Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso

Destined for greatness!

24 hours in Zanzibar (Part 2) September 6, 2019

Fish

You only have a day to explore this spice island. So much to do and see, so little time. What to do? Part 1 of this post can be found here.

1. Forodhani Park

My day started at 8am at Forodhani. Public park by day and street food market by night. I landed after 17:00 and after checking-in, this was my first port of call. The place is buzzing with food enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. If there’s one food item to have, it would have to be the Zanzibar Pizza which is nothing like the pizza we are used know. It is made on a large flat round sheet-pan like surface right before your eyes. I took a video but I am using a free version of WordPress which doesn’t play video. A snippet of the video is available here. You can have the pizza as a savoury or sweet treat. Mr Big Banana’s stall was highly recommended so I went to him for my savoury pizza and to Mr Nutella for the sweet one. Both were good. You can down your pizza with freshly squeezed cane sugar juice which is generously infused with lime and ginger for like TS1000 (R6). Forget the calories. The short clip of the making of this sugarcane juice can be viewed here. Other food items like seafood, bread, fried rice and barbecue kebabs are on sale. It’s best you come with local currency here to get good prices although they do accept US Dollars. Had I stuck to the negative reviews on TripAdvisor I would not have come to this market. So glad I went.

 

2. Stone Town walking tour

Salim was my guide for this tour and had A LOT of information to share with me on the island. We walked for about 3 hours and I didn’t even realise it. Due to my time restrictions, I didn’t get to see the whole town, something to do next time. The own is a maze of narrow streets where one can easily get lost but we’ll call it an adventure. The temperature between the little roads is cool which I’m told has to do with the limestone used to construct the buildings hence the name, Stone Town. I was fixated on the doors of Stone Town. I probably delayed the tour since I had to stop and admire the different doors throughout the town. Simply mesmerising. There are about five different types of doors (E.g. Indian, Arabic etc…) one can find in Stone Town each with various meanings hidden in the carved wood symbols. This deserves a post on its own. There is a lot to see and learn in this town. We also walked past the former birth home of Farrokh Bulsara otherwise famously known as Freddie Mercury. 

 

3. Visit the Markets

One can visit markets in Zanzibar tot Piet kom. You can visit the fish, meat, spice, craft and artisan markets. I have to be honest when we came to the fish and meat markets I couldn’t believe anyone came here to shop. It was packed, there were flies and basically, hygiene didn’t seem to be a thing most were concerned with. Either way, it was a great experience. I’m told if you do a cooking class as one of your excursions, it usually starts here. So you would come to the market to pick your ingredients and end up cooking special Zanzibari dishes. Zanzibar or Tanzania, in general, is home to good quality masai blankets, chitenge fabrics and kangas. Here you will simply be spoilt for choice.  You can find fabrics from as low as TS15 000 (R95) for 6 yards (5.5m). Way cheaper than the R250 / R300 we usually buy them for in South Africa and Botswana. Note to self to have sufficient luggage space next time I am here.

 

4. Make a stop at the East African Slave Trade Exhibit 

My visit here was a little rushed, from my end. I would love to spend more time here the next time I come because the history is intriguing. Whenever I’m confronted by such horrific stories I can’t believe how resilient a people we are. We have been through the most as the black race and still we rise. The guide shared a long history with me about how slavery came about. He also mentioned that at first, no one was kidnapped or forced or chained into slavery. Apparently, people knew what they were getting themselves into and this was simply their way of providing for their families since they were not treated like slaves although they worked hard labour. Over time with the changes in leadership on the island and the rise of the illegal ivory trade, then slavery became business and people would be brought to the island to work without their consent and treated in the most inhumane ways. I still have to read a lot on this. There are a lot of boards with the full history and since they were many, I couldn’t read them all. I will update the post as I get verified information. In the same facility, you will also get a chance to visit the Anglican Cathedral whose altar is built on the very spot where the slave trade used to take place. A lot more can be said about the church and its involvement in slavery. Rich, rich history here.

 

5. Prison Island / Changuu Island

Then followed a 25-minute boat ride to Prison island whose real name is Changuu island, about 5km to the north-west of Stone Town. The island  (Changuu) is named after a fish commonly eaten in Tanzania. The island was meant to imprison misbehaving slaves and other criminals but it never was used for that purpose. It instead became a quarantine station and hospital facility for endemic diseases, mainly yellow fever since Stone Town was serving as East Africa’s main trade port in the 1860’s.

