Part 1: First impressions, feeling blue...
I had already been in transit about 24 hours, from Amsterdam to Dar es Salaam. Although I love travelling, flying and seeing new places, after two stopovers, broken sleep whilst waiting for connecting flights and mediocre plane food, by this time, I was tired, hungry, and completely over the monotonous process of “check in luggage, empty pockets, walk through scanner, find boarding gate, wait, wait more and then wait even more...”So as I arrived in Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam, standing outside the airport in the sticky, humid air I thought to myself “just one more, one more flight to go” before I could rest my weary body and catch up on 40, no wait 80, actually make that 120 winks of sleep. I felt completely drained.
Trying hard not to nod off (but failing miserably!) in the Domestic terminal, my flight was finally called and I made my way along the hot tarmac, to a surprisingly small plane. Only 7 passengers, hmm, VERY small plane. Oh well, it was only 45 minutes, so I made myself comfortable. The engines started “put, put, put, put, splutter...” then died. Oh dear, let's try again shall we? “put, put, put, splutter, put, put VROOM!” OK! We were good to go!
I love the feeling of take off when flying, detaching yourself from the solid ground to float defyingly in the air (how Physics is a wonderful thing!). Now, I watched the sprawling city of Dar es Salaam fall away, the blue and white squares of the sprawling suburbs, getting smaller and smaller – 'fare thee well to the mainland' I whispered to myself.
As the plane entered the cloudsphere, up in the air I felt my fatigue begin to wane and as the thick cumulus clouds parted to reveal a deep blue expanse of ocean before me, smooth as glass, my tired bones were now tingling with excitement. Long stretches of sandy beach, tiny islands framed by aqua seas and caressed by hypnotic waves cresting then breaking on the surrounding rocky reefs...Wow.
The clouds once again obscured our view of idyllic islands, but soon I was to get my first glimpse of my new island home. The plane, very slowly began its descent and there it was – Mafia Island. When I say that my first impressions of the island made me feel blue, what I mean is that I just can't describe enough, the amazement I felt upon seeing the shimmering waters around Mafia Island. Bright Sky blue, rich Kingfisher blue, deep Prussian blue – my mind was taken back to my prized tin of Derwent coloured pencils I had in primary school – so many shades of blue!
Dotting the picturesque sea scene, were white triangular sails, moving gracefully in the water, my first look at one of the many variations of the African fishing or trading vessels. These, I was later told were called Dhows, a generic term derived from the Arabic language. Dhows come in many forms and with many names, depending on what goods they are carrying or how far they are travelling. Seeing them gliding through Chole Bay, it was like being transported back to the early historic trading days, as of these were the very same vessels of merchant traders (or pirates!) from generations ago, selling spices and cloth and forging a new life in a new place, on a new island.
My reverie was broken as the plane completed the landing (with only a few bumps along the tarmac). Here I was, from the cold and cobbled streets of Amsterdam, now to the coconut lined streets of Mafia Island, my new home.
By Von Sebastian - Assistant Research Officer
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