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    Our Vacation from Travelling

    January 19th, 2007 by steve

    (not quite paradise with this kinda scene going on, eh?)
    After two months on the happy bus and two weeks of fast paced safari driving in Kenya and Tanzania, it was time for a break. We’ve been settled in the remote beach town of Kendwa on the northwest coast of Zanzibar for the past couple weeks.Well, we found isolation. It takes us half an hour walking on a rocky dirt track to get to a bus stop to wait for a daladala (bus) that’ll take over an hour to get to the islands only real town (Stonetown) depending on how many cops the driver needs to bribe. But the powdery white sand beaches and relaxed atmosphere make up for any minor inconveniences. Best of all, there’s not much to do. Lots of sleeping or reading on the beach. A bit of scuba diving. Walking down the beach to the nearby village of Nungwi for skewers and fresh fruit. That’s a fine point missed in the travel literature: Kendwa is not so much a village as it is just 6 shacks on that rocky dirt track half an hour from the main road with absolutely no services. Have to walk to Nungwi for anything your hotel can’t provide. Of course, the beach path to Nungwi is covered in a foot of water crashing against the rocks around high tide.That’s ok because the beach moves around during the day. Zanzibar is a shallow island that very slowly rolls off into the ocean. On our west side, low tide can move the ocean out 20-100 feet. The east coast is much worse. We drove over for lunch one day and the water must have been a kilometer off the beach. Major bummer.Getting around the island is a bit crazy. It’s only 50 miles or so from top to bottom, but that’s a 2-3 hour drive in the rare rental car or maybe 4 or 5 hours if you tried to bus it. Driving the rental Isuzu 4×4 was a blast. Pavement is available for 25km out of Stonetown, but then it is pothole ridden dirt road and periodic unimproved rocky mess. Driving is a constant balance of hitting the potholes, pedestrians, bikers, cows, swerving cars, maniacal daladalas or chickens – or just driving off the road in disgust. Oddly, it’s actually not too bad as everyone except the potholes and cows seems to know how to get out of the way.But maneuvering the roads is necessary if you want to check out Stonetown, with it’s mix of old world Europe and Islam. It looks so cool in the brochures, but it’s so riddled with rundown buildings, masses of souvenir shops, tshirt salesmen and other annoyances that you’ve really got to work hard to see anything real. We’ll run into town for gelato and Chinese food, then head back to hide on the beach.We did get off our beach beds for a little diving. The visibility is low (15′-40′) but the reef life is good and makes diving worthwhile if you’re here, but you’d never come here just to dive. We played with a few turtles and saw some new fish species, but no big scary predators to keep Mary interested. Although we did run into absolutely the biggest puffer fish that we’ve ever seen. Must have been three feet, all covered in battle scars and with big buck teeth. I had the camera practically in it’s mouth and it didn’t budge. Just not afraid of anything. Tomorrow (1/20) we go to the nearby island of Pemba for some more diving. It sits in a deepwater channel and is surrounded by mangroves instead of beach. It’s supposed to be home to hammerheads, mantas and other biggies with teeth. Of course, by telling you that, I just jinxed our chances of seeing anything…

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