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The magical motorcycle tour Part 2
Third day: Pongwe
I wake up wondering what kind of place I will be staying at tonight. After leaving Kizmkazi, I must head to Pongwe, where I am going to stay in a hotel that is still under construction. I don’t know what to expect, but that’s fine with me. For an adventure seeker, the unknown is home.
About to set off on the road north
It starts raining. I can feel each cold drop of rain water fall on my clothes and evaporate with the wind. I slow down so that I can enjoy the feeling. The road to Pongwe is smooth, ramrod straight and runs parallel to the Indian Ocean.
Having already done at least 100km, the bike needed fuel. At every village I pass I see yellow jerry cans on the side of the road. Locals buy petrol and sell it for a profit wherever there are no gas stations or when the petrol on the island runs out. The petrol is often cut with kerosene or even water to get a higher profit. I am desperate though. Today, it’s the roadside petrol or nothing.
As I pull up to a makeshift petrol stall the most amazing thing happens. Two Zanzibari guys ask me if I want fuel. I say yes. One asks me where I am from while the other gets busy measuring my petrol. As soon as I mention I am from India, he starts speaking to me in perfect Hindi!
“Mera dost! Maine India me teen saal guzara kiya. Maine teen saal padhayi kiya Mumbai me,” which means he lived in Mumbai for three years and he had gone there to study. What randomness! I am loving Zanzibar!
I head off with a huge smile on my face and some trepidation about the fuel I’ve just put into the bike. But she is riding smoothly. A short haul on the smooth tar and I am at the turning for Shooting Star Lodge in Kiwengwa, a place suggested by my editor, which sits snugly right next to the Kempinski luxury resort.
I am welcomed by the manager and sit in the restaurant for a while, looking at the ocean. The tide is out; all the boats and dhows are sitting on the sand, baking in the sun. My mind is full of wayward thoughts. I wonder if the boats have thoughts too. Yes, I know they are non-living things but, just like motorbikes, they each have a personality.
Shooting Star Lodge, Kiwengwa
Close-up of the swimming pool
After an hour of taking photographs and rationing my pineapple juice as if I was in the desert to make it last longer, I get back onto the Z68. At Pongwe, I take the turn for Seasons, the soon-to-open hotel where I am to stay. I stop in front of a half built building. Surely that couldn’t be where I am staying?
My room at Seasons, Pongwe
Well, it is. I am led up to my room on the first floor. The not-yet-furnished room is basic, but the high ceiling and huge windows with stunning views of the ocean mean space and light a plenty. There is just a bed with a mattress but this is the most beautiful place I have ever stayed.
My view of Pongwe beach
The balcony of the room overlooks Pongwe beach and as the tide is in, the sound of the waves breaking on the sand and rocks is overwhelming. It is very relaxing, the sound of water and the foam.
Seabird on the beach at Pongwe
Later that night I sit at the balcony looking out towards the ocean on which the moon is reflected. The wind is like a gale. I feel as if I am among the waves, it is so beautiful.
Fourth day: Matemwe
I wake early, it’s still dark. I turn in my bed and look outside through my barely open eyes. The thunder of the waves has gone. There is no wind, just the flapping of the ceiling fan. I rub my eyes like a two-year-old trying to go back inside a dream.
I open my eyes again and I see a faint red glow at the horizon, peeping through the clouds, almost unnoticeable. I spring up, look at the watch, it’s almost dawn. I scramble for my camera and tripod and line up my lenses. The sun rises. From among the clouds the god of fire showers rays of golden light onto the ocean in the far distance.
Sunrise over the ocean
I sit in one spot on the floor with the camera in my hand. I photograph every new ray that the sun lays on the ocean surface, turning it to molten gold.
The ride to Matemwe via Kiwengwa is unhurried and relaxed. A couple of times I sit on the side of the road just looking at the bike and thinking about the surroundings.
The familiarity that people here share with each other is great. Sometimes when I have been lost or just needed information, people have gone out of their way to help. And I feel like I know every stranger here within five minutes of conversation.
Panorama of the beach at Matemwe
In Matemwe, my destination is Nyota Beach Bungalows. I reach the hotel at 10 in the morning and am served bungo juice by the guys at the beachside bar. They are highly amused with my facial reactions to the juice, which is sour, really tangy. It has a twang comparable only to the taste of raw tamarind in the early stages of ripeness. I like that taste.
Nyota Beach Bungalows
I spend the day being lazy and just lounge around the place waiting for the tide to come in and get rid of the seaweed which is spread out like a carpet across the beach. The sun is shining bright and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I decide to spend the afternoon “in”. Relaxing and chilling out, that’s what Zanzibar is best for.
The beach at Matemwe
Fishermen at Matemwe beach
Seaweed hanging out to dry
I fall asleep and wake up a little before 5pm. Walking out to the beach I realised the sand here feels slightly different to the touch – this soft, coral sand seems to tickle my feet. The hotel, which is sweet and rustic with lots of natural touches, is full of French tourists and their children, playing noisily. I on the other hand am on one of my introspection trips.
Ngalawa at sunset
The sunset soon gives way to moonlight and stars and out came my tripod. Long exposures can really take forever.
Ngalawa and stars, Matemwe beach