Ants, Mosquitos & Creepy Taxi Drivers
Updated: Jan 6
I wasn’t really prepared for how sad I was to leave the Simba Lodge.
Hold on… I take that back. I was sad to leave Simba’s pool.
My time in Zanzibar had ultimately come to an end and it was time to move on, but I had finally established a little traveller’s friend group… and was not so eager to leave them behind.
I had really bonded with Samantha and Hannah. I loved our hangouts, our swimming dates and our “these are the facts” conversations.
Did you know that your tongue tingles when you eat pineapple because it is also trying to eat you? It isn’t until you’ve fully digested it that you’ve won the battle.
*I have NOT fact-checked this yet… but they were pretty adamant on it’s accuracy.
These girls were not only funny and kind, but exceedingly perceptive and smart. Hannah claimed to be more intelligent than Samantha because apparently she got more A’s on her last report card. Samantha didn’t really care though, as she figures she is more popular.
A couple days before check out, someone let me in on a little secret that Simba didn't take credit card as payment… for anything. Seriously… after a full week of accommodation and restaurant room charges. Typical, but what a bother.
I should have expected it.
Apparently it was me to blame for not reading the fine print, but I think it’s definitely something they could have brought to our attention in one of their many introductory emails. I can imagine Claudia is screwing the Bo
oking.com system somehow too.
In all online guides and assorted literature, the main advice to tourists is to ensure they bring enough shilling to last their entire Zanzibar stay. Originally the ONLY ATM’s to be found on the island were in Stonetown and at the airport. Both at a distance not travelled quickly, conveniently… or cheaply…
Probably assuming cash might be advantageous to the local economy, Paje recently caught up to modern day technology and a couple ATM’s popped up in town. Saved by an electronic banking machine.
Now here’s the interesting part.
Tanzania’s highest denomination is 10,000 shilling, which is the equivalent of approximately $5.80 Canadian dollars. The highest amount that you are permitted to withdraw at one time is 400,000 shilling. $230.00. When you request 400,000 shilling, the ATM spits out 40 crisp bills… and suddenly you’re feeling pretty flush with your wad of dough.
Makin’ it rain.
Money. Money. Money.
Once the booshi disappears, I realize I’m more of a target than I’m naturally comfortable with. Stashing 40 bills of any currency into any regular wallet is a bit snug, so I just shove the wad of bills into my bra and walk on, careful not to jiggle my A-cups too much.
Two BIG tips for Zanzibar hotel stays;
If you are staying in a hotel with a charge account at your disposal, pay it off daily! If not daily, then directly after dining… or drinking! Without delay! Tabs tend to accumulate quicker than one might imagine, and makes it much easier for staff to fudge the numbers.
Before you book, ensure you have the ability to pay with credit card. Running around looking for ATM’s will only cause unwarranted stress and distract from your holiday.
Nina was contacted the day she arrived back in Germany that she still had an outstanding bill. Without explanation or apology for the mistake, they requested she send money through Pay Pal as soon as possible. Major inconvenience for all parties… and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Patience has invited me to stay with them in Kampala, and I can guarantee that I will definitely be taking her up on that offer. Apparently Uganda is renowned for its nightlife and people come from all over Africa to experience its ultimate party experience. Patience has been flooding me with stories of Kampala’s many clubs… though I think she’s figured out that past 10pm, I’m no fun.
Every party has a pooper… it’s me.
In my defence, for a couple days in Paje, I didn’t feel so hot.
I was lifeless… and almost completely drained of energy. Even my arms felt heavy just lying in bed. I was teetering between bloated and nauseous, and one afternoon, after floating in the pool, I walked into my room, lied down… and slept for more than 4 hours.
Of course, Google research self diagnosis is ‘malaria.’
There are a LOT of mosquitos piddling about. They don’t seem want anything to do with me during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, my lower body becomes their very own banquet buffet. Or perhaps it’s sand flies eating me alive? I’ve read up on those invisible little pests as well. Bed bugs did cross my mind, but I quickly dismissed the thought for the sake of my own mental health and paranoia.
