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Home : Travel Stories   : Zanzibar, Tanzania
". If today is going to be a real-life movie, it appears more likely to be Titanic than The Beach.."
- Gemma Pitcher

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Tanzania

Not quite "The Beach"
by Gemma Pitcher, 26, London, UK
Mar 15, 2000

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As we are recovering our composure, sixty more large Italians arrive, leaping and splashing through the water. This is not the deserted film set from The Beach I had imagined. We flee to a shade free but secluded cove and I go in for a swim, fondly imagining I look entirely Bo Derek-esque, striding out of the water and flicking my braids. Unfortunately, the bottom is covered in stones and I stand on a particularly sharp and pointy one while coming up the beach, staggering inelegantly about swearing and forgetting to hold my stomach in. I'm sure Bo never had these problems to contend with. She probably had a whole team of people running in front of her just out of shot and sweeping the beach for hazards.

Zanzibar

We are now ravenously hungry, and smell things grilling. Going to investigate, we discover the large Italians have now all stripped down to microthongs (Gucci, no doubt) and are guzzling vast quantities of lobster, crab, pasta salad and Safari lager under the shade of the trees. We gaze on with the look of hunting lionesses and plan our tactics from the shelter of the ruined cafe. First plan of attack - deception. We select the two most dark-skinned of our party and try simply strolling nonchalantly up to the barbeque, hoping to be handed a loaded plate. "Can I help you?" enquires a tall golden beauty in a Prada bikini who we now realise is some sort of tour leader. Our carefully chosen imposters back off, still trying to look Latin.

Plan B - bribery. We wait until Linda Evangelista has wandered off and then sidle up to the barbeque cooks, bung them a few used notes and retire in triumph with assorted crustacea to our outhouse. Replete, we catch a couple of hours sunbathing and playing Which Italian Would You Drown First, then climb aboard our dubious vessel for the long, slow and nauseous journey back to the harbour.

The cigarette butt, still glowing, arches through the dim air of twilight and falls, with unerring accuracy, straight into the mouth of the plastic petrol container. I have a brief glimpse of the boatman's vacant, red-rimmed eyes and unconcerned expression before I close my eyes and wait for the explosion. After a few seconds I open them and realise incredulously that I am still alive. The reason for this seeming miracle quickly becomes apparent - the cigarette had landed just as the outboard engine sputtered and died, and the last drop of fuel on board evaporated.

So we're not dead, just becalmed about a kilometre away from the port of Stone Town, bobbing up and down queasily on less than gentle waves and gazing longingly at the electrically illuminated minarets and the glow of fires from the seafood stalls in the gardens down by the quay. Glancing down at the bottom of our vessel one can't help noticing slightly more water than before sloshing around down there. As one of my flip-flops begins to float gently away I have, quite literally, a sinking feeling. If today is going to be a real-life movie, it appears more likely to be Titanic than The Beach..

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