Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mozambique December 2012

Lets do this..... Seeing that my brain is in blog mode, let me finally do this post, 365 days later. I have had a mental block against posting about our trip to Mozambique. I don't know why, maybe there are too many reasons why. It could be for many reasons, for one it just could be that the past year I have not been in a blogging mood and haven't posted about loads of stuff. The other reason is that it was our first December holiday since Clinty died. We have been away tons of times, even on the 1st if January, one year to Cape Town, by train for a couple of days. This was our first summer road trip with all the masses going to have fun in the sun on the beaches around the country. It was also a last minute decision and we battled to get accommodation and finally one of Mark's customers found out that his dad had accommodation at his lodge. It was a bit wishy washy and we were not sure if it was available or not. We received one email and then nothing after that. Finally it was paid for and we were a bit apprehensive, because the reply to our request was "unfortunately we only have our flat downstairs available"  The word "unfortunate" put me off and it was not cheap either for an "unfortunate accommodation" Mark in his adventurous spirit said it would be fine. We also had to find someone reliable to look after our animals. We found a house sitter, a young guy Mark knew, who is a responsible kid and often house sat for other families, but then his plans changed and he said his cousin was also a house sitter. It was touch and go and change of plans and it all became stressful. On the Sunday, before we were leaving, we went to buy our Third Party insurance and ended up buying thousands of rands of camping stuff. We were not camping, but as we walked around Outdoor Warehouse we found all these things we "needed" for our trip. Mark loves buying camping stuff. We have not camped since Clinty's last holiday - camping was his life, but Mark still finds reasons to but camping stuff. When we left to go shopping, we noticed a bar missing from our gate, making it wide enough for Jingles to get out.

Missing Bar From Gate
We put the bars up when we moved to the house years ago when she was still a puppy and she can still fit through the gaps. Mark actually knew that the bar was missing and knew were it was, but it was one of those things that you don't think is important. Why would our dogs want to get out, they are always in the house, but we were going away and it was the best time to get it done. Mark never did it. We were so busy at work, we worked on the Monday, the public holiday. On Tuesday, my parents came to visit Chad, whilst we were at work, he went to their house and later on they dropped him off and I came home to fetch him so that we could go buy him some clothes. I was running late, rushed inside, locked up and made sure Pluto and Miss Piggy were in the bathroom and Spike and Jingles were outside. We could not find Jingles, we looked and looked and something made me carry on looking and not just assume she was running around the house out of view as she usually does. We could not find her, we checked everywhere and we knew she had gotten out. Chad and I drove up and down the streets, calling and looking. We were convinced that we had just seen her, well when I got home to fetch Chad. We stopped off at the vet and we drove up each little road. We have loads of cul-de-sacs in our area. We were driving up one street and there was a car right on my tail and I was swearing and cursing and I said to Chad lets go up this street because this car on my tail is really making me mad. As we turned up this inconspicuous out of the way side road we saw this little Jack Russel stop and turn around. It was our Jingles and she must have recognized the sound of our car, because she stopped running and turned around when we were still far down the road. She was so happy to see us, as we were to see her. I did not know how much I cared about her until she went missing. That was the end of our shopping and Mark brought home the welding machine that night and fixed the missing bar. We had a look on the camera footage and as Chad locked up and drove off with my parents, she came running from the back, went straight to the missing bar and ran out. She knew exactly where the opening was and it was not the first time. We checked the rest of the footage and she was doing this everyday since Sheila had left on the 14 December. She would just hop in and out of the gate and run around our cul-de-sac. That day she decided she was not letting Chad go off in a strange car and tried to run after him. It all happened for a reason, because if it had happened when we were away she would have been gone for good. The poor little thing was tired and exhausted. We left for Mozambique at 3 am on the 22 December 2012, very stressed and worried that our animals were being left with a complete stranger, albeit the cousin of someone we knew sort of well. The dogs liked him, even Miss Piggy, who is wary of strangers, so that was a start. He seemed pleasant enough and mature and responsible - no purple hair; tattoos and body piercings which seems to be the norm these days. We arrived in Nelspruit at around 6.30 had breakfast at Steers and then made our way to the border road and there we sat for the rest of the day.

