Archives for the month of: November, 2016

We flew on the 20th November 2016 to Cochin from Dubai and travelled the 1hr and 15minutes from the airport past the city of Cochin to Fort Kochi where we stayed at ‘Aroma Homestay’ a lovely house opposite St Anthony’s chapel which was a good landmark for the auto rickshaw drivers. Elizabeth (luckily her name wasn’t Mary) and Joseph were wonderful hosts and looked after us extemely well. We both got a nasty virus and I felt like a zombie for three days just getting out of bed for a bite to eat and retreating back to bed. I had a bad cough and our hosts treated me like family bringing me cups of honey, lemon and ginger tea
and grandmother’s remedy of chewing peppercorns with salt. It must have worked because on the fourth day I felt more like myself and less
like a zombie and we could venture out into Fort Kochi on foot.

It was an another of the colonial outposts first being taken over by the Dutch, then English and then the Portuguese. It has retained some of the Portuguese influence in their cooking but only a very few pieces of the original Portuguese fort remains in the basement of a small museum. Some of the old colonial buildings have been restored and some left to rot. There is an old Dutch cemetery which is locked and the old Governor’s house which is rather grand is now the Bishop’s house.

There are some handicraft and souvenir shops mainly run by Kashmiris and a couple of good boutiques like Fab India and Anokhi and many good small restaurants and a couple of cafes. There is a long concrete walkway running along the seashore where we could watch the fishermen lower and raise the old chinese fishing nets. There were many stalls selling souvenirs of all kinds along the way and plenty of fresh fish and seafood to chose from which could then be cooked for you while you waited.

We were surprised to find prices for rickshaws and meals much cheaper here in Ft Kochi than in Pondicherry with it’s large expat community in the French Heritage side of town. The fish in this area was also very fresh and very good with spices and lots of fresh coconut milk.

Our old friend Rohit Kumar whom we hadn’t seen for four years since the Ayurveda yoga villa where he was a yoga master came to visit us as he lived only a few minutes away so it was nice to catch up and share some meals later with him. A favourite was ‘Dal Roti’ a north Indian restaurant close to us.

Coincidentally we had a man from Perth with us at the homestay who was revisiting the place he lived when he was seven years old. Quite a trip down memory lane for him. There was also Alban a lovely French guy who was cabin crew for Emirates based in Dubai. We got on very well with him and had dinner at a local place where another Frenchman he met the previous day joined us. He showed us some magic tricks which he had been doing for 20years – he was very good. I think I was about ten years old the last time I saw a magic trick. The staff all thought it was fascinating too.

There are not too many attractions in Fort Cochin so we decided to see the other things that we had found online. One was the ginger warehouse where three poor women in a non ventilated room were covered in dust sorting the ginger and removing the sand in a room filled with ginger and waiting to be sorted and countless sacks of ginger ready for transporting all over India.
The other was an old palace (which didn’t really look like a palace) which had lost it’s tiled awnings years ago. It housed some interesting murals, many ornate palanquins and beautiful large paintings of all the previous inhabitants of the palace. There were workmen making some improvements to the building which was in great need of attention on the outside. The ornate wooden ceilings were impressive but no pictures were allowed. I managed to get one of the murals from a distance.

We ate twice at the north Indian ‘Dal Roti’ which served more varied dishes than the mostly coconut based curries and dishes of South India.
On the 25th November we caught a taxi from the homestay to Cochin airport and flew to Bangalore for the night. The flight from Cochin to Bangalore was only 45minutes but we were an hour late and our pick up was nowhere to be seen. Seems to be a common occurrence for us. After a couple of phone calls he arrived and as we had most of the day ahead of us we headed off to the city for a look around.
The former Sultan’s Palace was a very Tudor/Victorian affair and very ornate. A very elaborate and obviously expensive wedding was about to take place and there were extensive displays of orchids and all kids of other flowers. The groom in his gold suit and turban was already on the dais with his entourage. There were extensive displays of orchids and various other flowers to decorate the whole ground floor area. We drove on to the Indira Gandhi musical fountain park which was a peaceful, leafy place with many military vehicles, rockets and aircraft dotted about however the fountain was not in operation and we were told only operated at 7.30 and 8.30pm every day.
In every park there were ‘Trumpet’ trees with beautiful clusters of pink flowers. We drove through the interesting market stalls of Commercial road and by the enormous and interesting building of Russell market to the Lal Bagh Botanical gardens. A small temple on top of a gigantic granite rock on one side overlooked the city and the surrounding gardens. A staircase had been carved out of the rock half way up to the top.
A golf cart tour of the park for $2 took us around the large park complete with bandstand and it’s replica English Crystal Palace greenhouse built around the turn of the century.
Our driver then took us to the large ‘Mantri Mall’ and then in peak hour traffic to ‘A2B’,one of a good local restaurant chain serving good dosa and other Indian foods and sweets and then to our handy’Orange Suites’ hotel ten minutes from the airport. The hotel dropped us at the airport the next morning where we caught the volvo ‘Flybus’ to Mysore. We had taken this before and it is a very efficient four hour trip in airconditioned comfort with reclining seats.

