07 April 2014

Hakuna Matata in Zanzibar :)

Every time I write a post here I tell myself 'you lazy ass, write more often! I will I will, promise!' and time passes so fast I don't even realize how long it was since I last wrote something and shared it with you... But here it is, one more post about something interesting in my life again :) (cause lately...honestly, didn't have anything awesome to share, no new exciting flights or any happenings what so ever since New York)

Day 1: Starting this post on board, above African clouds on the way to Tanzania... Leave with Miss A finally came and we are on our way to Zanzibar! It was one difficult decision to make, trust me! Not just because we had so many options, whole world in front of us, but also because we needed visas for certain countries and that's proper pain in the ass (one of many), second reason was overbooked flights. Since we fly on standby tickets we can never be sure to get on the flight unless the loads are really low from the start... So many ideas we had, so many plans we made during these last few months, so many excitement and disappointment when we realized 'this one's not happening'. Across the world in our minds, from Seychelles and Thailand, Japan and Borneo, Cambodia and Philippines, Zambia, Mexico, Cuba...back to our first plan - Zanzibar :)
It's close, it's beautiful, flights are not full, we get visas on arrival, it has great beaches and all sorts of stuff to do and see, and even though forecast says thunders, lightning and rain all 5,6 days we're gonna be there it simply doesn't matter! 
'Have you ever had rain during your entire vacation somewhere?' Adri asked.
'Well you see there's the first time for everything, cheers!' :)) (it was after midday when we had our first drink, if that makes any difference) :)
First flight from Dubai to Dar es Salaam was 5hours long and we reached there around 3:30pm. 
Karibu Tanzania! (Swahili is so funny and cool language!)

When we go to Dar as crew we don't deal with all that craziness on the airport, which is very simple, basic, but this time we had to of course, we were 'normal' tourists now. Visa on arrival costs 50$ and better have the exact change to make your life easier. Also, prepare yourself for a wild wild west way of handling things around here :)
Getting to Zanzibar we had 2 choices either by ferry or by plane, ferry takes about 3hours and a flight is 20minutes long (one way ticket with local Precision air is 85$ plus 10$for a taxi) so we jumped on a small plane and half an hour later we were outside the Zanzibar airport catching a taxi to our hotel. Bargaining is a must, which I personally don't like, just tell me a reasonable price, we'll pay and that's it, no fuss! But of course we bargained, others, not me, I'm beyond terrible at bargaining! 

Driving through the Stone town you see once again how poor and dirty this country is, but they are all smiling and are very pleasant people to talk to. Everyone knows how to speak English and since my first time in Dar es Salaam 'till now I didn't have any bad experience. The opposite, when they hear I'm from Croatia they are proud to know all the football players they like, like Šuker, Modrić, Mandžukić... :)) Anyhow, night came and we were entering one of many very dodgy looking streets where our hotel was located (Market Lodge hotel, 45$ per room per night, breakfast and wifi included), but we weren't alone. Two of our crew colleagues tagged along so we weren't worried as we would be if we were alone. And story about 2 of them brings me back to Dubai airport and staff travel counter...

Getting our tickets there we were the only ones. In that moment we saw a guy running around like a headless chicken! 
'Hi, what flights are departing now and to where?!'
'There is one to Dar es Salaam now...'
(Not so many flights depart at that time of the morning)
'Do I need a visa for it?!'
'No Sir, you pay for it on arrival.'
'Great, give us that! And you girls where are you going?' he saw us laughing at him :)
'Same as you apparently, going to Zanzibar'
'Exactly! We are going there too, not staying in Dar for 4 days for sure! See you on board!'
And that's how we met 2 of them and decided to go for dinner and tour the other day together, to split the cost. Taxi driver offered us 140$ for a tour to the Spice garden and Jazani forest and also a 2 hours drive all the way to Nungwi up north for all four of us! 
Must confess we felt more safe with 2 guys that evening, in that kinda looking street going for dinner, walking around at night. It's not like we were scared or anything, just...safer. Last second decisions happen for some reason right?
Dinner drinks and sleep. 

Day 2: ...I could hardly call it sleeping since the a/c was soooo loud and just a few hours later prayer time begun, all the mosques around us calling for prayer at the same time at 5am! We wanted to cry how exhausteeeed we were! Daylight at 6:20am... Yawn!!!
Breakfast was as simple as everything else here but coffee and hot chocolate with Baileys made it better :) 
We packed our suitcase again, Ali the taxi driver picked us up and the day started with a Spice tour, 2 hours of walking around the garden with the 20 year old guide called Moo Moo who wants to have 4 wives, maximum he can have :) 

He was showing us all these known and unknown plants explaining what are they used for. He was relaxed and funny and we really had a great time talking to him, learning actually more about the life on the island than about the spices. We played with small kids and gave them chocolates and candies we brought with us, tried fresh fruits and saw how they grow marijuana :))

It was a beautiful weather the whole morning and then the rain started, just when we headed to Jozani forest to see the red Colobus monkeys. We saw them of course but they were shy and scared of water so they were high up in the trees. Also I experienced how it feels when a cow attacks you too :) I was always afraid of them, without a reason, now I have a reason! At the end you laugh at it, it was fun, all of it was fun, no stress, no worries, hakuna matata, we were on a vacation! 
Hour and a half long drive to the north to our next hotel, Tanzanite beach resort in Nungwi. It was really beautiful, after that Stone town hotel this was a 5 star hotel :) 
Small peaceful place, with only 6 guests it was perfect! 
Dinner, drinks and we were up for some partying :) 

You can't go to a foreign country for vacation and not explore its night life! Our friend James from the hotel, our brother from another mother :)) organized a taxi in the middle of the night to take us to the local DISCO, had tequila shots from broken coffee cups and learned how to shake our booties on Zanzibarian (is this a proper word??) music just like African women do it! :D 
Of course we missed a full moon party but still we had fun fun fun, slept like babies afterwards and woke up on this beautiful sunny morning... Time to enjoy the beach :)

Day 3: Waking up with the sound of waves smashing on the rocks, all kinds of birds singing and sun rays sneaking into our room through the wooden windows and mosquito net... Sometimes a feeling like that cannot be described with words, but it was what I needed...

