Friday, January 14, 2011


Blog 13

They just don’t make wives like they used to. Wives used to pullback the covers before one retired. Some really well trained wives would remember to bring ones slippers when you removed your brogues after a long and tiring day at the office. They wouldn’t be at you about what a hard day they had had with the kids just when you settled back in your chair with a whiskey.  Then in the morning they would pull up the covers even though the maid was coming in later. Now had my wife done as she used to do before she turned sixty, I wouldn’t have left my little bag containing my camera, wallet, driving licence credit cards etc on my bed, as I would have seen it when I went back to check we had not left anything behind. It would have been on top of the covers not hidden out of sight.  I know the Casa Lisa generator left us in the dark when we got up at three in the morning to escape the Maputo traffic as we headed South, but I don’t think that is any excuse for not pulling up the covers.

Had Ewa pulled up the covers I would have been in a position to show my drivers licence to the policeman. When I told him that I did not have it on me because my wife didn’t pull up the covers, he wasn’t that impressed, but I think understood my situation and let me pass unhindered. Maybe he had an old style wife?  Actually thinking about it maybe Africans do have old style wives who do their job properly, as the next policeman manning the road block after Komatipoort customs, on the South African side also felt sorry for me when I told him my story. We just discussed a couple of places where he could spend his Easter holidays in Mozambique then we bade each other fairwell. Very understanding these cops.

Just to go back a bit, with the help of Abdul we finally got the Kombi going by 3.30 pm on Wednesday the 5th. What an amazing individual Abdul turned out to be, as well as being a top class mechanic. In a way it was worthwhile breaking down in Pemba, as we really got to know our way around the place and met and made some really wonderful friends. So often we rush in and out of really interesting places and miss the roses. Abdul must have spent three days of time running all around getting parts machined, then assembling and replacing the cylinder head. When I asked him how much I owed him, he turned to me and said “Nothing, I have enjoyed meeting you and have made a great friend!”  He really cared about us, and at 6 in the evening sent an SMS asking where we had got to and if we were OK. What a bloke.

Other great things came our way. We got to know Brenda and Rudi (the owners of Pemba Dive and Bush Camp) pretty well. We got to know their offspring Kai and Bianca, although I have a feeling Alex got to know Bianca a little better than we did! We were upgraded to the honeymoon suite for two free nights. We were invited to a prawn dinner to celebrate Bianca’s birthday and Ewa certainly enjoyed the chocolate birthday cake! All in all we made great friends and were sad to wave them goodbye.

The drive home was 4400 kms and we had three and a bit days to drive it if we wanted to see JoJo before she flew back to the UK. We made it and the Kombi didn’t miss a beat, but what a trip. It was a great help knowing what to expect on the way home, as we had a pretty good idea of road conditions and where we were going to sleep in the evening, but which ever way you cut it, it is a long drive. I sort of broke the trip up into bite size chunks 200 kms at a time, then I would say to myself that it will only take two hours to cover the 200 kms, therefore we will arrive at such and such a place by six, then hope that the clock or my calculation were wrong so that we would in fact arrive at five! We always arrived at six!

We left Pemba at 3.30 on the afternoon of 5th Jan and drove for 5 hours to Mantes Nairuco, Manuels place outside Nampula. It is rainy season and you watch these amazing cumulus clouds build up for the afternoon deluge, which is really dramatic with claps of thunder and lightning all over the place. We were really lucky as we continuously seemed to just clip the edge of the storm, so we managed to maintain our 98km/hour average speed. If you do happen to drive through one of these storms you really have to slow down a) because you can only see about 10m in front of you and b) you can’t see the potholes as they fill up with water!

Our destination for day two was Inchope, which is about 1200kms Nampula.  A five o’clock start was a tad later than I wanted to leave, but that was first light and I had to perform my morning ritual of checking the oil, tyre pressure and water level in the radiator. As we were the only campers at the place, we slept on the floor of the Ladies changing room, as this meant we did not have to rearrange the Kombi to its sleeping mode, so we could get a quick and early start. The place is really clean, with great showers, clean toilets, electric lights and no ants! The cockroaches, mozzies, spiders and other flying insects were no match for Super Doom; they were soon lying on their backs giving a last twitch as they were swept out of the door.

I can’t say that sleeping in a room of recently sprayed Doom is a very healthy option, but there we go, the options at that time of night were somewhat few. As in so many conflicts between man and nature, the end result is not that satisfactory! If you turn on the light, all manner of flying, crawling things come out of the woodwork and form a mist around the light bulb as they try to commit Hara-Kiri. So you don’t turn on the light until the door is closed, the towels have been placed to close the gap under the door and the windows or screens are closed. Only then can you turn on the light and dispense the Doom as required.

I must say I don’t like to see them twitching, so I stamp on the bigger bugs, as I think that is a little more humane than twitching to death. But then I don’t like to hear that crunching sound as the humane blow is delivered. Why are bugs’ guts yellow?

