A Travellerspoint blog

August 2014

Stone Town and Garden Spice Tour

Zanzibar - Stone Town

Rested and hopeful for more relaxing times we wake and Sam drives us to the Ferry Station. In full "herd style" we follow like cattle and load onto the first ferry.
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A short 15 - 25 minute water commute to catch the main ferry to Zanzibar.
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This ferry is much larger with upholstered seats, refreshments and a rude "overlord" guarding the entrance.
We had our back packs on our backs - he didn't like that. He motioned for us "foreigners" to put our packs in an unsecured room before we could load onto the boat. Rose was no where and no help as we argued to keep our packs like others were doing. He kept insisting that foreigners had to put their bags there. He even grabbed Thom by the arm as I tried to look for Rose to get her assistance. In the end he won out and we resigned ourselves to leave the bags in the locked up area with all the other "Tourist" bags.

After the 90 minute commute we unload in Stone Town...


Stone Town also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for "old town") is the old part of Zanzibar City. Stone Town is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa.
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Its architecture, mostly dating back to the 19th century, reflects the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture,With the East African culture being preeminent, there is a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. For this reason, the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

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The heart of Stone Town mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. Since most streets are too narrow for cars, the town is crowded with bicycles and motorbikes. The seafront has wider streets and larger, more regularly placed buildings.
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The most well-known feature of Zanzibari houses are the finely decorated wooden doors, with rich carvings and bas-reliefs, sometimes with big brass studs of Indian tradition. Two main types of doors can be distinguished: those of Indian style have rounded tops,
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while those in the Omani Arab style are rectangular. Carvings are often Islamic in content (for example, many consist of verses of the Qur'an), but other symbolism is occasionally used, e.g., Indian lotus flowers as emblems of prosperity.

Our hotel, a basic colonial building with showers and clean bathroom facilities. A walking tour was offered for $10 US but we opted instead to just wander on our own through the streets.
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Thom, cool Aussie Nancy and I take to the streets to see the sites like the beautiful water and colonial buildings, the park and occasionally stopping in to a shop or two.

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Along the way we bump into Rose who was shopping and Paul. Paul joins us and we continue to wander the streets. After getting lost in the narrow twisting maze of streets we found the local market which was so crazy busy!
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We walked around for a bit but needed to be off the streets between 5:30 and 6:30 at sundown because everyone would be inside praying for Ramadan and it may not be safe to be on the streets during that time since no one would be out except those looking to possibly mess with tourists. So to be safe they advise you to stay in .
Eventually we end up back by the ferry station where we stop in for WiFi and a drink.
My 'milkshake' which was actually just chocolate milk
We relax and even FaceTime with mom! Around 4 PM we head back to the hotel to prepare for this evenings visit to the food fair in the park.

That night the park was full of patrons and vendors. Ramadan was still in full swing so food after sunset is a BIG deal! We wandered a bit and looked at the food offerings but in the end thought better about eating some of the foods and we shared a "Tanzanian Pizza" - a crepe like creation could be made sweet or savory - we chose to get a veggie one. We bump into Bob, Christine, Vivian and Nancy the five of us decide to go to a restaurant for something a bit more substantial and a drink. We end up in a place called Mercury's. An upscale establishment named after Zanzibar's own Freddie Mercury!!! Two guesses what the soundtrack was... After dinner we went to the Dispensary but the advertised music was not on for the night due to Ramadan so we went back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we are going to head out of Stone Town and go first to a spice farm and then on to the beach / resort side of the island!

Zanzibar - Spice Farm

There is a brief rain shower during breakfast on the roof this AM producing a double rainbow - a positive sign of good things to come!

After a short walk to the "Big Tree" we meet our guide, Abdul

who joins us on our private bus and escorts us to the Spice Farm where we stop and walk through the many fields of crops getting entertained by his animated style.
We see, feel, smell and taste various plants along the tour:
lemon grass


My favorite cinnamon bark fresh from the tree yum!





Some kind of berry that can be used as lipstick???

