Diary & Travel Reports from the saddle
Jambo (Hello in Swahili) - 20 August 2004
I’ve gone around the world!
If it’s a cultural world tour then Arabian influence is unmistakable here in Tanzania with the Muslim calls to prayers starting at 5am each day, veiled women, the distinct Arabian musical influence and Indonesian products like the pink packaged mosquito repellent.
In five hours’ time (10pm) the ship Aziza II will be leaving for Pemba island and I will reluctantly be on board. I admit it, I am hooked on exotic and mysterious Zanzibar and I’m definitely coming back. It is an island in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa.
Explorers, sultans, slave traders, merchants and pilgrims all chose Zanzibar as their strategic base, spurred by monsoon winds along trade routes, driven by imagined wealth and riches or led by starry maps and religious conquest towards escape and discovery.
Zanzibar absorbed peoples from The Orient and Iberia, Assyria and India, carried in centuries gone by on trade winds. Tribe and nationality were blurred creating a cultural tapestry and rich ethnic array that is the foundation of the peaceful Zanzibari way of life and friendly spontaneous hospitality. Here is the birthplace of Swahili, the East African language, a lingua franca forged from global dialects, upon which legends were carried, trade routes opened and a Sultan’s empire prospered. The Sultan of Oman once even made his capitol here.
I glance out of the window of this internet café at wooden dhows moored just 20 metres from the promenade and behind them are a few luxury catamaran cruisers. This is historic Stone Town, a metropolis built to harbour secrets in its labyrinthine alleyways of ornately carved doors and serene courtyards. Emblems of a rich and tumultuous history survive, depicted through Arabian knights palaces, mournful slave markets, aromatic spice bazaars, ornate cathedrals and an historic fort that was the scene of the worlds’ shortest war survive today.
Today I went on a spice tour (thanks for the present Mitus), watch for the sign outside the port) seeing smelling and tasting the tumeric, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppers, cumba, which scent the groves of lychee, mango, jackfruit and coconut. Seafood here is always the cheapest on the menu paradise!
Variety is the life of spice. I thank Sun a Sea View Bungalows (www.kulalabar.com) at Paje on the East coast for four days of wanton rest and recuperation. I wallowed on the palm-fringed beaches, sun bleached sands, and in jade coloured waters. Someone has to do this research! What a pleasure at last to swim to my heart’s content in the Indian ocean, wade out to the reef when the tide is out then dig sharp spindles from sea anenomis from my feet! Ah, I bet you thought I’d taken a job with the tourism ministry!
I’ve seen a fair amount of the world now and the thing that makes me most proud to be British is that we led the fight against the slave trade. The Anglicans here built the church on the site of the old slave market. The altar is right on the spot of the whipping post, used to gauge how resilient (strong) was a slave thereby setting the price. Thousands arrived packed like sardines in dhows from the mainland port of Bagamoyo, which in Swahili mans ‘place to leave your heart’. This was the last slaves would see of their country. The Catholic mission there still functions, once used to manage the ‘freedom village’ where freed slaves lived, bought through funds collected internationally by Christian churches. Muslims never fought against slavery, though Zanzibar is firmly in Islam’s clutches.
I’ve one last thing to say about Zanzibar, though locals do not like to talk about it. Most feel that the union with Tanzania is unfair, in terms of social services. They say that Tanzania takes the wealth from the island and puts little back. 75% of the population would say that unless they are treated more fairly, they would support independence. Whilst they are peaceful, I would not rule out them fighting for it. Elections are in 2005.
Arriving in Tanzania from Malawi I was struck by the beauty of the West. I spent a two weeks in Dar es Salaam mainly to make my presentation for the people, which was well attended at the Royal Palm Hotel www.royalpalmdar.com . I thank the Royal Palm very very much not only for those facilities but also for putting me up in luxury for four nights (thanks Steve and Adrian). We managed to raise some money and everyone enjoyed their night of high adventure!
Lots more thanks are due in Tanzania: Diamond Hotel in Mbeya, Iringa Hotel, the Lutheran Hostel (and especially to the staff) in Dar, Tuk Tuk Motos for the rear tyre (it is the first time I am traveling with three spare tyres!), Rosanas Ltd for the USB camera cable, and the captain of the ship Aziza II who is ferrying me round these islands for free. He was trained in Dartmouth near my hometown in Devon UK. Also, from Malawi, thanks to orphanage builder Junior Andrews who gave me his new Gerber knife that he only received the day before. I had lost my Leatherman in Zambia. Junior passes on anything he receives because God uses him as a conduit. He is one of those Christians who sold everything he had to work for Jesus and since, has wanted for nothing. Also thanks to Dr Anoush Mazloum (a Baha’ist) at the Family Dental Clinic in Lilongwe for replacing the notorious filling first repaired (on this continent) with glue in Capetown.
Motorcycles in rural areas took on a couple of new twists. The health ministry in Tanzania is very interested in motorcycle ambulances used to transport pregnant mothers with complications to hospital. The maternal mortality rate is very bad since there is no transport and the roads are small and poor. I was able to pass on some contacts for units produced in Africa, they may put them in next year’s budget. Also the Council of Christian Churches is looking into training pastors to maintain their motorcycles because we can’t expect God to change the oil for them. I put people in contact, I hope Rev Jacob Kahemele follows it up.
What else in Tanzania? Yes the tea. There are two types. Forget the awful version with milk that is no better than dishwater, give me the spiced black sweet tea that I have to say is the very best in the world. Tanzania has the best designed road humps in the world: before the hump there is a series of three smaller rumble strips that warn you of the proper bump ahead. And for disabled round towners, there are three wheeled bicycles pedaled with the hands.
OK, I am going to be late for the boat unless I sign off, its 7.30pm. I’m going to Pemba Island for a few days, en route back to the mainland to take the road to Mount Kilimanjaro. Pemba is the world’s capitol of witchcraft, so I am going to fasten on the armour of God and probably refrain from evangelizing there!
Simon Milward, on the road
A solo fundraising round the world ride on a handmade motorcycle.
Supporting Doctors Without Borders, Motorcycle Outreach and democracy.
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