Elizabeth writes:

We said our goodbyes to the family and caught a series of buses and taxis into Mbeya in Tanzania.  After two years in Africa, we realise that we don’t bat an eyelid when our already-full vehicle stops to pick up more passengers with their luggage – live and otherwise – before carrying on.  Keeping an eye on our rucksacks as they were shifted around was quite a challenge.

We had chosen Mbeya as a stop-off as it is on the Zambia-Dar es Salaam railway and I had a desire to experience a long African train journey.  We then discovered that one of Caroline’s university friends, Deborah, lives there and is running a wonderful charity supporting orphans and other vulnerable children (http://www.theolivebranchforchildren.org/).  Deborah was actually away fundraising when we called, but Lety, her assistant looked after us and showed us some of the charity’s work.  Another home from home.

Off to the station to wait for the train.  There are only two trains a week but they are always late and very unreliable – no worries – we were not in a hurry.  We paid extra to have our own compartment and settled down for our 24-hour journey.

I love trains – I can just sit and look out of the window for ever – just as well, the rate we were moving!  We were promised wild-life viewings as the railway passes through a large national park.  We saw a wildebeest, a few impala and a small group of elephants in the distance.  A bit disappointing, but the journey was fun.  Every time we stopped, local people crowded round selling food through the windows.

We arrived at Dar and found somewhere to stay.  It’s not a very interesting place, and most visitors  pass through en route to Zanzibar.  Exactly as we did.

We decided that we were going to chill out in Zanzibar and treat ourselves to a little luxury.  The ferry arrives at Stonetown, a fascinating labyrinth of old streets with traditional markets; our hotel was here.

 Zanzibar is a cultural mix of African Asian and Arab traditions and has a checkered history. It was once a slave trading centre and this memorial at the old slave market was quite poignant.

A spice tour is a must for visitors and we had fun trying to identify the spices by smelling the leaves….

…while our guide’s assistants wove hats, jewellery and other things from leaves for our adornment.

We ended our holiday at the beach and it was very relaxing as you can see.

Time to come home – we returned to Dar and took the morning flight – passing Kilimanjaro on the way.