Tag Archives: Tanzania

Panga Chumvi – Zanzibar Tanzania

I’ve been as bad at cranking out hote/restaurant/race reviews as I am ___(fill in the blank with one of many appropriate choices)___ . So, here is the beginning of what will hopefully not be a futile attempt at catching up…

Panga Chumvi on Trip Adviser

Panga Chumvi

Our stay at Ponga Chumvi was great! The photos online are very accurate from what we experienced. At this point in our vacation we were very ready to kick back and relax for a few days in peace (we’d been on safari for 4 days and I’d survived the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon) and that was exactly what we got.

Accommodations

Our bungalow at Panga Chumvi was beachfront with a great big covered front porch, perfect for watching the sunrise and reading in the morning and unwinding at night.

porch view

Inside it was simple and quaint but lovely. The sleeping area and private bathroom (with warm water!) were very clean and very well-kept. The beds were comfortable and the mosquito nets worked well.

bed

The common sitting/relaxing area also doubled as the seating area for the restaurant and was also beach front.This worked quite well actually. The chairs and tables were covered in bright fabrics and were comfortable. There was reliable wireless internet when we needed it and adorable kittens keeping us company.

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All fo the dinner options that we tried were great at the little beach front restaurant. Of course they were all fresh fish + accompaniments of some sort. Coming back home it was hard to not compare the seafood here with what we were spoiled with there…

octopus, salad and chips

octopus, salad and chips

fish, salad and chips

fish, salad and chips

prans, salad and rice

prawns, salad and rice

As if this wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake at Panga Chumvi was the wonderful breakfast served every morning. It wasn’t anything extravagant, but it was absolutely perfect. First there was fresh mango, pineapple and watermelon with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.

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And then tomatoes, cheese and sausage with toast.

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Very few mornings will be able to beat waking up to the sunrise and a good book on the porch and then breakfast at Panga Chumvi.

Management and staff

The owner, Rebecca, and the rest of the staff were great. All of our questions and concerns were addressed right away during our stay.

There were also tour guides and masseuse associated with our hotel and the other similar little get aways that dotted the beach in either direction of us. I’m not sure how tightly/loosely these people were associated, but they were all quite helpful. One tour guide arranged for a spice tour and a trip in to Stone Town for us.

Nutmeg and mace!

Nutmeg and mace!

Fresh coconuts!

Fresh coconuts!

Another guide arranged our transportation to and from Stone Town when we were coming and going and with yet another we arranged a 2 hr snorkeling tour. Prices between different guides varied quite a bit (by a factor of 2 in some cases…$20 USD/person vs $40 USD/person for snorkeling and $50 USD vs. $60 USD for a ride into Stone Town for example) so shopping around is worth while. We didn’t do multiple tours so I’m not sure how the quality also varied with the price, but I’m pretty sure that the rides into and out of Stone Town were all pretty comparable. Unfortunately we also didn’t have a chance to capitalize on a massage. 😦  This is one additional thing that would have been great to include during our stay.

Location

Panga Chumvi is located ~1 km from the (very hidden and very small and very hard to find town of Matemwe on the eastern coast of Zanzibar (Tanzania). It takes about 30 min by cab ($50 USD) and 1 hr by daladala (although we never did this) to reach from the main port Stone Town. While it is very near Matemwe, this town is so small it really didn’t make a difference. There was no market (no fruit) much less anything else to buy, see or do. The town was populated by maybe 1000 very nice people (non-English speaking), but definitely not a resource for a traveler. Overall there was not much to do or see right around Panga Chumvi, the majority of the tourism on Zanzibar is over on the west side in Stone Town or up on the northern side of the island. Rather than being the sight of lots of tourism, the east side of the island seems to be the working part of the island. The locals were farming sea weed from in front of our hotel and all along the coast. In the mornings they would pull it from the water and hang it to dry for the day on fence like structures built back from the shore.

Sea weed farming

Sea weed farming

Now this wasn’t the beautiful, picturesque sight that one often finds when searching for images of Zanzibar, but it was super interesting to see and the solitude, calm, local feeling that we experienced was just what we were looking for.

During the day we enjoyed walking up and down the beach, shelling and taking in the sights, sounds and smells. There were miles of wonderful beach in both directions to explore.

