Hello dear readers,
welcome back to my blog and thank you for your patience! It took me some time to write this post and some of you were starting to hassle me to speed up the process 🙂 I actually appreciate that as it is very important for me to close this “project” and the more I wait to do it, the more difficult it becomes. This post is a bit special: it is the last one I write about my day to day traveling adventures. In the next (and final) post, I will try a very difficult exercise: to summarize what I learned in the last 13 months and put words on how this trip changed me.
Before I start this post, let me put you some nice modern Tanzanian tunes in your ears.
At the end of the previous post, I left you in Dar es Salaam, where our group spent the night before crossing to Zanzibar. On day 33, after a chaotic day start, (remember, we were woken up in the early morning by a mini-storm and most of my stuff got wet), we take the ferry to cross the sea to Zanzibar with our extended group (we got 5 new fellow adventurers).
Zanzibar, also known as the spice island is a small island located a few kilometers away from the Tanzanian coast. It was a powerful trade platform (principally spice, slaves, gold and textiles) from the 12th to the 15th century before going under Portuguese control until the mid-16th century. Zanzibar was then controlled until the mid-19th century by the Omani sultans and became after that a British protectorate. Zanzibar got totally independent in December 1963 and signed a declaration of unity with its neighbor country Tanganyika in 1964 to form the country known today as Tanzania. In the name Tanzania, “Tan” comes from Tanganyika, “zan” from Zanzibar and “ia” stands for independence association.
The sea crossing by ferry takes us about 2 hours and once on the other side, we are transferred by mini van to Nungwe in the North of the island. Our resort has a nice location, a few meters from the beach. The view from the pool and the bar is beautiful.
The place and its surroundings is a bit touristic, with many restaurants, resorts and scuba diving schools. However I really enjoy a bit of comfort after some long days sitting in the truck. I spend the afternoon enjoying the sun on the beach. In the evening, we enjoy the sunset on the beach before havin a nice pizza nearby with the whole group and we finish the day (and start the next one) at a beach party.
I start the next day a bit late 🙂 At 10 in the morning, I jump in a boat with the Scuba diving school of the resort to explore the local underwater world. Zanzibar is definitely not the best diving spot in the world but still, the weather is really good and the visibility is far better than at lake Malawi. As I am in a good mood and the group is very nice, I really enjoy the time spent in the water.
In the afternoon I rest a bit on the beach before going with the group on a legendary sunset cruise 🙂 In this cruise, a traditional boat sails us along the coast and the good mood is ensured by some musicians and an open bar :). First, we stop at a snorkeling spot where our Korean friend Jin shows us how painful it is to land in the water in a flat position after jumping from the boat deck. At the second stop, we enjoy a wonderful sunset with a sun going down in an orange/blue sea in the background and boats casting magical shades in the foreground. Back on land, our first task is to bring home some friends who enjoyed the open bar too much.
After that the group meets again at a pizzeria next to our resort. There I experience what may be the worst gastronomic experience of my whole trip: slow service, unfriendly waiters and bad quality food. Unfortunately, in the next days, I will see that this is something usual in Zanzibar.
On the next day, after 2 days enjoying the beach and the sun, we move to a more cultural place, Stone Town on the western side of the island.
Stone town is the heart of the island and still has many signs of its past influences, the most visible one being the beautiful house doors.
We arrive there around noon. After a quick lunch near our hostel, we go for a walk with some of the group in the city center. The narrow streets are very interesting but as they all kind of look like the same, we get lost and succeed to come back to our hotel only thanks to a local that showed us the way back, of course against a small tip. We go back for a city walk a bit later, but this time with a guide. The visit is very interesting. We learn about the history of the city, and the architectural specificity like the house walls built with corals or the meaning of the engravings on the doors. One highlight of the visit is the Mercury house, where Freddie Mercury lived before moving to Great Britain to become the famous singer of the rock band Queen. Another highlight is the local market, where we see very low hygienic standards in the fish and meat area. We finish the afternoon at a roof top bar where we enjoy the sunset with some beers. Some friends arrive a bit later with a cool story. They went on a cruise on a boat that ran out of fuel 🙂 and one of the crew had to swim back to land to get gasoline 🙂 In the evening we spend some time at the night market which is actually a touristic trap (each table is selling exactly the same thing) and finally, we have dinner at a restaurant with a view on the sea… and an exhibitionist a few meters away, such a strange feeling lol.
Day 36 is quite light. In the morning, we go again in the city for a walk with the group. This is the opportunity for me to buy postcards and send them. Then, around lunch, we take the ferry back to Dar Es Salaam. Sadly, this is also time to say goodbye to some of our friends (some of them being in the tour since the beginning) who are ending their tour in Dar Es Salaam. Back at our camp site, I enjoy the beach a few meters away from our tents. As we came back on a Sunday, the beach is also full of locals.
Nothing special to report about day 37. We have another long drive from Dar Es Salaam to Pangani further North on the coast.
