“Jo, Soph, wake up, there’s something outside the tent!”, I hiss whilst jabbing my friends sharply in their sides. The three of us were young whippersnappers on a jaunt around France for the first of our long summers away from University. Carefree and without a single laid plan or booking arrangement, our adventures were determined by random meetings, chance decisions and the type of creativity that accompanies a student’s lack of funds.
Throwing everyday caution to the wind, we learnt life skills such as how to build a campfire, master the art of not paying train fares – (we got all the way to Monaco from Biot and a bit of the way back before being frisked by a conductor “CagNES sur Mer” we muttered in our worst French accent, hoping to convince him we were ignorant innocent English folk and not French students who should know better…), hitchhike with a camera crew from the Tour de Franceand how to drink five litres of rosé wine in one evening. After non-successful attempts to get work on the yachts that line the harbours of the French South (we didn’t try too hard), we ditched the Mediterranean for more alpine climes, and were now happily ensconced in a campsite in a fairly rural part of Southern France. Read more
I’m leaving on a jet plane.., then a taxi, then a train, then another taxi…
Hours I spent pouring over guide books, scrutinising web forums, googling routes and asking friends how to get from one part of Africa to another. I was nervous about how we would get from location A (Zanzibar) to destination B (Malawi) – a mere 1000km or so – as there was no direct route or seemingly succinct itinerary. ‘The train only leaves on a Tuesday and a Saturday’, ‘the train can sometimes be delayed by days’, ‘try and get a shared taxi with a few people’, ‘there are no direct buses and anyone selling a ticket is scamming you’. Normally Doug and I turn up in a place without making any plans and just see what happens, but this seemed impossible with such an unreliable transport system – especially as we needed to be in Malawi by a particular date.
Stone Town is a mysterious place, a deliciously blended concoction of Indian, Swahili, Moroccan and Arabic. Charming but rundown, shutters hang off their hinges, paint peels from once gleaming facades, decay where there once was extravagance. Piles of rubble lie forgotten and wires dangle precariously, threatening to decapitate the unobservant. Hefty, beautifully carved doors with giant gold spikes (an Indian method of deterring marauding elephants) remain intact, guarding empty, decrepit buildings. Hotels, restaurants, old Merchant’s houses and a former Sultan’s palace rear up amongst decaying buildings harkening back to a once magnificent city.
The beginning of the travelling dream & a lot of delicious Zanzibarian grub
It doesn’t matter how many travel segments you’ve dribbled your breakfast over, how many tropical screensavers you’ve optimistically loaded on to your computer desktop to gaze at during the most mind numbing hours at work. Nothing can prepare you for the exquisite sands, shimmering turquoise waters and skinny palm trees of Zanzibar. It’s the very incarnation of paradise. An overwhelmingly idyllic chunk of Mother Earth and the perfect place to begin a honeymoon or ‘wandermoon’ in our case. (See my 10 tips for taking a wandermoon here) Read more