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We were unlucky there with the weather as it was raining, a bit cold and very windy when we arrived at ‘Sea Breeze’ guesthouse in Plettenberg but it was nice to hear the waves crashing onto the rocks at night as the beach was so close. Plettenberg is a seaside town with many holiday houses high up on the hills and all along the coast and by the estuary which comes right into town.
Our guesthouse host recommended some restaurants so one night we tried a Lebanese place called ‘Off the Hook’ that served excellent portuguese type food. One day we explored the town and then went out to ‘Old Nicks’ specialty shops with it’s beautiful array of woven, good quality African goods and a number of boutiques. The weather had not improved so we kept indoors after a brief and cold walk down to the beach.
We had more nice fresh fish at ‘The Lookout Deck’ restaurant overlooking Plettenberg Bay. It was unfortunately not a balmy evening so we sat inside and enjoyed more fresh seafood. While there we tried the South African ‘roosterkoek’ or griddle bread and the ‘koeksister’ a syrupy type of donut. The bread was very dense but tasty.

It was spitting rain but we decided to go to ‘Birds of Eden’ a wonderful bird sanctuary. An enormous area of forest from a hill down to a deep valley was covered with netting which made a vast free flight area for a great variety of birds. The birds could fly long distances and get lost in the forest.
Not far away was Bramon winery, a lovely spot where we stopped for a delicious light tapas lunch. We ate dinner at ‘Fat Fish’ where the fresh fish was again delicious.
The quality of food in South Africa was excellent and the prices extremely reasonable.

On the 13th November we moved on to Bishop’s Cove on top of a cliff in the Tsitsikamma area. It was a beautiful part of South Africa. We stayed in one of only three cottages on the headland overlooking the forest on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. It was about 12kms to the closest shop. There was a very strong wind blowing but we sat and watched the waves crashing on the rocks far below. Joe (Cocker) the caretaker’s very intelligent spaniel greeted us and followed us as we walked up to a viewing point to watch the sunset. He is an amazing dog – he sat like a sentinel looking out to sea and watched the sunset with us. The waves were enormous. It reminded me of an avalanche. It poured with rain the first night and we could hear the waves all night. The weather didn’t improve for the couple of days we were there but the sun was shining brightly the morning when we left for the 2hour drive to Port Elizabeth for our flight back to Johannesburg.

Michelle picked us up and we had a nice Portuguese meal at a restaurant in Boxburgh that night. Trevor dropped us the next morning on the 16th November at the airport for our flight back to Dubai.

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Our guesthouse in Franschoek the ‘Maison D’Ail’ was beautiful – only five years old with every attention to detail possible. The pool looked inviting but there was always a cool to cold wind blowing in the shade. Our room looked over the Franschoek mountains directly behind us.
We walked into town only a kilometre away the next morning and had a good look around the wine town with a myriad of souvenir, diamond and homewares shops as well as countless restaurants and cafes. We walked back to the guesthouse, had half an hour’s break and then headed out to do some wine tasting (well me anyway) at four different wineries. The whole area reminded us of Margaret River in the south west of W.A complete with many gum trees. I tried various wines at ‘Holden Manz’ La Petite Dauphine’ ‘Grande Provence’ and ‘Mont Rochelle’. Our favourite place with the friendliest staff was La Petite Dauphine. The staff at the other properties were OK but their spiel on the wines was very rehearsed and you knew they had said it countless times. We ate dinner at ‘Allora’ Italian restaurant in Franschoek. There were a few more South Africans working in this area and not as many Zimbabweans.