Our friend here was making everyone some souvenirs from leaves and plants.
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After the tour we have a tasting of teas and many fruits grown locally.
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And around noon we come to a small house where we enter and are served a fine lunch of local cuisine. Rice Pilloa, cooked spinach, salad and octopus stew - all very tasty! (well I didn't have the octopus but Thom did...)
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After lunch we board the bus and off we go to the beach! 15 minutes into our ride the bus breaks down. We sit by the side of the dirt road while we wait for assistance.
As we sit locals begin to show their faces and start to gather near us. Some just staring while others (particularly the children) wave and smile saying hello! Luckily Abdul has a functioning cell phone and even better our new replacement ride arrives in a short time - back on the road...

Posted by Kelly Rose 16:57 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Marangu and Dar Es Salam (the first time)

Dar es Salam

We left Mto Wa Mbu after lunch and drove to this really pretty quaint hotel in Marangu. Sometimes you get a real nice view of Mt Kilimanjaro from there but it was cloudy by late afternoon when we got there. Duties had been given out and after setting up tents I was on "chop chop" which meant my group was cutting up veggies and assisting our cook.
The hotel/campground had a fun little bar that our whole group eventually migrated to and we had a great time drinking and chatting it up while we waited for dinner. After dinner we did get some rain but it didn't mess things up since most of us headed to bed early for the LONG drive we would have the next day.

Thom (along with Steve and Paul) returned to the bar after dinner where he met three locals. One was a restaurateur, an older gentleman of Swiss descent married to an African who was traveling "overseas". Another lady was of Belgian descent, an expat now residing in Tanzania that lives "around the corner". And the last, a regal looking woman who as it turned out is the Queen of the local tribe. Her father was the king and when he died (at 105!!!) she took her right place. As we talked she disclosed that she was married to an American - an American that lived in Woodbridge NJ and had once lived in COLLINGSWOOD!!!! A small world indeed... Thom stayed out too late but had a great time.

I think we woke at some ungodly hour of 4:00 or 4:30 to break tent and have breakfast. It could be anything from a 10-13 hour drive to Dar es Salam.

So it was kind of a boring day on the truck.

We have pictures from traveling on the truck that I am going to insert into this post although to be honest I have no idea where they were taken because Thom was taking them with his phone and I was probably sleeping or listening to "This American Life" Podcasts.


But here is a little taste of some of the prettier parts of the road:

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We did get a flat and the guys were able to change it rather quickly considering what a monster of a vehicle this thing is. We had a bush lunch which means we stopped at a site on the way and Henry, our cook made us lunch. I had forgotten how much I loved seeing the small children from towns and villages along the way yell out and wave as you pass through. It happens all over and it doesn't seem to get old for me as it reminds me to smile more.

Dar Es Salam is the second largest city in Tanzania. Our camp was on the beach but unfortunately we had to drive through the center of the city to get to it. It was after dark when we got there and since it is Ramadan and this is a mostly Muslim city the streets and night markets were absolutely packed with people buying food and breaking their fasts. This also added extra time.
This was the beginning of the insane traffic while it was still light out so I'd say this was around 5:00-5:30 perhaps.


When we finally got to the site it was late and Thom and I felt so disorganized with our stuff, we chose to upgrade and took shelter in a room where we , after prepping dinner were able to pass on dinner, organize our luggage, take a shower and drink ourselves to sleep...


While not the best picture do to lighting we had our own hot shower downstairs in this bungalow and a balcony out our bedroom upstairs with a table and chairs to drink with my new girlfriends for the trip (Christine from Florida and Nancy from Australia) where we started the "Red Wine Club for Italian Ladies." The club consisted of each of us buying and stocking up on bottles of some kind of South African Red wine every time we went to a grocery store so that the three of us could spilt one each night or so with dinner. My kind of ladies! They definitely helped make this trip and the rough times in between the good a lot better and I am thankful for meeting them! (not just because of the wine...ha ha ha!)
Tomorrow we're off to Zanzibar!

Posted by Kelly Rose 14:07 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Mto Wa Mbu

Mto Wa Mbu village walk and local lunch!

