We reached our hotel that we had booked the day before, were courteously received and shown to our comfortable rooms, and without further ado we set off to explore the beach to the south of our residence. Here we came across a stretch of guesthouses, bars, shops, restaurants, bikini-clad backpackers, and scores of Italians in their budgie smugglers, a marked contrast to the maze of run down dwellings we had just passed through to reach here. We strolled a way down the beach, but soon stopped to take shelter in a bar from an almighty downpour. Sally had stayed in Nungwi a few weeks back with her cousin, and knew the bar to be run by a Polish woman, who fell in love with the area and took out a five year lease. Being an architect, she designed the building, and then brought her daughter out here to live. We sipped juices, watching a waterfall cascade down a corner of the thatched roof and rapidly disappear below the sand below. We were surrounded by lots of young people of Sally and Dan's age; a paradise for backpacker's, gap-year students, ageing hippies, and cool dudes at this area of the island. Where do I fit in that category?
Fishermen Returning to Nungwi
While Dan went off to explore the northern part of the beach, Sally took me round an alley she knew to be full of arts and crafts shops. Each was stacked to overflowing with paintings, batik, banana leaf pictures, wooden animals, carved masks, beads, necklaces, spices and an Aladdin's cave full of knickknacks. As we walked past the small shops, each owner would approach with a beaming smile, "Jambo! Come inside and see my shop." I bought a batik in one for my youngest daughter, mind you only after I knocked him down by 50%. The proprietor wanted to talk about tomorrow's football match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. Tanzanians are keen on football and many support U.K. teams. Sally bought a baby blanket for one of her pregnant friends.
We returned to base where we met Dan, and we all opted to swim. I set off early, wading into a warm cobalt blue sea, and finding myself walking over small stones and shells in the shallows, I decided to float out on my back into deeper water. A fair distance out I thought I was in swimming depth, and flipped over onto my front to swim further out. I felt my right foot scrape the seabed, and wallop!
Strolling on Nungwi Beach
I almost saw stars, an excruciating pain filled my right foot, and I could tell immediately from the burst of individual pain sensations that I had kicked a sea urchin. I was filled with a mixture of anguish and anger, anger because I knew that this would have an impact on our Zanzibar break. I floated back to shore to avoid more of the little brutes, and hobbled up the beach to a recliner where Dan had fortunately plonked himself on. "Dan, see if Sally's got some tweezers, will you," I shouted as I approached. "Why?" was his unsympathetic response. "I've just kicked a sea urchin, and I want to try and remove some of the spines." He now understood the situation and dashed off. In a short while, Sally arrived, quite concerned, and horror struck when she saw my foot. Now local swellings were appearing on my toes where spines were buried. Pointing to the three spines that could still be seen poking out of my toes, "Can you pull those out please?" I implored. She gingerly tried, but they snapped off at the skin's surface. I could count eleven tell-tale signs of spines under the skin, and there were probably more under my toes that I couldn't see.
"Let's ask reception what the best approach to this is," I whinged. I was more concerned about the buried spines than the pain. I hobbled off with Dan and Sally in attendance. The chap at reception was totally unfazed by this, and was full of good humour with a ready smile. My God was this guy a sadist? "Hakuna matata, no problem. This is Africa and we know how to deal with such things," he beamed. "But the spines are still in there," I blurted out. "That is OK, don't worry. If you go to the hospital, they will charge you $100, but we can treat you here for nothing. We have medicine. This is Africa," and with that he barked out some instructions to one of his employees, who disappeared off, and returned with a small container of kerosene.
While I sat on a stone step, the employee squeezed around each submerged spine in turn, hoping to ease them out. Instinctively I tried to grind my left foot through the centre of the earth. Nothing seemed to be budging. Then the reception chap appeared with a papaya, grinning ear to ear. Spine squeeze man proceeded to puncture the papaya, and apply the oozing milk over the spine entry holes. After a few minutes of this treatment, he repeated the process with the kerosene. I thought the next step would be a lit match, but no, the man said the foot would be fine in an hour, and the spines would come out in a week's time. I showered the guys with plentiful "Asante sana"s, and hobbled off.
Sunset at the End of a Rainy Day
The restaurant had a small dining area by the seafront, and this is where I parked myself. I instructed Dan and Sally to go swimming further along the shore where a sandbank extended out into the sea, while I drank an endless supply of soft drinks. After much cajoling from me, they went off and I watched the world go by. An hour later they returned, and the pain in my foot had greatly subsided. With a little convincing, Sally persuaded me to dispel my demons and have a swim with her and Dan in the safer waters of the sandbank, which I did after a hobble or two.
After a lovely swim, we returned to the hotel which had power restored (yes power is a hit and miss affair all over this island), and Dan got Al Jazeera news on T.V., the first we'd had in our African adventure. I learned a little of the Kenyan elections taking place today. It seemed that people in Kenya still believed in the system and democracy, with a turnout of 85% in Kisumu. Sadly, it had already been marred, near Mombasa, by militiamen armed with machetes and spears, attacking some security guards, killing 19. These 200 or so militiamen were supporters of the Mombasan Republican Council who wanted to stop the voting.
Meanwhile Sally had been having a whale of a time in her room with flying ants that had been getting in her hair. One wall in her room was crawling with the 1cm long creatures, and the join between the wall and ceiling was just a bubbling mass of ants. Several dozen were using her bed as a trampoline. The receptions remedy for this was, "Here is a can of ant spray." We waged war over this marauding army, and soon the floor was carpeted with seemingly thousands of dead ants.
Come the evening, we walked a short way along the sea wall to a nearby restaurant, and enjoyed an excellent meal outside under trees all lit up by fairy lights. A lady, presumably the owner, periodically wandered around table to table chatting to the customers. She was British, and had spent five years in Kenya when her husband worked there for Lloyds Registry. She now split her time between here and her children in the U.K. How lovely.
On our return to our rooms, cleaners had been into Sally's room and shovelled out the ants.