Zambia to Zanzibar — Page Three
By Jemima Price
We finally headed back to Stone Town, all beached-out to soak up some culture. As we drove away I gazed at the beach thinking “What are we doing? Why are we leaving?” But paradise is only really paradise when you can’t stay indefinitely.
Our guesthouse back in Stone Town was delightful. It was in a tall narrow building with dangerously steep stairs, and cool, dark and airy rooms led off white corridors. Ornate wooden four-poster beds, one for each person, were swathed in white nets that billowed in the breeze from the window looking out over the rooftops of the ramshackle streets. The room was a haven in the hot afternoons after a long morning of sight-seeing and shopping.
We spent the next couple of days wandering the streets of Stone Town, shopping in the many craft shops, eating in dark Arabian-style restaurants, with cushions strewn on the floors and gold smoking pipes on the tables.
There are a number of more touristy bars dotted around the place, mostly as part of more expensive hotels, but the best evening we had was when we stumbled across a local bar, tucked away from the tourist spots, and found that a bottle of the local Konyagi gin cost about half as much as a single G&T in the tourist places.
It wasn’t a pretty place, in a dirty concrete square behind a souvenir shop, surrounded by ugly wire fencing, with a surly chef toiling over a big pan of frying chicken, and a bar with a worrying cage across the front of it.
However, there was an easy-going relaxed feel about the place with Bob Marley crooning from the speakers.
We worked our way through two bottles of Konyagi with James Taylor who we discovered to be a fascinating, eloquent man who had suffered immense hardships in his life on Zanzibar and Tanzania.
It was chastening to hear that for all his jobs in banks in Dar es Salaam or as a teacher of English to adults, or as a worker on his father’s farm, James earned more money in the sometimes humiliating world of tourism. As he pointed out cheerily, you get to make many new friends that way as well.
We went to the night market with James, and it was a completely different experience. Because we were him, the local stall sellers treated us as friends, not just as tourists, and we had a great evening there, talking with the young guys selling the food and eating fresh crab.
James was one of the most memorable people I have met and I will always be grateful to him for renewing my vigor for travel and for ridding me of the cynicism I have acquired over the last couple of years of travelling.
On our final day we had booked a snorkelling trip which I regretted when I woke up feeling rather hungover. The rocking boat didn’t help much either, or the huge lunch of samosas and chappattis and other rich things we were provided with.
The trip was well organized, although be aware you have to bring your own water and we were caught short when the one ATM in central Stone Town stopped working and we didn’t have enough money. Luckily a kindly shop owner gave us some under the promise we would return later with money.
Safety was paramount – we constantly had a guide with both the divers and those snorkelling. The dive sites were excellent as was the visibility which can be hit or miss on Zanzibar. However, there were a lot of jellyfish and I was badly stung when one managed to wrap its tentacles right around my fingers; the guide had to peel them off.
That night eating dinner overlooking the sea, we realised that up till yesterday and our night with James, we had been feeling a bit jaded about Zanzibar because of the high prices, the touts, the people hassling you to buy something left right and centre. But now, on our final night, and looking out at the shadows of the waving palm trees, the dhows bobbing on the water in the harbour, and the lights of Stone Town dotted about its winding lanes, we realised we definitely didn’t want to leave.
We wisely got the more expensive ferry back to Dar, and it was like a different world. For just $15 more, we had air-conditioning, proper food, comfy seats and even television. We had the usual palaver in the airport, when we found our flights had been cancelled and they wouldn’t let us pay by credit card for new ones, which meant a mad dash back to town to the bank praying the ATM would work.
After a fantastic flight watching the Zambezi wind its way through Africa, we touched down in Johannesburg. We were a bit nervous about finding somewhere to stay overnight in Jo’burg, having only ever passed through, but the wonderful lady at the information desk organised for us to stay at the fantastic Brown Sugar Backpackers.
It is actually a modern castle (read mansion) apparently built by a mafiosi. We were collected from the airport and driven to the bus station the next day – an essential if you are staying in Jo’burg. The rooms are comfortable, clean and modern, and there is a great outdoors area with fantastic views towards the city. We found ourselves drinking till the early hours at the bar with the owner, and found it hard to believe only hours before we had been in the magical, exotic world of Zanzibar. It seemed a million miles away.
Details of trip as if travelling from Johannesburg:
Getting to Kapiri Mposhi
You can fly into Lusaka from Johannesburg with Zambia Airways and South African Airways.
Railway Systems of Zambia run passenger trains between Lusaka and Kapiri Mposhi for only a few dollars but the schedule is variable.
International government owned
PO Box 80366, Kabwe,, Zambia
()260 21 522 1036, 260 5 223074 (fax)
Kapiri Mposhi is easily reached by bus, as it stands on the main routes between Lusaka and both Northern Zambia and the Copperbelt. If you enter the town travelling north, then the bus terminus is in the centre, on your left behind a variety of market stalls.
Getting to Dar es Salaam
The Tazara Railway costs around £36 or $72 in a 1st-class sleeper cabin and it leaves on Tuesdays and Fridays and takes 2 nights arriving around midday on the Thursday or the Sunday.
The Kapiri Mposhi new station is 2 km from Kapiri Mposhi station where the Railway Systems of Zambia travels to.
Accommodation in Dar es Salaam
There are a number of cheap hostels in the city centre which are perfect if you are just there to get the ferry to Zanzibar the next day. There are places further afield on the surrounding beaches.
If you want to book ahead try hostelbookers.com or travellerspoint.com
Ferry to Zanzibar
There are a number of companies selling ferry tickets at the ferry port and touts can be quite aggressive. We went for the cheapest at around $35 but it is a pretty long, arduous journey. For only $15 more or so, you can travel in relative comfort and the journey time is much shorter. Speed boats take only two hours while the longer ferries took over six hours and have been known to take longer – especially the overnight ones.
Accommodation in Stone Town
Again there are numerous hostels and backpackers dotted around the backstreets of Stone Town. There are relatively cheap pnes around the ferry port. There are plenty of touts who will take you to different hostels/hotels.
Even if you are travelling on a budget and cannot stay in the legendary Emerson and Green Hotel, it is worthwhile going in and just asking the receptionist if you can have a tour of the rooms – each room is decorated individually in sumptuous and exotic style. You can also dine at their rooftop restaurant or drink cocktails at sundown overlooking the town.
Getting around Zanzibar
We hired a car in Stone Town through a hotel tout for $40 a day although our first car broke down and had to be replaced. For more expensive (and probably more reliable) car hire try: zanzibarmagic.com
There are shared minibuses that go from beach to beach or from North to South or East coast. These can be arranged by your hotel or leave from the Old Fort in Stone Town. There are also daladalas, a type of bus, that travel around the island to various destinations. The station is near the market on Creek road.
Accommodation in Kendwa
We stayed at Kendwa Rocks. However, there are other resorts stretching along the beach in either direction and all are much the same in price and style.
Accommodation in Jambiani
Again it is worthwile wandering along the beach at Jambiani to check out the options. Alternatively try:
We stayed at Grand Bungalows.
Diving in Stone Town
Getting from Dar es Salaam back to Johannesburg
South African Airways regularly fly from Dar to Jo’burg
Accommodation in Johannesburg
Jemima Price is an English graduate and qualified Systems Engineer, who gave everything up to travel the world. After driving around Australia in a van and teaching in Swaziland, she recently decided to return to the UK and be sensible, but instead accepted a job in Barbados.
Read Jemima Price’s story: Beijing for Beginners
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