Thursday, January 21, 2016

Arusha, Tanzania: Four Days on Safari in Wild Africa - January 2016

"In the coming decades and centuries, men will not travel to view marvels of engineering, but they will leave the dusty towns in order to behold the last places on earth where God's creatures are peacefully living. Countries which have preserved such places will be envied by other nations and visited by streams of tourists. There is a difference between wild animals living in natural life and famous buildings. Palaces can be rebuilt if they are destroyed in wartime, but once the wild animals of the Serengeti are exterminated no power on earth can bring them back." Conservationist and Zoologist, Bernard Grzimek (1909-1987)

Breaking through the light layer of clouds, our rickety propeller plane descended, and we caught our first glimpse of mainland Africa. Families with small children waved through a chain-link fence and a nondescript building with the words "Arusha Airport" painted on the roof came into view.

Walking from the plane we were warmly greeted by two men, "Jambo! Welcome to Your African Safari!"

Mr. Romeo Rweza, owner of Safari Multiways, wore tiny ovaled spectacles and carried a heavy brown briefcase. Mr. Amos, our safari guide for the week, donned a colorful tribal print shirt and a bright white smile. We all gathered in the dusty parking lot to settle the bill and within moments, we were on our way with Amos detailing the next few days of adventure.

Our ride for the safari was a dark green Land Rover with six elevated seats in the back and a pop-up roof. It was comfortable and also equipped with power charging strip. Throughout the next four days, Amos and our trusty Land Rover took us through dense forests, near ponds and swamplands, over grassy plains and down into a vast crater. We spent the days on game drives scouting animals and vegetation, and the evenings sampling typical African fare and resting for the next day's adventure. The accommodation was clean and comfortable, and one night we even tried glamping.

Along the way, we visited with the people of the local Maasai Tribe and caught a glimpse of Africa's tallest peak Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. "She's a very shy lady," Amos explained of the mountain, "She hides most of the time under the clouds and only allows herself to be seen from far off on very clear days."

Our four-day safari was thrilling. During our adventure we saw lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, cheetahs, hippos, rhinos, buffalo and even an elusive leopard. It was the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation. We couldn't have dreamed of a friendlier guide or a more memorable experience.

Lake Manyara, Tanzania: Revealing Africa's Diverse Natural Habitat - January 2016

Safari Day 1: Lake Manyara National Park

With Arusha town behind us, we drove past fields of sugar cane, rice and banana trees. From the car window we saw small towns with shops and circular thatch huts surrounded by tall grass. We watched as women dressed in brightly-colored fabric carried pots and sacks on their heads with babies strapped to their backs, and as young Maasai boys herded cattle across the road and through the hilly grasslands.

After less than two hours driving and just past Mosquito Town, we reached our destination of Lake Manyara National Park. Nestled into the base of the Rift Mountains, Lake Manyara National Park encompasses about 127 square miles and showcases an incredibly diverse sampling of African terrain and animal habitat.

Within the park, game trails journey through jungle-like forestland hiding blue monkeys that swing from the trees and commanding baboon troops; woodlands which house the park's iconic tree-climbing lions; grassy plains where buffalo, giraffes, wildebeest and zebra herds graze; flooded swamplands stocked with bathing hippos, pelicans and storks; and around the 77 square-mile freshwater lake.

Against the dramatic volcanic mountain backdrop and within the dense forests we also spotted: elephants, a m
onitor lizard, bush buck, warthogs, African jacanas, impala, giraffe, lilac-breasted roller birds, African fish eagles, crown cranes, water buck, guinea and rabbits.

While Lake Manyara is home to a number of different bird and animal species, it was hard to travel more than a few yards without encountering zebra.

Zebras tend to live in small harems to large herds, and have been unable to be tamed due to their inability to carry goods and panicked temperament. We learned that a zebra foal is born with brown and white stripes which darken as the animal ages; each zebra's black and white stripes carry a unique pattern much like a human fingerprint.

Serengeti, Tanzania: Off-Roading in the Golden Grasses - January 2016

Safari Day 2: Ngorongoro Conservation Area & Serengeti National Park
Safari Day 3: South Serengeti National Park & Ndutu Area for the Wildebeest Migration

The second and third day of our safari we ventured into the Serengeti. The Serengeti is Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park named by the Maasai people meaning "endless plain." The national park covers 5,700 square miles stretching west to Lake Victoria and bumping up against Kenya in the north.

