Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Day in Stone Town Before Leaving

Today was the last day of our trip.

We got up (we both slept great) and had breakfast, checked out and waited for Mr. Hamad, our taxi driver, to arrive. He arrived right on schedule, and we explained what we'd like to do today. He arranged a tour guide for us for Stone Town, and also arranged to have our bags stored at the Zanzibar Hotel for the day, while we toured Stone Town.

About an hour drive back to Stone Town, and dropped our bags off at the Zanzibar Hotel, and met our guide. He was like an encyclopedia of Stone Town history. First was the slave memorial and museum, which was very interesting and a sad history of Africa. Most of the slaves in East Africa went to India, Europe and Arab countries (US got their slaves from West Africa).

We then walked around Stone Town, and saw numerous other sites, including the large market (veggies, fruits, chickens, meat and everything else under the sun), the house where Freddie Mercury was born and grew up, the two non-Muslim churches and lots of other historical buildings and museums, and the waterfront, which was very nice. It was a great tour that lasted about 3 hours.

After the tour, he took us back to the Zanzibar Hotel, then Tracy and me went wandering down the twisty streets in search of something to eat. We ate at a nice little cafe, then wandered down to the waterfront. Lots and lots of tourists around here, getting tours, wandering around, buying "stuff". Lots of souvenir shops all over Stone Town as well, of course.

We managed to get back to the Zanzibar Hotel without getting lost, and headed to the airport around 7:00 and got our flight to Dar es Salaam (a 15 minute flight).

Our KLM flight from Dar es Salaam wasn't scheduled to leave until 11:55pm, so we had a long wait at a crappy airport. Soon after we arrived at the Dar es Salaam airport, we discovered that our KLM flight was delayed by 2 hours and 45 minutes. Ugh. KLM didn't even have the check-in counters open yet, so we had to wait around in the check-in hall for hours before KLM finally started doing check-ins. Then, as the flight was considered a "new" flight, the staff had great difficulty in getting boarding passes created for everything. It was a long and tedious affair, but we finally got through and our flight left at about 2:45am, I think. Fortunately our connecting flight in Amsterdam (to Calgary), we had a 5+ hour layover, so there was no danger of us missing our connection.

And, that's the end of the African adventure.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Moving to the Hilton

We got up and had breakfast and asked if we could stay another night. After checking reservations, unfortunately they were booked up, so we had to find other accomodation. The Kajibange is the last place on the north western stretch of beach. Beside it is Gerry's Bar (me and Tracy tried to go there last evening, but nobody was around to serve us. Just three guys sleeping the chairs.), and beside that is the Hilton, called the DoubleTree by Hilton. We went there, and it was $280 US (Kajibange was $60), but Tracy said "Screw you Todd, I like it, we're staying." and pulled out her credit card. Haha.

We had left our bags at Kajibange, so after getting checked in (including a drink and the "famous" DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookie), we walked back and collected our bags.

Sat around the Hilton for a bit, then walked down the beach to the turtle sanctuary near the lighthouse. They take in injured or lost baby turtles, raise them, then when they are two years old, they release them. They have an annual turtle release date of Feb. 20, which would be cool to see. When we were walking down there, and at the sanctuary, both of us were sweating bullets, and we didn't know why. Why stopped at a covered rest area at the sanctuary, where a little kitten curled up on Tracy's lap and fell asleep.

We walked back to the Hilton and went to the pool with a swim-up bar.

I also called our taxi driver who had taken us from the airport to Kajibange a couple of days ago, Mr. Hamad (+255-777-418944) if you need a great taxi driver. :-) We arranged for him to pick us up at the Hilton tomorrow at 11:00am and also told him our plan to tour Stone Town tomorrow, and hoping he could help us store our bags somewhere and then take us to the airport later in the afternoon.

We had booked a sunset tour yesterday, so at 4:00 we went back to Kajibange to wait for our pickup. Once collected, we walked down the western side of the beach to where the sunset tour boats are and missed it. The "captain" said that's ok, we'll get on another boat. They have lots of boats available, and they go out when they have enough people on it, so we had 10 people on our boat. The first boat that went out was packed, about 20-25 people crammed on it, so we were lucky.

Sunset tour finished about 6:30, we want to the Fisherman's Grill restaurant at the Hilton for supper, then went back to Gerry's Bar, which was happening tonight. To bed around 10:00.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

A Day in Zanzibar

We slept in a bit and had breakfast shortly after 8:00. Then walked along the white sand beach, along an endless line of restaurants, guest houses, high-end hotels, souvenir shops, dive shops and tour companies. Fortunately, it's not like Cancun with massive hotels stretched along the beach for miles, this is much more toned down and much smaller. Of course you get your locals all trying to sell you things, like sunglasses, bracelets, boat tours. There are even quite a number of Masai here, trying to get you to come to their little souvenir shop. We bought a few things, I got an awesome hat made of coconut skin, it's so light and cool.

