July 30, 2004

Lounging in Mtwara

After settling down in a little resortesque seaside spot we hit beach to soak up some sun, catch some ZZZs and, in Jenny's case, practise a little Poi:

Janet wondering why her husband is disturbing her lounging

Jenny swinging away (these suckers would be aflame were it not daylight she assures us :-)

Later that evening we learned that two bank employees in the city center of Mtwara pulled an inside job and snatched up over 43M Tanzanian Shillings (about $4.3M US), hiding the booty a scant few hundred meters from our little resort. Pity we didn't take a stroll near the hiding spot :-).

July 29, 2004


After our last grueling leg and a minor scare at the Tanz border (our travel companion Jenny had some visa issues...we suspect she's a spy ;-)) we made our way to the town of Mwtara in southern Tanzania.

Tanz is a bit more developed than Moz, which we view as a good thing at this point :-). We're very much looking forward to this leg...Tanz features Serengeti and Ngorogoro, two of the best game parks in Africa, Mt. Kiliminjaro and the spice island of Zanzibar.

Our first Tanz beach (in Mtwara)

July 27, 2004

Farewell Moz

In keeping w/ tradition, below are our likes/dislikes....

Stuff we found endearing about Mozambique:

July 25, 2004

The Best Laid Plans...

Well, Chris's generous offer of landrover luxury all the way to the border fell through and Janet, Jenny and I had to rough it yet again. We set out for Mocimba de Praia in the morning and endured a flat bed truck with 60 other Mozambiquans (and chickens, bags of flour, tomatoes, etc., etc.). We arrived late afternoon and arranged for transport to the border, picking us up at the ever-so-convenient hour of 1 AM.

The rode to the border was more pothole than road, made all the worse by our driver and fellow occupant's belief that they had to drive as fast as possible over it for fear of the lions and leopards that they believed were lurking in the shadows (granted, we were in the bush but a cat is hardly going to attack a pickup truck hurtling through the bush). We also had the pleasure of stopping mid way to pick up a load of lumber (it actually provided a bit of cushion for my very bruised ass, so I had THAT going for me).

Arriving at the border at 7 AM, we hobbled to the little boat to take us to Tanzania, a bit worse for wear but happy to embark on a new adventure...

A visual synopsis of our eventful overland journey:

Overlanding in Moz

July 23, 2004

Run for the Border  

Well, it's time to leave Moz...and we're taking up a kind offer from a travel buddy and driving the last few hundred KM. Today we departed Pemba/Wembe Beach with Chris and Jenny. Chris, like a number of peeps we've met in Africa, works for an American-based NGO (Non-Government Organization) that's removing thousands of landmines from Northern Moz each week (an unfortunate byproduct of the liberation from Portugal). We're joined by ever-pleasant & witty Jenny, a Brit who also has been working in Moz for over a year.

Jim, Janet, Chris and Jenny

The first day of our excursion featured quality tarmac, tunes courtesy of the ipod and more leg room than I'm been used to getting for a long time :-). We spent the night in Mueda with Chris and fellow NGO Steve, preparing for the journey to the Tanzanian border in the AM.

July 22, 2004

Rags to Riches?

Today we met a number of cool expats from South Africa (there's no shortage of 'em in Pemba :-)) who immediately befriended us. Ten Rounds of drinks later (or so it seemed!) if was if we'd known one another for ages :-). They were quite an interesting bunch...and were kind enough to invite us that evening to a friend's 110 ft. sailing charter. After a week of tough travel we were up for a little spoiling (especially free spoiling)!

The boat was beautiful...majestic with old world charm and new world amenities:

The ship by day

We cut the evening a bit short, due in part to escape a pair of shockingly racist South Africans. I won't get into specifics of what was said, but suffice it to say that while I know such mentalities exist, it's quite another matter to have it in your face. Thankfully these two were an exception, not the rule.

July 21, 2004


Before we left the rather uninspiring environs of Nampula, we treated our Mozambiquian translator, travel companion and newfound friend Mikesh to a much deserved dinner, after he cleared it with his wife (apparently an American woman taking a Moz'ian to dinner raises a little suspicion :-)). Mikesh is one "local" we won't soon forget - someone whose good nature was as easy to see as his deep chuckle was to hear.

