Tanzania diary, days 12 and 13

Tuesday, 10 July, 2018. 06:53

We’re sitting at breakfast in the hotel restaurant, looking out at the activity in the beach and the boats in the ocean. Today there is a sort of aerobics class taking place on the beach, led by a women in Muslim headcloth, with five other women in coloured headcloths following her lead, plus three men. The men are standing in a group separated from the women by a few metres. Three of the women, including the leader, are wearing black robes, while the other three are in black shirts and tracks suit pants.

Morning exercise on the beach
Aerobics class on the beach


Now we’re at Zanzibar International Airport. After a breakfast of mostly cereal and bread or pastries, we returned to our room for final packing before check out. The reception desk was ready for us, with our paperwork already on the counter as we approached. The bill for the bar drinks and laundry was tallied in US dollars, but there was a conversion to shillings, and I paid in shilling notes, receiving full 1000 shilling notes as they rounded the cost down from some ridiculously uneven number.

Our driver was there already too, and we left a few minutes before the designated 08:00 pick up. This was a different driver to the other day, but he was just as talkative, telling us many of the same facts about Zanzibar. A few interesting new things were that school children all across Zanzibar wear the same uniforms: blue and yellow for primary and black and white for secondary school. And that the traffic light we passed through was one of just three traffic lights on Zanzibar. He seemed quite proud of the fact that they had traffic lights, and explained that they were solar powered, so that during the rainy season they stopped working. He also told us that although most of the population was Muslim, they don’t follow Sharia, and things like woman wearing head coverings is optional and largely determined by family custom, and that even many Christian women covered up as it was the tradition in their families. And they were a happy people on Zanzibar, because even though most people are poor, they are never hungry because of all the seafood and produce grown on the island, and that they have many holidays because everyone celebrates all the Muslim, Christian, and Hindu holidays together as a big community celebration.

At the airport, he showed us the new terminal building, which looked nice and modern, but lamented that it still wasn’t ready. The government kept telling them it would be ready next year, but this had been going on for several years now. So instead we entered the old run down terminal, stopping for a passport check before we even left the car park, then going into the building for an immediate x-ray and metal detector check before reaching the check in counters. Here they gave us boarding passes for both Kenya Airways flights, from here to Nairobi and then to Johannesburg, saying we needed to check in for the Sydney flight in Johannesburg.

Although we’d gone through the x-ray machine with our wooden talking stick in its cardboard tube, now a security guy questioned what was in there, asking if it was a painting. I said no, it was a wooden object. He shook it, hefted its weight, and gave it back to me without comment. We thought we were fine, but a few minutes later another security guy came over and gave the tube the same suspicious look. He asked if it was a painting, and I said no, it was a wooden object. He chatted to the first guy, hefted the tube, and then came back and said we couldn’t take it in the cabin and would have to check it. He weighed it – one kilo – and took it away to be labelled. A horde of five security guys clustered around the object, plastering “Fragile” stickers on it and then a baggage check sticker. The check in woman told us it was checked all the way to Sydney.

Next we picked up departure cards to fill out. I tried to head past the check in counters to the immigration checkpoint visible behind them, but staff stopped me and pointed over to the left. We walked left, and around a wall, then right again, to the same immigration counters. We filled out the cards and handed them over. The guys here were vary casual, stamping one of our boarding passes but not the other, until I asked if it needed to be stamped. Then we went through another security check and arrived in the waiting area. This was fairly dingy in this old terminal, with a bunch of old uncomfortable metal airport seats. It was hot and stuffy, with no air conditioning. And we had just over two hours to wait for our flight.

Departing Zanzibar
View of Stone Town, flying out of Zanzibar

19:06, Johannesburg Airport

We’ve boarded our flight home and are waiting for others to get on for take off. Our flight from Zanzibar actually left early, since everyone had boarded by about 20 minutes before scheduled departure time. This was excellent news, because as scheduled we had exactly one hour for our connection at Nairobi, and on the way in that had been too tight for comfort after out flight was delayed out of Johannesburg. They served a small bread roll with either chicken or beef on it, and M. got a cheese one as the veg option. The flight lasted only an hour, and then we descended into Nairobi Airport.