Whatever is feasting on me, the little buggers certainly caused havoc. Each evening, the creepy, crawling itching became so utterly unbearable, and my feet would swell up beyond recognition. In a desperate attempt to ease this torturous reaction, I began lathering them in mosturizer and then wrapping them in damp towels.
Ahhhh… the agony was off the charts.
And ONLY my feet and ankles.
But alas, as much as I put it off, my time came to an end and I was heading back to Stonetown.
Now… if I were a more competent traveler… or smarter and more efficient traveller… even more of a budgetary traveller, I would have stayed one more night at Simba and then taken an early morning taxi directly to the airport.
Competent. Smart. Efficient. Budgetary.
That’s not how I roll.
I somehow always seem to take the gold brick route, though I trek it with the best of intentions.
I chose to taxi into Stonetown from Paje, spend the night at a hotel there, and then taxi from the hotel to the airport the following morning. Had I had the foresight to cut out the middle bits, I would have saved myself well over $100… but what’s a little travel without throwing a whole load of money down the drain?
I had NO desire to go back to Stonetown, though originally it had seemed like the more convenient option. By the time I figured out how utterly inconvenient it was, I was well past the ‘no cancellation’ time frame.
Stonetown was nothing to me anymore but a stopover now. I was not interested in further exploration of its labyrinth of alleyways and my stuffed pack would not allow for the purchase of anymore trinkets… so shopping was not even an option. My plan was; Eat. Sleep. Leave.
In that exact order.
I would have achieved that goal had I not been completely ignored by not one, but two restaurants. Twice, I sat there, alone, for over 20 minutes… patiently waiting to be acknowledged. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because; 1. I was alone. 2. I looked poor. 3. The service just sucked.
I’m going to go with a mixture of all three.
Eventually I gave up and stopped at the ATM to further drain my bank account. Then I popped into a local bakery for a big water and a couple veggie samosas, and I headed back to the room to sleep.
Taxis in Zanzibar are expensive… even after negotiation.
And negotiations can be tough.
Just when you think you’ve mastered the art of negotiation, you suddenly realize you’re on the wrong playing field.
The Zanzibar airport was a mere 7kms away from my hotel, yet the taxi driver was perfectly willing to charge me what I’d paid 3 weeks ago to go 57km. I had paid 50,000 shilling to get from Stonetown to Kendwa. The guy kept insisting on 50, and finally, after too much back and forth, I talked him down to 30. I was patting myself on the back for a decent, yet still absolute shit, negotiation. It wasn’t until we agreed on the price and were about 3km down the road that I realized something monumental. I figured I had made quite a good negotiation because I meant 30,000 shillings.
He meant $30 DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!!
This scoundrel was originally planning on charging me $50US to drive me a total of 7 kilometres.
Exactly. Wrong playing field.
That was the most harsh no of no’s I’ve harshly meant in a harsh negative manner. It was so harsh a NO that I asked him to pull over and let me out.
I’ll walk from here, thanks.
And I would have.
He finally relented and agreed to 30,000 shilling, as I was NOT budging. It’s baffling how much money they think we have. I can’t even imagine a life that revolved around a constant ploy to extract money from people.
If I return home broke and begging for loans & handouts, you can rest assured that blame lays solely with the Tanzanian taxis.
Perhaps one of the reasons the taxi driver agreed to significantly drop his outrageous fee was some irrational thought pattern leading to an absurd belief that he might have secured himself an American sugar momma.
As I was unloading my luggage from the back of the taxi, he requested a selfie. No problem - Hakuna Matata. After his photo, I graciously returned the compliment by requesting the same, but with my camera. Aim, smile, shoot. As soon as the selfie was shot, he confidently leaned in for a kiss.
Still entangled in the typical awkward selfie half hug, I immediately initiated my rapid fire dodge moves and managed to sidestep his creepy advances.
Assante sana… thank you very much.
Maybe he figured a kiss would seal the deal for a big tip? Or a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side? Unfortunately for him, it had quite the opposite effect. I was repulsed.
My flight was seamless… apart from the multitude of security checks I had to endure. Seriously… how many times do they have to x-ray my pack? How many times do I have to take off my shoes.