This island is also home to the Aldabra giant tortoises which live for hundreds of years. They are a beauty to behold. The biggest one in body size in the sanctuary is 160 years old, while the oldest is 194 years old. Yes, human years. They apparently love massages so I made sure I did my bit. Local belief is that they live long because they are so slow. The guide told me that as the human race we can learn a lot from them on their ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) approach to life since we are always in a hurry and never take time to rest or take things slowly. This spoke volumes to me.

 

6. Snorkel

Snorkelling is a fairly new concept to me. This was my second time snorkelling and given that I am not a confident swimmer, the experience was a lot more pleasant compared to my first experience in Grenada which you can read about here. I saw a lot of beautiful coral and a few fish. But there weren’t much species of fish on display mostly because of where we docked. A few kilometres in, closer to Bawe island, we could have had better spectacle but I was time chasing so 30 minutes of playing around enough. Check out the short clip here.

 

7. Nakupenda Beach

This beach is heaven on earth. Truly beautiful. The sandbank whose name means ‘I love you’ in Swahili fulfilled all my beach fascinations. Crystal clear blue waters, soft white sand and tranquillity – simply glorious. There were a lot of people but it was not overcrowded at all. It can get completely submerged depending on the tides. The water is spectacular and I picked up some really nice seashells. The tour came with lunch that is prepared right on the beach. I’m amazed at how clean this place is given that so many guides cook and bring so many people here.  The locals take great pride in their country and keep it clean. Salim said to me ‘If we don’t keep it clean, tourists will not come and we will not have jobs. Besides, it is God’s creation and we have a responsibility to look after it,’ What more can I say? Simply pristine.

 

8. Nungwi Beach (Kendwa Rocks)

Since this was my last activity for the day, and the time was about 15:00, I had a choice between Nungwi (65km North) and Paje Beach (50km East). Paje was closer especially looking at the time, but I opted for Nungwi beach because most reviews on the net said that Nungwi was the best beach in Zanzibar. Needless to say, I was left underwhelmed. Perhaps because I had just returned from Nakupenda beach which was heavenly. Make no mistake, it is a beautiful long beach with a buzz of activity but it was not the crystal clear blue waters and white sands I was expecting. Well… Turns out I was actually NOT at Nugwi beach after all. So post my trip I had to give feedback to the Tour company I used and Aisha made it clear that the beach I was taken to was in fact Kendwa Rocks and not Nungwi Beach although they are not too far apart. She said though that Kendwa had a better beach compared to Nungwi so I cannot say much on that since I was not there. I will hold my comments until I go to Nungwi and then give my own assessment. I’ll have to explore other beaches next time but as far as beaches go, and compared to the few I’ve seen around the world in my little travel escapades, Kendwa Rocks beach, is NOT on my top 5. It is a lovely beach to just laze around, play some basketball and sunbathe for those interested in that sort of thing. There are a number of hotels along the seashore so perfect in that sense. The beach was packed, so much so that the road leading up to the beach (bad road) was so full of cars and taxis it was hard to get to the beach. Although it was overcrowded, because it is a very long stretch, one can find a spot away from the masses. The strangest thing was that each random person I spoke to knew I was from South Africa. They said I have ‘the look.’ At this beach you will also meet a lot of the Maasai tribe playing volleyball, selling some crafts and dancing, not forgetting jumping sky high! Such kind-hearted people. They promised to teach me all about their culture on my next visit.  At the end of it all, people love beaches for different things so do check it out when you are in Zanzibar.

 

9. Have Gelato

It is an open secret that I follow the KETO way of eating, but I allow myself exceptions for trips since trying local food is a must during my explorations. The gelato was, of course, nothing like URI’s Gelato which you can find in Lynwood, PRETORIA, but it was delish! Thanks to Chantal & Chris Trainor and Vicky (My gelato squad) for introducing me to Uri.

 

10. Be a beach bum

I love the beach period. I am always therefore on the hunt for more and more exotic beach escapades. My budget has other ideas though, but I ain’t gon’ let that stop me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In Zanzibar, there are beaches galore on all four corners of the island. I will explore more beaches on my next visit which will hopefully be longer than 24 hours. The below pics were taken on the beach outside my hotel.  Lovely place to watch the sunset, sit and reflect on life, watch guys play soccer and meet complete strangers who make you realise how alike we actually are as a people worldwide. This also reminded how small I am relative to the universe and how I should not have a self-centred approach to life in such a way that I am out of touch with the real world out there. One of the greatest part of my galavanting is talking to people and hearing their stories, their histories what makes their hearts go aflame. Life’s simple pleasures!

 

Overall I know my pictures are not the best. Don’t worry, I will get better with time. Taking pictures is something I actually forget to do and something I actually do not like to do because I just love being in the moment but I realise the importance of taking you on my journey through pics.