On the whole the roads were not as bad as I had expected, except for a 30km stretch outside Macuba. Quite unbelievable! There you are going along at a reasonable pace on a first world road. The games being played in my head are right on the button, 98kms average speed, spot on Nampula by 5pm. Then out of the blue you hit a “hasbeenroad” . Plain dirt roads are predictable and can be tolerated, but hasbeenroads are virtually impassable as the once asphalt surface makes way for a cavity that would almost swallow a Kombi. If you were Martian and took a birds eye view of the road, you would be completely mystified by the goings on of the Earthlings below, as their movements become completely random in a desperate attempt to avoid destruction. Our average speed dropped to 15km/hour. It is hard to fathom why this particular 30kms failed to gain the attentions of Government, as either side of it is a perfect road? It did however create a financial opportunity for the local youth, who instead of going to school or tilling the fields, would spot the approaching vehicle moving spasmodically forward in random motion, then spring out of the bush with spade in hand and with much gusto and fanfare, fill in a pothole with dirt, drop the spade and put their hands out for money! Maybe there were Aid Workers or wannabee good samaritans who did in fact give to these kids, and this was the reason for the road condition. Dug up by kids? Don’t laugh it could be true!

The road goes through some spectacular wooded countryside which no doubt will be open veld in the not too distant future as you witness these massive trees being carted out by trucks emblazed with Chinese writing. It is gut wrenching to see.

We would have liked to visit the Gorangosa Reserve as we drove right past it, but unfortunately we did not have the time to do so. The Gorangosa Reserve was the headquarters of Renamo during the war, which practically saw the demise of all game. However the books tell you that the game is returning. I have my doubts if it will ever get back to its former glory. Starvation will see to that. As you drive down the road  you see all sort of Vendors selling their trophies, which include dead monkeys, duiker, rabbits, live upside down chickens and hunks of “I know not what” meat. Maybe by not visiting the reserve we were spared further heartache. We will never know.

The guide books are not very complimentary about Inchope which lies at the intersection of the East / West between Beira and Zimbabwe and the North / South EN1. It is really a large truck stop. On the way up we went West towards Zimbabwe before going North through Tete, and saw very little opportunity for camping or any other accommodation. So it was with great relief when we came upon what at one time must have been an amazing holiday resort with two large swimming pools with cascading fountains, camp sites, all manner of chalets and rooms, a restaurant, dress shop, discotheque and pool bar. The time was 5.30pm. Inchope was 27kms down the road and we knew there was only bush for the next 93 kms on the other side of Inchope, where it was our intention to bush camp.  So in we drove. The rooms were clean and there was an aircon. A walk around the place reflected every other locally owned establishment. The frog population in the pools were flourishing, waterfalls without water, shop with no goods. We ordered chicken and chips which eventually arrived, but the beer was cold and the sheets were clean. We weren’t even bothered by the toilet not flushing or the shower not draining. The price was expensive, but I am sure the space was normally sold by the hour. We put our head on the pillows and slept for 6 hours, leaving at 4.00 am being careful to not wake up the car-guard on the way out. The poor lad must have been tired.

Our next destination point was Casa Lisa Camp Site 50 kms outside Maputo. It is a drive of about 1000 kms., the problem is that after about 200kms you get towards the coast at Vilankulos and the highway robbers increase. These robbers are not like the Shiftas of Northern Kenya, they wear police uniforms caps and AK47’s. They put roadblocks across the road and stop any vehicle with a foreign number plate. They ask you how you are, then proceed to take money from you. Our only saving grace was that the Kombi looked terribly dirty and shabby and it was driven by two doddering old people who were lost and needed directions to the next town. Bastards. As long as countries are subjected to the governance of the likes of these people, they will go no where.

We had stayed at Casa Lisa on the way up. It is not run by Mozambiqueans, it works. How sad is that. After over two months in Malawi and Mozambique we came across only one establishment run by the locals which had any semblance of good management or basic cleanliness.

On arrival at Casa Lisa, who should arrive at the same time? The Great Trek from Pemba. It was great to see them and hugs all around. “Luister Oom” says Piet, “We have a chalet for you, my broth-in-law was meant to come with us and booked and paid for a chalet, so please use it, it is much more comfortable than camping”!

We had a great meal and slept like a log until 3.00am. That’s when my wife forgot to pull up the covers!

The Great Trekkers and us all left at the same time. They went ahead and soon disappeared over the horizon. It is hard to describe the road through Maputo, you have a 50% chance of not having an accident. The Chinese are apparently upgrading the Road ahead of the African Games. It is almost impossible to see what is road and what is not. There are no lights and what vehicles there were at that time of the morning have no lights. It was small wonder that the Police Casper-like vehicle had a head-on collision with an old BMW that they were trying to extricate from under them. We drove around the shambles, and it was with great relief that we emerged unscathed on the other side where we turned right and headed on a proper road towards the South African border. That was more than I can say for the Great Trek. They were seen coming by the Highway Robbers who, being a Saturday morning at 3am needed beer money, which was not going to be forthcoming from the driver of the taxi with 32 people hanging on the outside. Much easier to take R1000 off the South Africans who had three girls sleeping flat on the back seat, not wearing safety belts.

It was a great relief to get into South Africa. The stark contrast of agricultural shambles on one side of the border and the vast organised banana plantations on the SA side, bear testimony to the benefits of structure and planning.

We made Hanover by 6.30. Hanover is exactly half way between Cape Town and Johannesburg. I have never been their before, so I said to Ewa if it is half decent we are stopping as we would then only have 700km to drive in the morning. Well we were blown away by
Karroo Madness No.3 Darling Street
. It would appear that the Gay community have moved into a lot of these little Karroo towns and turned dusty villages into B&B delights. It was a really quaint place. We had two Pizza which were so large we were eating them for the next two days. The Dutch Reformed Church was all lit up and was quite magnificent We parked under a shady tree outside the restaurant and slept soundly until 3am, when we hit the road for the last haul home.

