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Tanzania

Tanzania: Arusha: Will This Dirt Road Take Us to Kenya?

April 6, 2011

sunny 82 °F

We got up and watched Discovery channel for a few hours and now want to take Ruby’s family and friends in India on a field trip go see tigers in Rajasthan. We should really stop watching travel shows! We then took care of a few odds and ends including getting a bus ticket to Kenya. We ran an errand on India Street (Arusha's jewelry row). It’s really hard to find Wi-Fi here in Arusha and when you do the power usually shuts off (the power goes out every day)! After running around for a few hours we arrived at the bus station/gravel parking lot of an old hotel. The bus is small and looks more like a battered old school bus that’s been repainted. All our bags got tied to the roof with a tarp over them and at 2pm we were off. We were sad to leave Tanzania with its full-color, multisensory experiences but it is time for our next adventure.

The road we took north was half-part dirt 4x4 trail and half race track. We felt like our old bus was going to rattle apart on the bumpy roads and even tried stuffing toilet paper in the windows to help hold the thing together. When the bus was on the smooth roads it was no easier to relax! Our driver had to be the fastest car on the road passing everything and not bothering to slow for small things like speed bumps or kids crossing! If you come to Tanzania and see an old school bus with bags on the roof honking and kicking up dust you better get out of the way! We arrived at the border and it was pretty uneventful. Just a few small portable buildings and I don’t even think they had a sign saying welcome to Kenya. By the way our single entry visa cost $25 p/p. We stopped to talk to someone about exchanging money and almost got left at the border!? As we walked out we saw our bus drive away and had to run to catch it! The buses in Tanzania don’t bother with things like head counts or asking if everyone is back on. When they say “we’re going to stop for 10 min” you better be back on in 9 because the bus is going to start moving!

On the bus ride we met two British kids who have been in Tanzania going to an international school for the last three years. They really were enjoying it and said it was a worthwhile experience--in the future we may have to consider sending our kids to school in India to live with Ruby’s family for a year or two. We arrived into Nairobi around 8:30pm, and started looking for a hotel in the area. Unfortunately Dr. Bansil couldn’t meet up tonight so we walked over to a hotel one our friend recommended. It was nice but a little out of our price range so we walked around and decided on Hotel Embassy just around the corner, ate and called it a night.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 13:12 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater: Black Rhinos and Red Ox-Peckers

April 5, 2011

sunny 87 °F

We woke to a beautiful sunrise outside of our panoramic window overlooking the crater. Maybe if we had views like this at home Ruby would let Tony sleep without blackout curtains! :) On our way from the crater rim to the floor we got stopped by some “traditional” Masai boys dressed in crimson blankets, or shuka, peddling their beaded jewelry—not sure how traditional they really are but we bought some anyway! We descended into the crater and saw the largest antelope (the eland), followed by the heaviest flying bird (cory bastard) that we NEVER see flying and then Abdul’s hawk-like vision spotted a total of 16 black rhinos for us (not exactly small mammals). We think the animal kingdom is giving us a hint: Go on a diet! Thankfully none of the rhinos charged at us which they are known to do. By the way, there are only 30 endangered black rhinos in the entire crater.

Did you know that Ruby’s obsessed with baby animals? I think she’s been deleting shots of me on the memory card to fit more shots of baby hippos, wildebeest, and zebras!? We still think we’re animal Viagra because today we saw rhinos and baboons mating. I don’t know if we can post some of the photos because they may be a little too PG-13 for some of our viewers? Tony’s goal today was to see a rhino but Ruby wanted to see something a little more difficult: a red-billed ox-pecker. As a former nurse she wanted to see the little bird that is known as the “nurse of the animal kingdom”, keeping wounds clean and taking care of parasites. Of course, Abdul showed us plenty of these birdies hanging out on zebra backs. Sadly as we drove we saw a newborn elephant lying alone on the side of the road. This is completely uncommon since usually the herd of elephants surrounds the birthing mother until the newborn is able to walk (usually takes about 24 hours) but his little guy was all on his own! Abdul let the park rangers know so they could rescue him.