Sea shore going north

Sea shore going north

Sea shore going south

Sea shore going south

In doing this though, one has to be mindful of what season they are in. We were there at the beginning of the rainy season, so just about every day we got caught in some degree of torrential downpour. There are a number of very similar little hotels/restaurants along the coast. These were fun to check out and stop into for a quick refreshment.

beachside joint 1

We went snorkeling with a small group for ~2hrs just off of the cost one day near a few little islands. The outing was about 2 hrs and equipment was provided for about $25 USD/person. I have to admit that the experience didn’t measure up to the snorkeling in Belize, but I don’t think that any snorkeling that I ever do again will measure up to that experience. To be fair, the cost was also a fraction of what we  threw at the entire day of snorkeling (with private tour guides and a fresh beach side lobster lunch…but never mind…) in Belize.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon Review

Date and time: March 3, 2013, 6:30 am

marathon morning

Sunrise at the start

Location: Moshi, Tanzania (beginning and ending at the stadium on the north side of town)

Weather: Hot and still. 80-95 F. No shade.

Threads and treads:  Champion tank and running skirt, bright pink Pro Compression marathon socksSuunto Vector super watch, pink Tifosi Slip Wrap Sunglasses, LOADS of sun screen and my wonderful Mizuno Wave Creation 11s.

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Field: Mostly southeast African (surprise surprise) and a number of non-African transplants to the area. There were <300 for the full marathon, but many more running the half and the 5k fun run. Although there was often a language barrier, everyone was very friendly and encouraging. 

Support: There were 7 water stations, one with straight sugar to refuel with, but that was it. I packed my bra full of jelly beans and Clif Shot Blocks though, thank god. There were also daladalas around to cart anyone back to the stadium who was in need of medical attention (I have no idea what this actually would have entailed) or could not continue the run.

Pre-race Expo: hehehe…this was the most quaint and low-key expo that I’ve ever been too. Now this isn’t a slam (I feel like it kind of sounds like one) it’s just the way it was. There were two or three folding tables outside of the Key’s Hotel and another few tables inside. There were maps showing the 2013 5k, 21k and 42k courses with seven…that’s right, SEVEN water and aid stations labeled. This is the first time that it was actually confirmed – at least for me – that the course was the same as last year, and really did only include SEVEN water stations throughout the 42 km! Yikes!

Race start: The “race” started at 6:30 am from the stadium on the north side of town.

Ignorance is bliss.

Ignorance is bliss.

We luckily were staying just about 1 km away and were able to walk there (in the dark) in about 15 min. All of the runners piled on to the track behind the starting line and waited for the “ready…set….go!” 

Lining up...kind of...

Lining up…kind of…

It was a very mellow start to a marathon but with ~300 participants that’s about what you can expect. It was already about 80F as the sun was just starting to come up so there was no need for pre-run warm up clothes or anything like this. There was no bag drop off, but at least I didn’t need one. As noted above, there was no need for pre-run warm-ups or clothes for later.

The Run: The run began by leaving the stadium and going on a 10mi/16km out and back loop. We headed east out of Moshi towards Arusha along the main Moshi-Arusha highway. There were rolling hills and many well wishers along the way. The surface was either the road’s black top or gravel on the ditch, not bad. Personally though, I began struggling with the altitude right away. My big (ignorant) plan was to hold a “conservative” (hahahahaha) 10 min mile for these first “flat” ~10mi/16km. It was everything I could do not to dip into the mid 11s – thank you Suunto Vector 😦 My lungs were on fire – I couldn’t get the oxygen that I needed to save my damn life.

And then it got hot. 

By the time we got back into Moshi it was about 85 F and the sun was up. There were two water stations on the out and back (one we hit twice) and the another one in town. One of these stations also had straight sugar to fuel up with but this was it. The water stations were just that, water stations. I was carrying one of the bottles from my water belt and filling it up at each stop – along with chugging 1-2 cups of water as I walked through and dumping another 1 or 2 over my head. We spent about 4 miles weaving through town – and town was getting busy! Roads were totally not blocked off and we just froggered it through the normal Sunday morning bustle. I made it through town and back to the stadium which is at the base of the ascent up Kilimanjaro in just over 2:30 according to the Suunto Vector. OUCH!

And the it was up the f#@%ing mountain!

The final ~12 miles were an out and back UP and then DOWN Mt. Kilimanjaro at ~5% grade. This is where the wheels really came off for me. My bat shit crazy goal was to 3 min on, 1 min off run/walk up the mountain and then crank it up and run back down. How hard could it be? 3 min running? That’s nothing, I can always slow down, and then I can even walk for a min! And then coming down, it’s 5% grade! All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and gravity will practically do the rest…at a 9 min mile or better I bet! I’m not sure if I’ve ever been SO WRONG in my life! It was HOT now. There was NO shade, no breeze, 90-95F and only a 4 precious water stations remaining. The 3 on 1 off crap lasted about 15 min and then I walked (aside from a few flat areas and slight down hills). I held ~10 min/km on the ascent (thank you Suunto Vector).

