Christmas and NYE in Canada (19 Dec 14 – 03 Jan 15)

15 January 2015

The two weeks around Christmas and New Years we spend in Canada – mostly in Vancouver, with a three-night stint in Yellowknife in the North Western Territory.

J has extended family in Vancouver, and her mum and brothers also had come, so we spend a lot of time with family eating. Vancouver has some fantastic food, at a fraction of the price we would pay in San Francisco, so we indulged quite a bit: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, seafood, as well as some fast food specialties, like the “Japadog” which is a Japanese style hot dog – sounds strange but is actually very delicious. Other than eating, and of course celebrating Christmas with the family, we walked around the city a lot, including a visit to the Christmas lights display in the Van Dusen botanical garden, which is really very impressive – trees and plants around the whole garden are lit with lots and lots of lights, and there are also some themed sections like a gingerbread forest.

The highlight of the trip, however, was the visit to very cold (-30 degrees) Yellowknife. We had come mainly to see the northern lights, for which we had booked two nights of aurora viewing in the “aurora village” half an hour outside Yellowknife. The stay came with warm clothes (definitely required), transport etc. The village itself is not really a village, but rather a tourist operation with “tipis” that you can sit in and have a hot drink to warm you up between being outside and looking out for the aurora, a restaurant, gift shop, etc. On our first night, we were quite lucky since the aurora put on quite a spectacle shortly after midnight, with green, white and pink lights swirling and dancing across the whole sky. While we have some (long exposure) photos, it is quite difficult to fully imagine or describe all the detail and the movement of the lights in the sky – truly a unique and amazing experience! The next night, we were far less lucky – it was a bit cloudy so we could hardly see the lights, but after our experience the night before we were not disappointed at all.

In the daytime, we did some other winter activities: one day, we went ice fishing. Our guide, Greg, took us out on the  frozen lake in his little ice fishing mobile, which looks like an oversized and closed snow mobile. It has four holes in the ground through which you can fish, after having drilled holes in the ice with a massive hand-held drill. We didn’t catch anything, but since Greg operated a camera in one of the four holes, we could at least see a few fish below the ice, but they were apparently not hungry since they weren’t interested in our food. At least, the evening of that day we went to eat some fish – at Bullocks, which is a local joint that offers fish and chips that are expensive, but also extremely extremely delicious.

Another day, we went snow mobiling one the lake, which was a lot of fun – a bit like riding a scooter, but across an endless snow-covered white desert. The lake is so solidly frozen that for multiple months each winter they operate an official highway on it. In the afternoon, we went dog sledding – two persons on each sled, pulled by four dogs. Our dogs, however, seemed to be the worst pick: the two in the front were constantly distracted, looking back or trying to lick up some snow, and a third dog refused to run at all, sitting down again and again until the guides took him away. Only when the guides gave us one of the other sled’s dogs did we pick up some speed, but we still were the last ones to finish the course.

The cold in Yellowknife was really quite something. It has been a while since I have experienced cold winters in Germany, but -30 degrees is really a different world even to the -20 centigrade it sometimes reached in Germany. At that low temperature, every exposed part of skin hurts, and just from breathing, your nostrils start freezing – we were definitely glad that we had proper rental clothes provided by the various companies organizing the activities we took part in!

Some pictures follow.

Highway 1 and Los Angeles (27-29 Nov)

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we drove down from SF to LA along the old State Highway 1, which is a really pretty stretch of road along the Pacific Ocean coast. We started off in San Francisco on Thursday morning. We made it to Monterey by noon, and visited the big and very well-made aquarium there. The aquarium has lots of interesting exhibitions, including one on jelly fish and one on octopi, squids and related animals. The marine research institute which is associated with the aquarium also does some groundbreaking research particularly in the deep sea right off the coast, which we were also shown a movie about.

We had lunch in Carmel, and also had a look at the very picturesque mission there – unfortunately, the grounds were closed since it was Thanksgiving day so we could only peek in through the gate. The afternoon, we spent driving through the barren but really beautiful landscape of Big Sur, the road always meandering along the coast line. We spent the night in San Luis Obispo, around half way between SF and LA. The next day, we went further south along the coast. We visited the grounds of the mission La Purisima, which was very interesting to see and gave a good impression of what lives the Spanish missionaries must have lived in those days. Afterwards we stopped by in Santa Barbara where we walked through town, soaked in the beach town atmosphere, and visited the very pretty old court house. As a last stop for the night, we drove through Malibu, but since it was already getting dark, we didn’t see much. We stayed for the night in Thousand Oaks, very close to LA.