On our way out we ran into lots of lions and jackals but Ruby’s favorite was a small pride of lions with 2 cubs and the male of the group hanging out nearby! We had a great picnic overlooking a hippo pond watching a baby hippo float around. We then exited the crater and made our way back to Arusha. We couldn’t imagine a better trip or a better guide. If you ever plan on coming on Safari please contact Abdul Mpuruty on his mobile +255 789 295767 or send him an email at: Abdul742000@yahoo.com We can’t thank him enough for our amazing trip and Tony’s unforgettable birthday!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 05:59 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Tanzania:Sunrise over the Serengeti and Sunset at the Crater

April 4, 2011

sunny 85 °F

Today is Tony’s 37th B-day and we got up at 5:30am to celebrate! If you know anything about Ruby you’ll know that to get up this early is true love! We had booked a morning game drive just to watch the animals wake up and the sun rise over the Serengeti. We watched it light up the flat topped acacia trees in hues of orange and red. You can see that Tony still has sleep in his eyes! As we drove slowly on a dirt road we spotted two male lions just waking up, hippos out of the water, crocodiles lounging around a pond, and lots of birds. Just a few of our favorite birds were the African fish eagle, lilac breasted roller, and the red cheeked cordon bleu. We arrived back at the lodge just in time for breakfast. Walking around the lodge is like being in a zoo; there are no fences so animals can come in and out as they please. Most are small animals and as we walked around we saw gorgeous Agama lizards which are purple and pink, tons of rock hyraxes, and even a few pygmy mongooses hanging around by the pool. On our way we stopped to take a tour of the game reserve training center. We got really lucky and watched a weaver bird weaving his nest using his beak to push blades of grass into a ring shape.

It wasn’t too long after that Abdul spotted a leopard in a tree. We don’t know how he sees these things because there aren’t that many of them and the trees are so thick. We watched the leopard climb down the tree and walk across a field . . . we almost lost him because he blended so well with the tall grass but the white tip of his tail gave him away! After a little driving to the other side of the field we watched him climb into another tree. I don’t know how Abdul always knows where to park the truck for the best view but he always does? We then stopped to watch a large pride of lions next to the road.... there were at least 17 lions! They were everywhere including under the cars! The funniest saying of the day was “excuse me sir but there are five lions under your car” :) We watched the lions in the grass and even a few in the trees with their cubs. It’s truly amazing that we could get so close to so many large cats! On the drive back though the Serengeti to Ngorongoro we stopped and watched baby zebras running around. Ruby thought they had been rolling around in the dirt but Abdul told us that their fur is brown during the first year of life. Speaking of rolling around in the dirt . . . we saw some ostriches doing just that. On the drive we saw lots of traditional Masai around their villages made of elephant dung and sticks. We arrived at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge around 5:30pm and felt like we had the entire hotel to ourselves! The panoramic views of the crater floor were amazing . . . especially from our room while enjoying sundowners! We cleaned up and had dinner watching the sun go down over the crater. Today has been an amazing day and a birthday Tony will never forget!

PS: There’s always way more pictures in the photo gallery than we post on our actual blog :)
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Posted by Tony.Ruby 03:32 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania:Serengeti Natl Park:If I See One More Lazy Leopard!

April 3, 2011

sunny 83 °F

At around 8:30am after breakfast we met up with Abdul and were on our way. We passed tons of guinea hens and a few herds of Masai giraffe moving in slow motion against a backdrop of thin, spindly acacia trees and tall grasses around our lodge. The birds in this area are amazing and they were all out singing this morning! Just a few that we spotted were the African Hoopoe bird, Superb Starling, and a little blue and white Kingfisher. As we drive around we would see tons of Baboons walking the roads. Abdul likes to call us “animal Viagra” because just as we pulled up to observe the baboons they would start trying to mate! In the morning we were lucky to see hippos out of the water—don’t get in their way though, they don’t look like they can but they can run 40km/hr+ and are extremely aggressive out of the water!! They are usually only out at night for grazing but we got lucky. As we watched, a large hippo walked across the field and crossed paths with a giraffe which was pretty cool because you don’t see them together that often.

