Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eyes Wide Open...

I spent the past two days writing, re-writing and deliberating on what kind of blog to post this time... the material was un-worthy of posting, and I was having incredible writer's block... I decided I wouldn't post until we got to Dar Es Salaam in a couple of days, but this morning when I was sitting quietly listening to Lukas' ipod I started writing... of which may sound a little cliche, but I'm going to post it anyway.

'I have fallen in love many times in Africa - with the countries, the communities, the people, the animals, and its landscapes. I walk softly on the red dirt, and let it cover my feet - the soft glow of the pre-dusk sun glows upon my skin, and I smile because of the beauty that surrounds me in this moment, and many just like it.

Beauty in Africa can not be defined by a pretty girl in a magazine. Beauty is in the simplicity of life, the people one meets, the smiles one receives, the dreams and hopes of communities, and the love that is widely spread across the Continent.

A passion in me has been ignited, this passion is Africa... and to describe it is impossible. I feel happiness in the simple things in which I have never known... I smile often, and laugh more. I will share a few moments/descriptions with you:

- A local old man with a beautifully carved walking stick, and beautiful blue eyes stops me in the street and talks to me with so much enthusiasm I feel honoured... he talks of the World, Malawi, and the pride for his father who went to war.

- The voices of youths in the church singing and dancing

- The face of a child lighting up when you share some of your food with them.

- Brutal honesty from people as they share their stories with you

- The laughter you share with someone, even when neither of you can understand each others words

I am so grateful for the oppurtunity I have been given to travel through parts of Africa, and the people I've had the imense pleasure of meeting. I can't help thinking I wish I had come to Africa a few years ago... perhaps my eyes would have been opened sooner to the more important things in life. '

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A picture tells a thousand words...

Traveling to Cape McClear on local transport... Bart, Amilia, Lucas and I

Leonie and Tim - was great to catch up again!!

Tim trying his hand in a local dug-out canoe... very hard!

Local tailors that set themselves up in the street - Blantyre

Hash House Harriers Run with Sam and Rick

Ilala Ferry

Another shot from the ferry

Relaxing in "First Class"

Disembarking at 5am... half-asleep!! Lucas, Bart and I

Monday, February 15, 2010

All Aboard....

Note - I will add images to this later when internet connection allows.

I awoke to the sound of raucous laughter and glasses clinking together, I turned my head a little to the right and witnessed the sight of around 20 local men crowded around a small wooden bar a mere 2 metres from where I lay. You may wonder why I had been asleep in such a place in the first place – I can assure you it was not on account of me passing out, or anything slightly alcohol related. I was on board the 'Ilala Ferry', and where I lay on a vinyl mattress, a few metres from a rowdy bar was somehow considered first class! I can also inform you that this first class luxury also set me back around $110 (aussie).

This ferry was sailing on Lake Malawi, and was transporting us from Monkey Bay, to Nkhata Bay – the trip was to také 2 nights. The ferry consisted of 4 classes - 3rd class, 2nd class, first class – deck class, and cabin class. As the ferry was much more expensive than we anticipated we opted for one first class – deck ticket, and one second class ticket with the intention to také shifts and swap between.

I spent around 3 hours total in second class... and that was more than enough for me. Second class was situated on the bottom deck, along with third class. It consisted of a room at one end of the ferry around 3 metres wide, and 8 metres long. The room is basically a sauna, with the iron walls keeping the heat and humidity tightly sealed in. As I lay on the vinyl benches provided I was reminded of the chairs we used to have at school where your skin would stick to the vinyl in summer, and you would basically have to peel yourself off it.

We discover not long into the trip that security is slack, and we can both be on the deck class without causing too much hassle. I also contribute this to the fact that we act every meal in the first class resturaunt that only had 2 other legitimate customers.

The first night we sleep soundly on our vinyl mattress, rented for 3 aussie dollars. The second, not so well on account of being 2 metres from a bar. This is also because at the beginning of the trip there was probably around 40 people on the entire ferry, and by the 2nd night there were hundreds. I couldnt sleep the second night, so wandered around the ferry and witnessed some entertaining sights... the bargaining power of the ferry security (a security guard allowed her on first class for a certain payment, which didn't involve money or goods), and hundreds of locals crammed into second and third class... imagine a throng of bodies, in underwear sleeping, snoring, sweating (I said a silent thank-you that I had gotten out of sleeping down here).

Our ferry arrived at Nkhata Bay at 3:30am, we awoke and continued to sleep until 5:00am before packing up and disembarking. The ferry was to head north after here, but we found out this wouldn't be happening due to a fuel shortage... it runs on diesel, and there is a huge fuel shortage here... and it costs around $2.50 a litre.The ferry was also delayed 5 hours in Monkey Bay before we departed as we were waiting for a fuel tanker to provide us with diesel.

In all the ferry was a great experience (apart from being expensive, badly run, and pretty run-down)... the days were filled with card games, sleeping, eating, reading, and gazing upon Lake Malawi (Although I tried hard I didn't spot any hippos or crocs!) Nkhata Bay is our home for the moment... we have a few days of relaxing before doing some scuba diving here in the Lake (I'm hoping it's alot calmer than the ocean!). Also, an exciting suprise yesterday – we met up with Leonie who we had been travelling with previously, so it has been fun swapping stories and catchng up again. From here, we head north to Tanzania with Lucas and Bart (A couple of guys we are travelling with), and prepare for the mighty Killimanjaro.