Saturday was our last day before flying back to SF. We spend the day in and around LA – starting with a very brief visit to the Getty Center, which was very impressive in its location, architecture and the art on display (and all for free!). We didn’t have nearly enough time to look at anything in depth, but we vowed to come back another time. We then went to Venice Beach, looking at beach goers and hipsters, and spending quite a bit of time watching skaters in the beachfront skate park. Next stop – after a quick Mediterranean lunch somewhere on the way – was Hollywood, with the walk of fame and the hand prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese theater. Before we left for the airport, we took a drive through Beverly Hills and tried to spot some stars’ houses for fun – but most were too far off the road to really see anything.

All in all, it was a super fun trip, and we will definitely spend more time in LA soon.

Moving to San Francisco

End of June / early July marked the end of our stay in South Africa – after about a year and a half the time had come to move on. For work-related reasons, J had to move a few weeks before me, while I was wrapping up my last project in South Africa. The departure was therefore quite gradual – selling off furniture (mostly IKEA things we had bought in Germany and shipped to SA when moving there) over the course of a couple of months, firstly the non-essential things, later more and more of the stuff; putting everything in boxes and shipping it; J leaving; and lastly me moving out – the last few days I spent in the guest room of a colleague (and got pretty sick, not a good way to spend the last few days)!

On 11 July, my project was finished and I left the country that same night to fly to London. Despite the unfortunate timing that had seen J leave multiple weeks before me, we were lucky in the fact that she was booked for a training in London for the following week, so we met in London for a day and a half before she went to her training. I flew to Germany for a week to meet up with family and relatives (before moving to the next continent, again being far from most of my family). My week in Germany consisted mostly of a lot of driving – flying into Berlin and staying in Potsdam for a couple of days, and then driving to Frankfurt, Mönchengladbach/Köln/Leichlingen, and lastly Hamburg, from where I flew out again on Friday to meet J in London. From there, we then departed to San Francisco.

Arriving in SF, I still had about two weeks off, which was good to get organized, buy furniture and move, and unpack and get settled. On the first of August, I then went back to work in my new office in San Francisco.

After having spent more than five months in SF by now (time flies!), we really have been enjoying the time and we love it. Especially compared to Johannesburg: even though Joburg is a really very nice and livable city despite all its bad rep, SF is just so much more vibrant and exciting. Particularly for me, with a strong interest in technology, being in SF where you feel that you are at the forefront of development, is fantastic.

We haven’t nearly spend enough time scouting out the surroundings yet, unfortunately – two busy jobs just makes it a bit difficult sometimes, but we have done a few things that were definitely worth our while, such as visiting Berkeley and the East Brother Light Station, a tiny rock island in the bay with just an old light house and a fog horn (very important for the foggy bay); driving up to Point Reyes and eating cheese at the local creamery, visiting the computer science history museum in Mountain View (definitely super interesting for a CS geek like me, including one of the two working Babbage difference engines); and going to the Charles Dickens Christmas market in Daly City. Apart from that, we have been eating out in incredibly many different fantastic restaurants – just within ten minutes walk of the area we live in in Nob Hill, there is so much choice to pick from! Only downside is the cost – SF is really extremely expensive. For some of our restaurant bills in SF, we could have been eating out for a week in Joburg!

Another point we are really enjoying in San Fran is the walkability – in Joburg, you had to take your car everywhere, because it was dangerous without, but also because the distances were just too far. Now, we can walk to work, to restaurants, to town to go shopping, etc. And if we need to go further, we just take an Uber, a Lyft, or catch a cab – all from an app on our phones – such a difference to SA (where we were both still using employer-supplied BlackBerries)!

Garden Route (14-16 Jun)

Our last weekend trip before leaving South Africa took us to the Garden Route – another “must be seen” that we did not want to miss before moving to the other side of the world. In the winter, it was probably not the very best time to visit, but it was quite pretty still. We flew into George and rented a car to drive along the coast. We stayed in a very nice little place in Knysna.

On the way to Knysna, we made a few stops: We stopped to take a walk through the (rainy) “Garden of Eden”, which features a walking path through the thick and dense Knysna Forest, and we also stopped on the (very windy) beat in Buffalo Bay.