A single lane road became a five or six lane road towards Mozambique, every now and then we would move and think we were getting closer and closer to the border. A truck driver told Mark he was going through another border and we asked other people if there was another one and they all said no. The truck driver in a massive 18 wheeler did a U Turn in all of this traffic and off he went. We drove stop start for about 6 km's and eventually almost 8 hours later we were not moving at all, we were gridlocked. It was hot and humid, the sun beating down on cars not moving. Tiny babies and toddlers were squashed in the back of bakkies (pickup trucks) and taxis. We had given away cold drinks and sweets to all the migrant workers in taxis on their way home. It was all festive with everyone mingling and chatting and the taxi drivers became our new best friends. Mark now has a new found respect for long distance taxi drivers. They are after all only human and drive in trying situations. To sit at the border the whole day, driving people up and down. At one stage when we were about 6km's away from the border crossing and it was no longer fun and festive, Mark and Chad decided to walk and see if they could some how cross like that, by having our passports stamped then coming back for the car - a guy can wish can't he? Loads of people tried to do that. There I was gridlocked in the middle of cars and taxis all alone. There was no way of locking myself in the car, as we do in South Africa. I had to stand outside with a small umbrella as shade and felt the safest I would ever feel with everyone around me all just wanting to cross the border and get home. Mark and Chad came back about 30 minutes later with the bad news that we were still 6 km's from the South African Side and there were rumours of the staff threatening to go on strike, because they had not been paid. An official told Mark that if we could get to the Sasol Garage and turn right onto a gravel road we could get to the Swaziland border. Mark was not impressed with me, because that was the border the truck driver told us about. We were totally gridlocked in the middle of about 5 or 7 lanes now and we were going nowhere. A few taxi drivers said come we are going now. They started their taxes, honked their hooters as taxi drivers do and they just started moving. Mark jumped in our vehicle started it and followed the taxi drivers. How they made a path in the gridlocked traffic, no one knows, but they did and we did and we made it to the Swaziland Border before it closed, because it was not open 24 hours like the Komatiepoort/Lebomba border crossing. The whole time Mark bitching and moaning, because I said we shouldn't go looking for another border. Note to self - never go to Mozambique during peak periods, when all the migrant workers go home for Christmas.

We drove through Swaziland and crossed into Mozambique late at night, just before the border closed at 22h00. We traveled through the night. Maputo was a busy hive of taxis and people and cars and motorbikes without lights and riders with no helmets. The traffic authorities are very strict with tourists but the locals abound in un-roadworthy vehicles and motorbikes. The authorities advise not to travel through Mozambique at night, but again we felt safer than driving in South Africa. We tried to find overnight accommodation, everywhere we stopped or phoned was full. I suggested that we ask one of the camping resorts if we could park in the resort and just sleep in the car and Mark said he could not sleep in the car, so we drove on. We drove along open rural roads through villages, along we went until again cars came to a standstill, because of a massive fire. There was so much thick black smoke you could not see your hand in front of your face. Again the taxi drivers came to the rescue, they climbed out of their taxis, with only their phones as torches and by touching on the bonnets of the other vehicles, they directed the cars through the smoke filled road. To this day we don't know where the fire was or what caused it. We just know that without the taxi drivers directing all the cars it could have had a very different ending. We were tired and exhausted and Mark wanted to sleep on the side of the road. There was no way I was going to push safety to that level. I "woke up" instantly and was on high alert, because Mark was tired. I have so much confidence in Mark's driving, for hours and hours so if he complained about being tired he must have been really tired and we had been awake for a full 24 hours of which most was spent in the baking hot sun. It was hard to decide whether it was more dangerous driving with a fatigued driver or sleeping on the side of a rural Mozambique road. I had more confidence in Mark being a good alert driver. I knew if we stopped to sleep, I would fall asleep too. Instead I kept a constant watch on the roads and Mark's eyes. I was his eyes. Next thing I saw in split seconds a cars headlights, our car going towards them and Mark's eyes closed. I just screamed and he opened his eyes and straightened the wheel. I do have my suspicions that he just pretended to fall asleep to give me a fright, to prove how tired he was, but the reality of driving when you are tired is one of the most dangerous things anyone can do. We pulled over then as the sun was starting to come up and it was not as pitch dark and Mark fell asleep. So much for not being able to sleep in the car. I fell asleep too and woke up when a truck came hurtling by and shook the car so badly that it woke me up. Mark felt refreshed and we continued our journey.

We almost missed the road to the lodge and had to turn around. It was a long stretch of gravel road with the sun peeping across the horizon. We arrived at around 7 to a sleepy lodge after being awake and on the roads for 28 hours - never again. The flat we were staying in was ok, lets say that there was more rustic than charm in the rustic charm description. The place was badly managed and all the people who were meant to be on a working holiday were doing more holidaying than working. It was like a family holiday home with all the family politics that goes with an extended family on holiday together. There was no electricity only a generator that ran from 7 to 10 in the morning and 7 to 10 at night. We had to keep our fridge in our vehicle, because our meat would not have stayed frozen and would have gone off in the heat. The fridge kept making the battery go flat in our vehicle and Mark thought his Mazda Drifter 2x4 would be fine on the beach sand, it wasn't. We kept getting stuck in the sand or the battery would be flat. It is really beautiful there, but you can't walk to the beach and the sand is so hot, you can hardly walk on it.