 

Cost for the tour: TS 220 000 (R1 500). I usually do my own excursions but I decided to book a tour guide this time and I cannot complain since I had to do a lot in a day and needed people who knew where to take me, and quickly. The cost included transport to and from the hotel, drive to and from Kendwa Rocks, all entry fees at the places of interest, excursions, snorkel equipment, water and lunch on Nakupenda beach. I used Friendly Taxi & Tours for this tour.

 

24 hours in Zanzibar (Part 1) September 4, 2019

On a recent work trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I decided that I wasn’t coming so close to Zanzibar and leaving without setting foot on it. The only problem? Time! I had only two nights to spend there and I wanted to see as much as I could. Here are my recommendations of what you can do in Zanzibar in one day if you’re up for some really fast-paced adventure.
Ok, first a short story about my flights. I flew on ZanAir and had to go into an office to check-in. Hint number two I would be flying in a small aeroplane. Did you read that correctly? Not a check-in counter with conveyer belts. Nope! An actual office. I handed my passport over to a lady who was working behind an office desk. My bag was taken by an elderly gentleman to go weigh it I assumed since they were speaking in KiSwahili. When my eyes followed the bag as it was leaving the office, she abruptly chimed in, ‘he’s going to weigh it.’ A number was mentioned. Something about ‘mbini’ which I assumed possibly meant twenty or something to do with (2) since it was quite heavy but I don’t know for sure and I didn’t want to ask because my weight allowance was 15kg. Hint number one that I would be flying in a small aeroplane. I waited to be told I had to pay for excess baggage and when she didn’t but rather gave me a store-like looking receipt which she said was a boarding pass (pictured below), I knew this was going to be quite an experience. As I walked past my bag which wasn’t tagged standing there in an orphaned state, she decided to offer me some relief ‘It’s ok. Don’t worry. We will take care of your bag.’ I said a little prayer and off I went through to the departure lounge. Quite smaller than I expected. I went to one of the windows to ask what happened now and I was told that an announcement would be made and either my flight number or my name would be called to board the aircraft. My name? Do you mean I could be travelling on an aeroplane all by myself? 😳 ‘Yes’ he said with a smile. ‘It happens.’ This will be interesting… I settled into a quaint coffee shop, bought a ridiculously priced Swahili phrasebook and had me a lovely cuppa.
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Upon approaching the aircraft, I saw a couple with a boy child and one other gentleman and just like that, we were a party of 5 and a half including the Captain. And guess what position I was honoured with? 1st Officer. I don’t care who says what. All I know is that if it happens that I do not get my CPL, or PPL at the very least, this will go down memory lane as the day I was 1st Officer on a Cessna 207 for approximately 25 minutes of pure exhilaration. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Oh did I mention that my backpack was placed in the nose of the aircraft? I felt a sudden panic attack come over me since the backpack contained my life (Work laptop, iPad, wallet, work permits, passports etc…) so when we landed at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport after battling some hectic crosswinds at the much capable hands of this former airforce pilot, I was happy to be reunited with my backpack.
My checked-in bag – nowhere to be found. Oh no! I asked the captain and he told me ‘hakuna matata’ a phrase I would hear a hundred times before leaving the spice island. He said to go into the terminal building and that someone would explain everything to me.  At the baggage claim belt, a gentleman stood  with my bag. Huge sigh of relief! It had a Coastal Air sticker on it so it got a lift from a different airline that departed before ours.

On my return, however, new challenges awaited me. I had a 10:30 departure out of Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg which I could NOT afford to miss. I therefore ensured I was on the first flight out of Zanzibar at 07:15 so that I would be in Dar by 07:45 and by 08:00 I would be outside the old domestic terminal building calling an Uber to drive me to the new terminal building. See? Perfect plan. The taxi was scheduled to pick me up at 06:15 from the hotel so that you know? No rush. At exactly 04:10 though, I was rudely awakened by rain. Yes rain. Do you see where the problem is here? Hello! Hint– Rain, Cessna 207, departure 07:15. See the problem? I could not shut an eyelid from then on. I started to pray. This time I wasn’t so lucky with the luggage although the weight was exactly the same. $16 excess baggage later, I looked outside to more gloomy weather. At this point I tried to online check-in again for Air Tanzania since I had failed a night before – alas – mathata. When the watch hit 07:35 with no announcement of my flight, panic set in. I prayed some more. Two flights departed as I waited for the weather to clear (Me telling myself. Kana I am a pseudo pilot now). As the watch approached 0745, I felt a tap on the shoulder and an agent from ZanAir informed me that I would be flying on a different plane with a different airline since I was the only passenger on ZanAir and there was a technical issue with the plane. Wowza! And there I was missing my solo trip back to Dar. I then flew back with Auric Air on the Cessna Grand Caravan (C208B) and we were a party of about 10. At the end of it all, I arrived in good time for my connection. 