There was also a lot more Africaans spoken there and many of the guesthouses and businesses had French names which dated back to the Hugenots who settled the area many moons ago. The most widely spoken language in South Africa is Zulu.

After two days in Franschoek we took all day to drive via Hermanus (a whale watching area, however there were few whales to be seen this year) and Swellendam with it’s Cape Dutch style houses to Wilderness an area with a small village near an estuary and across the road from the ocean. From Franschoek it was a beautiful drive through rolling hills of grain crops for about at least a hundred kilometres. The grain and hay was being harvested and stored outside and in enormous silos. We stopped at the ‘Stone House’ cheese factory and bought some of their tasty cheeses, all of which we could taste.
We arrived about 8hours later at ‘Moontide’ bungalows some their thatch roofs overlooking the estuary at ‘Wilderness’. The owner and staff at ‘Moontide’ were a friendly and helpful bunch of people. Their three husky cross dogs were very placid and did not bother anyone.

The roads from Capetown and along the garden route were excellent and drivers were very polite, flashing their lights when you let them pass. The only radio stations we could get in the area were all in Africans with Africans and English music. There were a few African shanty towns on the way and more substantial local housing.
All along the coast were very large houses. We had more delicious fresh fish and calamari at ‘Salinas’ a huge two storey seafood restaurant right on the beach.
Maurice stayed with the car while I went to take some photos of the coastline a there was no car-guard around and when I got to the end of the pathway I found the sign saying ‘Be aware – high mugging area’ so I promptly walked back to the car along the road. We are careful everywhere we go in the world and for us South Africa was no more dangerous than anywhere else. We just had to keep to the main roads and keep some change to give to the unofficial car minders with their fluorescent jackets.

We went back about 20kms to Mossel Bay but it wasn’t a very interesting place apart from the lighthouse with an enormous rock cave below it and lots of Rock ‘Dassies’or Hyrax who scampered quickly up and down the rocks. We left there and went back to Wilderness and drove up the mountain to a viewing point called ‘Map of Africa’ and looking down the landscape with the river flowing around it did look like the map of Africa.
We drove also to Dolphin point but did not see any dolphins. There were many surfers at ‘Victoria Bay’ where we could walk along a boardwalk.
After a couple of days in Wilderness we drove to Knysna where both Maurice and I did some clothes shopping. There was a large mall with a great variety of clothing shops, most very reasonably priced. Every town in the world now seems to have the cheap Chinese shop whether it be in a village in Italy or in South Africa. They sell a bit of everything and all cheaply priced items.
We had to share an enormous piece of Lemon meringue pie. They have the highest meringue toppings on the cakes here in South Africa.

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It was unusually hot for Capetown with brilliant sunshine the day we arrived on the 2nd November. Our guesthouse ‘Radium Hall’ in Tamboerskloof was in a wonderful location overlooking Table mountain and the city. We walked down the steps into a vibrant restaurant strip and had a good Italian meal at ‘Mitico’ before getting back and admiring the lights of the city.
In Jo’burg and in Capetown there are electric fences around most of the properties or bars on all the windows of the houses and apartments. People are very vigilant and there is an underlying tension because of all the crime in the country. Very sad for such a beautiful and a country with so much potential.
A lot of the population want Zuma out of the presidency and there was a large protest in Jo’burg the day we flew to Capetown.

The cloud had rolled over Table mountain so instead of going up the mountain we walked down the road and after coffee at a quaint German Bakery/cafe we bought ‘my city’ bus tickets which could be topped up and we went into town. The buses were frequent and medium sized and offered a great intercity service. There were train personnel at the modern depot in the city and it was very secure. There were many street stalls selling fruit and vegetables and all sorts of goods in the large mall as well as many modern cafes.
We walked half an hour from the centre of the city to the V and A (Victoria and Alfred) Waterfront which was an enormous area in and around the harbour which was developed twenty years ago and was full of shops, restaurants and cafes as well as many apartments and a dry dock refurbishing Japanese fishing vessels. The boats to Robben Island
also left from there.

