Old Boma

DonQui found himself in Mtwara a few months ago. Planned as a deep water port for disastrous Tanganyika groundnut scheme in the 1940s, the town is now rapidly becoming the oil and gas capital of Tanzania since the discovery of huge natural gas reserves off shore. Therefore it is not surprising that DonQui shared the Precision Air flight from Dar es Salaam with a load of British, Norwegian, Canadian, American and Chinese oil & gas boys.

Mtwara

Just short of the Mozambique border, Mtwara is not on most visitors’ destination lists when they think of going to Tanzania. To be truthful DonQui cannot think of many reasons to visit other than to experience a part of the country that few tourists ever see.

The town itself has no attractions and there is tension between the locals and the government which has occasionally erupted into violence. A gas pipeline is being built from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam, causing disruption while the economic benefits will go to Dar, bypassing the locals.

Mtwara beach

The one decent hotel in Mtwara, the Naf Beach Hotel  is rather expensive for what it offers and is… well… a little naff. The view over the Indian Ocean is wonderful but the beach is for looking at rather than experiencing.

Just a little to the north of Mtwara, however, is Mikindani — an old port town that was once a major trade centre on the Swahili coast. Mikindani was the staging point of David Livingstone’s last African expedition and was an important port of German East Africa.

Mikandini

Today the town has shrunk to little more than a village but it retains some of the best Arab and European colonial architecture to be seen in Tanzania outside Zanzibar. A couple of buildings and the Arab cemetery date back to the 17th century.

IMG_3614 (1)

The jewel in Mikindani’s crown is surely the Old Boma (old fort). Once the centre of German East African administration in the region, later taken over by the British, it fell into neglect and ruin in post colonial years. At the turn of the millennium a UK charity —Trade Aid — lovingly restored it.

signs

The signs left by both European colonial occupiers are preserved in the tasteful restoration which has transformed the old fort into a hotel with the aim of teaching local youngsters the skills needed to find employment in Tanzania’s tourism sector.So now the grand Old Boma is both a boutique hotel and a training facility. Overseen by the ebullient Harry MacEwan, the staff learn the hospitality trade, improve their English language skills and many go on to find jobs which will take then from subsistence living to far greater opportunities.

DonQui stayed at the Old Boma for a couple of days and thoroughly enjoyed himself. The building is utterly unique, the setting wonderful and although the service was at times erratic — a function of the fact that is a training establishment — he highly recommends spending a few days here if you have any sense of history and are looking for peaceful tranquility. The food is pretty good too and they even make their own honey on site — produced by tiny, stingless bees.

Old Boma 2

The Old Boma provides a number of excursions. DonQui took them up on an offer of a trip to the white sands and coral reef of Msimbati beach on the Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve —very close to the Mozambique border.

Land Rover

Setting off in a rickety old land rover with two local boys and a packed lunch, the 35 mile trip took a couple of hours along a dirt road.

village

Passing through lush forest, rice paddies and several ramshackle villages the trip gave DonQui the opportunity to view rural Tanzania which is a world away from the bustle of Dar es Salaam. He was shocked to see that all the manual labour in the rice paddies and on road construction sites was almost universally done by women. Bowed low under their burdens they toiled in the sun while their men sat in the shade and apparently did very little. An urban Tanzanian friend later sorrowfully told him that the women would be expected to cook a meal for their idle menfolk on return from their labours.

chinese

Signs of the omnipresent Chinese investment to extract African natural resources were also plain to see when the forest suddenly gave way to an oil and gas facility.

IMG_3638 (1)

Msimbati was about a close to beach paradise as DonQui could ever hope to find. He had the fine sand beach entirely to himself. The day was cloudy and there was an easterly breeze which made the 35º heat rather pleasant.

beach 2

The water was warm and crystal clear with a teaming coral reef just off shore which made for a near perfect snorkelling destination. The two young men who accompanied him, set up a small table and sun shade where he could retreat from the noon day sun and enjoy the very good packed lunch which the Old Boma had provided. Spicy samosas, fresh salad, pineapple and mango seemed just about the perfect lunch on a hot afternoon.

children

On his return to Mikindani DonQui took a walk down the road, stopping several times to photograph the local children, all of whom insisted on seeing themselves on his camera. None of them spoke any English apart from the following words: “photo” and “Manchester United.” As a creature with no interest in football what so ever, DonQui despaired at what appears to have become Britain’s most popular export.

Ten Degrees South

Navigating his way through the local pint size paparazzi magnets, DonQui’s destination was Ten Degrees South.  Dive centre, bar, restaurant and simple hotel, Ten Degrees South is the antithesis of the relatively upmarket but quiet Old Boma. Gathered around the bar, overseen by an expat Canadian doctor, were a lively mix of oil boys on leave, NGO girls taking a break from doing good works, scuba divers returning from exploring the reefs and even a couple of locals.

