I’m Baaaack!

You just can’t get rid of me! I’ve been on a moving/travel sabbatical for the past few weeks and I’m excited to be back blogging because I’ve got plenty to share. Before I introduce my new work digs (I have my own studio workshop!), explore my research on how to move cross country on a budget, and of course my last minute road trips and Los Angeles excursions, I want to start by sharing my trip across the US.

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Los Angeles to Hamden, CT is quite a journey. I took my time, but didn’t “dilly-dally”. As the map shows, I started in LA and drove to the Grand Canyon. From the Grand Canyon I passed through 4 Corners (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all meet) and headed on to Durango for the night. From Durango I went to Denver, CO where I stayed for several days over the Thanksgiving holiday. After Denver I spent a night in Omaha before connecting up with RISD friends in Chicago for a couple nights. I continued on to Cleveland after that, and then made my big push with the longest driving day getting me into Connecticut. This is the short story.

Here is the long story:

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My friends through me the sweetest going away party at Golden Road in Glendale. So many people came and of course I was crying. After I went out for sushi at Octopus (one of my LA favs), then I spent some time freaking out and panicking instead of sleeping. I left Sunday morning after packing up the car, going for my last regular Toluca Lake walk (not my last ever- no lasts!) with my friends and then I hit the road. I cried/weeped for most of my ride to the Grand Canyon. My cheeks had the ultimate cry bath and were very pruny upon arrival.

When I left LA it was 75 and sunny and when I arrived at the Grand Canyon, it was about 22 degrees and pitch darkness. I was poorly dressed in my tee shirt and yoga pants (perfect comfy driving attire but not perfect winter clothing). But this was all fixable with a winter jacket (thank you, Uniqlo!), a hot meal and a cold beer.

10326415_1505040636434287_1730050933_n10817857_805660969480510_2017350428_nI was very proud of myself, as the following morning I woke up at 6a to get dressed (in many many layers) and make the 7am sunrise at the South Canyon rim. As the child next to me said “I’m freezing my eyeballs off!!”. My sentiments exactly.

After watching the sunrise and tracking down a warm english muffin and coffee, I hit the road as I had a 7 hour drive ahead and so much to see along the way! One thing I didn’t realize is that the drive through Arizona takes you right by Monument Valley. It didn’t make sense for me to go there (the entrance was actually still a drive away and it would add many hours to my day), but it was fun seeing some of the “monuments” along the way. And this way I was seeing them for FREE! I cheated the system.

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As I made my way out of Arizona and onto Colorado, I had to stop in at one of my favorite childhood vacation spots: 4 Corners. 4 Corners is where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet and it’s gotten a whole lot fancier since I was a kid. As a child this was all dirt with a plaque in the center (where of course I sat, so my butt was in 4 states at the same time), with wooden shopping stalls surrounding the plaque. It has gotten a whole lot fancier:

10809543_1501063186840049_1570193732_nIt was freezing and windy so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time walking around.

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As I got closer to Durango, the weather and landscape changed pretty dramatically.
Thankfully while it was snowing in the air, not much was sticking so the roads weren’t too bad. I made my way into Durango after dark and enjoyed a beer and dinner at Steamworks Brewing company before making my way to my hotel and crashing for the night. Durango is an adorable town and I highly recommend visiting it.

The next morning I left around 9am and made the trek into Denver. I was most nervous about this day, so I allowed a lot of extra time and took a not-very-direct route to avoid snowy mountains. If this was summer I totally would have gone to Aspen and driven in through the Rockies and it would have been beautiful. Since this is December and I had all my belongings crammed into my little mazda 3, I opted for the longer but less mountainous route.

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But I made it! And in record time too. No snow and no ice, yesss! Above you can see some images from my several days in Denver. I stayed with my uncle (bottom right) who was very generous and always the perfect host. We even got to go to a night showing of the Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens (top right). It was a really fun visit. I even got to meet up with a childhood friend who just moved to Denver, and I’ve known her since nursery school days. Ah, to be young again.

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But alas, I had to continue on my journey so I cleaned off the mazda and drove through Nebraska (above) to get to my destination for the night, Omaha. The following day I was up early to continue through more of a similar landscape as I went through Iowa and eventually made my way to Chicago!