We had a good walk around and ate the most amazing sushi and prawn dishes at ‘Willoughbys’ an iconic institution that Michelle had recommended. It was an enormous restaurant both inside a large shop and into the arcade and it was packed. The value was incredible. I had the ‘Rock Shrimp Tempura’ a signature dish which was 14large prawns and a salad for ZAR13.50 about $13 which was absolutely delicious. There were scores of chefs preparing fresh sushi which was also very good. The food here in South Africa is very fresh and so cheap compared to the prices in Western Australia, especially the seafood.

We made our way back changing buses in the city and went back to our guesthouse on the hill opposite Table mountain.
There was so much to see in Capetown so we took hop on hop off – red,blue and yellow lines firstly doing the trip around to Hout Bay stopping at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens which were located in a wonderful setting overlooking the back of table mountain. It was classed as one of the ten best in world. From there we went through to
Hout Bay where we got off and saw a beautiful seal in the bay and a sand artist who had nearly completed a rhinoceros and lion’s head.
We took a taxi around the bay and had the best calamari at Chapman’s Peak hotel which was another good tip from our friend. After another reasonable lunch we took a taxi back to the hop on point and the bus took us along the beautiful coastline with the mountains on one side and houses and apartments close to the shore. At the depot
for the hop on hop off bus we took the yellow line which ran around the city and to District 6, an area of open wasteland which was bulldozed during Apartheid because it was a multi racial suburb.

We decided to go up table mountain as we had bought tickets for an afternoon departure online which were valid for a week but when we got there they told us that it was very cold at the top and as we didn’t have our jackets we put it off for another day and caught the free shuttle to a point further down and then a bus to near where we were staying. The weather could change in the matter of half an hour with the clouds and wind coming up out of the blue. We were very lucky overall with nice hot weather but with a cold breeze.

All the service people we met in taxis and wait staff were Zimbabwean apart from one taxi driver. Most were educated but had left Zimbabwe because there was huge unemployment there. Only twelve percent of people have a job. They therefore came to South Africa and can work there. Apparently a lot of South Africans especially the men do not work and do not want to work so there is plenty of opportunity for the immigrants. Most Zimbabweans we spoke to said that they would go back to their country if Mugabe was ousted. Most of the Africans we met were bright and friendly.

On Saturday, our last day in Capetown we went to the Waterfront to try and get on the Robben (meaning seal) island tour which had been booked out. We were lucky to get an 11am slot so we wandered about and left at 11am on a chartered luxury catamaran. It was explained to us that the old tubs operating the route routinely break down hence the replacement boat. The bus guide who took us around the island and showed us the penguin colony and the limestone quarry where the political and other prisoners worked.
His knowledge was good and after the bus dropped us at the jail another guide took over. He had been a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991 and he gave us a lot of information about the running of the jail and about how they all kept their spirits up in times of crisis within the jail. It was a very informative tour but sad at the same time. There were no windows at the jail and no hot water until 1978 and the inmates had no shoes or socks and blacks had only shorts and short sleeved shirts to wear even in winter. Until then they slept on a mat on the floor with two blankets. It would have been bitterly cold in winter.

Back on the mainland we went over on the V and A Waterfront to the ‘One and Only’ hotel and to Rueben’s restaurant for an excellent lunch. My smoked beetroot and walnut risotto with gorgonzola cream was delicious as was Maurice’s seafood risotto. The sky was blue and Table mountain was clear so we caught a taxi up to the mountain and up to it’s peak. It was a very smooth ride and the views over Capetown, the ocean and the mountains was amazing. We had a walk around the flat topped mountain and saw a couple of Rock Hyrax. When the cloud started to descend onto the mountain and a biting cold wind picked up we decided to descend and saw then that it was 8 degrees. The cable cars had a rotating floor to give everyone all the views and could carry 65 people.
Maurice was tired so he continued to our guesthouse while I went to see the German school bazaar which by the time I got there was more like an Oktoberfest with a lot of beer steins, bratwurst sausages and a loud band so I didn’t stay for a long time.

