Monday, January 3, 2011

Rasta time in Zanzibar

On New Year's eve Tom and I arrived into Nungwi village in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a tropical island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It is a long thin island approximately 100 kilometres in length (2 hours drive on bumpy roads). The island has some of the best beaches I have ever seen. Zanzibar plenty of tourists over the new year period, and parts of the coast are littered with fancy hotels that are mostly visited by wealthy Italians (I'm not sure why). But thankfully there is a village called Nungwi, in the north of Zanzibar, which is a more relaxed spot suited to backpackers.

We rocked up to Nungwi with our backpacks to find a group of local guys with long dreadlocks sitting in the shade listening to reggae music, accompanied by a contingent of Scandinavian females. There was a beach bar with a massive rasta flag behind it, and an amplifier plus mixer with two speakers the size of a fridge. I liked the look of it.

The scene was reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe (or 'The Beach', for the younger audience). There were local guys digging holes and others were nailing thatch panels to the tree-house like structures. It appeared to be some sort of commune. At first it seemed a bit sketchy. There were no rooms, just open bungalows accessible by step-ladders where a few mattresses were haphazardly spread out across the floorboards. There seemed to be no security, but none of the existing guests seemed bothered by this so we decided to go for it (we had no choice anyway).

It turned out to be an excellent decision, because the people were either chilled out rastafarians, or people who like hanging out with rastafarians (relaxed interesting people). It was a buzz sleeping in the open air, with the sound of the ocean offering a peaceful ambience. We made some good friends during our stay, and had a great time swimming, reading, drinking cheap beer, and sitting around chatting with the locals and the other guests.

A short walk away from the beach and you are in the middle of a small local village, where you could explore the windy dirt streets and check out what the locals are getting up to. Everybody is friendly and smiley, and says 'Jambo' when you walk past. It costs US$1.50 in the village to buy lunch, or $2 if you want a coke with it.

The local people seem to like lounging around during the day because it's very hot and ridiculously humid. I suspect that they only work for for as long as they need each day to pay for the essentials (food, power, cell phone), and they are probably less focused than westerners are on accumulating wealth (that is purely an anecdotal observation). They seem to make money by: fishing and selling fish in auctions, working in a hotel, operating a small fruit/bread/miscellaneous items store, digging holes for pipes, building, snorkeling tours, importing marijuana and sunglasses from the mainland (Tanzania) and selling to tourists on the beach.

Nungwi is now one of my favourite beach holiday destinations. The beach is gorgeous, and if you find the right place to stay, and go exploring, you can really immerse yourself in the culture of the place. A highlight was watching the local Muslim kids running around on the beach in the evenings. Groups of boys playing football, and girls running around in beautiful colourful full-body garments. Perhaps the low-point was when I exhausted myself by trying to run in 35 degree heat on New Years eve. I had to stop when I was 11km into a run, with 5km to go, because I was about to collapse in a heap! Though this ended well, because a local offered me a seat on the rear tray of his bicycle for a lift back to the village.

Anyway, that's enough indulgence for a while. It's time to hit the hills of the Rift Valley, so I'm heading back to Kenya. In the meantime, Tom is off to battle some wild animals and maybe Mount Kenya too.

1 comment:

Mick said...

Sounds fantastic. Good luck with your Kenya adventure. See you back on the hills at some stage.