Friday, October 31, 2008

Swakop to Ondangwa: by car / 7 hrs

Maya and I took public transport out to the hitching point at edge of Swakopmund town this morning around 8 am. We only had to wait about 25 minutes before a nice guy stopped and - in stroke of good fortune - was heading, like us, all the way to the North of Namibia. We agreed to contribute the equivalent of $5 each for petrol, and hopped in his car. Thus a journey that might have taken 10 hours, with lots of waiting on the side of roads, turned into these 7 hours of air-conditioning.

We just now passed the "red line", which is the demarcation point between Northern Namibia and the rest of the country. The line is way north of the middle- in fact, its a pretty narrow strip across the top of the country. But it marks the two different worlds of this country. The southern part of the country, below the line, are fences, big farms, the developed world, and a lot of desert. Above the line are wide open tribal lands, dense scrubland, traditional villages, and no big farms. The red line is actually a big fence across the country, keeping various livestock and farming diseases quarrantined one either side of the border. But it effectively also marks where many of the tribal "homelands" were established during apartheid. These were the lands that black people had to live on, unless they had employment or other good reason to be living in a designated township elsewhere in the country.

We're excited to be up here... We should arrive in Ondwanga pretty soon, where we will be staying with a PC/Namibia volunteer and hanging out with a number of them this weekend.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

jumping out of an airplane

This morning Maya and I woke up bright and early and jumped out of a small plane over the Namib Desert! We jumped tandem with guys from Ground Rush Adventures and it was unbelievably cool. It wasn't even scary after the first 3 seconds (when I actually had to jump out the door of the plane)... It was just this loud wind, beautiful clear sky, blue ocean and white expanses of sand... After opening the parachute we did some fun spins and I even got to drive for a few minutes! It was so peaceful, gliding down to earth with my body just hanging in a harness. I remember after bungee jumping 10 years ago I immediately said, 'never again!' I can't say the same for skydiving... The rush was nothing but fun.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sandboarding and Swakopmund

This morning Maya and I went sandboarding on Dune 7, which is just south of Walvis Bay. It was really fun and easier than snowboarding. I'm not much good at either of these sports, but generally enjoy going down slowly and laughing at myself. Maya is a bit of an expert but she had a pretty wild wipe-out, so she is more sore than I am tonight!

After sandboarding, we went into town. The towns here remind me a bit of Upington: Namibia was administered by South Africa until 1990 so apartheid was very much here as well. So the town is very pretty and European-seeming, but very racially stratisfied as well. The White people mostly live right next to town in beautiful houses... Lucy lives in the Colored township and works in the Black township... We spent some time in both areas and they aren't too different except that it is clear that skin color is as closely connected to wealth as it is in South Africa. Lucy's job seems great though: its a multi-purpose community center but we met a bunch of kids who attend their after-school program, which seemed like genuine fun!
After heading back to Lucy's and packing up, we caught a ride back here to Swakopmund. We are now staying with another volunteer named Megan for a couple of nights. Swakop seems to be a nice quiet town, not too different from the other towns we have visited lately. Megan lives right next to a casino... I bet she never thought she'd be next to a casino when she joined Peace Corps Namibia!

Trivia for the day: this is the town where Angelina Jolie had her daughter Shiloh.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Windhoek to Walvis Bay: hitchhiking / 6 hrs

Around 10 am on Tuesday, Maya and I took a public taxi out to the hitching spot on the B1 highway. We were took three rides overall: the first guy took us to the police checkpoint on the edge of town, then the cops helped us to get a lift to Okahandja. After having lunch there, we got a lift with a mine-worker to Swakopmund and then one last short ride to Walvis Bay. Maya and I are trying to stay mostly with Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia, so we spent the night with a fun volunteer named Lucy and her friend Mike, a Canadian guy.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Upington and some history...

