A Country Place No-One Knows About.
8/9/05. Stone Town, Zanzibar.
On the potato boat to Zanzibar
Sowanyway! I'm tootling down the road at - oh I dunno - maybe 200mph*, trying to find Bububu Beach (is it BOObubu, BuBOObu, BubuBOO, or maybe BOOBOOBOO? I don't know, but I bet it's not the last one), when I see a sign for the Columbus Club, pointing in roughly the direction I expect the beach to be. "Super", I think, and swing left down a kilometre of sandy track, eventually happening on a BIG METAL GATE.
"Em-hem... Is this a hotel?" I enquire.
"Oh yus" replies the lovely and saucily-booted Zanzibari gate-woman.
She smells good, like some kinda expensive perfume with a hint of coconut oil.
There is no hint of a motion to open the BIG GATE.
"I wonder if I might come in and take a spot of lunch?" I venture.
"Blimey you smell nice" I think.
There follow a few minutes of elaborate red tape as Coconut Honey and somebody have a phone conversation in Swahili about my suitability. Shortly I'm allowed through the GATE - but I can't take my bike. Or my helmet or my keys or my gloves. I'm starting to dislike this place and I'm not even in it yet, but I gotta see it now.
At reception I'm escorted - closely - to the bar, where I am informed that lunch is TWENTY EUROS!! Suddenly I'm not hungry. "You're joking of course?" I say. They're not. Of course. But I'm not beaten yet.
"I'll just have a beer for now. And a packet of Sportsman".
I'm escorted from the bar to the cig boutique in the manner one is escorted from HMV in Oxford Street to the pavement, having attempted to steal a tape.
I hate this place, but I'm in an extremely good mood - because I'm in Zanzibar - and the Columbus Club, whatever the hell sort of place it is, is not going to spoil it.
"Sportsman Please!" I cry at the counter-maid.
"Only Marlboro and Camel" she explains.
WHUT? I haven't seen either of these for months and I don't want 'em. But given that I don't have any fags I'll take 'em.
"How much in TZ shillings?"
"We don't take TZ shillings".
WHU-HAAAT? I really really hate this place.
It turns out later, in a proper bar in Stone Town, that the Columbus Club is a walled enclave/compound for Italians who want to go on holiday to the beach in Zanzibar but don't want to go to Zanzibar. All the staff have to speak fluent Italian (how many Italian speakers do you think there are in Tanzania?). The guests are bussed from the airport to the hotel. From then on, no-one can leave and no-one can get in, apart from me because I wheedle.
It sucks, hard. But I was still in a good mood on the way back to town, tyres spitting gravel, none of which I hope hit the heavenly-smelling gate honey...
11/9/05. Mcheza Beach Bar, Zanzibar
If I was Jabba tha Hutt, I could slither down to the Columbus Club and pop the Gate Honey into my mouth like a fun-size Bounty, suck off the coconut flavour - and the clothes - and deposit her glistening form back down onto the tarmac.
Oink! One year on the road tomorrow and no sign of mental instability setting in yet. Bleat!
20/9/05. Jambiani, S.E. Zanzibar.
Andy's got Rush on his iPod and Emma owns a pub. And they're my new neighbours! Nungwi in the north of Z'bar is a tourist haven to the extent that at least two of the local lads have pseudo-cockney accents. One of them is even a Spurs fan - I think the first African of that unhappy persuasion I've met.
The weather's not perfect all day every day, but when the sun's out the sea is stupidly turquoise and the extensive shallows are warm like a bath.
Andy, Emma and I drink booze for a few days at Cholo's, a ship-shaped bar on the beach with hammocks and a spectacular sunset spot. It's not really Africa, but, like, who cares?
Eventually I saddle up and whizz down to the South-Eastern beaches, ending up at Jambiani. The weather is consistently good here. The tide goes out for miles and comes in startlingly fast. I'm able to fulfil a year-old ambition (I arrived in Nungwi 365 days after I left the UK) by riding Fluffy on the beach.
This is good, partly because the "roads" around here are "made" of worryingly sharp raised platforms of ocean-eroded volcanic basalt. Excuse me - I've just read Richard Fortey's "The Earth - An Intimate History", and for the next few weeks I'll be appreciating ancient lava flows, 70 million-year-old limestone formations and Pre-Cambrian gneisses*, particularly when I suspect one of them is going to give me a puncture.
*I don't really know what these are.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at October 24, 2005 04:24 PM GMT