I’ll then move to other admin details so that part 2 of the blog is purely about the excursions.

Currency
Tanzanian Shillings are the currency of use in Zanzibar although US Dollars are also widely accepted. Ensure though that if you bring your greenbacks they are the ones printed after 2006 since any printed before will not be accepted. When I was there the rate was $1 = TS 2 300 = R15.
Accommodation
I used booking dot com to reserve my accommodation. If you book your accommodation with them and use my referral by clicking this link, you will get 10% off your booking.
For ease of excursions when pressed for time, my recommendation is that you stay in or very close to Stone Town since activities are centred around the city and tours to other islands depart from Stone Town. If you want some real quiet time out into nature, then you can head on to the north, east or south where you can lose yourself in the ample deep blue seas on offer – something I did not quite get to do much of – next time, soon! If your budget allows, you can also stay at one of the other smaller islands off the Stone Town coast such as Bawe or Chapwani Islands.  I stayed at the Zanzibar Ocean View Hotel where my accommodation was $60 (R850) per night. I chose this place because it has a nice quiet beach and it was about 7 seven minutes drive to Stone Town.  
Transport
You can use a flight or a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. The air ticket costs about R1000 – R1500 for a return trip and the airport is about a 7 minutes drive to Stone Town, a trip that will cost you about $10 (R150) with a taxi, a bit pricy for such a short trip. But you can negotiate your price.. If you are using a ferry from Dar es Salaam which takes about two hours at a cost of $35 (R520) for economy, and $60 (R850) for royal class, you’ll be glad to know it also docks in Stone Town. If you are flying from South Africa, you can use Mango Airlines (that’s if you can get a seat since tickets are often sold out) which has direct flights three times a week (Tue, Thu, Sat) at around give or take R9 000 a round trip.
Alrighty then, now that the admin stuff is out of the way, check out Part 2 on what to do if you only have 24 hours in Zanzibar.
 

50 @ 50 July 5, 2019

Filed under: 50 @ 50,Explore — Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso @ 4:23 pm
Tags: , ,

So I am on a quest to see all 195 countries of the world, write about my experiences and see how we can impact the lives of those who live in those nations. Yay for big dreams! Initially, I wanted to travel just to explore and rest for vacations which is what I have done far, but of late, I want something meaningful to come out of these travels. At this point, I am not quite certain the shape these will take, but it will unravel as we go. For starters, I actually plan to visit 60 countries by the time I am 50. Yeah, I know the title says 50 but 60 @ 50 doesn’t have a nice ring to it now does it? As I write this, it is August 2019, I am 37 years old and I have set foot on 20 countries so far. With 13 years and 42 countries to go before my first target, I will have to see about three new countries per year. So, here we go… I realize that the below table does not show gridlines, I use a free mode WordPress so I am still trying to figure it out. Countries with hyperlinks lead to some articles I wrote on those visits.

 

BEEN TRANSIT COUNTRIES
1. South Africa Italy
2. Australia Martinique
3. Barbados Singapore
4. Botswana United Arab Emirates
5. Eswatini
6. England
7. Germany
8. Grenada
9. Guadeloupe
10. Madagascar
11. Namibia
12. New Zealand
13. Tanzania
14. United States of America
15. Zambia
16. Zimbabwe
TOTAL 16 4

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Guadeloupe Part 2 / 2 May 14, 2019

Filed under: Explore — Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso @ 7:26 pm

What you need to know to plan your next trip to Guadeloupe

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If you haven’t read part 1 of this blog on my trip to Guadeloupe, check it out here. In this blog I will look at the admin logistics you might find useful if you intend visiting Guadeloupe. Overall, I highly recommend that you purchase Mirva’s book on the island. It is the most comprehensive book you will find on planning your trip to the island written in English and packed, I mean super packed with all the info you will need for your next adventure in this French country.

Travelling the Caribbean Islands was an interesting experience. Since I visited during their low season, aka – Hurricane season (Boitumelo!), the flights were not full and they hopped from one island to another. Here are the logistical details on the trip…Yes I did have a hurricane scare and got stuck on the island for two extra days. That experience will make you appreciate the importance of travel insurance.

