Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Good day - Portuguese, the most commonly spoken language.)
"We aren't taking our trip. Our trip is taking us." (learned the hard way)
Traveling is a leap into the unknown. We have chosen to be forced day by day, minute by minute, into the present moment. Plans? Ha! Want to hear a thunderous laugh from the heavens just mention what plans we are making? Traveling drags one kicking and screaming through the full gamete from western-style organized day planners, ringing cell phones and hectic schedules to waking up with a smile, wondering what the day will bring. Gone are the securities of our self created environment or safe little bubbles we call life back home. One is out experiencing life in the raw, in the wild. In this space we soon realize that the only constant in change is inside us. The serenity that resides within becomes the quiet, joyful pool in the whirlwind of our existence; a place to gather whatever strength is necessary.
As the Muslims say, "Trust in Allah, but tie your camel." When centered, strength is available for life's unexpected events. Somehow things work out. Knowing this, experiencing this, living this, topples the dominoes into one remarkable experience after another. If one jumps into the stream of life, not fighting what we perceive or judge needs changing, but accepting it (and acting in right time); we end up realizing that life is just a string of ordinary yet extraordinary events. Allow the miracle of life to unfold. After all the present is the only moment we have.
Africa is a vibrant, multicolored bouillabaisse of events, a subtle fusion into your soul. Imagine the full spectrum from gazing over a still, mystical view of 'nothingness yet all', to thrilling chills down your spine as a lion roars nearby, to getting swept up in the pulsating current of lively spontaneous dancing in the market, to being stuck in a hot gridlock of sooty traffic trying to escape a congested capitol city. 'Watching', observing and allowing these situations, while in the midst of them may first push buttons then it dissolves these emotions, changing problems into challenges. Challenges into just observing 'what is'. The scenario at hand is often so illogical, so ludicrous that once again one is forced to let go, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is!
Colorful Mozambique, one of the only southern African nations to have never been ruled by Britain, oozes with the lively salsa vibe of the hot blooded Portuguese sailors. Vasco de Gama sailed in over 500 years ago, opening the floodgates. With the lure of gold, ivory and eventually slaves they set up trading ports up and down the coast and into the interior along the Zambezi River. By the late 18th century Mozambican ports dealt mainly in human trafficking, with estimates topping one million wretched souls passing through these harbors into hell.
In the late 1920's, Portuguese President Antonio Salazar limited all investment in Mozambique to Portuguese only, which saw a flood of immigrants from the mother country to Africa. No money was put into development of the African population and soon resentment grew. In 1960 troops opened fire on peaceful protestors in Mudea, killing large numbers. Fighting ensued and after years of conflict, independence was declared in 1975. The Portuguese left overnight sinking ships and filling wells with cement. With the country in total chaos Frelimo established ties with the USSR and implemented socialistic changes. By 1983 the country was teetering on bankruptcy and fighting broke out between the ANC, Frelimos government and Renamo (established in Rhodesia and later back by South Africa, as a destabilization force). Not wanting to rule the country, Renamo's main objective was to paralyze Mozambique into submission. In the seventeen years of turmoil that followed people were rounded up and leaders or anyone with skills murdered. Atrocities made international news as roads, bridges, schools and clinics were leveled. To this day, except for main highways, many roads remain soft sand or broken tar pitted with potholes so deep that if you fall in one, the driver behind you could drive right over your roof. The north remains plagued with land mines and once again long after the 1990 cease fire, the locals still suffer the effects of the ravages of war.
So desperate were the Mozambican villagers, that when we were staying in Phalaborwa, South Africa, we were told the tale of residents spotting a small boy crying in the upper branches of a tree. The only thing separating Mozambique from South Africa were the vast plains of Krueger National Park. Lured down from the branches with food, the frightened young boy told a nightmarish tale of his family of 6 crossing crocodile and hippo filled rivers and walking for miles through the wilds of Krueger. One by one everyone was stalked and killed by lions, with him escaping, his existence hanging by a thread. For a father to choose this risk for his family, life back home must have been horrendous.
Elections were held in 1994. Surprisingly Renamo support was declared but when they lost in 1999, fighting broke out once again. Now a self proclaimed example of post-war reconciliation Mozambique progresses slow but sure, a success story in the making. With a friendly smile and endless patience these people possess the determination necessary to forge forward, leaving behind the scars from almost 2 decades of civil strife.
All troubles are forgotten in the lively music and dance of this coastal country. 'Marrabentia' captures your soul and draws you in for a hip shaking dance to the rhythmical beat. Maputo, the capital, has a lively vibe pulsing through the streets and along the waterfront. Colorful 'capulanas' hang behind vendors selling everything from coconuts, to seafood to spices. Downtown has a small business section, dotted with loud music and touts selling their wares. The old port boasts wide shady boulevards, a couple modern but expensive shopping centers, and a good variety of Portuguese, Indian and Chinese restaurants.
