By Land, Air, and Sea (Part Three)

Ah, the sea. What a mysterious, beautiful, and terrifying place. I love boat travel and we try to do it as much as is convenient. Going between Zanzibar and Pemba, we had a choice between a quick flight or a slightly less quick boat trip. As I’m already feeling immense guilt about our carbon footprint, I insisted on taking the boat, thinking it would still be a very pleasant way to travel.

I’ve never been more wrong.

The boat must’ve been my own personal version of hell. It was late, and ok, hakuna matata, that’s fine, whatever, *big deep breath* I can deal with that. There was some confusion over what line we should be in. That was cleared up. We were some of the last ones on, and ok, that’s fine too. When we finally boarded, there were already people all over the aisles, in every other seat, and no two seats were empty next to each other. All right… I can live without him for two hours – no problem.

So I sit to another large stinky man. (Is this a recurring theme, or what?) There are two empty seats, but one is being reserved for his wife, who’s sitting in the aisle of the boat. I later learn this is to help prevent seasickness. I’m sorry to say this little trick doesn’t seem to work.

As we bounced over the gigantic waves, I’ll have to admit it wasn’t what I’d envisioned for my boat trip. I was pretty uncomfortable, but then I wasn’t the only one. At one point I realized that nearly every single person on the boat is vomiting! I wondered if Michael was (turns out he wasn’t). Then I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me – everyone else is puking, maybe I should puke too? I considered it. But I still didn’t feel nauseous.

This wasn’t all. Between the separation, the hoardes of people, and the vomiting, believe me, that wasn’t all. Of all the entertainment in all the world they could be blasting over the television, what is it you think they chose?

If you guessed American professional wrestling, you’ve just won yourself a free boat trip. WWF was turned up full blast on the TVs.  Unbelievable.

After two hours of kicking myself, the man beside me practically knocked me down to get off the boat, and the real chaos ensued. “Please exit the boat in an orderly fashion!” was never announced, so everyone was quite literally pushing, shoving, yelling, and desperately trying to get off the boat. People were even getting on for the next trip before we’d gotten off! I felt claustrophobic and it was then that I really wanted to vomit. Finally, I pushed my way to the daylight of outside, found Michael, and walked as fast as I could off the dock. *whew* We made it. And I crossed my fingers that this would be the last boat trip we have planned for a long, long time.

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By Land, Air, and Sea (Part Two)

Michael has been saying for some time how cool it would be to fly a plane. Well he got about as close to it as possible, as he practically sat on the pilot’s lap on our way from Pemba to the mainland! The plane had seating for 12, and we were the last two to board. It’s one of those planes where they have to take care to balance the weight, and there were two seats left: one in the front, one in the back. As luck would have it, Michael got the front seat! I was not quite so lucky, as I got the seat in the back next to the big stinky guy. Oh well.

The flight was about 20 minutes long, and definitely scary. I can’t imagine how Michael felt, sitting there in the cockpit! Thankfully, we landed safely in Tanga and without difficulty. One thing I noticed, though, is that this isn’t even a proper airport, it’s an “airstrip”!

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By Land, Air, and Sea (Part One)

If getting there is half the fun, getting there in Africa is twice the fun. Whether by land, air, or sea, we have had our share of travel adventures lately, just getting from place to place.

We find ourselves on mainland Tanzania, the only mzungas in an otherwise all-Tanzanian town of about 12,000. Like in our other African adventures so far, little kids either run screaming to us or away from us pretty much everywhere we go. One baby on the dalla-dalla took one look at Michael and burst into tears. We think it was because of his sunglasses…

“What’s a dalla-dalla?” you might be wondering. As far as I can tell, it’s Tanzania’s answer to Thailand’s songthaew, the trucks with benches across the back that function as busses in and around the towns. One major difference is that there are far fewer of them here, and as if to compensate, they pack them with twice as many people. Of our many rides in these beasts of automobiles, one particular journey stands out. It was to and from the beach “resort” (and I use that word loosely) of Veroni, in Pemba, which is an island off Africa’s east coast, just north of Zanzibar. It was around a $70 cab ride, or about a dollar each to take the two-hour trip. You can probably guess which option we would go for. With the help of one of the locals, we flagged down a dalla-dalla and loaded our gear. Michael gave him a little tip, but for some reason he hopped on with us. Ok, we figured, maybe he’s going north, too.

