or how we adapted to the "Pole Pole" lifestyle
Have you ever found yourself in one of those deeply profound moments in time contemplating about how the world might end/ the next big hit on movie screens?
I recently imagined that humankind would be threatened by a mysterious virus (most likely originated in a communist country, of course) which has spread all over the world except – lo and behold! – for two countries. In one of those countries – a beautiful island - the leader has managed to fight off the virus by practicing voodoo (which unfortunately won’t save him from dying of the virus a couple of months later, but let’s keep that for the sequel). So, this country is as close to paradise as it gets but it’s also the newest idea of rich investors (from a communist country, of course) building hotels and restaurants. An incredible amount of people, most of them equipped with a weak spot for hard liquor, are flooding the island. The beginning of the end sets off in the tiny airport arrival hall, packed with sweaty tourists, when a couple of guys start to engage in a fist fight…
Whoa whoa whoa, stop right there and let’s not get too riled up in this scenario, in fact, I hate to break it to you: I stole the whole idea. Technically, I didn’t steal it, I... was there! Yep, you heard correctly, that was how we started off Zanzibar, but luckily it took a turn for the better.
First stop: Jambiani, a laid-back town on the east coast of Zanzibar where we stayed next to the local soccer field. We went for dinner in small shacks where the owners would start the dish from scratch once you ordered it, so 1- or 2-hours waiting time was the rule. But that’s ok, because we soon learned that things will be pole pole no matter how rushed you might feel. It’s the Zanzibari lifestyle and we adjusted to it quickly - not that we had a choice but up to this day it’s a mantra that comes in handy when things become stressful or overwhelming.
We SUPed through mangroves, went on a horrible bike tour in the midday heat and found our favorite spot New Teddy’s on the beach where we listened to the party stories of young backpackers while we sipped coconuts that turned into rum-and-cokes as the day passed. What better place could there be to apply for your unemployment benefits and so Björn did just that, overlooking the turquois water of the ocean.
We also did go for the obligatory Stonetown tourist excursion: took a tour at the slave museum (recommended), visited the birth place of Freddy Mercury (for hardcore fans) and tried to find vegan food on the night market (impossible).
One of the big goals of this journey had always been to obtain a diving license and apparently Nungwi was the place to do just that.
A touristy town on the northern end of the island, full of bars offering cheap and unlimited drinks to their mostly Russian costumers. So, the vibes were a little less paradise and a little more all-inclusive, but we had come here on a mission. It turned out that I would be enjoying private lessons since no one else had signed up. The whole process took me only 3 days, was interrupted by one day of very high fever and the serious doubt whether I would pass the theoretical part or not. Thanks to my instructor everything went smoothly and I can call myself a PADI licensed diver. Once that was done it was time to look at cows on the beach and take in our fair share of drinks at rooftop bars.
After Nungwi we were ready to get off the beaten path again and booked us into a remote eco lodge south of Mtende that was run by a Frenchman and his son. The perfect end to our trip, as it was as close to paradise as is gets – waking up in our own hut overlooking the ocean, taking showers in our outdoor bathroom and walking along an endless beach.
Bjoern took us around the island on a rented motorbike (unless we ran out of gas, then we would walk on the side of the street, pushing the bike in 40-degree heat and trying to get a lift to the next gas station…). It was also time for one last haircut in a pink barber shop before we took our final COVID test for the flight home.
Unfortunately, this COVID test took a little longer than we expected and also longer than the departure of our flight, so we missed it. In times of COVID tough, there’s nothing easier than postponing a flight via the airline’s hotline – for free! Little did we know that we wouldn’t have needed this test in the first place but we got to spend some extra days in a Rastafari hostel in Jambiani and went through another fever just before the flight back.
We flew back almost on our own in an Airbus a380 and faced 7 days on quarantine back in Ludwigsburg. And just like that, this incredible, exciting, emotional, rewarding and unforgettable experience had come to an end. Or hadn’t it?
TRAVEL TIME: January 2-25, 2021
Jambiani: Yellow Card Apartment & Bungalows
Nungwi: Papaya Guesthouse
Mtende: Eden Rock Zanzibar
Jambiani: Stonehouse Zanzibar
Mama Huu | Jambiani
Bahari Pizza | Jambiani
Restaurant Safi | Jambiani
New Teddy's on the Beach | Jambiani
Chez Hassan | Jambiani