Thursday, January 28, 2010


Penhalonga is a region that is spread over Western Mozambique, and Zimbabwe - the border seperates it into two sections. The region was once as one, but was seperated in 1891 by an Anglo~Portugese treaty. Even though there is border seperating Penhalonga into two parts, the people of both sides still live together in harmony.
The area of Penhalonga we stayed in was the village of Motombombwe, which was set amoungst the mountains around 20km from the town of Manica. The Shona people inhabit the area of Penhalonga, they are very friendly, generous, and welcoming - they respect the land they live on and farm maize, and corn in the area.
Leonie, Tim and I stayed at a guesthouse called ´Casa Motombombwe´, a house which Gift Mashiri and his father built together. The house is only a month old and has 2 bedrooms (one a loft room), bathroom, living room, and wonderfully equipped kitchen (with fridge and freezer!). The house had running water and electricity (a real luxury in this area!).
We caught a Chapas (mini-bus taxi used by locals) to Manica, then met Gift and caught a ride in the back of a very full ute tray, upon reaching Penhalonga we still had a 40min walk (uphill with our bags) to the house... the sweat and exhaustion was well worth it when we reached the house and saw the views for the first time!
The house sits at the top of a mountain range, and looks down upon the village of Motombombwe. The houses of Motombombwe usually consist of a round hut building (used for kitchen, and sleeping for children), a square building raised off the ground (adults sleeping), and other smaller storage buildings.
We stayed 2 nights, and during this time we experienced some tradtional cooking courtesy of Gift, who prepared a fire and cooked us corn on the cob, and also cooked us ´Pup´ (traditional Maize dish).
During the days we did some hiking (much needed to boost our likelihood of reaching the summit of killi!), we visited the Quinta Da Fronteira (botanical gardens in the middle of nowhere), waterfalls, and hiked up to the Zimbabwean border which was quite amazing... it´s only used for locals (around 10 cross a day) and they cross with huge bags of rice etc on their heads... mind you it´s like a 10k hike... so they thought we were quite strange doing it for leisure. The area is surrounded with Eucalyptus trees, and as we were hiking a large storm came through... well Aussies know what happens in this situation... as we were passing one corner, Tim and I heard a loud creaking noise and looked at each other... 50m up the road we looked around and a HUGE gum was falling through the forrest right where we had walked... quite the scary occasion (but exciting all the same!)
On the last day we were lucky to witness an amazing sunrise which sadly coincided with Leonie leaving us :( It was great meeting and travelling with Leonie, and we can´t wait to catch up with the Dutchy again!!
We are in Chimoio at the moment... moving onto Songo tomorrow to see Cahora Bassa dam (5th largest in the World)
... ´til next time Gadget!
PS. Still no spell-check!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sickly Scuba Stint...

Note: This blog was written a few days ago, we just got to a place with good internet - so only posting it now.

What: Open Water PADI Course
Where: Tofo, Mozambique
When: Jan, 2010
Why: to breathe under the sea!

Obstacle 1

Accom: Fatima's Nest Backpackers
The night before Leonie (a lovely Dutch girl we are travelling with) and I were to start our PADI course at 8AM turned out to be the MASSIVE party night at Fatima's... we were awake until 3:30AM with music blaring into our room (it felt like the speakers were against the door). Although we would have liked to join them, the prospect of doing scuba theory all day with a hangover was less than appealing.

Obstacle 2
Food Poisoning, Water Poisoning, or just plain Mozambiquan poisoning.
On day one of the PADI course I came down with a horrible stomach bug... in class I had to keep running to the toilet to throw up, and I felt like I had a temperature of 'boiling point!'
That night I was so sick Tim and another friend we met, Ben had to put me to bed!! Not a good start!

Obstacle 3
Poisoning Cont...
Chaustrophobia - on the second day we had to start pool dives and I was met with overwhelming panic attacks about drowning in either the Tofo Scuba pool, or the Inidian Ocean. After 3 scrambles to the surface for fresh air, I managed to conquer the fear enough to continue with the dives (at least outwardly) - meanwhile in my mind I was still imagining every worst scenario possible, including shark attacks. I kept thinking of that PSYCHO man who left his wife to drown at the bottom of the ocean whilst diving... cruel cruel man!

Obstacle 4

I have never experienced sea sickness in my life, but if it was going to happen - it was going to happen now. Leonie and I kit up to go on our first two open water dives... we hop in the speedboat and cruise out to "Clownfish Reef", as the anchor hits the sand - I start to vomit... and I am rendered absolutley senseless and have to pull out of dive 1 and lie on the floor of the boat wishing to be anywhere but there. I kept thinking if I ever get back to land I'm getting the first fing flight home - clearly that didn't happen (going home that is). I was still sick for dive 2, so the boat took me into land and dropped me a 100m from shore - Marlena (one of the dive staff) had to accompany me through the waves to land... I feel SO SORRY for her!! I was clawing all over her to keep me afloat, vomiting and being dunked by the waves... as the manager waited on the beach for us (probably thinking something serious had happened to me). A lovely South African guy (Mike) we met in Tofo came to my rescue with anti-nausea tablets... I owe him my first million!

