Tanzania
Mtwara District Council

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    • Day 63

      Aborted Departure

      September 11, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

      We were excited to depart today...

      Off to immigration to watch them watch instagram while we waited on a departure stamp.

      I'm always amused that immigration officials look, puzzled, at paperwork or passports.

      Look, pal, you've seen a passport before. C'mon.

      So anyway we got stamps after half an hour and went along to buy last-minute things for the sail to Mayotte with anticipation.

      As we shopped for fruits we received word from our weather guru that there's a massive high system brewing and we should hunker down vs. depart. With great disappointment we are staying.

      Eating cashews and sipping beer with a refreshing breeze isn't such torture. A nap looms on the horizon. Sailing is so exciting.
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    • Day 61

      Mtwara Market

      September 9, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

      Pretrip meal planning is highly dependent upon what we find at the market. The market is a maze of noise, color, and sound. I love it!

      The food is beautiful here and while I suspect we are paying much more than the locals would, it feels very affordable.

      The paucity of preserved/tinned/jarred things means we will be eating a diet that declines rapidly in variety/interest. I'm usually proud of my cooking but haven't found my groove yet with current conditions.

      Maybe tomorrow.
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    • Day 64

      Mikindani Meander

      September 12, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

      Two boats became three when Moogli arrived.

      For me the best part might be getting reunited with the flip-flop I left on their dingy last week. Ok ok, seeing friends is best... but the flip-flop is also much welcome!

      We still await the weather so we opted to stroll through town a little in the late afternoon.

      Again I am impressed by how friendly and happy everyone seems. It's wonderful.

      Strolling through town with six adults and a child garnered us a fair deal of attention. Especially the children were excited to say hello or just follow along for a little while.

      After enjoying some monkey hijinks, we had a beverage at the Old Boma hotel - a boutique hotel built in the old governor's mansion. They have a training program to help the local youth develop marketable tourism-industry skills and improve their English. Over 95% of the participants carry on with hotel jobs throughout Tanzania and some get the opportunity to work abroad in the UK for three months.

      It's a good way to help people access some economic mobility in a town where jobs aren't plentiful. Being helped by trainees has its amusing moments in that they're very much learning about our expectations. They seem earnest and are working hard. The program seems like a win, to me.

      In talking with Emmanuel, who runs the program (and also the Yacht Club) I was pleased to hear that the local focus is on making historic buildings into a part of the community instead of merely touristic monuments. It sounds more sustainable than some of the places I've seen.

      We ate a delicious dinner at 10 Degrees South (local spot owned by the Eco2Diving folks) then strolled home by headlamp along the beach, stopping to play with some hermit crabs along the way. Life feels good.
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    • Day 60

      Smiles for Miles

      September 8, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 84 °F

      I took a walk through Mikindani and am still smiling at all the enthusiastic hellos, Jambos, Mambos, How are yous, and Good Mornings I've received (it is nearly sunset).

      People here are friendly and seem delighted with my 3 words of Swahili.

      Walking through town I saw goats, chickens, and cows along with happy children kicking balls made of rags and twine. A large group of women were singing and drumming. Men were laughing together, sometimes fixing bikes or motos, sometimes just sprawled across some plastic chairs, talking. I spent a few minutes chatting with a welder whose work wasn't bad. Poor guy needs an angle grinder.

      People look healthy and happy, even if they also look economically disadvantaged. Maybe there's a lesson here?

      My tour included buying a pen for about 13¢ and 2 slices of delicious watermelon for the same price. I suspect I overpaid for the melon but it's difficult to feel much regret for that. I had to look around a bit to find ways to leave some money in the local economy. I'm sipping a beverage by the pool at town's most luxurious hotel (only hotel?) And suppose that some of that cash will filter through as well... but I would rather buy a few snacks or such if possible.

      At the tiny but cute museum they offer massage. Maybe tomorrow I'll spend $25 for an hour of therapy. I'm pretty relaxed already but it's always nice to enjoy some pampering.

