This morning 10 of us got in a small plane bound for Zanzibar. There were only 12 seats on this single prop craft so it was for all practical purposes a charter flight! The weather was serene and I sat beside Jim and alternatively chatted and blogged. Mount Kilimanjaro played hard to get off to the north hiding its snow capped peaks in white clouds.
In Zanzibar we drove to the old-town also known as Stone town. In the evening we walked the alleyways of this old city mired in its traditions and culture. There was much that fascinated the camera but there was also too much sadness and poverty that my hands were unwilling to direct the lens at. Much like India..once again. We witness the sunset from a beautiful boat (a dhow) accompanied with local music, food and impromptu entertainment by the staff. A stunning tropical sunset over the Indian ocean.
The boarding shed is in the shadow of Mount Meru. The chairs are appropriately upholstered in Masai shawls or broken. Everyone waiting for their small plane is a Caucasian. There are no brown or black travelers. It is worth a thought that of all the guests in the hotels, travelers on local planes and people with apparent wealth that I have seen there are none that are African blacks. Of course my experience is one of a typical tourist, however I notice that most medium sized businesses like grocery stores, gift shops and restaurants are owned by another minority…people of Indian descent. So after freedom, liberty and apparently capitalism has graced this lovely people and civilization, the natives still appear to be the underclass. None of this is of course definitive, just observational. The locals are the bureaucrats at the airport, the staff at the hotels and public servants in government. Seems like but for a few anomalies money and race are coincident in determining class and privilege.
I realized just this morning that DaresSalam nearby was the site of a terrorist bombing a few years ago. This sleepy country, sweet people and not-much-going-on-here town…really? I don’t know anything of this world other that what I have seen in the past 10 days but I will deny that is possible by the average native. Which bring us to the multitude of non-native species that plague our planet…zika, ISIS, ebola, Al-Qaida, yellow fever and its ilk. We would be wise to inoculate our kids against infections.
We are rolling down the runway in a single prop plane with 11 of our party and 2 others…Rick sitting in the co-pilots seat Well we are going to use all the runway Jim quips as the plan turns with its front wheel almost in the grass…0uhits no use having runway behind you!!! We all laugh a nervous laugh .. its a pilots’ inside joke. Its action packed…a min ago we tried to take selfies with Kilimanjaro out of the left side of the plane. Now the pilot says we are going to fly at 13ooo feet 30mins..if anyone gets dizzy please let me know. Jim is an experienced small plan pilot beside me and he’s worried. The regulations don’t allow going about 12ooo feet because the the oxygen content in the air possibly affecting the pilot and the passengers….and here we are cruising at 13ooo feet. Pretty soon we hail the pilot and Jim uses a hand motion to ask him to level off. Jim is not happy and he is the expert so we are a little discomforted. The pilot can lose his license for doing this he informs us gravely. The pilot realizing perhaps that he is communicating with another pilot in Jim takes the plane down to 11500 ft and smiles and gestures with a thumbs up. I hope dad will be fine with this blood pressure condition etc. Praying now…
40 mins later Zanzibar is up ahead and the plane is steadier than I was expecting. The brown desert-ish landscape of central Africa has given way to a light green rolling patchwork dotted with the whiff white cotton candy of low handing clouds. White beaches here we come ….God willing!
Jim and I are in vehement agreement about the Masai and their way of life, talking over each other to make our case and nodding as the other made his. Extreme filth and unhygienic living even after knowing better appears to be an illogical human choice at any level and one the Masai have made. Their kids are educated, some have jobs in the cities so they are obviously aware of the basic standards for the sustenance of human life. Yet they continue to live in dirty squalor... in dung huts, a pervasive smell hanging around the BOMA that even the most abject slums in the world can’t compete with, they don’t use water for hygiene or bathing, braid their hair with animal fat and mud, eat only animal meat, blood and milk, swat away 100s of flies at a time from their childrens’ faces…
We noticed only two older persons in the entire village…turns out the mortality rate is very high. The kindergarden school had at least 30 young kids. All of our many escorts were Masai men in their 30s and 40s but there were less than a dozen elders in the community. The rest were… dead?