Hamna Shida Bro
After spending the last eleven weeks in the mountains and desert valleys surrounding Arusha arriving on the coast of Indian Ocean was extraordinarily refreshing.
To begin our trip we took a bus from Arusha to the coastal Tanzanian town Tanga. We arrived in Tanga in the late afternoon and checked in at our motel. The Inn By The Sea held up to its name and was situated right on the bay with beautiful views of the coast on the other side. Upon our arrival we headed to the local beach club next door for some much needed seafood and a swim in the almost too warm ocean. The trip was already off to a start too good to be true. The next day we had big plans to go explore some bat poop filled caves….but we quickly got distracted by the prospect of more beach time. With the caves an abandoned thought we piled into a dala-dala, procured some Konagi, and headed towards the promisingly beautiful beaches in the neighboring town of Pangani.
After a long bumpy dala ride the six of us arrived at Peponi Beach Resort where we would be camping for two nights. Let’s just say that for a mere ten dollars a night we could not have stayed anywhere more amazing. Our tents (complete with mattresses and pillows) had ocean views and the resort was small and set in the jungle but had a pool, bar, and great (and cheap) restaurant….oh and did I mention that the whole thing was situated on a gorgeous beach leading out to the Indian Ocean? It was paradise. That night after a good deal of swimming in both the ocean and pool we sat down for one of the best meals I have had in Tanzania. While the food wasn’t all that much more expensive than local food in Arusha I had some of the best fish I could imagine. Just in case we weren’t luck enough already the next morning we set off for a private snorkeling adventure on the resorts “dhow” sailboat named Pepi. The six of us and a couple we had met at the resort set out on a beautiful wooden sailboat with a crew of three guys from the resort. We leisurely sailed to two separate coral reefs to snorkel. The reefs and sea creatures that resided in them were some of the most amazing and unimaginable things I have ever seen. I saw more types of fish than I have ever seen in my life as well as amazingly brightly colored coral. After thoroughly sun burning our backs while snorkeling for several hours we sailed off to lunch. The crew took us to a bright white and completely uninhabited sand bar in the middle of the sea. We were all a little awestruck as they proceeded to set up a shade shelter for us to eat our lunch in. After eating a shrimp, mango, and avocado salad in the middle of our isolated sand island we swam for a while in the most clear and turquoise waters I have ever seen before heading back to shore- watching the tide swallow our island as we sailed away. This amazing sailing, snorkeling, and lunch on a private island adventure was probably the best $12 I have ever spent.
On Tuesday we said our sad goodbyes to Peponi Beach Resort as two people headed home to Arusha and Chris, Sam, Andreas, and I went on to Mombasa, Kenya. The roads were only a little bit sketchy and our journey to Mombasa wouldn’t have been bad at all…except we got left at the border. The four of us were in line to get our visas, just finishing up as we saw our bus driving away without us…and with all of our suitcases on board. This seemed quite peculiar- as we were the only four white people on board and sitting right in the front of the bus it didn’t seem possible that they would have just forgotten us. After being offered the explanation that we were taking too long (something we had no control over whatsoever) I used some choice language at a man from the bus company. Luckily though I had little luck with the bus man in figuring out our situation a sympathetic boarder patrol officer called the bus and demanded their return. With our belongings once again in our sight we proceeded towards the bustling beach city of Mombasa.
It felt great to be in a big city again- the hot and muggy air, tall buildings, and hoards of people and traffic, felt good after being in small cities and villages for so long. After a long taxi ride from the seemingly random street corner where our bus dropped us off we arrived at Mombasa Backpackers. Yet again we had found paradise. A block away from the beach the old colonial mansion hostel was just what we needed. We checked in at the bar and proceeded directly to the huge pool within the big, grassy garden out back. We spent the night relaxing, swimming, and playing cards and some beer pong with Peace Corps volunteers and travelers from all over the world. It was a haven for young people working and traveling the world on the cheap whether from South Korea, England, Germany, Australia, or even good ‘ol Columbia City (yup…I met a crazy guy from Seattle who claims to have “squatted” in Columbia City Theater for many years in the ‘90s). The next days we spent hanging on the beach and exploring down town Mombasa. We spent an afternoon walking through beautiful Old Town, which is a historical Muslim community of old and winding alleyways right by the sea. While I still felt that I was in an African city the large buildings, chain stores, and faster movement of the people made it apparent that Mombasa was quite a bit more developed than anywhere I have been in Tanzania.
To finish off our week of getting to wear shorts, basking in the sun, swimming in the ocean, eating fresh seafood, and partying until the sun rose, we headed to Diani Beach- home to the nicest beaches in Mombasa- with some new friends we had collected at Mombasa Backpackers. Sure enough the white sand of the beach was as stunning as any post card I’ve ever seen. We spent the night in a hostel called Stilts- that was in fact rooms in tree houses built on stilts in the jungle. After hanging out in our tree houses for a while, playing drinking games and feeding bush babies bananas, we went down the street to the renowned beach bar 40 Thieves. Opening right onto the beach with sand floors, good drinks, and great dancing it was the perfect way to end our trip before the looming eleven hour bus ride back to Arusha the next day.
I feel incredibly lucky to have seen a whole different side of East Africa than I could have imagined from living in Arusha. However, it’s good to be ‘home’ and I am looking forward to heading to a village at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro for my last week of training. It’s hard to imagine that in just over three weeks my mom and Zach will be here and that just a week after that I will be on a plane to Seattle.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, can’t wait to see you all soon! Much love, Han