On Sunday morning we left our lovely guesthouse and caught a taxi to the Avis depot in town where we hired a car and drove up the coast to Melkbosstrand and had a meal at the ‘Damhuis’ an old establishment specializing in seafood and Cape Malay food. I had the traditional pickled fish in a cold curry sauce and a ‘bobotie’ a kind of spiced shepherd’s pie with an egg based topping and a spicy chutney to go with it. From there we went inland to Stellenbosch, a university town and wine growing district.
It was a nice hot day so we walked around the town before heading for Franschoek.

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We had a good flight from Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg on the 30th October and then stood in the queue to get through immigration for one hour with hundreds of people and only three staff to process us all. Our friend Trevor was there to pick us up for the quick journey to their house in Benoni in a semi rural part of Johannesburg. House security is very tight with high walls and or electric fences everywhere and locals are very vigilant if they see someone foreign near their property.
Michelle had prepared a great home cooked meal and we met her parents and we all had a lovely evening together.

Michelle took us to the Gautrain station the next morning which was very clean and well run and we changed trains to get to the modern Jo’burg Park station in the centre of the city. We had never been to Johannesburg before so we took the hop on hop off bus to get a feel for the city. The Kenyans were keen to tell us that Jo’burg or Jozie is the most dangerous city in Africa with one of the reasons being that it is a melting pot of inhabitants from all over Africa, some lawful and some lawless. We however had no problem in the city.

We were well looked after by the staff on the bus who asked us to wait on the bus at the Carlton tower until one of their staff came and escorted us to the 50th floor for a walk around the top floor to get views of the whole city. George was from Soweto and he told us that Soweto was now a safe place to visit because the community looks out for each other but to be careful in Jo’burg city. There were many large buildings in Jo’burg which were vacated when gangs started invading buildings and taking hostages and this included the two green glassed buildings of the Holiday Inn and the 600 room Carlton hotel in the city. These buildings have remained closed since then.
A lot of the streets close to the city were not very salubrious and many had food and other stalls all along the streets.

Our second stop was at the Apartheid museum where we spent a couple of hours. It was very well set out and we each got a ticket which allowed us to go through to the ‘whites only’ entrance or the ‘non white’ entrance. It really did give you the feeling of being segregated as we both made our way through separate corridors to the main museum. It was very informative showcasing the ANC’s struggle to abolish apartheid. There were screens where we heard many speeches by Nelson Mandela. It was a very moving place to visit.

The route around the city covered a large area and the audio on the bus was one of the best we had found which gave a comprehensive story about how Jo’burg grew in over 150years from a gold mining shanty town. There were numerous slag heaps still visible around the sprawling city, most covered with some greenery. The inhabitants over the years planted millions of trees in what was the very barren gold mining town.

We then stopped at Newtown Mall for a bite to eat and a walk around before continuing on up to Constitution hill with a view over the leafy suburbs and the myriad of stunning Jacaranda trees dotted all over the city. We completed the route back at the main train station and had a coffee before returning to Rhodesfield on the Gautrain where drinking or eating anything and chewing gum is prohibited. There were several guards on the train and it has remained in a pristine condition after it’s 3-4years of service. Michelle picked us up and we had another of Michelle’s nice home cooked meal and relaxed in the evening.

The African’s we encountered were all very helpful and friendly. After a leisurely morning we went with Michelle to the ‘Maboneng’ precinct in Jo’burg which was previously a run down warehouse area. A forward thinking young Jewish man financed the project to develop it into a cultural hub, converting the old warehouses into wonderful spaces for businesses, eateries, shops, boutique hotels and art galleries. We walked around for a few hours stopping at several galleries and for lunch before a sudden brief hail storm sent us scurrying for cover and a coffee while we waited out the storm.
Jo’burg is 1700metres above sea level and normally has a mild spring/summer climate of 27/28degrees however they had an unusual heat wave and it was 37degrees that day.

Had great Calamari and lively discussions at ‘Il Gusto’ an Italian/Portuguese restaurant with Michelle and Trevor and Michelle’s parents Mike and Marie.
Trevor was flying to Durban the following morning so Michelle took us all to the airport and we took an hour’s flight to Capetown and Trevor to Durban.