So that’s it, right? The hard part is over! It’s literally all down hill from here! Or this is what my dumb ass thought from the top of the climb. I cranked up my tunes and proceeded to trot off down the mountain like it was my job. How quickly I was reminded that no, in fact this was NOT my job. However, what I actually am is a nerdy graduate student in chemical engineering who quite frankly had NOT A DAMN CLUE what she was getting herself into! If I thought breathing was rough at 3000 ft, breathing at 4000 ft was impossible! So, I slowed down and proceeded to shuffle/walk theh 6 mi back down the mountain. Damn.

All wasn’t lost though – the scenery was beautiful, the little kids that came and tagged along with me were adorable and according to my (very frequent) calculations – thanks again Suunto Vector – I was still going to make it in under the 6 hr cut off. By the time I made it back through the last water, they had run out of cups and were fishing dirty cups back out of the ditch and filling them with water. I was sooooo close to snatching one up and guzzling it down before I noticed this! Not cool. After spending 5 hrs on my feet in the direct sun (now it was ~95F), I am very glad I didn’t test my immune system and go for it anyway. I was tired, hot and dizzy enough that it may have seemed quite rational. And let’s be honest, I’ve probably done crazier shit in my (relatively) right mind. I finally finished in 5:45ish (in the same vein as running water stations, Tanzanian time keeping isn’t the best) and never thought I’d be so happy with a 5:xx marathon as I was when I came back into that stadium.

slow

Post-Run:

Lucky for me I had a very patient/understanding buddy waiting for me with water and cookies to help drag my ass back to the hotel for a shower. (Thank you Al!!)

after

The rest of the day was stretching, leg rubbing, a very slow shower, some toenail surgery and a very very slow walk into town for the best pizza and milk shake for dinner. While I will never do this marathon again, I am SO SO SO glad that I did do it once.

Executive summary:

HARD. Hot (95F and no shade), at 3000-4000 feet, 12 miles at a 5% grade – up then down, 7 water stations and no fuel.

Beautiful.

Friendly.

Unique.

Very, rewarding.

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The 3rd

Today is the 3rd. So what?

1. Today is the one month anniversary of what will hopefully the worst marathon I’ll ever “run”…

@ 6:30 am. Ignorance is bliss.

March 3rd @ 6:30 am. Ignorance is bliss.

(PS. I think this is the red flag that I really need to write that race review don’t I?! One month later I best have gotten over my hard feelings of +5 hrs to write something resembling a rational post.)

(PPS…or PSS… Which one is it? I never know… Anyway, I also think this is the red flag and flashing lights and blaring sirens that I need to get my ass out for a run again. That and I think my pants are shrinking. Yes, it’s my pants that are shrinking, it certainly isn’t me that’s getting fat…)

2. Today is t-minus one month until my thesis defense!

O.M.G.

Did anyone else realize today had some sort of significance as they walked/drove/bused/biked into school/work today? What is it?

 

 

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Herbs and Spices – Arusha Tanzania

Herbs and Spices on Trip Adviser

So we found Herbs and Spices listed as a hotel in one of our travel books as we were preparing for our trip. On Trip Adviser (and frankly everywhere else that I’ve looked) it is only listed as a restaurant. I assure you however, it’s definitely a hotel as well! Our stay at the Herbs and Spices Hotel was very nice.

Accommodations

Our room at Herbs and Spices was clean and welcoming. The beds were comfortable and were equipped with nice mosquito nets so we could open our big windows at night for an evening breeze. We had a private bathroom that was clean with a western toilet and a shower. Now we were supposed to have warm water, but there always seemed to be one reason or another why it was not available. I think I had one shower where it wasn’t totally cold, but that was about as good as it got. Considering the ~90 F temperatures, this definitely wasn’t the end of the world.

The common lobby and restaurant area was welcoming and clean. There was a lovely  front porch, shaded by tall trees and vines, with tables and seating for meals and a nice place just to take a load off. We had breakfast (included with the room) here every morning and dinner a few times as well. Breakfast included coffee and tea, eggs, sausage, toast and jam. It was a nice way to start the day. For lunch and dinner, traditional Ethiopian options were available as well as European style meals. We obviously had Ethiopian dishes for the two dinners we ate at Herbs and Spices. Both were injera with some sort of veggie preparation. We had beans, spicy lentils, potatoes, and a few other things that I can’t remember any more :-/ Shame on me…

Management and staff

The staff at Herbs and Spices was courteous and helpful. Our interactions with them were rather limited however.

