“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain.
At this stage of the trip we are basically biding time before we head for the fleshpots of Zanzibar. Peponi Beach Resort is an excellent place to do just this. We had missed out on Lamu and decided to pass up on Pemba and Mafia Islands. It really would be an injustice not to visit Zanzibar, touristy and perhaps crowded as it might be. Being amongst many festive season holiday makers is not the worst thing I can imagine, there is a certain appeal to being part of a happy holiday crowd. We really could not complain as privacy we had had a surfeit of for long portions of our travels. We really must in the future devote more time to this wonderful coast. A very good reason to plan a return trip to the Swahili Coast in the future. How nice would a Northern Mozambique, Malawi, Serengeti (at a different time of the year – perhaps February to catch the calving in the south) and a Swahili Coast trip be? Our time away from home and our proposed deadline to reach home at the end of January 2016 was drawing nigh.
Peponi Beach Resort on the north coast (that is north of Dar es Salaam), near Pangani, is well known amongst overland self-driving travelers, but little did we know that this would be far and away the best of the 3 places we had visited thus far on the Indian Ocean of East Africa. It had taken quite a shift in gear to adjust from national parks and wildlife to lazing on the beach. Anne was overdue for this sort of holiday, I suspect that she had been beginning to find my obsessive exploration of places wild a little tiring.
We were very sad indeed to be leaving Kenya, the country and its people had treated us very well. Kwaheri Kenya, asante sana, tuna rudi hapa. I had found the Kiswahili language fascinating, the locals in Kenya and Tanzania use it extensively as it bridges the many local languages and dialects conveniently and they genuinely enjoy any attempt by travelers to at least greet them in this lingua franca of much of East Africa. Some of the vocabulary has its roots in Bantu languages that I am familiar with, others are derived from English or Arabic. I wish that I had taken the time to enlarge my Kiswahili vocabulary before leaving home and was very envious of the command of this language many East African Wazungus have. However the English spoken by the people of Kenya, most of Uganda and to a lesser extent, Tanzania, is excellent.
The route to the Kenyan/Tanzanian border near the coast at Lunga Lunga/Horohoro is increasingly being used. The A14 road on the Kenyan side is tar but quite badly potholed in places and is overdue for a revamp. There are new customs/immigration buildings on the Kenyan side, but not yet in use. From Horohoro on the Tanzanian side there is new tarmac in great condition, sponsored by the American Government. Their magnificent, new, air-conditioned, one stop offices are fully functioning. This is indeed a very convenient border crossing to use. It took us only an hour to pass through both sides. Officials on both sides were efficient and friendly. The border is 83km from Tiwi Beach and we drove through the surprisingly large town of nearby Diani, without turning east to have a look at the coast, next time! A summary of the border formalities is posted in the Geek section. We were able to exchange our remaining Kenyan to Tanzanian Shillings at the reasonable rate of 1 Kenyan to 20 Tanzanian, after first topping up our fuel in Kenya.
It was good to be back in Tanzania which we had thoroughly explored and enjoyed on our way north. The roads were surprisingly quiet along the coast considering many were visiting the area on holiday. All we really still needed to do was the coast and Zanzibar. A real sense of satisfaction was present as one realized just how much we had achieved and how almost every important box had been ticked. The countries further south such as Malawi and northern Mozambique had either previously been visited or could easily be explored in shorter trips from home. Individuals will vary as to how long an unbroken trip they are able to tolerate and still enjoy completely. I suspect we were beginning to reach close to our limit. Relaxing along the coast, without too many taxing roads and journeys into the back of beyond, was exactly what we needed to wind down what had been a stupendous experience. There has been very little in retrospect that we would have added, left out or changed. We were just a little sad to have run into so few fellow self-drivers but had thoroughly appreciated those on-the-road friendships we had cultivated. It would seem to have been different in the heyday of overland travel some years ago.
Twiga to Peponi took 5hr 20min to cover the 190km, including a border crossing and we arrived in the early afternoon. It was immediately apparent that this was a different kettle of fish and that Peponi Beach Resort was professionally run. It is owned by the Kenyan Ashley family and managed by their daughter Carys and it showed. This resort, although rustic and with a true Swahili feel to it, is streets ahead of the other 2 coastal stopovers we had just visited. It is more family orientated and everything worked. There are both very comfortable bandas and camping, about 10 campsites in all. We were most fortunate, being slotted into the last available campsite. People usually book months ahead for the festive season and all the bandas were taken, the place was chock-a-block, not unpleasant for the festive season. Out of season it is far quieter and I am sure that some of the choice seashore campsites would always be vacant. The only level ground at our campsite was out of the shade but there are thatched shelters with an electric light and a plug for each site. Water is a little salty from a borehole and the showers and flush toilets were excellent. Hot water for showers from a boiler is available in the evenings but was hardly needed. There is also a convenient place for washing up and a laundry service is available. There is a lovely rustic and busy bar near the beach and seating for the restaurant had an excellent sea view. The food is good, with an extensive menu, reasonably priced. The swimming pool area is well patronized and there is a very friendly and sociable atmosphere. It was hot and humid here but by midmorning the trade wind would spring up before conditions became uncomfortable. The beach did not have the snow white sand of further north, but was lovely. Peponi have their own dhow which you could make use of to take the day trip for lunch and snorkeling on a sand island not too far off. We knew that we would be doing this on Zanzibar. They have free wi fi of decent speed and being able to run our vehicles electrical system off mains via our blue caravan plug was most convenient.
We have been getting plenty of input from Carys as to the alternatives available for a visit to Zanzibar. All are unanimous that any entry into Dar es Salaam should be avoided, especially at this time of year. There is a speedboat to the north of Zanzibar from nearby Pangani that they could book us on, but they had just been informed that one of its engines was under repair. This boat would most likely have others on it, cutting the costs of a return trip to something like 60-100 US$. The other very attractive alternative would be a light aeroplane flight from Pangani, likely to come in at about 100US$. Carys is looking into this for us. It has been suggested we look at the Sunday after New Year when many of the holidaymakers on Zanzibar would be making their way home. We have been given a few suggestions for both Stone Town and the north-west of the island, this accommodation would suit our budget but we were in the fortunate position of being able to afford a bit of a splurge here. To me 3 nights in Stone Town and 3 or 4 up the coast sound like just the holiday tonic to suit us. We shall see.
Camping at Peponi is very reasonable at US$6,50 pppn.
1. Our campsite at Peponi.
2. Our camp shelter.
3. Karibu Peponi.
4. The bar and dining area.
5. The pool.
6 and 7. Peponi’s own dhow.
8. The beach, north and south views at Peponi.
9. Peponi’s facilities as seen from the beach.