On Saturday, we drove further along the pretty coast towards Plettenberg Bay, and then on to the Tenikwa wildlife reserve. Tenikwa is a sanctuary and rehabilitation center for injured or abandoned animals, and most of the center is dedicated to preserving and supporting wild cats. There are lots of them in enclosures – including Leopards, Servals, Caracals, etc. , and (not a cat but still amazing) a Honey Badger. The highlight, however, was the cheetah walk. Around sunrise, a small group of tourists gets to take two cheetahs out for a walk through the surrounding forest – there are of course guards and the cheetahs are on leashes, but it was still quite amazing to walk – and sometimes run – with the cheetahs. It all happened at the cheetahs’ pace, so whenever they felt like sitting down for a while, or sniffing the bushes, the whole group had to wait. It was quite an amazing an unique experience.

After Tenikwa, we had dinner in Plettenberg bay (some nice sea food) and then drove back to Knysna. The next day, we had to take a flight back to Joburg already. However, since we still had some time and we had seen lol of the costal road already, we took some back roads and mountain passes on the way back to George, which was an entirely different side of the Garden Route, with steep climbs, rocks, and fields.

Some pictures follow.

Victoria Falls (6 – 8 Jun)

After more than a year in South Africa, we finally made it to Victoria Falls – a destination that had been on our to-do list since the very beginning. We went over an extended weekend, leaving Friday and returning Sunday. We flew into Livingstone on the Zambian side and staid there as well.

After arriving on Friday afternoon, we went to check out the falls. First, we looked at the river above the falls from the shore and from an viewing spot atop an old tree, and then crossed the border into Zimbabwe to view the falls from the Zimbabwean side. The Zambezi River spreads out to a width of 1700 m where the falls are, and then narrows again right after. There is a bridge that spans across the deep canyon behind the falls, which also serves as a border crossing between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Therefore, we got our passports stamped on the “Zam” side and walked across the bridge, getting a glimpse of the falls every now and then. The bridge was also very busy with lots of border traffic from pedestrians to big trucks. You could also bungee jump from the bridge if you wanted, but we didn’t opt to do that. Once we arrived on the “Zim” side, we got our visa on arrival and then proceeded to the park that gets you closest to the falls.

Since about two thirds of the falls are on the Zim side, these parks are quite big and there is quite a bit of walking involved if you want to see the whole falls. Given that it was already quite late (we had only left Joburg in the morning after all), we had to hurry a bit to see everything. First, we went up next to where the falls hit the shore. Then, we went down all the way along the edge of the canyon that the falls crash down into, so that we had views of the fall at all times. With the amount of water falling, there was constantly a thick mist in the air, especially when the path got closer to the falls, so we got quite drenched despite our rain coats. When we were done on the Zimbabwean side, we walked back over the bridge and visited the park on the Zambian side. As mentioned, it is quite a bit smaller, but it does also have a few nice features like a suspension bridge spanning across a canyon right next to the falls – crossing that bridge even at a running pace bridge got us completely soaked. The one thing we unfortunately could not make use of was the so called “Devil’s Pool” which is a spot where you can bathe in the river right at the edge of the falls – however, when we visited it was way too cold for that, at night the temperatures dropped to freezing!

On Saturday, we went on a combined boat and driving safari. For that, we got picked up in the morning, drove for about an hour and crossed the border to Botswana – another River border crossing, this time using a small boat to cross. Then, we embarked on a small boat for our boat safari. The river the safari was on actually separates Botswana from the small eastern strip of Namibia, so my phone picked up Namibian signals as well – the fifth country (including South Africa) in only two days! Seeing the wild life from the water was actually very interesting, especially since there were quite a few crocodiles and hippos in the river. The crocodiles were mostly sitting in the sun on the shore, and many of them jumped in the water quite quickly when the boat approached. Some of them, however, just sat still and couldn’t be bothered, so that we could get close and take some good pictures. The hippos mostly huddled together in large groups (making their strange grunting noises), but some also dived and resurfaced close to the boat, which was also quite cool. Towards the end of the boat tour, we also saw an elephant that had waded out into the river and was sticking out among some thick weeds in the middle of the water. We had lunch at a restaurant by the river, and then boarded an open safari vehicle for the second half of the safari, driving through the nature reservation along the river. We saw some more wildlife from the car, including more elephants, giraffes, meerkats, and many smaller animals.

After the safari was finished, we were shuttled back to our accommodation in Zambia, where we spent the last night before flying back to Johannesburg on Sunday. Some pictures follow.