Wildebeest Migration. We were fortunate to witness the annual wildebeest migration during our visit; from December through July, more than six million animals roam the open plains in search of fresh grazing. Swaths of land turn from golden to dark brown as the animals dot the landscape and stretch as far as the eye can see. Driven by instinct millions of wildebeest trek north during this period accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle.

During their pilgrimage, many wildebeest calves are born; we learned that it takes the babies one minute to walk, three minutes to run and ten minutes to run faster than their mothers. Survival of the fittest is definitely in play in the Serengeti.

Wildlife. Aside from the massive herds of animals engaged in the migration, we saw elephants, giraffes, ostriches, secretary birds, eland, topi, impala, a serval cat, a bush cat, spotted hyenas, golden jackals, antelope, Egyptian geese, guinea, black face velvet monkeys and enormous stampedes of buffalo. We also were able to spot a spitting cobra slithering across the road and an agama lizard perched on a rock.

Lions. To our surprise, lions were easily spotted roaming the park grounds and finding shade under the larger acacia trees. We admired a large golden-maned male lion prowling the tall grasses in search of prey as well as a pride of female lions with their cubs frolicking near a lake. Male lions grow light brown or blond manes around age 12 which darken and turn black around age 19. Lions prefer wart hog, zebra and buffalo meat but will not be selective when really hungry. During an afternoon game drive, we saw the aftermath of a lion pride ravaging the remains of a young elephant. Depending on the size of the kill, lions will eat for three to four days off of one animal and then can go another four days without eating before getting angry.

Leopards. Leopards are nocturnal predators who hunt at night and rest in the sprawling acacia trees during the day. Elusive and solitary, like many of the fast cats they are hard to spot during safari. As we were driving through the grasslands, our safari guide abruptly turned off the jeep and grabbed his binoculars. He signaled for us to look to a far off tree where we saw a large leopard perched in a tree trunk. We admired the beautiful animal for nearly an hour stealing close-up shots with our camera. We then watched as the leopard climbed down the tree, leaped into the grass and started walking toward us. We couldn't have been more excited when it crossed the dirt trail right in front of our jeep, and we were able to get a closer look at its magnificent spots.

Cheetahs. Another hard-to-spot cat, is the cheetah. After two days of cruising the Serengeti plains, covered in orange dust, just as we were able to leave the park our guide stopped the jeep once again. This time to point out three black spots in the distant grasses. With binoculars in hand we were able to see three cheetahs looming in the grass about to pounce on a small herd of antelope.

Ngorongoro, Tanzania: The Crater of Life - January 2016

Safari Day 4: Ngorongoro Crater

Our last day on safari we headed down into the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro was given its name by the Maasai Tribe which translates to "gift of life" in the local tongue and is intended to be the phonic rendering of the sound of a cowbell. Inside the crater, it is common to see young Masaai boys herding their cows interspersed with zebras and other animals.

Ngorongoro Crater is the namesake, as well as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, within the 3,000 square mile Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater, which is technically a large volcanic caldera, was formed after the collapse of a mountain larger than Mount Kilimanjaro more than two million years ago.

Life inside the crater is abundant with greater than 25,000 large animals roaming within its walls. Gazelles, giraffe and zebras graze side by side on the lush green grasses. Lions are the primary predators reigning over the area with buffalo, elephants and black rhinos also commanding attention. Hippos, which are the most dangerous animals to humans due to their size and territorial nature, are found in many of the crater's watering holes and swamplands.

Other wildlife we spotted in the crater included: crown cranes, duka, ostrich, secretary birds, storks, wildebeest, golden jackals, spotted hyenas, warthogs, guinea, flamingos, vultures, rabbits, monkeys and baboons.  

While driving the trails within the crater we noticed some activity on one of the grassy hills. Upon further look there were several animals and a bit of commotion. It appeared that a lion pride had killed a buffalo recently and was attempting to protect their meal from scavengers. Four lions were battling more than a dozen spotted hyenas and a couple stray jackals. The other lions took turns chasing the hyenas away, but every once and again, the group of hyenas would succeed at distracting a lion and capturing a piece of meat or skin. Another lion sat perched on the hill surveying the scene.
Ngorongoro Crater is a majestic land where animals of all shapes and sizes live openly together and enjoy the lush environment. With its ample supply of grasses, trees and water, the crater serves as a protected oasis and is an ideal viewing place to see wild animals in their natural habitat.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

We Will Not Travel in Fear - January 2016

Today the world woke to the news of yet another terrorist bombing rocking a nation; this time the senseless killings took place in Jakarta, Indonesia. Two days ago the headlines screamed of 23 innocent people murdered in Istanbul, Turkey. Tragedy also recently struck Paris, Beirut, San Bernardino and Kandahar. Our world is broken.