Upington was a fairly uneventful place to spend our last day in South Africa. It reminds me a bit of cities in the American Mid-west: wide deserted streets, lots of pavement and stopsigns, pickup trucks, and a KFC fast-food joint across from the 24-hour gas station. It was a nice place to stroll around, to buy ice-cream, but other than that there wasn't much to do.

Back at the camp-site we watched Northern Cape families enjoying their weekend as kids splashed in the kiddie-pool, dads barbequed sausages, moms lounged on blankets, and teenage boys pumped music on their car stereos. South Africa (before and during Apartheid) developed some very interesting racial classification terms: namely, every person was called either White, Black, or Coloured. A Colored person was basically anybody who didn't fit into the first two categories- for example people of indian, asian, or mixed-race descent. These classifications were sometimes fairly arbitrary and occasionally even technically wrong. People could appeal their classification but whatever their label, it affected strongly the type of life they would lead. Every person had to carry an identity document at all times, and each town had designated areas for each race. Marriage, housing, schooling, jobs - everything was relevant to your racial classification: so, for example, a black parent might be forced to live in a different township from the white other parent and their colored children.

Of course all of that ridiculousness is long-gone today, although it still exists informally in the sense that every town has a White area, a Black area, and a Colored area. Often when locals are describing their town to us, they will explain quite matter of-factly who lives where. In Upington, there are many more Colored people than we have seen elsewhere. To a large extent they have formed their own culture and are a distinct group, speaking Afrikaans rather than any tribal language and yet remaining separate from the white tribes (those being the English and the Afrikaners).

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Upington to Windhoek: Intercape bus / 12 hrs

At 6.30 pm on Sunday we boarded another Intercape bus, again heading west. We crossed the border into Namibia at about 9 pm. The journey was uneventful except that the air-conditioning was broken on this bus... And as we pulled into Windhoek around 6:30 am on Monday, the whole bus broke down. Luckily we were only 3 blocks from the Chameleon Backpackers, so Maya and I hiked over there and checked in. After relaxing for a few hours we walked around Windhoek to get our bearings and then hung out at the hostel for the night.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Soweto to Upington: Intercape Bus / 11.5 hrs

At 6 am on Saturday, Maya and I groggily got out of bed, slung our packs over our shoulders, and walked up to the main road. We quickly jumped into a public minibus and rode for about 45 minutes to Park Station in central Jo'burg. It only took that long because the driver was trying to fill every seat so he stopped every 30 seconds... We eventually arrived and checked in with no problems.

Around 7.30 am the Intercape bus left the station and we headed west, into the Northern Cape near the Namibian border. The ride was long but easy: the bus was a double-decker, air-conditioned, and had super-recliner plush seats. Nothing like that in Tanzania! We arrived in Upington around 6 pm and hiked with our packs out of town to a camp-site at a local park. We set up our tent, hitchhiked back to town for dinner, and then retreated to our tent for an early night of difficult sleep. I'm getting too old to be sleeping on the ground without any kind of mattress!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Soweto, tsotsi-style...

Maya and I just spent a ridiculously fun 2 days in Soweto ( South Western Township), which is only about 20 minutes from Jo'burg. There is a hostel out there owned by a local Sowetan guy, Lebo. So on Thursday afternoon we took a minibus out there. We were a bit nervous to go to a township, I guess, but only because so many people had hyped up how dangerous Jo'burg and the townships are. In reality, though, we had no idea where we were going but countless people were kind and friendly and helpful and so we made it to the hostel without incident.

After dropping our bags we went for a walk around the neighborhood, which is Orlando West. Soweto is said to have about 4 million residents, and is the wealthiest township in the country. Orlando West is also considered the 'Beverly Hills' of Soweto. And in fact it IS a really nice neighborhood: most families seemed to be at least solidly middle-class. After eating kota (Soweto's answer to chipsi mayai: half a small loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with chutney, chips, cheese, and fried eggs. Yum) we then went back to the hostel and met Joachim (a german guy volunteering as a soccer coach for the year) and Kalefu (a young Sowetan working at the hostel).

