Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not that I'm complaining

First things first, I went back and added pictures to the last few posts, so check those out.

It's been a busy few weeks of lounging on the beach and I wish I could say it's all been perfect. It takes a lot to shake me these days, most anything I can just laugh off. I had been thinking lately that I don't seem to have interesting "overcoming adversity" travel stories anymore, and that everything just goes ok all the time. Then I thought about it and it's not that I'm not having issues, it's just that I'm not really impressed by them anymore.

If anything I just expect them. There is one thing however that still gives me problems, and being a child of the rains of Oregon it is embarrassing to admit. I am getting my ass kicked by the rains. At every turn I just get completely slapped in the face and kicked when I'm down by this damn weather. There are two important considerations to keep in mind:

1) this is no normal everyday drizzle. Rain in Africa is serious business. A number of times I've had the odd experience asking how long it will continue to rain only to be told that in fact it's not raining at all- "this is just a little precipitation." "Rain" means buckets of water per minute and drops the size of marbles, rains must be hid from. Rains change your day. As far as I can tell, only white people are stupid enough to try and tough it out.

and 2) I undertook an ill-fated experiment to try and camp. I bought my tent and sleeping bag and acquired a scratch yoga mat to sleep on, so I thought I had the perfect plan to save money and really take in the great outdoors (plus maybe have a lion story or two). Unfortunately, to my ultimate undoing, I discovered that "waterproof" is a subjective term. Maybe I'm an idiot for not doing more research before I bought the thing (bingo), or maybe I got conned by crappy Chinese goods. Either way, I spent several nights marking the hours by the rise in water level inside my tent. Webaale Nakumatt. I tried various ingenious schemes to soak up and prevent the drips, but ultimately gave up the morning I woke up in 3 inches of water with virtually everything I own soaked.

All my clothes have been wet for the last week or so. Try as I might, everytime I hang clothes on the line they just end up wetter than they started. It's a bit of a pickle. So if you're reading this from somewhere in Southern Africa and smell something like a mix between a Frat house basement and pet shop, it's probably me. In perhaps a related story, I've also been sick for the last couple weeks. Maybe it's due to the fact that I'm never really dry, or maybe to the fact that in an effort to save money I'm switched to the once a day meal plan. Whatever, I quit. I'm through sleeping in tents, dorm beds from here on out. I'm through starving myslef to save money, from now on I'll just shell out the $5 for a mediocre dinner- consequneces be damned. I may be coming home sooner than I had thought. Aside from this little rain issue, everything is hunky-dory though.


Anyway, back to the point. Since I last posted I have been on a series of islands in lake Malawi, reachable only by a once a week ferry or wind powered dhows (or in one lucky case a motor boat belonging to resort owner who took pity on us). I spent 3 nights on Chizimulu island, which was nice. It's a little island with a population of a few hundred with literally nothing that isn't brought in on the ferry. Basically options outside of the backpackers campsite were fish, nsima, and of course Coca-Cola. I have yet to go to any far strung corner of this continent where there wasn't coca-cola, much more so than potable water.

From there we took a boat to the bigger brother island, Likoma. Likoma is a booming metropolus with a restaurant or two, a post office, and (they say) the only hand-crank telephone left in the world. Likoma was also amazing, though the rains put a damper on things. When it wasn't raining, maybe 50% of the time, it was as close to paradise as you can get. I wish I had more to say about it, but I basically sat in a hammock all day reading with the occasional dip into the warm, crystal clear water to snorkel and observe the "greatest freshwater species diversity in the world." Not too shabby really.

So to bring it all back around to "overcoming adversity" stories. The islands were reachable only by Ferry, so I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the SS Ilala, quite possibly the oldest running boat on the planet (I heard told 1920's era, though more likely it's WWII). Just to make things interesting, there aren't any docks. To get on and off the boat requires a little Titanic lifeboat to the shore, and wading up to the beach with a 50 pound backpack. No big deal. My first day back on mainland, I got off the ferry at like 11pm and waded up the shore then hiked like a half mile to the first outcropping of village in Nkhota-kota. From there I found a little rat's nest local guesthouse. $3 for my own room. I was getting ready to go to bed and the desk guy who spoke no English came to my room with a little packet of powder and started gesturing wildly. After a few misunderstandings (is he selling me cocaine?), it became clear it was cockroach powder. Thanks man, good looking out. Cockroach free, no extra charge.

From there the plan was to take a minibus AKA matatu, AKA, dalla-dalla to Lilongwe via Salima. We made it about an hour or two down the road only to find out...


It's not there. Road's finished. Washed out. Thank you rainy season. So thanks to some quick decision making by Bright the Peace Corps, we hitched a ride in the back of a 4x4 pickup going back the other way and taking the other road, the "bad road." Aside from some slipping around and a little crick in the neck from sitting in the back of a truck for 4 hours, we made it with no probalems to Lilongwe, capital of Malawi.

So there we have it, that's all she wrote. After spending like a month without internet I'd been having some serious withdrawals, so I needed a fix. I've been in a cafe for a good 4 hours, so it's probably time to get on with my day. Next stop, Zambia.

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