Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in Nairobi

It's Christmas time! We've been a little quiet on the blog because life has been busy with Christmas celebrations. We had a big Christmas dinner with the Aussie volunteers, complete with Secret Santa - I was given the gorgeous Christmas Angel from Amani Ya Juu

With our church, we had an outdoor evening Christmas Carols event at Karen Blixen House, a nyama choma lunch with the young adults and on Wednesday night we watched Elf on a big screen, under the Kenyan stars and snuggled up in Maasai blankets - it's cold!! We've been enjoying delicious mulled wine and the general Christmas cheer!

We didn't commit to a Christmas tree this year because we're away over Christmas, but we decorated our apartment with red Christmas candles, paper doily snowflakes, and Christmas carol lyrics. And of course, Green Bunny looks very festive in his green coat.

We're flying out tonight for ten days in Ethiopia, where we'll celebrate Christmas with an Australian friend from Kenya, an Ethiopian family and some Aussie expats living in Addis. We're also heading north to explore the ancient stone churches in Lalibela, and then south to Bale Mountains for a three-day horse trek. 

It's a bit of an understatement to say that we're very excited, and that Christmas this year will be very different from the usual!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stonetown by night

Here's a secret - Stonetown is actually more fun after dark. The kids carry their televisions out into the courtyards and the grown ups go for night time strolls through the cool of the evening, chatting and smoking as they walk.

The stone alleys are also beautifully and hauntingly lit - just perfect for a night time photo shoot!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Curios & Sundowners

It takes more than one or two days to really get to know Stonetown and we decided after Pongwe to head back and keep exploring the town. We stayed at the Tembo Hotel, a beautifully presented Swahili style hotel right on the waterfront which was a good base for our last two days on the island spent exploring through the curio shops and many alleyways.

Apart from the Swahili tourist shops selling bloodwood carvings and figurines cut out of paint tins (which are easily available in Kenya), some of the Omani Zanzibaris run curio shops that are full to the brim of old trinkets and faux-curios masterfully constructed to look like something out of an Indiana Jones film. These were particularly fun to poke around in and revealed old cameras, rusted pistols and Arabic brass coffee pots which are famous in Zanzibar.

It was getting late on our last afternoon in Zanzibar and we decided to try out the famous Emerson Spice hotel for a final dinner watching the sun set over the town and sadly our second honeymoon. After we actually found the place hidden away we couldn't get a table as it was fully booked. Instead the manager invited us up for pre-dinner cocktails and we enjoyed what is known as a 'Sundowner' looking out over the town and the sun setting across the strait and the mainland of Tanzania. Not a bad way to end an epic holiday!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Pongwe

It seems everyone who has been to Zanzibar has their own secret place, and this is ours - Pongwe! The moment you walk through reception and into the beach side resort problems like traffic ''snarl ups' and criminally priced cheese melt into the background and make way for white sands and the warm Indian ocean.

We spent three nights and four days lazing around Pongwe. The quality of the food was simply outstanding and if it wasn't freshly caught seafood then it was South African beef or something just as ridiculously good.

If you're looking for full moon parties and hooking up with an Amarula induced Italian backpacker there are other places for that. Pongwe is all about good food and um... doing very little at all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Z is for Zanzibar: Stonetown & Spice Tour

Piecing together the last 12 months we realized that we hadn't had a real holiday since well, our honeymoon, which was about 12 months ago! Sure there were the weekend jaunts and short escapes but our 1st wedding anniversary was a good opportunity to actually get away. Considering it's the 'paper' anniversary we decided to buy some paper tickets that would fly us to East Africa's island of spice - Zanzibar.

Stone Town



*fist bump*

- Traditional Zanzibar greeting

The best thing to do in Stone Town is to simply meander its maze-like alleyways, discover ancient and amazing architecture, eat good food and meet the locals. We met one young girl who invited us back to her house to meet her family and watch Barbie cartoons on their small TV set.

Getting lost in Stown Town is an important rite of passage for any serious tourist and we passed with flying colours on at least two occasions. The town is so eclectic and interesting that two days didn't do it justice, so we decided to return back and get to know the place a little better later on in the week.

Pretty much every spice you can think of grows in Zanzibar, and first timers should should make a point to head out on one of the many spice tours that take you to the economic heart of the island.

We left Stone Town behind and headed into the lush green of rural Zanzibar. When we arrived at the spice farm we were met with the sweet scent of cardamom lingering in the air. Our guide took us around the different bushes, trees and vines and Laura won the 'Which spice is this' game hands down. If you liked those fruity smelling textas in school then you'd love this place.

It's quite amazing to see how the spices hiding in the back of the pantry are grown. We were treated to lunch and given woven palm crowns and a ring to put on Laura's finger - quite appropriate for the fact that it was November 19. I did the exact same thing twelve months ago but this time to the hollering and encouragement of a guy who had just sang hakuna matata from the top of a coconut tree.

After lunch we kept heading across the island to the East coast where we landed in paradise and did what everyone does when in paradise - very little indeed! Next up we'll take you to Pongwe and the turquoise warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

you do the hokey pokey...

gif creator

..and you turn around, and that's what it's all about!

Along with the other Aussie volunteers here in Nairobi, I spent Thursday painting, sweeping, cleaning, colouring and hokey-pokeying in a local school. Well actually, I spent the whole time taking photos, but everyone else did a lot of hokey-pokeying :) The day was a little different to my usual desk job, but a whole lot of fun!