Hit the ground running.
That was the plan for Dar es Salaam. After a short two years in China and an even shorter nine months in the States, I’m becoming very well aware that our time at any post is forever fleeting. Dilly-dally on settling in, and before you know it half your time is up.
“So, let’s hit the ground running,” we said, with no plans other than to arrive. And as we soon discovered, there’s only so much proverbial running one can do in a city where things progress at a proverbial saunter.
So when running only goes so far, the DiploMan and I do one thing: we take a trip to the beach.
Shockingly, Africa has beaches! It is not Sahara from one tip of the continent to the other, which is what the infographic map of the world in that is my head leads me to believe. And luckily for me, the beaches off the coast of Tanzania and it’s little sister Zanzibar are some of the best on the continent.
The area where we live, “on the Peninsula” (never just peninsula, always preceded with “on the”/ I live “on the Peninsula”/ The shops “on the peninsula”/ I am trapped “on the peninsula”), is aptly moniker’d. On the peninsula, where the land juts out to abruptly meet the water, there are sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, and of many tiny islands that are scattered just across the way.
[on the peninsula] Three major islands dot our view: Snake Island, Bongoyo Island, and Mbudya Island. The first is uninhabited and unvisited – it’s supposedly named after a nasty infestatiion of slithering snakes, and I don’t need to see for myself. The last island is supposedly the nicest, but requires more foreward planning than a last minute weekends’ trip. Namely, a car, and more time, and stuff. So when we noticed that a ferry departed from a nearby shopping center made daily trips to/from Bongoyo Island, it was settled – a daytrip to the beach would be made, to celebrate the end of our first week in Dar.
Bongoyo Island is a long, branch-shaped island, dotted with gnarly trees and fisherman who ride in rickety canoes just off its shores. The main attraction, undoubtedly, is a little nipple of a beach that juts out of the island’s otherwise forested land.
Though the very small size of the beach might be unimpressive to those accustomed to seeing miles and miles of sweeping shoreline (ahem, Pacific Coast!), the beach on Bongoyo Island makes up for its small stature with stunning views from the sand. Standing at the tip of the island, on the beach, one can view a 300 degree vista of ocean and waves. A pretty breathtaking sight.
Just up the sand 20 yards or so, sticking out from the white sand, are hand-made umbrellas, here called Bandas. Lounge chairs made from sticks and woven with natural ropes were rented for a few thousand Shillings, and some local beers and sodas were bought from the bar just a ways over, a few more dozen yards inland. We spent most of the day laying around, napping, sipping, splashing, talking, and attempting headstands in and out of the water.
Though certainly not an adventure-seekers’ beach, for those of us that were craving a little more activity than a dip in the ocean, we took a 40-or-so minute hike to the other side of the island. After what seemed like an endless trail of rock and brush, where the end of the trail seemed less plausible with each step, we were at last awarded with another beautiful, serene beachscape. How are the most remote, difficult-to-reach places always the most stunning?! For pictures of that view, you’ll have to come, visit, and see for yourself.
So yes, even though our beach day was a little thin on activity and adventure, it was not completely without. And what a fabulous way to hit the ground running in Dar es Salaam. If this is what the next two years are looking like, I’m going to come home a pretty happy and relaxed individual.