Seychelles (13 – 20 Apr)

21 April 2014

For the week before Easter, we went on a short trip to the Seychelles – might as well make use of the fact that this tropical island paradise is only a four-and-a-half hour flight away! We arrived on Sunday on the biggest island, Mahé, which is home to ~78000 people, more than 80% of the total population of the Seychelles. We stayed at a small place very close to the airport, which was convenient since our flight landed only after dark. The next morning, we took the public bus into Victoria, the tiny capital of the country, and from there took the ferry across to La Digue, where we were planning to spend the next four days. La Digue is the smallest of the three main islands which house most of the Seychelles’ population, and it is an extremely laid-back place. It is only a few kilometers in all directions, and there are hardly any cars on the island, but you can get almost anywhere on a rented bicycle. The island, as the other islands, is basically a big granite rock sticking out of the ocean, which means that the land climbs up quite steeply to the highest point of the island which is more than 300m above sea level.

On the first day, we went to Anse Source d’Argent, which is probably the most famous beach on La Digue. It is nestled between granite rocks and palm trees, which means that especially at high tide, there is hardly any beach to speak of – you rather sit in between the palm trees and look at or jump into the crystal clear, blue water. Especially at Anse Source d’Argent, the water was so warm that it really felt more like jumping into a bath tub!

The next day, we took the ferry over to Praslin, which is the second-biggest island and just a few kilometers from La Digue. On Praslin, we went to the inner part of the island. There we visited the Vallée de Mai, which contains a large rain forest, where the national symbol or maybe rather curiosity grows, the Coco de Mer, a palm tree endemic to the Seychelles. The Coco de Mer grows large coconuts, which take 7 years to mature before they finally drop from the tree. The fruit itself has a green “envelope”, but inside is the hard nut, which looks, well, rather like a female bum. And if that wasn’t enough, the male trees actually have rather phallic flower, which points up when they are ready for pollination, and dangles down limply when they are not. Definitely an interesting plant…

On Wednesday, in the morning we went to Grande Anse on La Digue in the morning, which is really a “grand” beach. White sand as far as you can see, and only a few dozen people spread out over the beach – hardly any comparison to e.g. Mediterranean beaches! Unfortunately, you can’t swim at this beach due to dangerous currents, but splashing around in the waves was okay and very refreshing in the tropical heat and humidity. In the afternoon, we went for a scuba dive – unfortunately the only one we managed to squeeze into this one week, but it was a very nice one, close to the tiny island of Ave Maria.

On Thursday, we went out on a boat tour to Île Coco and Île Félicité, where we had multiple stops for snorkelling, which was amazing as well – there was just such a large variety of tropical, colorful fish around, and we also saw multiple turtles and reef sharks. And the water is just so beautiful everywhere, clear and in varying shades of blue and green… Amazing. On our way back, the skipper of our small boat (who himself was the most avid snorkeler of the 8 people on the boat), surprised us all when he stopped next to a catamaran that had gotten its anchor stuck some 15 meters or so under the water. He just jumped in without any scuba gear, only donning his mask and huge fins, and skin dived down to free the anchor! Very impressive.

After we had lunch, we went up to Belle Vue, which is a small café close to the peak of the island. We had the not so grandiose idea of taking our bikes up, which we then had to push most of the way since the path was so steep that it would have been hard to walk even without the bikes. Accordingly, we were completely drenched in sweat when we finally reached the top, but the view and the fresh fruit juice we were served was worth the effort.

The next day, we went back to Mahé for the last few days – and had the first and only bad experience of the trip. We had originally booked the accommodation for these last two nights via the online booking platform Agoda in January. A week before our trip, they had gotten in touch with us and said that there was a mistake and the original guest house we had booked could no longer accommodate us. After some back and forth, we had booked an alternative. However, when we got there after a long boat and bus trip, we found out that this place was also full and Agoda had re-booked us somewhere else on the island just the day before – and since we didn’t have internet access on La Digue, we only found out when we arrived at the hotel. After waiting forever for a bus that didn’t come, and finally taking a taxi to the other place, we in the end arrived at Chez Lorna – which turned out to be an amazing alternative. Location-wise, it was not as convenient as our original booking, but the Seychellois/Dutch host couple of Lorna and Theo, who were extremely welcoming and helpful, more than made up for that, and we ended the day over a delicious home-cooked Creole dinner with Theo and the other guests (a French couple).