Abdul has eyes like a hawk and spotted a leopard from so far away that we couldn’t even see the tree he was talking about! After a little driving around we got a good view of our first leopard just lounging around in a sausage tree. We then drove down the road a spotted another leopard a little closer to the road. This one was at the bottom of the tree but as we watched he gracefully jumped from one branch to another and ended up at the top of the tree. He perched on a top branch staring right through us and I hope some of these photos show his amazing eyes. Not too far away from that tree was a group of Vervet monkeys, one with a baby so you know Ruby had to stop and take a photo :) We didn’t get the best photo of the Lovebird we saw but its colors are super bright. On our way back for lunch we got to see another family of baboons with their babies walking down the road. After a great lunch exchanging stories with anyone that would listen we headed back out for our afternoon game drive. One of the first things we spotted was a group of striped mongooses/mongeese? poking their heads up in the tall grass digging away at a termite mound.

Our third leopard even closer to the road but this one was in no mood to wake up and say hi. We wanted to see him move around or at least look up to get a good photo but like most cats he’s perfectly happy just lying around all day. We have plans to end our day at the Hippo Pond so we started on our way over and spotted some more animals including another dig dig (the smallest antelope, a little larger than a medium sized dog), a family of warthogs, and another herd of elephants with a cute little baby. Crossing a small stream we also got to see a camouflage crocodile sunning on the rocks. We arrived at the hippo pond and let us tell you that there are literally tons of hippos. There must have been over a hundred swimming around but as you know Ruby’s favorite was a baby hippo and mom, yawning. The males were very aggressive, splashing and making loud noises. After watching for a little over an hour it was time to go back t the lodge. This pond was a great way to end the game drive and it was amazing that we could get so close to these large animals. After finding some ice (so we could make our own drinks) we enjoyed a sundowner on the viewing deck of the hotel. It’s at the highest point of the hotel ad overlooks the Serengeti Plain. We watched giraffes grazing and looked for animals as the sunset turned the sky a gorgeous yellow and red. As we walked to our room we could hear something going on behind the lodge. We talked to a worker and he told us that a lion had killed something and now the hyenas had come to eat. It was hard to see them but you could hear them “laughing” and the bones crunching from our room. . so crazy. We met up with Marie Claude and Jean from Montreal for another awesome dinner.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:23 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania: Serengeti Nat’l Park: Animal Viagra

April 2, 2011

sunny 78 °F

Our guide Abdul arrived with the Land Cruiser punctually to our hotel at 8am and we started our drive to Serengeti National Park. The drive is around 4-5 hours (2 hours on paved roads) with a stop at Ngorongoro Crater for a picnic lunch. On the drive up we talked to Abdul about what animals he has seen, what we’ve seen on the Discovery Chanel, and what we might get to see over the next few days. The drive up the crater was a dirt road that looked more like Ecuador than Africa because there’s actually rainforest habitat on the rim. We arrived at a lookout around noon and it looked like a huge green plain surrounding several lakes. It’s pretty high up but if you looked really close you could see tiny black specks which were herds of zebras and cape buffalo down below. During lunch the ugly maribou storks were begging for meat outside but of course we didn’t feed them. We also caught our first glimpse of some beautiful yellow weavers which are common in the area. On the way to the Serengeti we saw tons of traditional Masai in their colorful outfits herding their cattle. Ruby spotted and called out the name of a secretary bird—I think Abdul was impressed. That bird was hanging around a herd of zebra. The “Great Migration” is currently located in the Southern Serengeti so we saw hundreds of wildebeest in herds all along the plains, sometimes they mixed in with the zebras too. Apparently wildebeests have a great vision while zebras have great sense of smell (or is it the other way around?) so they work together against predators. Along the way we saw tons of baby animals but the saddest was a baby wildebeest that was running in the COMPLETE OPPOSITE direction of its herd. Ruby asked if we could fit a baby wildebeest in the car! Ruby spotted another small thing and it turned out to be a Dig Dig—the smallest antelope, it is adorable! :) The Masai giraffes and shorter and different in color than the ones we saw in Kruger but they were just lazily grazing on trees. We love the super cool pop-up roof of our land cruiser because we can stand and get a better view—plus it provides shade if it’s sunny :) As we entered the Serengeti the landscape changed from green fields like Ireland to savannah. Abdul pointed out a pack of spotted hyenas with a kill.