We quickly convinced them to take us out to their local shebeen (unlicensed bar) and we ended up hanging out at The Shack and Pinky's until 1am. We made friends with these two amazing Sowetan woman: Jane works at the Nelson Mandela Museum (his old house in Soweto) and Senele is a documentary film maker. We talked to them about crime in Jo'burg, and they were circumspect... Basically said that we all just have to live our lives, to be smart but not to live in a bubble. They were surprised how easily we fit in with local people, about how comfortable we seemed. We related our frustration with the malls and the security walls of Jo'burg, and the concerned looks we get when we tell people that we prefer to ride public transport.

We talked politics with some older Sowetan folks at Pinkys, and realized the similarities between our two countries. One old man asked us why, if we truly love our country, we aren't eager to currently join the US Armed Forces... I responded that citizens are plenty patriotic when they question and refuse to participate in the unjust actions of their government. He just smiled and nodded knowingly. Eventually we got a ride back to the hostel and slept in the next morning.

The hostel offers bike tours of Soweto but we wanted to go off the tourist route and see something different. So we asked Kalefu to take us to Kliptown and some of the shanty areas of Soweto. So together with him and Joachim, we embarked on a four-hour ride. It was fascinating and at times very depressing. We rode through some middle-class areas with manicured lawns and fancy cars parked outside... And we rode through sections of town with tin shacks, no electricity, trash everywhere, and stagnant water in the pathways.

In Kliptown we were invited into the house of an old woman who was raising 3 grandchildren alone, one of whom was severely physically and intellectually disabled. On the whole, though, I saw that facilities were better than in Dar es Salaam's slums: there were water taps on every street spouting water that is safe to drink and that, according to residents, never run dry. There were also porta-potties on every street that the government empties every week!

While we were in Kliptown we went into a small museum commemorating the writing of the Freedom Charter in that area in 1955. It is a beautiful document, although it espoused beliefs that were (of course) quite contrary to goverment policy at the time... and so it became part of the reason that not long afterwards the ANC was banned and forced into exile.

We then headed back to the hostel and rested for a few hours. Around 7pm, Kalefu's friends Sean, Sipo, and Mhase came in their 2 cars to pick us up. Together with Kalefu and Joachim, we piled into the cars and went to the once-a-year Soweto beer festival. We pumped South African house music and laughed as we sped, Tsotsi-style, through Soweto's streets. The boys quickly fixed Sean's flat tire on the way, and after about 5 minutes we came upon the beer festival: basically a huge party on the streets surrounding a fairgrounds where they had erected some big white tents and set up DJs for those people willing to pay 50 cents to go inside. We hung out on the streets for a while, and then met up with Jane again and went inside to dance for a few hours.

Once again, Maya and I had a brilliant time and found that the friends we came with were protective of us... Although there wasn't much to worry about. We were clearly the only white people for miles around... And everybody seemed really happy to see us. We met a lot of fun people and we found it interesting that everybody knew we weren't South African before even talking to us. I guess it's just unusual for white South Africans to hang out in the townships. I don't know why; frankly we had been supposed to spend Friday night in Jo'burg again but decide to stay in Soweto because we were having such a great time.

After a while we went back out to the street party and watched Sowetan testosterone: at a small 4-way stop intersection, guys pulled their cars into the middle and ripped massive wheelies. I'm talking tires smoking, engine revving, girls waving out of sunroof, car spinning wildly doing 360 after 360, other dudes on the street running close and then jumping out of the way... Huge circles were burned onto the pavement after each car drove away. This went on for a while, with cops driving past and not caring, clearly.

