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Inside Zanzibar

In my mid-twenties, when I was sojourning in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a great man told me “Once you drink the water in Africa, you will come back again”. I had little or almost no idea of what those words meant when they were being uttered but on the 3rd of September 2016, those words echoed again in my mind and they began to make sense. I was in Zanzibar – an extraordinary island lying off the coast of Tanzania and teeming with its historic heritage, intricate architectures and rich culture. The boat trip from Dar es Salaam was long but not boring as the endless blue ocean was a real feast to the eyes and a deep source for contemplation. After almost three hours of boat ride, Zanzibar showed itself in vivid detail.

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The moment I walked through the Zanzibar Ferry Terminal, I felt that the island had a unique and artistic character of its own, and this became evident as I explored the island.

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Zanzibar is an island of contrast and art. Some streets were occupied and disorganized while some were devoid of commercial activities and people.

The locals were welcoming and seemed to be proud of their country. They have all the reasons to feel so. I pursued the enriching walk and noticed how people were engrossed in their own activities. I saw a young man immersed in reading the newspaper by the side of the road. Nothing appeared to be disturbing him; neither the noisy horn of vehicles nor the giggles of the college students. Not too far away, I saw three elderly men engaged in a conversation by the side of a calmer road.

The most impressive and distinctive aspect of the island is how well it has kept its history alive through its prominent structures and architectures; boasting themselves in the lap of the Stone Town. The paths between the old buildings were narrow and the cables were hanging loose all over the building. I was flabbergasted by the wooden carved doors. I walked close to one of the doors and placed my hand gently on its surface that has turned rough over the course of time but that still bears testimony of the colonization era by the Arab traders.

I toured around Stone Town for almost an hour until I arrived at the Al Johari hotel. Al Johari is a decent hotel but one should not expect good internet connection in the room as wireless internet connection was available only at the restaurant located on the last floor of the hotel.

But Zanzibar is so breathtaking that having internet connection in room will be just a trivial concern. There’s so much to see on the island. After a long day touring around the island, the view from the hotel’s restaurant soothes the soul.

I spent two unforgettable days of my life on this island. One is bound to fall in love with this piece of heaven resting peacefully in the lap of the Indian Ocean.

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Boat Trip: Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar

From the busy shores of Dar es Salaam, the Zanzibar archipelago is a luring dream in the eyes of insatiable travellers. After sojourning in the heart of Dar es Salaam for a night, I filled my light brownish backpack with a couple of clothes, a travel journal made of recycled paper, a black pen and a compelling book, hanged my Nikon D7000 around my neck, slipped my GoPro into my pocket and headed to the ferry terminal of Dar es Salaam.

It came as a surprise to me that the immigration procedures weren’t lengthy at the ferry terminal in Dar es Salaam in spite of umpteen travellers. As I glanced around to study the surrounding, I saw people of different nationalities; some absorbed in long-lasting conversations, some sleeping on their chairs and others staring emptily around. Beside passengers, I saw few vendors walking around the terminal with baskets filled with assorted snacks and drinks. If you ever travel through this terminal in the future and in the hurry of departure, if you fail to eat your breakfast or lunch, you can rest assured. The assorted snacks and drinks can easily be found outside and inside the terminal, and the prices are reasonable.

In the wait for the boat, I switched on my laptop and exuberantly browsed through some pictures which I took a day before. Meanwhile, dad was filling the entry declaration form for custom processes in Zanzibar.

After an hour’s wait, the cheerful staffs at the terminal began instructing all the passengers to line up for the boarding. I stepped into the line too and gradually walked to the boat. I was struck by the the beauty, size and comfort of the boat. I smiled as I recalled the time spent in choosing the mode of travel from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. At the first glimpse of the boat, I felt a tinge of happiness for having made the right choice: a boat trip instead of an air trip.

 

As we settled in, the boat began sailing off the coast of Dar es Salaam. Two minutes elapsed and I could not move my eyes off the shore; distancing itself from me. I plunged into my thoughts and felt grateful for all that Dar es Salaam taught me.

Two hours. This was the time it took us to reach the Zanzibar archipelago but in these two hours, I learned many things. The boat was spacious and comfortable inside. There weren’t too many activities inside the boat. Some passengers seemed so exhausted that they seized these two hours to sleep and some were tirelessly gushing about the splendour of Zanzibar. I found some passengers on the deck of the boat too; lost in their thoughts and admiring the deep blue ocean.

I  walked to the deck too and after some time, dad joined. I looked around me. There were no boundaries. I saw the horizons where the sky seemed to be kissing the ocean. Everything was so peaceful. Everyone was so absorbed. I saw few small boats sailing in the lap of the ocean. I felt freedom. I felt I was still a child at 28 and I smiled. I felt discovery in my eyes. I felt adventure in my heart.

Gradually, Zanzibar came into view and that moment, I knew everything would be different. I knew some stories were waiting for me at the shore. I knew and I was right.

In the course of my travels, I have been to numerous places; each of them proving me how wrong I was about them. A couple of years ago, I knew nothing about Zanzibar but this trip made it part of me. An important part.

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A heavenly boat trip along Lake Naivasha

Heaven exists. I have been there.

Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake in Kenya, is a splendid piece of paradise far from the cacophony of the world. On the 22nd of September 2013, I packed everything and walked out in the pursuit of tales few would have to tell. Even though I journeyed to Lake Naivasha before, the call of its splendors remains tempting. I enjoyed the road trip from Nairobi to Naivasha. The serenity of the desolate villages, the scenic landscapes with grazing cows, herd of cattle and the Massai, the stunning valleys, the dancing clouds, and the freshness of the air were enough to inspire the poet in me. I could fill my travel journal with words.

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In an enthusiasm to arrive at my destination, I did not fail to do justice with my journey. I always make sense of both the journey and the destination. Both are revealing and important. I clearly recall having stopped by a restaurant on the way to taste the typical onion soup. Needless to say, it was delicious.
On arriving at the lake, I walked around and greeted the locals. I soon recollected myself and embarked on a boat trip on the lake. I discovered that the lake was home to thousands of flamingos and hippos. On the shore, I found antelopes, zebras and giraffes. The sky was garlanded with thousands of colorful birds. After nearly an hour’s boat ride, the sky turned grey and it started raining. I soaked my hands in the water. I felt the cold rain on my skin and smiled to myself as I recalled a promise made to someone. I witnessed the majestic rainbow settling over the lake. I presumed that Naivasha smiled at me.

The boat trip soon drew to an end and I walked away with a promise to come back.