A rest day today where I doubt I’ll even leave the hostel as I have more writing to catch up on which is now becoming something of a regularity. The problem being that I rarely have the energy to write anything even half comprehensible after a long days ride and instead tend to make a few bullet points about the daily occurrences intending to elaborate on them at a later time. In order to do this however I am forced (oh poor me forced are we?) to take the odd day off before the writing piles up to something way beyond what my botheredness can cope with.
So here we go again…
I had a great sleep in my dorm bed last night in the Alizeti hostel which is virtually empty except for a nice Israeli guy called Vince and a couple from Japan whom I had met on the previous evening. It’s a very chilled place with a few sofas in the living area and fairly good wifi so I’m confident I can relax a bit and get some writing done without too many disturbances.
There is no breakfast available here but they do have an equipped kitchen which can be used by the guests and a fridge that I am told works intermittently and of course a kettle with tea and coffee that is supplied for a small fee. I therefore made myself a nice cup of coffee and got down to the business of writing.
I don’t think I moved from the spot I had claimed on one of the sofas until about 2pm when I had finally exhausted the capability to extract any more words from my head and so I decided to go for a bit of a walk and perhaps a bite to eat. I had been recommended an eatery called ‘Mamas Place’ not far from the hostel so I set out in hope to find the famous ‘Rice & Beans’ prepared by Mumma herself no less! I walked for a little while enjoying the bustle of the small city and the food market I had stumbled upon purely by accident but unfortunately the highly renowned restaurant was not found. I knew It was close but after asking a few of the locals that didn’t seem to have a clue what I was going on about I was instead directed to a different place that I was more than happy to try as I was now starving and couldn’t be bothered to walk another step until I had some food inside of my belly. I entered the stuffy and slightly dark space that had a bit of a cave like feel to it but the atmosphere was incredible, the place was a hive of activity with a variety of Tanzanian delights being prepared all sizzling away in the various pots and pans that were masterfully wielded by the two women who were working and seemed to be have great fun as they did so. I was ushered to a bench amongst the other patrons who were all native and shortly after my arrival I had a steaming bowl of the rice and beans I had been after set in front of me. This dish seems to be a staple out here and enjoyed by all and this time they even came with peas and carrots so I was more than content as I scoffed them back and whilst having a laugh and a joke with the two bubbly ladies and the people next to me. I think they were just laughing at me as is normally the case but that was fine with me. I concluded that these were the creme de la creme of Tanzanian rice and beans and so delicious that I had to order a second portion before leaving and all for the grand sum of 2000 shillings, what a bargain! After my meal I slowly rolled myself back out onto the street feeling happy, full but hankering for a good cup of coffee. I pointed myself in the direction of a coffee shop that I had located on my map and as I passed the very next building I saw the word ‘mummas’ written above the doorway and it turns out I was right next door to the place I had been looking for all along, ha typical, sorry mumma!
As I said Iringa is only a small place really so I found myself at the Neema Crafts coffee shop only a few minutes later ready to sit, relax, and digest my hearty meal.
This was a lovely place that employs people with disabilities most of whom work to produce a variety of natural crafts that were made and sold on site and the proceeds are used to help the local community to build houses for the inhabitants of the district of Iringa. What a great thing they have going here and I have to admit, as well as the whole operation being a massive asset to the local people, the textiles, paintings and trinkets that were being produced were of a high quality and I regretted not having enough space in my pannier otherwise I definitely would have bought some gifts for home.
Above the workshop and adjacent shop where the products were sold lay a beautiful and modern looking coffee house that also served food. The whole place seemed very far removed from the rest of Tanzania that I had been privy to so far, and to my surprise when I walked up the stairs and entered the coffee shop the whole place was full of white people, it was quite funny really, I hadn’t seen this many whiteys in one place since I had left England and during my time in Africa there had only been an occasional rare sighting in one or two of the popular places but nothing of this magnitude (ok not true on the safari there were a lot too, I forgot, but play along will you?), so this is where they had all been hiding I asked myself, I was almost intimidated. It was quite amusing really as walking around the city I hadn’t seen any of my white skinned brothers and sisters but here they all were and in abundance hiding in the safety of the most western style place I had come across since entering Africa. It was nice though and I happily joined the masses, took a seat on a comfy sofa and ordered an iced latte with vanilla ice cream, yummm!
