Stories and Photographs of my travels, Tales of friends, family, animals and my life
One of the draws of the South East coast of Zanzibar are the stunning beaches with their powder white sand and crystal clear water. Village life behind the resorts seems unaffected to a certain extent by tourism and provides an insight to the everyday life of local people. Pingwe beach is one of the best, (although I heard Pongwe was awesome) but my vote goes to Dongwe beach. For those of you have been following my tales of the build and its trials and tribulations, you may have started to wonder why I stayed so long. Words cannot describe the beauty of this place, the fun we had and the friends I made so here are some pictures of some of the beaches around the area.
Pingwe beach with its iconic rock restaurant, colourful shells and ancient fossils embedded in the old coral reef comes a close second
Pajae is good for wind surfing. There are more restaurants and it is a little livelier at night.
Michamvie Kae is at the end of the road and good for sunset and a beer. The beaches are clean and sandy but the swimming is not so good due to being very shallow and there is a lot of seaweed
Jambiani was ok but not one of my favourites although it was good for photography
It was time for a break from work and we decided to check out Prison Island. Our first friend and guest, Anneke wanted to see a little more of the place and as the wind was not blowing, kite surfing was put on hold. I read up on the trip:-
Prison Island also known as the Changuu Island lies about 30 minutes by boat from Zanzibar.
Prison Island was once used by an Arab slave trader to contain the more troublesome slaves he had brought from the African mainland to prevent their escape before shipping them to the Arabian purchasers, or for auctioning in the Zanzibar Slave market.
In 1893, Lloyd Mathews built the prison. The prison idea was to send violent criminals from the Tanganyika mainland to the Prison Island. However, it ended up being used as a quarantine center, instead, for yellow fever epidemics that once raged through the region. The old prison’s can still be seen on the island.
Giant tortoises which are conserved upon the Prison Island – they are not indigenous but were brought in from abroad.
The island is small and will only take a 45 minutes maximum to see the sights. However you should linger on the sand and swim in the crystal blue waters before leaving.
It sounded great so we priced the trip up. The beach boys were charging at least 90 dollars for three people. The hotels weighed in with a hefty 80 dollars per person. It sounded like a lot of money so we talked to our friend Jimi who used to be a tour guide. He had a friend who would take all of us in his boat for 30,000 Tanzanian shilling (18 dollars) and Jimi would come along and give us a guided tour. So in total with Dalladalla to town and back, boat and entrance fee we were looking at 15 dollars each plus a tip for Jimi. Bargain!
It was a great day, despite the 1 hour bus drive each way and 45 minutes spent looking for Jimi in town and ending up in the tacky Freddy Mercury Bar waiting for him to find us.
It saved us at least 45 dollars, we had an interesting full day out, political talk with a Massi Warrior on the bus included, met some great people, did some shopping and got home in time for dinner.
Osmane was stoned. Lying on the concrete bench at the front of the restaurant, half naked, his pot belly sunny side up. The keys to the fridge, where the beers were kept, next to him. Mitch picked them up, unlocked the chest, helped himself, locked up, put them back. Osmane never stirred.
Ame often went to town to buy supplies or see his wife and baby and had to leave his brother in charge. But instead of encouraging passing tourists to pop in for a meal or drink Osmane took the opportunity to have a few friends over for a pot party. Sometimes he would disappear altogether on ‘other business’ leaving the restaurant unattended and there were occasions when I found a beach boy or fisherman minding the place. A huge row normally ensued when Ame returned and found out what had been happening.
Prior to the build the restaurant had been frequented by locals and it was proving to be a challenge to get the villagers and the brothers to change their habits. At night they would gather and drink, watch us eat or fall asleep on the bench. Ame said he had tried but the locals ignored him and his brothers just encouraged them. One night it all came to a head. A ‘brother’ was drinking with a friend and two tussies (village women) when a row broke out. One of the girls poured her drink over him and then stormed off into the night while the other continued to screech at the men. Osmane didn’t have the courage to tell his friends to move on so we left instead. Luckily Phil and Ame and one of the more sensible brothers, Winne, saw it happen. The incident validated what we had been reporting and meeting was called the next day to thrash out the issue out.
New rules were instigated. No walking around half clothed. Entertaining of friends and family to take place away from the restaurant. No sleeping on the job. No locals allowed in unless they purchase something. No walkabout and leaving strangers managing the bar. No more money spent unless the compound and beach were cleaned every day, rubble removed from the build, gates and fencing around the enclosure completed, tiling and plumbing sorted out, rooms cleaned and laundry changed on a regular basis. If the rules couldn’t be kept then someone more reliable would be found to do the job. It was the first strategic move to remove Osmane and Mohammed from the project. The brothers were on notice!
Sitting on the bungalow balcony one night we noticed a couple lurking in the compound. A camera flash went off several times as they took photos of the half-finished buildings first, then us.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” I called out to the retreating pair who, when confronted, refused to talk to us.
“What’s going on? Mitch asked
“They’re at it again” I replied
Several times over our stay the brothers had shown tourists around the build, giving us some rubbish about them wanting to move in. Of course, what they were really doing was trying to get more financial backing without telling Mwamba.
“Mwamba” (Mr Money) was the nickname for Phil who was lending the brothers cash for the beach bungalow build. Phil ploughed all his earnings from other work into the project – something that the brothers didn’t understand. I often thought that they might as well have called him fedha ng’ombe (cash cow) for all the respect that the nickname inferred.
Because he had to earn before he could buy for the build, things weren’t moving fast enough for the brothers so they took the matter into their own hands.
“Have you told them about Mwamba?” I would ask each time we found tourists being given the spiel about what a wonderful place the bungalows were going to be and how they needed more money to finance it.
Of course they hadn’t. After several conversations about the seriousness of not informing the potential investors or Mwamba about each other (It is rumoured that Mafia money is not uncommon in this area) I gave up. They nodded and agreed, said they would talk to Phil then showed more people around. In the end we just phoned Mwamba whenever it happened.
One day Ame came to us
“Ohhhh I have big problem”
“What’s up?” we asked
He borrowed a substantial amount of money from someone when he first set up the business. The agreement was to pay the loan back over a period of 3 years but when the business went downhill payments stopped. The contract was due to expire and the loaner had heard that Ame was now doing well and wanted all his money back………. or else.
“How much?” we asked
Ame named the sum. It was a lot of money.
“Did you tell Phil about this when you made a contract with him?”
“No” Ame admitted
“Yes” he agreed
“But is my problem. I will sort out”
“Do you owe money elsewhere?” we asked
“Are you sure?”
After talking to Phil and realising that Mwamba was not going to bail him out Ame found the money .
Later on we heard that he’d borrowed some of it.
But it seems Ame learnt a valuable lesson. He paid the money back out of profits and, to my knowledge, is loyal to the one guy who has stuck with the project throughout – Mwamba.
A Word a Week Challenge – Window
Floating market. Meekong river. Vietnam
Once a week I will dip into my old English Oxford dictionary and pick a word on the page that it falls open at. The challenge is to post a photograph, poem, story – whatever the genre you like best to describe of what that word means to you. Please put a your post link in the challenge’s comments box so myself and others can follow it back to you. Please also put the challenges link in your post so your readers can follow it back to the challenge and see other posts and take part if they wish.
Do you have any photos, memories or stories of your pet that you would like to share for this week’s challenge?
“What have you been doing?” asked Phil as we surveyed the second broken toilet seat in the space of 6 weeks
“Bouncing up and down on it” I replied answering the ridiculous question in kind.
“and I’m light weight.” I continued “can you imagine the amount of times you’re going to have to replace the seats when heavier people stay.”
We were beginning discover that a lot of the cheaper goods made in China and exported to Africa were not built for durability and broke easily.
This was the latest in a recent spate of breakages. The last one being a brand new roller loaded with fresh paint which snapped at the handle when applied to the wall and then fell on me.
“Aaaaahh” said Ame in disgust when I waved the two pieces around “Kichina Takataka!” (cheap rubbish). “I fix it like new”.
He headed off with the offending object and returned some time later with the roller taped to a broom handle.
“Excellent. Now I can reach the ceiling” I said eyeing up the wobbly chair perched precariously on a small table that we had been using, the ladder of course, having gone missing.
Takataka is a real problem on the island. Despite Zanzibar having a policy of no plastic bags (only paper), plastic bottles litter the ground, cardboard containers tumble in the wind, discarded ripped clothes hang from thorny bushes, broken glass glints on the shoreline.
Getting the brothers to understand about recycling and rubbish removal was a major headache for Phil (manager/financer). Out of sight out of mind was the mantra. Unfortunately, out of sight meant the unused piece of land in front of the bungalows outside the compound. Villagers and brothers alike would dump their rubbish there on a daily basis. The problem was that although they might not be able to see it, potential customers walking down the beach certainly could.. Sometimes Phil would instigate a major clear up and the land would remain relatively clean until the takataka started to accumulate again.
One day, fed up with the amount of rubbish blowing around the compound Phil asked the brothers to clean up.
“Don’t dump it down on the beach” he said
“We bury” they replied
“OK but don’t bury it where we’re going to build” he responded then headed off back to his day job.
Several days later the job still hadn’t been done
“No more money until the rubbish is cleared” Phil threatened down the phone to Mohammed. They started work.
He visited us later
“I see they’ve got rid of the rubbish” he said
“Yes, but guess where they’ve buried it”
“Where we’re going to build?”
Phil sighed, shook his head and opened another beer.
