Always on the move, we set off the following morning for the east coast. The sleepy fishing village of Paje was our destination. Knowing that we had a bit of travel ahead of us, we made sure to fill up on a tasty Tanzanian breakfast of different assortments of breads. Flat breads, fried breads, round breads, sugared breads…without sounding too much like a Forest Gump rerun, we will end that sidenote with the fact that all of that only cost a total of about 75 cents. Worth every penny. Literally.
Paje can be easily reached by hiring a private taxi, but that sounded much to simple. Instead, we opted to take the public dala dala system. Braving ourselves for chaos that we knew was waiting for us right around the corner, we crossed the road and made our way to the gravel patch that served as the bus station. As we scouted out the bus route, we ignored the shouting touts reaching towards us and fighting for our attention like pros. There was one guy in particular who was relentless. So much so in fact that in response to him asking us where we were going we flatly replied, “Not with you.” Well as karma would have it, we did in fact need to go with him if we were to go towards Paje. So bowing our heads in shame we boarded his van/bus. We hit the road only to stop again a few minutes later and pile a few more people in. And then a few more. And a couple more. To help you better understand this, think of it this way: In Tanzania it is not a question of what will happen if something will not fit, but rather the motto seems to be “It will fit…no matter what.”
Unwinding from the hot dala dala ride, we spent the afternoon playing in the bathtub warm water and strolling along the beautiful shore. In order to avoid the ritzy resort restaurants (and their ritzy resort pricing) we walked through the village streets and stumbled upon a local joint just opening up for the night. While our dining experience for the evening consisted of a rough wood hewn table and a barefoot man with his shirt unbuttoned and one of his front teeth missing cooking in a shed, we are 100% convinced that it was better than anything we could have found elsewhere. Surrounded by chatty kids and stray cats, we enjoyed every second of it! As the moon rose higher into the sky, we wandered back towards the beach.
Our eyes popped wide open and jaws dropped in utter disbelief as we tried to take in the sight before us. Where there had been an ocean just hours before was now a glistening field of sand still rippled from the waves as far as the eye could see. We had known that this area of beach was supposedly very flat and that when the tide went out, it went way out. But this was something new and unexpected altogether. It was utterly unimaginable and absolutely magical. With the puddles of water reflecting the light of the nearly full moon, we walked in awe out towards the crashing waves we could only hear, but not see. The boats anchored close to the shore were completely beached adding to the almost unearthly atmosphere. With no one else around it felt like our own little secret. Typically this kind of thing would have had us yearning for our cameras, however, in this moment we were so happy not to have them with us. No photo could have captured what we were experiencing. Rather we were able to simply be present. After all, that is really what is at the heart of this trip. Just to be.
Although we just missed the actual sunrise, Barbara and I enjoyed a long walk on the beach as the sun began to warm the sand before breakfast. After our walk at low tide under the full moon, we were anxious to see the low tide in the in daylight. It was just as incredible!
The beach here has almost no slope. In fact, it almost felt like we were at a massive, perfect blue, incredibly clean and warm lake. On the horizon though, we could make out the white sea foam from waves that were rolling in. As we waded out into the water, it only came up to our knees. 15 minutes from the waters edge, it was still only up to our thighs. After 30 minutes, it was barely to our waist. Still, even this far out from the shoreline, there were no real waves to speak of. It was as if we had found the worlds largest kiddie pool. We never did quite make it to the waves, finally deciding to turn around when the tide seemed to be rising. This has to be one of the most unique stretches of beach I have ever visited.
From Paje, we headed back to Stonetown. After much searching and deliberation, we deciided to check into the Pryamid Hotel, which was just around the corner from where we had stayed with Dulla. We booked a tour to Prison Island for the following day.
Prison Island is just a few kilometers off the coast of Zanzibar. There was a prison built there to house misbehaving slaves, but it was never actually used for this purpose. Just after completion of the small prison building, it was decided that the island would serve as a quarantine center for shipments coming into the port at Zanzibar. Now a schwanky resort that uses the old buildings to house guests. The prison were kind of cool, but the real reason we came on this tour was to see the giant tortoises.
Seeing these giant, very old turtles has been on my bucket list for a long time. I thought that I would have to go to Galapagos Island to see them. Here, right on Prison Island, only a $30 boat ride away, were 119 giant tortoises! Some of them were not so giant- they had baby turtles smaller than my palm. Some of them were giant, reaching up to my hips when they stood. We found one that is 155 years old!
After feeding and petting and snapping a couple hundred photos, it was time for us to leave Prison Island. Before heading back to Zanzibar, we stopped off and did a bit of snorkeling. The clear, warm water here is ideal for snorkelling, and we quite enjoyed the swim. I tried to get a few photos of the reef, and the fish, but it turns out that underwater photography is quite hard. Something about holding your breath, as you are 10 feet underwater, while chasing a fish, and trying to hold the camera still, makes for a lot of blurry photos!
We spent the rest of the afternoon as we had spent many others in Zanzibar- wandering the twisty-turny streets, eating street vendor food from the market and just people watching. We caught the overnight ferry back to Dar, saving ourselves the cost of another nights accommodation in Stonetown. The night ferry turned out to be great- it was cheaper, and we were in the “VIP” lounge, which meant air conditioning and benches to sleep on.
Back in Dar, we found ourselves back in the kind home of our friend Aika. We made another trip to Mwenge Wood Carvers Market for some last minute souvenirs and did some research on South Africa. It is hard to believe that we are already leaving Tanzania!
Full Gallery here: