Wild Life

Right. Time to wrap up the Zanzibar trip: To get away from the hustle and bustle of Stone Town, Jewelz had reserved a room for us at Santa Maria Coral Park, a small resort on the eastern coast of Zanzibar. Once the minibus had dropped everyone else off at their respective hotels, the Spice Tour driver took us across the island to Pengwa, where out resort was located. The poorly paved road turned into a gravel road, which soon turned into an even smaller and bumpier road. That, however, only took for two minutes and soon we had arrived at our destination.

There was not a soul to be seen. Nor did we hear anyone or anything, save the wind and the soothing sound of the tide coming back in. I stood still and a growing smile appeared on my face. Now THIS was what I was talking about. Shortly a dude appeared, wearing shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and a huge smile. The reception was outdoors, as was everything else. They weren't that big on walls on Zanzibar either. Jewelz checked us in while I grabbed the key to our bungalow or "banda" and rushed to the bathroom, which would be my trademark on this paradise island..

All in all the place had only six bungalows, each housing two people, so the ambiance of the resort was peaceful, to say the least. The wind and tide, that turned out to be famously huge, drowned out all the other sounds, except at night, when it became background noise to the hooting of the birds and the manic laughter of bush babies.

On the second day we got to talking with a Swedish couple from Göteborg. We became friends for the few days and formed, together with the staff of the resort, the nucleus of the New Year's festivities. Well, to be honest, the other guests were nowhere to be found, but had they been there, we would have definitely been the nucleus.

Or, to be completely honest, the nuclei, because the party was at two physical locations. The bar next to the beach, and the bonfire on it. (the beach, not the bar) The beach party, however, was somewhat smaller, as it consisted only of Jewelz and the extremely eager and happy snorkeling instructor/handyman Suli, and some burning sticks. But what it lacked in size it made up in intensity..

Still, the best part of the stay was definitely the nature. The sea was obviously amazing, in good and bad. The water was warm and the snorkeling was a lot of fun. I saw a huge bright red starfish and dozens of smaller ones. As I don't possess an underwater camera, below is a picture of a smaller version that lived on the beach. The coolest maritime animal was, however, the blowfish. This bad boy was huge when Suli threw it into the boat, but suffered soon an acute case of asphyxiation (and possibly lupus), and shrunk to 1/5th of it original size. Hilarious. Naturally I put the poor bastard back into the ocean before its pulmonary system failed completely.

Notice the cool diving mask lines..

Moving on to the amphibian creatures, the crabs were plenty all over the place. There were sand crabs, like Crab Man in the previous post and the "hermit" crabs that inhabited empty shells. Lisa even became an unintentional murderer of one of these critters. She found a large beautiful seashell on the beach and took it to their banda. A couple of hours later they came back from lunch to find a dead crab that had managed to drag its body out of the shell, but sadly never made it back to the beach. So kids, whenever you pick up a seashell, make sure nobody's home!!

Don't worry, he's still alive.

As for others species that we encountered, there were obviously a lot of birds. They, however, were loud and rather boring, as they mostly stayed hidden and just concentrated on waking up people at steady intervals. But the award for the coolest animal is very close, almost a tie. The silver goes to Jeff the Lizard! This guy set up camp in our bathroom and casually hung out with us, even through showers. It's hard to tell from the pic, but he was about the size of my palm, but still managed to stay on the wall and the ceiling.

"Crap, they spotted me!"

And the winner isss.......

Komba!(swahili) Or Eddie the Bushbaby. This nocturnal fur ball came to visit us on New Year's Eve, right after dessert. The receptionist told us that they love mango, which explained its sudden interest in us. I tried to invite it to hang with us, but seeing that we had already selfishly eaten all the mango, it hopped into a bush (oh, so that's where it comes from..) and joined its buddies in the tree tops. The lot of them then spent the rest of the night laughing their hairy butts off, with a voice that sounded exactly like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, hence the name. During daytime they were nowhere to be found, so I deducted that they must have been somewhere coming up with new knock-knock jokes to tell each other the next night.

On the morning of the fourth day I was filthy (salt, sand, sweat...combination of factors, really), quite severely sunburnt and ready to go back to Nairobi. I appraised Jewelz in her wisdom, as she had booked us flights from Zanzibar airport to Nairobi, and we didn't have to repeat the horrendous, yet interesting, bus ride back.

Once we got to the airport, it looked like all hell had broken loose. And it had, in Kenya. I will discuss the volatile situation in the country in a later post, but suffice to say that everyone was very keen to go home, or wherever they were going, and one flight had already been canceled. One American couple had been waiting at the airport from 5 in the morning and they looked like they were either going to break down in tears or go on a killing spree if they didn't make it to the afternoon flight. One thing that didn't exactly help the situation was the local authorities habit to routinely overbook the flights in order to maximize the capacity usage. Fortunately we boarded the plane with time to spare (8 mins after it was supposed to take off), after paying the "leaving-the-country-tax", my first one, ever. It had to be paid in dollars, naturally, while the plane tickets were paid in Tanzanian Shillings..

I bet the airport has seen some fascinating scenes, when cranky tourists, stressed to make their flight connections, have been asked a random amount of dollars in the name of a mysterious tax that is "built into the ticket prices" in other countries and airports, when they're out of cash and the nearest ATM is a 30 min taxi ride away, after which the money has to be exchanged to shillings. And the only information on this ridiculous tax is a torn piece paper that looked like an old flier, in the corridor leading to the bathrooms (read. holes). OutSTANding, isn't it?

Well anyway, we made it, and even got a glimpse of the great Kilimanjaro, which I was supposed to climb, before one jackass decided to inconspicuously rig the elections by a quiet 1,5 million votes. Sadly that may be closest I ever got to that peak. Mt. Kenya, however, is still on the table. After all, I have to climb something after buying a shitload of equipment and dragging it to another continent.

I shall leave you today with this hilarious onomatopoeic detail: [tags]santa, maria, coral, park, beach, party[/tags]

Horoscopes for January 28, 2008

The Darker Side