Back to the guest house to relax. We decided we're going to spend another night here, but Kajibange can't let us know if they have something available for tomorrow night yet, so we'll see tomorrow morning.

Not too much to report today.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Off to Zanzibar

We had a 9:00am flight, destination Zanzibar. We got up around 5:30 and got packed, and to the airport around 7:00am.

We flew Kenya Airways from Entebbe to Nairobi, then a 1-hour layover in Nairobi, then to Dar es Salaam, where we had to go through immigration. Fortunately, we got our visa when we first arrived at Kilimanjaro at the start of the trip, so we bypassed the visa payment line and went through immigration without hassles. We collected our baggage from the international arrivals area, then carried them to the domestic departures and got checked in. We had a 3.5 layover here, and the terminal in Dar es Salaam pretty much sucks ass. As our departure time was getting closer, there was hardly anyone in the departure area, and we were getting concerned we weren't in the right spot. I did ask a worker and she said we were ok. There was also one other tourist couple (and a handful of locals), and it ends up they were on the same flight, so at least we were in it together.

The flight was on a smaller propeller plane and was probably only 1/3 full, but the flight was only 20 minutes. No sooner had we taken off, then we were already preparing for landing.

We bypassed all the immigration/customs at the airport and collected our baggage and exited the airport, hoping to see someone holding a piece of paper with our names on it, as we had asked the guest house to pick us up. No luck, nobody there, but that was ok. There were lots of transport/taxi people around. One of them started talking to us, as it was clear we didn't have a ride, so after waiting for 15 minutes, we hired him to take us to Kajibange Bar & Guest House for the same price that the guest house pickup was going to be ($50 USD). He first took us to a bank machine in town, then headed out. The taxi guy stopped along the highway and picked up some BBQ corn on the cob for his supper. It was about 1.5 hour drive to Nungwi, on the north side of the island. As we were driving through town, it looked like a war zone, and I imagined that's how Aleppo would look like, dilapidated and ruined buildings, destitute people and dogs wandering around. Around 6:30pm, we came around the back way, to the car entrance to Kajibange, and Tracy eyes were wide, like "What are we doing here? This place is a disaster." She had a WTF look on her face. She thought we were in Mad Max or something. After entering through the gate, however, we were greeted with a wonderful beachfront guest house, reggae music playing on the speaker. This place is run by a Rastafarian guy (where 99% of the island is Muslim), and it's totally laid back. We got checked in to an awesome bungalow room, except the bed is about 4 feet off the ground, and you have to jump up to get into the bed. We went to the restaurant/bar area. Imagine an open, covered air bar/restaurant, all wood, lots of little tables, chairs, hammocks, lounging beds, and cold, cold beer in a deep freezer. It was kind of heaven. The rest of the property is all sand pathways and very well kept and clean.

After eating (I had grilled king fish, Tracy had jumbo (or maybe tiger) prawn salad. After eating and relaxing, we literally jumped into bed.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Day in Entebbe

We slept in a bit....well, we were up for breakfast shortly after 7:00.

We called Bike2Go Entebbe and arranged a city bike tour for 10:30. It was mediocre, we went pretty much around the whole city in a circle. The highlight would have been the Tuesday market, which goes on in a few streets where people sell everything, mostly clothes and shoes it seems. We then walked through the food market, people selling all kinds of veggies, fruits and meat. It was pretty cool.

We got back around 1:00pm, then had lunch.

Around 3:30, we headed to the botanical garden and walked around it for a while. Nothing too special, but it was nice time killer and a nice to place to get out of the sun.

We had supper, then to bed around 9:00.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Off to Entebbe

We were up early, we had a long drive to Entebbe, the small city where the international airport is. We had to drive most of the way back to Kampala, then turn south to Entebbe. Along the way, we both had to pee horribly, so Kazeem stopped in small town at a gas station. The toilet was nothing more than a concrete pad with a hole in the middle and Tracy was disgusted. She almost hurled from the smell, and she was swearing and hated it. It was kind of funny.

We also stopped at the equator line, where we ate lunch and then were given a demonstration of how water swirls down differently (clockwise vs. counter clockwise) on either side of the equator, while right on the equator, it doesn't swirl either way, it just goes straight down. I have read that this is a myth, and really only affects large scale storms (hurricans, typhoons, etc. swirl different in the northern vs. southern hemisphere), but his demonstration was fairly convincing. At first I thought he'd pour the water in the drain so that it swirls the way he wants, but he put a blocker in the bowl to stop any swirling caused by the pour. Hmmmm. He used a flower to visually show us which way the flower swirls when put in the bowl. After showing us north of the equator and south of the equator, he showed us right on the equator, and the first time he did it, it swirled clockwise, and he remarked that it swirled, so the bowl must be a teeny but south or north, and adjusted the bowl about half in inch and then did it again, and then the water went straight down and didn't swirl. Hmmm. The bowls were not well made, and looked like they were made by someone hammering on tin (not by a machine, to ensure a perfect bowl shape), so I think that had something to do with why they swirled the way they did, but it was still interesting.

