DATE: 12 April 2006
CURRENT LOCATION: my little flat back in London!!!
GPS COORDINATES: my GPS unit is low on batteries and jammed in the bottom of a drawer now - I couldn't be bothered
A White person is one who in appearance is, or who is generally accepted as, a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a coloured person. A native is a person who is in fact or is generally accepted as a member of any aboriginal race or tribe of Africa. A coloured person is a person who is not a white person nor a native.
[Republic of South Africa: Population Registration Act, 1950]
Doesn't that make a terrific amount of sense I gleaned that from a display at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg during one of my many diffident visits to that city. It seemed to generally represent in my mind the complete absurdity of the apartheid regime and thinking and I wanted to share. Things are different now.
(I nabbed this photo off the internet - it ain't mine to credit )
Just to add, if you do nothing else on a visit to South Africa you must visit the Apartheid Museum - it is mandatory to understand not only the history and society of the country but how terribly awful human beings can be to one another. I found walking away from it the equivalent feeling after visiting Dachau, though the intention of the institution is to illustrate the triumph of hope, struggle, justice, and reconciliation.
And I realize that I didn't give much of a re-cap of adventures in Southern Africa. I was mainly zipping from point to point pulling my hair out about my terminally ill motorcycle, meeting up with Mandy, or otherwise encountering the slowest most expensive internet access in the wooorld. This means there has been a significant narrative gap in my tales of bewoement (sp?!).
So let me start all over again
I crashed the bike in Sudan =(
I met up with Mandy in Zanzibar!!! =)
And then waited and waited and waited on my bike in Jo'berg =(
It isn't the most engaging city in the world, though it doesn't deserve the ominous reputation most people attach to it. Did the usual tour through Soweto, museums, and a few funky spots. I hadn't been to the movies very much in the last few years so I thought is should fulfill my quota now for the next few years by taking in a few over the next week (King Kong, 40 Year Old Virgin, Oliver Twist, Almost Heaven, Zorro II, Lord of War, An Unfinished life ) - mmmmmmm popcorn, jumbo pop, and air conditioning!!
I finally received mixed news that it would take 2 weeks to fix the bike (parts needed to come in from Europe), just in time to meet-up with Mandy again in Cape Town on Boxing Day for a 4 week backpacking extravaganza in South Africa. I decided to get the heck out of Jo'berg and spend 2 weeks exploring Mozambique just next door. Blue waters, fine beaches, the biggest prawns in the world, and a vibey country still rebuilding 10 years after a generation of civil war.
Hopped an overnight bus (ah yeah, save those precious accommodation dollars!) to the capital, Maputo. Squeezed in next to the biggest quietest man (he was as quiet as a stone throughout) I've ever traveled next to, luckily sticking to my guns and the aisle seat. I was told there would be movies and snacks, but I think I ended up on something brought back out of mothball from the 1970's. A lot of maroon and red velour. Essentially uneventful journey except for the 3-hour border crossing. Holy canoli. There was what seemed to be a 2km queue of jostling humans on the South African side that would break out to a minor riot ever 10 minutes as people tried to jostle by. Even though the South African police and officials had an army of people inspecting cars coming through, the first person I saw in a uniform to keep the river of pedestrian humanity in order was the immigration man who stamped my passport!! It was ugly. For crying out loud, the country still rebuilding 10 years after a generation of civil war was a hundred times more organized and efficient than the South Africans - how!? I want my bike back
Maputo is not so awful. I think that's what I'll say. Most big or capital African cities can be pretty depressing and desperate places (much like most big, crowded cities in the world I guess), but Maputo seemed chilled enough and relatively organized and tidy in places. As the capital of what was formerly a Portuguese colony, there were still a few incongruous imperial vestiges around.
This is the railway station designed and constructed by a certain Gustav Eiffel. He also designed the Governor's Iron House
which made complete sense of course. Why don't we construct the symbol of absolute Portuguese domination completely out of iron in a location on the tropical sea with 5000% humidity..? Yes, it slowly rusted away. Maybe that was simply a subversive metaphorical consequence intended by a secretly anti-colonial Gustav? We may never know. In any case, with UNESCO funds it has been completely restored as you could poke holes through the rusted walls with your finger by that point. I think they redid it in iron. So they'll get to do it all over again in 50 odd years. Dat's tinking.
A relaxing day in Maputo before transiting up country. I didn't really know what to expect. I thought Mozambique would be a little bit like Brazil in Africa. Though you could find some damn fine pastries, coffee, and ice cream -as well, Portuguese remained the lingua franca everywhere I visited- it didn't have that culturally mélanged feel that I expected. Few Portuguese actually settled or stayed, there wasn't historically as great an importing of other peoples into the colony, and the cultures did not seem to readily mix during the Portuguese era. It feels a much more laid back and open place than some other more conservative toned places I've visited, but it is undeniably African.
I thought I might try and get as far up the coast as possible and then make my way back.
