Published: September 11th 2008September 11th 2008
juma mosque, durban
largest mosque in the southern hemisphere
So this is the first chance I've had in a while to update things. Currently I am in Maputo, Mozambique. This is a very pleasant city, lots of tropical plants, large trees with overhanging branches, old aesthetic buildings of Portuguese infuence. Not huge and asphyxiating like Johannesburg. Of course, there is the typical African street markets, beggars, trash strewn about, etc. But I have to say, that I am becoming more accustomed to all of that. For better or worse, it doesn't seem as unusual or dramatically discouraging to see dirty, shoeless children rooting through broken glass to find something of value. Certainly everywhere has its destitute, America is no exception, but it just seems to be overwhelming here.
Anyhow, when I last signed off I was on the way to Durban. I ended up spending about three days there. I did like this city, there was a very vibrant Indian community there, dating back from before the days of Ghandi. Remember Ghandi was a lawyer in South Africa before the hunger strikes - if you remember the movie, he was in South Africa when he got thrown off the train in the beginning. The whole point of me stopping
in Durban was to get my passport taken care of. Briefly, right before I left the states the cover became disassociated from the pages. Not a huge deal, but with all the security what-not, I figured that I would have it offically rectified rather than risk something bad happening with a doctored passport. So I spent the weekend in Durban waiting for Monday morning. First thing I got up, walked the three miles or so downtown and got to the consulate right on time to be informed that...wait for it...it was LABOR DAY in America and the office was closed. Awesome. Thanks holiday. Anyhow, I ended up just taping it, which is probably what I should have done in the first place, and everything since has been fine.
From Durban I took a shuttle to the foot of Sani Pass, which is the entry point into eastern Lesotho (pronounced loo-soo-too). Lesotho is a very remote country, accessible from the east only through mountain passes and 4x4-required dirt roads. I spent a day on the South Africa side day-hiking in the Drakensberg mountains. I climbed this hill to see a structure called the Balancing Rocks, which is just as it
when you are alone, there is no one to run things by
sounds. This area, and most of Lesotho, looks remarkably like the Rockies. They are not as high (the largest peak is just over 10,000 ft) but the change in elevation from the ground and the dry, dusty climate seem similar.
The next day I hich-hiked to the top of Sani Pass and caught a mini-bus (15 seater bus, about the size of a van. This is the best mode of local transport) to an arid cowboy town called Mokhotlong. Spent the night as there were no more buses going out when I arrived. The next day went to Maseru, the capital and by far the largest city in Lesotho. It seemed just slightly bigger than Iowa City, and has to be one of the smallest country capitals in the world. The next day I took a shuttle to a village called Semonkong, which was my chosen destination.
The reason I chose Semonkong was a picture I saw of Maletsunyane falls and this huge gorge. Not for only the gorge itself, but for an activity I was previously unaware of called abseiling. Abseiling is essentially using a rope to climb down a cliff, the same idea as repelling. They
have the largest commercial abseil at this place, at 204 m, descending right next to the waterfall. It was definitely super cool and I just hope the adrenaline doesn't cause my memories of the descent to falter. I took my camera with me to take a picture coming down but (ladies stop reading) I was too nervous (ladies start reading). I also did a horse ride for a day. It was cool to see the villages and surrounding landscape, but the saddle spanked me so bad I felt like one of my friends trying to guard me in basketball (that's right Erickson, Brown, and Blevins).
From Lesotho I went into Johannesburg. Most people don't like Jo'burg and stay there as little as possible. It has a bad reputation for crime, and the downtown area is pretty sketchy. My cab driver from the bus drop-off made us roll up the windows and lock the doors so no one would reach in and take my bag (driving, in broad daylight). I found the most frustrating thing being just getting around. The city must be poorly planned as I would get in a cab and ask to be taken to a distinct
building, provide the cross streets, and the direction from a well-known landmark, and invariably I would be asked if I knew how to get there. Needless to say, that made me a little uncomfortable to stray too far from the places I recognized. The most dramatic thing that happened in Jo'burg was shaving for the first time in a couple months, I'm sure to the chagrin of everyone except my wife and mother.
The plan is to leave Maputo tomorrow for some beach towns up north. In the meantime, I'll just be kicking back with some 2M (local beer), prawns (local specialty), and my bad self.
There are more photos below