Jim, Janet and friend Mikesh, post-indulging

After yet another ever-so-enjoyable Moz transportation adventure we arrived at Pemba, Moz's third largest port. Just south of Pemba is very chill Wembe Beach, a quaint spot that we headed to as fast as our travel-weary bodies (and of all things a TAXI CAB!) would take us.

Paradise Found

After checking in at Russel's Place, a cool backpacker not too far from the beach, we relieved our days in Brazil with a tasty (and well earned) Caiperoska (vodka with tons of lime and sugar....yum).

July 19, 2004

On the Road in Mozambique
Okay, I think it is fair to say our blog has gotten whiny as of late.  I think it is a result of two things: 1) traveling in Mozambique is just hard. Their infrastructure needs a lot of work starting with their roads. And unfortunately as Jim mentioned in his last post, the via air option isn´t really any better.  and 2) It is winter here in Southern Africa.  Mozambique has definitely come through with some beautiful beaches, but we haven´t been able to enjoy them properly because the weather is what it is :(
But our journey from Vilanculos to Nampula deserves a blog entry, so I´m afraid the whining won´t stop yet. Although I will try to temper it ;)  Our non-stop via land traveling started in Vilanculos Saturday morning at 3am and continuned until we landed here in Nampula at 11pm Sunday night.
What I Would Change, and What I Wouldn´t
  • I would change that after walking a kilometer to the bus station at 3:30am with our packs on our backs and a few streets going uphill, that there was no bus going north that day.  But I wouldn´t change the opportunity to have one more amazing dinner at Zombie Cucumber that night.
  • I would change that our second 3:30am walk to the bus station the next day found the bus heading north full; but I wouldn´t change the extra hours of sleep I got after we returned to ZC.
  • I would have changed waiting almost 6 hours on the side of the street hoping for a bus heading north that had room for us; but I wouldn´t have changed places with Cara and Tommy who had been waiting there 3 hours before we got there!
  • I would have preferred no music or a variety of music on the bus, but REM´s Automatic for the People playing in a loop was much better than blaring 80´s Love Ballads (See blog entry "On To Vilanculos" dated July 11).
  • I would have changed the ´ bus stop´ in Inchope - which was literally just a huge intersection between highways - in pitch black at 9:30pm to wander around the different corners looking for a minivan heading towards the river crossing at Caia.  I wouldn´t have changed meeting our wonderful English-speaking companion Mekesh who was heading the same way we were.
  • I would have changed my seat in the back row of the minivan on our 4+ hour ride to Caia where even my knees were pressed into the seat in front of me; but I would not change my ability to sleep through most of it.
  • I would have changed arriving in Caia at 2:40am only to have to wait until 4:30am for the ferry to cross us over the river. But I wouldn´t have changed taking the early morning people ferry rather than the 6:30am bus&car ferry.
  • I would prefer that the legal capacity for these minivan rides was less than 23 adults. I would prefer that children under the age of 10 did count in that headcount and weren´t required to sit on laps. I would prefer (even with said heacount) that they sat us 3 across in a row rather than smash 4 of us.  I would prefer that the average size of the typical Mozambiquan was half of what it is and that deodorant was part of the culture.  But I wouldn´t change that I am only 5 feet tall and that yoga has done enough good for me that I can sit smashed in a small space for long hours with relatively few complaints.
  • I prefer busses to minivans; but I prefer minivans to no busses at all.
  • I would prefer that chickens under the back seat didn´t squawk every time the minivan hit a bump (I mentioned the conditions of the roads already right?  You know those egg-carton foam things  you put on your bed in college to make it softer - it´s like they paved the roads with cement versions of those......).  But I wouldn´t have traded those chickens for a pig (See blog entry "What to title this one?" dated May 14).
  • I would have changed that when we asked Mekesh how much longer to Nampula the answer was always 3-4 hours which inevitably would be the same answer we got 3-4 hours later.  I wouldn´t change making this journey without Mekesh.
  • I would have liked to have stopped once for food, maybe twice to go to the bathroom; but I wouldn´t have liked to stop overnight in some of the towns they usually stop in.
  • I would have changed the sick boy who puked on himself and the seat during the last half of the journey.  But I wouldn´t have changed my seat, three rows back.
  • I would have changed most of the entire 44-hour non-stop epic journey, but I wouldn´t change that it is over.  And most importantly, I wouldn´t change my fabulous traveling hubby companion whose super-tall-self I know suffered more on this journey than me.

