Friday, September 15, 2017

Zanzibar, day 5: Bwejuu or bust

We slept in a bit this morning, magically, and went up to breakfast on the roof at 8:30. While we ate, a pair of young men -- clearly on their first morning in the hotel -- came upstairs and chose a table. The waiters struck up a chatty conversation, and asked them which local beer they wanted with their breakfast .... Kili, Tusker, Serengeti.... The guys, wanting to be both polite and cool, looked nervously at each other, whispering, "Are they offering us beer? Do people drink beer with breakfast here? Are we supposed to order beer?" They hemmed and hawed and stammered out a few "umm..."s before the smiles of the staff gave the joke away. Awww, punking the guests!


Having packed, and with an hour to kill, we went for a walk, wandering past the Hellen Art Gallery.


We'd seen the signs around town -- even skirted past it one afternoon -- but today we couldn't help ourselves -- we were drawn in by the magnetic power of owner Hellen Japhet.


We entered her Aladdin's Cave of paintings and found a cute name plate featuring Kili and some animals, on which she painted "POLE POLE" for us. I really wish I wanted an oil painting, she was so lovely, and her smile and laugh so genuine!


We wandered along the waterfront, where we admired a pride of feral cats, lounging in the sun. It does still make me think about my future as a crazy expat cat lady...




We also laughed, again, at the names of the boats in the harbor. Not sure I'd hire "ONE WAY", but "JAMBO" or even "MR BEAN" could be nice.



Then back to Emerson Spice, where we said goodbye (for a few days) and met Abdul, our driver. He walked us to the car, and explained that we would take us to the spice tour, where we would meet a local guide ... and that the best way to get the most out of our tour was to ask lots of questions.

We arrived at a spice farm run as a cooperative by a village. Our guide "Ali Baba" ("Seriously?" "No.") took us around showing us how various spices grew. He explained that the village grows large numbers of crops nearby, but established this "show garden" so it would be easy for people to walk around and see lots of spices all together.


We saw cinnamon, coffee, turmeric, pineapple ("so cute, right?"), peppercorns, ginger, vanilla, ylang ylang, We also saw both male and female cardamom plants, which have to be fertilized by hand because the bees move the pollen, but not the liquid between the sexed plants ... which is necessary to keep the plants stronger. As if on cue we saw a HUGE bee, as big as my thumb, buzzing lazily around the plants.


We were given a demonstration of tree climbing in a little clearing by a local boy -- whose brother meanwhile industriously wove decorations for us, including a purse, necklace, and corsage for me, and a tie for Wil. As we sampled the fresh coconut ("Tanzanian Coca Cola!"), the climber quickly wove a crown for me and a top hat for Wil -- which I think I'll convert into a basket later. But we took our "gifts" with pleasure and good naturedly put them on.

We then were offered a number of fruits to sample -- an orange, a banana, one of those thick-skinned grapefruit, and some watermelon, nothing too exotic. Then the requisite visit to a "spice stall", but we still couldn't think of anything we needed -- and, thankfully, there was no pressure to make a purchase.

Then back in the car for the rest of the drive to Bwejuu. We drove through the Jozani Forest Preserve but didn't spot any red colobus monkeys ... but we enjoyed the signs along the road!


When we arrived at the Bellevue Guest House we met Michael, the manager -- a young Dutch guy who has been in Zanzibar for 2 years and manages the guesthouse with his girlfriend. "I came for a kitesurfing holiday, met the owners, and here we are."


He introduced us to their two dogs, told us about meals and the beach, and then showed us our room, the Jungle Bungalow, aka the
JUNGALOW

I had fretted, a bit, about not getting the specific room I desperately wanted (and had booked online). So I was thrilled that we had, indeed, been assigned to it. Upstairs in a small, round building, with three sides open to the trees and a peek-a-boo view of the beach. Glorious. Nothing fancy, just a big bed, two rickety chairs and a table, some shelves, a few books (mostly in Dutch, sadly), and a big bathroom with a shower. But perfect and EXACTLY what I wanted.




We settled in a bit -- after all, we'll be here 4 nights! -- and then walked down to the beach, and I burst into tears. It's exactly the "tropical paradise" one sees in postcards -- impossibly turquoise seas, waves breaking on a reef a kilometer offshore, and sparkling white sand littered with shells so beautiful I would have gladly bought them as a shell-collecting child. I filled my pockets with shells as we wandered along the deserted beach. I feel like I made another great choice.









Then back to the guesthouse, where we changed into our swimsuits and had a beer by the pool. Not large, but perfectly shaped and with an "infinite edge", a comfy seating help all the way around, and a view of the sea. Exactly what I want in a pool. It's amusing to be in a holiday spot with few Americans, mostly Dutch and Germans. We feel like the quiet minority.


Then up to the room for a nap -- I didn't sleep well last night, so *might* have napped too long!

We made another trip to the beach as the sun set on the other side of the island. I started walking out toward the reef as it was really low tide, but my shoes got stuck and I worried I would lose them!




Then back in -- unsure how how quickly it would get dark on this side of the island.


We had signed up for the Sushi Night ($15), and having been told it starts at 7:30 ("sometimes a little late, but we try!") we promptly seated ourselves at 7:25, not wanting to be tardy. Ha ha ha!



At 8:00 a group of 11 -- 10 Dutch and one American -- arrived. I wondered if it was a "singles trip" like Erik hosts? At 8:20, Michael hurried over to say it would just be a little longer. And at 8:30 we got our first course: a really salty seaweed soup. (The chef must be in love!)

Then some more waiting -- the people at the big table who hadn't ordered sushi were already having their plates cleared -- but then the sushi appeared, and it was very nice. A few rolls, a few pieces of nigiri, and a well-seared strip of tuna. Wil, unsurprisingly, didn't like the squid, so I said to give it to the cat -- but the dog got it first and we got a tiny (gentle!) scolding from Lara, Michael's girlfriend.


We retired to the big patio to listen to the wind rustle the palm fronds. Then up the steep stairs to the Bungalow, a bit of reading, and then bed. We've decided to sleep with the curtains open -- why not? 



Did I mention that I just picked these shells up on the beach today?!?


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