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Week 19: Tanzania: From the East Coast to Zanzibar

This week was a continuation of our “beach holiday” on the Tanzanian coast…but as always, with a twist! What was supposed to be a very relaxing week, ended up with yet more rainstorms turning the dirt roads into muddy rivers at places, with us using our sand tracks and mudblocks for the first time (whoop-whoop), and encountering the small yet painful “assassin” called THE NAIROBI FLY… First our travel stats so far: • Total days travelled through Africa: 128 • Total distance driven from Cape Town through Africa: 17,740km • Total borders crossed: 10 And then the Aardvark stats for Week 19: • Best drink: Freshly juiced mangoes over crushed ice, with the local spirit Konyagi (similar to gin) • Best food: Just-caught yellow-fin tuna that Irene filleted and made cerviche with fresh bread and hummus for lunch, and grilled tuna steaks with mango and red pepper salsa, on a tomato-aubergine-potato-cottage cheese hash…better than any restaurant ever 😊 • Best view: It’s difficult to beat the sunset over the Indian Ocean, sitting on the sand at Nungwi Beach on the NorthEastern tip of Zanzibar, watching a local beach football game! We ended up staying for 3 nights at Peponi Beach Resort & Camp – it is difficult to leave when Aardvark is parked basically on the beach, the next door property called Kapricorn is selling the best pizzas we’ve had on this entire trip, one can go for looooong beach walks on essentially deserted white beaches, and here is small pool to cool down in (due to all the rains the numerous rivers flowing into the sea turned the first couple of hundred metres of seawater a brownish colour, rather than the picture perfect see-through turquoise colour that we expected – still a lovely temperature though!) On the third day of our stay (day 129), a local fisherman came up to us in the morning, with a freshly caught 10kg yellow fin tuna….that we promptly bought and shared with the 3 Germans camping next to us. Irene was in her happy place, filleting fish and making the most amazing food…all whilst a cloud burst was going on for what felt like hours – luckily it broke the sweltering heat a bit, and also allowed me the opportunity to give Aardvark a fresh water wash 😊 On day 130, after a lazy morning on the beach, we headed further south to the Beach Crab Resort for what was supposedly a leisurely 1h30 drive, across the river at Pangani with a ferry, for a total short 36km distance to be covered. Yeah right! Right after the uneventful ferry crossing, things started to go a bit more “murky” for us. Firstly Madame (our GPS with T4A), decided as per normal to take us on the more “adventurous” route along a dirt track that the local vehicle drivers have long abandoned…but in our oblivious state, we were happily navigating the very muddy dirt track, going through ditches and trying to dodge the deepest mud pools (at a slakkepas natuurlik!) until we went through one particular treacherous spot, where Aardvark’s bum slid on the black cotton soil mud (read clay-like-wet-cement ☹)…right into what can only be described as a knee-deep swamp next to the “road”…immediately sinking to its back axel in the sludge. Having seen no other cars enroute, we realized that this was the time to put all our 4x4 skills and toys to the test…first we only tried the sand tracks, but to no avail. Then we added the mud blocks tied around the tyres themselves, as well as digging a path with our trusty shovel. But to add colour to the above scenario, also picture Irene in her black dress (we were planning on doing washing at the next camp), freshly showered after our morning swims, digging in the knee-deep swampy sludge, whilst I was covered almost top to bottom with the black mud already after placing and replacing the mud tracks! Anyway, to Irene’s 4x4 driving skills (and Aardvark’s brute strength obviously) credit, with the next attempt Aardvark got free, but the sticky mud claimed a tyre valve (yes it was that cement like stickiness bad!). With a big hiss, we realized that we will now have to replace a tyre as well on the more steady part of the road (read only rocks and little bit of mud 😊). So part two of our joys started…having to dig a bit of a hole to get the jack under the axel with a completely deflated tyre in the rain…Africa is fun yes! To our great joy, a couple of locals on their boda-bodas (a boda-boda is a motorcycle taxi, used to carry anything from passengers to roof sheets to goats) came past, realized that we needed a hand, and joined us in the tyre replacement game! After another 30min, and now completely covered