Posts Tagged ‘zanzibar’

We landed in Zanzibar at 11 pm, still hot and exhausted from our airport battles. The next hurdle to jump over was, would our bags be there? The last time we had seen them was in Burundi and in our experience, whenever a flight is canceled… the bags go on a little vacation of their own. Thankfully, the bags were waiting for us. They were locked up in a dank musty room, but they were all there and we exited out of the airport into the night air five minutes after we arrived. We looked at each other and said, “Wow, that was easy!” We hailed a taxi, jumped in, and drove off!

Something was going to go smoothly for once, I thought, not at all like the rest of the day had gone. Then the taxi driver pulled the car over into a dark empty lot. He turned to us and said, “We are going to switch cars now.” Coffee Guy and I looked at each other, then back at him, and in unison said, “No, sir, we are not.” Except that I left out the “sir” and Coffee Guy, ever the gentleman, didn’t. The driver hesitated and then said that he just needed to get something out of the other car. My brain really does have a mind of its own, and I was thinking, “What, like a gun?” He jumped out, grabbed his cell phone, jumped back in and we were off. Dark alley crisis averted.

Five minutes down the road, the driver brought the car to a rolling stop on the shoulder of the very dark highway. It was dead. Not us (yet), but the car. The driver hopped out and got on his cell phone. Coffee Guy tried to get out to see what the problem was, but his door had been child locked. The driver peeked his head back in because we were the definition of back seat drivers by this point, yelling at him to try again. He made a half-hearted attempt to start the car from the outside, and it didn’t turnover. Meanwhile, I am trying to keep my silly brain from thinking that he has stalled the car on purpose. Back home, in South Africa, if you are in this type of situation…. the likelihood of your immanent death far outweighs the likelihood of your survival. Am I right South Africans? Holler for me!

The driver started pacing outside of the vehicle. Was he waiting for his other henchmen? Then, with no warning, he waved down another car, jumped in, and left us on the side of the highway. In that moment, in the stillness of that dark highway, in a taxi with no back window, in a country that I didn’t yet know, with a firm belief that this could quite possibly be the last place on earth I see, I prayed the most fervent prayer of my life.

Out loud. Loudly. While crying buckets.

I prayed for the little boy asleep I my arms, I prayed for the little boy tucked up in his bed in a country far away, I prayed for life. I prayed to live. I prayed for God to see us in that moment. I told God I was scared, more scared than I had ever been. In my entire life. I was angry. Angry that we were so vulnerable. Angry that there was nothing we could no, no place we could go. We had to wait.

A few minutes later, headlights appeared behind us. Our driver re-appeared and put petrol in the petrol tank, jumped in, and started driving.

I was still crying silently in the back seat. I didn’t trust that this guy was actually taking us to our hotel. Then, suddenly, the streets were full of celebrating Zanzibaris and traffic came to a halt in the middle of Eid al-Adha celebrations. People were banging on the car, jumping over the car, shouting around the car. The streets were impassable. Finally something gave, and we began weaving through the small alley-like streets of Stonetown in Zanzibar… to our hotel. As we arrived safely, our driver was not the murdering type after all, I vowed not to leave the hotel room until we departed for home. Which, of course, I didn’t do. Zanzibar is a photographer’s feast, but that’s tomorrow’s story.




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It has taken me several days to conjure up enough emotional mo-jo to write this post. When things go wrong, I’m a “don’t look back, move on ahead” kind of girl. When I think about Zanzibar, I don’t want to look back. I told Coffee Guy when we got home that maybe I would skip writing about the trip all together, because then I wouldn’t have to mention Zanzibar. Anyway, fair’s fair and I promised you I would. Here’s the story…

We left Burundi tired out by all the new experiences our tiny little brains had taken in within days. As we arrive in Kenya, I half wish we were flying straight home. I was missing our little terrorist and feeling ready to be in my own bed. Plus, by this point, Neo and I both had full on diarrhea. But, we had decided early on in our trip planning that we need to go to a place and “process” Burundi together before going home.

We scooted up to the transfer desk to get our boarding passes and found out that our flight to Zanzibar had been canceled. “It’s been WHAT?!?” I said loosing my cool quick and jazzy like. Things got a little heated at the transfer desk after that, which Coffee Guy and I both admit to with a pinch of shame. In the end, a very annoyed Kenya Airways employee issued us boarding passes to KILIMANJARO with the name of a lady who was going to meet us as we disembarked, to show us to our Zanzibar plane, scribbled down the side of our boarding passes. We were supposed to meet her and head directly to our next plane which was set to depart a half hour after our arrival. Oh Lordy, we should have known then!

Once we arrived in Kilimanjaro… there was no one waiting for us. We asked around, and no one knew of the lady whose name was scribbled on our tickets. We headed into the airport building, and it was there that we realized we were in Tanzania. Duh. New country = new visa. We were supposed to fill out miles of paperwork for the Tanzanian government… meanwhile we have no pen, no boarding passes, no meet n greet lady, and our plane is departing in twenty minutes. In a mad panic I grab hold of a random airport worker and say. “We are supposed to be connecting directly to Zanzibar…RIGHT NOW!” I think he saw the red in the whites of my eyes and knew we needed some help. He rushed us through immigration (without stamping our passports) and took us into the fray. Five major flights to international destinations had been canceled that day. The airport was a sea of angry tired white tourists. It was total chaos, and the airport worker left us in it. We had no idea where to go to get on our next flight. Then, we saw the plane leaving without us.

For four hours we battled with the people in the Precision Air office for boarding passes. They took us behind the ticketing counter, and began to work on our boarding passes, until the people the a loooong line in front of the counter screamed in outrage. Back to the office. Back to the counter. The passports disappeared with someone. They re-appeared. Back to the office. Back to the counter. More angry people. More sweating. More crying babies… oh wait, make that just one crying baby, and it was mine. People came and went. Some victoriously holding boarding passes for the last flight out of Kilimanjaro. Some loosing their tempers and coming close to decking the airline employees. Some sweating through their clothes in frustration. Some envisioning a new life in the Kilimanjaro airport.

what it really says is “we know our service is really crappy, but please don’t hit us.”

A group of laid back blinged out Tanzanians trying to fly standby to Dar El Salam made plans for us in case we didn’t get on the flight. They made fun of us for having so little faith… The departure time came and went and we had no tickets, but “it was all ok” they said, because the plane had not even arrived yet. It was over an hour late. Twenty minutes before the late plane departed… we got our boarding passes and so did our pimped out friends. People cheered as the plane took off and jeered and laughed when the airline appologized for inconveniences.

We left Burundi at 9am, and at 11pm we finally touched down in Zanzibar… and the day’s not over yet!



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