Showing posts from March, 2010

Zombies, man sized fishes and surfing- all in the same breath

I finally managed to get myself away from the beach, but it wasn't easy. This makes, I think the fifth time I've been on the beach since I got to Africa (Kenya, Tanzania twice, Malawi, Mozambique), and it's hard to beat. I just find myself here over and over. The interior of the continent is much more interesting and exciting, but it's hard to argue with the beach. It's not hard to see why the interior of the continent remained relatively untouched for so long while the colonists flooded the coastline; the beach is just easy. Where ever you are whether it's Africa or Florida, the beach is  the beach and predictable and manageable.When people ask about the beaches in Oregon, I generally respond that we don't have beach so much as coast. Yes there are miles upon miles of pristine stretches of sand and ocean and the Dungeoness crab is as fresh and cheap as I imagine you'll find anywhere (hollaback Moe's), but the thing is it's just so windy and the…

Playing with the locals

First the story:
I'm in Maputo, the Capital of Mozambique. I know not a soul and nobody at my hostel speaks English. So I was really and truly on my own to see the city. I walked around and saw the sights of town a bit, but wanted something different. So I decided to do something I've wanted to do since I got to Africa: I picked a bus and got on it. I laugh when I think about doing that at home, that's what crazy people do. Whatever, I guess I'm that guy now.

I picked Costa du Sol, because Spanish tells me that probably means Sun Coast. If ever there was an inviting sounding place this was it, so I got on and rode the bus for a while. Then when the time felt right, I got off. I found myself on the coast, and since it's Africa the sun was there in abundance. I wasn't quite sure what to do from there, I didn't exactly have any clue where I was or what one should do an unknown portion of the way to the Sun Coast. A group of kids my age had gotten off on the same…

The best things in life are free

I didn't get a chance to throw up a proper post about this at the time, and I'd hate for this to get lost in the mists like my stories from Karamoja.

A couple days after I went to Victoria Falls Tommy, Olivia, Izzy and I went beck to the falls for one last look. After trying unsuccessfully to sneak into the national park we decided to just go hang out at the bridge between Zam and Zim (-bia and –babwe, as they’re known). If you ask the border control nicely, they’ll let you out onto the bridge without a passport or even paying a dime. Maybe its not as good, but at least it’s free.

Me being me, I saw a sneaky little path by the bridge and wandered off the road. Bad idea; I forgot I was in an international border crossing. Sneaky little paths on borders are for illegal immigrants. The soldiers were not pleased by my impetuousness. Strike that, I think they were quite pleased to find an opportunity to demand a bribe. “This is very bad, now we must lock you in a cell. Maybe you have…

Great Zcott!

(the Great Enclosure on the left, home to only the most favored wives of the king)

While in Zimbabwe we decided to check out Great Zimbabwe, the largest pre-colonial structure in sub-Saharan Africa. There's not a lot to say about it really, the pictures really tell the story.

(The king and his buddies live on the top of the hill. Sorry, no girls allowed)

I don't really remember the facts unfortunately. It is dated to around the 15th (or was it 12th?) century. It is now accepted that it was built by bantu speaking peoples, despite the best efforts of white historians to ascribe it to just about anyone other than the Natives- Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, whoever.

(Scholars postulate that this structure could possibly be phallic in nature. Hard to imagine)

It was thought that about 2000 people resided there in its heyday, with status determining who makes it inside the walls. It was abandoned well before the colonists arrived, for unknown reasons.

