Category Archives: Zanzibar

The End Where I Begin

I just want to say–Vegas was incredible as usual! It was great catching up with some of my friends and hearing what’s been happening at home since I left a little over three months ago. I also got the chance to skydive again and it was just as amazing as my first time in South Africa! Speaking of Africa, I found myself constantly thinking about one of the greatest summers I have ever had. Matt, Bryan, and the others would ask me about my trip, but I had a hard time figuring out where to begin telling them; I have done and experienced so much!

I’ve been home in Michigan for a day or two now and everyone is interested about what I’ve been up to and what interesting stories I have. A lot of them kept up with me on this blog, which I was really, really glad to hear. Those times of searching aimlessly for decent internet in the middle of Africa paid off. You guys have no idea just how tedious that was. It wasn’t just internet I had to find, I had to find a place with connectable wi-fi. I wrote my blogs on my iPad, connected that to a wi-fi hotspot to upload to this WordPress site, and then from a computer I could place photos and finally publish a post for all of you to see. This explains those long gaps between publishing certain posts; it’s not because I was lazy and didn’t write anything, it’s because I had no access to the internet.

I had friends say I looked humbled and completely refreshed when I saw them again. That could be true because I was in complete bliss my entire time in Africa (even on summit day on Mount Kilimanjaro). I’ve done just about everything I wanted to do although the stuff I missed I’ll save for my return one day. However I won’t get to ride an ostrich, I weigh 15k too much haha! I do miss all the fantastic people I have met over the last few months; my Rec 13 (and Palmer) house, my Old house (and New house), my safari squadron, my LX6 Kilimanjaro family, the SASTS volunteers, my Zanzibar rafikis, the Zulu family, and some of the locals I met in SA and Tanzania, and especially all of the kids I had the pleasure to teach and spend time with. The kids in Muizenberg and Arusha were some of the happiest children I have ever met, even under their subpar living circumstances. And then there’s the kids of Kayamandi, specifically Aphiwe, Fudo, Atha, RiRi, Ski, Chester, Avele, and Mawande–I miss those guys more than I care to admit. I wonder what they’re up to right now?

I’m glad I was able to share what I experienced in Africa with you all. A lot of my friends and family never really understood exactly what I do when I travel and volunteer in other countries. Now, as you can see, I have the most absolute best time of my life! My main focus in writing this blog was to inspire everyone and show off what else is out there on this humongous planet, from the perspective of an average guy such as myself. I received lots of e-mails from strangers who read this blog asking me a bunch of questions because they want to do the things that I did too. Flattering. I am completely open to answering any questions or giving any advice with anything pertaining to any of my posts.

So keep tabs on me you guys. My stint in Africa may be done for now, but I am already in the beginning stages of planning another big trip abroad. I don’t know where (Southeast Asia?), I don’t know when (maybe next summer?) but it WILL happen soon. Also this time, maybe I won’t go alone? Maybe I can tempt a friend or two or three to come along, now that they’ve seen what I have done. I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon, it’s my drug. And of course, I will be sure to blog about it again. This isn’t the end my friends, it’s just where I begin again. Until next time, be safe folks and happy travels!
Here’s a little something extra for you guys, check it out!

The Grass is Just as Green on the Other Side

(New Adventure. New Posts. Coming May 2013!)

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Under The Sea

I didn’t think I would be scuba diving in Africa at all. It never crossed my mind. It was on Nicks list of things he must do here in Zanzibar. I came to Africa with the mindset to do everything I possibly can, so Lana and I decided to dive too.

Nick, Lana, and I ready for training!

We had to watch a 20 minute training video and the next morning, we headed to the pool at our hotel to train underwater. Before we agreed to scuba dive, the instructor said that we should not dive if we had any cough illnesses or were claustrophobic. My coughs have been waning ever since I got off of Kili so I was fine there. I have slight claustrophobia but I didn’t understand how that relates to scuba diving. After practicing underwater with the oxygen tank, I understand now how it relates. You’re meters underwater with only a hose as your source of oxygen. I don’t know how that relates to tight areas but I got the same feeling I get when I’m trapped in small spaces. But no worries, it didn’t bother me.

Learning hand gestures.
Practicing in the pool

After about a half hour of training, we headed out to sea! We took a wooden boat across choppy waters to Tumbatu Island, the site of our dive spot. Did I get motion sick from the boat? Not this time. Beforehand, I warned the instructor that I would get sea-sick before diving so he gave me some motion tablets that worked like a charm. Last thing I would wanna do is vomit in the water to attract sharks. Yikes!

We put on our heavy scuba gear and fell backwards into the ocean. We deflated our vests and down we went into the water. The dive was about 20 meters deep and full of sea life. Corals, green turtles, schools of fish, and even eels would make an appearance. I wish I had my underwater camera with me to show you how amazing this was!

