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Trip 25 -- Zanzibar Walk

Day 7: Makunduchi to Muungoni
Friday, February 19, 2021

Today: 33932 steps/25.21 km/15.66 mi/5h 4m
Total: 163537 steps/126.02 km/78.26 mi/23h 44m

The part of Makunduchi nearest the sea is quiet. I woke up early and was out before eight, hindered briefly by the resident dog at Eminem's house, who preferred to play with my shoelaces rather than let me tie them.

Cows and chickens roamed Makunduchi, the cows wandering somewhat aloof yet vaguely together, the mother hens looking after their chicks in secluded brush by the road. Sometimes a car, dala dala, or bicycle went by, or a motorcycle with giant kingfish as its cargo, sticking out perpendicularly at the back.

It was a much better day for walking, relatively cool and cloudy. I didn't even sweat. I had plenty of time; my destination was the Zanzibar Land Animals Park, 25 kilometers away, and I wasn't due there until three. Even walking slowly and taking a few breaks, I would be early. I'd read in my guidebook that the park had lodging, the only lodging near Jozani Forest. After long waits for responses I'd confirmed two nights, in case I had to come back from Jozani; at the time I thought it unlikely that I could be guided out of Jozani in the direction in which I was ultimately headed.

I maintained a slow and steady pace, a kilometer every 12 minutes. The landscape was lush with greenery, occasionally brightened by a red flower known locally as Merry Christmas. One tree contained dozens of nests, the homes of yellow birds called mnana.

I headed west until I turned onto the northbound road toward Jozani. After three hours, the mango and banana trees and the coconut palms became taller, and some of the cows were protected in pens. I had reached the southern end of Muyuni village, which sprawls along the road and is divided into Muyuni A, B, and C, from north to south.

At Muyuni C I bought a Sprite from a snack vendor. While yesterday's Sprite was more necessary, today's was more refreshing; the bottle had been kept at such a temperature that the drink was slightly frozen. As a result, it quenched my thirst better and lasted longer. I sat under a mango tree and drank, while the vendor sang, "You make me fall in love."

I was hoping for a place for lunch, but the best I could do was a stall at Muyuni B that had cold French fries and stubs of chicken. As I continued toward Muyuni A, hundreds of schoolchildren were heading home, their cries of "Jambo!" filling the air.

This was mango land; the fruits were high up in the trees, and climbing up to them required skill. Basketsful of them were carried off by bicycle, and the remains of them pervaded the air like wine.

I finally reached ZALA Park. I'd imagined what the guest quarters at this "environment education conservation centre" would look like: perhaps a musty room, cluttered with paper and illuminated by a sporadically ticking fluorescent light, with a small but functional bathroom and a shower providing four to five minutes of warm water at a time.

The person in charge -- whose name also happens to be Maryam -- led me back through forest, sometimes along trails and sometimes where there were no paths at all, for about three minutes until we reached the place quaintly known as Komba Nest: a rustic cabin constructed of logs and coconut leaves, without any plumbing or electricity. Thirty seconds down a path was a small building made of the same materials, with the bowl of a toilet in the middle, cleaning supplies to the side, and a bucket of water for manual flushing.

I didn't want to spend two nights here.

We agreed on dinner at seven and a nature tour at nine tomorrow morning. Maryam's helpers made up the bed. The temperature was agreeable; there was a slight breeze. I lay down for a nap. The walls seemed to be crackling. I looked up to see a colony of ants. But Maryam had promised mosquito netting, so I felt reasonably sure that the ants would leave me alone.

Dinner was an omelette with potatoes, accompanied by salted tomatoes and onions, followed by watermelon, bananas, and cucumber. It was more than I wanted and I felt bad about finishing only half the omelette; on my mind was the importance of taking precautions to avoid pitch-dark trips to the toilet.

Komba Nest is named after the local word for a galago or bush baby, a small nocturnal primate vaguely resembling a lemur. The forest is full of them, and their cries ring out at night like crows. After dinner, one of the helpers placed food on a beam of Kombe Nest to lure one up so that we could all have a good look.

Now it is 9:30 at night, and the sounds at Kombe Nest have been reduced to the footsteps of ants, the occasional cow, distant traffic (I figured out how to find the road, but not the way Maryam took me), and the periodic caw-caw-caw of the bush babies. The breeze has gone and it's too warm, but the mosquito netting is excellent.

Go on to day 8