On Saturday, we then decided on short notice to rent a car and check out the rest of Mahé. Due to its size, a car is really the best way to get around this island, and at 40 Euro for the full day (with the ability to drop it off at the airport before our flight) it was also not too expensive. Over the course of the day, we did a tour around the complete island, with stops at numerous beaches, and really, one was more beautiful than the next. In the order we visited them: Anse Petite Police in the very south, Anse Intendance, Anse Takamaka, Anse Soleil (where we had lunch), and lastly Petite Anse. The latter was the prettiest of them all, and was really, literally, perfect. To get to this beach we had to go through the extensive grounds of the luxury Four Seasons resort which envelops all of the beach, but it was worth it. The beauty of this beach, the soft white sand, the boulders and palm trees enclosing it, and the clear blue water, are all hard to describe if you haven’t been there.

The next day, we unfortunately had to leave this paradise already, but this was a perfect tropical beach holiday – and what made it even better was the fact that, while it is certainly a rather expensive destination (being used to Johannesburg restaurant prices just makes paying 25 € a person for dinner hard to swallow), it did not feel too busy with tourists. This might have been since we weren’t there in high season, but it was just perfect.

Some pictures follow.

Pilanesberg (22 Mar)

Since we had a long weekend, we decided on Saturday 22 March to go to Pilanesberg National Park for a day on safari. We had not been before, and Pilanesberg is the closest spot where you can do self-drive safaris from Johannesburg. We just went in one of our cars, which turned out not to be such a good decision. Due to the very rainy few weeks that we had had on the highveld, not only were some of the roads closed, and others in extremely bad condition, but also was all the vegetation so high and dense that we hardly saw any animals. We spotted a few rhinos from afar, and some hippos play-fighting in a pond, but that was about it. But what was worse is that we actually got the car stuck on a very muddy road – in the middle of the park. Thankfully a park ranger came by and helped with pushing the car back out (and we turned around to get back on the surfaced road afterwards) – but that was a little bit of a sticky situation there, having to leave the car in the middle of the park, with lions potentially somewhere close by… So we won’t do that again!

Weekend Trip to Lesotho (24 – 26 Jan)

At the end of January, we went to Lesotho for a weekend. We left relatively late on Friday, so we did not go very far into the country that night – in fact, we stayed at a small apartment in the (tiny) capital city of Maseru, which is just behind the border with South Africa. On Saturday, we went further into this remote and very mountainous country. We first paid a very short visit to Thaba-Boisu, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Basotho (the people of Lesotho) nation. It consists mostly of a hill, which we didn’t climb since it would have taken too long, and a tourist complex that showcases a traditional Lesotho village. The complex, however, was not open, so we could only look at the village from the outside.

After Thaba-Boisu, we went to the Malealea Lodge, which is a former trading post that has been converted into a community-oriented, very well-run lodge. We stayed in a small round hut there, which was very nice. In the afternoon, we went on a horse ride to see some of the bushman cave paintings in the surroundings, which was both a very nice way to see some of the beautiful, largely unspoiled countryside, and to get to see the paintings too. In the evening, a local choir and band performed at the lodge, and there was a barbeque dinner.

On Sunday, we had to go back, but we spent the morning still driving around the country. This country really feels so far away from the world, and quite poor. The Basotho have quite an interesting choice of apparel: They wear strange, pointy, woven straw hats, and wrap themselves in colorful woolen blankets – even though it was obviously summer when we were there! A very large proportion of the population, at least as per our impressions from driving through the countryside, are shepherds.

The last stop on the route were some dinosaur footprints, of which there are quite a few sites in Lesotho. Again, in very authentic Lesotho style, there is just a hand-painted sign leading you to the site from the main road, with a tiny hut where two people sit that had second-hand dinosaur books and pictures, and one of whom lead us around the hut to the back into a small stream where there were the big flat rocks that had the footprints in them – very interesting as well.

Some pictures follow.

Summer Holiday Pt. 3: Cape Town (30 Dec – 2 Jan)

5 January 2014

After coming back from Zanzibar, we spent one night in Johannesburg to rest, re-pack, and wash all our dirty clothes from Kilimanjaro. Then, we flew down to Cape Town to spend New Year’s Eve there, since a bunch of friends from INSEAD were also going to be around, flying in from Europe and the US. We had booked the accommodation only on very short notice, and were lucky to still get a spare room at the same B&B that we stayed at on our first visit to Cape Town, Upperbloem in the Bo-Kap.

