October 31, 2014

Malawi: Lake Malawi, Part I

After three nights in Zanzibar, Tanzania it was hard to go back to the truck, camping and the group of twenty two. The group dynamic is not ideal but luckily I have become good friends with Jess, Nicole, Esther, Suzie and a few others. We also had two long ten to twelve hour driving days across Tanzania to Malawi ahead of us. Most of the time I don't mind long bus rides but these two days were brutal.

After a long twelve hour drive from Dar Es Salaam we stayed at Kisolanza Old Farm House, a gorgeous camp near Iringa. We arrived just before sunset and the spa like showers and free wi-fi were greatly appreciated. I am starting to realize the Intrepid itinerary is a little misleading as we never went to Iringa even though it was marked on the trip map. Lame.

{ Baobob Valley }
{ Chris and the truck }
On the second long driving day we drove through Baobob Valley with thousands of baobob trees to the Tanzania/Malawi border. The border crossing to Malawi was straight forward and after we all passed the Ebola temperature check we were easily able to change our Tanzania shillings to Malawi kwacha with the near by change bureau. I was shocked at how nice the border was with no poverty and for the most part clean. I mean we are in Africa, everything is dusty.

Our mood lifted with the excitement of a new country. Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa because of the friendly people. For the most part everyone spoke English which was a welcomed surprise because we had to shop for vegetables at a local market in Mzuzu. Mike, our chef, went to the grocery store and we went to the local market to restock the kitchen. Chris gave each of us 1,000 kwacha ($2) and a vegetable that we needed to buy. Let the bargaining games begin! Unfortunately, broccoli, was out of season but we manged to buy the requested quantity and quality of tomatoes and onions for Jess and Nicole.

{ Lake Malawi }
{ Lake Malawi sunrise }

We spent our first night in Malawi at Chitimba Beach Camp on the shores of Lake Malawi. We were not able to swim here due to bugs but it was gorgeous looking at over the massive lake. There were about four other overland trucks at camp and even though we did not mingle it was comforting to see other travelers on the overland road. After a relaxing evening at camp I woke up early to watch the sunrise with a few local kids who joined me. 

October 27, 2014

Sip & Savor: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Africa House, Stone Town
Africa House is the place to watch the sunset, says the guide books. However, I preferred to sit on the waters edge at the park below Africa House. Just before sunset there was so much happening there, it's where the locals gather and play soccer, swim or beef up their muscles by doing pull ups on the tree limbs. After sunset when the park cleared out we would make our way to Africa House for a cocktail. The Zanzibar Sling was a perfect after sunset sip.

Green Garden Restaurant, Stone Town
If you are staying at Flamingo Guest House then Green Garden is just around the corner, if you aren't good luck trying to find this open air restaurant in the small streets of Stone Town. If you can find it their food is affordable and the Green Garden juice was so tasty I wanted two. 

Lazuli Cafe, Stone Town
Another hidden gem hard to find after the sun sets is Lzauli Cafe but it is a block away from the post office and next to Stone Town Cafe, so start there. A small white building with only a few tables serves tasty fresh food and has a perfect island atmosphere. Their vegetable wrap was one for the books and the lime and mint juice was uhhhhmazing. 

Abyssinian Maritim Ethiopian Traditional Restaurant, Stone Town
I have not been to Ethiopia, yet, but I assume Abyssinian Maritim accurately represented the food culture. With a straw basket on our table the waiter lifted the lid and placed a tray of injera and then poured our individual meals onto it. After washing our hands with warm water brought to the table we ate with our hands. One of the best meals I have had in Tanzania.

Zanzibar Pizza, Stone Town
Whether you want a light dinner, snack or dessert Zanzibar pizza is not to be missed. Personally my favorite stall was on the corner near Flamingo Guest House but they also have plenty of stalls at the night market. Zanzibar Pizza isn't pizza as we know it - it's eggs, a tortilla with meet and vegetables cooked. There is also the dessert option with nutella and banana, which was my personal favorite. 

