For my last holiday as a peace corps volunteer in Zambia, I went big…Zanzibar big! I travelled with fellow volunteers Steve, Ryeon, and Mickeve. It started with 72 hours in a first class cabin on the TAZARA train from Kapiri, Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. For 72 hours in a train in Africa it really wasn’t bad. In fact, it was an awesome experience. Four people to a cabin with a two bunk bed type situation, it was an adventure. At nights when Mickeve and I were sleeping on the top it felt like roller coaster – sometimes I was airborne, others it felt like the train was going to fly off the tracks! But we finally arrived and these are the highlights:
Not realizing that when we crossed the border over to Tanzania, the clocks all jump ahead one hour we were taking our slow sweet time in Dar es Salaam after getting off the train. We thought we had an hour until the last ferry to Zanzibar. WRONG. We had no time! We get to the ferry dock minutes after the last ferry of the day leaves. We are then informed that for only 20 USD more we could take a plane. Since we’d probably spend the same amount just spending the night in Dar anyways, we decided to take a plane. Peace Corps volunteers getting fancy! First time I’ve ever been in such a tiny of a plane (all I kept seeing in my mind was Grey’s Anatomy season finale with the plane crash) but a 15 minute plane ride over a 2 hour ferry ride? Heck yes it was worth it! Plus we got to experience the ferry ride on the way back, along with all the seasick folk who lost their breakfasts.
NIGHT MARKET GARDEN
Just a five minute walk from Zanzibar Dorm Lodge where we stayed in Stone Town, there was a nightly street food market. Filled with delicious food, these were my favorites:
1. Zanzibar Mix soup: so good! no idea what it was made out of (the woman running the stand said mangoes…but we think there was miscommunication in that one) but the add-ins were so good! Boiled eggs, potatoes, bbq meat on a stick, fried cassava shavings, falafel…yum!
Beef Zanzibar “Pizza”: does not actually resemble a pizza whatsover but it tasted like mandoo!
Shwarma: If you ever go…the shwarma stand in the middle of the garden is the best. There’s usually always a line and there’s a talkative, energetic fellow running the show. I think the sauce is what makes it…real garlicky.
Sugar Cane Juice: Freshly pressed, mixed with lime and ginger. Super refreshing.
Tea Masala: This is the best chai hands down I’ve ever had! Perfect amount of spices, sugar and milk.
Did you know cinnamon comes from tree bark? We got to get to know exactly what plants spices come from and what they look like before we buy them in containers and shakers in the supermarket. Zanzibar is known for their spices and it was awesome to experience all the spices in their cooking after being used to Zambians strictly using salt only. The Zanzibar rice pilau was so so so tasty and Peace Corps Zambia volunteers tore it up! We even ate the leftovers from the group sitting next to us. There was also spinach in a coconut sauce and chapati to eat with it.
Narrow alleyways, tall buildings, airy rooftop hangouts and big wooden doors with heavy bolt locks. Stone Town was a place you only really picture in stories that take place in very far away places. Traditionally, the bigger and more elaborate the carved design on the wooden door, the more affluent the person behind the door is.
Located at the top of Zanzibar island, its only about a hour and a half drive from Stone Town. Whereas in Stone Town women need to take care to cover both their thighs and their shoulders, in Kendwa it is bodies in bikinis everywhere. The only really “resorty” area on the island, tourists visit this area to take full advantage of the beauty of the water and beach in the skimpiest amount of clothes. The ocean is a color of blue you can’t even describe which changes hue the further out you swim. It was so beautiful. Here, I spent my days lounging in the sand, throwing myself in the salty water, and seriously, just enjoying vacation. We also ate a ton of seafood – fish and prawns, can’t go wrong!
A two hour boat ride in a wooden sailboat (a dhow) to a private island where we got to experience some of the clearest water I have ever seen. The ride there was a lot choppy though so 4 out of 7 of us in our group got pretty seasick. It was so worth it though when we arrived! Clear, CLEAR water to see plenty of fish and sea life. I am pretty sure I saw a humuhumunukunukuapua’a all the way in Zanzibar!
Too soon it was time to say goodbye to the Indian ocean, seafood, and spices and get back on the train to Zambia. This time the train wasn’t as much as an adventure as it was a challenge of our endurance. We attempted to get tickets a bit late and were left with a second class ticket. A second class cabin has 6 spots to sleep in….we had 7 of us traveling back to Zambia together! It was cramped but we all made it back safe and sound. I can’t believe it is already 2014 and that my Peace Corps service ends in three months. Here’s to 2014 – I don’t know how it will end but it definitely started off right with friends, food and the ocean!