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In Chicago I have some RISD friends I was excited to see. I also stayed at this awesome, cute and cheap airbnb in Wicker Park (message me if you want the info on it). Since I love walking and had been cooped up driving the past few days, it felt so good to park my car and just spend the day walking around the city and poking my head into the cute shops.

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I ended up walking all the way to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and saw the David Bowie exhibit. They were very fussy about cell phones/ cameras since this is the  only US stop for the exhibit, so sadly this is the only photo above. It was a very fun exhibit featuring a lot of his most famous outfits/costumes, Bowies lyric notes, and footage showing his progression as an artist. This exhibit really is only about Bowie as an artist and I wish we got more of an idea of his personal life. I would have loved to see photos of David Bowie eating breakfast in his kitchen on a Saturday morning, or anything to show that he’s human. Does he shop at Ikea?

After 2 fun nights visiting with friends in Chicago, it was time for me to continue onward to Cleveland. Why Cleveland? I’m glad you asked. In the tv show 30 Rock, Liz Lemon visits Cleveland and everyone asks if she’s a model because things are just different there. I was hoping to have my Liz Lemon moment in Cleveland. Also they have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were the natural place to stop and spend the night before getting into Connecticut.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is right next to a sport stadium (football I think??) and is an awesome pyramid architectural shape. I took SOOO many photos in there, but I don’t want to bore you so I figured I’d share he most impressive iconic item they had (in my opinion): Michael Jacksons glitter glove. They had much more Michael Jackson clothing, about 8 of Beyonce’s outfits from different music videos and events. They also have a wall dedicated to the Rolling Stones and to the Beatles. This was a very fun place to visit and I highly recommend it to people driving through Cleveland. As for the sporting arena… sure, I bet you could visit that too.

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I made my last drive from Cleveland to Connecticut, which was the longest stretch. I knew it might be an 8 and a half hour drive but with traffic in New York and bathroom/coffee stops, it took about 10 hours. Bummer. But at least when I made it to CT I got to sleep in my own bed, and get started on all of the projects I have going on and there are SO MANY! Now it’s time to apartment hunt (anyone know of any apartments for rent in East Rock, New Haven?), setup my shop in Meyer Wire, and get going on all my design projects!

Next up: This week I’ll be back-tracking a bit to tell you about my road trip up the coast from LA to Portland and back. I’ll also do a post dedicated to the cheapest way to move cross country. And lastly, I’ll introduce you to my new digs: Meyer Wire. I’ll share all of what it entails. I hope moving forward to start updating you about Connecticut events and doing “Do This Today” posts, although it’l take me some more time to amerce myself in the scene to pass along all the details.

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Balboa Island + Newport Beach

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Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last week. Since announcing my move back east I’ve been trying to check a lot off my to-do list. Moving is such a big undertaking. I’ll do a post talking about the most economical way to move in the future. I also owe you a post all about my northern road trip from LA to Portland and back. The trip was beautiful and we did it on a very tight budget. I swear all of this is coming soon.

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In addition to moving, I’ve been trying to enjoy my last few weeks in LA. One place I’d been curious about seeing is Balboa Island, Newport Beach area. They talked about it a lot on Arrested Development. My friend Jamie and I made the trek down and it was the perfect day. It was 75 degrees, and sunny with a light breeze. We walked a full loop of the island, stopped in some cute shops on the main drag and enjoyed a yummy lunch before heading to Newport Beach. We walked the pier and boardwalk before sitting down and watching the sunset. It was such a gorgeous beach day.

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Africa XXII: Stone Town and Heading Home

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam
Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar
Africa XXI: Nomad Tours Day 9+10, Northern Zanzibar

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where I finished my 10 day portion of the tour. Erica is continuing on with the group down to South Africa, but my time was now nearing an end. I continued with the group back to Stone Town where about half the group was splitting off and ending their tour. Back in Dar es Salaam, new people would join filling their place as the tour continued on. Instead of taking the ferry back to Dar, it just made more sense to spend an extra night in Zanzibar (heaven) and fly out through the Zanzibar Airport the next day.

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Before we left Northern Zanzibar we snapped this photo above. It’s everyone from our safari truck, minus Marjan who took this photo. I spent most of my time on the tour with these guys and they are defiantly my favorites 🙂 While Robin (on the left) and my sister (on the right) continued on the tour together, Marjan, Myrna (green tank-top) and Jorien (red and black) were also staying in Stone Town for their last night. This meant I could spend some more time with them before the trip had to end.