Obstacle 5
Sea Sickness Cont...
Poisoning ceased - so has my ability to eat anything other than bread, rice and cereal (without milk that is). I manage to complete the Open Water dives 1 and 2 (a day behind my group) whilst vomiting in between on the boat and in the water (grosssss)
Malaria Tablets + Tofo Sun = BURN BABY BURN
I am burnt all over, and I was lathered with sunscreen all day!! The malaria tablets make my skin a magnet for UV Rays. Mike, my new found savior came to the resuce AGAIN with 'burnaid' - tea tree oil and water mixture which soothes the skin... I owe him my second million now also.... as my hands were so burnt I couldn't even pick up a fork or pen for more then 10 seconds!

Obstacle 6
Tomorrow are my last two dives and then I'm qualified... at what cost you might be thinking?? Well, every inch of my dignity, my faith in luck, and my sanity!
Tonight is also Wednesday (another huge party night at Fatima's) so there will be no sleep again, and I have to dive at 8AM.
I fear what lays in store for me tomorrow, as I think Neptune (that god of the ocean or water) is trying to tell me NEVER to enter his domain again. As I sip on my glass bottle coke (my only happiness right now) I prepare for anything the ocean has to throw at me:

- A plauge of Jellyfish

- Jaws starring Jess

- Death of the Little Aussie Mermaid


I managed not to die... I was sea sick still and vomiting all over the place... there wasn't a plague of Jellyfish, but I DID swim through what seemed like a plague during my 50m ocean swim, and got stung all over my face... I nearly cried at that moment!!
Luckily, I made it to shore safe... and passed my PADI course (let me tell you I have NO desire to dive in the next month or so!!!)

At the moment Tim and I are in Vilankulos, and today we spent the day on a local Dhow - which is a traditional sailing boat.... they took us out to one of the islands where we went snorkelling (no sea sickness!!!) and they cooked us a lunch of fish and crabs - deliciouso!! (they speak Portugese here, so it's quite a struggle holding convo!!)

We have decided to head inland tomorrow and leave on a bus for Chimmoi at 4:30AM tomorrow... apparantly we have to be there at 3:30AM (RIDICULOUS!!!!)
PS. Sorry for spelling!!! Spell check isn't working ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'Invictus' Visa's...

The sound of my thongs slapping against the wet, muddy footpath irritated me with each step I took... and I wasn't stepping - I was running, running to get to the Mozambique Consulate before it closed, and locked my Mozambique Visa behind its doors.

Our day had begun at 8am, we had to apply for and pick up our visa's all in one day if we were to catch our bus to Maputo, Mozambique the next morning. It was basically a logistical nightmare to begin with... we had to call the consulate at 8:30am, get the price, and their account details off them so we could deposit the cost of the Visa's in their bank account (why they don't accept payment at the consulate I do NOT know!), then we had to get passport photos, physically go to the consulate and fill out forms in Portuguese translated into broken English, pay more money for the forms themselves, hand-over our passports, and kill 4 hours before they would be ready.

I was keen to see a movie to waste time, so we headed for the Rosebank Mall and purchased 2 tickets to Invictus (a suitable movie considering we were in Sth Africa) - we were late for this and missed the first 10 mins... luckily Clint Eastwood didn't make the plot too tricky to follow! I managed to concentrate during the movie and enjoyed the air conditioned comfort (considering we had walked an hour in the heat to get to the consulate that morning) - a great quote from the film, which is a little off topic - "I am the master of my fate, and the captain of my soul"

Post-movie we did some shopping for dinner and lunch the next day... upon exiting the mall we were met with TORRENTIAL rain, lightening, thunder and flooded footpaths... we had an hour to get to the consulate before it closed and we needed to get moving... we put all our valuables in a plastic bag and headed into the rain (We were saturated within 30 seconds).

An opportunity for a shortcut was suggested, and so it was taken... 40 minutes later of walking through rain and random residential streets it dawned upon us that we were in fact walking in the OPPOSITE direction to the consulate... I may have nearly cried if it wasn't for the ball of delirious anger boiling in my stomach!!

We had no choice... no cabs were available, and we had NO IDEA which bus to get, and from where - we had to get there on foot! I took the lead with my thongs slapping away (kicking up mud all over my skirt... yes I had to run in a skirt). Tim decided to risk it and took off his thongs completely - let me tell you, I was in NO WAY going to risk AIDS from a needle prick!! The only thing keeping me running was thinking of the story of "Invictus" and the struggles others in the past had experienced... surely I could stand this short run in the rain if others have fought through much worse!? Also I had offloaded the shopping and backpack to Tim to give me a greater advantage of making the distance hahaha!

20mins and 3kms later, we arrived at the door of the consulate looking like drowned rats - I straightened up and tried to casually stroll in like nothing was wrong (I looked like I had been swimming by this stage). "Ohhhh you are luccckkyy I was just about to lock up!" says the receptionist - Tim slams our receipts on the counter, and our Visa's are retrieved from a safe... relief flows freely through my mind.