Breakfast was nice, every day the same but for 5 days you don't really care, aaaand they have crepes (unlike lots of 5* hotels!) so guess what we ate every day :))

This hotel is pretty far from the Nungwi 'city centre', about 45 minutes walk down the beach so if you want peace and quiet this is the perfect place, if you want more people around you find a hotel around Cholo's bar. Very important thing to know and understand are tides, every morning sea withdraws itself to make a wonderful white sandy beach in front of all the hotels and in the evening tide is so high that our hotel for example loses its beach so you have to be careful not to get caught on the beach when it happens cause it happens fast if you don't pay attention.

In front of Cholo's bar the beach is there anytime of the day so it's even better! That morning we started walking and walking, for about 2 hours until we found a perfect spot to take zillion of pictures and to swim a little bit. On the way there we made a reservation for a whole day snorkeling trip the next morning, 20$ per person in low season, found souvenirs we wanted, bought some, been ripped off for some, and got awesomely sun burned but we were there, on that amazing beach we used to see only on swimming suits commercials and travel magazines and music videos... 💗 

Reggae night was on the program for that night in Kendwa, place next to Nungwi in a beach bar called White sand or White beach, not sure anymore.  :)
If you want to buy some alcohol in a store be ready to overpay it cause they don't have prices written anywhere, a bottle costs as much as the guy in the store decides to. Probably depending on how rich or stupid you look like. We must've looked both! All the wines have the same price, and I mean ALL of them! As I said it already, wild wild west :p

Local currency is Tanzanian shilling but you can also pay for everything in US dollars (1$=1630tzs, or 1520tzs when they convert it), and there are no atm machines anywhere else except Stone town so make sure you bring more than enough money cause 99% of places don't accept credit cards. That being said I suggest you bring alcohol in a suitcase/backpack with you from back home as well ;)
The island is not that expensive if you know how to bargain, and bargain GOOD! Otherwise you can spend a fortune here! 

Day 4: The hardest day to wake up for everyone! We stayed up late, had to wake up early for the snorkeling trip to Mnemba island, small private island 2hours boat ride or sailing up north... Somewhere along the way dolphins came to say a quick hi to us, Karibu Zanzibar tourists! :) 

Going on Mnemba island wasn't possible since it is a private one but snorkeling around it was like a visit to a Finding Nemo movie! All the fishes were there, all the colors sizes and shapes! 

Low season here starts in March so there were not that many people, wasn't crowded and the weather was amazing (don't believe online weather forecasts, if it says thunderstorms all day long 7 days a week - it is NOT true! It will rain but after a refreshing shower it's gonna be the same hot and sunny weather as before that shower...) If you ask me, I think is better to go in low season, everything and everyone is more chilled and relaxed, beaches are almost empty but there are still people, either locals or tourists to meet and talk to or party with... It's really amazing when you know all the hotel guests in your hotel and have breakfast together every morning and dinner every evening (cause it's only 6 of you!) :))

Anyway, lunch after snorkeling was organized on a deserted beach next to Mnemba island - grilled tuna caught right then and there with their bare hands, coconut rice and fresh watermelon for a dessert :) 
Dead tired we came back to the hotel and I fell asleep for 12 straight hours... 

Day 5: Morning started as usual and continued next to the pool in a long conversation with two Swiss girls, our neighbors for the week, about their 2 and a half months travel through Africa, about our travels as cabin crew, about vacations, about everything! Amazing thing is traveling, not only you see other countries, nature, beaches, sunsets, but also meet so many other people who like the same things as you, who you can share experiences with, who you have lots of things in common with. 
People make your vacation! People you travel with, local people who greet you into their world, other travelers who you meet along the way. They are the ones who make your sandy beach even prettier, who make your snorkeling trip even funnier, who make your days even more interesting... 

Afternoon was reserved for laying on the beach doing nothing! And that's exactly what we did, enjoyed our last day in paradise... :) 
...avoiding conversation about buying a plane ticket back to Dubai. 
On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon a wedding and crashed it for a few minutes just to see how they're having fun celebrating such a thing. So many colors, laughter and music, not much different from the rest of the world :)

Day 6: It was such a pain in the ass, as it always is, traveling as crew on stand by tickets sucks the life out of you! We ended up paying double price for one of the tickets with Kenyan airways, explanation was 'we can see you paid your tickets but your tickets weren't issued' ?!?
So what should we do??? 
'You can pay by cash now.' Whaaaat?! Who's a crazy one here?!? 
'Hakuna matata, listen to me...' 
If I hear hakuna matata one more time I'll punch you in the face! At the end it's always the same - if you wanna go home and not be late for your job you have to pay! And so we did, AGAIN! I swear to God I was this close (and 'this' is very veeeery tight) to call an owner of their company, to call Kenyan president, whoever would do just to yell at them! After such a great week we had to deal with this, like it's not enough we have to take a few flights to get back to Dubai and not just one, a direct one!
'It's an IT error, but our IT guy in Nairobi can't do anything about it.' 
Do you want to know what I think about THAT kind of answer? Better not! Why should it be easy when it can be difficult? EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Breathe in breath out... We got on the plane, waited for another connection to Dubai and finally were there at 5am... Amazing week ended up less amazingly than it started but forgetting about that last part we had excellent time together, memories for a lifetime and already a plan for our next trip :))