The van made it’s way back to Stone Town and they were nice enough to drop me at my hotel for the night (the Shangani Hotel). Once I got settled in my hotel, I decided to spend the rest of the day here exploring on my own.

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I was nervous about walking alone after dark (as a single lady and all), so I decided to spend the day packed with exercise and exploring so then at night I would crash. The hotel let me borrow this map above. and I went to a local coffee shop/book store to plan out my trek. My dutch friends were staying at the Zanzibar Coffee House (which was super adorable), so I decided to figure out the maze of old Stone Town to find how to get there from my hotel.

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And I made it! After getting super lost a whole bunch, I stumbled upon it! Funny enough they were in the cafe below and waved me in. We made dinner plans and I set off on more of my self-guided tour of Stone Town.

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I just love this maze!

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This is the view from my floor of the hotel.

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Here’s the view from the other end of the hall my room was on.

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I made another stop at the Freddie Mercury house, just a stroll down the street from my hotel.

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I then looped around the tip of Stone Town seeing as much of the water as I could.

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Zanzibar is famous for their specialty doors. Check out that detailing above.

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I took a ginger ale break by the water at Tembo House Hotel. This is also where we ended up having dinner. It was yummy and cheap! This place is also a swanky hotel.

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This is the view from my hotel room above.

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Here’s Jorien, Marjan, Myrna, and me enjoying my last meal in Africa (they had an extra day here). It was so nice of them to invite me to dinner. I miss them.

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The next morning I took an early morning cab to the Zanzibar Airport. My itinerary was to fly from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam and Dar to Nairobi, Kenya (both flights via Precision Air). From Nairobi, I was to fly to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to JFK (New York) via KLM Airlines. New York was my final destination, as I decided a 2 week East Coast layover was necessary after my Africa trip. I ended up only taking 1 of my 4 scheduled flights.

I arrived at the Zanzibar Airport to see I was the only person waiting for the flight. Curious. Also, there was no one at the desk I was supposed to check-in at. When I asked the Security Guard what to do the response I got was “you’re too early”. Also curious, because  the flight was set to leave in 45 minutes… then 40 minutes… then 5 minutes.. then I officially missed the flight as I sat their waiting for anyone to come to the airline desk.

Once someone finally arrived, I was told that the fight I had booked a ticket on didn’t exist. Greaaaaat. I still had 3 additional flights to catch this same day, and already I was behind.

They were very nice and booked me on a 10:30a flight to Dar. Since I would miss my Dar to Nairobi flight, they booked me on a later flight for that leg too. I would make it into Nairobi with enough time to still catch my KLM flights. So at 7am it was already clear I would only be making 2 of my scheduled flights for the day. But alas I would still make it to NYC on schedule.

***When planning travel, especially in foreign countries, allow a TON of extra time between flights in the event that this happens. Thank goodness I allowed time for error.

So I arrive in Niarobi in time and make my scheduled KLM flight to Amsterdam. YES! Finally I made a flight I was supposed to be on. I arrive in Amsterdam to hear that KLM has canceled my 2nd flight from Amsterdam to New York. I was SO close, and yet still not home. They rebooked me on a later flight, so I had an extra 4 hours to kill at the Amsterdam Airport.

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This happened to be the same day that Robin Williams passed away. I first heard of this while waiting in the Dar es Salaam Airport. There was one tv and it had the bbc news on. I was shocked. Then at the Amsterdam Airport I saw this headline. I can’t read it, but I know what it says. So sad. So sad.

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While in the Amsterdam Airport I had plenty of time to walk around and explore, and I saw the weirdest food flavors.

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Look at this HUGE mentos!?! I put my hand in the photo for a sense of scale. Crazy.

After waiting around wishing I were back on US soil and daydreaming of what my “first meal” would be, I made my rescheduled flight back to the US. I was sad to leave Africa but so excited to have something I really missed: CHEESE! My first meal on US soil was Chipotle! And it was sooooo good!

I must say that after contacting KLM and submitting a request for refund (which is within their rules, as if you are on a rescheduled flight that leaves 3 hours later than scheduled, you are entitled to a partial refund), they refunded part of my flight. I am very grateful, as arriving many hours later created a ripple effect making getting into Connecticut significantly more difficult and expensive (it was rush hour).