We returned to our campground in Mto Wa Mbu for some nice down time. Hot showers, cold beers, red wine and pool time. After another wonderful dinner they had live music and dancers performing at the bar so we went to partake. A little too on the touristy side for my liking but entertaining none the less. The next morning we broke camp and walked to a small craft and farming part of the village that was established not just to help combine and support multiple local tribes but also as a cultural center.



We saw beautiful farming of rice and other crops


Different structures of some of the houses

Local wood carvers, Thom got to give it a try.

Banana farming

Local painters and the different styles.

A taste of local banana beer

Children of the village

Taking my picture too!

My favorite a preschool where they get the children ready for grade 1

Do you like their SMART board.....hmmm makes you think.
They counted and sang songs for us. Absolutely adorable!!! Reminded me of my time spent in Ghana.

Finally we had a fantastic local meal prepared for us.

Two kinds of rice, eggplant, spinach, stew, salad, beans, sweet potatoes chipatis and more ....followed by red and yellow bananas, watermelon and papaya. So good!
Now we are headed to Marangu. There we'll camp in the grounds of the Marangu Hotel, a beautiful turn-of-the-century farmhouse set in 12 acres of delightful tropical gardens on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
More to come. Wifi is spotty so when things get posted will be too ;-)

Hakuna Matata!

Posted by Kelly Rose 13:45 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Ngoragora Crater and the Serengeti

Better late than never...

  • ****Hey guys so we had such sporadic and iffy wifi in Africa that we were not able to keep up with our blog but we are home now with pictures and notes from Thom's hand written journal along the way so over the next few days and weeks we wanted to update our blog to keep the stories and memories all in one place. For those of you who are subscribed ...If you are not interested or get too many e-mails back to back from the new posts we apologize as typically we keep up with this in the moment and on the road but like I said we found that particularly challenging on this trip. However, we have many friends and family not on Facebook or far away that might appreciate hearing about this type of trip. Also the fact that is this blog is more of a personal diary of travel for Thom and I when all said and done. So much love and thanks to all either way!******

PS ---- We are going to Mexico City for 5 days over Halloween and Day of the Dead in Oct/Nov and we are super excited to share about this festival style trip as well so I need to get Africa done and posted soon! :-)

This post was actually written on the road just never published...

Ngoragora Crater and Serengeti
I am typing this on our moving truck trying to recall the last three days.....

Thom and I waited in the lobby of the Impala Hotel for the arrival of our intrepid group and truck. While we were waiting we met a Canadian named Sava who had just finished climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and was also waiting for Intrepid although he would actually be part of a different group. Finally our truck pulled in and we met Rose our group leader.

It is awesome to have a woman as a leader on this trip as they have only been men in the past. Along with Rose we have a cook and a driver. Our first night camping was in a closed campground with hot showers and a bar and pool. It was in the small village of Mto Wa Mbu. We would be returning here for one final night after two nights in a bush camp to tour the Ngoragora Crater and Serengeti. This type of Overland Adventure is set up where everyone pitches in and has jobs or duties to do. From chopping vegetables to sweeping and mopping the truck to washing dishes. There is a schedule and groups get rotated throughout the journey. It is great because it really makes you feel like you are part of a community or family.

After we pitched our tents we met more of our group. There are 18 of us all together. There is one other couple from Florida who are retired teachers and Nicolas is originally from Malaysia but lives in Chicago now. Then there are two teachers who just got married from Ireland, a couple from Canada, a doctor from New Zealand and others from Australia.

After we pitched our tents we gathered for dinner. They feed you so well and it is amazing what our cook can make on the road and with limited pots and fire. Every night there is always soup as a first course and then a second course of a little of everything meat, veg, starch. All from scratch.

The next morning we woke early to break down our tents, make our own lunch from sandwich toppings and bananas, eat breakfast and finally pack overnight bags for our bush camp. We split into 3 smaller safari jeeps each with their own guide.
Thom and I were with Nancy, Alana, Nicolas and John and we had the best time together. Our guide/driver was Herri and he was really great!