My heart goes out to the people who call these places home. I tremble imagining the horror and grief the families are experiencing. Attacks target coffee shops, restaurants, airports and revered cultural sites; terrorists are aiming to make people feel unsafe in their own homes. The terrorists are succeeding.

Shock waves from these inhumane acts of violence are being felt around the world. While following the media in disbelief, masses display an outpouring of support and plead for the atrocities to end. An undeniable feeling of powerlessness abounds.

It is a tough time to be a traveler. My husband and I were in Istanbul four days ago. We stood in Taksim Square revelling in the beauty of the city. In the recent days family and friends have called panicked, urging us not to travel. And in response we question: is the place we consider home any safer? How can we anticipate where the next tragedy will occur? Do we stop living our lives?

Our world is spectacular and boundless. Its people are largely kind and good-hearted. I will not let extremists color my outlook or hinder me from doing what I love. I will not change how I live my life. We will not travel in fear.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Stone Town, Zanzibar: Spices, Sand & Sails - January 2016

The islands sit about 30 miles off the coast of mainland Tanzania and are easy to reach by a short flight or a two-hour ferry from the country's largest city of Dar es Salaam. We chose the ferry route, and upon docking on the island of Unguja were greeted by hoards of locals grabbing at our luggage and touting taxis, hotels and tours.

Welcome to Zanzibar! Amid the confusion we jumped into a cab and quickly befriended the driver. During our five-minute drive to the hotel, he schooled us on the islands' offerings and volunteered to arrange our excursions for the next several days in which we happily agreed. 
The DoubleTree Hilton in Stone Town served as our oasis on the crowded, hot island, where the highlights from our visit included:
  • SOS Children's Villages. Upon researching Tanzania, we learned that it was one of the poorest countries in the world and there was a severe shortage of books. An alarming number of the population is illiterate, and the average annual income is around $250 U.S. With that in mind, before departing the U.S., we loaded a duffel bag with 50 pounds of books and school supplies and upon arrival on the island, sought out a local orphanage. You can read more about our heart-warming experience at the orphanage in the post "Fifty Pounds of Books & Pencils."
  • Spice Plantation. The following day we ventured from the coast inland and visited one of the island's many spice plantations. Although, heavily monitored by the Tanzanian government, the plantation we visited was owned by a local village. For more about our day at the plantation, read "Skipping through a Spice Plantation."
  • Slave Cave. Also while inland on Unguja, we visited the Mangapwani Coral Cave. Historians suggest that the cave was used to hide slaves after the slave trade was officially abolished in 1873. A flight of stone steps took us from the nondescript entrance down to the vast gravel-bottomed cave floor where we navigated water holes and boulders as our flashlight revealed the colony of bats hanging above us.
  • Fisherman's Beach. A pebble's throw from the slave cave is a beautiful white sand beach. Mangapwani's sands and waters are littered with long boats and dhows housed for storage or repair. A dhow is a traditional Arabic sailing vessel and is also one of the most iconic sights from the islands of Zanzibar.
  • Stone Town City Tour. With the temperatures beginning to drop, the evening provided the perfect time for a strolling tour through the cobblestone streets of Stone Town. Stone Town is the historic area of Zanzibar City well-known for its unique 19th century architecture. The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site showcasing the unique mix of Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences. The tour took us through an old fort and open-air fish market, by Freddie Mercury's childhood home, past shops selling sparkling tanzanite jewelry and stopped at a old slave market and chambers well-preserved in the center of town.
  • Tortoise Conservatory. A thirty-minute ride on a long boat transferred us from Stone Town to Prison Island to the northwest. Prison Island, also known as Changuu, once housed rebellious slaves in the 1860's and later served as a site to quarantine yellow fever patients. While you can still walk the prison grounds, now the island is best known for its tortoise conservatory. Aldabra Giant Tortoises, now an endangered species, find refuge there and slowly graze; some tortoises weigh up to 200 pounds and are more than 100 years old.
  • Snorkeling. Scuba diving and snorkeling is a poplar pastime off the beaches of Unguja and Zanzibar's other small islands. We were able to spot bottlenose dolphins as well as clown, angel and stone fish in the Indian Ocean's warm, coral-filled waters. The islands also boast areas where you can swim with the white tip reef sharks and blue spotted rays.
  • Sunset Sail. To cap off our relaxing visit to the beautiful islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, we jumped aboard a long boat and set off for a sunset sail. Zanzibar is a not-to-miss treasure brimming with history, beauty and culture.