July 14, 2004

Waiting for Godot (at the airporto)

Well, much of our time in Vilankulos has been taken up by trips to the the airport, made in the vain hopes that we might procure a flight from here to the north of Moz, thereby avoíding four days of riding on pothole filled roads in public buses. However, in true Communist government fashion, Moz Airlines (the only domestic carrier in the country) is completely inefficient and incompetent. First day there the agent, when seeing us approaching, high-tailed it out of the office mumbling something about going to the bank until 2 pm. Since there were no flights in to V yesterday no one bothered to show up in the office. Which meant an hour and a half trying to figure out if flights that were on the schedule really existed, how much they were, and if we could book them. It was a thoroughly frustrating experience....we eventually gave up and are resigned to busing it north.

The weather has not been cooperating so we intend to head up on Friday...our bus leaves at 4 AM (fun!). Sorry to play the whiney traveler but it´s a bit like being in the twilight zone as of late! hopefully the weather will be warmer and with any luck our bus transport will be sans 80´s sappy ballads on our way up. Either way we´ll be incommunicado for the next few days (I know you all are very distressed at the thought!). :-)

July 11, 2004

On to Vilanculos

After another pretty cool dive the day before in Tofu (in which Janet saw a big ole Ray) we left the beauty of Tofu for Vilanculos, another beachside town about 400 KM north of Tofu.

So, picture if you will your personal bus ride from hell. Have that picture firmly fixed in your minds eye? Now, compare with the following:

- 6 hours long
- standing for the first hour or so in an aisle with various bags, possessions and limbs
- when able to sit, your 6 ft 4 frame cramped into a space your 5 ft wife can barely squeeze into
- the smell of a highschool gym locker room
- and the cu de gras, Bryan Adams, Elton John (circa the lion king, not "funeral for a friend" when he was decent), Michael Bolton, George Michael and Richard Marx absolutely blaring out of the over-modulated speakers

Alright now, I HAVE to interject here (it´s janet now). The bus ride was not that bad. I had one minute where I was a bit overwhelmed - when I realized I´d be standing in the crowded aisle and I had given my bag to a helpful man outside the bus and wasn´t sure if it made it on or whether my goods were now being sold on the street. But once I eyed my bag atop the pile, it was time to smile....what else you gonna do? And the love songs of the 80´s took me on a trip down memory lane where I roller-skated during "Couples" time on the rink and practiced the perfect peg leg on my jeans. Yes, the music was bad and blaring. Yes it was crowded and the seats were small, but it was only 4 hours, not six. And it was an authentic experience traveling with locals.

Granted there were no goats tied to the top of the bus like the one that departed before ours, but we did have a few chickens in the luggage wells :)

So now were are in lovely and sunny and sandy Vilanculos staying at the equally fabulous Zombie Cucumber (can you beat that name?!?!?)

July 09, 2004

Bamboozied with the Brits

Not wanting to brave the chapa experience for a second consecutive day we stayed at our hostel....a cool beachside backpacker called Bamboozi.

In the AM we enjoyed the somewhat chilly Indian Ocean waters for a cool little dive spot called "The Office" -- I thought more time would have elapsed before we gave in and returned to the corporate world ;-).

The dive site itself was very promising but the vis was a bit disappointing. We did manage to see a Honeycomb Eel (HUGE!) and a weird fish that looked like Greedo from Star Wars (Janet insists it was a monkey faced eel - of course!)

J + J enjoying the view at Bamboozi´s dune-topped bar

Post-dive we hooked up with four wonderful but CRAZY Brits and of course got properly "Trollied" with them in celebration of Jo´s 25th bday:

Jim, Jen, Francis (barely conscious), Liz and b-day girl Jo

July 08, 2004


Q: How many humans can you fit in a minibus (known locally as a "Chapa"?

A: Around 30, give or take.

Today we left the comforts of Tofu for the "big city" of Inhamane, about 30 KM from the beach. Transport is a bit spotty the further one travels in Moz, and our little journey tipified this. We waited about 30 minutes until both driver and cattle herder (which is what the other fellow acted as...and of course we were the cattle) deemed the vehicle full enough for the trip and set off with about 15 people crammed into the minivan.

