Welcome to Africa
May 26, 2004
Traveling overland is an easy transition from one culture and climate to the next. Flying, instead, can be an assault on the senses. The trip from Bangkok to Dar es Salaam is just a blur of sights and sounds.
Bangkok, Khao San Road - I'm drinking at a bar with a sign reads "Cheap strong drinks here". Though bar is too strong of a description. It is just a wooden booth serving drinks to people seated in plastic chairs scattered in the street. Tourists from all over the world walk by. Trendy young Thais in fashionable clothing walk by. The game of the night is to guess which of the prostitutes are actually "lady-boys" (transvestites). I'm drinking with an Australian guy that I met 3 years ago in Indonesia and coincidentally ran into again earlier in the day. I'm also chatting with some cute drunk English girls. I'm not trying to pick them up; my flight leaves in an hour. But I am checking their cleavage. I'll be in Muslim Africa soon, and these may be the last tits that I see for 6 months. I have one drink too many. I pass out on the airport bus, but still make my 3am flight.
Dubai Airport, 8 hour layover - I'm surrounded by tall black men and Arabs in white robes as I get off the plane. This is the first time in 6 months that I haven't been tall. Most of the people in the airport are dressed in robes which is quite a startling contrast to the Thai transvestites. I peer out the window to check out the view, but there isn't one. Isn't a view that is. Nothing is visible in the distance but a gray haze. I find an empty spot on the airport carpet next to a group of women covered head to toe in black robes. Only their eyes are exposed and they are chatting in Arabic. I finish reading a book and catch up on sleep before it's time for my flight.
Dar es Salaam, YMCA - I check into the YMCA and get a nicer than I'm used to room for $10 a night. At reception, a family of 7th Day Adventist missionaries from Oklahoma gives me advice on treating malaria. Their 14 year old daughter caught Malaria and she tells me that "It's not so bad." The parents describe her symptoms "Some nausea, some dizziness and a spiky fever." The brother gives me the treatment dosage, "Artesunate - take two 2x a day on the first day and then one 2x a day until the packet is gone." There is one type of malaria that affect the brain and is very serious, but that is rare even in Africa.
From lady-boys and cheap cocktails, to muslim robes and arabic, to missionaries and malaria in less than 12 hours. Thank you very much, next time I think I'll take the bus.
Welcome to Africa
It's my first day in Africa, and I leave the hotel ready for new, African, adventures: new sights, new sounds; new smells. But mostly, I want lunch.
I walk down the block and the first thing I come upon is a "Subway" sandwich shop. This is not the african adventure that I was looking for. I ask one Tanzanian, and then another where I can find a good cheap lunch. They both point to "Subway". Frustrated, I walk for an hour before I'm too hungry to continue. I stop at a hamburger shop - at least this one wasn't an American chain - and am forced to eat a burger for my first authentic African meal.
I spend two days in Dar es Salaam before taking an afternoon boat to Zanzibar. The boat docks at Stonestown, the only major town on the island. Stonestown was nothing like what I expected, but that's only because I knew nothing about it.
Zanzibar was a major shipping crossroads throughout recent history. The slavers came through here. The spice traders came through. The Christians came through. The Muslims came through. Everyone came through Zanzibar and it shows. At first glance I thought that Stonestown looked like Europe. The town is made up of narrow twisty alleys. At second glance I thought it more Moroccan. Many of the people are dressed in white Islamic robes. Then I saw bits of Brazil. The architecture and carved doors with decorative metal spikes are same in Salvador, Brazil (Portuguese influence both places). It's a nice town, but I'm still waiting to find real Africa.
On day 4, I arrived at Nungwi beach. It isn't uniquely African either. Tropical beaches are the same everywhere. But it is beautiful. The description of paradise is overused, but there is no other way to describe Nungwi beach: white sand, turquoise water and beautiful sunsets.
Years ago I wrote:
"Severance check in one hand, plane ticket in the other -- see you in Zanzibar."
Well, I finally made it, thank you Sapient.