      We have a few days of prep here and I'm glad to enjoy being in Africa, not just sailing down the stunning coast.
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    • Day 62

      Sunday Planning

      September 10, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

      The "yacht club" is starting to feel like home. I had an amazing chicken curry for lunch, with ugali. The owner took pains to teach me how to eat it correctly - using only my right hand. I love eating with my fingers and at the club the waitress comes around with soap, warm water, and a basin so that we can clean up before/after food. A luxury I enjoy.

      In the evening we (Olivier, Kimmi, Phil, and I) spent some time trying to predict the weather this week.... debating a Monday departure vs waiting until Friday.

      There's a chance that if we leave now we will hit some strong southerly* winds... and combined with the strong south* current, that could mean some big/rough seas.

      Probably not dangerous, but almost certainly very uncomfortable. And that's all a few days away so anything could change while we have very limited communications/data.

      Exciting.

      Despite having at least three weather data/forecasting services available... it still comes down to an element of faith and/or accepting risk.

      In the meantime, I enjoyed watching kids frolic in the warm sunset. Life is presently quite pleasant.

      *Aside: a south wind blows FROM the south, a South Current flows TO the south, and this vexes me.
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    • Day 59

      Midnight Mikindani

      September 7, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 75 °F

      The day proved long.

      The wind was weak and the currents obstinantly against us.

      It's a great reminder: nature is indifferent to the plans of puny mortals.

      So... may as well relax and enjoy the view. I did that. A lot. The sea was tranquil and smooth for the most part, a picture of beauty.
      At 3 knots with luffing sails, we had a lot of time to appreciate it as we motored south.

      As the day turned to night for the second time the wind had freshened and we were ripping along at 6+ knots. The blinding red disk of sun dropped into clouds and reminded me of a graphic print, so sharp and vivid.

      The night proved some of the best sailing we had all day.

      The harbor at Mtwara is deceptively large with a narrow barely-marked channel. Driving in felt like a video game as I stared at the nav screen and trusted Olivier to call out tiny fisherman canoes that my light-blinded eyes could not see. The 2 knot putter was torture to me. I just wanted it to *end*. My brain, exhausted and frustrated flipped through lists of grievances from the past; digging up memories to match the bad vibes I felt. To the people whose names I cursed... Sorry about that. Funny how my brain does that, finds reasons for the feelings vs. being present to what was needlessly upsetting me. Funny-not-funny.

      As midnight drew nigh, we finally dropped anchor. We hadn't planned a 33hr transit but I'm pleased with how well it went. Grabbing 1hr catnaps with a thrumming diesel and the (usually) gentle sway of the sea was surprisingly restorative, but I'm tired. I've never sailed at night before and this was a challenging introduction to it. Full send.
      The cathartic channel thinking left me more exhausted, still but... Maybe I let go of some things? One can hope.

      We celebrated a safe arrival with a very short pour of very warm scotch and fell into a 6hr coma... I woke to glance at the sunrise but couldn't muster the will to leave bed until Olivier started coffee.... Ahhhh.... Magic bean juice from Zanzibar (thanks Julie!!). Add some fruit and cookies, happy time.

      Now Olivier (France) and I (California) are seated happily in the Mtwara "Yacht Club" chatting with Diego (Argentina) and Anna (France) of The Tortuga. We throw spanish, english, and french around.... Switching fluidly and repeating phrases lost. They know a few phrases of Swahili and that bubbles up sometimes too.

      I have the sound of a gentle sea lapping onto the sand, a tv blabbering, birdsong, and cars. There are mangroves and baobob trees surrounding a tranquil bay, and a gentle seabreeze refeshes us as we sit in 78° (26°) shade. I took a swim then a shower, washed my hair. Simple joy.

      I'm grateful to have stumbled into this. I don't know exactly how I did but it is touching a part of my soul and I am happy.
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    • Day 64

      Bad Weather Makes Pretty Views

      September 12, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 75 °F

      We are waiting.

