Lonely Planet Bluelist

Lonely Planet Bluelist
Originally uploaded by gubbex.

Grrrrreeeeaaaaatt!!! The people at Lonely Planet have come out with a BLUELIST – essentially with great help from their readers all over the World. And what are their (indirect) comments on our trips?:

China 2005 – on the Great Wall:
“The touristed parts of Badaling are not recommended; try instead a walk from Simatai to Jinshanling.”
Thailand 2006 – on the markets of Chiang Mai:
#3 in the Category: Greatest Markets
“The Chiang Mai market opens after sundown and it’s ‘Bargain City’. Fancy a fake Rolex? Get it here. Pirate DVDs? You got it. Fabrics, silks, sunglasses, gems…mmm, it’s all here, as are swords and chicken feet… The centrepiece is the Night Bazaar Building, three floors of all this and more. Bargain for all you’re worth for a rollicking good time.”

Tanzania 2006 – on Jambiani Beach:
#3 in the Category: Best Beaches to Swing a Hammock
“Here’s the beach that Time forgot, where men in fishing dhows set sail at sunset for the reefs, women gather seaweed daily, and people like you constantly boil to a crisp under the baking sun. There’s not much to do except loll about and crack open a few coconuts.”

In other words: Been there, done that. The Bluelist remains a very interesting book about many things to do all over the world!

Day 13: Last Day and Kim’s Restaurant

Relaxing! That’s what we did on this the last day on Zanzibar. Eric and Jakob went snorkeling for a couple of hours with Captain Sappi, but for the rest of the day everything was about relaxing and a bit of packing for the early morning start the next day.

We had been trying to find Kim’s Restaurant a day earlier, and instead found Kim himself who cooked for us at the Kipepeo Lodge. He also invited us to his own place – praised by the Rough Guide as a place with high quality food for a decent price.

Before we arrived Leen had been around the place to see how it was, and had found: No lights, chicken running freely around inside and outside, no chairs, etc. Not really what you expect from a restaurant that’s going to be the culinary high of the holiday. Our expectations were thus not too high when we arrived in the evening.

Kim welcomed us and treated us first to a starter and then to his fabulous and indeed classic coconut-crusted fish with mango chutney, rice and freshly prepared vegetables. What a treat! We could do nothing else than agree that this was the best dinner during the total 2 weeks in Tanzania. It felt like a shame to eat that last piece of coconut-crusted fish, because after it there would be no more.

With our stomachs full we walked back to the hotel via the moon-lit beach for the last time.

Day 12: Visit to Stone Town, Zanzibar

With a population counting roughly 200.000, Stone Town is the largest city on Zanzibar and as of the year 2000 listed on UNESCOs list of World Heritage Sites. They say:

“The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium.”

And while it IS true that Stone Town has a very interesting history given its role in trade – particularly with slaves and ivory, it is not really the bustling trading center of East Africa it once was. Stone Town of 2006 is a dirty and badly maintained shadow of its formerly prosperous self.

We went to Stone Town to experience what was left of the Oman capital away from Oman, and were not impressed with the state of the city. In fact we were probably only really impressed with the food at the Monsoon restaurant close to the Forodhani Gardens. One can only hope that the UNESCO status will help restore a bit of Stone Town’s former beauty.

In the picture you’ll see one of the many Daladalas that keep Unguja Island of Zanzibar connected. These mini buses drive all over the island to fixed destinations, usually loaded to well above the roof of the car.

Day 11: Zanzibar, Cycling, More Diving and Eating Out

This Bicycle on Unguja Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania, is very typical for the bikes we saw. Earlier on we saw many more bikes also including an odd sort of suspension system for the front wheel. Very unique and VERY heavy !

On this the 11th day Eric went diving again – this time with a real PADI divemaster. Leen and Jakob stayed behind watching the beach, reading, taking walks around town and on the beach.

Around evening time we went to the nearby Seaview Restaurant – a part of the Seaview Lodge. They served great seafood, but they got our order wrong and took maybe 2½ hours to serve a starter and dinner. Very impressive! It’s our general impression from Tanzania that you really shouldn’t be in a hurry when going out eating. While the food is almost always excellent, It is doomed to take at least an hour to eat out anywhere.

Day 10: Another World on Unguja island, Zanzibar

Differences from one country or one region within a country to the other are usually not really that big.

However, in Tanzania the differences between the mainland and the Unguja island in the Zanzibar archipelago are quite significant. Yes, the language is pretty much the same – the entire country has Kiswahili as official language; the people for the most part look pretty much the same. The religion on Unguja is mostly Islam, which makes for some significant differences – especially now that we travel during the ramadan.

For us it meant that eating, drinking, and smoking in public was not at all welcomed. Imagine not eating or especially drinking anything at all in 30 degrees heat!

The picture to the right is from the first morning sunrise on Zanzibar. Jakob got up a bit early to get the first shots of the beautiful surroundings of hotel Blue Oyster.

On this the first day on Zanzibar we watched with curiousity how the locals at low tide went to their usually ocean covered sea-weed fields to harvest sea-weed. That pattern repeated itself every day during our stay and seems to be part of how people make a living outside the major towns on Unguja Island, Zanzibar.

In the afternoon Eric went diving with what later appeared to be a fake PADI-certified dive center with a dive master who wasn’t really a dive master. Excellent experience with some of the most impressive corals he’d seen to date.
Leen and Jakob joined for a bit of snorkeling. It turned out to be a bit too deep to be really beautiful, but Jakob did at least see a shark within the outer reef – something that apparently is very rare that close to the coast.