Close to the centre of Pingwe village, past the heart of the village – the football ground, lies Ali Barages Emporium. Walk behind the severe grilled frontage, up the concrete step, past the wooden counter, high enough to keep small sticky hands out of reach from its sweet treats and essential pulses, into the dim interior and you will find dizzying choice of goods for sale.
Ali’s son will peel himself off the wall outside where he has been sun-baking with his friends and come and serve you. Always patient with a willing smile and a real appreciation of any attempt at Swahili he does his best to find what you need. It’s not hard. The shop seems to have everything. Flip flops, toiletries, kangas, food, drinks, hardware, huge bottles of drinking water, string, fishing equipment, hammers, nails, saws, buckets, nails, screwdrivers, saws, rakes, spades, buckets, washing powder, condiments, electrical goods – the list is endless. We seemed to spend quite a lot of time in the shop buying items for the build. Luckily prices were reasonable and because of our regular custom we were often given discount. Once he gave me a load of coat hangers for free. What a nice guy!
Obtaining tools from the brothers often proved to be an impossible task as they either didn’t possess the item, had lent it out (more likely rented it!), or it was broken. We could wait hours for a screwdriver, hammer or nails to turn up. Invariably we ended up buying it from Ai Barages for a couple of dollars. Recounting our purchases to Mr Money (Phil who was funding the project) he would ask.
“What happened to the rake I bought?”
“They lent it out to the charcoal burners who then broke it” we would reply (substitute rake for any number of items)
“Where’s the saw/screwdriver/etc etc I bought them?”
“They don’t have” we would reply
But the one thing that Ali Barages didn’t have and Mr Money hadn’t bought the brothers was a Swiss Army Knife. But we did and they coveted it. Often I would see the knife being picked up and fondled lovingly by one of them. Soon they were borrowing it and forgetting to return it. One day after using it to open bottles in the bar (the bottle opener had gone missing) Osmane picked it up, slipped it into his pocket and vanished. After numerous attempts to track him down, he finally turned up.
“Where’s my knife” Mitch asked
Osmane made a great show of patting all his pockets and then shrugging his shoulders’
“If you’ve lost it you owe me 60 dollars ” Mitch said
The knife appeared
That night Osmane tried to borrow the knife again.
“how can you run a bar without a bottle opener” we asked in exasperation
he shrugged his shoulders
We went to Ali Barages and bought him one.
“Hey Fundi” (hey workman) the villagers would call out to us as they passed by giggling with laughter at the sight of two white people actually working instead eating/sunbathing/drinking.
Waving cheerfully with a decorating implement in hand, we called back
“Jambo. Habari?” (hello. How are you?).
Which was the signal for them to wander over, inspect our work, then sit down for a chat.
The Auntie’s were our biggest fans and several old ladies would visit us during the day. Toothy grins flashed, compliments on the work given, opportunities to hold hands with and pat a white woman encouragingly, taken.
“Hey Fundi” became a standard greeting from the Pingwe residents when we walked through the village. We became an attraction in our own right. Tourists would stop and watch, friends and family from different villages would visit, children would hang around outside the compound and stare.
Word spread along the coastline and it became much easier to negotiate payment closer to local prices. Beach boys generally left us alone or backed off when we told them we weren’t tourists but helping a friend out.
“Ah that’s right” you stay at Ame’s for long time” “you paint and decorate” one of them said when I told him I had no money to spend.
Even in Paje (40 minutes dalladalla ride away) the rastas had heard of us.
“Where you stay?” one of them asked
“with my rafiki (friend) Ame” I would reply
“Ah yes I’ve heard about you. OK I make cheaper price. Not tourist price, fundi price”.
The only people who seemed unimpressed by our work were the brothers who would call out
“Hey fundi – you need to start work”
“Hey fundi, When do you finish painting?
“Hey fundi, why you stop?”
One particularly frustrating day, the paint ran out, the plumber hadn’t turned up, the tiles for the bathroom were still in the shop and we still had no water for showering. All down to the incompetence of the brothers. Osmane and Mohammed started to pester us to finish the job.
“How?” We have no paint and can’t finish until the plumbing and tiles are done” I said
“Ah but we have a friend coming to stay. If paint comes later you can finish today or tomorrow ”
“It’s my birthday tomorrow and I already told you I am going out for the day”
“but what about the painting?”
“That’s it, I quit” I said. “I’m not doing any more for the next two days.”
“Mama fundi is finished”
If a Zanzibar male tells you he loves you, it normally means that he either wants sex, your money or both. I am generalizing of course, but from observations I’ve made and the stories I’ve heard it seems to be a reasonable thing to say. Single women exploring the beach invariably end up with an entourage of Masai, local men or beach boys trailing them up and down the bay, allegedly “practising” their English/Italian/Russian etc. After one of several encounters the men declare their love and expect the pestered female to be swept off her feet by the thought of a hot Zanzibar/Masai lover. Some of the more trusting or vulnerable souls are and many get their hearts broken or their bank accounts cleaned out.
