Zanzibar, Stone TownToday was the day we had longed for, we were on our way to Zanzibar. Think Zanzibar and you float away on exotic images of Arabian nights, spices, dhow boats and postcard perfect white sandy beaches. Throughout history Zanzibar was controlled by many, the Omani's, British and Portuguese each had their turn, and at one time it was once the capital of the Arabian empire in Africa. Zanzibar was an important centre for the slave trade to Arabia and the spice trade between Europe and the East, and it is this significance that helped create the legend that is, Zanzibar.It was mid morning, stinking hot and although it would be a couple of days until we hit the beach we couldn't wait. The ferry was slow, but we met a couple of interesting characters who helped us pass the time. The first was a young South African, riding his motorbike up to Ethiopa. The bike was in for repairs at the time and offered the ideal window of opportunity to get away to Zanzibar for a couple of days. The second guy who introduced himself to us soon before we docked made an immediate impression on us. He was an interesting bloke, one of those guys you cant help but like and his story was more intriguing than usual. It started as a typical backpacker conversation "where you from", "how long have you been travelling", but when we asked "where have you been?", his answer caught us a little offguard "everywhere", "everywhere" we remarked a little sarcastically, "well most places" he replied and the conversation flowed. Turns out our new friend was the victim of an unfortunate circumstance that had led him to travel the world for the past decade or more at will. Calvin, was a Canadian guy, an up and coming ice hockey star who was contracted to the big leagues and destined for stardom when he was randomly attacked outside a nightclub. He was stabbed in the stomach, arm and eye, and was lucky to survive but he lost his sight in one eye and his career ended prematurely. Since his recovery he had lived off the insurance payments, realising he could live a more comfortable life travelling the world rather than in Canada. Fair play to him I reckon, making the best of a bad situation, and like he said, he had been everywhere. Calvin had come directly from the Middle East, having spent 3 months there and was after 2 things in Zanzibar; firstly, a hotel where he wasn't woken by a mosque at ridiculous hours; and secondly, some women. Having been starved of female activity (even visually) in the Middle East he remarked "Im not used to going this long without any action…….I was a professional hockey player", he elaborated with a smile on his face "I was such a pig with women".Arriving in the Zanzibar capital of Stone Town we jumped in a cab with our new friend and made our way to a hotel we had been told about weeks before. We pulled up our front and were arranging our stuff when a booming voice called from nowhere in Stanleyesque fashion "Karen and David I presume". We turned to see Christian, the German army commander we had met on safari in the Serengeti. An extremely interesting character, and as yet the only person Ive met actually looking forward to serving in the war in Afghanistan and so we exchanged greetings and agreed to catch up for a beer. Whilst Christian waited for us, we checked into the clean but perhaps slightly overpriced Garden Lodge. In typical Christian fashion, he led us on a brief but direct tour of the Zanzibar capital Stone Town enroute to its most famous of bars, Mercury's. The music buffs amongst you would already know that Zanzibar was the birthplace of Queen front man Freddie Mercury, and this modern bar overlooking the turquoise waters of the port was now cashing in. It was a little expensive but great place for sundowners, and we spent the afternoon chatting with Christian and Calvin. Calvin was a little reserved about the German at first, his loud demeanour had us reacting the same on first meeting, but it wasn't long before they were swapping "war" stories, both having travelled the world albeit a few decades apart. Most interestingly Christian told us the story of how he was shot in Peru and incarcerated having been mistaken for a CIA spy. Karen and my stories paled in comparison to the other two, so we mostly sat and listened, sweltering in the last of the sun before it disappeared spectacularly beneath the waves. The sun down and beers going to our heads we moved on for a fantastic meal in town before farewelling Christian once more and heading back to the hotel for bed. The room was pleasant enough but the mosquitos were out of control, circling our bed nets like 747's in a holding pattern above Heathrow.We left Calvin that morning as he headed for the beaches up north, and made some loose plans to reunite for the Full Moon Party in a couple of days. In the meantime Kaz and I spent our time walking the maze of cobbled streets that was Stone Town. Stone Town had a mostly Arabic but partially Portuguese colonial feel about it, and was ideally explored on foot. Impressive buildings stood partially in ruin but with more than a hint of grandeur past, and were often guarded by fantastic huge carved wooden doors. The streets were confusing to navigate as the endless curios stores and apartments all looked the same, but eventually we managed to find our way from the labrinthe. We booked ourselves on a spice tour the following day, a must whilst in Zanzibar and settled back at Mercury's for another fantastic sunset.Later we dined at the street side stalls, filling our stomachs with delicious Zanzibar pizza, (a meat and veg type omelette wrapped in a light pitta bread) and grilled marinated octopus. We would become repeat customers of pizza and octopus man.We returned to our new dwellings, having shifted to the cheaper Florida Guesthouse up the road. On checking-in the portly Arabic owner had been extremely friendly, and when he told us the room had a small air conditioner - we were immediately sold on the place. A cool room was an ill-afforded luxury. The following morning we joined a spice tour. We were bussed out of town and explained the different plants and spices. It was extremely interesting to see how all the common spices were grown, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, vanilla the list goes on. But for a sudden onset of the squirts, the tour was thoroughly enjoyable and after a tasty curry lunch, whilst our muslim guides ran off to pray for an hour. After lunch we made our way to some mildly interesting slave caves and a lovely little beach for an afternoon dip. The beach was nice, not spectacular but we were satisfied by our first swim that we had dreamt of for so long.That evening after returning to Stone Town, we haggled and ate at the local street seafood market that had been relocated beside the old town fort. The seafood wasn't all we had hoped for, over-priced and mostly overcooked, but the haggling and market atmosphere was an interesting experience.The more time we spent at our guesthouse the more the owner confused us. He was extremely friendly one minute and banging down the door for rent the next, offering us assistance whenever he could, and then berating us for booking a spice tour without his input. He was obviously annoyed he didn't receive his couple of dollars commission but in the end it was our decision and our money and essentially none of his business, we just couldn't work the guy out. He also provided a good brekky so we congratulated him on his meal, but then he got angry because we couldn't eat it all. To confuse us even more on our departure he offered us his lonely planet on loan, along with a novel Karen had started reading and insisted he would have our room waiting when we returned to Stone Town.