I had a relaxing two days on the beach in Dar. We had the beach camp to ourselves by night. I got talking to the couple who own the place. She's from Zimbabwe and he's Chilean. They just found the place for sale on the internet and bought it two years ago. This kind of thing appeals to me. I know Tracy (my wife) thinks I'd be terrible at dealing with travellers but I reckon I could make a go of it. Having said that there was an overland truck in yesterday with five customers on it. All British and, lets just say, I wouldn't have survived on that truck for very long. But serving them and taking their money – that's a different thing! So, what do you say Tracy? Let's sell up and run a beach side campground somewhere in the sun (and I don't mean Eastbourne).
I even got used to showering in salt water all the time. However the signs everywhere telling us that it wasn't safe to leave the camp were a little off putting.
On the inside of the toilet doors!
I know you can’t see it clearly but on the right is a sign on the border of our camp. It says “Warning – it is not safe to leave the camp boundary”. In full view of everyone on the beach!
Sitting by the beach doing nothing in particular has, unfortunately for you, given me a lot of time to think and reflect over what I've done in the last year. This morning I sat on the beach looking out at the Indian ocean thinking, “I rode a motorbike from Alaska to get here.” Sometimes I can't even really believe it myself. On the one hand it seems surreal, almost impossible that I could have done it. On the other, it was actually quite straight forward and easy. Those who know me know that I'm no super human. I have no special skills or abilities that mean I can do something like this (indeed no special skills or abilities at all) and no one else can. I really am just a normal person which just goes to show that ordinary people can achieve their dreams (if that's not too melodramatic). Whatever it is in life that you've always wanted to do but have thought, for whatever reason, you just won't get round too. Try it. Put your mind to it and have a go. Failure is not trying to do something and falling short, failure is not trying.
Not your everyday photo of Zanzibar
Zanzibar. I'd been here with Tracy four years ago and it was a little weird going somewhere on this trip that I already knew. I stayed (with Daryll and Angela) in Stone Town for three nights and I went diving for two days. I wasn't actually expecting the diving to be anything special but it was. Not only was the water nice and warm (28C) the coral was in really good condition (Corals around the world are suffering and one estimate suggests that by 2050 there will be NO functioning healthy coral systems left anywhere in the world. That's worth repeating and mulling over for a moment. In just 40 years there may well be NO HEALTHY CORAL REEFS in the whole world –due to global warming.)
I went on four dives, dived two ship wrecks and saw, amongst the usual numerous colourful coral fish, the following – Leaf fish, Pipe fish, garden eels, Turtles (two), scorpion fish, Octopus, Nudibranchs, Harlequin shrimps,(which Tracy and I had seen in Panama and aren’t easy to find), Tapestry shrimp, Mantis shrimp, Lobster, Moray eels, AND A SEA HORSE! I've done 110 dives and sea horses had almost become a sort of mythical creature. Several times I'd been told there may well be sea horses on this dive only to be disappointed. And I saw one on the first dive. It was slightly larger than I'd expected, about the size of my middle finger, black and spiky. It was worth going to Zanzibar just for that.
One Ocean Dive centre dive boat.
The weather doesn’t look great but the water was warm.
Going to Zanzibar reminded me how much easier and more fun it is to travel around on your own transport. Arriving in Stone Town on the ferry we got surrounded by taxi drivers desperate for our custom. I latched onto a guy who said he had a hotel (near to the one we had earmarked in the Lonely Planet). We went with him but the taxi drivers were furious and a huge shouting match erupted. Every time we went out someone walked along next to use wanted to sell us something. It always starts with a polite “hello” followed by a “Where are you from?” I know they are just trying to earn some money and I can put up with it for a while but it does get tiresome. Either you put up with it, ignore them, tell them to go away or try to tell them that you don't want anything. Non of which leave me feeling happy. I don't remember it being that bad last time I was on Zanzibar. Perhaps my memory has blotted it out or perhaps, as it's low season it's worse at the moment. Either way I fear that Zanzibar needs to be a little careful. It relies quite heavily on tourism and can't afford to alienate them too much.
Stormy times ahead for Zanzibar? This rain cloud formed over Stone Town as I was out diving.
On our last night we went to slightly posy Indian restaurant (Well, they had cloth napkins and a wine list). Daryll wanted his picture taken with his food. (For me this is something my parents used to do and I always felt uncomfortable and embarrassed by it.)
Angela kept saying she felt like a princess – Not having to cook camp food and having a bed which was off the ground. She doesn’t ask for much.
Taking photos in restaurants of people eating is JUST WRONG!
Just before we left Dar we met two South African bikers. One on a Suzuki 650 DR the other on a BMW 650 Dakar. They'd started in Jo'burg and were heading up to Ethiopia and then back down south. At least that was their plan. Apparently they hadn't heard that you can't get Ethiopian visas in Nairobi (which is why we'd gone to Harare).
BMW 650 Dakar
Suzuki 650 DR. Any idea what the panniers are made of? (Answer below)
A few hours later we bumped into two more South Africans on KLR 650s. This time I managed to take a photo of THEM as well as the bikes They'd just started their two year round the world trip but again were unaware of the Ethiopian visa problem.
KLR 650 – renowned for falling of its side stand but a reliable bike (so they tell me – what would I know?)
I’ve forgotten there names but at least I got a picture of them. Sorry
Time for another introspective interlude.
Riding a bike means you think a lot. Having that helmet on all day, alone with your thoughts is one of the great things of motorbike riding and I've noticed how my thought patterns have shifted over the months. In Alaska and Canada I was still thinking like a teacher and processing lots of thoughts to do with my teaching life, and indeed my recent past. That all worked itself out by the time I got to Mexico and my mind started to wander onto other things. Africa has been really quite different. I've started thinking about the future rather than the past or present. I almost feel like I've been on some sort of meditation course over the last year and have “sorted a few things out” as they say. All of this will mean little or nothing to you and I'm sure you think I've either become far too introspective or just downright anal. But, hey, it's my blog! All I can honestly say is that I think this year has done me the world of good and I just hope the feeling stays with me when I get home.
Am publishing this Sunday morning in Arusha. (It wasn’t easy finding wi-fi but I managed). Tourist low season in Arusha at the moment so everyone is hassling me to do a safari. Daryll and Angela are going on a 4 day safari tomorrow and I can’t really think of a good reason to not join them. This means I’ll be back in Arusha on Thursday night and probably in Nairobi on Saturday. Already getting quotes for freighting bike (£2100 to fly it door to door) so I may well be home in two weeks from now!
You’ll be pleased to know the place we’re staying in Arusha (Massai Camp) has a bar with a TV so I watched the Champions League final last night with a few dozen locals. I went to bed at 11:30 when the party/disco started. The music stopped at 5:30 a.m. this morning. My tent was 20 m from the DJ!
Crossed the 30,000 mile marker somewhere on the road yesterday near Mount Kilimanjaro (which was hidden in the clouds). Only 175 miles from here to Nairobi. It really is almost over….
PS The panniers are old toilet cisterns!