Day 9: Elephant Encounter in Tarangire National Park

Got up extremely early to get an early morning safari out of our last day on the mainland. The first half hour or so we nearly didn’t see an animal, but then things started getting interesting.

While Eric and Jakob we standing looking out of the roof of the jeep, suddenly a small group of elephants, lead by a large male, appeared and charged towards the jeep. Moshi immediately stopped the vehicle and tried to stop the scared elephants by revving the engine on the spot. That didn’t work too well, and he had to put it in rear and accellerate a few meters backwards to avoid the elephants. The pack of elephants continued across the road – still very protective about the baby elephant in their middle – and went further in direction of the swamps, where we had just seen a large group of about 150 elephants in one place. The danger was over, and the event became one of the most remarkable of the tour, and made the early morning start very much worthwhile!

On the way back to the lodge we went by a water hole where we’d previously seen an elephant family (see picture from yesterday’s post). Already while approaching we noticed a jeep parked by the hole and a female lion approaching from the left. At the water hole three magnificent male lions were drinking, washing themselves and relaxing in the shadow. A look around the area with binoculars revealed a very large group of vultures, feasting onthe remains of the Lions’ breakfast – what looked like a zebra (it’s a bit hard to tell from 150m when the remains of the poor animal are covered in vultures, tall grass, and blod).

Those two experiences were the perfect ending of our safari adventures, and we turned the car in direction of Kilimanjaro and the airport for our one hour flight to Zanzibar.

Day 8: Tarangire National Park

Going from Karatu to Tarangire National Park, we stopped between Karatu and Mto Wa Mbu to shop for souvenirs at shop by the road side. Eric and Jakob bargained hard to get a good price from the shopkeeper. An hour later Leen got one of the same items for half the price from Mr. Cheap, a local boy from Mto Wa Mbu.

Tarangire National Park is etremely rich on elephants and we had quite a few close-up experiences with them.

It was very warm during the day, so we decided for afternoon relaxation and a later afternoon safari in the park.

On the way back to the lodge from the afternoon safari, we were stopped by a large elephant blocking the road. Not seeming to be going anywhere off the road any time soon, Moshi took the jeep in a large curve off road around the elephant.

Diner at the Sopa Lodge – probably one of the best places we’d been to during the entire safari.

Day 7: Olmoti Crater

Waterfall in the Olmoti Crater

Originally uploaded by gubbex.

We left the Ngorongoro lodge in the morning to go to the Empakai Crater. Later on it turned out that the destination had been changed and we stopped much, much earlier at the Olmoti Crater after a long ride around the Ngorongoro Crater on the rim of it.

The Olmoti Crater’s most spectacular view was from a hillside with a view to what must be the only waterfall of the dry season. We were escorted into the crater and inside the crater by a ranger and a maasai warrior (who was not part of the tour, but just very, very curious). Eric and Jakob went down the hill from the rim into the crater together with the ranger.

Having seen what there was to see at Olmoti we left the Ngorongoro conservation area, went to the luxurious Kifaru Lodge close to Karatu and relaxed the rest of the day.

Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater

Today we left the Serengeti National Park to go to the Ngorongoro Conservation and through the unique Ngorongoro Crater. On the way off the Serengeti plains we saw buffalos and a huge hippo pool, many gazelles, impalas, etc., etc.

The Olduvai Gorge was on our route to Ngorongoro. It’s briefly explained a gorge of findings of remains of ancient man. Although very interesting we would probably have benefited from passing it, staying longer in the crater and reading up on the whole Olduvai-history online…

Finally inside the crater we saw our first (sleeping) rhino and hundreds of gnus, zebras, warthogs, and some elephants as well. We also came across the hippo pool in the photo which gives a bit if a feeling of how many animals remain in the crater in the dry season. And then, while watching a hyena from very close range – our car broke down. Moshi was a bit of a handyman and very comfortable with mechanics and fixed the battery which had jammed the starter. He ended up fixing it and driving us through the rest of the crater to our lodge on the crater rim – Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge with a fantastic view of most of the crater and a smokey open fireplace.

Day 5: Safari on the Serengeti Plains

We stayed the night after our long driva and safari in the Lobo Wildlife Lodge. The next morning we started out early to try to spot an early morning predator at work. It was an exciting experience even though we didn’t see any.

Upon returning to the Lobo lodge we enjoyed a far better breakfast than at Lake Manyara – with pancakes 😉 !! Then left for safari with lunch packs for a full, advbenturous day. Our driver, Moshi, took us to the Bologonja Gate via barely used roads, and we could enjoy the wildlife and the picturesque nature completely on our own!

The Bologonja Gate is in the far North of the Serengeti and of Tanzania just 12 kilometers from the border to neighbouring Kenya. At the gate we turned west for a different route back – and for lunch on the plains in the blistering heat of 48,3 degrees celcius – no shadow available.

Finally on the way back we added a cheetah dining in a gazelle to our “spotted animals” list. What a truly elegant and deadly predator it is.

Back in the early afternoon, what could possibly be more calm and breathtakingly impressive than – after a bit of resting – to sit by the pool enjoying the spectacular 180 degrees panorama view and what looks like endless kilometres of wildlife show unfold on the plains beneath.

Leen joined only after a failed attempt at a very courageous lion-discovering mission on foot outside in the Serengeti National Park. One of the drivers kindly asked him to return to his hotel and on the way back he was accidently hit by a rock hyrax, which fell from above while playing with its companions.

That evening another good dinner at the Lobo lodge awaited us.

This text by the way would have been online much earlier – as would the two previous ones – had it not been for the outrageous 2 USD per minute the lodge is asking for internet access. I bet they start charging for water soon…