The Karroo was looking magnificent after all the rains. A proper Boere breakfast at Laingsburg hotel really hit the spot.

It is a beautiful drive down through the Hex River valley, but I was absolutely shocked by the size of the squatter township outside DeDoorns. DeDoorns for Pete’s sake. It highlighted exactly my fears. How can the South African tax base support all these immigrants flooding in from North of us?

We made it into Cape Town at 1pm, 12500kms of driving. What a trip.

A quick overview? Should we be employing foreigners, are we not propagating trouble? We are sitting on a knife edge.

About wives that are not like they used to be! Ewa washed my other pair of shorts and T shirt not very well, but that was not the problem, she didn’t iron them. Now if you don’t iron your clothes after being in the countries North of us, something hides in your clothes and lays eggs on you while you are not looking and it itches. I will have to do my own ironing.
Poor Doff !!

I was thinking of placing an add in the paper as follows:

Wife required. Must be able to push a Kombi, do ironing and washing, cook, speak many languages, ride a motorbike, have sence of humour, non smoker, pay her own way.

Do you think I will get any replies?

Actually I don't know why I bother, I have such a wife! South America here we come. 

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year Blog 12

Fire Circles

Bush Camp Sunset

Water color portrait

First Acrylic

Bush Camp
 Happy New Year Blog 12

There is no point in stressing about things you can’t change. We should have left on the 29th, but will now be lucky to get away by the 5th January 2011. The parts for the Kombi that should have arrived, were delayed because of customs in SA. Finally after vacant stares from the DHL office and with no small amount of assistance from Piet Marais, who occupies one leg of the laager he, his brother and “swaar” erected next to us at the Bush Camp, were traced to the Airlink office where they have been sitting for two days! One would imagine that if you formed part of the world wide transport link of a delivery chain and a parcel arrived marked DHL and adorned with every conceivable URGENT sticker you can imagine, perhaps you consider it an opportune time to stop talking on your cell phone for just a moment, so that you could walk into the adjoining office of DHL and inform them of the arrival of an URGENT parcel!  You would have further thought that, having now miraculously traced the said parcel, and further advised the cell phone operator, that the contents of the said parcel was urgently required to enable two OAP’s to return to Cape Town in order to meet their soon departing daughter, it would be possible to take possession of said goods. Wrong again!
Customs need to clear said parcel and customs don’t work today, being a Thursday! “Can you not see that I am talking on my cell phone?” she says.

Having traced a customs officer at the harbour, I am told to return to the airport where I will be met by another official who will take a R100 bribe and give me the said parcel. Having received that parcel and delivered it to the mechanic, I am further informed that the machine shop has just closed, the boss has departed for a long weekend, but “I promise that your car will be ready on the 4th….latest the 5th!”

No stress. If we travel all day and all night we should be able to blow kisses to JoJo through the security glass of the now FIFA approved Oliver Tambo airport.

Africa, take a chill pill and enjoy the ride! So it is New year at the Pemba Dive Bush Camp with the boys. I could think of worse situations!

As I have said previously, it takes stressful situations to find the good in people, people “who care”!

Piet Marais and his wife Sonje, brother Jan and his wife Bella-Marie and their “Swaar” Casper and this wife (Piet and Jan’s sister) Adell and daughters Tokkie, Deleen and Sassie, erected what can only be described as a “Laager”.
These are big people. Casper who is a Bees en Skaap Boer and diamond prospector from Bloemhof, weighs in at 145kg. Piet and Jan who between them see to the rubbish removal, verge and grass trimming of Polakwane; (Pretoria) Shoprite / Checkers central distribution warehouse and Toyota Assembly Plant, tip the scales at 130kg and 125kg respectively.

The Laager is contained in three Hannibal Conqueror all terrain trailers, transported by thee 3 litre Toyota 4*4’s of various descriptions. Each vehicle has a modified front fender with built in winch and deflector plates, which appear to have got their styling the from the Army Caspers, which were such a common sight in the mine fields and townships of the Apartheid era.

The sheer size of these wonderful people is intimidating. They are not the sort of people who you would approach with an offer of cash for their eldest daughter, they don’t find that sort of remark funny as a local lad on Ibo Island found out!

I don’t think I have ever seen such an encampment. They have every conceivable gadget imaginable. The somewhat erratic supply of the Mozambique Electrical Commission is of absolutely no significance to Casper and family. A mere flick of a switch has their aircon fans turning in a heartbeat. Why sweat if you don’t have to?!

I really had to laugh when I asked Casper if they had been to Sodwana Bay?
“Ja Oom, maar daar is te veel mense van Gauteng af, met daarie groot 4*4’s” (Yes uncle (I love the respect) but there are so many people there from Gauteng with these big 4*4’s) is his reply.

These are genuine people who look you straight in the eyes, “I don’t mind if an Oke wants to marry a black woman, but then they must be consistent, not like some of the Okes in Bloemhof who tell you one thing then do another” says Casper!

I don’t think that I have come across more unbridled generous assistance as received from the Casper and Co, and the children are a delight, they actually play made up games together, they talk to you with real interest and correct my Afrikaans with a laugh, these are not shy farm kids, they are right up there with everything, I think it is the manners, they have manners. I have said it before and I say it again, South Africa without the Marais of this world is a gonna.