We start day 38 with another long drive from Pangani to the Meserani snake park near Arusha where we arrive in the middle of the afternoon. After having put up my tent, I visit the snake park near the camp site with some of the group. The snake collection is quite nice. We also see some crocodiles and turtles, some of them even doing their business without being bothered by the visitors 🙂
Later in the afternoon, we go out of the camp to visit a local market. Although we don’t stay there very long, it is a nice experience, as it feels authentic (it’s not part of the organized tour) and we see a lot of Maasai people.
Arusha is not big but it is quite busy as it is the starting point of a lot of tours, especially the safaris going to the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti national park.
Day 39 is another long drive day. Indeed, this time, we have a transfer from Arusha to Karatu, close to the entrance of the Ngorongoro crater. On the way there, we make a stop to visit a Maasai village. I have to say that I have a very mixed feeling about this stop. On the one hand, it is interesting to have a contact with the Maasai tribe and to get an overview about their traditions and their way of life. On the other hand, the visit is organized as a timed and scripted touristic show. First we see some traditional dances, then we have the chance to see the houses and finally we are taken to building which is supposed to be the school and where kids are asked to wait and sing when tourists are coming. At the end, nothing seems really sincere and authentic and the whole setup is perceived as a big tourist trap.
We arrive at our camp site at the end of the afternoon, where we enjoy the sun with nice beers at the pool.
We leave the camp site in the early morning to reach the Ngorongoro crater. Ngorongoro crater is the crater of an old now inactive volcano and is 20km wide. It is shared between a high concentration of wildlife and Maasai tribes with their cattle. We spend the morning exploring the crater in a game drive. As I’ve already been in a lot of game drives, I hope we spot some big cats so that the drive is not too boring. Most of my friends in my 4×4 vehicle are expecting a black rhino. Twice during the drive, our guides shows us a spot in the distance that are supposed to be rhinos. When zooming at the max of our cameras we recognize more or less the shape of a rhino but still it is a bit deceiving. Nonetheless, the landscape surrounding us is amazing.
After a short lunch break, we leave Ngorongoro to enter the famous Serengeti National Park. One of the highlight of this park is the wildebeest migration, that we will unfortunately not see this time. However, the highlight of our game drive is still amazing: we spot a group of female lions having just killed a wildebeest and eating it. We spend the night in a quiet camp site in the middle of the Seregenti national park.
We start day 41 with a last game drive in Serengeti national park. This is my game drive number 20. I had now more than enough 🙂 and after this one, I swear I won’t go on a safari on land before a long time 🙂 In the early morning, we are lucky to spot again a big group of lions. However the highlight of the game drive arrives shortly before lunch. This time we spot 2 beautiful cheetahs. This is a nice birthday gift for our friend Nic, who is celebrating her 4th decade!
The way back to Arusha is quite long as we have to cross the whole Serengeti national park and the Ngorongoro crater again. Back on the main road to Arusha, we are a bit exhausted but after a short nap, we are setting the 4×4 in party mode.
Here is some funny tunes from our driver’s playlist:
Back at the camp, we enjoy a nice last dinner altogether and we enjoy Nic’s birthday cake before taking a final group picture. Already in the middle of the night, we have to say goodbye to some of our friends leaving to the airport.
Day 42/Saturday 24.12.16
Christmas eve is a special day for me. It is the last day of my Overland tour but also of my whole trip. We leave Arusha in the early morning to be able to arrive in Nairobi in the early afternoon. The border crossing with Kenya goes smooth but takes quite some time because of a long queue. Kenya is the 25th country I am visiting in this trip. After a last shopping stop, we cross Nairobi to arrive at the final camp site where some of the group will stay before continuing to Uganda. For me, I just have time to say goodbye to everybody before going to the airport. It is a very strange feeling to leave the group after having spent 6 weeks together. The trip to the airport is very short as we drive there before the rush hours. My flight to Zurich takes off a bit after 8pm. As I see the city lights getting smaller and smaller, I start feeling strange: on the one hand, I feel sad to end such a wonderful trip. On the other hand, I feel very proud first to have taken the decision to leave my comfort zone and second to have been able to live such an amazing adventure. I land in Zurich in the early morning to take a connection flight to Paris. I am a bit afraid of the immigration in Switzerland. Let’s see if I have difficulties entering Europe. As I approach the immigration area I am surprised to see a long queue and no counter for EU passengers. I then ask an immigration employee to find out that EU passengers should go at the very end of the hall. I finally find the right counter and I really enjoy the walk in the EU passenger lane. I am the only one in this queue and all the other passengers are waiting in the other line: this allows me to pass hundreds of Chinese 😉 Luckily for me, the passport control goes smoothly and I am allowed to proceed to my connecting flight.
The one hour flight to Paris is the strangest one I’ve ever done, I am riding an emotionally intense roller coaster: one minute I am happy to go back “home” to my family, the next one I feel a bit depressed, and then happy again, and then depressed again, and happy, and depressed, and happy, and depressed,… this cycle is only interrupted by a nice glass of red wine. After a bit more than 50 min, we finally land in Paris. The pilot announcement “Welcome to Paris CDG, the temperature is blablabalbal” is the time when I realize the inevitable: my round the world trip is now over and one of my life chapter just ended.