Blowing away the Cobwebs

I said to my sister, my marriage feels like it’s got a puncture. A slow hiss accompanies us everywhere. We needle one another, are scratchy from too much time on our own on the mountain.

Shall we go away, I said.

We didn’t consider that away together meant we retained exactly the same company, just in a different location.

Flying out of Mafia, as the storm subsides …

So we flew to Mafia anyway, which hangs off the end of the Zanzibar archipelago, a teardrop of an island, the last long bead in a strand of many, it takes its name from the Arabic, morfiyeh, group of islands. 

We had wanted to dive together but I got sick.

Go, go, I urged Ant so he did and came home full of his encounter with a huge turtle who nudged past him as she grazed, ‘just like a labrador’, he laughed, ‘pushing me out of the way of food!’

And we’d wanted to swim with the whale sharks that move and feed up the west coast of the island in the warm months now, enormous gentle giants, but Zeus and Poseidon had conspired to whip up the sky and stir the sea so that the wind blew and a thousand white horses galloped in strings across the ocean and watching whale sharks was out of the question.

The Whale Sharks off Mafia, courtesy of Butiama Beach

So instead we took a drive to the northern most tip of 17 mile long Mafia to a lighthouse at Ras Mkumbi which was built by the Germans more than 100 years ago. We wanted to know why it was there – to fend the Brits off? Why were the walls so thick?

The lighthouse master didn’t know, he just pocketed the price of a ticket and indicated we could climb to the top, which we did without looking down.

Don’t look down …

At the top was a young Maasai barking into his phone, he told me it was the only place he could get signal. I laughed and looked out at the sea on one side, the forest on the other, a road we’d driven in on was as a neat parting that combed through the knotted tangle of scrub and trees. 


We saw the biggest baobabs. Do you think there were leopard here once, I ask Ant. But nobody knows that either.

On our way ‘home’ we stopped at Kanga Beach – why is it called Kanga, we asked? Our guide shrugged, ‘is it because there were once guineafowl (Kanga in Swahili) here?’ asked Ant.  Oh yes, agreed the guide with alacrity, that’s why. Where are they now, we persisted.  ‘They have all been eaten’, he said feigning sadness. The beach was deserted, littered with the skeletons of whole trees which lay beached on the sand and bleached pale as whale bones by sun and salt. There was not a single footprint on the shore – except for the tickling tread of crabs and birds. It stretched for miles, that beach, and the sea whipped its way up it, laced with foam for the race of the waves.  It did not look like a tropical beach that day – palm trees aside: that day it looked too wild to be a benign tropical coastline.

We came home windburned and windswept, cobwebs brushed aside.

Perhaps we just needed some air?

3 Responses to “Blowing away the Cobwebs”

  1. Addy Says:

    Hope it did the trick. I assume covid is not so bad there.

  2. citybushisland Says:

    You missed Ras Mbisi beach, shame.Loads of Guinea fowl there and at Ngombeni

  3. daisyfae Says:

    i still have a dream to swim with the Whale Sharks! Once i can travel again, i’ll keep trying!

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