As we turned the corner onto a dirt road we came across two gorgeous cranes, then we turned another corner and found four cheetah siblings relaxing on top of a hill. They blended so well with the straw colored grass that we could hardly see them! At that point Ruby had to ask Abdul if he had emailed the animals to let them know we were coming and to be waiting for us :) Just when we thought it couldn’t get better Abdul took us to these large rock formations where we saw a female lion vomiting and coughing up a fur ball just like a regular cat. There was a male there too doing nothing about her being sick—we think they may be a mating pair. Speaking of mating--lions prepare by eating lots to gain calories and then mate every 5 min the first day, every 10 min the second day, every 15 min the third, day etc. . for a whole week stopping only to eat. Just down the road from the rocks we came across another mating pair of lions actually doing the deed mere feet from us! At first we felt a little weird watching but WOW! We’ve never seen anything like it—except on the Discovery Channel. He lasts only a few seconds maybe 15? and then they were both laying there relaxing until the female nudged the male and they went at it. The growl and snarl like crazy which is kind of scary but part of the act—we filmed it the first time. We decided to stick around and see if they just started mating because it would just be another 5 or 10 min and sure enough like clockwork they rested and were at it again. This time we guess the female wasn’t “in the mood” because she threw him off of her! Abdul’s the best and super-patient so on the next cycle the male stood up, approached the truck and roared at us. Since males are more aggressive when mating than another other time we decided to take off at that point—which was the polite thing to do anyway :)

As we continued to drive we saw a large herd of elephants including a baby. Of course, there were two young elephants attempting to mate—this is when Abdul gave us the nickname “animal Viagra”. We drove by a large herd of water buffalo and saw a hippo walking around outside of water (which they mainly do only at night). Abdul impressed us again when he pointed out a spotted hyena hiding in the grass at sunset—we never even saw him but Abdul says he saw his ear sticking out of the grass. We made our way during sunset on the muddy and bumpy road until we arrived at our gorgeous lodge (Seronera) built into the rocks smack dab in the middle of the Serengeti. BTW this was the first time we’ve had to sign a disclaimer saying we might get attacked by a wild animal at our hotel! We had a pleasant surprise when we met up with Marie Claude and Jean again! We all enjoyed a great dinner together catching up and comparing notes on animal sightings :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 12:17 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania: Moshi: Dermatology Near an Elusive Mountain

April 1, 2011

semi-overcast 73 °F

We met up with Sheryl, Rebecca, and the girls after their driver Ernest picked us up. This was great because we didn’t have to take a dhala-dhala (mini-bus) or city bus to get to Moshi which is at the base of Kilimanjaro. They dropped us off at the Regional Dermatology Training Center (RDTC) so Ruby could meet with Dr. Grossman. This is the top training center for dermatology in the country and southern Africa with a large albino patient population as well! Needless to say, it’s right up Ruby’s alley. After Ruby’s meeting we took a dhala-dhala back into downtown Moshi. We got in, and then some more people got in, and then even more! It was the usual mandatory sardine seating and after a few stops we counted 27 people in this van that’s nothing more than an old Toyota minivan., We squeezed our way out and decided to grab lunch at The Coffee Shop. We were sitting and looking at our options of what to do when Sheryl, Rebecca, and all the girls walked in. This was crazy because we didn’t tell them when or where we would be for lunch! Once again they invited us to join them—this time to see the Amani Center for Street Children. Kids end up on the street for a variety of reasons—including their mother remarrying and the new man wanted her to disown her old kids. The Amani Center is terrific because they never turn a kid away—as it turns out, the majority of kids are boys because the girls often end up being hired as domestic help. We got a personal tour by one of the social workers (by the way Ruby’s 170cm tall). The work they’re doing in the area is truly wonderful. While Ruby was talking to some of the workers and checking out the medical clinic, Tony was playing soccer with a few of the kids. Man, he is out of shape! :) We got a ride back to our hotel and got all the safari details sorted out for tomorrow. Then we hopped in a cab to meet our friends for one last dinner at Jacaranda. We had a great night talking about everything from school to loving some “Kyle Nut” guy! LOL! We’ll miss them and hope they have an awesome time in Zanzibar. We were hoping to have Sheryl take our “small toddler” aka extra bag with her back to North Carolina but the logistics were too complicated so I guess we’re stuck with our toddler until we get to Jeffy’s ! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 04:44 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Tanzania: Arusha: Safari Hunting

