Free at last!
I'm free at last!
Thank God, Almighty, I'm free at last!
I breathed the true sigh of spoiled brat relief as I walked out of the Kendwa 'Beach' House and towards prospects unknown...
I bid adieu to a sunken mattress, ceaseless traffic sounds, uncomfortable sleeps, screaming babies, repulsive coffee, shady WIFI, intermittent power (though I've come to realize this is a problem all over Zanzibar) and extreme awkwardness all around.
I was officially back out in the world.
Granted, I was originally planning at the Beach/Hill house a total of one week, but they're lucky they got 4 nights out of me. If I'd had my way, I would have left after an hour. Instead of just taking my money and letting me go, the owner CANCELLED my Booking.com booking altogether, which has now raised suspicion into "why I didn't show up." In his attempt to scam the system, and avoid paying the obligatory third party percentage, he has now compromised the integrity of my reservational standing.
Anything to make an extra buck...
I left the Beach House with Wolfgang, as we were both heading in the same direction. Had it been only myself, I would have opted for a taxi to shuttle me from Kendwa to Matemwe, the easier, yet more expensive option. Because I had a traveling companion, I accompanied him to the bus station and let adventure lead the way.
I have already started the process of eliminating items from my pack. Even though I have purchased very, very little since my arrival, I am already over capacity. I left a load at the Beach House, though I hardly know what they're going to do with them. In regular circumstances, I would leave knowing these clothes would be put to good use and given to someone in need. Here, in a predominantly Muslim area, they will be viewed as worthless and will, no doubt, end up in the trash.
As long as I'm not carting them around, good riddance!
It was a 10 minute, dusty trek to where we figured the bus might stop to pick us up. The bus stops, intermittently, anywhere on the road if someone needs a ride and there is room! The entire time we were waiting, I was obsessed with an absolutely gigantic spider looming over us. Due to some rapid-fire Google research, I think I may have discovered it was a Golden Orb Weaving Spider. It's not lethal enough to take me out, but still, deadly in both magnitude and appearance... and nothing I would want to land in my hair. As well as being fixated on the creepy spider, I also had a fascination for the multitude of tiny Yellow Weaver birds and their myriad of little nests scattered throughout the branches. The entire tree was buzzing with activity and the whole experience of waiting for Zanzibar public transport was like being immersed in a National Geographic magazine.
The bus wasn't as bad as I had originally thought. I was expecting a Dala Dala, which is more like a farm truck, packing people into the back, like cattle. What stopped for us was more modern, a light blue carpet-decorated minibus. Since being in Zanzibar, body odor has almost become a comforting sense of familiarity and the bus was definitely not withholding this particular nasal sting. I was undeniably foreign to everyone on board and while I was seated, people spent the majority of their time either staring at me or fixated on the enormous pack I was carting around. I admit I was jealous of the small amount Wolfgang had to throw over his shoulders, but I continuously reminded myself he was here for less than 2 weeks. I was on the road for more than 4 months.
The bus dropped us off in Kwadjure, a small local village in the centre region of Zanzibar that, I suspect, does not see a lot of tourist activity. We waited for a Dala Dala, but when a Rastafarian family in a taxi van offered us a ride to Matemwe for 4000 shilling, we jumped at the chance.
They dropped us off at the end of the road, leaving us to our own devices to make it to our hotels. Two kids immediately jumped forward and motioned for us to get into their Tuk Tuk. Had we a moment or two to consider our options, we probably would have passed on the offer, but without much consideration, we climbed in.
It was a silly move. The secondary (and I use that term loosely) road to our hotel accommodations was a cross between dirt, sand, rocks and crevasses. It was hardly a route made for a tuk tuk, let alone a tuk tuk with 4 persons.... and luggage. Apparently the roads are affectionately nicknamed "the Swahili massage." Fitting, considering we got bumped around so much that we almost fell out. At one point, Wolfgang opted to walk, and he got quite a ways up ahead before we caught up.
Despite the frequent stops, ruts, tire spins, getting stuck a few times and moving forward at an agonizingly slow rate, I finally arrived. I must have looked quite a state at arrival, because the man who opened the gate immediately recognized me as someone who had come to work at the hotel. "No," I assured him, "I am a guest". The look of utter disbelief that swept across his face was somewhat unsettling.
I was dirty and disheveled and I was carrying a burdensome pack, which really didn't warrant the approval of a boutique hotel... but yet, there I was. Clearly NOT staff.
The place really was a dream. A true dream come true.
In normal circumstances, this upscale hotel would definitely be above my pay grade, but thanks to a slow season and an undeniably great deal on Booking.com, I was able to secure quite a reasonable rate. I signed myself up for 3 nights, convincing myself I was in dire need of a little bit of pampering. Of course, truth be told, I deserved nothing of the sort.
Turns out, my eagerness for a brief bout of luxury resulted in a bill that far exceeded my predetermined budget.
It was definitely a lesson in 'be careful what you wish for!'