 

TRIP NECESSITIES

 

Visa required?: Yes for South African Passport holders. It cost R874.60. Since I reside in Botswana but use my South African National Passport for private travel, I had to use the French Embassy in Rosebank, Johannesburg because the embassy in Gaborone does provide this service anymore. Fortunately, my application was processed in a day. Information on application of the visa can be found on this link. https://france-visas.gouv.fr.  DO NOT USE the CAPAGO website if you are from Botswana, Namibia or Zambia. I did not know this and had paid on the CAPGO website, but fortunately I was refunded.

Travel Insurance: This is a must when you apply for a Schengen visa. In fact, your documents must not just say “Schengen”, they policy documents must explicitly mention the names of the Schengen counties you intend to visit. I had to buy another Travel insurance as the one offered by the bank whose Cheque card I used to buy the ticket did not state the country name. Anyway, it ended up being a blessing in disguise given that I was stuck for two days and had to claim.

 

Flights: When going to Guada, I had been in Grenada for a week so I flew from there and my return ticket with Liat was R7 083.75 (±520USD), not sure why the ticket was in USD and not Euros. So from Grenada on Liat Airlines to Barbados, then to Guadeloupe. On my return however, I flew from Guadeloupe, to Martinique (another overseas French region in the Caribbean) on Air Caraïbes, then to Barbados and then Grenada on Liat Airlines and the plane was still going to St Martins. The return route was due to the hurricane scare and the two days extra I had to stay on the island. I also had to catch my return flight from Grenada to New York which ended up not arriving due to a technical and got to be accommodated at the Radisson Grenada for a night J. Fun! Temporarily because then I missed my connection to Johannesburg. So then, for my return from Guadeloupe to Gaborone, I had to take eight aeroplanes, yes you read that correctly. 7 boardings and offloadings to get to sweet Gaborone. I slept for about 2 days afterwards J.

There are couple of airlines that operate on the island, although other seasonally; Air France, Turkish Airlines (seasonal), Jet Blue, Liat, Air Caraibes, Air Antilles, Turkish.

 

Currency: Euro is the currency of use here which was quite eina! on my pocket. At the time I was there, the exchange rate was R16.37 to the Rand.

Public transport: There are busses you can use but I would say the best way to explore the island would be to hire a car. To lower costs, you can structure itinerary and activities in such a way that you only have to use a car for a few days especially for when you will explore Basse-Terre and opt to use busses on other days when you will around Grand Terre. I was able to explore the majority of GT using busses. I had initially toyed with the idea of spending half the days on one side of the island and half on the other, but the cost of accommodation was cheaper when using one establishment. So I commuted from Bas-du-Fort for all my excursions and it was slightly difficult with no car but not impossible. Just language was my main problem.

 

Accommodation: I stayed in an AirBnB at Bas-du-Fort for 10 days and it cost about R5 300 ($387.52). Staying in Gosier may be ideal since you will be right by the beach, or close by, and there are shops and eateries on all streets. Gosier is quite touristy though and it is a busy little town to experience typical Guada lifestyle. I basically chose my accommodation based on the exclusivity of it, and of course having the beach as your backyard is nothing to complain about.

 

Wheather: The weather was great most of the time except for when we had a hurricane scare. Yes Hurricane Isaac which was later downgraded to Tropical Storm Isaac hit while I was in Gaudeloupe. Lodging in an accommodation which is 10 steps from the sea is quite scary during a tropical storm. So it may be a good idea not to go during hurricane season. But this was their low season so prices were on the low side. Also, I happened to go at that time since I had already booked a trip to neighbouring Grenada.

Language: French, French, French and more French! Did I mention that the people here speak French? Remember that everything is written in French and not a lot of people speak English. By not a lot of people I dare say the majority of those I met did not speak English. Unless the odds were really against me. Creole is a popular local language and the creole culture is rich on the island with cuisine and dance. It suffices to say if you speak no French, it will be very difficult for you to get around. But, that’s what we travel for right? – Adventure so #JustGoExplore

 

 

 

 

Guadeloupe (Part 1 / 2) April 24, 2019

Filed under: Explore — Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso @ 1:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Exploring France, no, not THAT France!

