Fun in the sun? Its the wet season
The imam on the dalla-dalla from the port on Pemba island tells me its “18 miles from Mkaoni to Chake. The same again to Wete”. It takes me nearly 2 hours to make it those 18 miles to Chake. We pass a brickworks, then a pale grey and ginger ox that looks for all the world like its got serious freckles. Then another brickworks, another freckled ox, the bureau de change I spotted earlier…we’ve just been driving around for 10 minutes for custom. We maybe pick up one more passenger.
It takes another 2 hours to do the next 18 miles to Wete. Wete lives up to its name in the wet season. I’m here at the northern end of the island to investigate the ferry on to Tanga on the mainland. I had been told it was either Saturday, Sunday, or “a long time”.
By 8 next morning – its been raining heavily since before dawn – I begin to feel like Noah, and start collecting 2 of every animal. Over a lovely breakfast of omelette, chipatti and spiced tea a very soggy Sharook – the guesthouse owner – comes in, smile still on his face.
“I have just come from the port” he says. “There will be a boat on Sunday. It will leave at 9 am. They will start selling tickets tomorrow [Saturday]. You are lucky! They have only just finished fixing it.” His smile widens even further, showing his gappy crooked teeth, his tongue visible through missing incisors.
There’s another brief shower from a bright sky later that afternoon, as if it were saying ‘there’s plenty more where that came from’.
Sharook, quickly and willingly becoming my personal assistant, magically appears again as I settle down for breakfast the next day; dry. I’m the only one staying with him and the multitude of women about the place and I feel more comfortable then in some friends’ houses.
The Al-Mukhtaar is very much the sort of vessel you would take on a pleasure cruise down the Thames rather than an ocean going voyage. And a pleasure cruise it very much feels on a nice day with a smooth sea. The blue of the deep and the shallows, the white sand, bare rocks, forest, and pale sky of passing archipelago islands contrast one another, giving interest to the eye. When the islands disappear the ocean gets boring. The waves start to rock the boat, and the brightly painted red and yellow bare wooden benches become hard to sit on.
We can’t have been travelling very fast; our speed in inches per hour rather than miles per hour. I consider the possibility I’m being taken all the way to Morocco.
I spot land – a dark green band of treetops misty with distance – 5 hours in. It takes another our to reach the wharf at Tanga. It has taken me a week to do what would have taken a day at most travelling across the mainland from Dar. Alternatively, a 30 minute flight.