Red Earth Village Bicycle Tour
Beaches, sun, and sand are great, but we wanted to go a bit deeper than the scenes islanders like us are used to every day. We wanted to know how Zanzibari people live, away from the tourist crowds. And we found just the tour for us, the red earth bicycle tour, which took us a few kilometers south of Nungwi, to the quiet village of Kigunda. Here, fish net weavers and fishermen go about their daily life in the traditional way. Here, children still come running shouting 'wazungu' and gathering all their friends, when white people approach.
The tour company sent a taxi, which picked us up from our hotel, and dropped us off at their 'offices', a mud hut just outside the tourist zone in Nungwi. From there we left off pedaling on fairly flat road for about seven kilometers to the south of Nungwi, to the village of Kigunda. The red earth village tour is named after the particularly red soil on which the village is built.
Our guide for the day was Kombo, a young man from Nungwi Village. Kombo, speaks fluent English, and is also learning Italian, even though he left school early in order to support his family. With tourism being the most lucrative business in Zanzibar, he started off by ‘following’ tourists on the beach to try and sell things, thus learning and practicing English.
An easy paddle on a tarmacked road which leads from Nungwi to Stone Town, we arrived at Kigunda and left our bicycles under the shade of a tree, to dive right into the village life. Kigunda is not a touristic place and whereas Nungwi is teeming with tourists, children in the streets of this village still seem to appear out of nowhere, as soon as the word goes out that there are Wazungu (white people) in the village.
The next stop was at the communal well. It was a very deep well, and judging by the length of time it took us to bring up one jerrycan of water, it is definitely not an easy feat to bring up enough water to wash the clothes and take a bath. Surrounding the well were women dressed up in colourful robes who were in good humour and with great dedication washing their clothes.
We then visited a traditional home, or rather a mud hut where a newly-wed couple lived. Then, after taking shelter from the rain under a tree, we headed off pedaling back to Nungwi. Once back in Nungwi, we had a fruit break and a stop at the local fish market, where we watched the auctioning of fish which had just been hauled up from the sea.
Our first stop was at a tent where men were weaving fishing nets with great artistry. We sat near them, in a half attempt to try our hand out at weaving the best fishing net that was ever woven. But alas, our efforts failed as we admired the artistry of these people. They were using their hands and feet, sitting down on the floor, surrounded by colleagues, sharing a joke or two and looking at these three pale humans who definitely will not make a career out of making fishing nets.
Definitely, the most idyllic stop was down at the reef where men were working on their fishing boats. In this village life revolves around the sea. Fishermen were using the time when their boat was moored on the mud, to maintain their boats and nets, until the high tide comes in, and enables them to go out for a night at sea. In the mean time, children armed with spears and sacks were taking the opportunity which low tide gives them, to hunt for octopus. There were children as far out as the eye could see.
Kombo accompanied us to our hotel, and some friends of his came to pick up our three bicycles and cycle back to the tour operator’s office. This was a truly authentic experience. If you opt for this tour, do not expect latest mountain bikes, though the quality of the bicycles was good enough. The company office is in a mud hut in one of Nungwi’s dust roads. This is what makes the experience authentic and with Kombo’s help we were able to get insights into how Zanzibari society, away from the main tourism routes, works and lives.