Stone Town, Zanzibar: Fifty Pounds of Books & Pencils - January 2016

Upon researching our upcoming holiday destination, my husband and I learned that Tanzania, Zanzibar included, was one of the poorest countries in the world with an average annual income around $250 U.S. Suffering from a severe shortage of books, an alarming number of the population is illiterate. 

With that in mind, before departing the U.S., we loaded a duffel bag with 50 pounds of books and school supplies and upon arrival on the island, sought out to find a local orphanage to make a donation. With help from our hotel, we were directed to SOS Children's Villages outside of Stone Town.

According to the SOS Children's Villages website, the global non-governmental organization's mission is to build families for children in need, help the children to shape their futures and share in the development of their communities. Active in 132 countries and territories, SOS provides shelter, medical services, meals and education to children without parents or families. In Tanzania, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has caused countless children to become orphans in need.

After locating the orphanage and going through tight security, we were escorted into a small building where we met two women: Ms. Asha Salim, facility program director, and Ms. Evelyne Wilson Baniti, kindergarten teacher. With the women welcoming us with warm smiles, we emptied our large, green duffel bag on the table and explained who we were and why we were there.

After the brief introductions, Asha began to tell us about the SOS Children's Villages in Zanzibar and the services it provided. We learned that the organization provides three different types of services for the local community: short-term support such as money for schooling and medical services along with warm meals for those in need; medium-term support which involves mentoring parents; and long-term support by creating a safe living environment, education and social networks for children.

Beginning operations in 1991, the SOS complex we visited provided housing, meals and medical services to more than 1,000 children. It also contained facilities to educate children from kindergarten through secondary school.

Asha and Evelyne invited us to tour the village where we admired brightly painted murals and impeccably clean classrooms. Unfortunately, the school was not in session during our visit due to the New Year's holiday, but we were able to see several students and teachers throughout the village. After we walked through the school and past the playgrounds, the women took us by the community garden. Asha plucked leaves off the trees and made us guess the spice.

After an hour roaming the village grounds, we hugged goodbye, and Asha and Evelyne provided us a parting gift of Tanzanian tea and an envelop of cloves. It was a heart-warming experience to peak deeper inside the Tanzanian culture and be able to contribute to a community in need.

Stone Town, Zanzibar: Skipping through a Spice Plantation - January 2016

Just outside bustling and congested Stone Town is an island filled with fruit and spice trees as far as the eye can see. During our visit to Zanzibar we spent a day exploring a spice plantation owned by a small local community.

We were escorted to a village about an hour away from Zanzibar City. Upon arrival we were greeted by two young African boys: one would be our tour guide educating us about the plants, and the other would be responsible for providing us samples of the fruits and spices we learned about along the way.

Being from the southern United States, our vision of a plantation was a vast property covered with orderly crops typically with a large house in the center. On Zanzibar the concept of a plantation is very different; the plantation we toured appeared more like a protected and well-cared for parcel of land in which trees, vines and grasses grow freely and abundantly in harmony with each other.

As we walked the dust-covered trails used to survey the grounds, the smell of sweet fruits and savory spices seduced our senses. One of the boys made a basket from banana leaves and provided it to me so that I could collect the fruits, seeds and bark we studied throughout the tour.

Walking through the plantation with thick canopies of leaves hanging over our heads, we were shown a flowering peppercorn vine and learned there are four kinds of pepper spice: black, white, green and red; the color of the pepper spice depends on when the peppercorn was harvested and how it was dried.

We touched trees baring fruit, bark, leaves and seeds from which the locals harvest and produce spices like vanilla, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, cocoa and cardamom. The lemongrass bushes were my favorite emitting a citrusy aroma that naturally repels mosquitoes. As we wandered the tropical forest, we were introduced to the queen of spices, the cinnamon tree. The cinnamon tree is highly regarded as every part of the tree produces an edible product from its root to its bark to its leaves.

We learned about the islands' clove industry which has been a significant export for the islands for the last 150 years. While the clove buds are maintained and harvested by the local villages, the Tanzanian government has strict laws that govern the crop and result in the farmers seeing less than half of the profit yielded on an open market. Despite the challenges, cloves still retain their title as king of all spices and bud abundantly on trees throughout the Zanzibar archipelago.

Along the way, we also encountered trees and vines bearing watermelon, star fruit, bread fruit, mango and banana. The plantation workers were eager to share the fruits and would climb to the top to pick the freshest variety for us to sample. 

