The flight from Ndutu airstrip to Zanzibar was rather interesting. The plane made several stops along the way and as I was the last person to board and sat uncomfortably in the co-pilot’s seat. I was really nervous in the beginning, trying not to mess with the rudder pedals, but then I was absorbed by the views and the information on the cockpit instrumentation. On the Dar-Zanzibar leg, we entered a mild weather system and the Cessna Caravan started shaking. Not afraid, but concerned. I am fascinated by planes since the time I served in the Greek air force and my interest is reinforced from the fact that I fly every single week of the year. Mental note: I need to go to pilot’s school and get a license to fly.
Anyway, we arrived safe and dry and drove straight to Matemwe, a village in the north, on the east coast of Zanzibar. Matemwe beach is a very long stretch of wight sand, about 5km end-to-end, with palm trees and the usual coral reef. The waters are very shallow, just like in Pongwe, making it impossible to enjoy a proper swim. It is ideal though for sunbathing and relaxing.
We arrived in the golden hour, just before the storm and I was eager to snap some pictures in this the unique light. I took the Canon, put on the 10-20mm and stepped into the sea, shooting in the direction of the coming storm when I stepped on something that caused some incredible pain. In trying to keep my balance I took a side step only to step on the brother of the first sea urchin. Ouch and ouch again! I cursed, then walked on my heels, then cursed louder and finally managed to reach the beach with my Canon still dry. I am willing to erase form my memory the next two hours and the painful process of removing tiny needles form my feet. It took more than 20 days for my feet to return in normal condition and I was forced to walk on my heels until the end of the trip.
The beach is the main transportation corridor between the local villages, as it is much easier to ride a bicycle or walk on the sand than on the bumpy and lousy roads.
The main activity on the beach during the day consists of group of women collecting seaweeds. It is a laborous process and takes hours to collect a good quantity that they have to carry back and dry it under the sun. I am not sure what kind of income a day’s work ca generate, but I would extremely surprised if it exceeds a dollar or two.
The next day we went on a snorkeling trip. The waters were blue and clear and we had a very good snorkeling experience, including a squadron of squid trying spitting ink on their way to escape us. Once again I felt sorry that I cannot scuba dive. We spent the evening in the hotel, enjoying a good dinner – fish and shrimps – and some not so great white wine.
On the evening of the third – and final – day, after one more day laying under the sun, we drove to Nungwi, the most popular spot on the island. A great disappointment, it reminded of Laganas, in Zakynthos, one of the worst tourist destinations in Greece that attracts low income Brits. Cheap restaurants and bar next to each other, loud music, lousy service and crowds wandering around and shouting. Like in Laganas, this place must have been great before the crowds arrive, but today must be avoided at all costs.
Next day, we drove to the airport to catch the flight to Dar. The driver was very talkative and explained me that this is the best way to earn a good income in Zanzibar. By doing this, he was able to send his children to private school. Half way to the airport, we were stopped by local police. Obviously they wanted some bribe to let us go but the driver talked the white-uniformed police man out of it by pointing at us, the tourists and doing some talking in Swahili. When I asked him what the police wanted, he asked me where are we from and when I said Greece he went “Ah, you know, it is the same here as in your country. Corruption everywhere”. A guy from Zanzibar, Tanzania, telling me that corruption is the same in our countries! I think that the Greek brand just hit an all time low.
It took some special acting skills and effort to manage to pass the huge sea shell that Efie wanted to bring back to Greece through the airport security in Zanzibar. You see sea shells are treated much like national heritage material in Zanzibar and it is strictly prohibited to export them. I said that I was bringing it to a friend in Dar and they let us go.
We arrived in Dar and went straight to hotel for some rest before the 5am Turkish Airline flight to Istanbul and Athens. A truly wonderful trip that made us both to fell in love with Africa.