And down under we go

Every so often we would have to de-pressurize ourselves by squeezing our noses and blowing out to pop our ears. And no matter what, we could not hold our breaths! Doing that would cause our lungs to expand or something like that. We remembered these simple measures, including periodically checking our oxygen gauge to make sure we had a supple amount left. It all came naturally to us as we glided underwater exploring the sea life. We spent maybe 30-40 minutes in the deep and then inflated our vests so we could float to the top. It was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done! We got back on the boat and were offered to do a second dive in a different location. Of course, this costs more money and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not. Nick wanted to. I started to feel sea-sick sitting around on the boat, so he convinced me that I would feel better under the sea. I didn’t need much arm pulling. The first dive was a blast! So in again I went for another mesmerizing dive.

After the dive, we got back on the boat and headed back to the main island. Did I get motion sick? This time yes, but I didn’t vomit. Just felt woozy and nauseous. When we got back to shore, the instructor gave the three of us diving certificates. We aren’t 100% certified but if we wanted to dive ever again, this certificate allowed us to do so without going through training again. Pretty sweet. I can see myself diving in the near future. I never thought I would like it so much.

The next day we booked a spice tour about an hour away from our beach. It’s one turned out to be better than I thought. We were taken to a plantation where many different spices and fruits are grown. I had no idea that cinnamon came from the bark of certain trees. One of the plants produces henna, a thick gooey substance that locals use for painting. Our tour guide grabbed my hand and painted the pinky nail on my right hand. On a man, one nail means you aren’t married, two nails mean you’re married. The henna won’t come off until the nail grows out, so I’m stuck with this for a while. I’ve seen this stuff on locals hands before but until now I never knew what it was.

There were fruits I tried that I have never even heard of. One of them, I don’t remember what it’s called, resembled a slimy slug. It tasted great though! I also had the best mango in my life! It just so happens that mangos are my favorite fruit. The tour lasted for a about two hours. We were treated to tons of different spices and fruits the whole time. Well worth it.

We only had a couple of nights left in Z. On our last night, we ate at Infusion and ordered huge lobsters and other seafood delicacies. Well, everyone but me. I hate seafood. Especially seafood that’s still in the shape of what it looked like when it was alive. I did try tiny, minuscule bits of everyone’s dish but that’s about all I could take. Blah!

It looks like someone hand painted each of these lobsters.

Take a look at my pinky nail

We did so much on this beautiful island and everyday here has been the absolute definition of paradise. We spent a week here and I felt like that was a perfect amount of time. I could have stayed on that island forever though! We all could have.

Lana and I ate so much ice cream in Zanzibar. It was great!
One of many different varieties of Zanzibar pizza. This is the sausage pizza.

On our last morning, we headed back to Stone Town and said our goodbyes to Nick. He was leaving to go back home to London, where he could enjoy the Summer Olympics which at the time, started just a couple of days ago. It was a bit weird when he wasn’t around. Lana, Nick, and myself pretty much spent the past two weeks together, 24/7. One week on Kili and immediately after on Zanzibar for another week. But it was time to get back to Arusha to see my kids that I haven’t seen in two weeks. They’re probably anxious to see me! My time in Tanzania was coming to an end as well. In just a few short days, I would be going back to South Africa for another month. As much fun as I had here in Tanzania, I’m pretty pumped to go back to where my story in Africa began.

I’m taking my wife here for our honeymoon. I’ll miss you Z!

Zan Aqua

You know those expensive resorts with pristine beaches and palm trees and coconuts you see on commercials and in magazines? Those places you know that cost an arm and a leg and is on everyone’s to-do wish list? This place is one of those. I’ve never stayed anywhere like it!

Our hotel is called “Amaan Bungalows”, a posh resort with an infinity pool that lights up at night, beach-side restaurants, and an array of different excursions laid throughout the amenities. How were we able to catch such a nice place? It just so happens that Lana’s friend’s dad is part owner of the hotel and was able to give us a massive discount on rooms. We saved hundreds of dollars on costs thanks to her hook up!

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The beaches were the best I have ever seen! Crystal clear blue waters that were warmer than any beach I’ve ever been in. White washed sand that was compacted tightly into the ground. In the water, were dozens of aged sail boats made of wood. In the background, I could hear Bob Marley tunes playing in nearby beach bars and cabanas. This was absolute paradise. I almost contemplated on just staying here in Zanzibar for the rest of my stay in Africa until I get back to the States. Almost…

What to do on our first couple of days? Water sports!

There is a truck load of water sports to partake in. To start, we went on a banana boat!

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For those not sure what a banana boat it is, it’s a huge, long yellow tube that sits up to 8 riders. The idea is to hold on for as long as possible as a speed boat pulls you along turning sharply to get you to fall over. I fell in a couple times. Not as much as Nick though haha! No matter where he sat, he just always fell in the water.

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Next we went fly fishing. Not actual fishing, the name of the raft is called a fly fisher. I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this one.

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Later on, Nick and I went para-sailing. I was lifted 200 feet into the evening sky! I could see a good chunk of the island from up there and below me I could see shadows of huge fish in the water. It wasn’t long before the boat driver decided to reel me in and dip me into the ocean. No matter, it was warm :).

