The Guard Made The Day

Linda Lou Burton posting from Zanzibar Serena Hotel, Stone Town, Zanzibar, TanzaniaOur plane was not due to leave the airport till 10:30 PM today. It was the only flight this entire week headed from Zanzibar to where we wanted to go. 10:30 PM Tuesday, a flight to Zurich, then Iceland. One flight per week. Otherwise we’d have to fly, or ferry, to the airport on the mainland, Dar es Salaam, 30 miles away; then fly from there. The good thing was – the late flight gave us another full day to enjoy Zanzibar! Our hotel desk was agreeable, no extra charge. Our transport was arranged with Ali from the day before – he’d get us to the airport in plenty of time and help us through the Tanzanian hoops. So why the heck did Rick have his suitcase zipped and ready to go at 9 AM? There he sat, long warm pants on, long sleeves, decked out for cooler weather. Arms folded, hat on, sitting in a straight-back chair! “Do you want to go on another Tour today?” I asked. “We have plenty of time.” There were two more Tours that we’d talked about; one to Prison Island, which would give us a cruise on the Indian Ocean for about 30 minutes and the chance to visit with giant tortoises that live there. The Jozani Forest tour was another; it would give us a chance to spot the red colobus monkey, a species that only lives on Zanzibar. But we agreed; our animal count to date was high enough for one trip. We thought about a few restaurants – one in particular, the fancy Tea House where you sat on cushions on the floor, gazing across the rooftops to the sea; the other a hangout bar, named for Freddie Mercury, right on the beach.  “Or we can just sit here on our beautiful porch and look at the Indian Ocean,” I said. And then I remembered – I have not yet touched the Indian Ocean – one of my main reasons for being here!

Here’s where our Serena Hotel sits; this point jutting out into the Ocean; facing west, looking towards the mainland. Its history is marvelous; it’s really two historic buildings joined together – an 18th Century Chinese doctor’s home and a 19th Century office building. They were careful, when turning the spaces into a hotel, to preserve the original architecture and the decorative finishes; or to restore them if necessary. It is “Zanzibar Style” – you expect to come face to face with a Sultan any moment. Arabic and Swahili designs, tiles, wood finishes, cool whites and blues. Gardens. One other thing Zanzibar Style means is “close together.” Buildings touch buildings, all around the oceanfront. Our Serena is midway, see the turquoise pool our room overlooks? Below is another view of the hotel, our room is ground floor, right in front of the boat’s sail. The pool is left of the sail, see the umbrellas?

A Security Guard paced the sidewalk between our porch and the ocean, back and forth, day and night. We’d become nodding acquaintances with our daytime guard; he was a friendly fellow; making sure nobody on the BEACH climbed into our secure hotel space. There was a high wall (for high tide) and a wooden fence above that. Which also kept hotel guests from accessing the beach, directly. I caught his attention, stepped out to ask: “How can I get to the beach?” He told me I’d need to go to Forodhani Park. I pointed to the rickety wooden steps by our pool, behind a locked gate. “Would you unlock the gate and allow me to walk down, just for a minute?” I went into my long story – my plan for dipping my foot into ALL FIVE oceans; I had the first four, this was Number Five. And we were leaving TODAY. I put on my sweetest plaintive smile. He smiled back. “It’s too dangerous,” he said. “Just look.” We peered over the gate together. There was no rail (a bad sign for me, the rail-grabber.) The tide was about halfway out (or in), jagged rocks lay against the base of the wall, water fiercely lapping against stone. “I simply cannot allow you on these steps,” the guard said. “It’s treacherous.” Well in fact, it was, for me, for sure. “I just need the WATER,” I said. “I don’t need to walk ON the beach. So, would you walk down a few steps, get some Indian Ocean water on your hands, and then just SPRINKLE it on my feet?” This set off so much laughter between the guard and Rick; so many grins exchanged over an old lady’s head, that, next thing you know, he unlocked that gate and headed down those treacherous steps.

He was WADING in the waves; his shoes, his PANTS were getting soaked. “Just a teeny bit of water is OK!” I shouted down. “Be careful!” And then, he spotted a plastic bottle floating, banging against the rocks. This (precious, sweetheart) guard grabbed it, rinsed it out, and hopped back up the steps with an entire BOTTLE of Indian Ocean water! He poured it on my left foot! He poured it on my right foot! He laughed! Rick laughed! I squealed like a kid! Sometimes the most unexpected thing can lead to a tick mark on a bucket list. Ocean #5 is now on my feet! Just 78 years after Ocean #1.

The guard made my day. Of course I tipped him generously!

Zanzibar Serena Hotel

Fisherman’s Tours

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