March 31, 2011

semi-overcast 83 °F

We started our safari—which means “The Journey” in Swahili several months ago in the Bay Area and yes we are now starting to get a little travel weary—not enough to stop us from continuing our trip though! :) After breakfast, our first stop was a safari company next door to the hotel, then one across the road, then a few more around town. I think we talked to just about every building with a TOURS sign on the window! This was great because we collected a lot of great info on where to go and what we would see. After a lot of shopping around and talking we decided to go with Sunny Safaris—with no camping! It’s the rainy season and as you all know, Ruby needs hot water daily :) We also stopped to look at some tanzanite (a type of gem that’s mined only in Tanzania). Needless to say, it was a little out of our price range (especially the one Ruby really liked).
Over the last few months of travel some of our clothes have started to fall apart so we dropped a few off to get stitched. While waiting for our clothes to get finished we noticed that there are a lot of used shoes on the side of the road around town. We later found out (from Sheryl) that most of them are left by people that come to hike or go on safari and abandon them at the hotel. We got a recommendation for an outdoor BBQ chicken spot just down the road and after a little walking we found Khan’s Car Parts/Chicken (an auto parts store by day and a chicken restaurant by night). LOL—only in Tanzania. We met some new friends from North Carolina and started swapping stories. Sheryl aka “Buske” lived in Tanzania for years and gave us the inside scoop. Sheryl and Rebecca are teachers with four students from their law school—they generously offered us a ride to Moshi with them (1 ½ hrs away) in the morning. Back at the hotel Ruby finally broke down and gave herself a home pedicure. She’s missing the days in Southeast Asia when you could get a great mani/pedi for around $5 US!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 08:30 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Tanzania: Arusha: You smell like a Fairy . . . Boat!

March 30, 2011

sunny 83 °F

We’ve been traveling for a long time now so taking a ferry boat all night was no big deal. The ride from Zanzibar to Dar is only 4 hours but the boat can’t dock until 6am. We don’t know why this is but it’s cheaper than the day ferry and we saved on a hotel. If you plan on doing this please remember to book the VIP area so you have more room and A/C. Tony was saying that the lower area (not VIP) looked like a shoebox with too many army men spilled inside. We actually had a great nights sleep even with Ruby lying across a row of seats and Tony on a thin plastic mat on the floor. Quickly we made our way to a local “dhala dhala” to take us to the bus station in Dar. Ruby was looking for an air-conditioned bus to Arusha and some of the touts were saying “there’s no such thing as an A/C bus to Arusha”--probably because they wanted us to book with them but Ruby kept looking until she found Dar Express. We quickly bought our tickets ($20 usd) and were on our way at 7:30am. We had the seats furthest in the back and little did we know that the bus would be hurtling down the road out of control slowing only for speed bumps on the front tires! WOW, in Tanzania, be sure to sit in middle of bus--- you may not die in a head on collision and will avoid being thrown around over bumpy roads. Of course, Ruby’s bladder started to act up after about two hours and she asked for a bathroom stop. When the bus stops, the guy asks “washroom?” Ruby says yes, and he points to the side of road behind some bushes . . . LOL. This is when we learned that you must drink sparingly and tinkle fast! We did our fair share of staring out of a window as we made the long and arduous drive to Arusha (11 hours due to some bus malfunction). We did get glimpses of Tanzanian villages but didn’t have time to explore them. We also met Marie Claude and Jean from Montreal. Marie Claude is also on her own around the world trip and gave us some tips for Jordan if we decide to go. She had pre-booked a safari trip so we compared notes on that as well. As we approached Moshi we did catch a quick glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking out from behind the clouds. Mt. Meru was easy to see on our way to Arusha. We booked a room at the Golden Rose for $25/night and were in love with the hot water and Discovery channel :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 07:12 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania: Zanzibar: Scuba Did