Along the way to town we stopped numerous times....to help pass the time and maintain sanity I played the "how many people are on this bus" game while Janet -- sitting sideways, knees wedged uncomfortably against her husband´s also cramped torso -- stared out of the window vainly hoping her adult onset claustrophobia would not get the best of her :').

We got to 20 and I thought "Wow, that´s a lotta people". Five people later we had a new appreciation for the contortionist abilities of the Mozambiqians. I lost exact count at 28, but I´m almost positive we hit 30 with another 20 minutes left in the journey:

This photo does not do the circus-clown like image of 30 people crammed into such a small space justice (partly because I could not move the camera!). An hour and a half later we extracted ourselves from the vehicle....Janet fled for the nearest liquor store to buy herself a bottle of wine :').

The return journey was not quite as ridiculous....we later learned that driver and herder were actually trying to break the Mozambiqan record for most passengers in a moving vehicle

July 06, 2004


After a rather grueling (and at times harrowing) 9 hour bus ride and one open topped transfer to our hostel in the rain we made it to lovely Tofu. After a quick and much-needed meal we joined a few partying backpackers before retiring in our modest (and chilly) straw hut.

July 04, 2004


Though my football (European definition) watching experience is limited to a handful (two?) of games and Janet's a whopping 0, we did as Romans do and headed a jam packed pub to see a rather boring Greece/Portugal European Cup final. Boring of course to the instant gratification craving American sports fan that is...the Mozambiqans, being a former Portuguese colony, were frenzied from start to finish. Funny thing was...even though Portuguese fans outnumbered Greek fans at least 20 to 1, there were quite a few Moz peeps jubilantly shouting "Greecia!", tooting their horns, etc. to celebrate (any excuse will do!). I can't even imagine the pandemonium had Portugal won. :-)

Tomorrow we leave capital city Maputo for the beach - specifically Tofu, a seven hour bus ride north.

July 03, 2004


Today we bussed it to Mozambique via Swaziland, a country which managed to retain its independence even though it lies within South Africa. It beat our previous record for shortest stay for a visa (the 2 hours it took to traverse!).

Mozambique is an interesting country...we thought that our trip to Brazil in Feb/Mar would be our last opportunity to brush up our Portuguese for some time but as Moz was a former colony, many elements (including the language) live on.

So far our exploration has been limited to Maputo, the capital of Moz. It's an interesting city...one can still see the vestiges of colonial influence but it's very run down in some spots. It really appears to be a country on the cusp of first and third world but it seems like it's been teetering on the edge for a number of years.

Moz lacks the recent and unfortunate history SA does, so by comparison it seems a bit more friendly overall. It's also about 10 degrees warmer, which the wife particularly enjoys :-).

After we get our visa for Tanzania (our next destination) we're going to head to Tofu, one of Moz's many chill beaches. We're stoked!

July 02, 2004

Parting thoughts on South Africa

As we head to "Moz", a few toughts on what we found endearing and what we found quirky:

Stuff we found endearing about SA:
The Wildlife: While it may be an obvious one, our encounters with nature were truly amazing. There's a lot of debate as to which country is home to the best game reserves (Kenya, Botswana, etc.) but our experience at Kruger was awesome. 'Nuff said.
The "Fresh Start": My term...but given that SA's democracy is only 10 years old, people are less jaded and more participatory when it comes to the government. That SA had a good deal of infrastructure in place in '94, and was able to witness some of the mistakes and pitfalls suffered by its modern democratic predecessors was also undoubtedly beneficial. One editorial we read warned South Africans and its officials not to fall prey to what they viewed as one such downfall in America: a system that pays heed first to special interests, second to the people. Whether or not you agree with the sentiment, having a nearly clean slate and some hindsight to boot is appealing.
Pinotage: A wine varital that South Africa created....it's a cross between the Pino and Shiraz grapes and it's YUMMY: basically a Pinot with more body. For that matter many of SA's wines are tasty and quite cheap.
Race relations: Though apartheid was only abolished in '94 we detected no ill will in the blacks we met against whites. Likewise, the whites we met went out of their way to demonstrate that they, like their fellow black citizens, always viewed apartheid as an evil and often did their part to help end it.
Natural Diversity: South Africa's Cape region is classified as one of the five Floral Kingdoms on earth (North and Central America, in spite of their comparative size only cover two). SA's Fauna diversity nearly matches its Floral, with an amazing variety of creatures on land and below the sea.
5 (6 at the latest) O'clock sutdowns: While the Westerners occasionally found the short workdays inconvenient, it was a nice reminder of the balance most South Africans have b/t work & play.
Capetown: One of the most beautiful cities we've ever seen (ours included).
Road Etiquitte: Given the amount of driving we did, I for one appreciated the courtesy of my fellow drivers :-). When one is passed in SA, one moves to the shoulder to afford the passing car more room. After passing (which I did quite frequently :-)), the driver flashes his hazards to say "thank you" and the passed vehicle says "your welcome" with a flick of her brights.