Both Precision Air and KLM messed up my flights, but both did an excellent job trying to make it right. The customer service at both companies was top notch and I appreciate their efforts to get me home.

I’m sad to say this is the end of my Africa posts… for now 🙂 Hopefully I take a trip back to do the rest of my Nomad Tour sometime in the near future. Than you for reading and be sure to email me (lifeabsorbed@gmail.com) with any questions!

Africa XXI: Nomad Tours Day 9+10, Northern Zanzibar

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam
Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we finished exploring Stone Town and headed up to the northern tip of Zanzibar for 2 days of resort bliss!

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Our luxurious stay on the island is at the Amaan Bungalows on Nungwi Beach. After finishing our walking tour mid morning, they arranged a bus to take us to the northern part of the island. Mid drive some people on our tour elected to do the extra excursion of a spice tour. I decided I’d rather skip the tour and head directly to the beach!

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Once we dropped half the group off at the spice tour (which Erica went on, so check her blog for details on that), our van continued on north. Since this van was smaller and less conspicuous than our Nomad Truck (Tommy), now was my chance to snap some photos of local life through the window of the van.

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This was typical architecture in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

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This was also common, seeing children collect water from local watering spots. The home in the back is also typical Tanzania architecture with a thatched roof and everything.

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Above is an example of their type of strip-mall shops. Each stall would have a vendor (butcher shop, general store, fruit stand for example) and has big metal doors to close up at night.

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After about 40 minutes we arrived at the Amaan Bungalows. It was like heaven! This time we didn’t have an ocean view, but it was still super adorable and a 3 minute walk from the ocean. This girl can’t complain, especially since I’d been camping so much of the trip and it was nice having a bed and bathroom.

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D19 above was our bungalow for the next couple days.

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This place was really nice. I can see how people would honeymoon here. Our room was very nice, clean, adorable and snake-free. I ended up having some sickness/stomach issues around this time of the trip, so I was in the room more than I expected and it was a comfy place to be when feeling sick.

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Before my sickness set-in, I had one full day here of relaxing by the pool and general awesomness. This resort had many food options, a coffee/ice cream shop, bars, stores etc, so there was no reason to leave. All the resorts are in a line and connected along the beach, and each has different restaurants and shops, so if one doesn’t have what you want, walk 50 ft and you’l be at the next set of shops and restaurants.

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This is the reverse view from the pool. You can swim in the pool while looking out at the ocean. I should note that even the ocean water felt like bath water.

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Above is the view from the resort walkway leading down to the water. At high tide the water comes right up to the steps. It’s incredible. You can walk from the stairs right into the water.

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Above, here are the steps at low tide. This is a great time to walk the beach. On day 2 when I wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t partake in any of the excursions. I was going to do the all day snorkeling trip (I think it was $15 USD) where they bring you out to the island, provide you with lunch and the snorkeling gear. Some people did it from our tour group and liked it. I was sad to miss it, but hanging around the resort was still awesome. I could be within bathroom distance but still have a relaxing fun time.

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I spent the morning walking the beach, after a lovely complimentary breakfast (they do a nice job). It was fun looking for unique shells and starfish and feeling the super soft sand against my feet.

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The fishing boats are beautiful.

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I just loved watching the water. I could walk this beach all day.

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Red starfish!

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One thing I noticed around 10am was that many local women were in full clothes out in the water with spears. They were catching crabs, as there were many in the water even by my feet as I walked.

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Tide pool fun.

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I have no clue what this sea creature is but it was spiky and cool looking. 3 seconds after I took this photo it burrowed back into the sand and was never seen (by me) again.

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I passed through so many honeymoon type resorts. They were all beautiful and unique.

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There were local fishermen selling what they caught that day along the sand. I decided to stick to fish at the restaurant and not try to DIY dinner.

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Sunset! Another excursion offered was a sunset cruise. This was another case of “I can’t be away from a bathroom for that long”, so I had to pass. But I imagine it was a lot of fun and it was very reasonably priced. But I must say, the sunset from our resorts outdoor bar was pretty excellent 🙂

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Here’s an example of sunset at high tide The water really flows right up to the resort. You have to time your beach walks accordingly. I have to say even with my stomach acting up, I had a fantastic time here.

