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Trip 25 -- Zanzibar Walk

Day 4: Unguja Ukuu to Paje
Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Today: 32334 steps/25.67 km/15.94 mi/4h 35m
Total: 88278 steps/68.45 km/42.51 mi/12h 45m

I joined the Russians for breakfast: a fruit plate, a Spanish omelet, and porridge. I prepared to check out, and Erdil was looking after me.

"Do you have a taxi?"

I hadn't explained my walking plans to him, and it took a bit of emphasis to get the point across.

"Don't walk at night," he said.

"I don't."

"If you need anything, please call me. I'm not talking about business. If you have any problems, call me. I can help you."

Maybe my story makes an impression, and if I leave Zanzibar having made connections with people who remember me for it -- perhaps connections strong enough to be friendships -- the experience will have been that much more meaningful.

I took a last look at the view of the calm bay with the receding tide. In a few hours people would be walking to their boats several hundred meters out at sea. It's tough to leave such a beautiful view, I thought. Then I said to myself, I'm walking 26 islands. There will be plenty of sea views.

One of the Russians was putting on sunscreen. Good idea, I thought. I have a habit of loading up my bag with sun protection and insect repellent and then forgetting about them. But I should apply them as much as possible. After all, doing so will lighten my cargo. That's the best reason I can think of for using them.

I walked north along the road out of the village, past mango, avocado, and jackfruit trees, and then took a shortcut along a residential lane toward the main road heading east. People were surprised but not bothered by my presence. Some were downright exuberant over it.

"Jambo. Jambo, jambo!" a woman cried. "Jambo" is the default greeting bestowed upon foreigners, although it's not quite proper Swahili. There are various prefixes to be added, depending on whether you're the person addressing or addressed and whether you're talking to or among multiple people. I've tried the more proper "hujambo" and the reaction was an assumption that I could carry on in Swahili, so perhaps I should talk like the tourists and leave it at "jambo" or the slang "mambo." Especially if I'm meeting Italianos.

I took a short break at a bend in the main road known as Pete Corner, where I sat down opposite a giant mango tree and refreshed myself with a soda and some water from a roadside stand. The owner's little son and a family of chickens greeted me.

Farther along were a few tourist attractions. First up was the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre. There was one of these in Aruba, too, and I just can't get excited about them. I can be drawn to other insects -- the Insectarium in Montreal is fantastic -- but an all-butterfly experience is rarely going to compel me.

The Jozani Maridadi restaurant looked wonderful, and the guard addressed me in Russian. "Come in, come in!"

"Later!" I said. It was too early for lunch. The restaurant also has a swimming pool, and when its lodging is operational in a year or so it will be most welcome -- this area is lacking in accommodation.

The main attraction nearby is Jozani Forest, properly called Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park, home to red colobus monkeys and other fauna. The park occupies a large area, and it would be wonderful if I could walk through the park on the way north this weekend and not retrace my steps back to the Unguja Ukuu turnoff. It was a long shot, but I figured I'd ask at the office and see if I could pay the right person enough money to guide me out toward Jendele when I come through in a few days, after looping around the southeast.

To my surprise, they offer an official "long walk" in that direction. It's quadruple the normal entry fee and that price doesn't include a guide's services, which double the cost again. But saving a couple of hours of walking will be worth the extra money, and I'm eager to see a remote area of the park that most people don't get to. A ranger gave me his phone number, and setting up the guiding should be easy.

I was all set to continue my walking, but across from the park turnoff was a sign for Zanzibar Turtle and Tortoise Land. I had no idea how far it was, but I took the dirt road and came to the entrance in about ten minutes. It's a sanctuary for reptiles that can't survive in the wild; they are returned to nature when they are deemed capable of self-care.

I joined a tour with a few others. We were introduced to a vat of green sea turtles, and we fed them the seaweed that, together with algae, makes up their diet. They live up to a century and grow to five feet long and around 600 pounds; some species of sea turtle are even larger.

Out back were Aldabra giant tortoises, from 35 days to 60 years old. They can make it to 200 years and 650 pounds. They're quite docile, and we were permitted to touch them gently. My presence clearly aroused the male, as moments later he walked forward and climbed atop the female in front of him.

"He wants to mate," our guide said.

The two tortoises slowly walked forward together, the male grunting every few seconds like a biker going up a steep hill. Their session took about half a minute, after which the male let out a dreamy moan and the two separated and sank into motionlessness, collapsing like a pair of synchronized deflating air mattresses.

"Now it's time to smoke," I said.

The tortoises' moment of ecstasy put a spring in my step, and I made up some of the hour's diversion by upping my pace. Beyond Jozani village the road bent toward the southeast, and after a half-hour I turned left onto the Paje road. There was rarely a shoulder to walk on, but traffic was light, and it wasn't often that I needed to step briefly into the grass -- only when cars were overtaking each other or passing in opposite directions. A few drivers offered me lifts: in cars or on a motorcycle or a gasoline truck.

I walked for over an hour at my ideal pace, ten minutes per kilometer; MapMyWalk made its announcement whenever the time ended in a six, and I eagerly anticipated her voice. The Paje road was lush but long and straight and almost devoid of any kind of buildings or establishments until the police checkpoint just outside Paje.

The road from the west ends at this beach town; from here another road heads north and south, and that road is lined with beach hotels buzzing with Russian and German tourists. I'd booked into Paje by Night, just to the south and down a side road lined with zillions of shops selling paintings of animals. Paje by Night's allure lay largely in the hotel's swimming pool, which is surrounded by a piano-keyboard pattern, and in the existence of a laundry service. I arrived sweaty, badly in need of a shower, and in my last set of clean clothes. The receptionist photocopied the list of laundry prices and I brought it to my room.

In all my years of traveling, I've managed to avoid the extortionate per-piece laundry charges levied by hotels, either by choosing lodging with self-service laundry machines or by finding laundry shops. I do not understand the itemized rates. If they're using a machine, shouldn't it be per load? Dump it all in, move it to the dryer, and throw it in a bag. I can fold it myself. It takes the same time to do that for one piece as for a full load.

I added up the prices and it would have cost $26 to have everything cleaned. I spent less than that on an air ticket to Florida for a gig last month. (I'm going to use that comparison for anything that costs more than $20 but shouldn't, until something more outrageous comes along.)

Fortunately I'd seen the Paje Laundry Cooperative on the way from the junction. I brought my stuff over there, where I was charged the equivalent of $8.62 for the same collection. I'll pick up the result tomorrow afternoon. I hope I've removed everything from my Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket-Proof Convertible Travel Pants.

Go on to day 5