Fisherman's Local Restaurant, Kendwa Beach
Most of the restaurant at Kendwa are on the beach except for one palm leaf roof room on the back street, Fisherman's Local Restaurant. The budget friendly menu had fish, burgers, pizza, sandwiches and Indian food to name a few categories. Although my margarita (aka cheese) pizza was delicious we had to wait over an hour for our food, so make sure to not be in a hurry.

Beers of East Africa

October 25, 2014

Tanzania: Spice Tour and Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

{ Pepper }

{ Suzzy, my Irish tentmate }
We said goodbye to Stone Town and took a shuttle bus out to the spice farm. While we walked around the farm learning about different spices from our guide, our spice boy would climb trees, pick leaves and spices from various plants so we could smell ginger, pepper, garlic, clove, lemongrass and so on. Turns out pepper is green and only turns black after it has dried in the sun for a few days. I loved learning about how plants are used for other purposes besides flavoring our food - if you rub lemongrass on your skin it helps keep mosquitoes away. After our spice walk we hid under a palm leaf roof while it rained and tasted different spiced teas and ate fresh fruit. The pineapple and mango was the best fruit I have ever had. Our spice tour ended with lunch at a local house sitting on the floor eating rice, sauteed cabbage and a fresh tomato salad.

By one o'clock we were back on the shuttle and headed to the northern beach of Kendwa. We checked into Sunset Bungalows, which was a a major upgrade from Safari Lodge in Stone Town. 

After gearing up Nicole, Jess and I walked down to the beach and were met with white sand and deep turquoise water. It was unreal how beautiful the beach was. For the next day and a half, while Nicole got scuba certified, Jess and I found a beach bed and "chillaxed," as Chris would say. 

October 23, 2014

Tanzania: Stone Town, Zanzibar (again)

We drove from Arusha to Marangu for an overnight at a beautiful hotel in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Most everyone upgraded to a room at the hotel and the remaining eight of us camped. Again. We camped on grass with multiple sleeping pads and no rain. It was the best night of camping so far.

The following day was a long drive to Dar Es Salaam where we camped at Kipepeo beach and went for a evening swim. It was a part of Dar Es Salaam that was completely out of the city and almost a beach resort. It was a wonderful surprise! 

{ Streets of Stone Town with Nicole and Jess }

{ Left to right: Jess, me, Nicole } 

After an early morning ferry to Zanzibar it was great to be back in Stone Town. I didn't even mind the mosque prayers five times a day this time, however, it was so humid and sticky. We checked into Safari Lodge which was arranged by Intrepid Travel. Although I would not stay here again (Flamigo Guest House is my favorite) the hot showers and big towels were greatly appreciated.

We had a free day in Stone Town, which was more then welcomed. With nowhere to be at a certain time Jess, Nicole (from Australia) and I spent the day exploring the small streets, shopping and watching the sunset. Zanzibar, I love you #vacationmode. 

October 22, 2014

Tanzania: Mtu Wa Mbu Culture Tour

{ Rice fields }

{ Guinea fowl feather }

{ Mtu Wa Mbu mud house }
After returning from the safari game drive with our cameras full of animal photos we had some time to relax at the campground before departing for a culture tour of Mtu Wa Mbu. Six local guides walked us around rice fields, banana plantations and a local village where we, of course, had time to shop for wood carvings and paintings. Although we did learn a little bit about how the locals live and the process for building a house our cultural tour seemed to be more focused on us telling our friends and family back home to visit Mtu Wa Mbu. For those visiting Tanzania and do not plan to trek, a culture tour would be a good option but I prefer to learn about local life by trekking through villages in the Usambara Mountains.

{  After running in the rain } 

After our group of twenty two bought as many paintings as our wallets would allow it started pouring rain. We all ran through banana plantations to dinner, which was prepared by the people of Mtu Wa Mbu village. The dinner was amazing with so much variety, I was very impressed. After dinner, since it was raining the Intrepid truck came to pick us up and to everyone's surprise their laundry was moved into the truck and was hanging everywhere to dry. It was hilarious to drive back to camp while people searched for their clothes.