Fabled Islands of the Indian Ocean 13

Fabled Islands 13

April 19, 2009

Zanzibar! Wow, even the name conjures up visions of Arab Sultans, Portuguese sailing ships, the Spice Islands. It is an old city, with early buildings dating back more than a thousand years.

It holds such an important place in history that it is designated a World Heritage Site. The city itself has a bit of a demarcation as “Stone Town” (the old quarter), and the new town.
It is actually fairly easy to see the difference.

As we pulled into port, ships lay at anchor everywhere. Some were fairly new or at least well preserved, others looking like ship wrecks waiting to happen. The ship crew was fairly alert at anchor, as stowaways are actually fairly common in ports such as this. In fact, later this same evening as we prepared to weigh anchor, the ship’s crew swept the ship looking for stowaways.

The tour today pointed out clearly to me what I really already knew: I am not a great fan of the “guided tour” type of trip. I prefer instead to get out on my own and explore, which I did eventually.

After our small group walked through the market, savoring (?) the smells of fish, squid, octopus, rotting vegetables, waste, and other produce, I told the group leader of my plan to walk about on my own. After assuring him of my qualifications with map and compass (neither of which I actually had), I backtracked and walked a few of the ancient alleyways on my own.

In the absence of a larger group presence, I was virtually invisible. Now this was more like it! I picked up a few interesting photos and a few souvenirs for friends as requested. It was a much slower pace, with people unaffected by the presence of a group of camera-toting tourists!

After recovering all of the shore parties, we weighed anchor at sunset and headed back out to sea. Though we only had 70 nm to go to Dar es Salaam, the ship remains in motion at night to discourage piracy and stowaways.

As an aside, the ship still has to run the “gauntlet” along the Somali coast between Dar es Salaam and Egypt before picking up passengers for the Mediterranean itineraries. The Somali coast is where most of the piracy is taking place. We had 2 “security experts” on board for our journey out away from the populated Seychelles Islands. These two guys were very burly, clearly ex-military, and I suspect from a group such as Blackwater. Who knows what firepower they had aboard?

The ship itself will be further prepped for this repositioning. There are high pressure fire hoses directed at the waterline access points, held in place by newly-welded brackets. A pallet of concertina-wire bales sits on one of the upper decks, to be deployed on the stern, where access to the engine room might be a problem. Too, metal grating has been welded over the open-air windows of the engine room, and are all electrified. All portholes and windows are to be blacked-out during the voyage. Most of the staff and crew will be minimized, flown to Egypt, and additional security-dudes are to board. Four small escort boats will accompany the ship. They really are taking this piracy risk very seriously!

Our last day was a bit tedious, as we checked out and left the ship in Dar, transferred to small tour buses, to see a few “sights” around the city. All I can say is, “Gads, I hate these tour bus groups!”

But my discomfort was soon ended as we arrived at the airport after lunch and struggled through the airport check in procedures. For those who haven’t experienced airports in a developing nation it is not for the faint of heart. Slow and tedious, dark and hot interior, seemingly interminable. But, we made it.

Now all I have left is 26 hours of flying during a 36 hour stretch…then I’ll be home.



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