Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day, Where is My Box?

Happy Boxing Day!

This is our last day with Anwar and the last of the safaris for a little over a week. Last night I overindulged with the spinach on the buffet. Spinach  and pumpkin will always get me for second helpings, but this is not a good thing. Spinach treats me the same way as eating two bowls of stewed prunes does others. I am paying for it this morning, but knowing I made trouble for myself, I set the alarm for an hour earlier than need be.

This will be a short safari drive in Lake Manyara Reserve, because we have to catch a flight to Zanzibar at 2pm. They have the whole assortment of animals in this reserve, but almost immediately, we came across a bull elephant just lazily strolling down the road. Anwar had to stop as the animals have the right of way. He was explaining to us that one time he was caught blocking an animals thoroughfare and was fined $200 general fine and an additional fine of $5o for each person in the jeep.

As the elephant walked by us within petting distance, I just wanted to reach out and cuddle him. When I started cooing at him, Anwar shut me up explaining that could agitate the bull into doing something destructive to the car. Okay, cute, but dangerous still. I get it. There ia a large hippo pond with numerous hippos; two started fighting, but it happened and ended so fast, I could not get it on camera. We were only able to stand at a railing to view them, which was fine, we had seen a number of hippos. This reserve is know for its bird varieties. We saw numerous birds we had not seen before. Baboons ran rampant and should try practiciing birth control. There were more of them than I had ever seen anywhere. Some were doing the nasty on the road, while others were doing the nasty to themselves on the road or on the side of it. Oh, tourists, let's put on our show.

The hotel packed us a picnic lunch, surprising since we checked out long before a normal lunchtime. We had a 2 hour drive to the Arusha airport for our TanzAir flight to Zanzibar. Being the travelers we are, we thought we should be there 2 hours ahead of time for security and all that hubbub, but when we arrived at 12:15, we found the check-in did not begin until 1:00pm. Anwar's boss showed up with our tickets. He received so many kudos on Anwar's performance, he grinned from ear to ear. Anwar told us over lunch, he did not work at all in November. Promising to do our best to send clients his way, we gave him his tip and said good-bye. Living only 20 minutes away, he was going to spend the rest of the day having Christmas with his family and neighbors, though he is Muslim. His wife was a Christian, but converted to Muslim along with his three kids.

At an airport this small, it is a comedy act, but actually they are well organized. All flights on all of the airlines check in at one counter with one man doing the check-in and one weighing and labeling the luggage. Although there was a horde of people, we checked in and received boarding passes relatively quickly. Next was move to the  loading area, where everyone is allowed, those flying and those saying good-bye or hello to an incoming flight.

Without warning, we had a downpour. Being we were flying on a 30 seat Cessna, we had to wait out the rain. This turned out to be a good thing. I had to acquaint myself with the men's room three times before we finally boarded. I kept thinking as long as they have my luggage, they will not leave without me, but in reality, the plane is so small, they could have dumped my luggage in a heartbeat. There were no seat assignments, just grab a seat filling up the front first. Being 2nd and 3rd, we sat right behing the pilots and could have given them back massages along the way. However, it was so hot in the plane for this hour and twenty-minute flight, we fell asleep.

At the Zanzibar "International" Airport, hardly a bite bigger than the one we left, the luggage was off-loaded by hand onto a rack, not a conveyor belt. Everyone had told us that finding an ATM machine in Tanzania was going to be difficult, but while on the safari, we had all meals included, so had no need for cash. Now, it was an issue and the airport we left behind had no ATM machine. Fortunately, the Zanzibar airport had a row of money changers, so we converted euros to get by, especially for the taxi ride to the hotel. Warned to use the authorized taxis regardless of offers by others, we did and had a set rate of 13,000 T shillings. When the driver pulled up next to a mosque and said this was as far as he could go, we were nervous, but he continued that the roads to the hotel were too narrow for cars. Instead, he walked us to the hotel, 236 Hurumzi.

What an amazing hotel it is, called 236 Hurumzi, the address where it sits. Originally, the building was built by the Omani Arabs. The front section was built by Tharia Tiipto who was principal financial advisor to Sultan Bargash. Tipton also served as Head of Customs. In 1863, when the slave trade was officially ended, the British made it a law that all slaves were to be freed. Those who had made investments in their slaves refused to relinquish the money spent, so the British  government reimbursed them for their losses. It was in this building that these transactions were handled. Hurumzi is derived from the Swahili Uhuru-mzee which means "Free the men". Tom Green, an American from Kansas, bought the first property and restored it. Now including the properties at 236, there is also 240, 234, and 235 creating 24 spacious and luxurious rooms. All rooms are decorated in a mixture of Persian, Indian, and Arab elements. As he restored each part, locals offered to sell him bits and pieces from destroyed buildings. It is truly unique. Our tub is the size of a wading pool. All of the furniture throughout the hotel is antique.

All of this goodness is not without a down side. The island of Zanzibar receives its electricity from the mainland. On December 10th, the government decided to refurbish the underwater cable. In light of this, there has not been any electricity since December 10th. The hotel has a tremendously large generator that runs 18 hours a day. However, smaller businesses and restaurants who are not as fortunate can only stay open if they have their own generator or during daylight hours for stores. Commerce aside, the average citizen has no electricity, no running water as the pumps are electric, so they are stuck. The hotel has its own wells, so water is not an issue here.

So, we finally are settled into our room by 4:30 and want to explore, but first we want to put our credit cards, the computer, and other cash in the room's safe. We follow the instructions, but it does not work. Multiple attempts later, we call downstairs for aid. A young man comes up with a bit of a smirk like he is going to solve our problems. He lost his smirk mighty quickly. He could not get it to work either. Believing that if he went for the printed instructions, it would help, but when he returned with them in hand, it was useless. Finally, they decided that the battery needed replacing, but the manager would not be back until 7pm. Wifi is supposed to be available, but I could not connect. When I asked reception, she told me to use the lobby and gave me the password. It did not work. We tried the password every which way, but no deal. She finally suggested I go upstairs to the office, where a password is not needed. It worked, but then I had to sort through 657 e-mails to get rid of the spam while uploading my little YouTube videos to include in earlier postings.

By this time, it was 8:00, they had just finished replacing the batteries in the safe, it worked again, and we were ready to go out and explore. Problem...the city had no electricity, so all of the alleys and byways were black as a witches stereotypical cat, so we couuld not see a thing. Next door to the hotel is a cafe that is part of the hotel, so we ate there, came back and went to bed.
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