View of Mount Kilimanjaro, flying from Zanzibar to Nairobi

Having been through here a couple of weeks ago, we knew what to expect, and navigated the transit areas easily, and had some time to spare to look around a little. Our ongoing flight to Johannesburg was a few minutes late, but that wasn’t a worry because we had about two and a half hours there before our Sydney flight. From Nairobi, we flew past Mount Kilimanjaro again, off to the left of the plane. The flight was three and a half hours long and they served a hot meal, “chicken or beef”. I chose the chicken, which came in a spicy tomato based sauce with some rice pilaf. My meal had potato salad and M.’s had a sort of Greek salad, with feta but no olives. The dessert was a nice apple and rhubarb cake with chunks in it.

I also got two glasses of water because I was feeling a bit hot and feverish and headachey. I hoped it wasn’t something serious developing, but now at Johannesburg after some more water I feel substantially better. The main thing now is my lower back is sore. I must have stretched it funny some time during the flight from Nairobi, as it flared up pretty badly during the latter half. Here at Johannesburg I took some time to do some back stretching exercises, which have helped a bit. The pillow on the Qantas plane is also fatter and more supportive for my lower back than the Kenya Airways one. So hopefully this flight won’t be as painful as the last one, even if it is longer.

Arriving at Johannesburg, we were the only ones we saw go into the international transit area; everyone else went through to arrivals. This made it trivially easy to pass the immigration check, where an incredibly bored looking guy flipped through our passports and lazily stamped them before ushering us through. We found the Qantas check in in the transit lounge, with a group of three passengers there before us, from New Zealand, who were presumably flying onward with another flight from Sydney. We got our boarding passes, confirming exit row seats that we’d booked, went through security, and into the terminal.

I needed to do my stretches so we found a carpeted area with seats next to a school group wearing track suits with “Namibia tour 2018” printed on them. Although the carpet wasn’t the cleanest, I made us of it, stretching out in full prone and supine positions. M. briefly browsed a few shops, then I did some more stretches as we slowly made our way down to gate 18, which was the very last gate at the end farthest from where we’d exited the transit area. They were doing another manual bag check at the gate, with security women opening bags and looking through them. We prepare for this, but their examination was fairly cursory, and after I showed them the zip-lock bags of liquids and gels we had, they didn’t bother looking in my bags.

We didn’t have too long to wait for boarding, and got in in the first economy group as our row was the lowest numbered one that they requested. And now we’re just waiting to depart as the doors have just been closed.

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018. Written 01:08, 12 July

Or flight passed eventlessly. I dozed a little after the evening meal, having the beef in red wine sauce. I thin I must have had some small sleep in between shifting position uncomfortably. Thankfully my back didn’t ache and actually felt much better, and also my headache and feeling of feverishness faded. I was almost good by the end of the flight, just tired.

They served a breakfast as the final meal, even though it was lunch time in Sydney, and we had our next malaria tablet with this meal, switching back to having them with lunch for the next few days until we can stop. We landed about half an hour late, after leaving Johannesburg half an hour late. As we waited to debark, I asked a flight attendant if I should collect an item marked fragile from the regular baggage carousel or the special baggage collection area, and she said the special area. I’d made the mistake once of waiting forever at the regular carousel for a fragile item, and didn’t want to repeat the mistake.

At the claim area, a guy was already unloading large items from our flight. A woman was waiting and grabbed a bag full of surfboards when he carried it out. He asked how many were in there, “three?” She replied, “five”. She put them on a trolley, and then waited for more baggage… and the guy brought out another bag that must have contained five surfboards, which she claimed as well. I suspect she may have been a professional surfer. Fortunately, our flight seemed to have arrived at a dead time in the airport arrivals, as the immigration, baggage claim, and customs areas were very empty – more empty than I’ve seen them in a long time possibly forever. So our talking stick didn’t take long to arrive, and then we moved onto the “Declare” line through Customs. The Customs guy asked us what plant material we were carrying and had a look at it all cursorily, asked us if the spices were ground, and asked if we had any soil attached to our shoes. All the right answers given, he waved is through without too much concern.

We decided to take a taxi instead of catching the train after our long flights. The taxi driver chatted to us and asked where we’d been. When we said Africa, he asked what country. When we said Tanzania, he said, “I was born in Tanzania!” He was born in Dar es Salaam, but moved to Somalia as a child. Anyway, it was an amusing way to end our trip.

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