We got back to the car to find that one of Mhase's windows had been smashed (but nothing taken), and after running out of gas on the road, we pulled into a petrol station only to find that the party was continuing there. Folks were dancing on the roofs of cars, cheering wildly, and revving their engines to compare how much smoke they could generate under the rear wheels. By the time we got back to the hostel, it was 4 am and we were exhausted but happy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Apartheid Museum

"My blood will nourish the tree which will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle. Do not worry about me but about those who are suffering." -Solomon Mahlangu ... executed, 1979.

The museum here in Jo'burg does an incredible job of describing the recent history of South Africa, from early white settlements to the ideological extremes of apartheid in the 1960's. I cried more than once watching video footage of police brutality in Soweto in the 70's and reading about the conditions under which most of the citizens of this country lived for so many generations.

People lament that South Africa is a violent country today... But how can we fail to attribute much of that to the injustice - and violence - that has been inflicted on black people in this country for centuries? Its strange to realize that I was born in the year that Mahlangu was executed and that I grew up during apartheid... Its easier to learn about history when we are safely removed from it by claims that it was a long time ago... But this wasn't. It was yesterday.

Thankfully, despite seeing firsthand that this country isn't perfect, I can definitly see that it has come a long way. Peace and equality and respect have arrived... The economic and geographical redistribution will follow with time. Inshallah.

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We arrived yesterday to infamous Jo'burg... People tell us its the
murder capital of the world so we came in a bit nervous. In reality,
it doesn't feel any different than any big city I have been to. It's
true that it is dangerous, and we are - of course - being careful...
But folks are just living their lives here. We're definitely the only
white people riding public transit... But we're so used to that that
we wondered at first why people were so surprised to see us there!
Most of Jo'burg, anyway, seems to be suburban. Our hostel is
surrounded by shopping malls and gas stations. Tomorrow we'll venture
to the more urban areas, I expect.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bahati (AKA Pablo) Boma

"Dust in our eyes our own boots kicked up
Heartsick we nursed along the way we picked up
You may not see it when it's sticking to your skin
But we're better off for all we let in

We've lost friends and loved ones much too young
With so much promise and work left undone
When all that guards us is a single center line
And the brutal crossing over when its time

Well I don't know where it all began
And I don't know where it all will end
We're better off for all that we let in..."

-Indigo Girls

I'll remember Bahati for the time he made me drive his car to Makondeko... just to prove that I knew how to! For his square shoulders that made him look like a linebacker. For dancing at the Umoja disco in a white surfer's rash shirt. And for that damned smile that came so quick so his face. Newala, and especially JW, are in my thoughts today as they bury a much-loved young member of the community. Wish I could be there.

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Maya and I left Sabie this morning and are now on our way from Nelspruit to Johannesburg. I have two comments about transportation in South Africa: first of all, I was shocked this morning when our minibus left Sabie on time - at 10am on the dot, even though half of the seats were still empty! Just weird. My other comment is perhapsone to be worried about: just now, for the first time ever in Africa, all passengers on this minibus had to list their full name and a phone number for their next of kin on a register! Should I be scared? The roads here are amazing - yellow and white lines, stop signs, cross signals, working stoplights, and road signs everywhere. Just posh. But perhaps equally dangerous...

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They call it kloofing

Today Maya and I went canyoning in the morning (called kloofing in SA) and then caving in the evening. Both were rad! The canyoning was in the Mac Mac River and was basically hiking down a riverbed in a wetsuit and helmet... There were times when we had to jump off cliffs into the river, or swim thru pools, or slide down tree trunks, or swing on vines. We also explored two amazing waterfalls and went behind them both. The water was freezing but the environment was lush mossy jungle... Just what we needed!
In the afternoon we stopped by another backpacker's place and met the owner, who was really friendly and immediately welcomed us to enjoy his trees. At 6pm we went night-caving, which was a little scary but very fun. Climbing through tiny openings, getting smeared in mud, and even blowing out our candles to just sit quietly and listen to the bats swooshing past our heads... After leaving the caves we went to a very tall waterfall and just looked and listened to it in the dark.... Very peaceful.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mozambique to South Africa

We've arrived in the small town of Sabie, near Nelspruit, not so far from the border with Mozambique. We're near the Drakensburg Escarpment and it's beautiful here! Tomorrow we go canyoning and caving...

