I was suffering from mild brain confusion today, possibly a result of the cheap local whiskey from the previous night but either way I was unsure of my course of action as there was plenty to see and if I left my laziness to fester as I would have liked I would probably end up doing very little.
I knew that I was going to a beach on the east coast called Paje for a few nights but I had since heard that there was an even more beautiful beach in the north called Nungwi but this was at least an hour away by car. I lay for a while thinking of perhaps staying in Nungwe for a night before going to Paje but all routes seem to be via Stone Town so I would have to return here and then go to Paje which is another hours drive so it all seemed a bit rushed. After a long moment it occurred to me that I could rent a motor bike, well scooter actually, but I can pretend that I’m cool can’t I?
This seemed a lot more convenient as I could drive up there and back in my own time today and not have the rush of a stone town to Nungwi, Nungwi to stone town, stone town to Paje trip all in one day. Perfect!
The scooter was $25 for the day so after a little breakfast at the “Stone Town Cafe” with two people from my hostel I was ready to hit the supposedly busy and rather bumpy roads of Zanzibar. One of the girls I had taken breakfast with decided that she would like to accompany me to the North and with a pang of unease about my driving capabilities I accepted her request to pillion and off we went. As it turns out I am the master of scooters and the ride was fun but a little longer than I had hoped. Outside of the wealthy Stone Town, Zanzibar reverted to the Tanzania I had become accustomed to and we drove past small villages with meagre housing and over excited children crazed at the sight of two westerners passing by on a two wheeled machine. We arrived at about noon, all passengers safe and without injury! 😎
Beautiful Beaches, Watch out for the Urchins!
The beach here is incredible and the sea a vivid Turquoise colour that curves around the northern headland of Zanzibar of which we took a walk to the very eastern side before joining the masses of tourists in the main part of the beach. It was much quieter here and very pretty following the shoreline with craggy rocks to our right, a thin strip of beach, and then the beautiful water to our left. I couldn’t resist the water for long and stripped down to my shorts, flung my flip flops at Jenny (my company for the day) and ran into the water. As I was entering the turquoise wonder a local guy shouted something about rocks so I slowed my pace to a brisk walk and he then added “sea urchins!”, well as I turned to see what all of the commotion was about I simultaneously yelled out in pain as my right foot touched something sharp, thinking at the time that I had only stepped on a jagged rock and nothing more. Looking to the shore I was being beckoned in by the local chap who was waving his arms frantically and so I headed back to the shore.
I could feel a little pain in my big toe and when I sat in the lovely white sand to inspect the damage I had about 6 black splinters buried into my skin. One of these was easily removable and the others were in there deeper than I thought possible after such a fleeting moment of the whole 10 seconds I had spent in the ocean. What can I say you’ve either got it or you haven’t?!
I can’t say that it was particularly painful having these black spines inside of me and it had all happened too fast for it to have hurt very much but the process of removing these well buried spines was a little more troublesome. When I looked up to see the cause of the shadow that had just darkened my view I saw two locals hovering over me (one being the guy who warned me) and I showed them my foot in response to their attentions. Fortunately I only had spines in one toe and they told me how some people had gotten them in the whole foot and after a little while we’re unable to walk. Wow I guess I was lucky but that’s not really the feeling I had at the time, one of the guys went off down the beach for a few minutes and returned with the spine of a dead puffer fish which was a solid piece of bone that looked like an aquatically themed tooth pick and was perfect for removing sea urchin spines. I managed to remove all but one spine with my natural tool that I had just acquired. If anything I felt like the much bigger natural tool by far. The last spine was smaller and deep so I began hacking away at my toe for a while and even Jenny kindly gave it a go too, but between us we were unable to remove it. We decided to seek help in the resort hotel located very close to the scene of the accident and went in search of some tweezers. All of the staff were absolutely lovely to us and although it was a very expensive looking place we weren’t looked upon like the lower classed backpackers that we were but rather they did everything in their power to assist in my predicament. Unfortunately nobody had any tweezers but instead they kindly brought me a juvenile papaya and by puncturing the skin slightly I was told to apply some of the sap to the area where the spine entered my toe and it would magically work its way to the surface. I did as advised with little hope that it was actually going to work but either way I wasn’t too bothered at this point as I had removed all of the larger more uncomfortable spines and was confident the last piece would work itself out over time.
On the plus side we did get to relax in the resort for a while longer and it was lovely, great view, nice seats, very pleasant indeed!
We got back on the bike to ride around to the central part of Nungwi beach and joined the masses for a swim and some lunch. Ok so it was very crowded and full of tourists as we had fully expected but I have to admit that it was every bit as beautiful as the reviews had suggested. The good thing about this beach is that it’s certainly long enough to wander for quite a few kilometres and at one point or another you will definitely find a spot that is quiet enough to sample the secluded paradise you had hoped for.
After a nice plate of freshly caught calamari I took an urchin free swim, which was absolutely lovely by the way, and finally we walked to the western part of the beach to find a quiet bit of paradise for ourselves. The sun looked as if it was going to set in a spectacular manor this evening and as we watched the glowing orange disc dip towards the horizon the beautiful single sailed Lateen boats started to come around the headland making for an even better spectacle than we had hoped for. A lovely memory of Zanzibar that I will try to keep forever.
Once the sun was completely out of view and total darkness was nearly upon us we reluctantly headed back to our scooter to attempt the long journey back to stone town. At this point I wished that I could just stay here for the evening and if I had a budget to suit would have gladly just taken a hotel and driven back in the morning, but being a poor touring cyclist I was forced to ride back to town where I was already paying for a nights accommodation, Jenny too had to get back to catch a flight at 3am so inevitably we saddled up and started out for home. The ride was gruelling at first as I couldn’t wear my sunglasses to shield my eyes from the wind and bugs due to the darkness, but once I had my helmet pulled down as far as it would go on my oversized head and positioning my glasses on the end of my nose I managed to create enough of a barrier to make the ride doable.
I got hungry halfway home and stopped for some soup in a small village, this seemed to be very entertaining for the locals and must obviously be a bit of a rarity for them, so before I knew it we were surrounded by about 20 people all smiling, joking, and extremely interested in the two westerners that had arrived on their doorstep. At this point we were only approximately 15 kilometres from the town and the last part of the ride was thoroughly enjoyed, well by me at least, dodging potholes and talking with fellow riders as we approached our destination. A nice guy on a scooter took it upon himself to guide us back into the centre of town and we arrived back safe and sound after a long, exhausting, but worthwhile day in paradise. We abandoned the bike outside of our hostel and walked to the night market for some dinner. We were later told by the locals that this was not a recommended place to eat as a lot of the of seafood and meat skewers are far from fresh and are often rolled over several nights in a row. Fortunately we only had some soup and a kebab from my guy Mr Abdul who had named me Mr Cheetah in account for my amazing (self professed) cycling skills and we joked for a few minutes before wishing both him and the night market farewell for good. A quick ice cream stop before bed which was far more enjoyable than our dinner had been and that about wraps up a wonderful day in Zanzibar. Tomorrow Paje!