So to begin we headed out to the Ngoragora Crater. First we drove up to the top rim where you can look out over it.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a park in the Northwest Tanzania. It contains an old volcano that has collapsed and formed a crater (caldera). The steep sides of the crater have become a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife.

Once we drove down to the center we saw so many animals. Here we get out of the truck for a brief moment

The Ngorongoro Crater includes most of the animal species found in East Africa but no elephants and giraffes.


The most thrilling and exciting moments of the trip so far happened here. A family of lions were spotted so of course everyone drove near to see them. It was a male, 2 females and three cubs.


They were pretty close to the road.

On the other side of the road were hundreds of African buffalo, known as one of the most aggressive animal in Tanzinia.

So our jeep actually was situated between the lions and the buffalo. The buffalo were all facing the lions on the other side of the road and you could tell they were getting agitated.

All of a sudden two buffalo appeared on the other side by the lions and stated charging at them. The lions including the babies all scattered.


Then the female pawed at the male for not protecting them and he ran right into the road next to our car.

They finally gathered back together in the grass but were missing one of the three babies. We waited around but never saw if he got back to his parents or where he ran off to.

Later we stopped near a beautiful watering hole filled with hippos to have lunch! It is all so surreal.

After many hours of spotting animals we headed two hours to the Serengeti National reserve where we would be camping in an open bush camp.

The drive there was very bumpy so locals say you get an "African massage" ha!

The park is but one of several conservation areas within the Serengeti region of East Africa, though a vitally important one. As well as conserving wildlife, flora and iconic landscapes, Serengeti National Park has emerged as a major traveller and tourist destination, many making the journey there to engage in safari. The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai language, meaning 'endless plains'.

We were spoiled in that our tents were already set up for us when we got to camp that first night.
Now there is no enclosure at this camp so technically the animals can come visit you at night. So we were told that if you have to use the restroom at night to first shine your light out your tent and look for eyes. Then just go right outside your tent. I came prepared with a "she wee" (let's you pee standing) just in case but luckily I didn't need to use it. You could hear hyenas the first night and something did brush up against Thom's side of the tent the second night. But honestly it wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be and I actually slept pretty well. We did hear animals at night and Thom said something brushed him through the tent one night so because it was him and not me sleep actually happened...ha ha ha!

As well as the migration of ungulates, the park is well known for its healthy stock of other resident wildlife, particularly the "Big Five", named for the five most prized trophies taken by hunters although now just pictures. We saw all except for the rhino. 1.)Black Rhinoceros: mainly found around the kopjes in the centre of the park, very few individuals remain due to rampant poaching.

2.) Lion: the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species. More than 3,000 lions live in this ecosystem.

3.) African Leopard: these reclusive predators are commonly seen in the Seronera region but are present throughout the national park with the population at around 1,000. We got really lucky to catch this guy on our last day. Didn't think we were going to see one.

4.)African Elephant: the herds are recovering from population lows in the 1980s caused by poaching and are largely located in the northern regions of the park. We saw so many though!! And they were amazing the one day coming so close to us! I could have touched one that is how close they were!!!

5.)African Buffalo: saw hundreds of these at the crater.

The park also supports many other species, including cheetah, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, topi, eland, waterbuck, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog, and giraffe. The park also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds, and many species of vultures.


We saw two cheetah eating prey and then when they left we watched the vultures swoop in to eat the remains. Amazing circle of life moment :-)

Amazing sunsets too! Shhhhh don't tell that our super cool driver let us sneak a few pics outside the truck.

So I want to talk about the tribal people of the area called the Maasai but I don't have too many pictures of them mostly out of respect.
Some believe you will take it to a witch doctor so they don't like their pictures being taken. Others will charge you money to take a picture and I don't feel that sends the right message to the villages and community and is not supported by our tour. However I found this blog that explains and shares a lot if you are interested.


More to come soon!

Posted by Kelly Rose 07:29 Archived in Tanzania Tagged nature safari serengeti animals. ngoragora_crater tanzinia Comments (2)

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