A Travellerspoint blog


And So It Goes

View The African journey on Ofelia's travel map.

Home is a funny thing. To me, home is where my hair straightener lives. So currently, home is my friend Marianne's shed in Buckinghamshire. However, when you spend long enough travelling, home becomes any place where you spend longer than two nights. My home, it seems, was Nairobi.

I'd spent the last few weeks going in and out of the same hostel, leaving my big bag full of fabrics, woven baskets, earrings and other stuff which I'll store immediately into Marianne's shed when I'm back in the UK and forget about it, in the hostel cupboard. I knew the staff, the best time to get a hot shower (never), and exactly how much a taxi would cost to whichever part of Nairobi I was going to. And apart from seeing some real-life Freds (giraffes to those not in the know), I really did very little. Nairobi is not an unpleasant city; it is completely functionable, the main CBD is all wide roads and even a bit of greenery. It doesn't have much in terms of eiffeltowers and colosseums, but it serves its purpose well and I liked it. Mainly because it wasn't Lusaka.


As I happened to be travelling with someone slightly sick, and ill for that matter as well, my last days were spent in Arusha, Tanzania, simply because it was close enough, and it wasn't Nairobi. I'd planned on a lot of things- a trip to the Serengeti to see the migration of hundreds of antelopes, zebra and suchlike, to climb the Kilimanjaro (yes, I know, me climb Kilimanjaro- ha ha ha, but I was certainly up for trying). Unfortunately, a quick peek at my bank balance put such silly thoughts out of my head, and considering I spend most of the time with a cold, it wasn't so bad.

The hostel in Arusha was something I'd want my hostel to one day be like- warm, welcoming and full of people. Mainly volunteers, everyone there was a fairly long-term resident, and they immediately took us in as one of them. I spent a happy few days doing not much but haggling in the market (more baskets and bowls- I really need to marry very well if I plan on a house big enough to display all this stuff) and going out with a eclectic bunch of people- six Julliard students, all incredibly talented and sweet- five gay guys and poor Megan. Erin, an Aussie girl, Harry, a very extrovert Brit, Sarah Jessica Parker -lookalike Jenna, and a random collection of people who we picked up along the way. It was a fun night- especially when a very drunken British guy came over and told me, as I was chatting to Jenna, Collin, Evan and Jordan that all my friends were incredibly good looking (Noted: all my friends. Must start wearing makeup.)

Another dusty bus ride later, and we were back in my hostel-home, for the last time. I tried hard to miss my flight- a few minutes before the taxi arrived, we were still sitting in the local pub with another long-term Nairobi resident, Andrew, and I had my last Tusker, feeling sad. I hoped we would run into terrible traffic, or my flight would be cancelled until further notice, the airport was closed for security purposes or my ankle would break. Something. Anything. And of course, nothing did, and nine months after I'd left, unwillingly, for Zambia, I was yet at another airport, thinking about life, love and geography, and how it all goes. Funny that.

Posted by Ofelia 02:28 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Zenzational Zanzibar (despite the rainy season)

View The African journey on Ofelia's travel map.

Some places have always had it in their name - Burkina Faso, Patagonia, Easter Island, Zanzibar- that slight exotic tinge that so makes me want to travel there. Zanzibar has always conjured up a fairytale setting of narrow cobblestone streets, ornate, heavy wooden doors with shiny brasshandles, women swathered in colourful scarves, brightening the narrow alleyways like peacocks, fragrant spices I've never smelt before. And for once, it was just as I imagined it.

We arrived to Stonetown late, and immediately decided to stay for a few days. The Polish Mafia was heading up north to the beaches the next day, but not before they introduced us to the foodstalls by the beach- dozens of vendors selling seafood snacks, samosas, kebabs, zanzibari pizza, sugar cane juice and spicy masala tea.

I was possibly most excited about shopping (OK, I was most excited about photography, but shopping was a close second), and after dragging Rich to all the possible shops to look at sandals, bracelets and fabrics, I told him the following day to go and do boys' things, and I'd go shopping on my own. Oddly enough, he decided to lock himself in the hotel room, and not come out while I checked out the local markets. Men, huh?

I really didn't do much in Stonetown- just watched the old-fashioned sailing boats, dhows, coming in from the sea after sunset, eating (lots of really good) ice-cream, drinking cocktails on a plush hotel balcony overlooking the sea, and getting lost in the winding little streets (whilst occasionally stopping to look at a bracelet, of course). It felt wonderful to have some unhurried time, and it almost felt like a holiday.


We headed up north on a rainy, damp morning, with a vague idea of going to Nungwi where our friends were. We got a ride on a dala-dala, a new thing to me- half-truck, half-bus with an open back and bright plastic seats, full of chickens, children and firewood. Oh, and lots and lots of people. Beata and Anya were waiting for us, and after a big of haggling, we found a little guesthouse that suited my low bank balance, and we settled in.

The next three days were equally lovely and frustrating, the guesthouse being only half-built and therefore not having a reception, or any sort of a contact person anywhere in Nungwi. So we had no one to complain to when we discovered there was no water whatsoever. Teaches me to pay for a hotelroom in advance, I suppose...Despite of being able to only flush the toilet three times, and only washing my hair once under the weakest drip ever (all fours on bathroom floor, nevertheless), Nungwi beach was lovely. Possibly too resorty, but it had fine, white sand, turqoise water, and it didn't even rain very much. I didn't get my usual seafood-related foodpoisoning, which was an added plus. Rich might have malaria, though.


As we left, the man supposedly looking after the guesthouse magically appeared, demanding money for the 3rd night which we had yet not paid for. I refused; after all, the deal had been that we would not pay unless the water was turned on (which it wasn't). It was, at least, a slightly amusing exchange, one of those where two people are just so far apart in what they're saying that no middle ground can be found. It was established that although it was agreed that we didn't have to pay unless water came on, we still had to pay, although the water wasn't on. Why? Because we had to pay.
We left with our token polish people, without paying, and arrived to a very rainy Stonetown where the haggling started all over again, now over the ferry tickets.

The rainy season has well and truly started. I am currently holding a one-way ticket to Mombasa, purchased this morning with an idea of "I'll get a first direct bus, wherever it might be going to", and watching the non-stop rain beat the empty streets. A sidetrip to Kenya seems appropriate, as anyone who spent their childhood listening to Finnish pop music knows, but I have fond feelings for Tanzania, and I'm sure I'll be back in no time.

Posted by Ofelia 02:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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