At the end of the two-hour tour, we were gifted with head pieces and jewelry crafted from banana leaves, and also had the opportunity to sample several of the fruits from the plantation and buy spices to take home. Lotions, oils and soaps were also on site for purchase made from the local plants and crafted by the villagers.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Conned by Ticket Peddlers at Daybreak - January 2016

Guest Blogger: James Strange

Landing in Dar es Salaam at 3:00 a.m. was a somewhat unnerving beginning to our eight-day African adventure. Unlike many airports around the world, leaving of the baggage claim area places you right onto the street in front of the airport. As soon as we stepped outside we were greeted by the hot, damp African mosquito infested heat.  After stopping for a moment to get our bearings, the onslaught of white-shirted taxi drivers began, "Jambo! Taxi! Where do want to go?"

Knowing that the ferry to Zanzibar did not leave Dar until 7:00 a.m., I brushed off the overzealous greeters and headed for the information desk. The sleepy-eyed young African man sitting in the booth slowly slid open the window and with a wearied gaze said "yes?" I asked how far it was to the ferry and he replied, “Twenty minutes by taxi or forty minutes by bus, but please do not go to the ferry now because the station is not open for three more hours and it is not safe to wait on the streets."  

So there we were, sitting on a bench in front of the airport, sweating and swatting mosquitoes. After traveling for eleven hours, an additional three hours in these conditions seemed unbearable. Just as all hope evaporated from our bodies, we noticed a light turn on in the fast food diner across the street. We reluctantly walked over and pulled on the door. To our surprise, it opened and the rush of cool air hit me in the face. Granted it was probably still 80 degrees inside the diner, but we gladly took refuge in an open booth. There were still a handful of mosquitoes inside but we happily enjoyed our chicken sandwiches, fries and warm cola. 

There was a small group of us there inside that little diner waiting for the Ferry.  A German couple, two young blond girls from Denmark and a trio of European backpackers who talked loudly about their recent travels.  

As dawn approached we all began to gather our luggage and prepare to leave. Not having a ferry ticket yet, we felt we should get there as soon as the doors opened. The German couple asked the girls from Denmark if they wanted to share a cab and were first out the door.  

As soon as we exited the diner, a short, middle-aged African man in a bleached white button-down shirt shouted, "Jambo! Taxi?" Fortunately I had done my homework at the information booth and asked about taxi fares. A ride from the airport to the ferry for non-residents was $35 U.S. It wasn't until later that I learned of the "skin tax," a surcharge added to taxis, ferry tickets and really just about anything to non-resident visitors. 

Traffic wasn't bad and the sun was just beginning to shine some light on my first glance of Africa south of the equator. We drove for about 20 minutes before stopping in front of a string of small tin roof shacks. We looked at each other with wide eyes of puzzlement. The following conversation ensued:"Where's the ferry?"  "You must get ticket here."  "No, where is the ferry?" "Just over there, not far, get ticket here."  

"JAMBO! JAMBO!" The sidewalk was instantly full with young African men grabbing at our luggage and walking toward a 10' x 10' room with four chairs and a desk. "WAIT! STOP!" I yelled.

"It's okay, my friend. Jambo. Please come inside," a man assured me.

"No, we will wait here. We have friends that are coming."  How quickly I had associated the small group of refugees from the chicken hut as 'our friends.'  My hope was once they all arrived we would discuss our plan forward together. Strength in numbers.  

So we stood there in the pre-dawn moments surrounded by people insisting we go inside and that it wasn't safe to stand along the roadside. They explained that we needed to buy our ticket now and that the ferries were overbooked because of the New Year's holiday. As our cab driver drove away I began to question what the hell just happened.
Reluctantly, we went inside. We were quickly informed that there we no more seats available in economy class.  If we wanted to be on the 7:00 a.m. ferry, we needed to pay $50 U.S. each. Kim had researched the ferry ticket prices before we had left home: VIP tickets were $35/person. Frustrated and running out of time, I agreed.

"Okay, here is $100, give us the tickets." The 20-something year old behind the desk quickly wrote me a receipt and asked for our passports. He called out to a boy on the street and gave him our money and passports. We both shouted in unison, "NO! He is not leaving with our passports." 