The Dream's Bay Boutique was everything that the Kendwa Beach House was not. I had a firm and comfortable mattress, clean sheets, power, WIFI, a spacious bathroom and a view of both the beach and the pool. Due to an abnormal lack of guests, I had been upgraded to one of the prime suites, set aside for those on their honeymoon or with Titanium credit cards. Housekeeping came in twice a day to either do a morning clean, or to prepare my bed for my slumber. In doing so, they would take down the mosquito netting and then decorate the top sheet with pretty flowers and leaves. As much as I appreciated the effort and applauded the creativity of this particular kind of extravagance, I also discovered that removing plants from my bed on the regular was quite tedious…
For the first few hours, I was swept away by the pure luxury of it all. I walked on the beach, breathing it all in... I sat on the patio lounge with a glass of bubbly & watched as the sun disappeared... I splashed my toes in the pool and daydreamed about spending more than 3 days here. It was like there had been a tremendous mistake and I had suddenly been granted access to a posh lifestyle. I just wanted to live in the moment for as long as I could reasonably get away with before they recognized me as an intruder. I have never been one to moderate my own indulgences, and I definitely fell prey to a lavish lifestyle. It was almost like I had to play the part, if that makes any sense.
It wasn't until I started to get hungry that I realized the gravity of the mistake I had made in choosing indulgence over practicality. I had landed myself directly in resort row, catering to those with deep pockets... and money to throw away. This demographic was expected to pay out, and unfortunately the culinary offerings were completely out of my price range. Everything was priced in American, and once I did the conversions into Canadian currency, I would smile, tell the staff I might be back later, and move on. There were no local diners, street food carts or even small shops to grab something quick to go. Directly in front of us was the beach, with poverty housing behind. On either side was resort after resort... with the nearest town being 3kms away.
My meal options hadn't really panned out as I had originally hoped, so for my first evening, I chose to dine at the Dream's Bay. They too had a ridiculously priced pre-set menu to choose from, and the tiny portions hardly fit the fee. I was the only one in the restaurant, and while I ate, a multitude of staff lingered behind me, diligently waiting for me to finish my last bite so they could whisk my plate away.
It was a bit of an eerie sensation, feeling completely alone in such a swank location. It was almost on par with being in a horror movie. I was thankful when others began to filter in that evening and the following day. I kept trying to appease myself with "it's lonely at the top," but it didn't work as well as anticipated.
The new guests were all couples and spoke a language I couldn't quite identify. The usual pleasantries were shared, but nothing friendship-like. Wolfgang became my only friend, as his hotel was only a short walk down the beach. He popped in a couple times for a tasty beverage and some refreshing conversation.
The manager was Lucia, and I immediately adored her. She is Italian, but has lived in Zanzibar on & off since the 80's. She is a very glamoursous and flamboyant woman, with her own sense of bold style and an equally fascinating character to match. I was lucky to join her for dinner two of the evenings I was there.
We had long conversations about the world and travel and future dreams & goals. I felt compelled to ask her about the infamous beach boys - and she explained the difference between the beach boys and the Maasai. The beach boys are the ones that want to sell you tours and other assorted things. The FAKE Maasai, are the guys in the traditional garb, that walk the beaches seeking out women with money. Lucia told me amusing stories of female guests that had come down specifically looking to hook up with these men. Believing themselves to be very much in love, they blindly fork out small fortunes to these scoundrels, in the form of phones, homes, scooters... etc.
The Maasai are extremely bad here. At first, I couldn't quite understand why, considering there weren't as many people on the beach as in Kendwa or Nungwi. It didn't take me long to put two & two together and I suddenly realized the amount of money that ends up on this particular stretch of beach each day is quite advantageous to their swindling necessities. The long row of resorts cater mainly to the wealthy, and the chance of snagging a rich naive woman here is much, much higher.
I spent my mornings walking along the beach, basking in the cool, yet humid breeze of this tropical island, until the harrassement of the Maasai literally drove me back to the hotel, and then I would spend the afternoon practicing my elegant mermaid-meets-frog movees in my glorious pool. It's impossible to swim in the ocean in this part of Zanzibar, unless you venture far out to the reef. The amount of sea urchins lining the shore is beyond belief. Wolfgang described them as ocean hedgehogs... and I had to walk right down to the water to try and figure out what he was talking about.
Finally my glasses of bubbly, dips in the pool, spa treatments and 3-course meals came to an end, and with a heavy heart & an empty wallet, I paid my bill and moved on to accommodation more suited to my current financial position in life.
I was going to catch a Dala Dala to my next destination, but everyone assured me it was impossible. Not quite in the mood to argue or suffer the hassle of it all, I reluctantly agreed to the $50US taxi and sucked up the exorbitant cost. I should have been given a tremendous deal, considering what I endured. For the entire hour, I was grilled about why I don't have a husband and why no one loves me.
Solo travel should really warrant a multitude of free therapist sessions.
It was too much and finally, when I grew exhausted of his assertive judgement and intrusive and exceptionally personal questions, I had to tune him out.
I'm officially done.
From now on; My husband's name is Terry. He had to work, because he's in the military. He's meeting me in Dar es Salaam next week. We are completely in love. All our children are grown up and have moved away.
I even bought a ring...