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We had a two hour lay over in Nairobi before taking the hour’s flight to Dar es Salaam on the 23rd October where we were met by our driver to take us to the ferry port for our 2hour trip to Zanzibar. Life seemed a bit more frenetic here in Dar (as they call it).
We had a dreadful experience at the port when our driver went past the office where we were to collect our tickets.
He was trying to park in an area and a group of porters started banging on the car wanting him to move so a shouting match ensued. He started backing up still with the crowd around the car. I got out and went up to the ferry office where a lovely girl apologised for the behaviour and gave me our tickets.
They were all still shouting and trying to take our bags when I returned so we managed to take our own bags with the help of one young guy to the security area where all the bags had to be checked before we could get down to down to the covered seating area inside the port. The porter then wanted USD10 for the service so I gave him TZS3000 or about USD2.50 and told him that it was too bad if he didn’t like it. The experience reminded us of catching the slow boat to Lombok from Bali only the porters were not so aggressive there. There were many hawkers trying to sell crisps, drinks and cashew nuts. I bargained and got some cashew nuts for a very reasonable price and they were delicious.

Thank goodness we had been bought business class tickets for USD40 each for the two hour trip to Unguja, the main Zanzibar island. The safety video was priceless explaining that they had life rings for anyone who accidentally dropped into the sea! We unrealistically I suppose thought that this would mean an easy passage at our destination. No such luck. We went into the area where we thought that bags would be brought but only found out later that we had to retrieve the bags from their container near the ferry and then join the free for all to lift every bag onto a long concrete area where customs officers would again check the bags and give them a swipe with blue chalk. This was difficult as we had two bags each and trying to hang on to one while lifting the other was not easy with everyone else pushing and shoving. The custom’s officers were also not a happy bunch. Not a great first impression of Zanzibar.

By now it was almost dark and it had been raining. Luckily an older man who worked for the Azam ferry gave us the name of someone who would take us by taxi to our lodgings. When we managed to get out of the building we saw a sign with my name on it and met Mohammed who turned out to be a gem.
There is a large muslim population on the island but the call to prayer was very short and sweet all the time.
Unfortunately the street where we were staying could not be reached by car so Maurice stayed with the vehicle while I went with the taxi driver into the maze of alleyways to try and find the apartment where we were staying trying to avoid the muddy puddles everywhere as it had been raining. The couple who rented the apartment had failed to inform us that they would not be there. They were in Dar es Salaam for the night. There are numbers on houses but they are in no order so made finding anywhere very hard. We arrived at a certain point and I got the driver to call the owner of the apartment who then gave his housemaid instructions to come and find us.
Once found I looked at the apartment and we went back to get the bags. The apartment was really sub standard with peeling walls and a musty smell but it was too late to move then so we went in search of another place and happened upon Kisiwa house – a boutique hotel which was beautiful and only around the corner.

We stayed the night in the apartment as it was too dark and late to move but we got up early the next day, checked into the hotel and left a note for the owners saying that we would be back to pay them for the ferry tickets that they had arranged for us.
Stonetown is the main town of Unguja and a large section of the town is made up of narrow alleyways leading to larger roads and to the beach or inland. The island is 90kilometres long, so quite large.
We headed off early and walked for most of the day around the interesting town seeing a lot of the sights that Unguja had to offer as well as some nice hotels on the coast. We went past the Africa House hotel where the explorers David Livingstone and Stanley used to drink. At the other end of the scale we saw the house where Freddie Mercury was born and lived for the first six years of his life. His family had come from Persia to the island.
The old dispensary which was no longer used as such had been beautifully restored at the port and the so called ‘House of Wonders’ was a very large house with a clocktower and surrounded by tall pillars which was under reconstruction It was so named because it was the first house on the island to have electricity.
Many of the old Stonetown buildings are crumbling and in need of urgent renovation. They were built using coral and lime cement.
A lot of the older buildings need painting and have been badly affected by the humidity. The old fort is a sad looking place lined with stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs.

