East African sailing trip – log 53

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October 20, 2004

After spending a quiet relaxed evening we are keen to explore. We go ashore on Rhett’s dingy and he stops to ask the local beach-kiosk manager to watch his dingy. He want the guy to make sure that the dingy stays afloat which will mean that he will have to keep pushing it out into deeper water as the tide recedes. We are certain that the chap has not understood but Rhett seems satisfied that his message got through.

We agree to share a taxi into Stone Town for sight-seeing and to find an internet café. It is the month of holy Ramadan so many of the shops are closed and the streets deserted. Every square inch of this town oozes with history – the narrow roads, the huge carved doors, the cobbled stone alleys, the derelict ancient coral stone buildings and many attractions, such as the House of Wonders, The Old Fort and the Palace Museum.

Zanzibar is all and more than I imagined. The local shop-owners are friendly and helpful although they tend to be a bit pushy when one is just browsing. Because it is Ramadan there are no food places open, so we head for Africa House. This is a memorable experience in itself. We are transported to ‘days of old’ – days dating back more than 150 years when the original owner a slave-trader from Oman left it in his will to the Sultan of Zanzibar.

In 1888 the first English Club of East Africa opened in the former Sultan’s residence, the décor and furniture still reflects a regal plush feel. The uniqueness and colours vibrantly reveal aspects of Zanzibari culture and life, in a tasteful elegant manner befitting the warmth and hospitality of its people.

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We enjoy a light pub lunch while we rest our wary feet, thankfully reclining in the warm sunshine, observing the activities around us. We decide it is time for more sight-seeing, stopping at an ice-cream parlour for frozen dessert.

Back at Mtoni Marine Lodge our suspicions are confirmed – the beach-kiosk owner is nowhere to be seen and ‘Duck Manatee’ is high and dry 300mts from the sea. Normally that shouldn’t be a problem, but this is semi-rigid inflatable (big) with a 55 hp engine on the transom. – Big, beautiful but mega heavy! The tide is way low and there is nothing to do but wait for it to come in.

We drink cocktails as sun-downers sipping them really slowly… and wait, we order dinner – that takes a while… and wait, we eat… and wait, we learn to play “Boa” a board game which dates back to ancient times it is also known as Mancala/Mankala, and it remains popular in Africa today.

Different versions are found in nearly every African country. Played with carved boards of wood/ivory or simply on the ground, the game is enjoyed by leaders and commoners, adults and children alike. Boa is played by transferring stones, counters, shells or buttons around a number of ‘bins’ or dips in the ground. There are more than 200 different versions of this ‘count and capture’ game.

After many laughs, some disputes and arguing, and competitive clashes at Boa, we wonder down to the beach – Duck Manatee is still beached too far for the 4 of us to carry it. I decide to turn on my ‘charm’ and coerce 4 young muscular tourists to help us and we push it into the water… another lesson learnt.

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