More characters for the movie!

The Bush Camp is situated on the lagoon side of Pemba 2.5 kms down a dirt road. As we have been without transport we have done a lot of walking up to the main road, where we have joined the mass transport system into town. At 5 mets (R1) for however far you go, it is great value. However at times it gets a little crowded. The other day we counted 26 passengers in a 15 passenger vehicle! This morning had my face pressed unusually close to the bust of a delightfully unperturbed lady. It is so much more fun than the sanitised air-conditioned transport of the Pemba Resort Hotel, which drops off cool looking clients at their private departure lounge.

The markets are a photographic delight, but you would expect to find a bigger variety of produce. The goat heads and meat sections, tend to push you to the edge of vegetarianism, as does the morning catch of majestic sail fish. Such a clever advertising concept from Vodacom. They appear to give you the paint to paint your house Vodacom Blue. There are whole villages pained blue!

We have had an enjoyable time, met some truly wonderful people and enjoyed the weather in the morning and the evening! It is hot, very hot. 26 degrees at 5 in the morning quickly rising to 40 degrees by 11 am. If you want  to get anything done, do it early or late afternoon, otherwise reading a book while lying in a shaded hammock, floating in the lagoon or painting a picture, tends to lower stress. But I am looking forward to moving on next week. Hopefully!

I have done my first Acrylic painting as well as a couple of other water colours. Acrylics are so different, I will try again, they are quite fun to do, if you get it wrong, it can be corrected, unlike watercolours!

Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pemba Bush Camp



Pemba Bush & Dive Camp

Dressed for Christmas

Sunset Bush Camp

Russells Lodge Wimbi Beach
Blog 11 Pemba

Wimbi Beach. That is the place to be seen! So we are told. Russell’s Place is on Wimbi beach. Well not exactly on the beach, rather on the other side of the road of the properties that border the beach. I am not sure what Russell will do, if in the unlikely event the person who started building the four houses on the beach properties over the road from Russell’s Place, decide to complete the project, as the present access system to the beach works just fine. Out of the gate past the guards, over the dirt road, over the broken fence, past the unfinished houses, around the piles of rubbish, onto the beach, Simple.

If the tide is out you have to work a further 500m to find the sea. Is it pretty? Not really. Is it what we expected? No, definitely not and I certainly would not drive 7500 odd kms to come to Pemba, but we have had a really interesting time getting here and I believe Pemba Dive and Bush Camp, which is where we have made our reservations for a ten day holiday, will realise our expectations.

Russel is an Aussie from the Gold Coast who makes laid back feel busy. He started Russell’s Place soon after the end of the Frelimo war, to accommodate the Overlanders travelling down from Tanzania. Trade in those days, he tells us, was excellent, but then the ferry which provided the link across the Rovuma River sank, so most of this trade by passed him via Lake Malawi. They have built a new bridge across the river, but it is 200 km upstream and the roads on either side make crossing this bridge a serious challenge and not a particularly attractive option. Trade he tells us is OK but not that great. On the other hand the drop off in trade could also be due to the fact that he finds it a bit of a drag replying to booking requests!

Russell’s Place however reminds me of the Pudding Shop in Istanbul. It is the place that all travellers seem to pass through if they want the low down on what’s what. The facilities are great, clean and functional. His swimming pool is a blissful retreat from the heat, even though the water temperature and the outside temperature are on parity.  It was a great place to spend two days playing catch-up before the boys fly in and we move to the Bush Camp. A couple of cold beers, a painting or two, don’t know when I will find time for this Blog thing!

Pemba leaves a little to be desired. I imagined it to be a quaint palmed lined, seaside resort village, with turquoise seas and coral reefs, just like the brochures. It isn’t, but it must have been at one time in it’s history. It began as an Arab trading port. Being situated on a peninsula with a massive bay/lagoon on one side and the open Indian Ocean on the other, it certainly must have presented an ideal harbour for the Arabs to take refuge in their dhows as they waited for the Trade winds to switch from blowing from the North in summer, to Southerlies in the winter. (Dhows incidentally can not point into the wind, well maybe a couple of degrees but not enough to go back to Arabia!).

Pemba must also  have been a great place to “hang out”; chain up whatever locals you could find in the area for future sale as slaves, lie under the palm trees, bonk a few of the lasses and generally have a good time swopping whatever on whatever was the then equivalent of Gumtree. A good place to be! Then came the Portuguese. Why change a winning formula?

Majestic remnants of the good times can be seen falling apart all over the place. If there was a Gum Tree it has long been cut down and turned to into charcoal. The waste management policy leaves a bit to be desired. The dump in the middle of the town is full up and I don’t think that anyone has come up with an alternative option, but there again the work day lasts about four hours. Five in the morning to about nine, then you melt.
The upside is you can fly in and out of Pemba with ease. There is a runway that can land any aeroplane, it was built by the Americans to give them strike potential into Mogadisu.

Oh dear, something is wrong with the Kombi engine…aaaah, but we are in Pemba…..yea……but I don’t know what is wrong….aaaah, but I am on holiday in Pemba so have time to fix it …..yea…….but …. Its more than dirt in the fuel…..aaaah………but I have more time to look at it….yea….the valve guide has collapsed…..big aaah……there are no Kombi exhaust valves, valve guides or any kombi parts in Pemba……more aaaah……and it is the day before Christmas…..bigger aaaaah….. I have found parts in SA that are flying DHL from Cape Town………yea, yea, yea, …..and I have a mechanic who will do the job….yea…. but the parts have not arrived………aah… we may have to remain on holiday …..yea!

