BEYOND paradise

the clock is quickly winding down on my African escapade, and I realized that I have yet to indulge you on one of the best parts of my time here. so go fill up that teacup/beer mug and get in a comfy position on the couch. ‘cause I’m taking you to paradise, baby.

alright, so let’s roll back to the beginning of the summer, shall we? when I was still working a FT job, saying goodbye to my DC life, creating and crossing items off of a 4 page To Do list, and shipping 22 boxes and suitcases to 3 different cities. running on zero sleep, 5 hour energy shots, Derek Brown’s Tease class and starbucks keg stands. consequently looking and feeling STRAIGHT UP crazy. yeah, remember that?

well, in the midst of this hurricane of challenges, the one thing that made it bearable was that I had a little vacation to look forward to. and by little vacation, I actually mean the trip of a lifetime. to Tanzania. specifically, Ngorongoro Crater and Zanzibar Island.

and now let me introduce you to the co-star of my ultimate adventure vaca. meet Matthias.

matthias

a Pepto-popping Austrian badass living in LA. can usually be found messing with his hair (pre-shave :(). he’s hot, super talented, and my favorite new friend. plus he’s got an accent! he is a cinematographer and photographer by profession, so seriously, enjoy these pictures. he took all of the jaw-dropping ones.

how did this all come together? in a (ground)nut shell, Matatu was wrapping up his playtime work in Jo-burg (filming a Nike Red campaign ad, watch it here) around the exact same time that I was leaving Washington/descending upon Africa, and we agreed that it was the perfect time for well-deserved and much-needed vacations.

and, thanks to my development friends, it took almost no time to plan. in approximately 30 minutes, I had names of drivers and friends, their phone numbers, hotel recs (sorted by location, price points and activities) for the entire trip… AND was put in touch with these people via email. ’twas efficiency at its finest.

looking awkward

so we were off! our plan: to safari/rough it in the crater for a day and then relaxxxxxxxx for a week on the beach. my only requirement of him was to teach me how to use my new camera (Canon 50D with 28-135 mm lens for you curious minds). his only requirement of me was unspoken, but probably along the lines of “try not to look so awkward when I point the camera lens at you.” he succeeded. I, unfortunately, did not.

like all of the great and legendary stories, ours too had a beginning, a middle, and an end. which is how I’ve divided up our trip in this post.

the beginning: death by samosa

we did the crater, all right. saw 3 animals up close and about 600 million far away. we snapped photos of baboons, elephants, lions, zebras, wildebeests, and water buffalos, and really took in what the Serengeti had to offer. was lovely.

actually, in hindsight the only thing rough about the safari was the poison that our driver, Atif, served himself and us for lunch, which at the time of disbursement, he lovingly called “the Box”.

Atif, obviously pre-Box

I kinda think the most interesting part of the crater experience was leaving it. we left the lodge at 6 AM the next morning in order to catch our flight to Zanzibar. and seriously NO ONE felt normal because of Atif’s love Box. if I hadn’t been so jetlagged and weirded out by the communal Pepto bottle being passed amongst our little threesome, I would have expressed a bit more concern about his racing down the scary mountainside in a fog cloud (with therefore zero visibility), his double fisting Pepto Bismol and Red Bull, and the length of his bathroom breaks. but, whatever. i slept through most of the terror and we made it onto the plane with no problems.

the middle: Be still like vegetables. Lay like broccoli.

lounging

we really wanted to discover Zanzibar, so we planned a beach hopping tour that allowed us to dance around the island perimeter, starting in stonetown on the west side, heading to nungwi at the northern tip and finishing up on the east side at the pongwe and matemwe beaches.

but that didn’t really tell you anything, did it? that’s just a geography lesson. so I’m going to try to provide all sensory highlights. you may or may not get some of the references. if you’re curious, just leave a comment and ask!

See

  • Cyan water and isolated beaches
  • sunrises and sunsets so magnificent you started to wonder if you were dreaming
  • 60,000 dolphins on the hunt
  • stonetown’s gangster’s paradise neighborhood (at the cross streets of Fallujah Ave and Rasta Blvd.)
  • dozens of shooting stars

Smell

  • for those who have yet to travel to Africa, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. it has a very distinct odor. it’s like you do your transfer somewhere in Europe and everything is normal. and the second you get to the gate to board your Africa-bound flight, you are shrouded by this smell. Matata likened it to chicken curry. I liken it to body funk. you get to decide for yourself when you go. but I guarantee that you’ll never forget it.
  • nasty hospital smell. more on that later.

Touch

  • sand so soft it would be impossible to tell the difference between that and baking flour
  • BeeZee pinches
  • mosquito bites
  • scratchy henna application

BeeZeehennasuper fine sand

.

Taste

  • grilled shark, squid, octopus, king crab claws, sugarcane juice, the Box, Pepto, baby bananas and Orbit Professional
  • in terms of drink, Zanzibar tasted like Kilimanjaro beer (completely inferior to Tusker), Amarulla over crushed ice and Glenfiddich
  • we went snorkeling in the mnemba atoll, and that tasted like sunscreen, orange slices, rented snorkel gear and a year’s supply of salt water

snorkelfest

shark skewers

Hear

  • a drunk crazy man at a local bar in stonetown offered Matti some slaves (he politely declined)
  • Tiki Top Ten Hits. I guess the radio stations on Z don’t have rights to play the popular hits by the real artists, so they improvise by playing a local artist’s interpretation of these hits, recorded on low quality equipment (imagine hearing “Rude Boy” with a distinct tiki-reggaetone bongo beat)
  • I love making friends, and our first evening we met these adorable British girls so I got to practice my accent all week: “Er, yes, I’m on my gap year and my friend is visiting on HOL-iday.” “the AC is not WHUR-KING. and neither is the telly.”)

but how did Zanzibar make you feel? in a word, LUCKY. this authentic paradise island somehow managed to sizzle with serenity. and it always felt like the whole place belonged just to you.

unfortunately, the last memory of our trip was not of a gorgeous sunset, or sipping pina coladas in oversized baby chairs, or even talking sh*t over a healthy match of Connect 4. nope.

the end. death by mosquito

encouraging hospital waiting room reading material

so everything was fine until we got on our flight back to Nairobi when M started feeling sick and then exhibited ALL of the symptoms of malaria. fever, chills, the works. just like that.

enter our African hospital adventure. I dislike hospitals in general but am unreasonably terrified of non-US ones, so this was truly the antithesis of relaxing and fun. the hospital smell plus the chicken curry smell was enough to turn my stomach. and then having to watch Matats get stuck by a fantastic needle just hours before he was supposed to board his plane for the 30 hour journey home…ugh, I felt so ill that I thought I had malaria, too (but my sickness is hypochondria).

thankfully, test results showed no malaria. apparently he had just picked up a hoochie parasite that wouldn’t shake (figures).

so THAT is where it ends. we toasted our remarkable African adventure over a glass bottle of warm Coke, a piece of not too sweet cake, and 12 different kinds of antibiotics and fever reducers.

last supper

basically, the perfect ending to the perfect trip.

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