March 29, 2011

all seasons in one day 85 °F

We got up, checked out of our hotel and started our dive north. We had been a little concerned about navigating the windy roads but they really weren’t that bad and we couldn’t get lost because it’s an island! We only stopped to get a coke and it took a little over an hour to arrive at Kendwa Beach. After a little shopping around we decided to do one dive with Scuba Do. We split up and Tony was shopping for a dive trip while Ruby was looking at snorkeling trips. Ruby talked to a guy on the beach about a trip but told him “let me talk to Tony”. We decided to do a one day dive trip to a small island with Scuba Do Diving. Walking around the beach we heard a yell from the bar. When we looked over, the Germans Hans and Jonas were sitting having a drink. It didn’t take much for them to talk us into having a drink with them. As we sat with them the guy that Ruby was talking to came over asking about the snorkel trip. LOL the guy wanted money for talking to her about snorkel trips---yeah right, give us a break! We chilled at the beach and went for a dip before our 2pm dive trip. It did rain for about an hour so we were a little worried about the visibility of our dive but it wasn't an issue. We geared up and hopped on a zodiac boat going out to a divesite called Mwana Mwana (baby of the baby in Swahili) just off of another island called Mwana. The divesite was unexpectedly phenomenal! Originally we were worried because the visibility wasn’t that great—maybe 10 meters? However, once we got down deeper the visibility got closer to 20meters! The soft corals were so beautiful—a mixture of pinks, tans, violets and greens. We saw lots of cool critters down there including a yellow leaf fish, a pink rock fish, and a green sea turtle that swam right by us. After a long day of diving and driving we arrived back to Stone Town and returned the rental car. We booked a night ferry and grabbed a brown bag of chicken at our new favorite restaurant Healtho’s. The boat was busy but lucky for us we booked the VIP section and got in early enough to grab 3 connected seats and a mat to sleep on. After we finished making everyone on the boat jealous with our delicious chicken dinner we settled into our mat and chairs. Not as romantic as the last boat we slept on but we’re on a budget and it saves on a hotel.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:53 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania: Zanzibar: Update Day Online—FOODIE ALERT

March 28, 2011

sunny 93 °F

When you’re on the road for as long as we are and you have the opportunity to use FREE internet that actually works you sit down, order a coffee, and stop the sightseeing. We had a great dinner last night at Healtho’s Restaurant so Tony decided to grab some chicken and bring it over to the coffee shop for lunch and it was sooo good today that we have to give Healtho’s Restaurant in Zanzibar a FOODIE Alert! After the amazing lunch and a few hours on the internet Tony managed to pry Ruby away from the cafe kicking and screaming. So you can blame Tony for the blog being a few more days off! We walked around aimlessly exploring the mixed architecture of Stone Town—some Indian, Islamic and Asian influences can easily be seen. We had talked to a few people about diving in Zanzibar and everyone was saying the north side was the place to go. The cheapest way was the local bus but we didn’t exactly know how to do that so we rented a car after some bargaining with a local (it may have been his car but it worked). After a quick stop at the gas station we were stopped by the local police and told we need an international driver’s license. The guy who rented the car to us told us that he could get us a permit but we would have to “go with his friend to get it”. After about 30 min of driving around dirt roads though the city we arrived at a random house and he told us he would be back. We sat around talking to the kids until he came back with a signed piece of paper that looked legit, but who knows if it was? The streets in Zanzibar are crazy; they zig and zag with no real signs to say what you’re on or what direction you’re going! We got a little lost but did make it back to Stone Town just as the sun was going down. We had dinner at a great Chinese food restaurant called Pagoda with some of the freshest ginger and chili crab ever. We went back to our hotel, packed our bags and prepped for the drive north tomorrow.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:41 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tanzania:Zanzibar:Spice Tour & Attack of the Killer Coconut!

