A little monkey business

Sat, 9 Feb 2002 08:25:41 +0800

Yesterday was my first "real" day in Stone Town. First day was really just a few hours getting settled and finding a place to eat dinner. 2nd day was mostly spent clearing a backlog of email and other tasks from back home. So day 3 was for playing tourist. Over the course of the day, I convinced the dive shop (and myself) that I wasn't going to be a menace in the water and setup a day of diving near Stone Town. I also scheduled a transfer to the East coast where I would find beaches where the let you swim.

Then it got messed up. I went to the dive shop late in the day and discovered that I was the only diver scheduled to go. That didn't sound good to me or the South African woman at the dive shop. After some hemming an hawing I gave in moved the dives to Sunday, a day when a group was definitely going. That meant going back and canceling the transfer. It also meant I had to figure out what to do with today.

I decided to visit the small reserve which protects a remnant of the forest that once covered most of the island. There is also a habituated troop of red colobus monkeys. They are quite rare and, I am told, only found on Zanzibar Island. The plan was to catch a local bus well before 8:00am so I could get there while it was still reasonably cool.

It didn't exactly work out that way. Overnight, the minor case of travelers diarrhea I had been coping with for the last couple of days reached it's peak. I was more than a little sluggish when the alarm clock went off at 7:00am. It already getting pretty hot when the "Dala Dala" pulled away from the station at almost 9:00am. Maybe it's a good thing that I couldn't go diving today.

A little aside about alarm clocks and Zanzibar. Generally, there is not much need. Sometime between 6:30 and 7:30am, it gets too hot to sleep. Today was the first day I actually slept as late as 7:00am.

Anyway, the Dala Dala pulled away. Better late than never, I suppose. And, if the monkeys were hiding, I could go again. The bus was about 50 cents each way, and the park fee (including guide) was about $7.

It took about 1.5 hours to reach the park. I must say that, aside from the final transport to te gorillas, this was the most uncomfortable ride I have taken. We were packed in as tight as the most crowded Nairobi mutatu's I had ever encountered. It was a much longer trip and the seats weren't much more than a little foam over a wood plank.

But I got there. It was not as hot as I had expected. 'Cooler than Stonetown when I left. Which is lot to say it wasn't warm, just not as brutal as I was expecting. And the monkeys were there. They were close. They were hyper. It is recommended that you not approach closer than 3 meters. That's pretty hopeless when the monkeys are jumping from tree to trip right over the heads of the tourists.

After the monkey visit and a forest walk, it was time to head back. I had planned to take a Dala Dala back but, instead, ended up hitching a ride with a tour operator. 'Costs me the same as the Dala Dala, but was way more comfortable. 'Truth is, I'm not sure how long I would have waited for the local bus. Despite many stops at produce stands, I saw only one Dala Dala pass in the right direction and it was a different line.

The original plan was to go out to Fuji Beach in the afternoon. But, it was already past 2:00pm when I returned and past 3:00 after lunch. The beach can wait.

And, so I am here. I am scheduled to head to the East Coast on Monday. It is now dark and I neglected to bring my flashlight. Not all that bad on Zanzibar, but not desirable. So I am off to fetch a light and maybe some food before turning in.