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sightseeing in Maputo

Maputo is a beautiful city with some really fancy buildings. It's also quite developed and seems to have a fun nightlife, too. Here are a few views of the city:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tofo to Maputo: car / 7 hours

We got a free lift to Maputo with some new friends who we made on Tofo Beach... it was a sweet ride and lots of fun. Way better than the bus, as usual.

We have spent 2 nights with the family of our old Country Director (from back in Tanzania) and it has been an amazingly relaxing experience. Christine's family is fun and they all totally remind me of the way I grew up. It has also been pretty awesome to use a laundry machine and eat cereal at midnight.

Tait left this evening on a night bus for Johannesburg. Maya and I feel as though we have lost our legs. What will we do without our Food and Beverage Coordinator? It is going to be a hungry month.... but at least we have soap now.

Tomorrow we will leave here and begin our overland journey westward. I booked my plane tickets today, also: I fly a very circituous route from Cape Town to London on November 18th (via Jo'burg and Qatar)... and then after visiting family in the UK, I will fly into NYC from London on November 26th.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Diving on Manta Reef

On this day I went scuba diving with some other backpackers on Manta Reef, which is near Coconut Bay and Inhambane. I did two dives and both were amazing. Lots of big fish, eels, some nudibranches, batfish, and even devil rays. Unfortunately we didn't see any manta rays, though. But before the dive we came alongside a humpback whale sow and calf, which was rad. And between the dives we went snorkeling with a whale shark, which was basically ridiculously cool. Did you know that the whale shark is neither a whale nor a shark but is actually just the biggest fish in the world? We swam with a baby, but he was about 15 feet long and maybe 4 feet wide!

Here are some of the folks I went diving with:

After the diving I met up with Tait and Maya again and had some drinks at the backpackers' place we are staying at. Our last night was fun despite the number of CBR's we had to employ...

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

the closest thing to fate...

"I like what is in Work - the chance to find yourself.
Your own reality - for yourself, not for others -
what no other man can ever know.
They can only see the mere show,
and never can tell what it really means."
-joseph conrad

I don't want to jinx myself, but it looks like I'll be back in Tanzania starting in May of next year. A real job, an inspiring project, and a schedule that allows me to be remain in the US for some very important events early next year. And yet, I can enjoy my time in the US knowing that tunalongela nundu...

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tofo beach

Here are some shots of the beach in Tofo and the girls trying out their surfing skills with our new friend Jit, who gave them a few pointers:

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Vilankulo to Tofo: car & minibus / 7 hrs

On Friday the 10th we left from the house of the pc volunteers who we were staying with at 8 am. We decided to hitchhike south, which worked out damn well... Some Italian contractors picked us up and a ride that should have been 4 uncomfortable hours in a hot bus turned into 2.5 hrs in an air-conditioned private car.

From Maxixe we still had to take two chapas to Tofo, so we didn't get in until 3pm. The beach has been amazing, though. Tofo's waves are fun and there are lots of backpackers here to entertain us. It's definitely a different scenethan we are used to, but its fun for a few days to hang out at atourist spot. We've been chillin with a lot of South African and Israeli folks, which makes for some interesting conversations. It's a good place for us to regroup as we get ready for Maputo: Tait flies home in less than a week, and Maya and I will head overland towards Angola after that.

So reading on the beach and writin letters is a perfect pastime for this weekend... Along with enjoying the live music and bonfires on top of the dunes at night.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Magaruque Island

Tait and I took a boat trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago today with two Mozambiquan boat drivers and two other tourists. After a rough boat trip out and a jury-rig for our maimed 15hp engine, we were psyched to arrive inside the small reef surrounding Magaruque Island. We lazed on the beach all day and went swimming and snorkeling.
The tourists we went with were 2 guys, one from Spain and the other from Canada. They are traveling together and were really spontaneous and fun. They brought wine and amarula for the sunset ride back...

