Tuesday, 27 December 2011

On Snorkelling safaris, sea urchins and Christmas in Zanzibar

You will be pleased to hear that Josh's rash was much improved in the morning but worryingly was still present, particularly on his face.  As I had had the pleasure of sleeping with Josh that night I was up at the customary dawn hour and took the opportunity of dosing him up with the prescribed 20mg of prednisolone, cetirizine (anti-histamine) and a red and white paracetamol capsule which for some reason Josh really liked and kept asking for!  Another example of my poor medical expertise was that only tonight when i took one of Josh's anti-histamines did i notice that they were dispersible tablets ie. meant to be dissolved, but me being a rushing doctor hadn't read the packet and kept asking him to swallow them which is difficult with these tablets as they try to dissolve in your throat as you swallow them!
So we set off on Christmas Eve with Meg and Theo, a great American couple, who are working in Dubai but previously worked for the US Peace corps in a Russian enclave having hoped they would be posted to a balmy country.  Josh was pretty good but very wingey and both boys were ecstatic at the free bar on the boat where Zac managed to consume 6 Coca Colas whereas Josh realised that 3 was enough and switched to Sprite quite early on in the day.  I had my usual Christmas cold/ flu which was really irritating in such beautiful sunshine and hot weather.

Oh no I forgot my Oyster card
The Safari Blue day trip was amazing - you can see by the photos how beautiful Zanzibar is.  The sea is a luscious turquiose blue and the sand is a blissful silky smooth whiteness slipping between your toes.  Zac took to snorkelling like a duck to water and was amazing zipping round the coral, handling star fish and lusting after sea cucumbers that the guide had picked up.  We saw amazing fish and Zac, who loves Finding Nemo (the Disney film) kept saying to me "There's a Dory"  or " We've found Nemo".  Josh unfortunately who was very wingey but probably not feeling well could "only snorkel outside the water" as he put it.

It's a bit tooo busy here
We stopped for lunch on a glorious island, where the boys had more coca cola. and had a delicious beach BBQ of fish, chicken, maize cakes, tamarand sauce and then pudding was an incredible array of local fruit including star fruit (very bitter but very pretty), 2 different sorts of mango, bread fruit and these incredible bright red seeds from the baobab tree which Josh sucked like sweets which gave him a very red tongue! (http://news.softpedia.com/news/What-039-s-Good-For-a-Baobab-56643.shtml;  http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_baobab.html)
The Munsters on holiday

There were some very red sunburnt people by the end of the day and i am ashamed to say that i managed to get burnt whilst snorkelling....  The day was perfect apart from not seeing any dolphins much to Zac's distress. We came back to our hotel and sang carols in the treetop bar with mulled wine (very British despite the 32 degree heat!)

Just like sunset over the Thames
The next day we jumped in a taxi with Meg and Theo, who we had tempted to move across the island with us, to Matemwe and Panga Chumi a little guest house recommended by Sebastian and Juilanne.  Stone Town had been interesting but stressful because Josh had been so unwell and i have to admit disappointing.  It was obviously once an elegant and thriving city with a wonderful almost mystical appeal but post the revolution in 1964 was now a dilapidated collection of disintegrating faded grandeur.

We drove through luscious countryside and off the main road down a bumpy track through a collection of mud houses wondering where we were going now - Aaron looked most concerned and i was pleased that i had devolved direction responsibility to Theo!  We pulled up to a clean white washed building with a palm leafed roof and tiled balconies and dark wood chairs outside.  We then walked up to a veranda overlooking the most amazing expanse of white glistening sands curving around a multi faceted blue, turqouise shimmering sea.  Zac said "Wow, this is so much better than the last place, it is like white cap bay" ( in Pirate of the Carribean for those not in the know...)

It is the most perfect view with the most perfect on shore sea breeze keeping us all cool.  I am writing here on the restaurant deck now, listening to the waves and having a glass of cold red wine which i am becoming quite partial to.  When the tide is low the beach is full of local people fishing, cultivating seaweed which they dry on the beach to put in all sorts of lotions and potions, there are banks of sea urchins and for some reason today Zac decided to pick one up to show me!!!  Luckily he didn't get spiked. Swimming in the sea is like swimming in a hot tub - the water is so warm and silky and Josh said 
"Of course it is, it is the Indian ocean so it is like being in a hot tub"

We arrived at 11.30 am on Christmas day and Wendy (yes another Wendy) the manager made us feel like family coming to visit!  The owners of the guest house arrived and they were fascinating.  One had lived through the revolution - he had been 17 at the time and Aaron and I had a long chat with him about the history of the island and why the revolution and massacre of the Arabs occurred.  I am sure Aaron can put a link to it if you are interested.  There was another interesting man who had been born in Zanzibar and when he asked me where we lived said "yes i know Littlebourne" as it turned out that he had lived in Canterbury for 11 years and before that in Headingley in Leeds! Yet another example of 6 degrees of separation.  We have met such interesting people since being here - only tonight we chatted with a Finnish couple close to retirement who have worked for a missionary in Tanzania for 12 years who have set up a teleconsultation (on-line pictures) service for Tanzania. They are here snorkelling and have some incredible video coverage.

The view from our terrace is a bit dull in Zanzibar
Anyhow I digress - we had arrived in this beach paradise and I found a cold glass of wine thrust into my hand, began chatting about Headingley in Leeds and then the next thing we knew everyone staying had been invited to the Christmas lunch feast organised by the owners for their friends.  We sat down to a feast of roasted goat (we told the boys it was chicken but afterwards Zac told us that he had suspected it wasn't as it was brown and the bones were too big!), rice, samosas, fragrant spinach and garlic, fresh salad, ice-cream and fruit salad...  When we could move late in the afternoon we basked in the warm water of the Indian ocean.

Christmas night was even more amazing as we had a feast under the vast African starry stars on the beach next to an open fire smoldering in a fire pit.  We feasted on fresh pumpkin and ginger soup, home made bread, BBQ red snapper, beef kebabs with garlic and tamarind sauce, salad and then for dessert little fried donut things in a caramel sauce.   The boys delighted in running round the table drawing protection circles in the sand (having watched the Spiderwick chronicles) and laughing with Wendy.  The sky was vast and so full of stars with the milky way threading it's fluffy way across the horizon.  I kept missing shooting stars and thought i had finally seen one only to have my hopes dashed by Theo telling me it was a bird!  Josh said it was his best Christmas ever and when i asked why he said 
" tonight we had dinner on a beach and we normally have it in a room"  We finally took the boys to bed at 10 pm after a fabulous day.

I have to say it has been wonderful missing all the commercialism of Christmas in the UK, which seems to start earlier and earlier each year.  It was also great for the boys to have only a few presents.  They were delighted with one tiny transformer each and our family had kindly given us our flight tickets to Zanzibar which is so much better and more lasting than a mountain of coloured plastic.
Daddy flying the Christmas kite before the kids!

We have had an amazing Chanuka and Christmas and tomorrow we are off to Kendwa in the North east of the island.  Then more reading, snorkelling, playing...... 

Never trust the dyslexic in the family to write the Christmas message!

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