Location

Herbs and Spices is located on the main road just on the southeast corner of Arusha. While the street is busy, it has a nice walking path to town. It is about a 20 minute walk into town, with many friendly people along the way. There is also a well stocked convenient store about 10 minutes away by foot.

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Hotel Hibiscus – Moshi Tanzania

Hotel Hibiscus on Trip Adviser

Our stay at the Hotel Hibiscus was awesome. 

Accommodations

Our room at the Hibiscus was clean, spacious and totally charming. The beds were comfortable and had nice mosquito nets conveniently suspended on wire tracks from the ceiling. We had a private bathroom that was very clean with a western toilet and a shower with warm water!! (Note: There was one small issue with the shower here. The hot and cold water nobs were reversed!! We didn’t notice this until well into our stay unfortunately. Once we figured this out though, the showers were fantastic.)

The common areas were welcoming and clean. There was a comfy front porch that was great for read on during the day and a fire ring out back that looked like a lovely area for night time activities. (The evening temperatures of +80 F and previous engagements prevented us from checking this out during our stay.) Inside there was a living room with plenty of seating, a little library with books to share and a sizable community dining area.

A really delicious breakfast spread was served each morning in the indoor common area. Options included, coffee and tea, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt and toast with jam and peanut butter. It was a great way to start the day, it was also a great way to meet and get to know other guests staying at the Hibiscus.

Management and staff

The owner, Rebecca, and the staff Rosie could not have been better! They were sooooooo welcoming and friendly and helpful. You could really not ask for better hosts! Rebecca even drove me to the packet pick up site for the marathon when she found out I had no idea where I was going. They were absolutely fantastic.

Location

The Hibiscus is located just north of the main part of Moshi. It is a quick (15 min) walk to the town center and the dala and bus stands or a 5 min (3000 $TSH) cab ride if you have lots of luggage. It is also just a quick (10 min) walk to the start of the (2011, 2012 and 2013) Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon! This was a very luck coincidence for us as we just selected The Hibiscus based on its reviews and adorable pictures on Trip Adviser (which it totally lived up to). SCORE! Unfortunately, it is also about 1 American block away from Zumbaland – which is rather loud all day and late into the night. This would probably be my one and only complaint.

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Home sweet home!

And I’m back at home! Man, the last two weeks have flown by! Al and I have this ability to max out vacations in a way that is absolutely exhausting! But, after paying +$1700 I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Considering that I currently want nothing more than to make good friends with my feather pillows and blankies, I’ll just do a quick, broad overview of the trip now. But, over the next few days I’ll go into the specifics for each part and review the marathon and our different accommodations in detail.

After a lovely +20 hour commute MSP–>AMS–>JRO we made our way to Herbs and Spices in Arusha. We stayed here for just one day, wandering around town, checking out the market and collecting ourselves for the safari.

Dinner at Spices and Herbs in Arusha

Dinner at Spices and Herbs in Arusha

Bright and early on Monday morning, our safari guide Hassan and our cook S. Bruno (from Sunny Safaris) were there to pick us up in the snazziest of safari vehicles.

Sunny

With our sweet wheels

On our first day out we went to Lake Manyara. Although it wasn’t the rainy season and the lake was largely dry, the Lake Manyara National Park was very green and lush. It was the smallest of the three places that we went but not short on awesome animal sights.

We then spent days 2 and 3 in the Serengeti. We only really hit a very small part of the Serengeti but even that was soooooo incredibly vast! I think we spent about 8 hours driving there (and visiting a Masai tribe and checking out the animals en route of course) on day 2. It was like it could go on forever. On day 3 we spent the morning on a final game drive and then headed for the campsite at the Ngorongoro crater in the afternoon.

The morning of day 4 was a big game drive down in the Ngorongoro crater and then the afternoon was spent driving back to Arusha.

Each location was very unique which allowed for us to experience a huge breadth of African plants and animals. The three camp sites that we stayed at were very different as well. However, for some odd reason that I can’t really understand, we had to choke down the same greasy, over salted carrot mush each night for dinner (P.S. I detest carrots) and the same bland boxed lunches (centered around bread and butter sandwiches) for lunch each day. Good thing safaris are about seeing animals rather than eating!  Here a few highlights for the different animals that we saw…