(The walls appear to be built haphha…

Forget what you heard about Zimbabwe

(Beautiful central Harare)
Zimbabwe has a reputation that precedes it. Tell someone you're going to Malawi or Zambia and more times than not they'll just stare blankly with an obligatory "Is that in Africa?" Zimbabwe however, people know. Zimbabwe carries a specific set of images to most Westerners with a solid grasp of current events (I think). Think about the word Zimbabwe, what comes to mind? For me it was three things. Robert Mugabe: governmental mismanagement at the most unimaginable scale. Trillion dollar bills: The utter failure of an economy and the highest inflation rate in the world outside of a war zone. White farmers getting their land stolen: official government policy placed any land owned by whites up for grabs to any squatter with a gun and started a land rush to the bottom. Zimbabwe in the Western media is a Bad Place whose president is leading them to their own destruction as fast as his old legs can carry them. I was under the impression that white …

One for the Record Books

(The Zambia-Zimbabwe bridge over the Lower Zambezi river)

(Tower of mist from Victoria Falls, "The Smoke that Thunders")

Saturday was definitely a day like no other. I had been complaining about things being too slow and uneventful for the last week or so, but when it rains it pours. Highlights of my day include:

1: Spending the day hiking and chilling around at Victoria falls, which does justice to the title of one of the 7 Wonders of the World*
2: A standoff with a troop of baboons whereby an unwitting AZN tourist nearly had her purse snatched.
3: A sunset booze cruise on the Mighty Zambezi where we saw hippos and crocodiles, in between drinking our faces off of course.
4: Getting a phone call from my family- post booze cruise, and wishing my Dad a happy Father's Day (It was his birthday, so an honest though not particularly impressive mistake)
5-6: More or less unknown
7: Waking up in a hammock at the wrong gueshouse, conversations with an unknown +44 phone number (England)…

Livingstoned- UPDATED

(Mango Drift on Likoma Island, Malawi)

I am now in Livingstone, Zambia, on the border with Zimbabwe. Livingstone is a very cool city; mellow, clean, with a lot of food and things to do. It's roughly the size of Mbale, which makes it very comfortable for me. It was the nation's capitol pre-independence, so it has a lot of nice older buildings and a good layout. It would be a nice place to spend a few days even if it had no tourist attractions at all. But Livingstone does, have a little toursit attraction of its own to offer. In the local language it's called "the smoke that thunders," and though I haven't been to see it yet I have seen the mist hovering about 10 kilometers outside of town. It is also often refered to as The 7th Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls. I don't really know the specifics, and I know there's a lot of wiggleroom about "biggest" when you talk about lakes and waterfalls. Whatever the case, I think they say this is the b…

My life as I see it

Another day, another town, another country. I've been zooming around from place to place for a while now and sometimes it feels like it's hard to straight just where I am. I guess it's the nature of backpacking and trying to cover a vast distance in a limited amount of time, but I spend a lot of time feeling pretty untethered. I've been in Africa for close to a year now, and travelling/ homeless for about 2 months since leaving Mbale for Southwest Uganda. In that time I have been through countless towns and villages, 5 capital cities (Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Lilongwe, Malawi; Lusaka, Zambia), and covered a distance of I don't know how many thousand kilometers.

I've travelled by bus- both what Paul Theroux refers to as "chicken buses" and more Western luxury ones, car, truck, ferry, motorboat, sailboat, rowboat, canoe, motorcycle, bicycle, and of course on foot. I've crammed into taxis, matatus, dalla-dallas, matoly…

Matooke Time

Just a quick thought that I've been laughing about for while now. When I was in Zanzibar arranging a snorkeling trip I got to talking to the guy as always happens. We told him we were from Uganda and he thought that was great because his brother in law or something is from there. We then of course started trying to bargain him down in the price (unsuccessfully) at one point sending matooke internationally was brought up because the Tanzanian matooke is just quite as tasty. So anyway, we had it all set up and asked him what time to show up in the morning. He said 8:00 or something and we asked him if we had to show up on time. He responded with:

8:00 means 8:00, not 8:05 or 8:30. 8:00 White time, I know you two are from Uganda but not Matooke Time. If you are late we will leave without you.

I think he was probably serious, because over the course of the trip there were probably no less than 3 times where we showed up too late and missed out on something.

Then he proceeded to refer t…