March 31st, 2016
Morning Rain–unlike any rain I’ve seen. Huge drops close together, almost more water than air. Then sunshine. The day veered from authenticity to cheese and then back. The main excursion was to the woodcarvers market, a skill Charlie has been developing this past year, though what we saw was more than intimidating. The market is a row of stalls roofed with corrugated steel along a highway. Each sells paintings and carvings (mostly African animals in ebony). We got a tour though, so went to the back where the carvers were working–an entire community with their own kitchen and even a soccer pitch. There they worked the wood– primarily ebony–with bow-lathes and hand made chisels. Most were formed from a piece of sharpened rebar. The lathe turners sat on the ground next to the frame and bow, holding the gouge in place with their feet. There were trunks of ebony six or more feet long, a foot in diameter completely carved through with figures in the round, sanded and finished with oil–took years of labor. They rough-shaped with hand adzes, carved with chisels, and wet-sanded everything to a high gloss. No power tools, really nothing more complicated than a hand drill. I watched as someone was beginning a log project. He didn’t sketch figures onto the surface but instead used the whorls of the grain and the knots to determine the pattern. Fascinating. Before going to the market, we had coffee at a nice hotel which was having a traditional feast with music and dance that night. We put on our tourist hats, and headed over first for beer by the pool watching a European friendly soccer match (UK/NL), then up for traditional Tanzanian food, some not so traditional music, and dancers. Of course the hostess made me dance (or shuffle which is more descriptive). There were moments where the cheese factor was a little high, but we all did have a great time and the food was good and the dancers amazing. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner tourist.
T. Hugh Crawford
March 30th, 2016
Everyone recommends a day on Bongoyo island, so after sleeping too late, a fast taxi ride, and a jog down the pier, we caught the boat just in time. The transfer boat was long, low-slung made of wood with a small outboard. All seats were full so we had about four-inches of gunwale showing, and the water was not that smooth. Was happy to get to the old-fashioned wooden tub that chugged us out to the island which sits in the Indian Ocean just east of Dar Es Salaam and south of Zanzibar. It appears to be originally volcanic, with lava flows into the water but lots of clear sand, clean water, and coral. According to an Italian man I met on the boat, much of the coral is now gone as they used to fish with dynamite. Set out on the spit of sand where we landed were round bamboo and thatch roofs with wooden lounge chairs. Tucked into the edge of the woods was a bamboo and thatch bar/restaurant with fishermen who took lunch orders and then went out to catch what was requested. It was a decadent day– swimming, eating, drinking, and dozing in the shade. That night we returned to the same sidewalk charcoal restaurant where we had that warm welcome you sometimes get when you return to a place. Had another delicious grilled meal, watching the naan chef flatten out the dough and then with some dexterity flip it onto the inside wall of a metal drum which had a charcoal fire in the bottom. The naan sticks to the side and bakes rapidly, coming out all blistered and brown to then get slathered in butter. While we were eating, street venders parade by, selling pirated DVDs of the most recent movies, belts, baskets, shoes. You could get a whole new wardrobe and your night’s entertainment just waiting for kebabs. One way they signal their approach is to jingle loudly a stack of coins– you can hear them coming all the way down the street. Once again, the sun took its toll and we slept early.
T. Hugh Crawford
March 30th, 2016
Exploring Dar Es Salaam, walking of course. Out of city center on a quiet holiday morning. Easter extends to Monday here, though not sure what the dominant religion is– passed a cathedral and a large mosque, no gompas though. We walked out past the fish market, a large concrete structure on the water surrounded by open space. Both within and without there were low wooden tables where the fish were dumped out, either for display to be sold or to be cleaned by the many people sitting around them. The scales fly, making silvery showers as they scrap with incredible speed. A man was dismembering a large skate with a knife that looked like a machete. The ground all around was covered with fish offal which they pushed back into the water where large wooden fishing boats were moored, offloading their catch. We then walked out along Barack Obama Drive, pausing for a moment to try to get a picture of the sign only to be rushed away by a machinegun toting soldier guarding a military entrance: No Pictures! We walked a couple of hours out of the city, through neighborhoods with charcoal restaurants– grills and shiny scrubbed woks out front in the heat. We stopped first at a cove with fishing boats where there was an expat patio bar where we ate and watched the boats come in and out– some power boats but mostly low wooden ones with lanteen rigged sails. A man waded out in front of us tossing a fishing line and rapidly pulling it in. At first I thought he wasn’t catching anything until I saw he carried a bag on his shoulder and was catching small sardine-like fish with each cast. We then made our way over to Coco beach, a long strip of good sand completely full of holiday swimmers. Music played, people laughed and splashed, the perfect late afternoon spot. We caught a three wheeled taxi back to centre city for a grilled street food dinner, and then some sun-induced exhausted sleep.
March 30th, 2016
Wandered Kathmandu one last morning, streets familiar and unfamiliar, then took taxi to airport for entirely too many hours of dubiously comfortable travel. Let’s just say connecting through New Delhi is more than any human should ever have to endure, even if paradise is promised at the other end. Flying out along the wall that is the Himalayas– clouds indistinguishable from glaciers– was a hard farewell. Many long and frustrating hours later I landed first in Addis Ababa finally relaxed– a new continent and new attitude. Ethiopians with genuine welcoming smiles and some good food before the last hop to Dar Es Salaam where Charlie waited with transportation to the Safari Inn– making it all worthwhile. We took a few hours to wander around near our hostel, overlooking the restaurants we expected to find. In the afternoon, the steel grates are down and all the sidewalk chairs and grills are stored, so what looks like an empty side street becomes, in the evening, a string of restaurants packed with laughing customers and full of the smell of grilling food. Delightful.
T. Hugh Crawford