My First Taste of Zanzibar

After a 5 hour flight, a 5 hour layover and another 2 hour flight I had finally arrived in Zanzibar. Driving to the hostel I had booked in Stone Town I struggled to get my bearings as the streets sat in the darkness of midnight. We arrived at Lost & Found, my hostel for the two nights I’d stay in the city before heading out to the eastern side in search of the beaches. It was exactly what I needed and thankfully the bedroom had air conditioning, a strong relief after the immense humidity outside, reaching into the common room just outside the dorm.

After a short sleep – apparently even if I go to bed late I still wake up before 7 – I headed out for breakfast. It was pricier than the usual store bought peanut butter toast or porridge that I’m used to but gave me a little more satisfaction and I was happy to treat myself. We didn’t have many options anyway due to Ramadan, preventing most places from opening until evening.

I went for an explore, completing a loop and passing by the ocean as I tried to familiarise myself with the area. I ventured out further to hit the Darajani markets which starting with endless carts full of dates swarming with flies, followed by unnecessary household goods and fresh fruit and vegetables. I headed inside and took a quick look at the fish to my left and the meat to my right, surviving not even a minute as the smell and the sight of full carcasses hanging by string posed a threat to the breakfast sitting peacefully in my stomach. Pushing my way through I found more fresh produce, tempted by some but unsure how much to pay and still unsure of the conversion rate, not as simple to do in your head as the previous currencies I’ve been using.

I found my way out on the other side and began winding through the laneways, past shops and people and stepping out of the way for the occasional scooter going past. I was somewhat lost but loving it, and pulled my phone out when the rain started up again only to find I was close to my starting point and it would be an easy path to follow to get back home.

Endless cats roamed the streets, too many kittens resulting from a problem that could’ve been solved. The architecture provided endless sights to take in, each door different from the last tempting me to stop and take photos of every single one. I was stopped by almost every man on the street, asking if I was in need of a taxi or a tour, or offering me a free browse of their shop. The best part of all this was being in a place where ‘hakuna matata’ was part of the daily dialogue, and not just part of the song from The Lion King that everyone imitates all around the world.

I stopped in at Lukmaan on my way back to pick up dinner, unable to sit and eat it there and knowing it would be rude to eat it anywhere else public. Having skipped lunch I was pretty hungry and rushed home, food in hand, ready to jump on the couch and tuck in to my vege biryani and samosa, with a rice doughnut for dessert. With the large Indian population in Zanzibar it means Indian food is quite common, just the food I’d been craving. It was excellent, the doughnut a little odd, and I felt satisfied after a day of very little food, involuntarily taking part in Ramadan which would be a strong benefit for both my wallet and my stomach after adjusting to big meals and frequent snacks over the past few weeks (months). Unfortunately snacking is also made difficult by the absence of real supermarkets, with only small stores selling Pringles or digestive biscuits and little else in the way of food, but plenty of personal care products.

On Saturday I took a taxi to the eastern side of the island, electing to spend the next couple of days in Michamvi, right on the beach. The drive provided a good insight into the island I’d arrived at, taking me through the hustle and bustle of the cities while also going through quieter nature areas with cows tied to random trees on the side of the road. As my driver pulled his window up by hand I looked out at the houses and noticed some of their tin roofs weighted down by rocks as though they’d blow away at any moment having not been stuck down properly. I also thought the car to be quite advanced when my driver offered me to connect my phone via Bluetooth to play music, but found it unsurprising when the song would change if we went over a ditch on the right hand side of the car. Seemed okay if the left wheels went over one though.

With all the rain experienced we found the last portion of the drive quite wet, driving through water as we sank lower and lower while I kept checking the floor of the car to see if any water was getting in. I was waiting for the car to get bogged and was planning how we’d go about pushing it out having not seen many people on our journey. Miraculously it didn’t happen and we eventually pulled up outside Sagando Bungalows, my home for the next two nights.

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