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)
After months of planning, we packed up our flat, packed in our jobs, got hitched under sunny October skies and started living our travelling dream. As the vicar had said during the ceremony, some people talk for years about things they wish they could do, we were going to make it happen. In a blur of surreality, work disappeared from our minds until it was a tiny blip on a hazy horizon, the wedding a trove of memories that sent us on our way and burst back to life during every pensive moment.
With every ounce of energy sapped from weeks of wedmin and bundles of adrenalin fading away from the wedding itself, the first few days passed in a haze of sleep. Entirely out of character, I passed out in airport chairs, followed up with a 13 hour snooze on our first night, nodded off on the aeroplane, napped in a bumpy 4×4 and caught some well-needed zeds on the beach…getting hitched is tiring!
By the fourth day our daily life had changed beyond recognition. This is my favourite thing about travelling. The way everyday life takes normality, chews it up, swills it around and spits it out, throwing you blindly into the most random of circumstances. Bill Bryson said it best:
And it was never truer. Under beaming African skies, rather than sneer at a tin of ant-ridden lumpy powdered milk, we gulped it down, mmm-ing in delight as would make the Tetley guys proud. Instead of ignoring our fellow townsfolk on the way to the office we bumped fists, exchanged Swahili greetings and pounded handshakes with Masaai warriors strolling along the beach (as well as every other local person that saw us coming). Rather than pumping lengths at the local lido we threw ourselves off fishing boats to swim beside dolphins. Electricity was scarce, the bar ran out of tonic – PANIC! (meaning Doug had to search for a replacement by torchlight in absence of the barman) and monkeys tried to wee on us. We delighted in our new appearance – rocking the ‘hobos sans shoes’ look, we awkwardly tiptoed around the lobby of a posh hotel and managed to hitch a ride on a golf buggy back to whence we had come having spent so long exploring the beach it was now too dark to walk home safely. Getting around, we seemed to be the only Westerners using the local transport known in lovely sing song Swahili as Dala Dalas. Filled with as many people as possible – and some more for good measure – we squeezed into the truck-like minibuses, our knees by our ears, rucksacks and various other paraphenalia strapped to the roof. Despite this human sardine-canning and hostile attitudes towards tourists reported recently in the media, locals were only too willing to try and get us to take their seat.
Despite the heat, our thoughts and legs carried us often towards food. Breakfasts of hot, doughy chappatis slathered in Nutella, Malarone tablets washed down with an omelette or warm polenta cake. Platefuls of tropical fruits – mangos, pineapple, bananas, passion fruit, watermelon and papaya freshly plucked from outside the door. Even Douglas, a man who would rather eat a dubious Ginster’s pasty than consume fresh organic fruit, managed to nibble a pineapple chunk and dare I say, enjoy it.
Our lunchtime craving for salt was satisfied with kingfish curry and rice to share in the shade. A choice of a) coconutty or b) thick tomato, ginger and garlic sauce. At Baby Bush Lodge, our laid-back affordable lodge in Kiwengwa, the windy East side of the Island, the menu never changed but neither did the quality. Sweet, spicy scents floating on a hot breeze made our stomach rumble daily. One night the chef artistically fashioned the words ‘happy honeymoon’ around the edge of the plate in raw red onion and carrot.
Black pepper squid, so fresh you could detect salty back spray from the waves, coconut chutney and fluffy fragrant rice also regularly passed our lips. Fresh coconuts sneaked to us by a wily hotel worker rehydrated us and our daily diet now comprised octopus, lobster and blue marlin, that despite costing thousands of Tanzanian shillings, ended up cheaper than a meal at the local chippy. There is literally no end to my seafood cravings when it swims in waters a stone’s throw from where I’m sat and Zanzibarian chefs provided the perfect fishy antidote each day.