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Published: June 28th 2006
Ok, so I know that once again it has been too long since I last wrote to let you all know what has been happening in my travels. This is going to be along one so go get a cup of tea…(or read it in parts) Last you heard I had left Cape Town, for a short holiday in Mozambique before I was heading to the Philippines…well as you all know by now I am still in Mozambique, what was meant to be a short 10 day holiday has now turned into a 7 month stay, will end up being a year.
I spent just under a week in Johannesburg with Steve and his family, unfortunately all it seemed to do was rain. It was a fantastic relaxing time and great to catch up and have a few beers (and brutal fruits). I didn’t get to see a great deal of Jo’burg but don’t think I missed out on too much, but what I did see gave me a taster, will be heading down there a few more times whilst i am here so i know i'll see more of it . Steve’s family were wonderful and great hosts, and I
only hope I can repay them one day.
I got the night bus from Jo’burg to Maputo, which was surprisingly easy. We arrived at the boarder at bout 4am, and had to wait for a couple of hours for it to open. I didn’t have a visa so had to ry and get one there, I had heard so many scare stories of people being refused, or the buses leaving without people because it took them hours to get their visa, but I didn’t have any problems. The boarder itself was complete mayhem, hundreds of people all fighting in the line to get their passports stamps, a rancid smell of heat and sweat over powered everything, but after 5 mins you became part of it. I wondered what it would be like here midday. The boarder looked old and downtrodden, and it had an air of corruption which covered the place. I now know this was a correct assumption, as a bit of cash can get you whatever you want in this country. All money exchanged is done on the black market in the nearest town for a much beter price than you get in the banks, and we have
a contact at the boarder who sorts out all our passports and visas for a little bit extra, no questions asked (it is only possible to get a 30 day visa here, after which you need to leave the country). Sometimes it is possible to get a renewable visa in a town called Maxixe (pronounced Mashische), however it all depends on what mood they are in (they will often turn you away because they can’t be bothered to give you a new visa) and who you get. ATM’s are available here but you can often spend a good hour queuing. I have no idea what the locals are doing at the cash point, but they spend a good 10mins each, putting the card in, getting a balance, putting it in again, getting some cash, putting it in again and getting their balance again, it is like watching children play with a new toy, but does get quite frustrating after a while.
Anyway…for those that don’t know Mozambique is situated on the South Eastern coast of Africa, with the beautiful Indian Ocean on the East, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Zambia are to the North. Mozambique used to be a Portuguese colony,
and evidence of this is rife throughout the architecture of the country. The Portuguese arrived here in the 15th Century with the landing of Vasco da Gama on the Ilhe de Mozambique. They built trading posts throughout the country which eventually lead to the introduction of the slave trade. The Portuguese literally raped the country of everything it had, sucking the country dry of every conceivable commodity, including it’s people, and eventually wanted to leave, but the European powers at the Berlin conference in 1884/1885, made the Portuguese maintain permanent occupation of their territories. They ran into huge financial problems and as a result started to lease out large areas of land to private companies, which were notoriously bad for slavery and forced labour.
Colonial occupation was never a peaceful process for the Portuguese here. Tribal chiefs were constantly uprising and fighting against them (much like in all of the Portuguese colonies). Eventually on 25th September 1964, armed fighting broke out led by FRELIMO (The Mozambique Liberation Front), a joint force of 3 movements all of which had organized themselves in exile. It worked, on the 25th June 1975 the first President of the Republic of Mozambique was elected.