It was hot and humid so we stopped by the Hilton hotel for a drink before continuing winding our way through the alleyways and then went for lunch on the rooftop terrace (up five flights of stairs) to the Emerson Spice hotel overlooking the corrugated iron roofs and the Indian Ocean. From there we went on to where the former Slave market was situated and after our security check we spent a good hour reading the history of the slave trade which was very informative.
The large Anglican Cathedral was next door to the monument to the slaves. Apparently there are more human traffickers and slaves today than all of the slaves traded of the time between 1840-1905 before it was abolished.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by and met to the owners. They agreed to refund our money for the three nights we were not going to use.
The staff at the Kisiwa were very welcoming, fiendly and very helpful and the room was beutiful, spacious and spotless. The Kisiwa hotel had been in the hotel for generations and they had thought of every small detail. The building was built by a wealthy and influential merchant in 1840 and the many staircases and entrance doors were original. There were three storeys to the building with high ceilings and with a lovely rooftop terrace to have breakfast and the staff The staff even brought us biscuits to the room in the late afternoon. Nothing was too much trouble.

Mohammed drove us about half an hour away to a lush part of the island where the government has a research centre for spices and fruit that are grown on the island.
The spice tour with Mamba was interesting even though we knew most of the spices. I was interested to see how cloves were harvested and we were both surprised to see that the trees were very large an the cloves are picked when they are still green and soft. They are then dried to their black, hard state.
On the way back to town we stopped at the Mtoni Palace ruins which were also in need of repair but were interesting to see none the less. The government worker who sold the tickets at $3 had them in a sack on his bicycle and we were surprised to see that they were of the official kind. The palace belonged to a Sultan whose daughter Salme was born there in 1844 and later eloped with a German merchant and moved to Hamburg. She later wrote a book called ‘Memoirs of an Arabian Princess’ which chronicled her life at the palace.

On our way back to Stonetown we could go no further with our vehicle. The King of Morocco had arrived for a visit, staying at the Park Hyatt hotel on the beach and the whole area was swarming with some African army troops and scores of Moroccans in black suits with ear pieces. Maurice and I detoured on foot around them and had lunch at the ‘Spice Route’ Indian restaurant where we had the best eggplant dish and Saag paneer.

Even though it was pouring the next morning we decided to go out on a boat organised by Kasim, a friend of Mohammed. Robert (pronounced the french way) was our boatman and he was a muslim. He was a very nice fellow and took us as requested first to the Nakupenda sandbar where we were the only tourists on the island. There were a group of locals who were setting up for a crowd of Italians who were to arrive later. The water was so refreshing and crystal clear and we saw many different coloured starfish. It is only a small sandbar so when the Italians arrived we departed. Our boatman told us that in high season there can be 500 people on the small sandbar – we had read that it could get busy so decided to go early. From there he took us to Prison island which has a hotel as well as a tortoise sanctuary.
We had a swim and then it started pouring so we saw the tortoises and left for Unguja. The island was apparently never used as a prison but as a quarantine station.
After freshening up we went down to the Park Hyatt for a delicious lunch overlooking the water. There was much security both Tanzanian and Moroccan (his entourage was huge and included Moroccan chefs as well as all the security staff).

After a much needed rest after lunch we went down to the beach area of the Forodani gardens where a food market was set up every evening with tasty looking seafood and lots of vegetarian options and lots of the local youth were watching others doing somersaults into the water, swimming and generally having fun. It was a lovely spot to watch the sunset before heading back to the hotel.
We were sorry to leave our lovely hotel and the island the following morning. The Zanzibar ferry terminal for departures was much more organised than that of the capital Dar es Salaam and as we had bought business class tickets again we could relax in reclinable chairs in a lounge before boarding the ferry. We were duly collected by Mr Pipe’s man back on the mainland and taken to the airport for our flight to Johannesburg. He wanted USD40 but we gave him USD25 and he didn’t even complain. Good try. There were many ice cream sellers on bicycles and guys selling packaged apples from South Africa.

The only downside to Zanzibar is the enormous number of unemployed who constantly offer their services for guided tours, boat tours and trying to sell you pre packaged spices and souvenirs. We found that by saying we already had been on the tour and already bought the items seemed to deter them but some were quiet persistent.
Tanzanian immigration in Dar es Salaam was one of the slowest we had ever encountered with forms to fill out going in and out of Zanzibar and in and out of Dar es Salaam.

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