Pemba Bush and Dive is a great spot. It is situated on the lagoon side of the peninsular away from the madding crowd.

We left Russell’s, picked up the boys at the airport and drove to the Bush Camp. It has everything seen in the brochure, except the diving. The best diving is on a reef off Wimbi Beach, which we drive to on the first morning at the Bush Camp when I thought the lack of performance of the Kombi was a fuel blockage. It was spectacular snorkelling. Luke warm, clear water and beautiful fish; coral and seahorses. We don’t Scuba dive, but we are told  there is some spectacular Scuba diving.

The fun of the swim was marred somewhat by the body of a child washed up onto the beach. The body turned out to be that of a ten year old cerebral palsy girl who being a drag on the family resources was taken out to sea and dumped overboard. Africa is no place for the faint hearted.

We are now forced to stay put at the Bush Camp while we wait for the Kombi Parts to arrive. We are happy with that. We had a really relaxing Christmas and it really is a time to relax and catch up before the long drive back to Cape Town via Zimbabwe.

I have done a couple of paintings, a few sketches of the boys, mud bath, fishing, swimming, reading……. I like this forced relaxation!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blog 10

I forgot that I published the last blog, and modified the last paragraph! So please read the following as a continuation of Blog 9

....................It has been an interesting couple of days. Did I enjoy it? Yes and No, but on the whole No. You can’t close yours eyes as you are watched and regarded as a bank on two legs, a Fat Monkey.

The drive out went a lot quicker than the drive in. What a relief to reach the tarred road. The relief is short lived, a much more intransient obstacle lay ahead about 5 kms down the road. A fat, officious, corrupt, smirky, low-life, police woman operating a road block that is nothing more than a Christmas collection box for other low-life colleagues, stops us. First the drivers licence, then the car insurance letter she can not read, then the registration papers, the inspection of the SA tax disk, the vis. jackets, the triangles. All good, no Christmas Box here. Ah, what about a fire extinguisher? “Not required I reply, only for commercial vehicles”. Actually, I have had an extinguisher in the car for years, but I must have left it in the workshop after the latest re-fitment! We look anyway, out with everything, delay, delay, delay.
“I must fine you” she says. “I am telling you a Fire Extinguisher is not required, so why don’t you write out the fine and I will take it back to the Police Station in the appropriately named Monkey Bay and check the statute books and speak to the Top Monkey” I say, or rather wanted to say but managed to bite my tongue. We take the scrap of paper and return to meet the Top Brass Monkey.

I am correct, vehicles carrying hazardous materials require two fire extinguishers; public transport vehicles, one fire extinguisher; private vehicles, nothing. When I point out the law to the TBM, he says to Ewa “You are a passenger therefore it is a public vehicle.”

I tell the TBM that we will pay the fine and take the matter up with the Embassy when we return to SA, which we will do, not that it will make a scrap of difference. The TBM then says that they do not have a cashier at the Police Station, only at the road block. We return to the road-block, a swarm of recipients emerge and we pay the “cashier” who is some random lady sitting on a bench with a plastic packet. This matter is not closed!

We met similar TBM’s when we arrived in Moscow in 1975. I didn’t like them then and I like them less now as they are getting closer to home.

I need some light relief, but there is none! We check in to Palm Beach Lodge at the Southern end of Lake Malawi. It is stunning. We park under the Palm Trees on the lake shore. It is owned by another Daanie, an erstwhile South African fisherman, who started developing the place 36 years ago, when it was “one of the best fishing spots in the world”. Now? “I doubt if their will be any fish left in 5 years time” he says. An Aid Organization sponsored mosquito nets in an attempt to fight Malaria. The nets are used to catch fish, and are so fine that they have all but wiped out the breeding grounds!

What is going to happen in Africa? Right now before our eyes you can witness the land being turned to desert by charcoal and the Chinese, no fish in the Lake and very little agriculture. This is happening now. The impact on South Africa can only be devastating whatever our immigration policies may be.

Our next destination point is Ilha de Mozambique, it is about 650 km due East. We have two options, either we go South, East and North on the tar, almost doubling the distance or we go 450 kms due East on dirt to pick up the tar at Nampula. We decide to brave the dirt and pray that the rainy season will abate for the day.

Palm Beach to Mangochi, where the evidence of past wealth adds a quaintness to the town. Left at the defunct traffic lights, along a tree lined avenue to the round-a-bout with statuesque statue celebrating the entrance to the bridge over the river separating Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe. It is impressive. We cross the bridge and start the climb out of the rift valley. We climb up to 1400 m. The views are vast and spectacular. We reach the Mozambique border at Chiponde a depressing dustbowl of a town. We miss the border post, which is hardly surprising as it required a left turn between various informal traders, money changers and touts. We correct our mistake 10kms down the road. I wait in the car while Ewa negotiates officialdom. Can my wife act? She returns to the car in tears. More tears, and pleadings of ignorance and poverty see us through. That made both our Malawi border experiences  a trial.We had only been granted a 2 day visa into Malawi, why I don’t know as we had said we wanted to travel around a bit and had asked for a 2 week visa. So now we had overstayed our welcome by 8 days and needed to pay a fine.Luckily the young official on the other side of the counter was embarrassed by Ewa’s weeping and wailing and as we hadn’t yet signed the book and filled in our particulars he just tore up the visa document and sent us away. Much better experiences on the Mozambique border and we are on our way. Seven hours of dodgem cars, dodgem livestock, dodgem people, and dodgem potholes. One unsuspecting sunken bridge landing bottomed out the kombi, but we survived. The rain largely held off, the light vanished but we made it to Mantes Nairuco Camp site.