Stuff the Westerners found amusing > annoying > disturbing about SA:
Disparity: No country is immune to discrimination and, given SA's history, it's not surprising that it still occasionally occurs. However, the fact that the "face" of business (especially tourism) was almost always white and the behind the scenes (and often menial) stuff fell to blacks was disheartening. However, with the recent improvements in education, hopefully this will change sooner than later.
Minibuses: Black South Africans boycotted public transportation in the 70's and up sprang the minibus "service" to enable inter-township/city trasport. The drivers are certifiabely insane.
Difficulty finding a "real" African experience: SA is undoubtedly the most Westernized country in Africa, which was both a blessing (we were almost always in our comfort zone) and a curse (we found it hard to experience true native African culture)

WONDERBOY JIM, the Super Hero

Disclaimer: Again, another verbose post by Janet. Brevity is just not my thing :)

For those of you who know me, I tend to carry rather large purses - I figure if I have to carry one, it should everything I could possibly need. As a result, you typically need a doctorate in archeology to be able to find what you need in there.

So while I travel and it takes me about 20 minutes to dig around and find my wallet in the deep dark black hole that is my travel bag, I have paused on more than one occasion and thought "There is no way someone will ever be able to pickpocket my wallet from this abyss."

Now, I'm not saying I got flagrant about it or was less vigilant as a result... HOWEVER....

Jim and I were at an Internet Cafe in Durban (audible gasp from the readers, I'm sure). It was a very small place and each computer had its own little cubicle for your browsing pleasure. As was my typical m-o, I hooked my purse to my knee and pushed myself under the desk. Well, my bladder was doing what it always does at the most convenient times and the cafe didn't have a WC, so I did what needed to be done - the crossed-legged shuffle. But in order my little chair dance to be effective, I had to unhook my bag and put it on the floor.

Now, it was not on the floor behind me or hooked on my chair...I told you I wasn't flagrant...the purse was on the floor against the cubicle UNDER the little workstation. Literally at my feet.

However, I had turned to my side (left leg over right in this part of the dance) which was enough to allow the skilled thief to spot me as a good target. It was a 2-man operation....one guy pretended he was using the phone at the counter behind me while his friend waited. The friend 'dropped' his cigarette on the floor and while 'picking it up' his fingers managed to find their way into my bag and around my REAL wallet which is surrounded by 5 other wallet-like things and a ridiculous amount of loose junk (I'm still a bit confounded by this - maybe he is a pickpocketer with a doctorate in archeology). Anyhow...

I jumped out of my skin as Jim grabbed his hand and shouted "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING." As I look down...there is my wallet....out of my purse....on the floor....just released from his grip.

His 'friend on the phone' runs out of the cafe, as our thwarted thief tries to do the same. As I stand there completely useless - hands quaking, knees shaking, unable to make an audible sound, Jim has the wherewithall (not to mention courage) to restrain this guy and put together an audible and impressively coherent sentence "Can you call security?" (btw - they were already on it).

So seconds (literally) later, a team of 5 security guards arrive with the security manager and we are escorted down to the police station (conveniently located on the floor below us) to open a case for attempted burgulary.

A bit unnerving.

Later that day we asked our cabbie if they actually prosecute these cases or do they just get put in the 'circular file'? According to him, the cases are pursued and thiefs do get penalized (jailtime, whatever). But we are out of the country now so we'll never really know.

Now, I'm looking to get me a travel bag with a zipper :)

DA MAN!!!!

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