Our camera was stolen in the beginning of the year and I never downloaded our photos, so these are the only ones we have. The sea water is so warm in fact it is as hot as bath water. It was so hot in the flat with no electricity there were no fans or air conditioning and only small windows. It never rained, a few days it looked like rain, but it didn't. Whether we showered at midday or midnight, at 7 in the morning or 7 at night we only used cold water, which was warm. As I put make up on, it melted down my face - it was that hot and humid. My feet and legs swelled to the size of watermelons even with compression socks, that I tried to wear for a couple of hours. We went to this beautiful lake called Lake Polela a few times.

Pub At Lake Polela
Lake Polela

Under A Barraca In The Beach

It is hard to believe that one man/family can own this piece of paradise and just not even 20 meters down the road people live in abject poverty, where the highlight of the day for little children is to see a tourist's car drive past and scream and shout for sweeties. The unfair harsh reality that is Africa. Where wars were fought and perceptions changed, yet nothing has changed. The poor are still poor and the rich still getting richer. The battle worn scars from a war torn country are still evident in the broken down and abandoned bullet riddled buildings and poverty is rife, yet there are rumblings and rumours of the war starting afresh. Will another war balance out the rich from the poor or will the poor just get poorer.

Rural Mozambique

Sweetie Sweetie - Asking For Sweets

Children Running For Sweets
Houses Made Of Coconut Leaves

We were booked in for 12 days, but left after 6 days. It was extremely hot. The nights were the worst. There were so many mosquitoes and they would get under the mosquito nets and bite us. We took anti-malarial medication, but the possibility of getting malaria was still there. I was bitten so many times. I would wake up at night and fight the mosquito nets and get claustrophobic. Initially I was not smoking inside, then decided what the hell. At night we had to walk around by candle light, because there was no electricity. The generator packed up and we had no power at all and the hot rustic flat was a non smoking zone!!! Candle smoke, cigarette smoke really???

Mark Outside The Dive Center
The only photo I have of the Lodge, because of the theft of our camera in Feb and not downloading photos sooner. There was a feral cat who had four little kittens at the lodge. She would carry them up and down the dunes. We fed her, but she did not like us being near them. The one was so cute, Mark and Chad called her Moz and wanted to take her home. We would have had to smuggle her out and they could have had diseases and when the mom left her behind we were going to find a vet to find out about taking her, but during the night the mom came and took her and we never saw them again. They arrived on Christmas morning and left the day before we left. I wonder if they came back after we left. The night before we left, we had packed and were leaving at 2 am. We sat outside in the passage  next to the "restaurant" In inverted commas, because it was never open. It was hot and humid and I was in a world far far away, watching this snake coming out of the wall, right by Chad's chair and what could have been 5 seconds or 5 minutes, I honestly don't know, but something said that shouldn't be happening - a snake and right by Chad. It could have bitten him. I shouted there is a snake. Everyone thought I was crazy. It disappeared up the wall, inside the bricks and the locals who worked there tried to get it out. Our shower pipes made a terrible noise when the taps were turned on and after the excitement of the snake and its disappearance, Mark went to shower and the vibration from the noisy pipes chased the snake out. It looked like a Mozambique Spitting Cobra or a Black Forrest Cobra - either way it was a cobra and no doubt dangerous. Read more about Mozambique's snakes over here . The local staff were trying to get the snake and eventually this young guy who came with the one "manager"  and her teenage/young adult children, scooped the snake into a bucket. He was a black 18 year old boy, so what does that tell you about culture/beliefs and perceptions. Black people are supposed to be very scared of snakes. We had a bunch of tree hugger type of people there saying don't kill the snake, but did not try and help capture the snake, the same people who were saving scorpions whilst having a prawn and seafood fest - um do prawns and seafood not have as much right to living in the sea as what the scorpions have on land. Now they were on a "save the snake" crusade whilst braaing their steaks for dinner, shame the poor cow who did not have the right to live like the snake. I eat meat, I eat seafood, I don't have double standards. The snake was a threat to my child's life and the workers who lived on the property, I had no qualms about the workers killing the snake to protect themselves. If you are not a vegetarian or you eat any form of seafood, chicken; eggs or meat, don't have a holier than thou attitude to people who kill dangerous snakes and spiders. I was glad to be leaving. We were leaving with the woman and her children and driving in convoy. She got stuck in the sand on the way out, which then caused us to get stuck in the sand, because Mark had to stop, it took an hour to fetch the Landrover from the Lodge and tow each car out of the sand and get on our way. Fortunately, she knew of  a much shorter way on gravel roads so the trip home was quick and uneventful. The border crossing took less than 5 minutes on both sides and we were on home soil. The worst was that I had lost my lighter, yes I was a smoker and a chain smoker then, so I could only smoke when we stopped and I borrowed the young girl's lighter. She had no smokes and I had no lighter. We parted ways at the Sasol Garage where I bought a lighter and she bought smokes.
Our Last Night On The Beach
The photo above was taken on my blackberry - no filters or lighting or fancy photography - just a beautiful evening skyline like wispy candyfloss. Mozambique is beautiful, there is no denying that.

And that was our trip to Mozambique - that took me 365 days to post

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