Mantes Nairuco is owned by Manuel Malves Ferrera. I have met some amazing people in my life, but not many like Manuel. I have GOT to make a movie or documentary about this man. Please film-makers, writers and promoters out there, help me. This man provides the centre point of an African story. He ran away from Madeira when he was 16, he was hungry. He arrived in Johannesburg in the 1960’s when “Verwoerd was in power”. After six years in Johannesburg he had overstayed his visa and was arrested. He could pay a fine or go to gaol for a month. He had no money so he chose gaol. Not speaking anything but Portuguese and no formal education he managed to get release into Mozambique. He started driving trucks. Leased some land 20 kms outside Nampula. Married Veronica, started farming, started dam building and carried on driving trucks. 18 years later he has 450 hectares of land, groves of orange trees, lemon trees, and leachy trees. Enough chickens that he can have 7000 stolen by his workers and still be in business. Enough Quails to produce 1400 eggs a day. A timber plantation, palm trees and a camp site highly recommended by Lonely Planet. The whole enterprise sustained by the water in the dam he started building 18 years ago. A dam that now spreads back 1 km through massive granite rocks.
On the 28th of March 2010, the hidden city of termites in the dam wall caused a fist sized breach in the wall. Two hours later Manuel watched 18 years of life washed down the river, leaving “Baraccas” and Palm Trees arbitrarily standing on what was once the shore line.

We arrive somewhat shattered by our long and dusty drive, we are warmly welcomed by Manuel and Veronica. He says, “The rains must come now, I finish the dam wall today, everything has died, we need the water again”.  So he starts again and he will succeed against all odds. He is philosophical about life, nature, corruption and politics. He is truly an inspirational person.

Ewa decided that she would like to spend her birthday on Ilha de Mozambique a World Heritage Site accessed by a somewhat suspect 3km single file bridge. The idea was that we would stay in a camp site next to the start of the bridge and described in glowing terms in Ewa’s version of the Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, Ewa’s version is 6 years old! We arrive at what was once a camp site! We can stay there, but there is no water, what were the facilities would necessitate constipation. It is disgusting. I assure my wife that I think it would be OK to stretch the budget and stay in lodgings on the Island, after all it was her last evening at 59 years old!

Ewa vacillates and eventually agreed to splash out! The sun is about to disappear. We cross the bridge and circumnavigate the Island then head for the next Lonely Planet recommendation.
I really do think that out of date second hand guide books are not a good idea! The lodgings described do not exist. Muanangonh (Copa Cabana) presents itself. Sonje the owner is delightful but does not understand a word of English. Marcos Ogasawara is a Brazilian who has been teaching orphans in Chimoio and is sitting at table on the pavement. He speaks English perfectly and helps us out. We are shown various rooms and settle for the en-suite room No.8.

Room No.8 is a basement room with one small window, a double bed with mosquito net over, a TV, a fan that squeaks and very little room for anything else except mosquitoes. The en-suite bit consisted of a loo which had to be flush by water from a orange plastic ex cooking oil container. I took off the cistern top to see if I could remedy the situation, but it was used as a container for ex light bulbs and general rubbish and was not connected to the bottom half of the loo. There was a tap in the wall but no fitting above and anyway if you opened the tap there was no water in the system anyway, hence another bucket of water and milk jug to scoop it out! This was definitely not how I would have imagined spending Ewa’s 60th birthday!

It was fun and coolish sitting on the pavement having a beer and chatting to Marcos and learning about Sao Paulo and his Japanese father. The potatoes and onion soup was great, the fish was terrible but the rice filled a gap!

We retired to bed, or rather to our room. I think I managed to kill all the resident mosquitoes after about half an hour and managed to fall through the loose slats in the bed in the process. Spike Milligan once said he could grab a handful of air and squeeze the sweat out of it! Such was the air. The only relief was the squeaky fan; we turned it on, climbed under the mosquitoes net and sweated it out until 4.30 in the morning!  At 4.30 the sun starts rising, the Mosque starts calling, the person on the other side of the window makes a fire for cooking and begins sweeping whatever was that side of the wall. I start choking, wish my wife Happy Birthday, pour a milk jug of tepid water over our sweating bodies and decide to walk to town before the general rise of the masses. This was definitely a memorable Birthday!

By 7.30 we had walked the Island. It is a photographic feast of dilapidated buildings and humanity. I am not sure what obligations a World Heritage Site places on UNESCO or Government, but whatever it is, it appears not to be working.Actually it really was awful…the accommodation that is…it was worse than any servants’ quarters in SA….I think it must have been where the Arabs “stored” the slaves before sending them off to the Americas…anyway at least we could laugh about it and  know more about what it feels like to live here!!

