October 3, 2006

Tanzania, pt. 7 - getting to Kendwa

We planned to take a dala to the part of the island that we are going to stay at, Kendwa, but that's far easier said than done. The second we got out of the customs area we were bombarded with more taxis and taxi drivers. We walked forward quickly among "Hello rafiki!"'s (“Hello, friend!” – I didn’t trust anyone I didn’t know who called me “rafiki.” It generally meant they wanted something from me) and "Taxi! Taxi!" ourselves repeating, "Hapana, hapana, si etagi (sp?)" (No, no, we don't need), but a few latched onto us and followed.

One guy repeated, "But you can take this minibus, where you are among other tourists only." I looked at him quizzically. "Why on earth would we care about that?" It's sad though, because I'm guessing the reason he used this line is because it's worked in the past. I will never understand how you could really go to a place and see avoiding any and all locals as a good thing. Anyway, after he persisted for awhile, Wes told him to go away in Swahili, and finally he went. One guy actually made a pretty good sell for a...van? minibus?...though, and offered a price that we like, so we said okay. It turned out that he was not the driver of this vehicle but the guy who got customers for this vehicle, so he took us to an area along the street and made a call, which, if we were anywhere but Tanzania, I would see this as highly shady, so I was a little nervous, but Wes reassured me.

As we stood Wes negotiated, and the guy eventually agreed that we could pay almost half of what the other people in the van were paying, with the stipulation that we not TELL the people in the van we were paying that much as that would hurt their business. He was at least very honest about it. Finally the van comes, and we got in, then went to pick up another guy who was also an American, and asked us how much we paid. "I paid 7000, is that what you paid?" "Sure, about that..." Um, yeah...

And we're off. On our way we talked to the guy and he ended up giving Wes a book that he had just read, so that was kind of exciting. Finally we arrived, although apparently there was some miscommunication somewhere, because we were in Nungwi, not Kendwa. While Nungwi is NEXT to Kendwa, and accessible to Kendwa by the beach, it is not exactly where we were told we were going to be, but the driver insisted that was what he was told and that he was staying in Nungwi for the night and so not going back to Kendwa now. So now we had the small problem of getting to Kendwa, the small problem being that the tide was in so we couldn’t get to Kendwa from the beach at this moment.

We did walk over to the beach, and the sight took my breath away. The beach, and the Indian Ocean, is gorgeous. The sand is white, and made from coral, so it's insanely soft. I immediately took off my shoes and carried them, enjoying the feel of walking barefoot in the sand. And the water...the water is clear when you look at it closely, and a gorgeous blue when you look at it from farther away, and beautiful. As we entered the beach, we met a group of local people who were talking/working, and they asked us what we were up to. Wes engaged in conversation with them, and told them our problem. They seemed incredibly surprised and somewhat gratified that Wes spoke Swahili, and soon a man introduced himself as Said, and said he could help us out (which was appropriate, because Said means help in Swahili). He offered to take us over to the other shore in a boat for a small fee, and the fee being reasonable, we agreed, so just sat down to wait for a little while. The boat came, and we got in...The ride over to Kendwa was actually a lot of fun to me; the boat was a speedboat type of boat, and I received a lot of enjoyment from being over the water.

We arrived at Kendwa. Our next order of business was to determine somewhere to stay. We had reservations at one hotel, but we were only able to get reservations there for a night, and we decided we would rather go find somewhere where we could stay for all three. Said said he would help us with that too; Wes asked what he got out of it and Said explained that if he took us to a hotel and we decided to stay there that he got a commission from the hotel owner, so everybody won. Sounded good to us, so off we went.

We were first led to one hotel with a large group of workers sitting on the front porch; the hotel was extremely nice but kind of expensive, and could only guarantee us a room for the first two nights, and then could give us a different room for the third, but not the same one. Wes went to check out the room while I stayed and watched our things. One of the workers initiated conversation and I tried practicing my broken Swahili (they spoke far better English than I spoke Swahili, but I derived more enjoyment out of trying to speak in their language, and so, it seemed, did they). I did my best to explain where we were from and what we were doing here, although a few misunderstandings set them laughing, but not a mean laughter, more a friendly laughter. Overall they were kind of fun to talk to, although I found myself turning sort of red from my lack of understanding a few times. They were helpful in my mistakes though, and we continued to talk until Wes got back. Wes and I talked for a little while; they were highly amused when Wes said he wouldn’t make a decision unless I was okay with it. ("So she is the boss?").

We thought about it, determined that after so much moving around for the past week or two, it'd be really nice to just stay in the same room for three consecutive nights, so go off to look somewhere else. We looked at one or two more places before we found where we ended up staying; it was cheaper, had fairly nice rooms, and would let us stay there all three nights, so that won us over. By this time we were exhausted because we'd been on an early morning ferry, a long van ride, a boat ride, and then walked around an island for ages, so gratefully collapsed for a little while, got clean, and went off in search of food.

We didn't have to walk far - our hotel had its own restaurant on the beach. This was when it really hit me that we were on Zanzibar. The restaurant was outside, covered by a tent type thing, with tables and chairs on the sand. We ended the night eating a really good dinner, with our feet in the sand, looking out onto the beach. Amazing.

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