He must get your tickets now! No time! Ferry is leaving soon."  
"No," I said. "I will go with him."  
"Okay, no problem. Please just fill out this form," and with me distracted, the boy with our money and passports slipped out the door.  
Furious, I became indignant. "What is going on here? What kind of operation is this? Where are our friends?" The young man was very cool. "Please be calm. Your tickets will be here soon." You are from America, yes? Obama country," he said with a big smile.
As Kim sat guarding our luggage, I stepped outside and with arms crossed, glared down the street waiting for a glimpse of the young boy who had our money and passports. The sun was now breaking over the horizon and for the first time I was getting a look at the area where the seemingly kind taxi driver had brought us. 
There was a string of similar 10' x 10' shacks about two city blocks long. The street was packed with African people of all ages now. I knew that I dramatically stood out as an angry white man pacing in front of this row of what I had come to believe as con men. Suddenly, in the corner of one of these shacks two doors down from ours I saw the frightened faces of the two Danish girls. "Are you two okay?" I asked.  

"We don't know? We have been here for 30 minutes. They have taken our money and our passports." I reassured them that we were in a similar situation not far away and that we wouldn't leave without them.  
Before I could ask the whereabouts of the German couple, the husband stormed out of yet another shack and headed into "our" tin shack. Out of curiosity, I quickly followed. "They won't take my money. Will you take my money? I only have Tanzanian shillings or Euros," he yelled in broken in English. The young man behind the desk reluctantly explained that they only took U.S. dollars. I thought to myself: wow, this is going to get interesting. 
At that moment I felt a tug on my arm. It was the young boy that had taken our money and passports. "Hurry, come with me! There are no more tickets for the 7:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. ferries. There is a man who will sell you two tickets if you come now," he explained. I grabbed my money and our passports and said "how far?"  

"Just up the street at the ferry station. You must hurry! The ferry is leaving soon!"  
I looked at Kim, and with marked hesitation, asked her to stay with our luggage and wait. At this point I wasn't sure what would be safest but at least she was inside the shack with a very angry German who I was confident would protect her. Down the street the young boy and I ran. To my surprise, the ferry terminal was only about three blocks away. I had no idea what I was about to encounter; extortion was the best outcome at this point. Being mugged and robbed was certainly not out of the question.  
We stepped inside the terminal and were met with signs that read "residents only" at every window. Confused, I was instructed to get in a line. The line was so long and the ferry was leaving in 10 minutes. "Where is your guy?" I asked. Reacting to my bewilderment, he replied just to wait.
I felt like my head was going to explode. I couldn't believe this was happening. How gullible I must have appeared stepping out of that diner. Just then, the two Danish girls walked in. "Did you get tickets?" I asked. "No, they said they were sold out and gave us our money and passports back and told us to come here."  I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. How could we wait there in this unbearable African heat for 2-4 hours in hopes to catch a later ferry?
As the line slowly inched forward, I saw out of the corner of my eye the angry German man. The young man behind the desk had brought him to the ferry and pointed him in the direction of a short line that was not marked. I watched as he spoke to an official sort of officer. Then to my amazement, he pulled out his wallet and within moments was leaving with two tickets. I quickly stepped out of line and made my way to this window. The two blond girls followed behind. "I'm not sure if this is going to work, but at this point we will miss the ferry anyway."  
I got to the window and began to explain my frustration. "I don't know what kind of operation is being run around here but my wife and I have been held up in a little shack down the road being promised a ticket on the 7:00 a.m. ferry. Can you sell me a ticket?," I asked.

"Passports please. That will be $40," he responded.  
Just like that I got our tickets and rushed back to the little shack. I knew the Germans had left and Kim was alone. I stepped inside the shack and glared at the young man behind the desk and said thanks for nothing. "I am so sorry, sir. Please let me help you with your bags to the ferry."  

"Are you kidding me? NO!"  I responded.
"Please sir. The ferry is leaving soon. Let us help you." And with that, two young boys grabbed our bags and off we all ran.  
As soon as we got to the passenger terminal we could see the security line backed up past the gate. Surely they will hold the ferry I thought as we approached the cue. The young boys leading the way talked to the officer at the gate and suddenly we were walking past the long line and escorted to the front. We quickly passed through the check point and just like that the boys were gone. We walked up the plank and onto the ferry. With VIP tickets, we were escorted to a large air conditioned room on the upper deck with leather seats. We settled into two chairs near the front and were quickly served water and warm mango juice. 

Moments later the ferry pulled out of port. We made it! It was an unbelievable experience but at least we were finally on our way to Zanzibar. The large television hanging on the wall in front of us suddenly switched on and an episode of "The Adventures of Tom and Jerry" began to play. As Kim settled in, I couldn’t help but exhale a big sigh of relief that our unexpected African diversion was over.