Monday, February 8, 2010

10 things about Mozambique...

1. Ruins: Mozambique was once under Portuguese rule, so the Portuguese built beautiful buildings throughout Mozambique. Especially on Ilha De Mocambique, which had a stone town full of old ruins... the building below was a church on a pennisula in Mozambique (had to take a dhow boat from Ilha De Mocambique)2. Transport: We travelled by many means in Mozambique... the last two were perhaps the most novel - Train (See below) and bicycle (you had to get a ride on the back of a bike from Mozambique into Malawi! - the guys had to carry our packs and all on the bikes... felt so sorry for them (UNTIL they tried to rip us off majorly... and suceeded)
Other means we travelled by were boat, trucks, utes and buses. There are two types of buses in Mozambique... your common 'Chapas' - run down mini-buses in which they cram as many into as possible, on which you are usually stuck in one position for times of upto 10 hours... bring on the DVT!!! They are serious hell sometimes... and also not for the faint hearted, as most of them are driven by 19 year old maniacs.
The other option are the BIG buses... we welcomed these with big grins as we thought they would be a nice break from 'Chapas' - how wrong we were! The first attempt left us being driven into some dodgy side street by these 4 18 year olds running it, they then locked the bus (with us in it) and left it to go to a bar!!! It was a huge storm outside and only us and one other guy on this huge bus... it was quite scary. Eventually someone came out and said the bus would continue, but the driver was rotten drunk... uhhhh no thanks. Tim and I promptly left... and walked though the pitch black in these local streets... saturated and when I didn't think it could get any worse a car went past and sprayed muddy, shitty, filthy water all over us.... and yes IN MY MOUTH!! Our second big bus adventure was the next morning after a sleep in a local guesthouse... it took around 13 hours... it was hot and disgusting. Oh and I got left behind in some town!! I got out to go to the toilet (you have little choice but to go behind fences or whatever you can find in the main streets), and was mid-pee when I look around and the bus is driving off!!! I finished, pulled up my pants (10 locals staring at me) and started sprinting down the road screaming STOP... I seriously thought I was a goner... I had no money on me or anything!! The whole town was running with me laughing and thinking it was a great time... eventually just out of town the bus stopped... and the whole bus laughing at me... except Tim who had run to the front of the bus screaming at them to stop also... I now hold on to go to the toilet!!
3. Weather: Mozambique can be unbearably hot and humid one minute... and producing tropical storms the next. The photo below was taken in Nampula from our hotel window... of the 3 nights we were there... a HUGE storm came through each evening and flooded everything.
Humidity was a killer... I think I have lost 5kgs due to sweating alone!!

4. Beaches: The beaches in Mozambique are "bloody beautiful" - they are the ideal place to kick back and relax... although watch out when walking on the sand... IT BURNS!! I have never walked on such hot sand in my life... every time was like walking on burning red coals... the locals thought it was quite hillarious watching us go along the sand screaming "ow ow ow ow ow ffffkkkkkkkkkk". Also the sea life is amazing... through snorkelling and diving we have seen wonderful coral, fish etc
5. Roads: The roads in Mozambique need massive work... one word can sum them up pretty well - POTHOLES (is that one or two words? I seem to have lost all literacy skills) they are everywhere, and I have numerous bumps on my head from smacking the top of the mini-buses when hitting the potholes. The government are slowly working with a Chinese company to fix some of the roads. I'd safely say half the roads in Mozambique are just dirt and mud!!
6. Food: The food in Mozambique was generally pretty good... although sometimes it could be hard to find a meal! I got a little sick of chicken, chips and rice.... but I was cured of this sickness when we hit the beaches or islands... as seafood quickly filled my tummy!!! Did I mention FULL lobsters for 4 aussie dollars?! Ate like a king!
7. Electricity: The electricity could not be relied upon... as it was frequently cutting out (Especially in storms)... Mozambique has the Cahorra Bassa damn which is the 5th largest in the World (We didn't end up visiting this due to plan changes) - so it creates a hell of a lot of electricity... unfourtunately, the Mozambiquan government sells the majority of this to South Africa... leaving LITTLE for themselves... go figure...
8. Mosquitos: I feel I need to pledge my life to finding a way to exterminate every last mosquito on this planet... they are vermin carrying PESTS!! I hate them... and no matter how much deet or protection I use they feed on me nightly... I'm just awaiting malaria to hit.
9. Mountains: See last blog-Penhalonga.... the mountains in Mozambique were beautiful and a relief as no mosquitoes hung around up that high!!
10. People: The people of Mozambique were mostly friendly and welcoming... they have had some hard times, but have stuck through it and are working hard to build their country up. We met some lovely locals who were always willing to help us out with whatever we needed. As in most countries... watch out for the rip-off merchants... tourists are their favourite targets!!!
Note: We didn't end up heading into Malawi straight away like I mentioned in the last blog... we headed west and up the coast of Mozambique and then across the country to enter Malawi (this was due to Visa issues entering Tanzania from Mozam), we are now in Blantyre, Malawi :)