Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Lions and leopard and giraffes, oh my - December 29, 2003

I'm in Stone Town in Zanzibar right now. Its incredibly incredibly hot here (kind of what i thought africa would be like in general, actually.) I'm checking my email in an internet cafe mainly as an excuse to get out of the sun and in front of a fan! (Besides, internet is only about $0.75 an hour, so why not!) Stone Town is interesting, but the touts are driving me up the wall. You can't walk three feet with someone saying 'Jambo' (hello in Swahili) and try to sell you something. The worst is the touts who are trying to sell tours and excursions, cuz they'll just follow you around for ages, until you somehow get to lose them. The town is relatively small, and I've probably seen 80% of it by wandering around since this morning. It reminds me a lot of the 'old city' sections of Granada and Seville. They both had a lot of arabic influence, so they both have the same kind of narrow winding streets, intricately carved wooden doors, and mosaic tiling. Except that with this being africa, there's a lot more disrepair and garbage. Somehow 'garbage cans' is a technology that hasn't hit east africa yet. (Probably because there's no garbage collection, though.)

Tomorrow I'm going to take a dalla-dalla (minibus) north to Nungwi (on the northern tip of the island) which a beach town, where i'm going to relax for a few days; or if i get bored, I might take a ferry to Pemba, another island in zanzibar archipelago, which is apparently quite beautiful but less touristy. I'm hoping to meet some people to spend New Years with when i go to Nungwi, otherwise it'll just be another early night in my hotel room. (I lucked out on a clerical error with my hotel here in stone town - i got the only room in the place with a double bed and the only room with air conditioning, and they are only charging me for a single bed and no air-con.)

My safari was absolutely great! I took 7 rolls of pictures of the animals and scenery in only 4 days. Hope you like pictures of zebras - I've got lots. We were there at the right time to see wildebeest migrating around the serengeti, which happens when things begin to dry up and they start herding together to find water. Sometimes you'd look around and there'd be nothing but wildebeest as far as the eye can see (and you can see pretty far.) Also, the very first animal we saw on our first day was a leopard, which is very rare - sometimes people go on safari for a whole week and never see one. We saw almost every large animal you could hope to, most of them really close up. (The lions and elephants were particularly exciting!) My safari group was a french couple (the girl didn't speak much english, so i got to practice lots of french) and an english guy and a danish guy; that grouping meant that i got to have my own tent, which was good. Although i was a bit nervous on our third night when there was a lion prowling around the campsite! (Apparently a fairly regular occurence; our guide had never heard of a human getting attacked.) All in all an awe-inspiring experience, well worth the money it cost! When would ever get to see those animals in their natural habitats other wise?


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