It was the perfect place to sip on a beer or two and exchange gossip with the eclectic mix of multi-national customers

A Nice Quiet Beach

Feeling in need of a little R&R by the sea, DonQui makes his way to La Azohía, not too far from Cartagena on what is called the Costa Cálida or ‘Warm Coast’. By now it is late September and the air temperature is still hitting the high 20s – low 30s although the water seems a bit colder than it was in Tarragona a week or so earlier.

Azohia beach

DonQui was hoping for a quiet place to relax without horrid high-rises, garish attractions or too many humans.

Azohia3

He had found it. La Azohía is about as laid back as even a sleepy donkey could hope for. There is only one tiny shop, a few restaurants and a couple of beach bars.

Azohia5

With the season coming to an end, the coast is pretty free of humans and many of the restaurants and bars are closed. The best, however, are still open.

Azohia sunset

Although it is on the east coast, the south-west facing curve of the beach means that there are some fabulous sunsets to watch while sipping a drink and having a meal at the Restaurante Bodega Molina.

Azohia fish

Here DonQui enjoys some very nice freshly caught fish grilled with garlic, olive oil and chillies.

Azohia sunset

An even better sundowner is to be had at the Rockola Summer Club – a tiny beach bar.

Azohia bar

Here all drinks are €1.50 and they have a great play list of rock, blues and jazz.

Azohia7

All in all DonQui thinks La Azohía is a pretty good place to stay for a few days of blissful peace and quiet. There are no hotels here but if you fancy a stay there are plenty of holiday apartments to rent. DonQui found a very nice one right on the beach through Airbnb.

A Lazy Sunday at the Beach

First impressions were not great. The beach looked grey and deserted, and a lady warned of jelly fish.  However, a little cove by the Paraiso de Nerja was just inviting enough to tempt DinQui down the steps to explore. In worst case he could have a coffee and then head off to find a better place.

nej1

At a pleasant 26 degrees with clear sky and an off shore breeze, Nerja started to feel like a place to stay for a few hours. Close up the gritty grey sand was not so bad and some inviting parasols clustered amongst palm trees were enough to convince DonQui to shell out €4 each and stay a while.

nej 7

As Duchess basked in the late morning sun, DonQui went off exploring. He clambered over the rocks at the bottom of the grey slate cliff, which gave its colour to the sand and then paddled back along the shore.

nej3

Apart from a lone fisherman and a couple of other humans, DonQui had the place to himself.

nej6

After a little rest on the sun bed DinQui was in need of some refreshment. Fortunately just a few metres up from the beach was El Avalon – rated on TripAdvisor as the #1 place to eat in Nerja. DonQui agrees. The food was delicious and the setting on a high terrace overlooking the beach was hard to beat.

nej5

The pawns in garlic butter sauce were the highlight…

nej4

…but all the dishes were excellent.

nej2

Than it was back down to the beach. There were more humans there but still pretty peaceful. DonQui found a nice shady spot under a fan palm and had an afternoon nap, the sound of the breaking waves gently sending him off to sleep.

DonQui Recommends:

El Avalon for a long, leisurely, luxurious,  lunch

Tarragona

DonQui Oaty is rather sad to be leaving Tarragona. He really liked it there and vows to come back soon.
What was so good about it? Well lots really

Ampitheatre
The old city is a Roman walled town. Now for some uncountable reason DonQui rather likes old stuff – particularly Roman old stuff. Tarragona has lots of it with walls, amphitheatre, circus, underground passages and an OK museum.

cathedral

A pretty impressive Cathedral

donkey
It is compact, easily walkable and has lots of good restaurants, bars and cafés, all of which are in trotting distance from one another. Donkeys are welcome.

forum
The old Roman forum is great for tapas in the evening or a coffee in the morning. DonQui tried out many of the places surrounding the forum but would have had to stay another week to try all of them. He rather liked the local Vermut (Vermouth) served neat, in a tumbler full of ice, garnished with olives and a slice of orange. He was also quite taken with the local Montsant wine.

tower2

The humans there do lots of fun thinks like building towers…

dragon

dressing up as dragons…

drums

banging on drums and making lots of noise…

dance

and dancing in the street.

beach
DonQui rather liked the beaches. The Costa Daurada, or Gold Coast, stretches for 15kms to the north of Tarragona. The beaches are all soft golden sand and barely a Brit, German or Russian tourist in sight. DonQui tried out Platja del Miracle in Tarragona which was OK, the 3km long Platja Llarga which was great and the smaller Platja del Móra about 10kms out of town which was also great.

apt view

What was not so good?
Parking was impossible. Not that DonQui needed a car in Tarragona. However, it did make it easier to get to the out of town beaches. In most cases it would be better to take a train from Barcelona but be aware that the fast train from Barcelona stops at Tarragona Camp which is 20 minutes out of town. The stopping train goes into the town proper.

Useful links

The Tarragona blog

Tarragona beaches