This meant getting on the venerable chicken-bus to Inhambane 500km up the coast.
At least this meant window-shopping along the way.
I personally didn't experience any chickens on board. Instead, mainly produce blocked the aisles and any other humanly unoccupied space. Air Canada airline attendant Nazis would suffer a heart attack picturing the scene. There were even ongoing altercations between one man who had apparently purchased seat space for his boxes of goods and passengers picked up along the way who were forced to surf the boxes and bags and sacks and piles of things in the walkway. He was finally convinced he could put some things in the hold. I was stuck next to a very large boned granny and dangled precariously from thread covered springs, bracing my feet atop a sack of root-like veggies, for not a 6 but 10-hour bus ride. I was later told that we made pretty good time - hey, at least we never broke down, blew a tire, or swerved off the road, rolled, and smashed into a tree. I was lucky, I was told. Then there was an additional bone jolting 1-hour ride by mini-bus into the fantastic little oceanside village of Tofo, beachfront backpacker Mecca.
Well, not entirely a Mecca yet. It's got its fair sprinkling of backpackers strung out along the bay. I decided on Bamboozi's and didn't leave for the next 9 days I'd just done 22 hours of excruciatingly boring or just plain excruciating bus rides in 48 hours - I think I would have been sick all over your front if you suggested I even looked at another bus at that point. Besides, Bamboozi's turned out to be an extremely sociable site and I was soon adopted by an assorted friendly gang of Dutchies, Frenchies, South Africans, and even a Vancouverite! And how could I deny the place? Despite surviving what appeared to be a 5 hour tropical cyclone in my little €20 tent on the first morning (I just packed everything in my waterproof dry-bag in preparation for an emergency escape and went back to sleep) the place had everything. Every second night seemed to be seafood night, with the other being dedicated to early morning beach parties at an establishment with 4 happy hours nightly. I suffered abrasions on a late night / early morning stagger back to the backpackers, the scars of which (physical and mental) remain to this day. The local internet café did amazing Burritos!!! The surf school and backpackers, Turtle Cove, even did
a sushi night!! While bluebottle jellyfish stung everyone else, I got to see a whale shark (the WORLD'S LARGEST FISH!) nearly in arm's reach and had dolphins swimming between my legs. That was an impressive fish. Or was it really a small Soviet nuclear attack submarine Now I know where sea monster stories come from.
Oh yes - surfing!! Just check out this prowess
Yeah baby! I'm right there, carving big air!!! (before careening head first into the ocean floor ) I thought I might give the sport a try, looks easy enough, non? It's pretty tough stuff, but once I found the groove my learning curve started to flatten out. It's an incredible workout though and was the main reason why I stuck it (and innumerable wave smashes and 100's of litres of water in my lungs) out - in 4 months of traveling I hadn't gotten much of a chance to try and stay in a little shape. Ramadan fasting didn't count.
No, after weighing up another few days of similar bus rides against sushi, society, and surfing in Tofo I had to opt to stay put and enjoy myself. I finally tore myself away and headed back to Maputo by chicken bus, this time having to rest my feet on small squatting children - hey, they didn't seem to mind and my feet were there first.
I had missed taking in the 'famed' seafood market in Maputo the first time around, so I rounded up some American Peace Corps. Volunteers who were in Mozambique on Xmas holidays from Namibia. The market has got it all!!
Essentially you buy all you'd like to from the market (with struggling crabs -I returned one escapee to his basket- and cockles spitting water in your eye) directly, take it al over to the attached restaurants and have 'em cook it all up yum.
We managed a pretty good feast.
And then squeezed into the back of a mini-bus back to the centre of town - it was a tight fit, and that wasn't just because we'd eaten so much
I then hopped the sparsely filled night bus back to Johannesburg and was kept awake all night by Brad Pitt, Troy (maybe I didn't want movies onboard ), and the border crossing.
To be continued
Ps. Here's an extract from an email from my Peace Corps buddies when they returned to Namibia just barely in one piece:
we took your many insightful recommendations that added much joy to our holiday (burritos, surfing, and whatnot). [what a nice guy am i!!] on new years day we got in the fatima's shuttle to head back to maputo but 4 hours into the trip we had an unexpected detour. our chappa driver somehow lost control and we overturned. [OVERTURNED!!??] chase, other passengers and i somehow ended outside (possibly through the front window). peter was in complete control and directed everyone as he stopped a bus for help which took us all to the nearest clinic. long story short...chase fractured her pelvis and is back in colorado doing fine and loving life back home, michael had a nasty cut across his forehead which he had to get stitched up and have some plastic surgery done, i received a nice gash on my leg and fractured my clavicle, peter had a small scratch on his arm. other than chase we are all back at our respective, insane sights in namibia counting the months until we go home in december.
Note: the most dangerous thing when traveling in Africa is not muggers, men with guns, or micro-organisms (or riding a motorcycle across Africa, harumph!) it is riding public transport.