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Before I am accused of doing the typical black thing (going on holiday and then slowly releasing your photos at a rate of one or two per month so that it looks like you are always on holiday), let me get this 6 months old blog out of the way. Now I understand what Mirva meant when she said she was often running 3 countries behind on her travel blogs. In 2018 January I started French lessons at Alliance Française Gaborone and learnt about this little piece of heaven called Guadeloupe, affectionately known as the Butterfly Island owing to its butterfly-like shape. This is a French Overseas Department in the Caribbean Sea. I will do a blog about other French overseas districts in another blog soon. Our French teacher Naomi asked us what we thought of when she mentioned ‘France’ and in unison, we all screamed ‘Paris.’ She chuckled and informed us that the response was the same each time. She went on to give us a lesson on French history and culture because learning a language isn’t just about the grammar. The name Guadeloupe stuck to my head and as I read up on it a bit more, I wanted to challenge myself to a week of throwing myself into French culture to practice the language. Since I had already booked a trip to Grenada for September 2018, I extended my holiday by a week to Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe was depressing the first two days. I struggled with French more than I had actually anticipated. Speaking French to English speaking people in Gaborone is a whole different situation to speaking French to native speakers. I could hardly hear what they were saying. They speak fast! After two days I collapsed on the bed with discouragement but soon reminded myself that I had paid a lot of money for this experience and that I had a goal I was working towards. Not just to sound cute, but to actually professionally operate with the language. So, with that, I got my “non-African” bum off the bed and walked to the nearby Bas-du-Fort beach where I chatted a bit with the locals and so my (mis)adventure began.

The country Guadeloupe is an archipelago made out of 12 islands and islets with five being the most popular; Grande-Terre, Basse-Terre, Marie Galante, Les Saintes, Petite-Terre and La Désirade. Apparently its original name (before colonisation) was Karukera which means land of beautiful waters. People here are French and not Guadeloupean. I stayed at an Air BnB on the Grande-Terre part of the island which was right on the beach which made the time during the Tropical Storm a little interesting. Traveling by public transport wasn’t very easy especially given the language challenges I had. Plus I had made the cardinal mistake of not getting a local sim – please don’t do that. Please do not do what I did. Get a local sim wherever you go!

 

MEMORABLE PLACES IN GUADA

Here are some of the things I got up to during my week’s holiday.

 

Tourism office

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This office was my saving grace most of the time before I met Mirva who became my local GPS. The officers speak both English and French and shared invaluable tips. One of the tips I was given was that I shouldn’t try to make out full sentences but should rather use words and demonstrate with my hands and this advice was helpful since I didn’t have to figure out a whole sentence construction which was impacting my communication.

 

Bakeries

 

La Jacquerie Boulangerie is stationed en-route to Bas-du-Fort and just outside the gate of my accommodation was the cliché epitome of the French lifestyle. Freshly baked piping hot bread and croissants every morning was a treat. Bakeries such as this one are found all over Guadeloupe and sell delicious pastries. Weight watch was not on the agenda while travelling, naturally.

 

Fort Fleur d’Epée

 

This fort which was the battlefield between the French and the English in the 18th century and is apparently named after one of the soldiers. It has free access and a free tour guide. You are welcome to give a donation if you wish. I easily spent an hour and a half here because my tour guide had a lot to share. There’s a lot to see and the views of the Grand Bay are stunning. Definitely a great function venue.

 

Mémorial ACTe

 

This Caribbean Centre of Expressions and Memory of the Slave trade and Slavery has such a stunning building. It is located in Pointe-à-Pitre harbour was opened to preserve the memory of the victim’s suffering while working towards a better society. I was so disappointed I couldn’t view it inside and take a tour of the Memorial since they were closed for their annual maintenance.

 

Meeting my French man at Café Karissima

 

So here I met Pascal who tried unsuccessfully to get me to “Jolie dame,  reste avec moi en Guadeloupe.” Now you guys know why I am still single. I turn down generous invitations from French men. The pistachio ice cream was phenomenal.

 

Aquarium de la Guadeloupe

 

It cost €14 to get into the aquarium where I met Yaelle with whom I still chat to this day. She is learning English and I wanted someone to practice French with so it was a match made in heaven.

 

Gosier Night Market

 

Getting here was quite an experience. Read about it here… This Friday night market is the place to be on a Friday night in Guadeloupe. Here you can buy the local food, craft beer and different types of souvenirs. I met up with a group that congregates here each Friday to practice their English.

 

Shacks in France

 

Oh yeah! Who would have thought?

 

Marina Bas-Du-Fort

 

There are a LOT of eateries at the Marina. It is a lively place overlooking the yatchs of the rich and famous.

 

 

BEACHES IN GUADELOUPE

There are many beaches in Guadeloupe, but my absolute favourite remains Sainte Anne.