We are away from Ilha de Mozambique by  km 7.45 am. We have a 200km diversion to yet another Lonely Planet recommendation in Nacala, which does not exist and decide to head for our ultimate destination. Pemba.Well it did but under a different name!! and was a couple of kms up a sandy road and we felt sorry for the kombi and I didn’t want to push and dig on my bday!! He left out the part when we had to dig and push the Kombi out of the dreadful campsite near Ilha da Mozambique, the day before my bday!! After a tumultuous thunder burst 400 odd kms, we make it by nightfall to Russell’s Camp. A birthday dinner, champagne and sleep, ends my wife’s 60th birthday celebration.
My wife as we know her after champagne. A memorable day for sure.

The GPS says we are 12º57.59 South 40º34.01East and have travelled 7215 kms


Monday, December 13, 2010

Cape Maclear Malawi

Blog 9

GOD IS WITH US ……….JJ & SONS, so says the writing on the “kappenta” boat as it chugs by, it is 6.15 in the morning. JJ at the helm and the Sons curled up asleep on the fishing nets squashed between the paraffin lights and the dugouts which are loaded across the beam of the boat. They and many others have been out all night laying their nets. It is a tough life staged within the backdrop of tranquil beauty.

We have taken up residence at Fat Monkey’s. The Kombi is parked under a massive Mango tree and my view of the lake, half sunken boat and the island is framed by hanging mangoes that “thud” down on the Kombi roof and the ground around us at regular intervals. The beach between the no-go zone of Fat Monkey’s wall and the lake is traversed by all sorts of passing life; kids going to school, woman with large colourful plastic bowls balanced on their heads baby strapped to the back and the previous child toddling next to her, Hustlers waiting to engage the unsuspecting traveller who puts foot into this zone, with “Hullo, how are you, my name is Livingstone”  (he got around did David!) and all sort of stragglers walking to where-ever. Some prefer to paddle the distance in their hollowed out dugouts.

Fingers of Chembe village occasionally fill the gaps down to the lake which is otherwise occupied by White owned resorts of mixed nationalities.

If you flew into Cape Maclear you could be forgiven to think you had arrived in heaven, the warm water of the tranquil Lake Malawi, very agreeable weather and peace of the Lodges with their straw roofed bars on the lake edge.

I don’t think I like it, I feel like a monkey in a cage, Ewa says that we are looked at as “money on two legs”. You can’t blame them as the economic difference is massive. Yesterday we walked through Chembe village and thei little market to buy some yeast, (I am determined to perfect the making of bread!), it is really depressing, you look at them and they look at you. It is almost impossible to communicate with any sense of equality, (it is raining mangoes, a breeze got up!) then you retreat back to your largely white enclave.

I was appalled on our arrival. We were sitting under our mango  tree about to enjoy a Carling Green Label (manufactured in Malawi by the only Carling factory in Africa). Two of the Fat Monkeys children ran out into the lake, hotly pursued by their two pet dogs, black jobbies of mixed pedigree. An unsuspecting villager on his walk back home comes between dogs and children and is immediately set upon by the dogs and flees into the lake. I feel sick. The dogs back off and the villager moves on.

I approach the Fat Monkey owners. Repentant? Not a chance. “No doubt he taunted the dogs at some time in the past, welcome to black Africa!” is their reply. I ask them please not to summons me to court, as I would have to say what I saw and in any civilised country in the world the dogs would be put down before someone was killed.

How in the world can this place survive if the only reason the villagers tolerate you is economics. There is absolutely no intention of bridging the gap.

Cape Maclear reminds me of Apartheid in the sixties. Except for the falling mangoes!

I have to say that snorkelling around the island about IKm off shore was like swimming in an aquarium! Now we have to pack up and endure the 18km of hellish corrugations back to the main road.

It has been an interesting couple of days. Did I enjoy it? No, I can’t close my eyes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blog 7 & 8

Blog 7

Limba Country Club to Zomba Plateau Trout Farm Camp site; to Dedza Golf Club Lodge with no golf course!, only Hippo Necks; (Hippo Necks? They are the men who viewed from behind  have rolls of fat where their necks should be, they normally drive large white or silver Turbo Cooled Somethingorothers, with chromed covers protecting the spare wheel. More often or not they have a sort of circular star logo that looks very similar to the UN Logo); to Senga Bay via Lilongwe.

LCC has been described. The trip to Zomba is really scenic. Zomba was the capital of Malawi until 1976 and has the beautiful backdrop of the Zomba Plateau. The steep twisting road winds up the side of the plateau for about eight kilometres to about 1500m. If you are lucky enough not to be shrouded in mist, the views down over the rift valley to Lake Chilwa in the distance are spectacular, and the cool of the forests are a welcome relief form the floor of the valley. We were the only campers at the Trout Farm Camp site. The black ants took us by surprise, but Livingstone, the camp janitor took care of them with a similar remedy to Zimbabwean Steve! Loverly walks, cool air really refreshed the soul.

There is an element of calm in Malawi, decent well educated peaceful people. Everywhere there is an effort at cultivation. The school girls all wear calf length dresses (hangover from Banda days). Most villages have a Post Office and it is not uncommon to see book-shop signs. Bricks, brick kilns and more bricks, everywhere bricks. Apparently it is said that in past days the rural people would demolish their parent’s house when they died, so stock piled bricks in preparation for the day when they would be required! Whatever the reason, there are bricks everywhere……and walls. Brick walls surround every establishment!

