Matato ride, anyone?

Vanilla vine

The Indian Ocean

SPICE TOUR xxxxxxxI only had one full day free for a spice tour and I wasn't going to miss it. But, I almost did anyway. I never dreamed the mode of transport would be similar to a Liberian money bus or a Filipino jeepney. Seventeen tourists squeezed into the back of the enclosed truck. Three times before we even left town, I hit my head hard on the top. I looked at one of the witnesses and said, "I'm not going to enjoy this trip." Just like in Liberia when I was too tall to ride in the back, the driver's assistant suggested I moved to the front cabin. I learned a long time ago never to refuse that offer. The tour was saved.

I expected to visit large spice plantations in rural Zanzibar. It wasn't quite like that. We drove to rural areas that reminded me of Bali. But, the spices we saw growing were on small plots of land owned by small farmers. When Zanzibar gained its independence, Arabs owned large sections of the island. That land was redistributed to give the poor some farming plots.

Several of the spices and plants were things I'd seen in places from Borneo to Liberia like pepper, cocoa, cassava, pineapple, lemon grass, and bananas. Fortunately, there were new additions like vanilla (a vine creeper), cardamom (a seedpod growing at the base of a palm-like plant), nutmeg (a beautiful, though dangerously narcotic, bean), pomegranate, and cinnamon. What spice was Zanzibar most famous for? Cloves. We saw none growing as it was out of season.

Hey, but who's complaining? I also saw the Indian Ocean for the first time.

Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.