Friday, September 5, 2008

Island Life

I could never live on an island forever, but for an afternoon, it's pretty fun.
We realized in very short time that Dar Es Salaam doesn't offer a whole lot for the Western tourist. All it took was a walk on Coco Beach during our first (conscious) day in town yesterday to glean this much. Coco Beach is the one we were told was dangerous, and I've since heard specific mugging stories (from Steph) about people who have been robbed while jogging or had knives held up to their testicles. The last thing i want is a knife at my testicles.
apprehensive as i was, the sight of four dozen Muslim women on the beach in some kind of training playing games and drawing in the sand made it look kinda safe. Unlike their Catholic counterparts (i'm thinking of nuns ... i hope this doesn't sound blasphemous), these girls were pretty mouthy (though you couldn't really see their mouths behind their burkas and head wraps). Once they spotted us, they started yelling, "Hey You!" We turned and waved, continued down the beach, which was otherwise vacant except for washed up seaweed, trash and the occasional Tanzanian building a makeshift stand on the rocksto sell sea shells or shoe polish services. Within a half hour, once we were a couple miles down the beach, it started pouring. Like total downpour. We headed back to Steph's and remarked at how we've never been so soaked by rain yet still quite warm. It was a lot like taking a shower. Except we were filthy.
So, we got back to Steph's, changed, walked down to the corner where taxis hang out and grabbed a cab to the city center.
The city center of Dar Es Salaam is really no place for the Western traveler. There is almost nothing there but dilapidated buildings, housewares for sale and other necessities, a zillion cars and a zillion people, every one of whom was staring at us cuz we were the only white people (mzungu - another useful swahili word). Remnants of socialism. It could be a while...
Of the daily amenities I mentioned in an earlier post, the one I find myself missing the most in this part of the world is sidewalks. No sidewalks anywhere. Lots of crazyass cars on narrow roads. But sidewalks are expensive. and there ain't a lot of money here.
Anyway - yesterday kinda sucked, in an educational sort of way. At the end of the day we met steph, some of her colleagues and other local ex-pats and I joined them for a 5K run they do every week. It felt great ... even if my leg muscles had atrophied from 30 hours of sitting on planes and even if my stomach was showing signs (already) of getting angry.
Today the weather was gorgeous. We walked to a port called the Slipway, which, as far as tourism is concerned, is a much more aesthetically pleasing area of town. From here, we took a boat to an island called Bongoyo, about 35 mins off the coast of Dar. It consisted of a jungle forest with a few paths (an odd combination of coral and roots) and a peninsula with beautiful white sand, a few grass huts for shade and a cook shack.
We went snorkeling, saw an array of black sea urchins (which i think might be kinda dangerous or something i) and some colorful fish and had fish for lunch that was caught and grilled on the fire in the cookshack. oh and some African beer.
As i was waiting for the fish, one of the boat drivers beckoned me over to an expanse of coral on the other side of the peninsula to show me a hole filled with sea water where about 20 eels were swimming around (trapped when the tide went out). The guy took a fish out of a bucket, sliced it open with a knife and fed its guts to the eels, grinning proudly all the while.
I have to say, i was intrigued. guts.
eels rank up there with those legless creatures that i don't love, but they are fascinating from a safe distance.
We met a couple of guys on the boat who shared our shady grass hut for the duration on the island - Louis, a Tanzanian who moved to Seattle 10 years ago and was back home for the first time since. he was amiable, funny and passed out all day from jet lag. His friend was Pete- a whiny australian guy and a big goon. I lent him the snorkel mask i'd rented, but, when the water got rough and he couldn't see anything, he attempted to lob it back onto the beach, but it didn't make it and got sucked away by the tide. Oddly enough, the Indian Ocean wanted nothing to do with it and spat it right back a few minutes later.
We went to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner that was full of Mzungos. It was tasty.

we fly out at dawn for our six-day safari, which won't be a problem since i've been getting up at 4:30 am every morning. Will have some more animal stories next week ...

1 comment:

Mom said...

Yes, "mom" checks daily. Sounds like the adventure is everything you wanted and more. Love you!