While we were still in Malawi Clayton had a brain-fart – Why not skip Zanizbar?
I actually let him explain his reasoning before completely shutting him down. It was as follows: We do not have the time (slightly true but we can skip something else). We do not have the money (the man’s got a point but skipping something else will save us money to spend on Zanzibar). We have been to many Islands (3 is not a lot and I’m being generous in counting the disaster of a trip in Tofo, also, those were pretty much abandoned, undeveloped islands). It will just be like any other island (I can honestly not reason with a man that just made such a comment about Zanzibar!).
During the weeks leading up to this day the topic came up once or twice but luckily I had Marcia to back me up on the “We are going to Zanzibar” side of the debate and so Zanzibar was still penciled into our schedule. At one stage I was really concerned that we might actually skip it. We have a tendency to make plans the evening and completely change them the next morning so without holding that golden ticket for the ferry in my hand, paid in full, Zanzibar will still be just a pencil entry, easily erased from our Africa plans. What sealed the deal was not a ferry ticket but a plane ticket. More specifically Matt’s mom’s plane ticket. She decided to join the trip for 10 days and Marcia booked her flight directly to Zanzibar!
Our initial plan was to leave the car in Bagamoyo (for free) and take a taxi to the ferry (taking Bertus would have cost us about $450. I love him to bits but let’s be real, he ain’t gonna enjoy the island!). However, the cost of the taxi far exceeded the fees we would pay to leave the car a bit closer to the ferry so we started looking for alternative places. iOverlander gave us 2 options that were in the suburbs just north of Dar es Salaam. The one was more bar than campsite and a bit dodgy but the other one was an Inn, cheaper than camping and it included breakfast. No brainer.
We arrived at the Safari Inn mid morning and the place was just perfect. High walls and security guard (so therefore secure and safe to leave Bertus), cheap rates, clean rooms with en-suite bathrooms AND air-con (which actually made me reconsider this whole Zanzibar thing. I mean really, we’ve been to so many islands already, do not really have the money and here we can stay for super cheap for an a couple of days just enjoying the aircon…). As an added bonus: friendly staff! (Only negative thing was the chicken we had for dinner. Rubber aspires to be that rubbery.) We agreed with the manager to leave Bertus there for free. Up till now, Marcia was adamant to take Woody with to Zanzibar but getting the exact price to take him on the ferry they needed to take him there first and then they can confirm the price. The estimate of $450 as well as the prospects of driving in Dar was enough to change her mind and we arranged for Woody to park next to old Bertus.
The manager arranged a taxi to collect us first thing in the morning, early enough to take the first ferry out of Dar. Honestly, I did not see what the hype was all about. The traffic around a primary school in South Africa was more hectic than what we saw and we drove straight through the city – which by the way totally blew me away. We’ve been used to dilapidated, old buildings, half constructed new buildings where the contractor has not been on site for months if not years and empty shopfronts with To Let boards that have gone yellow with age. Dar was a different ball game all together. Modern skyscrapers – all glass and steel. Good roads. Traffic lights. Empty buildings few and far between. Busy construction sites. People dressed for the job they want. It was a bustling city filled with people on a mission and the city was keeping up with their ambition.
We have learnt from our previous ferry crossings that less is more. With a borrowed backpack from Matt we packed all our stuff into that 1 bag (+1 small day bag +1 handbag and no tupperware with old spaghetti). Unfortunately with all cut backs something important was bound to be left behind and it happened to be the camera. Here I was, on the my way to ZANZIBAR and I left the camera behind. We had this face-palm moment just as the ferry was about to leave.
The ferry… It could not have been more opposite than what is now a more sociably acceptable comparison to be used instead of black and white. It was a first world experience in a third world country – more so than what City of Joburg is a “World class African city” – whatever that is supposed to mean.
Ferry crossings should not be this easy, it should not be this comfortable, it should definitely not smell this good and the entertainment should not be movies! It also should not be this expensive ($35pp one way). It felt like we were cheating or if someone was going to yell Gotcha! and take us to the actual ferry that is dodgy fisherman’s boat with ‘water circulation vents’.
What did not change is Clayton and Matt. Even though we arrived 20min before departure, Marcia and I managed to get to the front of the queue to board the ferry – this was done without pushing in front of anyone, without being rude – we just walked up to the ropes. To be fair – they made it to the front eventually but not without asking and making sure that someone did not maybe want to go ahead of them. Different ball game when the rope was removed and we could board. Marcia and I walked through like any normal human would, Clayton and Matt waited for everybody and their dog to pass. Clayton was however a bit more ruthless this time and managed to get on the boat about 10 minutes after Marcia and I made ourselves comfortable. Matt was one of the last people to get on the ferry.
Unfortunately with comfort and money comes assholes. If you are reading this and you do the same thing then I’m making it clear: I am not apologizing in advance for offending anyone. If I know you really well and you do this, I am still not apologizing.
So, the assholes: the selfish, egotistical, inconsiderate people who recline their seats and in doing so crush the poor human’s legs behind them. My guy: if you need more space then the guy behind you has the same problem, WHY make the person behind you even more uncomfortable so that YOU can be a bit more comfy? A special shout out to the $*&^(#% in the very front row with ample leg room who actually reclined their seats and ended up on Marcia’s lap. Everything I said above and maybe a bit more, I said right there, right then (I might have gone as far as asking whether we should go and get their autographs because surely they must be VIPs!). It worked, the guy got up and went to stand outside.
The 2 hour crossing was rather uneventful other than the really odd short films (the one started off with a ferry crossing to Zanzibar where the tourists gets robbed the moment they get there?!) and about a 30min long advertisement of a half-built residential complex somewhere in Tanzania. They did not tell you where, just kept showing the worst drone footage ever captured – to such an extent that you could see Matt just itching to redo the entire thing for them. Oh, and the safety instruction video they show has NO words in it but they show it twice: first one started with something like Welcome, please pay attention to the short safety video in Swahili and the second one with a Welcome, please pay attention to the short safety video in English. Considering that it is about 7minutes long and has the saddest soundtrack ever recorded to it, it boggles my mind why they could not just make the two Welcomes appear right after each other and play the clip only once.
The questions I have that will never be answered has grown to a fill a very long page.