Friday, October 31, 2008

Week 12 & 13: Tanzania with the boys & back in Angola

Oct 18 - 31, 08

Saturday morning was a bit stressful – both Bill & my phones had died from lack of battery & the hotel couldn’t provide us with an adapter plug for the South African socket. We asked for a wake-up call, but of course it didn’t come! Fortunately we woke early & were able to have a very quick breakfast before catching the shuttle back to the airport. Check-in was as easy as immigration the night before, & this time we actually got boarding passes with seats next to each other!

Jo-burg airport was very nice but unfortunately a lens for Bill was outrageously priced & that was the main thing we wanted. Bill did get a replacement sunhat for the one he lost last time we were at Kisama. We also picked up a South African plug adapter for future use, but otherwise we were happy to just sit in a “real” airport & wait for our boarding call.

The flight to Tanzania took about 4 hours & once we arrived it was straightforward to fill out the visa application (US$50 each) & get issued with a visa on the spot (Angola could take lessons….).Interestingly, although they have just recently changed the rules to make it compulsory, we didn’t need to show our yellow fever certificates.

Once out of the airport, Bill found a taxi driver to take us to our first choice of hotel (remember we hadn’t been able to organize this in advance) & I was able to take local money (Tanzanian Shillings) out of the ATM machine (a huge relief). We also got our plane tickets to Zanzibar sorted for Monday for the 4 of us. The first hotel we went to was booked & the second had a vacancy for just one night, but it was hot & we decided it was better to take the hotel for one night & then ring around for the next rather than drive around in the heat.

The hotel was a nice choice as they had an Indian restaurant! They were also able to book us a hotel for the next night so we didn’t need to spend time trying to find one for ourselves. It was reasonably late in the afternoon, so Bill was only able to arrange a time to meet the boys in the morning.

The next day after we had switched hotels, Bill picked up the kids by himself & they went to a place with games for kids. I went over to meet them briefly – long enough to see Bill outrageously cheating at mini golf (I can’t help it if I’m lucky!...) & then I left them to a (rare for the boys) fast food lunch.

Our flight to Zanizbar was late afternoon on the Monday, the boys arrived just before it was time for us to go to the airport. The flight was just 20 minutes long (small plane) & we were picked up by the hotel taxi & taken from the airport to the hotel on the northern-most tip of the island.

We noticed how green the island is (coming from an arid country) & a noticeable muslim influence.

The hotel was right next to a fishing village & was in the process of expansion –
they were building pool-side units, as well as upgrading the pool. We had two beach-side chalets next to each other. The sea was full of dhows – the traditional arab fishing boats with a single sail (& outriggers). The sunset was stunning & we ate at the hotel restaurant. Despite Bill’s worries about how the boy’s would accept my presence, the day had gone quite smoothly. The biggest problem we had with the hotel was that the beach was covered in seaweed & it wasn’t exactly ideal for the boys to play in. Bill took the boys the next day to a beach that they knew (this was their third or fourth trip to Zanzibar), while I stayed behind to relax at the resort. The beach they went to was much nicer for the boys, so he booked us in for the next two nights.

After another stunning sunset, we moved hotels the next morning to a beach on the East coast – where the sand was just immaculate – pure white coral powder! It was much nicer for the boys to play in & the sea was less busy with fishing boats. The water was a delightful temperature & we went snorkeling ever day. The flip side was that it was more touristy, but it wasn’t to much hassle. Interestingly enough, the touts were almost exclusively Maasi from Arusha, much further inland in Tanzania. They were selling beaded souvenirs and their very distinctive style of paintings. Despite all the stuff for sale, it wasn’t cheap & we didn’t actually end up buying anything!

The boys played predator & prey in the sand, built sandcastles & Enzo worked on perfecting his hand-stands & Bill built his muscles by spending hours tossing the boys around in the sea. It really was a lovely holiday & hopefully both boys realized that nothing has changed between them & their dad by my presence.

We flew back to Dar on Friday afternoon and our flight to Jo-burg left Saturday morning & we discovered that there was no money exchange in the airport (how’s that for method to ensure you spend money in the airport shops!) so we bought a load of African music CD’s with the Tanzanian Shillings we had left over.

We hadn’t booked a hotel for the night as we had a vague idea of staying in an airport lounge, as our flight was quite early the next day. However, we discovered a lounge would cost us about the same as a hotel, so we backtracked out of transit & found ourselves a close hotel with free transfers both ways. As we’d got up at 4:30am & South Africa is 1 hour ahead of Tanzania, we were ready to eat & go to bed by about 7pm! Despite having to get up equally early again in the morning, we were very grateful we’d had a bed to sleep in. We were at the airport early enough to one of the first to check in – so we not only got seats together, we got a window seat on both flights. The airport had a great bookshop and a good pharmacy also. So we managed to spend our Rand quite easily, despite not getting a lens for Bill.

Unfortunately we struck lots of low clouds, so the window seat was a bit of a non event. We landed in Namibia & had a couple of hours at the airport there before boarding our flight for Luanda.

Coming into Luanda was interesting – the plane flew up the coast past Luanda – all the way to shipwreck bay (we could see the stranded boats really clearly) & then circled in low back over Luanda before landing.

Luanda airport was much less intimidating second time around (having proper legal status helps too) & rather quickly we were out of the airport to find one of the school buses waiting So we arrived back home mid afternoon Sunday, with school again on Monday! (and a ton of work to do). The week at school was essentially uneventful (except for the absence of 3 teachers who had been bumped off their TAAG (Angolan Airlines) flights despite reconfirming & turning up at the airport early! Apparently it happens all the time. The bonus of the week was that it was 1) early close Friday & 2) that Monday of next week is “day of the dead” & is a public holiday (which had been missed when the calendar was put together) so we had a 3½ day weekend to look forward to!

Despite initial misgivings (feeling pretty tired out) we decided we would still go camping at Cabo Ledo on Friday night to help break up the weekend. So straight after lunch on Friday we were hastily throwing together the stuff we would need to go camping & started loading the bus up at 2pm. It was a very different crowd of people from the last time we went (almost all new teachers) so it was a quite different experience. For a start, when we arrived, it was almost full high tide & the high ground we had camped on last time was covered in the sun shelters the locals build. So we had to camp close to the lagoon, further down the beach. It was also VERY windy – almost as soon as we got our tent up, the wind caught it, so we ended up weighing down every peg with big rocks (which fortunately were in good supply).

However, once we’d eaten, the week crashed in on us & we were the first to bed – well before 10pm! (Shows our age).

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