Up next on Wednesday, I’ll share my last Africa post as I head back to Stone Town, Zanzibar for my last night of the tour and then endure my 4 flights back to US soil (NYC!).

Africa XX: Nomad Tours Day 8, Stone Town Zanzibar

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater
Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished traveling overland to get to Dar es Salaam where we took the ferry to Stone Town, Zanzibar. At the end of the last post I promised you a scary story and I won’t disappoint!

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But first, lets set the scene. Above is our hotel room! You heard me right not only did Erica and I get a hotel room here (unlike the camping we’ve been doing the whole trip) but we also were super lucky and got a room right on the water! Look at the view off the deck, below.

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So pretty! Since we were right along the beach (which can get a little dangerous at night for tourists), we also had armed guards that sat outside our room all day and night.

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Paradise!

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While we were getting ready for dinner we got to watch locals play a match of soccer out here at sunset.

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The following morning Erica and I both signed up for a walking tour, which was one of the optional excursions on the trip. This maze of a town reminded me of Old Jerusalem, Israel and it was nice to have a guided tour.

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We started at the fish market in Stone Town. Above is a live auction happening right in front of us. The fisherman auction off the fish and people buy the fish, cut it up saving some of the fish for their families, and then they move to a stall where they sell the rest of the fish for a prophet.

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This was dragged through the market when we got there. It’s huge!

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Above and below are photos of the different fish, squids, shrimp and seafood that vendors were trying to sell after just purchasing them from the auction. It was cool to see, but there were probably 1000 flies in that room. It was pretty smelly too with all the un-iced fish sitting around.

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We also went through the meat market, which you can imagine I didn’t take photos of. Yuck, that room was disturbing.

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I didn’t take may photos within the fruit and vegetable stalls in Stone Town because the vendors are pretty fussy about it. Above are some of the other Nomad Tour group members walking through the stalls.

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I just love these types of winding narrow streets.

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Above is our local guide teaching us about Zanzibar doors, something Stone Town is famous for.

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Narrow alleys are fun to explore.

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I just love the colors and textures around the city.

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We cut through the Old Fort and Cultural Center in Zanzibar.

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We moved over to the Shangani section of Stone Town where Freddie Mercury lived as a child. I should note that Zanzibar is like 90% muslim which means a dress code exists here, and women should not wear tank tops or other revealing clothing while not at the beach. It’s good to pack along scarves to help coverup too. I say this here because it’s also illegal to be homosexual here, which probably explains why Freddie Mercury lived here as a child but not as an adult.

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We walked by the Shangani Hotel, which is where I booked a room (with the help of Norman) for my last night in Zanzibar.

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In the center of Stone Town is an area where poeple sharing coffee and talking about current events. Since it’s a Muslim town, only men are allowed to partake in this tradition. They have a sign hanging about making international calls and a phone tied to the tree (above).

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As part of the walking tour we went into the Christ Church which sits on the old slave market. As part of the tour they take you down into where they kept the slaves before auction (below).

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They crammed tons of people in here and when the tides rose water would seep into this room located in the basement. People lived here for long lengths of time, with limited food and of course no bathrooms. Being down there was eerie and I just can’t imagine how bad it was down here.

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Above is a painting of Bishop Edward Steere who worked to abolish slavery in Zanzibar. Does he look like anyone you know? Maybe John Travolta?!

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Above is the Cathedral from the exterior. They are still doing restoration work on it.

After the tour ended we drove back to the hotel, picked up the rest of the Nomad Tour group and headed to the north part of Zanzibar. More on that in my next post!

WARNING– OPTIONAL SCARY STORY! 

The night we stayed in Zanzibar, in the room by the ocean, there was a snake in our room. I was alone in the room from 9p-11:30p, when Erica came back to the room. At 11:30 I went to sleep and at 12:30am I awoke to 2 of the guards in our room. When I asked in my sleepy stat ewhat was going on, Erica assured me that there was a rodent in the room and they were just getting it out. My mind immediately jumped to “THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE ROOM!” Erica assured me that there wasn’t any issue and I should go back to sleep. Then, WACK! One of the guards whipped something in the corner of the room. I was within the bed netting and my glasses were on the counter so it was all a bit blurry, but it freaked me out. I had nightmares the rest of the night about snakes.