in dirt / mud / slimy water, we were on our way again! We eventually arrived at the Beach Crab Camp, gave It one look, and decided to rather take our dirty Aardvark and continue on the road to Barry’s Beach Resort & Camp…our criteria for a campsite has become fairly well defined through this trip: Clean (with clean toilets and showers) and safe. Everything else is a bonus. But if those two factors are not around, well then we usually move on if we can. Which we did in this case…and what a good call! Barry’s was a further 37km, aka 2hours driving, away, but totally worth it! Barry gave us one look, had a bit of a laugh at our story, and then immediately organized to have the now valveless spare tyre sent to Tanga via a boda-boda and bus to get repaired…an absolute life-saver, as we didn’t want to drive on the treacherous washed-away roads without a spare wheel! And the next day was then spent in total relaxation bliss whilst we were waiting for the valve to be fixed…again with a bit of a delay in making it back to us, as a bus got stuck on a washed-away bridge, and no traffic could get past in either direction, including our spare! So by default we then stayed a second night at Barry’s…and that was when the Nairobi flies attached ☹ ☹ These 1cm red and black flies (actually beetles looking like flying ants!) do not bite or sting, but their bodies/skeleton contains a venom that is on par with a cobra’s! So when you kill or crush it on your skin, their venom creates an allergic reaction that results in a blistered boil…and depending on the severity and number of “bites”, easily leads to a bacterial infection…So lo and behold, they are attracted to fluorescent light…similar to our anti-mosquito light next to Aardvark. So as I was returning from a lovely hot shower, Irene was telling me that there are ants biting her as she was making food next to Aardvark…and we then subsequently had to learn that these weren’t ants but Nairobian Flies when she developed a severe infection in her foot and legs three days later ☹ but we’ll come to that part later… Anyway, we left early the next morning (of day 126) to make our way to Bagamoyo via the T2 – where the first 65km took us just over 4hours to drive – and that is without any mechanical issues or getting stuck! You can just imagine our joy when we eventually hit the tar T2 road…and the campsite at Firefly (although a bit past its prime and still sweltering hot) was a welcome sight for our sore (aka tired) eyes! Our original plan was to take Firefly’s own ferry to Zanzibar whilst Aardvark was parked in their campsite. But unfortunately, their ferry was not running in their off season, so we had to go into Dar Es Salaam the next day to find an alternative way across. Luckily the iOverlander app again came to the rescue, When we got off the and the next morning we braved the Dar traffic to the FPTC Service Centre in Dar to park Aardvark for a couple of days whilst we play in Zanzibar. We were extremely surprised to find that it was cheaper to fly to Zanzibar with one of the myriad of small planes making the 20min journey than taking the 2hour sea ferry…great for the wallet but even better for my seasickness! We arrived in Stonetown just in time for sundowners and a quick walk through the Forodhani Food Market for dinner. The air smelled different from the mainland, and the aircon in our room (even though it was spewing out sparks at 2am) was heavenly! The next morning after a rooftop breakfast, we set out for a walking tour through the old town. And it was during this exploration of small walkways, hidden alleys, wooden doors, Freddy Mercuries’ birthplace, the markets and old slave quarters (as well as amazing coffee!!) that Irene was again attacked by two more Nirobian flies…they must love her complexion! Already during our taxi drive to Nungwi at the NorthEastern part of the island, Irene started to fret about the new blisters that were almost immediately making their appearance alongside her existing “wounds”…not great when all we wanted to do was float away in the luke-warm turquoise water from the next few days! We are going to treat it with loads of Betadine, anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories to see if it will do the trick and get the swelling down soon…let’s see! I’m writing this overlooking the darkness of the sea in front of me, having just witnessed a spectacular sunset and feeling so grateful for yet again another eventful week packed so full with memories and moments that the above few words will never be able to do it justice…This is really an unending adventure! Till next week. J

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