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Tuesday 17th October 2006

Today I left Zanzibar and the Zanzi-bar (I'm not going to help you with that any more - if you haven't got it yet then please ask a friend), but luckily the holiday is not yet over. We're off on safari tomorrow and excitement is building. I am hoping to get eaten by something bigger than an ant for once.
The Zanzibar airport is very small and slightly confusing. We checked in and our bags were taken, but then as we went towards the gate we were reunited with our bags and I was asked to open mine. A security woman looked through my dirty clothes in quite a peremptory fashion and I think the smell of my three day old gym kit persuaded her not to examine things too closely. That's another tip for my friends in Al Quaida. Stinky clothes= inefficient search. My friend was not asked to open her bag. Instead she was just asked repeatedly what was in the suitcase. She kept saying it was just shoes, clothes and books and they kept on asking her what else was in there. They didn't seem to want to bother to look for themselves, but maybe the stench from my case had put them off ever opening another one. Or maybe Al Quaida men usually crack under this repetition and admit they have a bomb.
Another man asked me if I wanted my suitcase wrapped in plastic. Again possibly this was another reaction to my gym kit. But he then said, "You have no lock on your case, so you should wrap it up. Five dollars!" I couldn't see why this would be so important. It was only a short flight and my suitcase has been all over the world without bursting open, and I have been wrapped up in plastic and know the indignity so I didn't see the point of parting with cash.
Then two of the men accompanied us over to a window where we had to pay airport tax. "You pay this lady 10,000 shillings," one of them told me and then he whispered, "And then you give me 10,000 shillings." He may then have explained what his 10,000 was for, but I couldn't really hear him as he was talking too quietly. It's only about £4 by the way, the same amount Mr Butterfly got for climbing a tree and giving us coconuts, but I don't think this is what this man was offering. There was no tree around and he seemed to be acting in a very underhand way, which would be anathema to the Butterfly.
I paid the woman at the desk and she gave me some dubious looking receipts and then the man again asked for his 10,000. I suspected that what he was offering in return for this money was insurance. That is he was saying if you give me four pounds i will make sure your bag or some of its contents doesn't mysteriously vanish in the next fifteen minutes. Suddenly the man's offer to wrap my suitcase in plastic made sense. The plastic was not designed to stop things falling out, but to stop unscrupulous people getting in. Not that it really mattered. Unscrupulous people would find their own way to make money. I gave him the money, but got no ticket or guarantee of any kind from him. I only hope that by writing about this I don't get him into any kind of trouble!
It was another quick hop of a flight, though we were a little troubled by turbulence which in this small plane started to make me a little bit nervous and start to consider the physics of how a big lump of metal manages to stay in the sky and doesn't plummet to the ground in a big explosion. My friend said I had tears in my eyes, but it was only because the mirth of the Zanzi-bar pun had just hit me again. They were tears of laughter, not fear.
We got to the ground unexploded and went to pick up our luggage. The conveyor belt was packed with all kinds of objects, boxes, cartons of food, pink buckets with unknown contents. Our suitcases arrived shortly. Aside from a little damage to the handle of my travelling companion's suitcase all seemed in order. 10,000 shillings well spent. But I would have been happier if they'd given me a coconut to drink and eat at the end.
I suspect I will be away from the internet for the next few days. I will update you shortly on all the fun of the safari, providing I remain uneaten or ungouged.

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