The following morning after Erica and I checked out of the room, she finally explained to me the full story. She found a snake around midnight and tried to get it out of the room herself. Realizing how dangerous this was she called in the guards who were outside our room. Knowing I HATE HATE HATE snakes, her goal was to just get it out of the room without me knowing what was going on. She shared this photo with me the next day:

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Africa XIX: Nomad Tours Day 6 and 7, Overland to Dar es Salaam

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors
Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished 2 days out on the Serengeti and a day in the Ngorongoro Crater. The safari portion of our tour was now behind us, but we still have the Zanzibar resort island experience ahead of us. In the meantime we had 2 days of overland travel in our truck “Tommy” to get to Dar es Salaam where we will take a ferry out to the island.

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After leaving the Ngorongoro Crater, we headed back to our campsite/lodge in Arusha to meet up with our guide Norman and our truck “Tommy”. We spent the night here all telling stories of our favorite parts of the safari, then got up early and hit the road to head to our next campsite/hotel in Lushoto.

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Guides Norman and Servious made the overland tour fun. You would think 2 full days of driving would be boring, but it was actually really fun getting to see the Tanzania landscape roll by. They often would stop to let us take photos and bathroom breaks as well as teach us about local life.

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Norman (below) taught us all about the local plants. That palm came from the plants in the photo above.

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You can see in the photo above that the truck Tommy is really clean and comfortable. Those are our lockers behind Norman and there’s storage overhead as well. The truck also has a charging stations that you can charge electronics in Tommy over night.

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For lunch we stopped off at a campground (photos above and below).

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It was fun to roll Tommy in the campground and see the whole Nomad group assemble the tables and chairs. It was a real team effort getting lunch ready.

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People took turns wash and chopping up fixings for sandwiches. Tommy really has a compartment for everything. It’s a really well designed vehicle.

We spent the night camping in the Lushoto mountains. The view getting up there was incredible but it was difficult to snap photos as the road was basically a single lane (although there was traffic in both directions) so we couldn’t stop for photos. We arrived after dark to a sprinkling rain, setup camp ate and went to bed. We had to leave the campsite at 5am to make it to Dar es Salaam in order to catch the afternoon ferry to Zanzibar.

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The landscape subtly changed from small cottages to larger three story buildings, and that’s when the city of Dar es Salaam came into view. Note the German architectural influence of these buildings.

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This city landscape is just SO different from the rest of Tanzania we’ve seen.

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Before we knew it we were leaving Tommy and loading our bags into the ferry station.

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While we waited for the ferry to board (in a packed room) they had the tv series Bones on translated into Swahili. I love seeing what people watch in other countries and this was one of the first televisions we’d seen since we’d been in Tanzania.

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After a complicated boarding process (at which some of us got separated from the rest of the group), I finally found the gang and took my seat on the top deck of the ferry.

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The boat ride to Zanzibar was so beautiful and I swear I saw dolphins jumping around us.

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Off we went, with the city of Dar es Salaam in the background and Zanzibar to look forward to.

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Above, we approached the island.

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We got in just as the sun was starting to set. Incredible.

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Our ferry docked, and we made our way into the station. They check passports and yellow fever vaccination forms here, so have these documents handy.

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Once we were all checked in, we exited to a waiting van where Nomad arranged a local company to take us to our hotel and lead us around the island for the next few days.

Next up, I’ll share our hotel in Stone Town Zanzibar, our walking tour around Stone Town and even share a scary story!

Africa XVIII: Nomad Tours Day 5, The Ngorongoro Crater

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7
Africa XII: Nomad Tours Day 1, Visit the Snake Park
Africa XIII: Nomad Tours Day 2, Off to the Serengeti
Africa XIV: Nomad Tours, Our First Game Drive
Africa XV: Nomad Tours Day 3, Game Drives
Africa XVI: Nomad Tours Day 4, Game Drives!
Africa XVII: Nomad Tours Day 4, Maasai Warriors

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Last I left off, Erica and I were with our Nomad Tours group for our Serengeti & Zanzibar 10 Day Trek South, where we just finished 2 days out on the Serengeti and visited a Maasai Warrior tribe. We got back into our trucks and made the drive back to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater where we are spending the night at the Simba Camp overlooking the crater.

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We got back into our trucks and headed to the crater!