I saw some rad fish underwater, which just reminded me how badly I want to get out scuba diving at some point on this trip. I'll admit, the boat wasn't in the best shape and it didn't calm my paranoia that the crew member wore a life jacket throughout our boat journey. I later decided that it might have just been a fashion statement, though... Considering he also didn't take it off for the 4 hours that we were on the island!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Naam Tunaweza

"Naam, watu wengi wa dunia hii wanataka Obama apite. Ashinde urais wa Marekani. Wanaamini kuwa atasambaza neno lake la 'MABADILIKO' ili nao liwafikie. Ameamsha imani mpya, matumaini mapya kwa watu wa dunia."

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chimoio to Vilankulo: bus & pickup / 6 hours

Tait and I grudgingly woke up and got to the bus stand at 3:30am today for our bus south. The ride was less painful than I thought it would be... Now we are in the back of a pickup truck with 5 Mozambiquan Obama supporters!

Actually pretty much everybody we meet tells us that they hope he will win but then asks us haltingly , 'Will Americans really elect a black man?' My answer: 'Si, Estamos Juntos!'

We'll be in Vilankulos in about 15 minutes, where we will stay with some Peace Corps volunteers here for the next two nights.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Chimoio to Penha Longa and back: 3 days

"They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force - nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind ... The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."

- J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness

On October 5th, we jumped in a minibus to the small town of Manica and then another minibus to the village of Penha Longa, on the border of Mozambique. We spent most of the rides talking to English-speaking people sitting next to us:

One was a woman in her 60's who had been a Freedom Fighter during the war with the Portuguese and had lived as a refugee in Tanzania for some time. She lived in TZ because, during the war, the rebels based attacks on the Portuguese colonists from their camps in and near Mtwara Region. The rebels began their struggle in Dar es Salaam in 1962, and fought until 1975 for the independence of their country.

We also met a man who had lived in Zimbabwe for many years in order to avoid fighting in the civil war that went from 1975 until 1992 here in Mozambique. He described the reasons behind the war, which basically boil down to some simple Cold War logic: After Portugal gave up the fight to keep their colony, newly independent Mozambique had a Marxist government and had support from the USSR and other similar countries.

The government of Mozambique also supported "rebels" from Rhodesia and South Africa (ie, those who were opposing the aparteid government at the time). So other powerful countries - mainly the Rhodesian and South African governments, with some assistance from the USA - supported a rebel movement (RENAMO) who basically waged a war against its own people by destroying infrastructure and making the country ungovernable for 16 years. In this way, the country was destabilized and unable to provide support to the "enemy".

As the Cold War ended and aparteid crumbled, outside funding and support for RENAMO ended. The civil war was quickly over: nobody here in Mozambique really wanted the war, anyway.

Most of the people of this border area - both Mozambiquan and Zimbabwean - are of the Shona tribe. Their homes are beautiful little rondavels and they even paint them with earth-colored clays. The local people communicate with one another mostly in Shona. The Mozambiquans second language is Portuguese, and the Zimbabweans (who know English) can only speak to locals here in Shona. There is definitely a very large number of Zimbabweans who have left their country and crossed over the border for the jobs and safety of Mozambique. The police stop every lory heading out towards this forest and "fine" (or bribe, really) every Zimbabwean without papers about 5 dollars on-the-spot. It seemed that about 25% of the people on our lorry paid that fine when we were on it. The hike to the villages over the border is only about 3 hours.

We stayed in the woods at Quinta de Fronteira for 2 nights. It was beautiful eucalyptus forest and we were finally able to hike in lush vegetation for the first time in weeks. We explored the surrounding forest and waterfalls during the day, and we cooked our own food over a campfire at night.

