Maputo, Mozambique

June 17, 2011

Talk about luxuries that I missed!  That bath last night was beautiful.  Plus, the hotel provided towels.  BIG towels.  It’s crazy how we really take for granted the little things.

We are currently in the city of Maputo, Mozambique.  Dan called it the Las Vegas of the country, but it’s really not.  Dan must have never been to Las Vegas!  Maputo is actually kind of frightening.  There are sketchy salesmen up and down the street who swarm the people they see.  They won’t take no for an answer…  No, I don’t want a pirated copy of Tangled in Portuguese.  No, I don’t want an iPhone.  No!  Please don’t shove your still alive lobster in my face!

We started today with a city tour.  We went to a few museums and some sites like the cathedral or fort.

    

We stopped by a craft market then ended the tour at a genuine fish market.  A few of us stayed and bought some freshly caught prawns and red fish.  They grilled them for us and we had a delicious meal!  It was great compared to New Mexico fish!

At this point we became true tourists abroad.  Mozambique isn’t really an English-speaking country.  The national language is actually Portuguese.  When we hailed a cab, the driver didn’t really speak English.  We had to find a translator to help us direct him back to the craft market.

At the market, this problem continued.  Many of the vendors didn’t speak English, either.  It also happened on the way home.  We were told that the hotel was close, but it most certainly was not.  After trying to get directions from many people, we finally conceded and booked a tuk tuk to take us home.  The ride was pretty terrifying.  We ran red lights, almost hit parked cars, and really thought that our drivers were crazy.  I thought I was going to die.

Somehow we managed to get home safe!  Unfortunately, that feeling wouldn’t last very long.

We went out on the town that night to experience the city’s nightlife.  We went out to eat at a nice restaurant, then went on to the main street somewhere to have fun.  We ended up at a gay bar, which is funny of its own accord.  But the place was pretty lame.  The music was horrible, there was no dance floor, and the people were mostly confused as to why there were suddenly twenty American women standing around.

We were pretty antsy to leave, but our leader had disappeared.  A lot of us were beyond frustrated that he dumped us here at this really boring place and left.  Finally he shows back up and says “We have to leave.  NOW.”  We were all pretty confused, so he explained the situation to us.

Apparently the Maputo police tried to fine the bus for illegal parking.  The bus was not parked illegally.  Also, nobody even follows the restrictions in Maputo.  There were people parked on the sidewalk, on the curb, and even in the middle of the street.  Basically, the police were corrupt and just trying to get money for themselves.  So our leader told them he wasn’t going to pay them.  Now they were off trying to find us to extort money from us.

If that wasn’t scary enough, on our way back to the bus, we passed a group of the police officers wielding their AK-47′s.  As we approached them, they turned and started walking slowly in the same direction we were.  That was easily one of the scariest moments of my life.

And so, we all got on the bus and went home instead.

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Travel Day

June 16, 2011

This morning was free!  I decided to spend it sleeping in for the first time this trip.  After everyone got back from whatever it is they decided to do, we hopped on the bus for a ride to Maputo, Mozambique, the capital city.  The day was pretty uneventful otherwise.  We’re staying in a hotel that actually has a bath tub.  It’s definitely time to pamper myself!  <3

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Learning to Surf

June 15, 2011

I truly love Africa.  The restrictions here are so much less strict.  After all of the tight security that I’ve always felt in America, just being able to do whatever is so… freeing.  Our transportation  to the beach today was a pickup truck with railing along the bed.  We all stood back there with the wind in our faces dodging tree branches.

This morning was spent trying something new.  Surfing!  I was terrible.  I have no problem catching the wave, I just have awful balance.  I’m also weak, so I wasn’t able to do “the pop” to get me into a standing position.  An hour and a half into my surfing I finally had my balance down to crawl into a standing position.  Eventually I got consistent enough to ride the waves into shore.  It was awesome!

Of course, nothing too awesome comes without a penalty.  I got massive surfer’s burn all over my thighs, and it hurts worse than a million sunburns!  The guys at the surf shop agreed that it was some of the worst they’d seen.  They showed me their aloe vera plants and I got to apply the natural stuff.  As a side note to anyone who’s wondering, that was fine.  But, do NOT apply aloe vera gel to surfer’s burn.  I imagine a tattoo would feel that way!

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Fun on the Beach

June 14, 2011

Beach!
Coming from landlocked New Mexico, the beach is always something I look forward to!  I think I’ve been to a beach maybe five times in my life, and only in the water for a few of those.  It’s been years since I’ve last seen one.  Today I spent the morning testing my balance in the waves.  Tofo is known for its consistent surf and warm water, so it was generally awesome.  I’m pretty sure I won!

Next on our adventure we went on a sea safari.  The absolute best part was getting the boat into the water.  It was a small motorboat, and we had to push it through the waves to get it out to sea.  When our guide told us, we all piled into the boat and jetted through the surf. It was cold!

Now, the snorkeling part… definitely not a fan.  The waves were pretty rough because there was a storm brewing out at sea, so I had a lot of trouble staying afloat.  I had never swam with flippers, either, so I had trouble with that, too.  Inhale water through mouth.  Can’t breathe through nose.  Initiate panic mode.  It was kind of like that feeling when you think you’re going to fall backward in your chair, only worse.

I had been wanting to go scuba diving tomorrow because that’s something I’ve really wanted to try.  Unfortunately, this snorkeling experience made me decide that I really don’t want to try scuba diving right now.  Plus, I still have a cough left over from the cold I had, which may cause a problem.