 

Sainte-Anne Beach

 

My favourite beach in the world (so far). This beach is like a gigantic swimming pool. Flat for a fair distance into the sea with the clearest waters you can dream of. Things Caribbean vacations are made of. There are a lot of snacks stalls in the area to keep you munching, basically a daily market with food, souvenirs and clothing. I loved this beach and spent many lazy days here. I am now officially on a journey to finding beautiful beaches. BoraBora here we come…

 

Bas-du-Fort Beach

 

This was the closest beach to my accommodation and I spent one afternoon here. Since it was close to my accommodation and I had a beach as my backyard, I opted to just sit on my porch if I was not at St. Anne.

 

La Datcha Beach

 

This is a lovely lovely beach in downtown Gosier. What makes it an ideal family beach is that it has a swimming pool right on the beach where parents can watch over their children while the parents soak in the sea. It is one of the most, if not the most popular beach in Guada so it is usually crowded by both tourists and locals alike. I spent a Sunday with Pierrette at this beach overlooking the small islet just a short boat ride away.  As with all beaches around Guada, there are local stalls selling yummy food and drinks.

 

Black sand beach

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Mirva loves visiting this beach. This beach is on Basse-Terre side of the Island, an area I didn’t get to explore much of. This is a different beach experience, not the typical white sand shores but one worth a visit.

 

12 Things to do in Grenada December 31, 2018

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Source of map: Lucia Eggenhoffer Photography

 

Well, to be fair, the list is about what to do more on the south and around St George, Grenada’s capital. This small Caribbean country of just over 100 000 people is a gem. This spice island located to the South East of the Caribbean Sea was home for 6 days and I loved it. The runway is a few metres from the sea to a point where it felt like the A321 undercarriage was going to touch the water before hitting the runway. I flew in from Johannesburg so it took about 20 hours flying time to get there. A 15-hour flight on SA Airways to New York and then another 5 hours on JetBlue Airways to Maurice Bishop International Airport, Grenada. I visited Gorata (Dr Afagbegee to be) aka Nana who was studying medicine at the St George’s University where I spent 6 beautiful days – what a host! Thanks Nana – I miss that smile.

1. Eat a roti with a Ting

Of course the first thing on the agenda had to involve food J. I know the picture looks scary but the taste was incredible. I had a fish roti and Nana had a chicken one. The roti is available at a couple of places around Grenada but the one from Sugar Shack is amaze balls y’all. Ting was my drink of choice in Grenada. Yes me, a fizzy drink. It almost tastes like Schweppes and Fresca for the South African Community’s appreciation.

 

2. Lounge on Grand Anse beach

This is undoubtedly the best beach in Grenada. Others believe ??? is the better beach but I personally loved Grand Anse. It is also the most popular given its white and long sandy beach with clear waters. There are lovely eateries right on the sea shore in case you don’t feel like bringing any snacks. You absolutely have to try out a place called Umbrella’s. Their Buffalo Wings are to die for! Ok, food – again. J.  The beach has a sudden deep slope into the sea which makes playing on the shore not so cute.

 

3. Snorkel and see underwater sculptures

As a first timer, full review of my experience here, the Dive Grenada was excellent in both getting us ready for the trip and once there, sharing the history of the sculptures with us. The excursion costs around $50 per person. Well worth a visit. You cannot come to Grenada and leave this out of your itinerary.

 

4. Visit the Concorde waterfall

The drive to the waterfall, whoa! Not for the fain hearted. The roads are narrow, steep and that’s not all. There are no road guardrails! I looked outside into the no bottom amazon looking gorge below and decided that was no longer a good idea so for the remainder of the trip I looked in front of me. Pretty scary ride in some parts but lovely time at the Waterfall. There are some local crafts on sale too.

 

5. Take glorious sunset pics at Morne Rouge Beach

Also known as BBC Beach, Nana and I had the most fun playing on this beach. It is shallow until very far into the sea so very child friendly waters or for some of us who aren’t very confident simmers. It is not a very pretty beach by Caribbean standards, since the water is not as clear and crystal blue as Grand Anse but the beachside café, magical sunsets and shallow waters make it a lovely little chill spot. Also, because it is not so popular it doesn’t get very crowded.

 

 

6. Make chocolate, eat chocolate

My life’s greatest weaknesses: Coffee, Chocolate, Cake and slap chips/fries – in any particular order. If only my diet consisted of those 4 items I would be happy. But what with bikini body quests! ***Big sigh!*** A visit to this cute little place was sweet. You see the process of how chocolate is made and get the chance to taste and buy the chocolate. The building has a small coffee shop and beautiful ruins which are a photographers’ paradise. I loved the ginger infused chocolate the most.

 

7. Stop at Charlie’s roadside bar

The owner of this bar is such a creatively humble soul. You have to stop by to explore his artistry and have a drink while at it. Why not?