zebra

Zebras chilling in the Serengeti

wildabeast

Wilda-beast chilling in the Serengeti

zebra and wildabeast

Zebras and wilda-beast chilling in the Serengeti

warthog

A pair of shy warthogs in the Serengeti

ugly bird

An ugly bird that thought he was king of the Serengeti

monkeys

Adorable Lake Manyara monkeys

massai

A Serengeti Masai tribe welcome dance

lions

A lazy Serengeti lion pride

lion

A beautiful Lake Manyara lion

elephants

A Serengeti elephant family

giraffe

Giraffes near Lake Manyara

gizel

Gazelle in the Serengeti

hippoes

Hippos in a hippo pool in the Ngorongoro Crater

elephant

A Ngorongoro Crater elephant profile

cheeta

A Serengeti cheetah

buffalo

A powerful (and dirty) buffalo in the Ngorongoro Crater

Hassan

Looking over the Ngorongoro crater with our fantastic driver and guide Hassan

Returning from the safari, we spent one more night in Arusha and then it was off to Moshi on a Dala-dala for the marathon! In Moshi we stayed at the brand new Hotel Hibiscus. Aside from our initial problems finding the place (as it is brand new and no one knew where it was) this was a fantastic hotel!

Going back to the marathon though, long story short, I did not handle the heat (think 95 F by 9 am, no shade and only 5 water stops) or the altitude (think starting at 3000 ft and then cursing through miles 12-19 at a 10% grade up to 4000 feet). However, I finished the damn thing (and not in last place) in time to still get a t-shirt and a metal, and hopefully have the longest marathon of my life done and out of the way.

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All the essentials laid out the night before – this includes the awesome watch I got to borrow, enough snacks to feed a small village and my malaria, altitude sickness and pain medications

before

Before (when this still seemed like a good idea)

after

After (having spent over 5 hours cursing what a terrible idea this really was and with a rather unconvincing fake smile)

And then it was off to the beach! Kind of. The morning after the marathon (Example A: The Epitome of Genius Planning) we hopped a 7 am bus for the 9 hour drive to Dar es Salaam and then an hour and a half cab ride for the last 5 kms to our digs for the night in the city. Forget water boarding and take note Mr. Chaney…

The next morning we were actually off the to beach. We took the ferry to Stone Town on Zanzibar and then a cab to our beach abode at Panga Chumvi in Matemwe on the east side of the island. Hello heaven!

panga chumvi

The afternoon view from our ocean front bungalow at Panga Chumvi

Our last 4 days began with the most perfect Tanzanian breakfasts…

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Breakfast first course – coffee, freshly squeezed passion fruit juice and fresh fruit that I will forever dream about

Breakfast course two - cheese, grilled tomato and sausage with toast

Breakfast second course – cheese, grilled tomato and sausage with toast

and then spent lounging with our buddies…

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reading, shelling, snorkeling out on the barrier reef, on a spice tour…

Check out the fruit that nutmeg and mace come from!

Check out the fruit that nutmeg and mace come from!

on a walking tour of Stone Town and stuffing our faces with sea food…

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Prawns

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Fish

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Calamari

It was the perfect way to wrap up a vacation.

On Saturday it was back to reality though. We left Zanzibar in the morning to meet up with Aliesha’s awesome former host family for lunch and hanging out in the afternoon. In the evening it was off to the airport for our journey home: DAR–>AMS–>ORD–>MSP.

Have you ever been to Tanzania or another East African country? What were the major highlights? Lowlights?

Have you been on a safari? What was/would be your favorite animal to see?

Have you run the Kilimarjaro marathon before, or another marathon with a major altitude change? Thoughts?

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And we’re off!! :-)

Minneapolis is sure sending Aliesha and I off in good old-fashioned Minnesota style!

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Hopefully we’ll be able to take off tonight after all this snow we’re getting. Let’s keep all of our fingers and toes crossed that the MSP grounds crews are in top form today.

I can’t even express how SUPER excited I am for this trip – the safari, day trips, the marathon and then Zanzibar.

Unfortunately there is no real-time tracking for the Marathon (imagine that) and I don’t even know what my bib number is yet. (Frankly, I’m not even 100% sure when and where I’m supposed to pick it up, but I still have a week. 😉 Anyway, I did map the course on MapMyRun and here’s a screen shot of the route and elevation:

YIKES!! :-)

YIKES!! 🙂

I received the most appropriate encouragement from Dr. Annebelle earlier this week:

You will kick ass in the marathon (and by that, I mean you will finish in an upright position!)!

This will be the first marathon with out you buddy! :-/

I also got a most appropriate piece of advise from Dr. Allison last night:

Have fun! Be safe! Run Slow!

Yes! Yes! And yes! 🙂

Alrighty, have a great two weeks everyone and prepare yourself for an arsenal of travel and run updates/recaps/reviews starting March 10th!

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