This afternoon when we got back I went out boogie boarding for the first time ever as a warm-up to my surfing lesson tomorrow.  It took a while, but I totally got the hang of catching waves.  I also tried to skim board but only managed to wipe out and graze my leg over the sand.  Oops!

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Welcome to Mozambique

June 13, 2011

Today is the longest of our travel days as we make the 14 to 15 hour drive from Swaziland to Tofo, Mozambique.  We were planning on leaving last night, but too many things got in the way.  Our big red bus broke down yesterday morning.  AVIS was being a problem and wouldn’t do what our tour leader asked, so our new bus from South Africa didn’t make it to the Swazi border until after it had already closed.  Our amazing driver, ended up staying at the border all night so he could be first in line this morning to pick us up for this epic long drive.  What a great guy!

Our leader had warned us about this border.  Apparently the Mozambicans are pretty strict about who they let in!  Particularly, we had to pay $80 to get a visa.  The lady making them hardly spoke any English, so it was pretty slow-going.  Perhaps the best part was that she didn’t warn us that she was taking our pictures, so they all looked kind of terrible.  Some people even sat in terrible poses the entire time just to get a funny picture.  Mine looks kind of bad, and not even on purpose.

We were told that the Mozambique cops (wielding AK-47s) were going to continually pull us over and harass us, but we didn’t get stopped a single time.  I was actually kind of disappointed that we missed out on this genuine part of the African experience…

Our welcome in Tofo was very warm for showing up in the middle of the night.  Twelve or so of us crammed into the bed of a small pickup truck for a short ride up a dirt road to our accommodations.  I was stuck crouching in the middle which is, to be honest, a pretty good workout!  As for the place we’re staying, it is pretty nice!  It’s also the first time I’ve gotten to use mosquito nets!

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A Day in the Kingdom of Swaziland

June 12, 2011

This place is amazing!

We made it through the border and into Swaziland safe and sound.  We were given dinner when we got here, and it is the best dinner I’ve had (and the best dinner I had the whole trip).  We ate warthog, and it was absolutely delicious!  Our accommodations are “huts” in the middle of a small game reserve.

    

Last night I went to bed to the sound of zebras in the distance.  I woke up to an impala eating grass beside our hut.  Earlier as I sat by the fire I was watching a beautiful male impala nomming on some grass about twenty feet away.  It’s crazy that these impala are willing to get so close to people.  I even touched a female!

In addition to the simple wildlife like impala, there’s more.  From the deck of the restaurant here you can see some hippos!  There’s also a crazy sign warning about the dangers of crocodiles.

    

This morning we went on a short horseback safari.  My horse was named Tellington.  We never went faster than a walk, sadly.  Also, since it was a small game preserve, we didn’t see much.  Impala, warthog, wildebeest, and zebra.

    

This afternoon we took a hike up a mountain to what is thought to be the most extensive granite cave system, which is estimated to be 5% explored.  They gave us thick coveralls and a helmet with a lamp on it, and we went spelunking for almost three hours.  There was no path and nothing unnatural.  WE pulled ourselves up walls, shimmied through holes that we barely fit through, avoided seemingly bottomless pits, and tried our hardest to not disturb the sleeping bat colonies.  I loved it.  Honestly, spelunking is one thing that I’ve always wanted to try.  Now that I have, I’m hooked.

Immediately after our hike down the mountain, we were driven to some hot springs for a dip.  I’ve been without a soak in hot water for two and a half weeks, and I think I deserved this.  And my pineapple pizza?  Even better!

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Monkey Land (I Could Have Died!)

June 11, 2011

This morning we all went to a nearby attraction that we chose.  There was an elephant sanctuary, monkey sanctuary, and market.  I was the only person who wanted to go to the monkey sanctuary.  So, what did I do?  I went by myself!

It was pretty enjoyable!  I got to see all sorts of monkeys in a wild setting, playing and moving around.  A lot of them came up really close to us, and one even had a conversation with me.  There were a few bushbabies in quarantine and I was allowed to stick my finger in the cage and let it lick me.  Adorable!

When I finished the tour I moved on to a candle-making factory while I waited until time to meet the bus.  They couldn’t show me many things because the electricity was out, but I did get to make my own candle.  It’s average, but if I’d had more time it would have been nicer!

This is when the fun part of the day happened.  I was supposed to meet the bus at 10:30 in front of the property on the road.  I wandered there at about 10:20 and sat on a ledge by the road.  10:30 came and went.  10:45 hit and I was starting to get a little worried at this point.  What if they had forgotten me?  I had no way to contact them.  Finally at 10:50 the woman who owned the lodge we were staying at came to get me.  The bus had gotten held up and they didn’t want me getting worried.

When I finally got onto the bus my tour leader told me that he was so glad I was safe and that he had been really worried about me.  This coming from the same man who assured me that going by myself was completely safe.  I was confused, so I pestered him until he told me why he was worried.

First off, three days ago our hostel was broken into and robbed.  Keep in mind that the hostel isn’t even a mile down the road from where I was sitting.  Even worse, apparently there were gunshots coming from the road last night.  The road that I was sitting on.  Our tour leader then told us that he’s been mugged four times and stabbed twice in Johannesburg (25 miles away).  We also learned the shocking statistic that the yearly number of Johannesburg murders is higher than the total number of deaths in the Iraq war, including civilian casualties.

So, apparently, I could have died today!  I guess I’m glad I rubbed the anthropologist’s nose and spit on a rock for good luck yesterday!

We’re now on the drive to Swaziland.  We’ll hit the border soon, which is supposed to be quite difficult.  Like all African borders, it’s actually two separate borders: an exit from South Africa and an entrance into Swaziland.  Hopefully I’ll still have some good luck left over!

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