The last leg of the adventure

17 Oct

And so we have reached the end of this wonderful journey.  In fact, as I write this we are at 37,000 feet aboard a British Airways 767 headed away from Dar Es Salaam.  It seems so far from whence we’ve come in so many ways.  But before I begin to wax tripwise, let’s catch you up to date.  Our final stop was Zanzibar, the island nation that is now part of Tanzania just off the coast of the mainland.  Zanzibar has the reputation of being a glorious sea side retreat and the perfect place to end a safari.  True enough as everyone we met in our two lodges in Zanzibar was wrapping up their safaris here.  But Zanzibar is not as magical as we’d have hoped.  The sand is certainly white and fine and the surf a brilliant turquoise. Image But the lodges are isolated oases.  The infrastructure is horribly poor as are the residents.  The feeling is the same as one gets in many of the seaside resorts you may have visited.  We were reminded once again at how important it is for us to recognize how lucky we are and to find ways to help.  Our lodge was the requisite bungalow on the beach with a wide open view of the ocean of course,Image but pricey accommodations troubled me as I watched small handmade sailboat go by as the tide went out, each carrying a fisherman who would sail some three hours, spend the day free diving off his craft with a spear trying to catch a fish that he would, on the returning tide, bring back to the open air fish market, hoping the auction price would bring in enough to make the 12 hour day worthwhile.  ImageAt the same time, women and children waded in the tidal waters harvesting seaweed which they would dry for 5 days on village racks in order to make soap and consume for the nutrient value.  I’m not sure who was getting the money from tourists, but it wasn’t them.  I can do the arithmetic and it isn’t pretty.

Our lodge was called Mtemwe and we enjoyed time by the pool, reading, scuba diving and a particularly fun few hours sailing with one of the local fisherman.  To earn a few extra dollars, he’ll take out a couple of tourists for a sail after the day’s work is done.  Marci and I waded into the knee deep surf and boarded his craft, a combination trimaran and outrigger canoe with outriggers on both sides.  The sail plan was a single mast with an asymmetrical sail made of stitched together cotton bolts, each about a meter wide.  The entire vessel was made of wood, hand made in fact, and with no power tools.  ImageThe hull was a hand hollowed cocoa log and the mast one of it’s branches.  The wood is so strong!  At about 18 feet from stem to stern it isn’t a big craft, but did she ever fly!  In about 10 knots of breeze we easily beat 7 knots.  It was remarkable how efficiently she sailed.  By the way, for any sailors reading, the mast had no stays but for a mobile polyline that lead from the top of the mast down to a kono (swahili for cleat) on the windward outrigger held in place by the mate who also provided counterbalance.  Coming about was a ballet.  At the end of our wonderful sail we learned that our captain who, at all of 40 years old had 10 children!  What an ambitious guy.Image

Our time at Mtemwe through we headed to Stone Town, the old muslim city of Zanzibar.  Hustle and bustle, calls to prayer echoing through the narrow streets, shops of all types with shopkeepers beckoning one and all with cheap prices and best quality, we walked through Stone Town for several hours and saw the only real site we had as a destination: the slave market.  Yes it was in that spot, which now serves as an Anglican church that African slaves were examined and sold, or examined and rejected until the 1870’s.  To stare at it is to run a newsreel in your mind.  You close your eyes but the newsreel keeps rolling.  It seems that even as human history progresses into the most modern of times, we cannot stop finding new ways to do terrible things to each other.

Our hotel was at the end of a promontory facing due west and we sat on our small terrace watching our final african sunset.  The sun was a perfectly round red orb sinking into a perfectly still blue sea.  It was the perfect way to end a wonderful trip.Image

In some ways it is difficult to take a trip like this.  There are wonderful things to see and very special people to meet.  It is also important to see and understand how many of the world lives.  We return from this trip wishing there were things that we can do to help others not as fortunate as we.  But we have also seen that happiness is not what you have or where you live, but it is what is in your heart.  We have seen joy in villages where there is no water and sadness in neighborhoods of affluence.  Who is to say what determines happiness for our neighbor?  I know it is something I will think about.

This was our first safari and despite all that I read to prepare there were many things I wish I had known.  At some point I will write a guide for the first time safari goer but not today.  The captain has announced our final decent into Heathrow and so with that I will bring this post to an end.

Marci and I carry each of you with us on our journeys through this blog.  It gives us great pleasure to write it for you.  She doesn’t always agree with some of what I say but it is written from the heart.  So thank you for being with us, for your comments and friendship.  Until next time…


5 Responses to “The last leg of the adventure”

  1. Janice Yelland October 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    Welcome home. We have missed you.

  2. Susan October 18, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    very sweet entry, it is soulful, and mournful. And while we know the exotic beauty you’ve seen, the off the charts experiences on the safaris and in Capetown, you brought it back to the most human level, what is happiness, where do we find it in ourselves, but also help others to in ways to help them with quality of life. Pretty special. Looking forward to in person hugs and kisses from you.

  3. Anne-Marie Aigner October 18, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    Can’t wait to hear more. The blog has been beautiful — thank you for sharing. May be as close to an African safari as I get — and it has been amazing to go along with you two.

  4. Stephen Berger October 18, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Beautiful and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing. Continued safe travels.

  5. Mom/Ellie October 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Marci, your compassion for Elam is heart warming.
    Michael, the maturity and and deep understanding of what actually is important in life, {exhibited in the last paragraph of your blog}, makes me very proud.
    Love you,

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