Friday, December 17, 2010

David's Visit

I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing boyfriend who has flown to Africa to visit me, not once, but twice! We had an adventurous vacation to Zanzibar, an island off of the coast of Tanzania. It is one of the three Swahili ports of eastern Africa and is therefore an intriguing mix of cultures. It sometimes did not seem like we were even in Africa due to the Muslim influence, Islamic architecture, palm tree lined beaches, and tropical cuisine.

Here are some of my favorite snapshots from our vacation. Does it seem to you too that most of my blog posts are about traveling? I promise you I do work (!) and your tax dollars are not being used to fund my holiday excursions:)

Before we started our travels, David came to my site and was able to experience life minus modern luxuries i.e western toilets and dishwashers. You can ask him about his fond memories of using a choo. Here he is cleaning dishes with my Kenyan dishwasher i.e three buckets. Note the bright green polka dot cleaning gloves :)

We then made a quick stop at Lake Nakuru National Park famous for its hundreds of flamingos inhabiting the lake. We also spotted giraffes, water buffalo, tons of baboon families, two white rhinos, and much other wildlife. Here we are amiss piles of flamingo poop. Can you spot them in the distance?

On our flight to Zanzibar we passed the infamous peak of Kilimanjaro that has so haunted me since our August climb. I really did get chills thinking about the excruciatingly cold and miserable summit day. While Uhuru Peak(the tallest point in all of Africa) seemed to be smirking at me from a distance I did feel a bit of satisfaction knowing that I climbed that beast of a mountain (I can say that, of course, from the safe and temperature controlled cabin of an airplane).

We arrived in Zanzibar and began exploring Stone Town, the heart of the island. It has endless narrow streets that you could wander for days albeit many of them sell the same touristy items. We meandered through the streets, stopping for street food, fresh fruit juices, and the occasional reprieve from the heat in air conditioned shops. To me, the most beautiful part of Stone Town was definitely the intricate wooden doors. Isn’t this one just gorgeous?

Forodhani Gardens, a waterfront plaza, transforms into a seafood extravaganza at sunset. There were tons of vendors selling fresh seafood on skewers that they would roast for you and serve warm with delicious coconut bread. We indulged in “Zanzibari pizza” aka a banana and Nutella crepe like creation fried in lard. Artery clogging, but delicious.

We spent one afternoon going on a spice tour in which we traveled to a spice farm located in the center of the island. We learned about, smelled, and tasted all sorts of spices from pungent cinnamon bark to the exotic tumeric. Here is some raw vanilla bean. Did you know it takes weeks of intense processes to produce the type of vanilla sold in stores?

We then enjoyed a yummy home cooked and coconut infused Zanzibari meal before heading to a secluded beach to float in the Indian Ocean. Pure bliss.

After two nights in Stone Town, we traveled to the eastern side of the island to enjoy the serene and isolated beaches of Jambiani. Our hotel (despite its perpetually late, incompetent, and completely stoned Rasta staff) had an amazing location. We were literally on the beach and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing which is quite possibly the most soothing sound ever (at least in comparison to my norm of rooster crowing and cows mooing).

We spent our time here lounging on the beach, eating delicious seafood (mmm coconut curry prawns), befriending adorable children, sipping cold Tanzanian beer, gazing at the spectacular stars, and watching the gorgeous colours of the sunrise.

Each evening, the tide would go out as far as you could see. We walked through the tide pools examining the many spiky starfish and hermit crabs. The local women did the same, except they were in search of small shells with some sort of meat inside that they would undoubtedly cook up for supper. The shallow waters made it look like we were walking on water, quite a feat for someone who had just consumed their body weight in delicious sea food :)

One fateful afternoon, we decided to go on a dhow (boat) snorkeling trip. While we should have been a bit hesitant due to the boats obvious sketchiness (it was only a foot wide!) we decided to go anyways. We sailed out to sea before emerging ourselves in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. I should note here that David has developed an irrational (well, maybe not so irrational) fear of water creatures. He would constantly spurt out facts about deadly sea animals citing shark attacks and other various recent and fatal tourist incidents. I assured him that nothing of the sort would happen here. However, not TWO minutes into our snorkeling excursion we were swimming through a swarm of jellyfish! I tried to keep my calm channeling Dory from Nemo (clearly David would be the terrified Nemo here), but alas, our trip ended with a slightly scared David and lots of “ I told you so’s”. While neither of us was stung by our jellyfish friends, I did spot a sea snake a bit later only to later discover it is one of the most poisonous snakes around! Yikes.

We returned from Zanzibar to spend an evening in the luxurious Fairview Hotel in Nairobi (thanks mom!) where we enjoyed all the Western amenities allowing David a mental transition before his flight back to America. And lastly, I provide you with a pensive picture of David possibly pondering his deep desires (whoa alliteration) to never again visit a choo, dreaming of America land of food sanitation laws, or most likely, he's just trying to have the camera catch his good side.

Despite our run-ins with deadly sea creatures, I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Zanzibar. It was everything I could possibly want in a vacation: great company, beaches, relaxation, amazing food, and interesting culture. Thank you to an amazing boyfriend and a spectacular trip. And to any of you that have yet to visit Africa or East Africa, it has some seriously beautiful spots to explore. Karibu.

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