsite (Snake Park) Kathleen and Sam went to have a look at the Medical Clinic. The clinic was also ran as a small 6-bed hospital,  and currently had 3 inpatients; a girl who had been burnt in a house fire,  a man that had been bitten by a snake and an amputee secondary to being mauled by a buffalo.    

Unfortunately tonight was the last night for everyone except Kathleen and ourselves who are continuing on to Uganda. We made the most of the occasion,  partying the night away well in to the early hours of the morning.  

Learning Points:

1. Michael would be disgusted with Sam's darts skills

2. Lions are playful like big pussy cats.    


Day 40 - Thursday 16th January 2014. Arusha to Nairobi.  

3hrs sleep was not really enough but a fair compromise for the great party we'd had the night before. We packed up tent 58 for the last time and farwelled Rob as he was staying behind to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. It took us 7hrs to reach Nairobi including the border crossing and most of the time was spent catching up on the sleep we missed last night. For the bits that our eyes were open, again you could appreciate the changing scenery,  in particular the increasingly Westernised housing. The traffic in Nairobi wasn't as bad as expected,  but is was certainly chaotic and our truck accidentally nudged a small car in a roundabout not too far from our hotel. Thankfully no one was hurt and the incident was solved in the African way.  

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and on arrival to our hotel we farewelled Vladia and Wes. Our incredible last 6 weeks was a credit to them and we could not find a better 2 people to explore an enjoy Africa with. We spent the afternoon catching up on washing which was a chore and a half  given the dirt and dust we brought back from the Serengeti. After sadly farewelling Charlotte and Laura who had an early flight we went out for a final dinmer with the remaining crew to the Tamarind Restaurant,  Nairobi's most prestigious seafood restaurant. To say the least, it was amazing! Even if we got sick from eating the seafood it was going to be worth it. With the piano playing in the background we sipped on cocktails and dinned on crab and prawns.  

Learning Points:

1. It may have have taken 40 days, but we found out that Sam can actually sleep on the truck.

2. Habby won't get a choice of dining option on return to Nairobi as Sam will be dragging him straight back to Tamarind - between the seafood and the piano Sam was like a fat kid in a candy store.    


Day 41 - Friday 17th January 2014. Nairobi.  

Today was first proper sleep in with our wakeup time only restricted by breakfast closing time. Even this proved to be a challenge as our body clocks were still stuck on 5:30am with thanks to Vladia.  Today we organized surprise lunch for Wes' s birthday at a nearby shopping mall. Wes's face was pretty priceless when he spotted Kathleen and ourselves. The only downside was having to say goodbye again. Of course, being in a shooping mall, the girls couldn't resist going on a small splurge.  

This evening we had our pre departure meeting for Uganda which included an update on our itinerary and an opportunity to meet our new 13 traveling companions. Once again the Aussie's dominate with a total of 9. Apparently we are also going to be picking up another 7 people in Kampala which will mean a full truck.  

With our last opportunity for a fancy feed before returning to a camp food diet we went to the famous Carnivore Restaurant with Kathleen. In the past it was famous for game meat however in 2004 the Kenyan government banned the sale of game meat in and attempt to stop poaching. Nowadays the meat is all farmed but they still retain their large selection of meats ranging from lamb and beef to ostrich and crocodile.  The meats (excluding chicken gizzard which we avoided) were delicious and once again we had very full bellies. The meal was accompanied with a cocktail called a 'Dawa' (meaning medicine/doctor in Swahili), a delicious combination of vodka, lime and honey.  

Learning Points:

1. Our iron stores have been adequately replenished.

2. Depite being ridiculously full after our main course there always seems to be room for dessert (there must be a second stomach after all).

3. When the Australian government sends you smart traveller updates regarding the countries you registered your travel for, sometimes it's nicer not to know that you are currently staying in a suburb that has been assigned a 'do not travel' recommendation.

4. Depite still loving the camping we're not going to lie, we did really enjoy being clean for 24hrs.

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