Cycling around Zanzibar

Time to cycle around Zanzibar Island. We head east out of Stone Town, into traffic jamed, honking, smoke spewing roads. But after a dozen kilometers, we pass the last major town and the roads become pleasingly empty and well surfaced. We spend the first night in Menai Bay Bungalows, even though the hotel is closed, as the water pump is broken. But after a phone call to the owner, a bucket of well water, and a broom to sweep out all the dead insects and termite dust, we have a room.

Typical Stone Town second floor.

Indian Ocean Beach.


Trucks like this are the main transport for most of the people.


I found this slow moving chamellion.


Boabobs on the beach in front of our hotel.

African Indian Ocean Beach.


Let’s go fishing!


Our hotel watchman. Ramadan had started, which is when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. It is considered very rude to eat in public during the Ramadan. So our watchman took us into town for food and made sure that we were OK. He had his mom cook chapatis for us for the morning, and opened a coconut for us.


The next day we went to a butterfly farm. Here, chrysllises are raised to be shipped via DSL to Europe where butteryflys emerge to their new home, a butterfly garden. Raising these chrysllises provides income to some 80 famailies.


Chrysllises on a rack.


There are two types of coconuts: This one is eaten when young, and the flesh is easily scooped out. It is totally full of coconut water and makes a large drink as well. The other coconuts, the ones we usually buy, have crispy flesh that is sweeter, and not as much water.

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Our second night is a much more expensive hotel in Kizimkazi Beach. But the room is wonderful, it has hot water, and is a great place to relax on the front porch.


View of the ocean and rocks from the hotel.


This is what you get for $45 a night.


Walk along the water on hotel grounds.


View from the hotel resterant.


Low tide in front of the hotel.


There are lots of interesting sea creatures to be found at low tide.


Typical dugout vishing boat. The design probably hasn’t changed since man first took to the sea.


The Karamba, yearning for the sea.

The next day we cycled along the east coast of Zanzibar. The road was level, well paved, and nearly empty, and we mde great time. We landed at Mustafa’s Nest, and found it very pleasant and with an expensive but good resterant, which really helps during Ramadan.

We hung out as long as possible, and left around noon. We missed a turnoff and went 18km out of our way and arrived at Santa Maria Coral after dark. Everyone always quotes ou a very high price at first, but with protest the rate can be dropped considerably. We had to cross the Chwaka Bay by “ferry”.


Valerie and manager goofing off at Mustafa’s Nest.


Bungalows at Mustafa’s nest. This is the most fun and friendly place we stayed so far.


Important equipment arriving for our ferry across Chwaka Bay.


Our dugout awaiting the rising of the tide.


As the tide rises it needs baiing. Hmmm.


Local fishermen gather to chat about the Mzungis.


When we got close to the opposit shore, I jumped out to pull the boat closer and carried my bags ashore. Here is Lisa being brought ashore. “Be careful, it’s over my head.”


Lots of new and unfinished construction on the east coast of Zanzibar. Cycling again. The tidal surge is high here, these rocks are all covered at high tide.

You can see how the waves erode the limestone.


Cow with a Moo sign. Cycling humor.


The magnificent Baobob tree. These trees are all over and are so curious and remarkable.



Close up.


This was the cheapest hotel we could find, but we decided to try another.

Drying small fish:


I lost my camera for the last hotel, but we stayed in Nungwi, which is on the very northern tip of Zanzibar. I took a dhow on a snorkeling tour. It was all wood, and had the classic shark fin sail. The design hasn’t changed for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It was a real treat to sail on it, and the snorkeling was fun too. The area has a number of $40 a night bungalows, and was fun to visit. A few hours ago we finished cycling into Stone Town, completing our loop around Zanzibar. We picked up ferry tickets back to Dar on the way into town.

I am happy to be coming home. I am tired of hearing “Mzungo” (foreigner) yelled at me every few minutes as I cycle, tired of yelling Jambo to all the children crying out to me. Tired of hearing “Jambo, money.”

My dreams are no longer populated with white people. Everyone is dark. I don’t even notice until I wake up and reflect. I see white people and think “how odd they look”- then realize that I look the same- but I couldn’t- but I must…

So I realize that I can never fit in, that my role is always defined for me, despite the kindness of all the people I meet. It will be a shock to return to the land of the mzungo, to be surrounded with those funny white faces again.

If you come to Tanzania, be prepared to live at a slower pace. Things rarely happen on time or as you might expect. Come here to meet people, they are happy to meet you. Come here where everything is different. Come here to see beautiful men and women with warm smiles, eager to shake your hand and talk for a little. Come here to see another way the world works.

Stone Town, Zanzibar.

We returned to Dar Es Salaam for two days via bus, then spent a few days buying gifts and getting the bike boxes built. We took the ferry over to Zanzibar island.

Zanzibar, the name conjures up exotic tropical spices and children’s stories.

Zanzibar is a smallish island off the coast of Tanzania and is part of Tanzania. It is known for Stone town, which is a world heritage site. It was once the flourishing center of the spice and the slave trade. Unlike some narrow-ally cities dating from the 1800’s this one is still quite occupied and bustling. The narrow walkways are filled with life, filled with water and mud, bikes and scooters, shops, shoppers and litter. Every carved wooden door opens to a story.

On the waterfront is the Forodhani Gardens, which is transformed into a lively fast food emporium in the evening. The garbage left from the feeding frenzy employs a half dozen women sweeping straw brooms in the early morning.

The hostels I stay in, Manch and Jambo, are western oasis in a dirty crowded landscape. It is a relief to escape the intensity of developing world life. As everywhere in Tanzania, the citizens prefer conversation rather than the quick brush off. So I get sad or ambitious stories 20 times a day along with the request for assistance. I tell them all hapana, No.

I watch the world cup soccer matches with crowds in bars and hotels. Soccer is so important to most of the world…

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Leaving Dar Es Salaam on the ferry.

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My favorite drink- fresh squeezed sugar cane juice at .30 cents a glass!

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Forodhani evening food market getting going.

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Hanging out with the locals in Forodhani.

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Most people go on a spice tour, we saw most of the spices being grown.

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Here for example is nutmeg and mace. The nutmeg is the nut, the mace is the thin red coating.

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Cloves growing.

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I’ve got a great organic makeup plant. I believe it is called ammeratto??

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Anyway you crush the seeds and it makes a red paste. It is used by Hindus for the dots, and makes a great organic lipstick. I’m sneaking some seeds in and growing some.

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Clever things to do with palm leaves.

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African beach scene near the slave caves.

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Boat building on the beach near Forodhani pavilion.

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Stone town at it’s best.

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The view from the other side of the street- from the Africa House hotel, a Zanzibar landmark for 150 years.

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Along the water in Stone Town.

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Part of the open air market. Bustling, smelly, flies, crowded. Hundreds of small vendors.

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Butcher with buffalo heads.

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Typical African work bikes outside the market.

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View from the third floor of The Dispensary. I was nearly crushed 10 minutes before this picture. I was walking between two parallel parked cars, when a large truck cut a corner too tight, pushing one car into the other. I made an adrelline fueled scramble and got out in time, but conked my head on a wall.

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View along the waterfront.

Again, the people are Tanzania’s greatest asset. I just love them.