Lindi cannot be omitted from this set of memories: it holds the dubious honour of having provided the worst hotel accommodation I have ever slept in, up to then in 1987, and all the years after that – and I have slept in quite a few dubious hotels during my travels. The problem with the Lindi Beach Hotel was that it was thoroughly filthy, with an en-suite bathroom of which the toilet was blocked, already for a while, with cockroaches freely roaming the room, and with a mosquito net full of holes. Unpleasant. And I only went there because my boss, a few weeks after my arrival, thought it a good idea for me to drive a Landrover that had been left there, back to Dar es Salaam. So I get acquainted with the country, the landscape, the road conditions.
I did enjoy the drive back, though. Not the road conditions, they were abysmal, but the country side, the villages along the way, the colourful people, the simple houses, thatch-cover huts. No doubt a lot cleaner than the Lindi Beach Hotel.
the dinosaur excursion
One day we returned to the south, to try to locate the finding place of dinosaur bones. An opportunity no geologist worth his salt would ever pass over! We had recruited a guide from a local village who knew the way, and indeed, after a couple of hours tracking uphill we reached the Jurassic Park cemetery: still not very obvious, but the guide claimed this was it, and indeed, after some time we had found a few dinosaur traces, mostly small bones. The biggest, to be decorating the office entrance in Dar es Salaam, was carried back downhill by our guide.
One of the regrets I have about my time in Tanzania, is that I didn’t spent enough time in Kilwa, the largest town and Arab settlement along the coast in the 13th Century. Perhaps Arab is not the right word, the first ruler was a Persian prince from Shiraz, who bought the small island of Kilwa Kisiwani in the 9th Century, and then built it into a major trading centre. His descendants ruled until 1277, when it was taken over by an Arab family, who were subsequently routed by the Portuguese in 1505.
There are extensive ruins in Kilwa Kisiwani, including a fort, a mosque and a palace, and on a nearby peninsula, Songo Mnara. I never got further than the town of Kilwa Kivinje, a little further north along the coast, also with ruins, but given their state of being probably at least in part more of German origin; although this, too, was part of the Arab Sultanate before the Portuguese intervention.
the boat builders
Not far away from Kilwa Kivinje is a stretch of beach which is the ship yard for the dows, the ubiquitous sailing ships all along the Swahili Coast. It is here that new dows are being built, or at least some of them. Of course, in between the fishing, and lots of other activities; dow building is a slow process. But great to see, especially if one of the new boats is being trusted to the water for the first time.
The south coast
The entire coast of Tanzania is spectacular, of course. Unspoilt, paradisiac beaches, palm fringes, small fishermen villages. Whether it is nice to live there is another thing, of course, overall living standards are probably quite basic, and lots of signs of poverty. For us, passing through, it all looks idyllic. And picturesque.
next are the islands offshore, most notably Zanzibar