Not all those who wander are lost - but I'll be disappointed if I don't get lost frequently!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My Ongoing Battle With Boats

12/05/2012
So far on my African travels I haven't had much luck with boats. From being thrown out of the raft on the Nile to a very bumpy and extremely wet trip to Ngamba Island that caused a lot of yawning (a warning sign that I'm on my way to getting sea sick), there has yet to be a time when I've been in a boat without there being some kind of mishap or difficulty.

Why then, did I choose to pay $15 for a ten minute ride on a banana boat? Good question.

It's barely even a boat, just a bright yellow inflated tube that silly people sit on top of and get pulled along by a speed boat. And with my above-mentioned record, you would think I might be a little hesitant to hop onto a contraption on which I can barely balance. But that, my dear friend, would be overestimating my good sense and underestimating my enthusiasm to try new things.


We had rolled into Paradise Beach Hotel in Nungwi, on Zanzibar's northern beaches after a bus ride from Stone Town. Leaving at 10am had given us a leisurely morning eating breakfast on the roof of the Safari Lodge and taking advantage of the Wi Fi. Within minutes of arriving at the beach, we had spotted the banana boat and a small group of us decided to give it a go, but we had to fill our tummies first.

It's raining in Paradise. 

Lunch was a bit of a nightmare. Not the food itself, which was perfectly fine, but the bill. As would be expected, the more people there is in  a group the harder it is to keep track of the bill.

This time though, it was a shambles.

Everyone ordered at different times, we moved tables, some ordered at the bar, some ordered drinks with their meals, others paid for their drinks as they had them. But the waitresses didn't help the situation. I had tried to pay for my meal and drink when I ordered at the bar, but was told I paid at the end. Ok, fine. Where was I sitting? Over there (where I had just plopped my backpack when we arrived). Ok. Mistakenly assuming that I had my own individual bar tab that was not attached to a particular table, I instead went and sat with people as they arrived at the restaurant too, rather than my bag. While waiting for the food to arrive, I ordered another drink at the new table. That was just my contribution to the mess. Then the bills arrived, and I learned never to assume anything when it comes to bar tabs.

Eventually it was sorted out, after much to-ing and fro-ing. The waitresses then agreed that maybe keeping individual tabs with our names on them would be a good idea for the rest of out stay at Paradise. Not that this was the last of our difficulties with bar tabs in Africa. Let's just say that it was the first significant one.

Then it was time for banana boating!

The fab five eager to do it were myself (of course), Dave & Jodie (they always copied what I was doing, wink), Ed and Calum. Dave strapped his GoPro camera onto his wrist (it's waterproof, and he got some great footage) and we were taken by dinghy out to the pontoon to board the yellow log masquerading as a boat.

I couldn't even get onto the banana boat without mishap. I tripped and nearly bounced right off it. Not a good start!

Clinging on for dear life, the guy zipped off in the speed boat towing us, and we held our breaths waiting for the slack in the rope to be picked up. Then like a cork out a champagne bottle, we shot off!

The banana boat flew along, bouncing over the speed boat's wake.

'This is pretty cool.' I thought to myself. 'But now that I'm used to the speed, there's nothing to it. Easy!'

As if he'd read my mind, the speed boat slowed and made a U-turn back past the banana boat. One look at the wicked grin on his face and I knew we were going over!

The guy on the speed boat gunned the engines, the rope went taut and flipped the boat up like a bucking bronco, and splash, splash, splash, in we went.

Falling off is easy. Getting back on is the hard part. This is where my troubles really began. The banana boat came back, and one by one everyone pulled themselves back on. I tried once. Fail. Twice. Fail. Worse than the first attempt! By this time I'm giggling uncontrollably, which isn't helping matters at all. A giggle-pot girl with no upper body strength and too much body to pull has no chance of getting back on a contraption like a banana boat!

Luckily, gentlemen still exist in the world, and Ed came to my rescue while the others (mostly Jodie) pissed themselves laughing. I'm afraid that at that stage I wasn't much help, with all the giggling I could barely manage to coordinate my leg kicks and heave at the same time. Thanks Ed!

That afternoon when the sunset booze cruise got cancelled due to rain, and because of the really cool and un-nerdy people that we are, we set ourselves up at a table at the Paradise bar and played a game called Mafia. Basically the aim of the game was to lie your way through, keeping a straight poker face all the way through.

'Mafia, open your eyes! Who would you like to kill?'

Great for kids of all ages, as we demonstrated, playing it for ages, over and over. Somewhat different to an alcohol-fuelled sunset cruise, but great fun nevertheless!

After dinner we were heading off to Kendwa Rocks for a beach party. Not the famous full moon party that is packed out monthly, but it's somewhat more tame every other weekend sibling. It was still a bit rainy, I was getting tired and briefly toyed with the idea of not going. Boy am I glad that I did!

It was still early when we got there at about 10pm, so we all grabbed drinks and found a place out of the rain to sit round a sheesha pipe and play 'Never Have I Ever...' The sheesha didn't go down too well with my chest cold, but I learnt some fun facts about my truck buddies. However, what happens on Zanzibar, stays on Zanzibar!

The DJ started cranking out some great dance songs, so it wasn't long before we were all down on the floor dancing and sweating up a storm! The sun may have gone down hours ago, but the heat and humidity had not disappeared along with the daylight. I started trying to think of creative dance moves that would encourage air flow. Not sure how that looked, but I would have done anything to keep cool!

When I'm on the dance floor, time seems to go so quickly! Before I knew it, 2am was there and gone and we were still at Kendwa Rocks. All good things must and do come to an end, so eventually everyone was rounded up and we hopped back into the mini-cabs to head back to Paradise.

These cabs were driven by our local Zanzibarian tour guide and his crew, and I at least hadn't realised that they had been enjoying themselves perhaps a little too much a the beach party. After discovering that my original driver seemed very tipsy, I jumped ship and ran into one of the other vehicles. Great call, when my original driver backed into a fence post in the car park. But after two minutes of trying to understand what my new driver was saying, discovered that he was just as 'happy' as his friend. We did get home safe and sound without incident, so I guess all's well that ends well!

(Why in the hell did I not take any photos on Zanzibar? What was I thinking?)

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