      There are storms to the South and East and we've opted to see them dissipate a bit before heading a few hundred miles off shore.

      I like to live adventurously, but not dangerously, mostly.

      Maybe my wayward flipflop will catch up with us on the Moogli if we pause here long enough. That would be nice.
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    • Day 67

      Presidential Visit

      September 15, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 82 °F

      On the way to buy parts, we were told to pull over off of the road, as was everyone else.

      After ten minutes of cooling our heels, a parade of envy-inspiring late-model Land Cruisers blasted past at speeds wildly inappropriate to the setting. There must have been 35-40 vehicles. I guess everyone wants to feel important and takes their own car/entourage.

      I'm told it is the President, on her way to give a speech at the local hospital - a new and oddly Hampton Inn looking place in Mindikani.

      As I was parts-shopping her address was on the TV. People seemed mildly engaged.

      It was interesting to see that politicians' self-importance transcends international borders.
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    • Day 66

      Turtle Project

      September 14, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

      Conserving marine resources is important to me so instead of another day of frivolously blowing bubbles and oggling corals I opted to invest some time and energy into working with a local turtle conservation program.

      Eco2Diving sponsors a portion of a local seaweed farming operation. The core belief is that by offering a sustainable, eco friendly, reliable alternative source of income to the local community in exchange for a promise to stop harvesting turtles and eggs, there should be a win-win for all parties.

      I spent the day waist deep in crystalline waters helping (to the best of my limited ability) re-stake the lines on which two macro algaes are grown. The algaes are some type of branching phaeophyta, I think. There are a couple of color morphs and maybe more than two phenotypes. That level of detail was beyond our communication skills.

      It is a simple process: twice/month at low tide the farmers wade out into the sandy shallows to fix wave damage, harvest sufficiently large algae, and re-seed the lines with smaller specimens (made by dividing medium sized specimens). Re-tying the lines with seed algae was a great time for the (almost entirely female) group tomsit together and gossip.

      The harvested algae is then dried and sold to a local buyer to be used in a host of foods, cosmetics, and industrial products.

      The farms themselves have little negative impact- from what I can tell it would only be the foot traffic on the seagrass beds (significant) and the killing of urchins and sea stars that graze on the algae. I'd bet that the net-effect on urchin/star populations might be positive despite killing them because the farms provide disturbed habitat that urchins love, as well as an increase in food and hiding places. It would make for an interesting study.

      I'd also love to see a study of the stars' impact on the algae as I am under the impression that they're far more likely to eat the urchins than the algae and educating the farmers on that topic could improve the experience for everyone (except the urchins).

      There's no doubt in my mind that the farms do provide significant habitat for juvenile marine species: we saw many fish, eels, and crabs while working.

      The chief benefit is the reduction in turtle harvest, assuming that the community honors the pledge to focus on seaweed income vs. killing turtles. I've no way of knowing if that works but I can't see how it could make the problem any more severe and it's easy to imagine that most people are sincere/honest about not cheating the deal.

      In all, it was a fun day on/in the water doing something I've never done before and experiencing the local culture and people. I was impressed by how happily people were working and how much it seemed like a community effort.

      Perhaps my favorite part of the day was when a woman sloshed by singing. It struck me as a beautiful moment in many ways and I'm glad I was there for it.
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    • Day 61

      Fish Market

      September 9, 2023 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 82 °F

      The fishmarket was visually amazing.

      Colorfully dressed women were waiting to get buckets of tiny fish.

      It made me sad to see how many undersized fishes were caught - it's wildly unsustainable fishing.

      Even sadder, the three smallish manta rays that were being butchered.

      All of this on wooden tables in the blazing midday sun while there was a largely empty concrete building with shade and coolers. I assume there are economic factors at play which I don't understand.

      But I wasn't inspired to buy nor eat anything that we saw. If we had a larger fridge/freezer, I might have gone for a nice snapper... but 5kg of fish is too much for 2 people in a day or two.

      So we just enjoyed the sights and sounds.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Mtwara, Mtwara District Council

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