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During the day we would all hit up the beach and swim out to sea. There weren’t any waves pulling us in our anything. A vast difference from the beaches in Muizenberg, where the waves were nonstop. The only thing we had to watch out for here in Z were sea urchins. One thing I’m not fond of is laying out on the beach in the sun, or laying out anywhere for that matter. The others did this a lot to tan up. I obviously, don’t ever need to tan so I always took that time to enjoy nice naps back in my hotel room. Besides that there were tons to do on the beach. We played a few intense games of beach volleyball, built pyramids, played extreme spoons on the beach, and became monkeys :).

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The night scene on Z was alive as well. There are tons of restaurants and beach-side bars to visit. My favorite restaurant was the Langi Langi. They let you bring in your own booze! That’s all we needed to know. Needless to say, we had a great time every time we went there :).

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We had no agenda in Zanzibar. No alarm clocks. No bed time. No worries. We did whatever we felt like doing at the moment. It was the perfect plan to the perfect vacation. It felt great after being on Kilimanjaro just a few days ago.

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Tomorrow Nick, Lana, and I would begin our training for scuba diving! 🙂

Voyage to Z

Ah, Zanzibar! Just the name of it alone sounds like paradise.

Zanzibar.

Yes I’ll be going there. But before I dive into that awesome chapter, I still gotta get off this damn mountain!

After about ten minutes at the summit, I put back on my gear and made my way back down the path I just came on. It was extremely liberating to know that I wouldn’t have to ascend any further, just mostly descend. I still felt like crap and I still had a hard time catching my breath. I passed my group and made it back to Stella Point with relative ease. However I had zero energy left.

I didn’t realize just how steep we came up. I thought going down would be a piece of chocolate cake, but it was tiresome. Kili’s last resort to try and bring me down. The gravel going down was so loose that with each step I would sink into the mountain. I was exhausted and after three hours, finally stumbled down to Barafu Camp, the site where we stayed right before Summit Day. Three hours! That’s how battered and beaten I was. I told Nderingo that I needed to sleep for at least an hour or two before I hike any further. My body couldn’t go any further. I wasn’t the only one who needed to rest. Everyone else in my group slept as well.

I only slept for about an hour and a half but it was all I needed to regain my strength. I was rejuvenated and anxious to get off this mountain. I walked with another member of my team who suffered more than I did at the summit. After walking for a bit, I became so antsy to get off Kili that I ran full speed down the mountain. I leaped over mud-pits, hopped from rock to rock, and sprinted as if I was running for my life. I found it quite fun. It felt good to feel normal again. The lower I descended in elevation, the better my head felt. It was easier to breathe. Eventually I made it to the bottom of Kili. We all made it down one way or another. I was done with this mountain.

The entire team. The porters, the cook, the guides, and LX6!
My mountain family minus Allison, who is on her way down right now!

On the way back home to Arusha, we could see Kilimanjaro behind us in the horizon. I didn’t have the same awe-inspiring feeling when I used to see this picture. Before it was “Wow, that looks so amazing!” Now it’s “Screw you Kilimanjaro…”. We all pretty much had the same thoughts :).

I haven’t showered in about a week. I was the dirtiest I have ever been. My beard was bushes and my hair was matted to my head. I immediately darted to the shower and watched all the black goo come off my entire body. I gave myself a haircut and shaved off my beard. I looked like a new man! No time to rest though, because I had to pack my bags again. Myself and a few others would be leaving Arusha tomorrow morning and going to spend a week on the tropical island of Zanzibar! I considered it to be my reward for conquering Kilimanjaro. I have been looking forward to this for months!

Katie, Tanner, Lana, and myself took an eleven hour shuttle in the morning from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam, one of the major cities in Tanzania. Later on we would eventually reunite with Nick and join up with Lana’s hometown friend Ben (Vancouver, Canada). We opted to take a shuttle and then a ferry to Z because it was much cheaper than flying. The big drawback is that it takes a day in a half to get there rather than just an hour by flight. We finally made it to Dar and booked a hotel in the city. The next morning we took a two hour ferry across the Indian Ocean to Z. Out of all the things that make me motion sick, boats are the biggest culprit. I took three motion pills before hand and it knocked me out! I managed to make myself cozy in the aisle of the upper-deck in the ferry. It was a rocky start but I got through it.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on that ferry…ugh…

Finally, after a day and a half of traveling through the country and in the ocean, we docked in Stone Town, one of the main hubs of the island.

Stone Town

Stone Town had a completely different feel from any place I’ve been in Tanzania. I felt like I was in the middle east. Everything about this fabled town had an arabic vibe to it. Such a nice change of scenery. Another thing, it’s Ramadan here. It’s a muslim holiday that lasts a few weeks (I think) where muslims can’t eat or drink anything as long as it’s daylight outside. Because of this, a lot of restaurants were closed but we managed to find a few that stayed open along the beaches. We had to be careful not to drink our water bottles in the middle of town, out of respect for the locals here.

All tatted up for Z!

After a few hours of exploring the city, we took a taxi to Nungwi beach, the setting of my holiday for the next week here on this dream island. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Z 🙂