Sorry, I still haven’t explained what a dalla-dalla is. It’s a pick-up like I said earlier, with the benches up and down the bed, but with a covered top used for storage, and stuffed with as many humans and animals as possible. In one of the extended-bed ones, we counted upwards of 40 people on one ride! There were several in the cab, about six hanging off the back and on top, and a tangle of 30 pairs of Tanzanian arms and legs (plus two sets of American ones). There may or may not have been chickens on this ride… There probably were at one point or another. On the top you’ll find anything else imaginable: stalks of sugar cane, bundles of sticks, bicycles, baskets, bags of potatoes, flour, rice, and so on.

There was a big detour across a dirt road on the way, where I was pretty sure we were going to tip over on several occasions. Happily, we didn’t. But a little further down the road, we did end up with a flat tire, which didn’t come as a surprise. What did come as a surprise was how they go about changing a tire, as rather than using a jack, a bunch of guys just tip the truck over and they fit the new tire on that way. Hey, works for us.

Upon arriving at Conde, where we were to catch a taxi to Veroni, Michael paid 5,000 Tanzanian Shillings (TSH) and waited for the 1,000 TSH in change, which never came. He asked the driver, who denied any wrongdoing. Actually, we were being overcharged at 2,000 TSH each but were letting it slide. The extra 1,000 TSH was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

There was a bit of a confrontation, and pretty soon everyone was staring at the mzunga who is using a loud voice and lots of hand gestures. Michael got his money, thankfully, and we also got a taxi. Once we were safely loaded in the taxi, the man who helped us at first motioned to open the window. He said to us, “Give me 2,000.” Michael and I kind of blinked at each other, not sure if we’d heard him correctly. We asked him to repeat himself, and he did. We’d heard right – he wanted money from us. Michael said “2,000?! For what? I already gave you money for your help earlier!” Apparently this man was planning to follow us around all day and “help” us, only to demand payment for services we handled just fine on our own, thankyouverymuch. The man left after we’d convinced him that we’d never agreed to that, and he hadn’t actually done anything that merited payment. The other guy in the cab got a huge kick out of this interaction, and so did the people at our guesthouse. Actually, they’d heard about the incident in Conde before we’d told them about it! I guess word travels fast on the island.

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Update on Our Whereabouts

We’ve found our way through two islands of Tanzania, Zanzibar and Pemba, and now we’re getting settled on the mainland. Our current location is Lushoto, which is breathtakingly gorgeous and we deemed it worthy of changing our plans and sticking around for a few days.

The internet here isn’t as fast as we’d like… Or even available in most places, for that matter. So we do apologize for our lack of postings for the last few weeks. The good news is we’re having a wonderful time here and the last month of our trip is flying by. I’ve scheduled a few posts to go out over the next few days, but no pictures yet as it seems we’re running on Windows 3.0. I think we might get into a mean game of Pong later, but pictures will have to wait.

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Before we left for this big adventure, my friends asked me a lot of really good questions that I suspect others wanted to ask, but held back. For instance: 1) How will you wash your clothes? 2) Where will you stay? 3) How will you know where to go? 4) Are you going to wear makeup? 5) What are you packing/Will you take anything dressy?

The answers, respectively, are:

1) Washing clothes: Laundry services are widely available here in Southeast Asia. Even though I have a freakish affinity for doing laundry, (it’s so easy and yet so rewarding… I just loathe putting it away!) I’m going to miss this when I get home. They charge by the kilogram, and it usually amounts to about $5 for our weeks’ worth. Admittedly, they’re not always *that* clean… but they are cleaner.

2) Lodging: We try to look into lodging options a few nights before we get to a place, either in our guidebook, on various travel Web sites, or from recommendations from other travelers. Sometimes, though, we drop the ball and end up walking around town aimlessly with our packs. This is not desirable, but we’ve had plenty of good luck on our side in that we’ve not had to sleep on any park benches. According to my none-too-meticulous records, we’ve now stayed at about 25 different guesthouses and/or hotels, usually pretty centrally located and costing between $5 (with the toilet-dwelling lizard discount) and $20.  Usually it’s around $10 or $12 and sometimes includes breakfast.