On October 7th Tait and I hiked back out and took a lorry back to Chimoio.
(Maya decided to stay for an extra night and to eventually meet us in Tofo in a few days). Tait and I stayed at Pink Papaya again for a night before our early bus to Vilankulo.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tete to Chimoio: bus / 7 hours

We woke up at 3 am and hauled our butts to the bus station for our bus to Chimoio. I do not have any idea why Mozambiquans insist that every bus should begin it's journey at that ungodly hour, especially when the bus then arrives at its destination before noon!

We arrived at 11am and went to the Pink Papaya backpackers', which was really cozy and nice. We met two PC/South Africa volunteers who had just COS'ed, and we walked around Chimoio town to buy vegetables for a big and delicious salad that we made at Pink Papaya. Wequickly realized that the only people who we can communicate with are the Zimbabweans who live here...since they speak English.

At night, we went with the other PC girls to an AMAZING pizza place: it was definitely the best pizza I have had outside of New York City. It was rad to hear more about PC in other countries and to get a volunteer's viewpoint of the interesting struggles facing South Africa only 14 years after aparteid.

Here are some interesting murals regarding HIV rates and prevention of transmission that we found painted on the walls near the border yesterday:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Blantyre to Tete: mostly hitchhiking /12 hrs

We crossed the border into Mozambique in the middle of a long day of travel. We left Blantyre early in the morning and hitched and then took a minibus to the edge of town. We then hitchhiked again and got a lift... strangely enough, with a taxi driver! He took us all the way to the border of Malawi and Mozambique, and we ended up giving him a little bit of money as a token of our thanks.

The second taxi that drove us the 5 km in between the borders was uneventful...except tbat I have never been in a car with two drivers before. I guess the other 6 of us in the car weren't able to make enough room for this dude elsewhere in the car.

At the border we met a really nice Malawian guy who drives a huge petrol tanker. He offered us a free lift to Tete, so we rode in style for the last 4 hours, relaxing on his mattress in the cab of the truck and watching a great sunset through his windshield.

We got to Tete late at night, after crossing a cool suspension bridge over the Zambezi River, and checked into a pretty dodgy hotel (perhaps aptly called "Hotel Kassuende"... which means Hotel Syphillis in Kiswahili). We ate a quick meal and went to bed early in order to catch our 3am bus heading southward.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

that's how she lives....

"If anyone speaks badly of you, live so that none will believe it."

resting in Blantyre

We decided to rest at Nick and Lindsday's house in Blantyre for a whole day and night! We lazed around the house, made Mexican food, and watched the vice-presidential debate at 3am on CNN.

After the debate we went to bed for about 3 hours before waking up at 8am and heading out... We knew that it would take a long day of travel to get across the border into Mozambique.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mount Mulange in 48 hours

On Tuesday the 30th we woke up early and began our ascent on Mount Mulange. We didn't ever plan to actually summit, but knew that a simpler route over the saddle of the mountain would be just as beautiful. The hike up was grueling for me - 7 hours with my back aching like hell since we had slept on concrete.

We had a nice lunch on the top of the saddle, though, and soon after arrived at the "hut" where we would be spending the night. In fact, it was a beautiful cabin, fully stocked with all of the supplies that we would need to cook our dinner over the fire.

In the morning, I lazed on the deck of the cabin while the girls explored, and soon after, we began our hike down the mountain. As we crossed another saddle and came upon the full view of the side of the mountain that we would be descending on, we were shocked to see that heavy smoke blanketed much of that side of the mountain. We hiked over freshly burned terrain for about 4 hours and eventually, toward the bottom, had to actually run past flames that were 12 inches from our sneakers and blisteringly hot! It was scary for a few minutes there, although we made it through just fine.

In the end we came out upon a stunning tea plantation and eventually Mulange Town, where we soon caught a minibus back to Blantyre and Nick and Lindsay's house. Our legs were already starting to ache from the hard slog downhill all day.