For some reason, I kept setting off the security alarms. I had nothing with could have caused this. No rings, no belt.. maybe it was my fillings. They even called over a female guard to pat me down and made me take off my cloth knee brace in order to examine it.
I bid adieu to Zanzibar and as I boarded the place, I gave a little wave to the beach boys, the Maasai prostitutes, the tacky wedding dress and the cornmeal cake… it was quite the experience…
I had booked the Arusha Mambo Hostel and pre-arranged for their shuttle to pick me up. I didn’t wait long as getting off the plane and my driver was there waiting, holding up the 'Joanna McBride’ sign. He was a young kid, with horrendously rotten teeth, but he was friendly enough. He told me all about how he is studying to be a safari guide and right now he’s making extra money by working for the hostel.
I asked him if there were many people staying at the hostel. He hesitated… and then said, “Not many.”
Ok… I wondered how many that meant.
“Oh…” I replied. “Too bad. I was looking forward to meeting people."
In so many ways, I have outgrown my hostel days. Gone is my love of the all night party, dorm rooms and shared bathrooms. Although I am far from wealthy, I enjoy my privacy and my own space… and I appreciate peace & quiet more than I ever thought I would.
But… I still find myself seeking out hostels more often than not, because they provide the best environment for meeting like-minded travellers. If you really look, you can find hostels with private rooms that cater to a variety of ages. A lot of them have communal dinners, evening activities and even sometimes, added bonus if you’re lucky, a little bar!
This hostel was already falling short of my expectations.
Then the driver told me he would come pick me up and I could pay for him to take me out to meet people. Seemed an odd thing to offer… and one I didn’t jump at. Why would I need someone to pick me up and take me out to meet people… when I could just meet people at the hostel?
The hostel was empty.
There was ONLY me.
Not only was it only me… but it was so far removed from the city, that there was nothing to do. The hostel was located about 12kms outside of the main city centre and there was absolutely nothing within walking distance.
This irritated me.
To no end.
I was hungry. I wanted to find a little cafe and do some writing. I wanted to explore. I wanted to meet people.
There was one greasy spoon around the corner from the hostel and their only menu item was fries with fried chicken topped with a fried egg.
No... I did not want to eat that.
I wandered down the dirt path, said some hellos to the locals, looked around... and I was done! There were two small shops that only seemed to sell dry goods, produce and assorted equipment… and I managed to get a small piece of chocolate and a bag of stale popcorn. No water.
Of course, this booking fiasco was entirely fully my fault for not scouting out the location beforehand. But regardless, I was annoyed and I let the lady know that I was probably going to only stay one night.
She tried to convince me to stay by offering to arrange for me to go on a coffee plantation tour. No.
She tried to call a taxi to take me into town. No.
*Imagine how much that would set me back?
She offered to find someone to walk around the roads with me. No.
I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking to “hire a friend,” I was used to my independence.
And no Uber… it was too far for them to come.
I concluded my tantrum by retiring to my room, where I spent the rest of the evening sulking.
At breakfast the following morning, I sat down to make myself a coffee. I figured if anything was going to boost my spirits, it would be a nice big cup of instant java. I poured in a little bit of milk and looked around for the sugar.
“Sugar?” I kindly asked the lady.
She proceeded to grab the jar of sugar from the shelf, remove the lid and hand it to me. As she did so, she indicated for me to take as much as I would like out. I took my spoon and leaned forward to do just that, when I suddenly noticed that the entire bowl was inundated with little black ants.
I almost fell off my chair.
Her face remained stoic… unconcerned with the swarm of little bugs that had taken up residence in the sugar bowl. She merely made a motion for me to move around the ants in order to get the sugar out.
No, thank you.
I think I’m over my sugar addiction now.
She then took the bowl into the kitchen and returned with a smaller bowl of sugar, which she placed in front of me. She obviously wanted to give the impression that she’d filled the bowl with new sugar, but unfortunately she had failed to remove two of the ants and they were now making their rounds in the new dish.
Again, no thank you.
A taxi pulled up shortly and I took the opportunity to jump in right away.
I paid my bill and I was gone.
Into the city.