I’ve heard of and stayed at local bungalows which have been part or completely built from the money of foreign women. I know of one such place where each bungalow had been funded by a different women that the owner had had affairs with! Large, small, old, young, married, single, thin, big, pretty, plain – all are fair game. Because according to this type of predator’s logic, all these women have two things in common – if they can afford a holiday in Zanzibar they must be rich and white single females are ‘easy’.
One day Mitch, Anna (our first friend of a friend guest) and myself decided to check out the other side of the island. Earlier in the month Ywinne, one Ame’s brothers who owned a mini-van, in a burst of uncharacteristic generosity had offered to take us for the price of petrol. I think because of all the work we had done around the place. Knowing the brothers propensity to back-pedal and try and rip us off we decided to phone him and ask for a quote.
“When you go?” he asked
“Tomorrow would be good. But how much will it cost?”
“I tell you when I see you in the morning”
“Not the price of the petrol then?”
“We discuss when I see you” he replied
At which point we knew that he was reneging on his offer.
We pushed harder for a price and eventually he said “60 dollars”
“But Anna’s friends got a taxi for 20 dollars each way when they came over for dinner the other night. Why is it so much?” we asked
“I have to drive from Stone town to pick you up, there are three of you now and Anna is a guest”
“Prices are always based on hiring the van not the number of people being transported. Anna is staying in the Banda (at a discounted rate) because Mohammed took the tile money, disappeared for 3 days on a bender and we couldn’t finish her bungalow in time. You should be giving her a big discount!” we argued.
Eventually we got him down to 50 dollars but it was still too much.
The day of the trip arrived and I was too sick to travel. Ywinne refused to reduce the price and Mitch decided he couldn’t afford 25 dollars. Anna decided to go and try and negotiate Ywinne down on the way. When she came back she had a story to tell.
Ywinne trailed around after her all day and the only time she had some space was when she went to a restaurant for lunch. Realising that he hadn’t eaten and would be hungry she took some fish down to the beach for him. Later when she was sunbathing she received a text message.
“Thank you for the food” it read “I think you must like me and I must tell you that I think you are beautiful and I am in love with you. I would like to see you”.
She texted him back
“That’s very nice and I’m flattered but you have a wife and children and I have a boyfriend”
“But he’s not here” came the reply
“In my culture we believe in trust and I wouldn’t cheat on him because I care about him ” she texted
“But I like you very much and you don’t have to tell him” persisted Ywinne
Well this is awkward, thought Anna, who realised that the journey home could be difficult if she didn’t sort this out. She turned to Ywinne who was lying next to her on a sun bed and said
“We need to talk”
Cold fruit shakes are always welcome in hot climates. Crushed ice, fresh fruit and a little iced water blended into a smooth drink – awesome. They are easy and cheap to to make and much healthier than milk shakes or smoothies. Strolling along the beach at Pingwe was thirsty work and any establishment that advertised shakes cheaper than the resorts would have been a draw to tourists. I tried to explain this to Ame a) because he didn’t have them on with the menu b) he could make some easy money and c) I was desperate for a banana shake. Having established that he didn’t have a blender my Swahili wasn’t up to trying to find out why. Later on I worked out that his brother, who ran the bar as a franchise, was responsible for drinks.
One day when Phil, Mitch and I went to Stone Town we bought a blender and a bunch of bananas to go with it.
“Here” I said to Ame giving him the purchased goods “Now we can make shakes. Put it in the kitchen and make sure your brothers don’t take it”
Ame looked at the box in bemusement
“For you?” he said
“No for you” I replied
“You are making shakes?” he asked having still not grasped the fact the blender was for him.
“No. You make the shakes. The blender is for the restaurant. It’s a gift”
“A gift?” he parroted trying out the word for the first time
“Yes, for you. A gifti”
The penny dropped. “Ahhhh for me. A gifti!” he said
“Yes a gifti for you” I replied.
He put the blender and fruit in the kitchen, threw some ice in the freezer but time we went to make the shake someone had eaten the bananas!
Over the next month Ame experimented with flavours and we received a variety of unusual shake combos, coconut water and orange juice, pineapple, orange and coconut milk, banana, milk and honey, water melon and something unidentifiable, mango, papaya and ginger. But never the simple banana shake that I so often asked for.
One particularly hot day when we had finished painting a wall and most of ourselves, Ame appeared with two tall iced glasses.
“What’s that” I asked suspiciously, thinking that it was yet another weird concoction that I was going to have to drink and mark out of ten.
“ Banana shake” he replied with a huge smile on his face.
“Just banana?” I asked sceptically
“Banana” he confirmed
He was right, it was a 10 out of 10 and seeing Ame’s face when I told him – now that was the real gifti!