it has never been easy in Mozambique, and once again in 1977 civil war broke out, his time between FRELIMO and RENAMO (National Resistance Party of Mozambique). The war devastated the country. Armies wiped out most of the African wildlife to feed themselves, the fight was bitter and savage, a US state dept offical said in 1988 that RENAMO were perpetuating “one of the most brutal holocausts against ordinary human beings since WW2 . People who I work with here all have stories, one of the gardeners walks with a severe limp because he got bayoneted in the knee whilst he was being interrogated. The war went on for 15 years, and it was only the intervention of the Catholic Church in 1992 that forced a peace agreement. The country is now safe although still recovering. The war left an entire generation of people traumatized and terrorized and all but destroyed it’s social fabric and economy. Of an estimated population of over 16million people, 4.5m had been displaced from their homes, and another 1.5m had fled to neighboring countries. Over 1m people had been killed, at least 1/4m children had been orphaned. On top of the war the people had
to deal with severe drought in 1976 and 1990 (one of the worst in Arican history in the 90’s) and floods in ’77. In 1991 the World Bank estimated that no less than 60% of Mozambicans lived in absolute poverty. As usual the Western governments turned a blind eye to what had been happening here, there is no oil in Mozambique!!! It is not surprising that a country with such a savage and vicious history should have a Kalashnikov proudly flying on it’s national flag!
Despite everything the people and the country is amazing. At first they all looked incredibly stern, no one smiling (who would do after what they had all been subjected to) and always staring, but as I have stayed here ad got to know some of them, they are extremely friendly and very cheerful. Even when they are drunk on the local coconut beer (a nasty concoction made with their own saliva and fermented in their mouths, extremely potent stuff!) violence is rare (they have all seen enough violence to last several lifetimes already!), they seem to be happy drunks, although if something does happen they will pick up the nearest thing to them and use
it as a weapon, whatever it may be, but this is vey rare. They really don’t like having their pictures taken here, and look at it as taking something from them, although I seem to have managed to get around that little problem now!
Maputo is the Capital city. A humid, dirty place, lots of derelict buildings, and huge blocks of what I assume are flats, but strangely attractive. It is here that the central government run the country. Of all the foreign aid that comes into the country 70% remains in the South and the city, as a result the further north you go the poorer it becomes. The humidity was almost unbearable in the city, so I only stayed one day and one night, which was spent wondering around the city. The architecture is also stunning, with a massive Portuguese influence. The central market is relatively small but bustling with activity. Large women with feather dusters constantly brushing the flies off all their fish, huge piles of brightly coloured fruit and veg, small piles of spices carefully laid out in front of the vendor…hours can easily pass here, that is once you become used to the smells. Acacia
Tofiniho Coast, down the road from my house
trees litter the roads in Maputo, and the bright red flowers adding blasts of colour in the middle of the concrete jungle. In the evening I went to the local fish market, this place was amazing. I have never seen so many fish in one place, huge tiger prawns, giant barracuda and massive squid amonst all the other fish. It was also extremely cheap. You buy your fish, then take it to one of the small restaurant shacks at the back, that then cook up everything you have brought, and bring out a huge feast, cooked in garlic and chilli…it was truly amazing and incredibly delicious, a must for anyone going to Maputo! The bus journey from Maputo up to Tofo was certainly an adventure, a short 500km can take anything from 10 hours, depending on how many times you brake down. We broke down twice on my rip. One time we pulled over in the middle of nowhere and out of the bush came these guys with huge gas tanks. Next thiing i know they are under the bus and welding bits and pieces together. When i asked if everything was ok they just smiled and said of course.
sunset from the dive centre
Another couple of hours down the very bumpy road i got covered in hot water as the bus overheated and burst it's radiator cap, which happened to be directly behind the driver and infront of me. I didn't think we would ever getmoving again but amazing enough after 30 mins and gallons of water being poured into the engine we managed to get moving again. The local taxis (chappas) are not much good either. My first one from Inhambane to Tofo didn't have any brakes, so i calmly told him that if he wanted to slow down he should head into the soft sand at the side of the road, he just smiled at me and said no problem. I certainly hoped there wasn't as there were an amazing 28 people including myslef all crammed into this tiny minibus, no bigger than a VW combi...excellent!
The women carry everything on their heads, and I mean everything, and work as hard as all them men. They walk everywhere, often having to travel fairly long distanced to get water out of wells which have been dug into the ground (a poço). They live in small huts made out of the millions of
surf outside Bamboozi, if only this was me!
coconut trees. (They interweave all the long leaves together and then attach loads together, they are extremely durable and last a long time, they are also extremely easy to repair!)