Laundry by the kilogram

3) Knowing where to go: We often don’t know where to go, but luckily Michael is a walking Rand McNally when it comes to getting around a city. We’d spend much more time lost if it were all up to me, as I usually get lost trying to find my way out of the guesthouse. Familiarizing ourselves with travel to, from, and within cities before we arrive is helpful and often necessary. We still manage to get ripped off on transportation costs in every country, though! When will we ever learn?

Michael memorizes another map

4) Makeup: The climate here is not at all conducive to wearing makeup. I certainly could wear it, and many women do, but my profuse sweating would render it pretty useless. Mascara is the best I can do, and that’s not happening very often. Sunscreen and deodorant are my new grooming routine. My sister-in-law, Tiffany, gave me a tiny tube of perfume to take and warned me that I might miss smelling good. Tiff, you were so right!

5) What did you pack: We each packed as little as possible – a few tee shirts, a pair of shorts, couple pairs of pants, tennis shoes and two pairs of sandals (now I’m down to one), and a couple cotton dresses (mine, not Michael’s. Although he’d be cute in the red one).  Then the basic first-aid and medications, toiletries, pillowcases, travel towels, books, iPod, sudoku, deck of cards, etc. We were advised by both Tiffany and Michael’s sister Suzanne to avoid packing anything we didn’t want lost, stolen, or ruined; therefore, we packed no dressy clothes. And on this budget, why would we need them?

This passes for dressed up at a museum, but I'm still wearing flip flops!

The questions we’re getting now from people back home are: 1) Where are you now? 2) What’s a typical day like? 3) When are you coming home?

1) As I wrote this we were in Hue, a city in central Vietnam. Hue is one of my favorites so far! It’s smallish and walkable, but has some interesting sites and great food. Unfortunately, many of Hue’s monuments were destroyed during (what they call) the American War (of course we know it as the Vietnam War), but many structures remain and its complex has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. They’re currently wrapping up the Hue Festival 2010, a biennial celebration which has provided us some interesting cultural opportunities.  Next, we’re taking a bus to Hanoi for a week. By the time we publish this blog, if all goes well we’ll be in Tanzania.

View of Hue

2) Typical day: The sun rises unreasonably early here, so the day starts around 6:00 am. If our guesthouse serves breakfast we’ll enjoy it for free, but often they don’t. Breakfast is usually an omelet or boiled eggs, baguette, croissant, fruit, tea/coffee, or some combination therein. We’ll then meander or bike to sites of interest, take it all in, complain about how hot we are, wonder how two people can sweat so much for so long, then finally get tired and hungry enough for lunch. Lunch tends to be a bowl of noodles, soup, maybe noodle soup, rice which is ubiquitous, and tiny quantities of meat.  I’ve found delicious vegetable soup here, and we try to round out my meal with a fresh or fried spring roll. Occasionally we’ll enjoy the fact that we can drink beer at lunch here and will do just that.

In the afternoons, I prefer to relax for an hour and read/journal/blog/do something other than walk around, but this isn’t really Michael’s style. So we do often slow down a little in the afternoons, but not much. We’ll seek shade or maybe peruse a museum, art gallery, or different part of the city, all the while planning which direction we should point ourselves for dinner. Then the search for food is back on, followed by the considerably cooler after-dark city exploration. Sometimes we’ll catch a musical performance if we’re lucky, occasionally we have played cards, and evening is often when we call our families back home. Then we start thinking about what we can explore the next day…. and repeat. And repeat, and repeat. And repeat again.

Love the outdoor markets!

3) When will you be home: We’ll be home around the first week of August, when we’ll be visiting with Michael’s family. I go back to my job August 16th, andMichael starts law school on the 18th at WVU. He’ll be living in Morgantown, and I’ll be figuring out how to split my time between there and Charleston. We’re currently looking for housing options if anyone has any suggestions/rooms to rent/houses for sale or give away.

Any other questions? Please ask via your comments on this site, or feel free to e-mail either of us. We love hearing from our friends and families back home, so don’t hold back!

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