I had done some reading about Paje, a little village on the East side of the island, but really had no concept of just how small this village was until we arrived. It was so small, we completely missed it and ended up getting off the bus as soon as we realized we had passed our stop! We walked back along the beach for a mile or so to get back to our hotel. We ran into a little herd of cows on the beach – that’s a first! It was so weird to see cows on the beach. They were so calm and just kept chewing their food as we walked by.
As soon as we got to our hotel, Paje Hotel, we made a new friend, Cornelius. He was an older man from the Netherlands. We joined him for dinner at a little restaurant in town. It was a little later in the evening, so we were the only people in the restaurant. When we went to order, the first two menu items that each Rob and I chose were out; not shocking. We both settled on plates of pasta. There is something about traveling that makes us huuuunnnngry, so at that point we were starving! When the food came we gobbled it up like it might run off our plates!
We only saw one cockroach in our room that night – that was a win! There was a mosquito net around our bed. Everywhere we Paje there were a mosquito net around our bed. Apparently mosquitos are pretty bad in Zanzibar in the nighttime.
Saturday afternoon Rob and I decided to go exploring in between rainstorms. We walked out to the beach and discovered that it was low tide. Zanzibar does not mess around with low tide! We could barely see the ocean waves from the shore. They were probably a mile or so out. We left our shoes on the shore and set out in pursuit of the ocean.
As we waded through the warm tide pools, we discovered fields of sea urchins, star fish, and even a few colorful fish! After an hour or so, dark gray clouds filled the sky and a storm began rolling in. Much to Rob’s disappointment, we had to turn back. We had quite a ways to go. We began trudging back through the tide pools. The raindrops created ripples on top of the pools, making it even more difficult to avoid the urchins, shells, rocks, and other spiky things below!
After repeated scrapes and cuts to my feet, I let out a defeated yell. A man nearby must have heard my frustrated little outbreak and came to our rescue. He was wearing a neon yellow windbreaker hoodie, long pants, sandals, and a ball cap. He was carrying a bag on his right arm, and a stick with a spear on the end in his left hand. He humbly told us that he was a spear fisherman (this guy was straight out of a movie!). He was the real deal! He reached into his bag and pulled out three live octopus – NO WAY??! YES WAY!! It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen!
He gave me his spear to use as a walking stick. He guided us back to the shore, magically leading us on a path free of urchins and other prickly things! He was a pro! He was soft spoken and so kind. He was from Zanzibar, had a wife and 3 children, and it was just another normal day for him. But for us, it was an extraordinary day that we will never forget. He was a life saving tender mercy for us.
Late in the afternoon we searched all over town to find a place to have dinner. We finally settled on one of the few restaurants that was actually open for business and it happened to be right along the beach. Trust me, not as romantic as it sounds; not even close! The food was overpriced and there were cats and flies trying to get all over my food, which I hate, so the whole experience was NOT my favorite!
That night we walked around the village in the evening to find something we could fix for breakfast Sunday morning, Easter Sunday. We found a little stand where we purchased 4 eggs and 2 suckers for 2,000 Tanzanian Shillings, which is roughly under $1 USD. As we walked back to our hotel we saw groups of boys/men huddled around small television sets at stands all along the road; everyone out enjoying their Saturday night. I never felt unsafe as we moved about the village, even late in the night.
Sunday morning we packed up and found a dala dala on the way out of town. The culture of the people who live on Zanzibar is one of kindness and honesty. Paje was no exception. I loved the quiet beaches, watching the locals play soccer, buying eggs from the village, exploring the tide pools during low tide, getting caught in a rainstorm with a professional octopus hunter nearby, and seeing how the people really live. Paje was different than I had expected, but was beautiful and peaceful in unexpected ways.