We made it to Entebbe and Kazeem had booked us in the Anderita hotel, right along the shoreline of Lake Victoria, with a bunch of other large hotels and a bunch of beachfront bars and restaurants. It was very nice. The hotel was $60/night, but Tracy was soooo happy. She's officially done with camping for a long time, she says. Haha. We thanked Kazeem and he left.

We showered up (so much dirt and grime in the hair and all over), then we walked along the shoreline road checking out the places to eat as it got dark. We chose one where they had a bunch of tables in the sand, and had pizza. As it got darker, bugs came out. A very specific bug, by the millions, came out of the sand and congregated all over everything, getting on the pizza, into the drinks, into hair, hitting you as they tried to fly towards a light. It was crazy. People started eating/drinking quickly, paying their bills and getting out of there, which we did as well.

We ended up going to bed around 9:00, I think.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Game Driving and a Boat

We got up very early, 5:30, as Kazeem wanted to do an early morning game drive.

We heard a party/music all night from the town close by, and I heard hippos all night long. The sleeping mats are crap and neither of us really slept very good. Well, only one more night, then no more camping.

Nothing very exciting during the game drive. I think we totally got spoiled from the Serengeti. One lion, quite a number of Ugandan Kobs (antelope), warthogs and other antelope. Not nearly the numbers in Serengeti.

Then we headed back to the camp for lunch, then at 12:30 left for our boat cruise along the channel that runs between George Lake and Edward Lake. We first stopped at a super high-end resort, Mewai. Swimming pool, overlooking the lake, super nice cabins, full restaurant/bar, super nice premises. We were allowed to walk around for a while. We got the price list. The starting price for the basic accomodation, including breakfast, was $205 USD/night. The Queen room was over $1000 USD/night. And that price doesn't include any activities. Mom, would definitely enjoy it.

At 2:00 we went to the jetty and boarded a nice double-decker boat for a boat cruise. The cruise went along the shoreline and there were tons of animals along the shoreline, drinking and cooling off in the water. Buffalo, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, baboons and tons of various birds. The crocodiles live right along with the other animals, which surprised me a bit. But I guess the crocs live on a diet of fish and don't try to take down any animals, so they live alongside each other. We saw a couple of hippo fights as well, which are apparently common. We also floated along by a village, where the villagers live alongside the channel, with the local fauna. The villagers can fish the lakes, but can't fish in the channel, as it's a national park. There was also a small fish market.

After the cruise, we did an evening game drive, and we went back to the same lion we saw yesterday. He was lounging in the sun, then moved along and climbed up in a tree. So, we got to see a tree climbing in the end, one of the last hurrahs of game driving. We were spoiled by the Serengeti, the game driving here wasn't all that grand. In retrospect, instead of doing a day of game drive, we should have went to the chimp trekking here (in addition to the gorillas). Oh well, we didn't know.

We got back to camp quite late, it was already dark. We had supper, then around 9:30 Tracy and I headed to the tent. We got to the tent and there was an awful manure like stench by our tent. We wondered what had taken a dump in the vicinity. We walked over the toilet and there was an awful reek. We kinda heard strange noises coming from other side of the hedge, so Tracy went into the bathroom, and I shined my light over the hedge to try and see. I saw this large gray mass. Is that an elephant? I wasn't sure and didn't believe it, so I looked again, and saw it again, then it turned towards me and I saw the massive tusks and it's eyes reflecting back at me. YIKES! I'm like less than 10 feet from an massive elephant, with only a bush in between us. The elephant was feeding on trees behind one of the cabins, right beside the washroom building. We weren't sure if this was "normal" or not, so I went back to the dining area, fortunately our guide was still there (the staff don't really speak english), and I told them there was an elephant right near our tent. They look surprised and confused, like they didn't quite know what to do. They talked for a bit, then our guide said they would build a campfire. The guide and me headed back to the elephant, and a while later, some of the staff came with firewood, and they started a campfire by our tent. Animals are afraid of fire and will stay away instinctively (so we're told). As they were building the fire, one of the other staff decided to go around the building to check on the elephant. He disappeared around the hedge, then we heard a blood curdling scream and running, and a door slam shut. Hahaha. Our guide started laughing. The elephants had startled this poor guy and he screamed and ran away.

Once the fire was going, they took a hot piece of wood from the fire and a few of the staff went to try and scare the elephant away. Our guide said he thought those guys were crazy. They did successfully get the elephant to leave, but a while later we heard an elephant trumpet a bit in the distance and someone blowing a whistle. The poor elephant was now in another camp and they were trying to scare it away.

With that excitement done, we headed to bed.