Grahamstown is composed a few main streets flaunting several mouth-watering restaurants and bumpin’ pubs. It’s a college town so although during the day the streets are filled with locals doing their shopping and selling items on the street, at night it is much of a party town especially on Fridays. For some reason, which is unbeknownst to me, Wednesdays (but not Saturdays) are also a huge party night.
Getting to know Grahamstown requires a map or someone who knows where their going because it does have a moderately puzzling street composition. The scenery can change quite rapidly if you’re not paying attention, and although I enjoy seeing all aspects of life in Grahamstown, a mirage of “ay-bay-bay” or “hey sista, coins?” following me to KFC is not my favorite thing.
Making your way to Tanzania’s National Parks like the Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire is a journey filled with carsickness and dust that clings to your pores like a green tea face mask. It’s a dirty and long adventure, but the end result is nature that has been (mostly) unaffected by technology and pollution, one that looks more like a dream than real life. Six hours worth of hang-banging, gut-wrenching unpaved and unmanaged roads is worth the opportunity to see the Lion King in person, with a front row seat.
Undeniably Zanzibar’s beaches are my favorite. The sand is soft and almost has a milky consistency which glides over your feet and toes like butter. Zanzibar’s velvety coasts also feature year-round warm waters thanks to the Indian Ocean and tropical climate. Although I was in Zanzibar for work, I still got time on the weekends (and after classes) to enjoy the tourist hotspots.
Even on the most popular beach there was still space to breath. It wasn’t like Ocean City, Md in July – there was open space and self-catering services. This is not necessarily a great thing for Zanzibar’s economy as it has seen a dip in tourism recently, at least in Stone Town – according to my hotel manager friend Ulrica, but it feels like paradise for me.
One highlight of my beach excursions was going to the East Coast beach and The Rock restaurant, which lives up to it’s name as the restaurant is literally on a rock and requires a boat to get to during high tide. What an experience. The food was also to die for and surprisingly affordable (in American standards). I got home-made tagliatelle with lobster mixed in – I’m drooling thinking about it.
Not only beaches in Zanzibar pure paradise, they’re also fun. Local kids will come play frisbee with you and you never know who you’ll meet! Going to the beach by myself was so fun because I’d meet all these other tourists/volunteers, mostly from Europe, and we’d all talk about our experiences and where we’re from. Zanzibar is mostly a tourist destination for Europeans because for much of Europe there’s little to no time difference whereas from the US (mainland) there’s anywhere from 6-10 depending on day light savings time.
The best time to go is definitely during their winter, as during Zanzibar’s summer it is unbearable hot and humid. Their winter usually lasts from May to September, but July is definitely the peak of tourist season. Make sure though before you go for a relaxing beach vacation you know the area in which you’re staying. For example it is never appropriate to show your knees on the streets of Stone Town, but it is perfectly ok to lay out in the sun wearing nothing but a bathing suit once you hit the sand. On the east coast of Zanzibar you’ll have much more privacy and the beaches are apparently more pristine, although I’m not a huge beach snob. All I need is warm water and soft sand, and just about every beach in Zanzibar (I went to at least) had that.
Getting lost gives you the opportunity to really see an area. Leaving the guidebook at home and just exploring is my favorite thing to do when traveling. I find myself being more observant and so I see what the locals really are doing – what restaurants they’re eating at, the shortcuts they know that no one else knows, even something as basic as greetings.
All my tour books in Tanzania said that “Hello” was “Habari” or “Jambo”. Little did I know until I started pulling my head out of the book that I sounded like a ignorant tourist when I said things like that. It makes sense if they think about it because how often do we say “hello” in America? It’s always hi or what’s up or hey. Same in Tanzania. Instead of “Jambo” you say “Mambo,” which is basically like saying “Hey, what’s up?” With exploration and getting lost in the culture that I’m living in I would have knew that. It’s important to not just “get lost” physically, but also to get lost figuratively. Devour that culture while you can because you will miss it dearly once you’ve left.
The motherland of the Inca civilization has become a huge tourist destination in recent years for good reason. Machu Picchu is about 564 years old, which is fairly young for “ruins.” I put ruins in quotes because really Machu Picchu still looks half liveable. Obviously Machu Picchu should be a must see on everyone’s travel to do list, but I wanted to provide more views of this masterpiece other than the one that everyone knows and loves. Hopefully this 360° view of Machu Picchu will convince you to just get up and go!
Photo taken at Al Akhawayn University while I was attending a conference on the Muslim World in Ifrane, Morocco
Three hours left on this epic road-trip. The mountains of Virginia are a sight to see – what a gorgeous area, especially in fresh snow.