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Here’s an overlook by the entrance down into the crater. We were just in the Serengeti, which is such a vast land for animals to explore, where as the crater is a much smaller area for the animals to live in. These areas aren’t fenced, but the steepness of the crater makes it hard for animals to migrate out. This means that it’s a much more concentrated area for animals. We would find out the next day just how many animals there are to see!

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Above is the Dutch Aunt and nieces from our Nomad Tour group. They were a lot of fun. I’m glad we stopped to take these photos, as the next morning the view point was fogged over, and the views were incredible.

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The landscape here is just beautiful.

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But you have to keep your eyes on the road, as you never know when a bunch of giraffes might go running across it!

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Just another 20 minutes down the road and we reached our Simba Campsite. The tents were all setup for us when we arrived (they were the same type of tent from the Serengeti). Being right on the rim meant the views were incredible.

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This campsite had restrooms and showers in that blue/green building above. Funny story- later in the night Erica went to use the restroom and had to wait for a pack of zebra to go by before she could reach the bathrooms. There’s no fences here so you never know what you’ll find outside your tent! Adventure!

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Once our Nomad Tour group got settled in for the night (it was chilly when the sun went down, so many layers were added) we headed to the dining hall (this also looked just like our dining space on the Serengeti). Below you can see they made us stew with spaghetti with veggies, yum!

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The next morning was foggy right around the rim of the crater, but once we made our way down into the crater it was pretty clear. The upper layer of fog kept it chilly for our morning game drive, but we all dressed in layers.

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On the Serengeti the two animals we hadn’t seen yet were the wildebeests and black rhinos. And our day in the crater started with tons of wildebeests! Notice the grey crowned cranes in the background.

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Oh and of course the occasional ostrich just running around. Oh Africa 🙂

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Wildebeest crossing ahead! There’s one of our other Nomad Tour trucks ahead.

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Wildebeests!

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Now once we got down into the crater our guide was clearly rushing to bring us somewhere, but he wouldn’t tell us why. Since the guides speak swahili to each other on the radio we couldn’t tell what they were saying, but something exciting was happening. Sure enough there were 2 very rare black rhinos that we were trying to get to before they hid in the grass. It’s rare to see the black rhino walking around and once it sits down in tall grass they are nearly impossible to see. We got there just in time! See the two above!

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The landscape here is incredible.

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We turned another corner and saw this mama lion…

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With her two baby cubs! So adorable!

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We looped around to get closer and more trucks joined us to see these cuties playing.

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The cubs were so playful.

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I want one!

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They’re just big adorable cats, right? I could watch them all day.

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We continued on as there was so much to see in the crater. No more than 5 minutes down the road and we ran into these large male lions sharing a meal. You’ll notice the zebras and wildebeests keeping a wide distance behind them. Also notice the other animals waiting to get their chance at the lions leftovers. There were even birds circling overhead for their chance to get a snack.

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This was our first time seeing adult male lions with the full mane. Just incredible.

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After seeing all the lions and the incredible landscape, I really felt like I was in the Lion King.

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We ran into a group of zebras walking right by the road.

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These zebras loved rolling in this spot. One after the next, they kept coming up and rolling in that same spot, what a sight!

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Why did the wildebeest cross the road? To join his buddies!

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Here’s one of our Nomad Tour trucks (above).

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Midmorning our guides timed a restroom stop (with toilets) at a spot near a bunch of hippos.

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Above is the kori bustard, another giant bird that was common in the Serengeti and in the crater.

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The white stretch in the distance is not snow, but salt! Way far out we could see flamingos and other birds enjoying it.

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Our other Nomad truck off in the distance.

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Cranes and wildebeests sharing the same watering hole.

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On our way out of the crater, we ran into another black rhino! Since there are only about 15 rhinos in the crater, to get to see 3 of them is pretty special.

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Bye, bye crater. Our time here has come to an end and it’s time to head back to Arusha.

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Just as we exited the Crater gates, we passed about 50 baboons in and around the road. They were being so playful and even one couple got into a fight.

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Cuties.

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Family love. At this point we heard the baboons climbing onto the truck and even saw their hands trying to climb into the windows. At this point we decided to take off and get back to our campsite in Arusha.

Next up, we make our cross country overland drive to Dar es Salaam, where we take a ferry to Zanzibar for the island resort portion of the trip.