I started chatting with the girl opposite as I am want to do wherever I go, chatting I mean, not just to young girls but….well ahhh whatever! Anyway she was lovely and another American peace corps representative just finishing her two year stint teaching here in Tanzania and would soon be going home. We had a nice chat for an hour of so and I listened intently to her experiences sharing mine in turn and at one point or another we stumbled onto the topic of Zanzibar. Now this is an island off of the east coast famous for being the birth place of Freddie Mercury, and the export of seaweed & kelp amongst other things I’m sure and a place that I had heard from one or two others now that is lovely and so worth a visit. I had previously decided however to cycle down towards Mt Kilimanjaro and around its base rather than taking a more easterly route through the country, deciding to miss Zanzibar and trying not to think about it too much as its rarely possible to see absolutely everything. Anyway during my conversation with this girl and seeing the look in her eye when she talked about the beautiful island I started to wonder if perhaps I had made a mistake by avoiding this gem of Tanzania? Of course there was also the most thriving city of the country Dar Es Saalam which I believe used to be the capital at some point and where you can catch the ferry to Zanzibar, this I hear is also another place that was worth a stop over if only for the lovely variety of food and nothing else. “Oh damn what have I done, did I choose to avoid one of the really special places?” I thought to myself as we continued our conversation and by the time I was ready to leave I was starting to fantasise about a quick bus journey to Zanzibar for a few days relaxing on the beautiful island and then back to Iringa to continue my journey south… Is that allowed? Could I? I don’t think it’s cheating, is it? For some odd backwards way of thinking I feel as though I’m deceiving the challenge a little by taking a brief time out in the far removed paradise off of the east coast. During my walk back to the hostel I mulled the thought over in my head and came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that I would be returning to Tanzania in the foreseeable future as I had many other unexplored countries on my list of places to visit before I was likely to return to this undoubtedly beautiful place and so it would be foolish of me not to visit Zanzibar while I was already here and which on numerous occasions been pointed out as one of the countries highlights.
It was about 6pm by the time I got back and was greeted by the lovely Marely a young American girl that was looking after the hostel while the owner was away. We started talking and I asked her what she thought of my idea and It took a whole 5 seconds an enthusiastic nod of the head and a very complimentary description of the island before I knew that I was going! I wonder if I can leave in the morning? Marley kindly said that she could look after my bike and any extra luggage that I didn’t want to take and that evening along with another cool guy called Mussa they helped me book a bus ticket to Dar Es Saalam, arranged a taxi to pick me up and take me to a hostel (recommended by them of course), I then received additional recommendations for accommodation on the island and places to eat (mainly from Marley I might add as she always seems to be going on about food!), amazing, my whole trip had been arranged in the matter of only a few minutes! These guys ought to start a travel agency they were obviously professionals!
I tried to book some of the hostels that they had suggested such as the ‘Lost & Found’ hostel in Zanzibar’s stone town and “New Teddys hostel’ in Paje on the east coast and home to one of the best beaches on the island. Unfortunately it’s the high season now and the weekend so I struggled with the lost and found hostel which looks lovely and is obviously popular but I managed to book 3 nights at Teddys in the middle of next week so that’s cool and I’m sure I can find something in stone town when I arrive!
So a week of sun, sand, nice food and zero hours in the saddle I can’t quite believe it! I think my arse will be more happy than I am when it finds out, whooooyeah paradise here I come!!
I got an early night seeing as I had to be at the bus stop at 8am and played a couple games of cards before turning in for the night. Thanks again Marley and Mussa for helping me out!!