 

8. Nutmeg factory

Nutmeg is known as Grenada Gold with the country supplying about 40% of the world’s annual crop. We swung by the factory to see how the nutmeg is grown and processed for various uses.

 

9. Have a coconut 

I had it twice just to be sure but I didn’t like it much. I’m now told I should have tried it chilled, but oh well, next time. I didn’t like the coconut water as much but I liked  the coconut fruit. These are easily found on the streets for under a dollar so something definitely worth a try.

 

10. Visit St George’s University

I honestly have no idea how students study in this University. The views from here had me gazed into the distance for days on end! I mean I could literally live here, from today. It is quite a lovely place with stairs to get around, a LOT of stairs to keep the Doctors to be fit and did I mention the views?

 

11. Try out local restaurants

The area has a lot of restaurants to try out in this part of town, so go right ahead and pick one. Our fave spot apart from Sugar Shack was The Greek Kitchen which is right by the University main entrance gate. Their Lamb salad – wow!

 

12. Exercise on True Blue Bay

Such a serene place for prayer and some stretching. We stopped here for half of our run each morning just to take the silence in. This place is so beautifully peaceful.

 

I have so many other things I wanted to do while there, but that would have to wait for my next soon and yes, this is a country I would love to visit again.

 

My first snorkeling experience December 9, 2018

Ok, suffices to say black people and water are generally not friends. By water I mean large bodies of water like swimming pools, the sea, lakes etc… I don’t know whether it’s because we grew up in areas where there were no swimming pools, or whether it was because we historically didn’t have showers and thus didn’t get used to having water on our faces, or that we didn’t have swimming pools at our schools, or maybe a combination of all these. For a lot of us, playing on the beach or sitting poolside with only the feet getting a bit of the water splash is enough. For me, Swimming = heart attack scares, snorkeling = death and diving = burial. I mean the fear I had (have) of water was beyond real. You see when I was 13 I went to Fountains Circle, a resort of some sort with a relative, my mom’s cousin who’s stokvel had a family day closing party. I was happily sitting on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water. My cousin, Lebo (mom’s cousin’s daughter) who was attending a Model C school was swimming merrily with others having a great time. They kept lobbying me to go in and I told them I couldn’t because I didn’t know how to swim. They laughed and kept teasing me. From nowhere I felt my foot being pulled into the pool and under I went. I felt little feet step on my chest as I frantically tried to get up. An adult eventually noticed something amiss and I was pulled out of the pool, half dead (ok ok maybe not half dead but that’s how it felt.) I coughed, vomited and cried all in one setting. That was the last time I would dare sit anywhere near any body of water. So as I grew older and started flying, flying over water during the day was a nightmare. So that Fountains experience was my introduction to swimming and so when I decided to conquer my fears at age 24 (failed attempt – thanks Mav for trying my friend), and again at 30 (almost there) I never in a million years thought I would beat my fear enough to snorkel in the Carribean Sea. So this is a story of my triumph over failure and courage over fear.

Seeing underwater sculptures in Grenada was one of the things on my to do list when I was finalising my to-do list for this trip. It was a beautiful sunny day on 5 September 2018 when we explored the crystal clear waters of Grand Anse Beach. Gorata came for moral support as she had done it before. Dive Grenada which I unreservedly highly recommend was the tour company that took us on this unforgettable experience. I explained to the instructor (Brittney) that I was a newbie at swimming and that I was very nervous. She took time to calm my nerves, gave us a safety briefing, suited us up and off we went. A fast 10 minute boat ride and we had arrived.

It took me about 15 minutes get the courage to get off the boat. I admit I needed a lot of pep talk to go ahead with it from my courage squad, Gorata, Brittney and Kirhon the boat captain. Kirhon suggested that I sit on the staircase of the boat and drop my legs into the sea which I did after some serious self-talk. He then suggested I look into the water so that I see what’s underneath while I sat on the staircase. I dipped a little of my face into the water for about 2-3 seconds and I was mesmerised!!! All I could say over and over and over was ‘Wow!’ There’s a whole world under the sea y’all. Oh my word! How am I only discovering this at age 36? It’s one thing to see under the sea on National Geographic and a completely life changing experience seeing it yourself. What a moment in time. I literally needed a minute (ok, make that 5 minutes) of silence when I was at a particular statue and on seeing that one, I froze and the instructor let me have my 5 minutes of solitude as I floated above the sculptures and took in what lay beneath. I will do a blog on the history of the sculptures soon. Although I can say a whole lot, they say a picture says a thousand words and here they are and a video for good measure. 🤪