The Mozambicans that live around the countryside here in Tofo are all simple people. They live off the land and sea, and it is all very much hand to mouth. Nothing is wasted that can be used! Coconut trees litter the landscape. Parrott you would have a mare here, you can’t move without being under a coconut tree, I have never seen so may before. What is also funny, is that they have all got small steps carved out in the trees, something I have never seen before either, just so they can get to their coconuts easily! Each tree is owned, and if you are caught stealing coconuts you will be in big trouble. It is nice to be here through all the seasons, the fruit has already changed from mangos in the summer to oranges in the winter.
The diving here is world class. There is everything you want to see. Giant 7m mantas circling you, they are truely gracefull creatures, gliding through the water with the utmost
Tofo Market Stall
of ease, coming within inches of us as their curiousity gains the better of them. Whalesharks are also a common sight, another awesome creature, the largest fish in the sea, and believe me they get gigantic. It is currently low season for them at the moment, so it means we only get to see one or two each trip (this is one of the only places in the world where you can get to see them year round, so i am extremely lucky). Dolphins are often seen playing in the surf from the dive centre, and i have been lucky enough to swim with them many times, having them come up to you and jump over you in the open water is truely an amazing experience. Humpback whales are also starting to migrate past now, and will be here till Sept, i can;t wait to see one of them. We won't let any clients get in the water with them as they can be quite aggressive. The mothers bring their calves here to teach them how to breathe, so we often see them breaching the water in magestic style. You don't seem to get too many sharks around here, on
Fishermen on the beach
some of the deper more challenging sights i ahve seen Leopard sharks, Nurse sharks and White Tips. I have also been buzzed by a Zambezi whist spearfishing off one the points here, that was quite a nerve wracking moment. Other than that, the sheer volumes of fish is incredible, you can often get lost in the shoals. Fishing is all done on lines here by the locals, going out in their very dodgy looking boats, so there is no overfishing yet, which i guess is why there are so many. I actually don't think i can describe how good it is out here, so you'll just have to take my word for it, or come out and see for yourself.
Other than diving everyday what else have i been up to? Well not a great deal, i seem to be so busy with running the Dive Centre that i don't get much time for anything else, except for my surfing, which i am now getting quite good at, even if i do say so myself (Jonny Utah eat your heart out!!) Mozambique certainly has it's draw backs...i have managed to survive an earthquake (well technically i slept through the whole
thing, it was 7.4 on the richter scale too, i was quite impressed with my efforts on that one.) The cyclone season in in the summer and these are also quite scary, huge winds, gigantic swells and really painfull rain. I had to have the roof of my house redone after a cyclone ripped it open (not an amusing experience...i got drenched). Malaria is a huge problem out here too. It is now meant to be the low season but people are dropping like flies. It is really not a pleasant experience. I was in hospital for a week and remember nothing about it. I have never felt so rough in my entire life...still it is not really a huge deal out here, we all know what to look for for everyone takes care of each other, no one dares go to stay in the local hospital. I was lucky enough to go to a private clinic that was open at the time. This has now shut down due to the fact that the doctor who was running it turned out to be a fake. In fact he was a paramedic so Rich there is hope for you yet...bit of
a con artist, fake passport, id, the works. Was a big deal in this very small community, and perhaps the most exciting thing that has happened since i have been here, well apart from the world cup (Come on England!). Anyway the malaria is now going to be with me the rest of my life and comes back sometimes, but it really isn't as bad as you are told back home. It is perfectly treatable if you know what to look for and how to treat it, besides there is nothing that i can take to protect myself as i am here for so long.
Have been working now for 7 months and am really needing a holiday (I can hear you all now, Will you already are on holiday...ok well i am taking a holiday form my holiday!), trust me when i say i am working harder here than i ever did back home! Anyway...i am off for 3 weeks to Uganda and then hopping across the boarder to go visit Dian Fossie's Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, which i am really excited about. I promise i'll send you all an update and some more piccies when i get
back next month. In the meantime i now have to go and find some humpbacks...enjoy your day in the office!!!!!!!!!!
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