Day 6, I've read a couple of books and taken a lot of photos. Nungwi is beautiful, but living on a beach can be a bit dull. Tonight, we finally had some entertainment. A couple of tourists were sitting on their bungalow's porch smoking a joint. Two Tanzanian men approached, tried to arrest them, and demanded a large bribe. At some point the tourists realized that the men were only pretending to be police. By the time that I arrived, a crowd of tourists with cameras held in front of them were chasing the Tanzanian men in circles around the dive shop. The tourists kept shouting "We're going to show these photos to the real police" to the rhythm of their flashes going off. It was like a scene out of the keystone cops.
Day 8 (9? I've lost count) - A group of 18 and 19 year olds have been staying at my guesthouse. I didn't make close friends with any of them, but the girls were great eye-candy. They left today, which left me slightly depressed for about 5 minutes. The sun started to set and the sky filled with pastel oranges, yellows, greens and blues. I instantly forgot about being lonely. Instead, I set up my tripod and started taking dozens of photos of the spectacular sunset. A couple walks by, oooh'ing and aaaah'ing. The strange thing is that they are pointing in the opposite direction. I turn around and am amazed to find a rainbow arching over the palm trees (it hasn't been raining in days). Beautiful sunset in front of me, rainbows and palm trees behind. What an incredible moment!
In other news, started learning Swahili. I tried a new approach to learning a language in Myanmar and it worked well. Learn one word a day. After a month in a country, with a vocabulary of 30 words, I'll at least be able to converse a bit. I learned Burmese because the locals appreciated it so much. I'm learning Swahili because it's fun to speak (sing it!).
"Asante Sana. Karibou."
Tomorrow, if I get up early enough, I'm going snorkeling. About half the groups going out recently have seen dolphins. That would be fun!
Then, in about a week, I should be going on a safari. I'm finally getting excited about it. I was afraid that after playing with tigers one-on-one, seeing lions from a distance would be quite a disappointment. Today, I got news that the wildebeest and zebra migration is currently going through the Serengeti. I may not be able to touch a lion, but to see one attacking a herd of passing wildebeests will be incredible.
one of the 19 tourists sharing nungwi with you. thought check out your musings. like it - keep it up!... while i keep up wqith the eye candy!
Casey Fenton - May 27, 2004
Sounds like too much fun to me.. :-)
Ari - May 27, 2004
Hi Adam! (from California)
The new trip looks like a blast!
I'll just keep living vicariously behind this desk.
Julia Berger - May 27, 2004
Your "Subway" experience reminds me of being on outreach. The school staffs in Turlock or wherever are always directing us to the local Mcd's, Wendy's, etc....
We eat a lot of burritos.
Shenly Glenn - May 28, 2004
do you have an audio recorder? i'd love to hear what your roam through Tanzania sounds like. i'd love to see it as well but your pictures page refuses to display at the moment. :( - or smell it, but that's a bit of wishful thinking. when will we get smell in bits and bytes? you should work on that in all this free time.
Ashley Alden - May 31, 2004
I loved hearing about your latest adventure. I am so jelous! Africa must be amazing.
So tell us, did you ever find any authentic food?
It didn't actually take me that long to find local food - In Zanzibar I started a regular diet of fish and ugali - unfortunately the local food isn't particularly good. The staple food, ugali, is a lump of tasteless dough.
Cambodian Colin-Tiger eater - May 31, 2004
Hi Adam, just logged on to your previously unobtainable(by me)site, whilst sitting here in Bournemouth with the One-armed Bandit(Luke). It sounds like your travels are progressing well-although there's still alot of talk of girlie bars, transvestites, ladyboys, eye-candy and a section on saving prostitutes. Theme? What theme? Anyway, it all looks very interesting whether you read between the lines or as read. Good luck and I'll keep up as best I can.
Sheila Misra - May 31, 2004
I have always wanted to do what you are doing now, but one thing holds me back: money. How do you fund your trips?
Traveling (if you go to the right places) is very affordable. I estimate my trips at $20/day. That's only $7000 per year. For the price of a new car, you can instead go and wander the planet for 3 years.
Daan - Nov 09, 2004
Finally I reached your website! I spend my last day in stonetown together with you and the two Swedish. I made a really beautifull picture of you, making your best picture... but I don't see it on your website, unfortenately..
I hope you still enjoy your time on the road!!!! Have fun and take care.
Lots of love, Danielle,