As we left the consulate, Tim realised his backpack had swung open when we were running... leaving a trail of food behind (needless to say it wasn't there when we retraced our steps). Living on a budget had translated to donating food to the locals of Joburg!

Refusing to walk one step further we hailed a cab and negotiated a fair price... as we drove back to the hostel I couldn't help thinking "this is not the type of trip I envisaged"... but looking back on it now, I figure the struggles we endure make the victories sweeter (just like in 'Invictus').

In other news... I'm damn well looking forward to sitting on my butt for a 9 hour bus drive to Maputo tomorrow!! Bring on the seafood and beaches!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Photo Time...

It's day 12 on our trip, and we have finally found an Internet cafe that has decent broadband speed... so I thought I'd take the opportunity to upload some photos so you can see what we have been up to.

We went on Safari at Pilansburg National Park - Giraffe above

Cheetah - a very rare spot, walked right across the road in front of us.

Tim and I at Sun City (or Sin City as I like to call it). We are in the 'Valley of Waves' water park - was great fun! There was one slide with a vertical drop... everyone went on it and I was last to go... being scared of heights at the last min I looked up to the lifeguard and said "I've changed my mind can you pull me back up please" - his reaction... uncurl my fingers one-by-one from the handle and PUSH me down... more like a DEATHGUARD!!!

Clay Pigeon Shooting - was great fun... Tim and I had a shoot-off and I'm disgusted to say he won... I am keen for more shooting, and Jane has sent me a link to one in Zambia - thanks Jano!

At St Ive's Estate - Claire and Brad's wedding - was a wonderful evening, great way to kick off the new year!!

A few of the hunting trophies Eddie keeps in his 'Room of Death'

We have Darryl and Jane's wedding in a couple of nights which will be fun, and then we make our way off to Mozambique (first we have to stay a couple of nights in Joburg to get our Visas). Looking forward to branching off on our own, but will no doubt miss the little luxuries!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just Now...

As I write this blog, I sit looking at a World map on the wall next to me, and I can't quite believe
how far I am from home - it seems quite surreal actually. If I closed my eyes I could probably trick myself into thinking I was at home... except for the calls of bird life outside the window, and the humidity in the air.
Today marks a week since Tim and I arrived in South Africa... we have been very spoilt upon our arrival as we have been staying with Darryl's parents (Eddie and Lorraine Tinker), and they have a lovely big home with a big swimming pool and all the amenities one could ask for - Eddie and Lorraine have been wonderful to us and made us feel right at home here. We are staying 40km's from Johannesburg in a place called Boksburg. We are actually yet to venture within Joburg itself, and from what the locals tell us we doubt whether we will as it's well known for crime - although Tim is heading into Joburg today as part of Darryl's bucks party!
The first 3 days of our trip were very relaxing... spent lying by the pool and snoozing in the afternoon (was a great way to get over the 24hr plane trip!). Eddie has a room called "the room of death" here which is FULL of animal heads... animal's he has actually shot himself - they are his trophies... the prized catches are the warthog and the Zebra (when we get quicker Internet speeds I will upload a photo). Tomorrow Eddie is taking us shooting (only clay shooting, I don't think I quite have the stamina for real hunting just yet!).
A couple of days ago Tim, Darryl, and I drove down near Durban for the first wedding (Claire and Brad). We stayed at a lovely estate called 'St Ives', which used to be a horse ranch - there were Zebra's roaming free in the area and a lot of bird life too. Our accommodation was luxury compared to the backpacking we are heading for in a week or two. The wedding was gorgeous, and we partied well into the new year with Claire and Brad's friends and family (South Africans are BIG drinkers... one of the fave drinks is a 'John Deer' which is Creamy Soda and Vodka... Creamy Soda here is green, so the drink is a bright green colour).
I have been quite surprised with the weather here, the day of the wedding was sweltering... but it actually doesn't often get past 35 degrees - not like in the 40's at home... I think this will change as we head North in a couple of weeks though... most nights we have been here there have been massive thunder and lightening storms (one just finished now)... the night of the wedding there was a most spectacular one which set the mood nicely (luckily we were all indoors!).
I am going to have to start a fitness program before Kilimanjaro... we have been eating like kings, and people drink coke here like it's water (I haven't had much trouble following suit) - also smokes are quite cheap, so I have to cut that vice before it rules me!
After Darryl's wedding on the 9th of Jan, we plan to head up to Pretoria (Sth Africa's capital) and have a look around before venturing into Mozambique for some beach action (and scuba diving!).
All in all we are having a wonderful time, and thanks to the generosity of friends are living it up at the moment (if only this would last!)
I'll write again.... Just now (here 'just now' basically means whenever the person feels like... it's a terminology I will be bringing back home)

PS. Oh, and safety wise... all is good here as Eddie and Lorraine have a fully gated home with an electric fence surrounding it, so if anyone does try to break in... they will fry themselves!!