On the night of our arrival, we went out to Franschoek for dinner – our friends had been on a wine tour all day so we met them there out in the wine lands. It was awesome to see all of them again and catch up with what was happening – most of them we hadn’t seen since graduation over a year ago.

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, we didn’t do very much – the only thing that was on our list was to visit the cheese shop in Cape Town that we had read about in numerous articles. We both really like the South African artisanal cheeses, and in any article on the internet about South African cheeses, this cheese shop was mentioned. Getting there, however, we were quite disappointed – the selection wasn’t huge and the person behind the counter was the most unmotivated salesperson I have ever encountered. She wouldn’t tell us anything more about the cheeses than we could read on the labels ourselves. After this experience, I am so glad that our cheese shop here in Johannesburg, Cheese Gourmet in Linden, seems to be so much better!

In the evening, we went with all our INSEAD friends to Madame Zingara, which basically is a circus / variety theater show over dinner. It was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed spending New Year’s with our classmates like this – unlike last year, where we slept through New Year’s in Yangon because we had an early flight the next day.

The next day, after having slept off our hangover, we headed out to Kirstenbosch Gardens, which is said to be one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. We walked through the park there, which contains around 9000 of the 22000 plant species found in South Africa, and is really very well set up. After having had lunch there as well, we headed out to Llandudno beach were a few of our friends were spending the day sunbathing. In the evening, the rest of the group showed up as well, and we had a very nice sunset picnic on the beach – a very nice finish to our visit in Cape Town, since the next morning we had to leave again for Johannesburg, where we had a few more days to spare before having to go back to work.

Summer Holiday Pt. 2: Zanzibar (24 – 29 Dec)

After having completed our climb up Kilimanjaro, we flew on to Zanzibar to have a few relaxing days on a tropical island after all that exercising. The first two nights we spent in Stone Town, which is the old town of Zanzibar city, main town of the island of Zanzibar and also the capital of the semi-autonomous region of the Zanzibar Archipelago (which also includes Pemba island and multiple smaller islets).

Stone Town is a pretty little old town, with lots of very narrow alleyways with architecture that combines African, Arabic, and Indian elements. Zanzibar’s heydays were as part of the Sultanate of Oman – Zanzibar became part of the Sultanate in 1698 and became such an important trading hub in the Indian Ocean that by ~1840, the sultan moved his capital to Zanzibar, and the traces of that period can be seen throughout the city. A very interesting feature are the beautiful carved wooden doors that can be found on many of the houses, combining Indian elements (decorative spikes originally used against elephants) and Arabic ornaments.

We spent most of the time walking around town and admiring the houses as well as visiting some museums – most notably the palace museum, which showcases some of the rooms of the Sultans along with some explanation about the history. In addition, we indulged in the great food – which again draws from origins all around the Indian Ocean. The special highlight, however, was Zanzibar Pizza, which we had almost every evening in Forodhani Gardens. In this seaside park, around sunrise every evening, a large number of food vendors set up their stalls, selling mainly seafood, Zanzibar Pizzas, and sugarcane juice. Calling them “pizzas” doesn’t really give you the right idea – it is more a Roti dough which is filled with either meat, vegetables and egg, or sweet things like Nutella and fruits, then folded and fried on a large plate – so you could call it a filled pancake maybe. It was cheap and delicious, so we kept coming back for more.

On 26 December, we went across the island to spend some time on the beach as well, in Jambiani on the east coast of Zanzibar. The water there was really blue and pretty, but I must admit that we weren’t that overwhelmed by the beach – I guess we have just been spoiled, since we have been to nicer tropical island beaches (Koh Lipe for example, or more recently Isla Mujeres). The beach in Jambiani just had too much seaweed for our liking. Due to that, a power outage that lasted almost a day, and the fact that we missed the good food in Stone Town, we cut our stay short and left after just one day to return to Stone Town for two more nights.

The day before we left, we went on a so called spice tour. Zanzibar is a major producer of spices, most notably cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. The spice tour took us to a demonstration farm on which these and a wide variety of other spices and fruits are grown, so you can see how the plants look like. In addition to the aforementioned spices, we also were shown vanilla, cardamom, curry leaves, jack fruit, bread fruit, bananas, cocoa, coconuts, and others.

On 29 December, we took the ferry across to Dar es Salaam and flew back to Johannesburg from there.

Some pictures follow.

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