We say over and over again that worldwide, irrespective of country or culture, there are 95% good people and 5% let's say "working on being good" people. The Mozambican police almost monopolize the 5% in their country. Holding true to their reputation, we were stopped for the first time within minutes of entering the country. Escaping by the skin of our teeth we soon embarked on a wild escapade through the streets of Maputo. Joseph had stopped to take a picture of a fresco along the waterfront - holding up the traffic for about 15 seconds. A truck with 2 fat cat officers in the front and 6 machine gun toting soldiers in the back pulled us over and announced we had "made a mistake and must pay for it". I didn't like that phrase when I was growing up and we sure didn't like the sound of that now. After exchanging pleasantries and Joseph biting his tongue till it bled, we politely declined the offer to pay an expensive bribe. We said we were on our way to find an Indian restaurant for lunch - could they please direct us? "You can take us all out to lunch!", a costly proposition in expensive Mozambique. "Then give us money instead!" Finally we had one nerve left and they were getting on it. We declared that we wanted to go to the police station to pay our fine, at least it might be the proper amount of bribery. We were hungry so asked them to please point out Avenue Vladimir Lenine on the way up the hill. Five minutes later an arm pointed left and taking that as our cue Joseph sped left down the boulevard, then right, then left and ducked into a narrow alley behind a small hotel. 'Bonnie and Clyde' had a snack and laid low for about 30 minutes. Fugitives of the law, we then ventured back out onto the street. Retracing our escape route we quickly slipped into a parking space behind a large white dump truck just as the truck full of policemen raced by. Humming the theme song from "Mission Impossible' we continued down the street; the coast was clear. Knowing that all whites kind of look alike we continued on foot and only ducked into a storefront once as our dogged pursuers rounded the corner 15 minutes later. We enjoyed a leisurely full course Indian dinner, had Joseph's hair cut (part of our disguise), bought a few vegetables and walked back to our van, glad that the hounds had given up the scent of our trail. Over the month that followed we were stopped several more times until we developed a plan. If we saw a group of policeman, alias "Keystone Cops" stopping cars, especially if they were without a vehicle themselves; we would just either look in the opposite direction or play stupid tourist, wave back and smile, saying , "Hi, Have a good day!" as slowly ambling on our way. Crooked as it gets, who were they to point fingers? Corruption reeks as underpaid government employees squeeze foreigners and locals alike, who in turn wouldn't miss a chance to borrow your shoes or camera if you let your guard down. Wonder if these guys have heard of "Karma"?
Working our way up the coast we stopped one night in a remote, mosquito infested village area. The next morning Joseph answered a light tapping on the door. A short timid policeman, looking like a boy wearing his father's uniform for Halloween, proceeded through an interpreter, to determine if we were in fact 'enemies of the state'. Had our Maputo escapade caught up with us? We just informed them that we had parked in the field for the night and were, as we speak, moving on. Definite backlash from the recent war. Driving about 1 km down the road we heard another knock as Joseph prepared breakfast. This time, the village chief, dressed in new clothes and reeking of after shave, came by for another round of questioning. We were the best thing that had come along to his village in years! Within minutes we were sharing fruit and laughing. Sure fooled them! Our undercover work had not been exposed!!!
From Hawaii, we were drawn to the spectacular coastline filled with endless stretches of white sand beaches. Slowly working our way up the coast we relaxed and soaked up the surf near Xai-Xai Beach, Chidenguele, Inhambane, Tofo and finally Vilankulo. Warned that the roads to the northeast were in poor condition for our van we headed inland near Chimoio. We were happily driving along when one of our closed but weak roof vents blew off onto the road with a loud crashing sound. Having had perfect weather the whole month in Mozambique we noticed large black clouds looming on the horizon! Within 10 minutes we were busily trying to lay out towels and plastic on the bed as the heavens opened in a deluge. As the rain poured in Joseph, my 'MacGyver' quick thinker/fixer, put up his umbrella through the hole and I sat holding it as he slowly drove to the next town. We pulled into a small garage amid howls of laughter, covered the hole with a piece of roofing tin and settled into the village behind the garage for the night. Sunshine greeted us the following morning and with a couple stops at hardware stores he had it fixed. We headed northwest through the remote dry interior, home of giant baobab trees, to the northern boom town of Tete. This route was full of tiny huts and villagers selling mouthwatering 'narni' oranges, passion fruit, fresh roasted cashews, large avocados or coconuts. We stopped by many a village just to say, "Hi!" We were always met with amazement, then broad genuine smiles as they invited us into their huts or cooking areas. This is a world removed from the well traveled southern coastal route, frequented during holiday seasons by fast moving South Africans. Always finding a secluded corner to pull off we were welcomed into homes several times by great people like Okkie & El, Paul & Christine, Kondwani and many more. We definitely felt the warmth of the Mozambicans, called by Vasco da Gama 'terra da boa gente' land of the good people!
And so it
goes.........................................Next month Malawi. Until then let's try to remain
flexible, letting go of control a bit, allowing life to take
us on a wondrous trip.
Lighten up and enjoy the moment!! Thanks for keeping in touch and
sending some smiles our way. We love hearing from you.
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Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = Approx 70 Mtc Meticals
Driving into Mozambique - in Komotipoort South Africa - beside Sosal Garage - is friendly Rina. She will help with 3rd party insurance (150r) safety triangles and a safety vest for only 40r. YES, you do need it. The police in Mozambique are looking for any excuse to get a 'free lunch'
In our usual style we parked along all the beaches up the coast,
without problem. Locals were friendly, helpful and curious.
Ask around for good Indian restaurants. I think the Nautilus? - in 2 locations - has great authentic food. The best was ?? (sorry can't remember) down behind a petrol station near the northern end of Avenue Vladimir Lenine, before the wide boulevard and roundabout.
Don't miss the market down the road. Loaded with fresh vegetables. We had fun dancing with the ladies in the courtyard entrance. Stock up if heading north. Also stock up on oranges and cashews as they aren't available in Malawi.
Pizzeria Vapor - across from
the market and just down from Castelo Branco. Good pizzas in a
wood fired oven - courtyard setting - starting at 800mtc.