March 27, 2011

sunny 92 °F

Little Miss Sunshine was up bright and early today—while Tony hid under the covers. Tony was still sleeping until Ruby woke him up saying “get up, our bus is waiting” for the spice tour! (We’ll try to use that as an excuse for the appearance of his hair!) We ran out the door and joined the others. The spice tour is a MUST in Zanzibar and we were really excited to do this with a local company. The tour is run by Mr. Mitu and it was amazing (barring the fact that Ruby got hit by a killer coconut we’ll explain later). We drove north of Stone Town through the jungle until we arrived at a rickety old sign saying ‘spice tour this way”. All we can say is WOW! Our guide Fuad was amazing and gave us the full rundown on spices and fruits grown on the island. In addition we actually got to see them growing in nature, smell them, touch them and best of all taste them! We got to see everything from turmeric (a root), cocoa plant, vanilla beans (which grow on vines), and lemongrass (which actually is a grass). Tony HATED the jackfruit—it’s kind of like pineapple combined with durian fruit (Hong and Tony need to try it). Near the end, one of the guys climbed up a tall coconut tree and threw us down each a coconut so that we could have the juice and meat---everything was great until a football sized one bounced off a tree stump and came hurtling through the air at Ruby’s face! Luckily she’s got reflexes like a cat and put her hand up in front of her face just in time! :) Then they took us to a little hut where we all shared a delicious lunch of vegetable curry, pilau and spinach while sitting on the floor on traditional Tanzanian palm mats. If that wasn’t enough, they took us to Mangapani Beach on the northwest side of island—there were gorgeous cliffs, caves, and turquoise water—pure paradise as far as we were concerned. The only downside is that in our haste in the morning we forgot to bring bathing suits! :( When we finally got home late in the afternoon we were ready to relax in the air-conditioned room (did we mention how HOT Zanzibar is)!!! We talked to a local and he told us that one of the best places to eat is a small chicken stand just across the road from our hotel called Healtho’s. Let us tell you that this guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to chicken! That was some of the best chicken and chips EVER. It was served with a spicy sauce and mango chutney YUM! We will definitely be coming back tomorrow.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:35 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Tanzania: Quick! Follow Those Touts to Zanzibar!

March 26, 2011

sunny 95 °F

Well, we finally arrived into Tanzania and wouldn’t you know it? The credit card machine is “not working”. They told us that we could use one of the two ATMs in the airport but they were both out of service too! This was our welcome to the real Africa! Funny thing about the credit card machine. . . when we came back without cash it started working? :) We walked out and grabbed a cab going to our hotel in Dar. After a short and very hot nap (no A/C room) we walked out and said “wait, are we back in India”? It’s a little confusing because of the crazy conversion rate USD vs. Tanzanian Shillings (1,500 = $1) but you do feel really cool taking out 150,000 from an ATM. We decided not to hangout in Dar and just take the ferry over to Zanzibar today ($25 each). It was a little hard to get motivated but we took a cab over to the docks and got totally bombarded by touts, ticket agents, and a few dozen other people we didn’t understand! We once again felt like newbie travelers as we chased the guys who grabbed our bags and carried them onto the ferry (for a hefty tip of course). They then told us that “they” moved us into the VIP section and that is an upgrade requiring another tip---all we had to do was show them the VIP printed on our tickets and they left us alone :) After about 3 hours the water started a beautiful turquoise color as we approached Stone Town on the west side of Zanzibar. When the boat stopped we started our way to the door but what we didn’t know is that the ferry exit is only one 3 foot doorway with all 2000 people trying their hardest to be the next ones out! They also take fridges, TVs, and farm animals out this same door and let’s just say that some Tanzanians aren’t as hygienic as we are! The touts and ticket agents at the dock in Zanzibar weren’t much better than in Dar but this time we had a plan. We walked up the road (trying our best to ignore everyone around) and into a hotel we found in a Jonas and Hans’s travel book on the ferry. Stone Town’s markets spin with bicycles and brilliant colors. Our noses were teased with cardamom, wreathes of cloves, star anise, and fresh coriander and then assaulted by the salty stink of the fish market nearby. Narrow winding alleys lead to mosques and chic shops in between elaborate doorways. We met up again with the two crazy Germans from the ferry at Livingstone, a beachside bar for some drinks on at sunset. It was a great way to forget all the crazy stuff that happened today. We had a few drinks and watched kids doing acrobatics and jumping into the water until dark. We decided to try the food at the Forodhani night market, the lobster was pretty good. . the corn was not! It was maize and was like what we feed the cattle in the U.S.!? The four of us walked over to Mercury’s (named after Freddy Mercury who was born in Zanzibar) for a live band, drinks and the electric slide ‘til late! :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:01 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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