The drive to Dedza skirts through the mountains along the border of Mozambique. It is littered with a patchwork of agricultural endeavour. Tomatoes, onions and potatoes all along the way, then all of a sudden massive mushrooms are vendored six at a time on a stick. We stop to look and are surrounded. Six or nothing, “We only want one” we say. Blank, part sales do not appear to be an option. We drive on. I suggest to Ewa that she tenders a 200 Kwatcha (R8, a great deal) note and see what happens. Blank stares until one smart Alec does the maths! The look of surprise on faces of the assembled crowd was amazing; maybe we have started a trend! We managed half a mushroom between us, absolutely delicious. Will buy again should the opportunity arise.

The weather has been very kind, a bit of drizzle and coolish air, not the 50 degrees expected. Dusk brings us to Dedza and on the advice of Lonely Planet; Dedza Golf Course Lodge is the place to camp. We find the sign and turn right, a fork road and no sign takes us rightish, better worn track. LP said DGCL backs onto the forested mountain. The narrowing track is just so. It stars to drizzle and the road and dusk light are running out. “I think we are on the wrong road” says the Dentist. “How do we turn around on a mountain side?” replies the Inventor.

Problem. We reverse. Very silent in the Kombi. Very tense. A track to the side presents itself. The Inventor is not happy, nor is the Dentist cum Car Pusher looking that confident. We make the hairpin reverse manoeuvre and manage to go backwards. The problem is we need to go forwards. No can do, back down the slippery hill, fine. Forwards up said slippery hill in the dark, a problem. Deflate the tyres. Tell the Dentist to take up pushing stance. Much mud flying, we make it to the road, or rather 2m short of the road.  Dentist not looking her best bespattered with mud, very grumpy, back left very low in mud. Rainy season in Malawi. Yours truly seeks help from lone light source. Four young twenty-year-old plus resident Car Pusher get us back on the road facing the exit. DGCL is up the left fork 200m from main road. Dentist very glum.

There is no golf course nor is there camping. The LP is out of date. The receptionist is delightful and offers us the car park and a bathroom in one of their spectacular suites. Ewa is looking a sight to behold spattered head to toe in mud! We have a wonderful bath and are squeaky clean in our new attire but the dress code does not include bare feet! Our shoes look like mud clogs! We have no other option but to scrub our shoes clean in the bath. Never in all my life have I seen a bath that colour!

With new attire, wet shoes and a cleaned bathroom, nobody is the wiser. We enter the bar / restaurant. Hippo Necks, everywhere Hippo Necks. Tribalism and Hippo Necks must go!
Once again I have to interrupt this monologue….please note photo of me and the spade! is not a joke……I really am expected to use it and perform miracles….photo is taken of me clean and relaxed by the lake a few days later!..this time no sand but mud much harder to dig!
Will insist ONLY MOTORWAY travel from now on.

We sleep like a log, routine Kombi maintenance in the morning puts me side by side with the Turbo-Cooled Somethingorother being polished. The difference. The West worries about how it is working, Africa worries about how it looks. The Turbocooled Somethingorother drives away in a cloud of smoke.

Lilongwe to Senga Bay. We are the only occupants of the Steps Sunbird Camp site on Livingstonia Beach, right on the lake. Everything excellent, electricity, clean toilets, absolutely beautiful. The peace remains for a couple of hour until the arrival of Ant Hill, a taxi from Lilongwe. 20 odd people spill out, and the party begins! Its fun, everybody cavorting and dancing, the bass of the music enough to alter any pacemaker. As dusk approaches Ant Hill leaves. Peace again.

It is the beginning of the rainy season. There has been rain most days, but the cloud cover has made travelling pleasant. The afternoons see the build-up of thunder showers which come and go, but nothing like prepared us or the locals for this particular afternoon. The normal size dustbin at our campsite filled up the halfway in two hours! A deluge would be down playing it. The beach was reshaped, two houses in the village were washed away, the lake turned from crystal clear to a mud bath. We battened down the Kombi and bided our time buffeted by huge winds. Then it was gone.

I love the Kombi. It seems to just accept life; it shelters you, protects you and just keeps on going, an amazing vehicle.

Post the deluge, the day cleared to become a perfect day. We inflated the canoe which was brought back as hand luggage from the Cologne Fair some years ago. It lives under the seat in the kombi and has been used many times at sea in an effort to catch a crayfish or two. It can more than handle the 1.5km paddle to the island that beckons a visit. Paddling the Kombi Pusher tells me is good for the Pecs.and boobs! Anything that helps at 60 is welcomed.

We snorkel around the island waters. The fish are beautiful, bright blues and greens, and the water is lukewarm. The gathering afternoon shower sees to the further development of the pectoral muscles!

We move on in the morning to Venice Bay Lodge in Monkey Bay, a 2 hour drive along the lake shore. I like this place, it is not on the tourist route, it is on the lake in the middle of a village; the log boats of the fisherman are lined up on the beach waiting for the morning sun. The lake looks like a sea so it really surprises you seeing people come down to fetch drinking water, wash and bathe in what the subconscious tells you is salty! Life could be easy with a salt less sea!

Blog 8
Some of you have asked me to post some more of my paintings. Well let me say these paintings are tiny. I have a little A5 black book that I use. They are records and I hope to improve as time goes by. Sadly and scarily I filled the book up the other day, so now I have to go bigger and that scares me a little I am also going to try some other mediums, so who knows what the results may be, but either way I love doing them good or bad! The “Little Black Book” contains about 80 sketches and watercolours of trips done over the last year and a half, so I am posting the paintings done so far on this trip, from today onwards they will change!