Tales of a transient in Africa

Tales of a transient in Africa

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Monkey BAD!!

So I havent any photo's to upload at this time as it's difficult doing it from an internet cafe. This past week I made it back down to South Africa after a long drive on suicide roads through Mozambique. Its one stretch in particular that is one lane of sand which is very difficult to navigate through on a bike as your slipping all over the place and look up and theres a huge truck in front of you coming straight on. Anyways For the most part the last few days have been uneventful. I've been eating ice cream at least twice a day getting my fill on it being I havent been able to get any up in Moz. Last night I woke to a racket outside my door. I thought forsure it was thieves trying to take my bike. I thought out my plan as I held a butcher knife anticipating the worst as theives more often than not can be armed here and ruthless. I slipped out the door and much to my surpise and greater fear it was monkies. Now let me tell you, monkies in photos or the Zoo can be very cute and I've always appreciated a cute looking monkey, but when you see those eyes that are so human like staring you down and you know they can cut you down to size with those razor teeth of theres you not only think twice, you run, well I run. back into my cabin and close the windows. It brings me back to my first couple weeks in Mozambique when a monkey decided to perch above my tent as I tried to drift off to sleep and proceeded to start a laughing sound and would not shut up. Finally I got so frustrated I got out and tried to scare him off. He stopped for some time. As I drifted off again he started all over and this time I was livid. I got up and out and was yelling at the top of my lungs "SHUT UP!!!! SHUT UP YOU STUPID MONKEY!!" I heard snickering from the tent next to me. The monkey wouldnt budge and just stared at me blankly in a mocking manner. I picked up stickes and threw them at him but with the agility of an olympic athlete he dodged them as though they came in slow motion. I had a full out argument with this monkey for a good 15 minutes as he would let out hoots at me. Another occasion was in Villanculos as I visited the pet monkey of someone which was in a tree. This was differant being he was tame so I got to feed him and pet him. Up untill the moment Elliott decided it would be funny to poke him in his potbelly. If there's roid rage for monkies this was it. He completely snapped and made a lunge at Elliott who ran off like a little boy leaving me trapped between the exit and the trunk of the tree. He turned his attention to me and started hopping around and screeching. I felt bladder chatter coming on cause I was so scared. They're so human like, yet so not human at the same time its just such a strange experience and this is what really freakes me out when they lose control. ANyways I did escape to and I tore a strip off Elliott for ruining my experience with the monkey but he thought it was one of the funniest things ever and wanted to tease it a little more. Its like poking a beehive, only worse.Anyways its been raining here for days the sun finally came out which is a contrast where I was in Moz which is in the middle of a draught that is one of the worst on record and its going to be a really bad year for starvation related illness and death my cousins are anticipating. In Johannessburg the other night there was such bad rain and flooding people were swept away to there graves and many are still missing which really baffles me as to how a human being can go missing in the middle of the city, where do they get swept off to?. Anyways thats about it for now.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The bike and I unpacking. This is Elliotts house and art studio
which I stayed at many nights

The monkey was very nice untill Elliott poked him in the belly and he got super man trying to jump onto Elliott we ran off after that.
The other photo is just to show someone I havent cut my hair contrary to what they think

This is Elliott and Handel, the two guys I hung out with most my time in Villancullos

My travel monkey and the coastline wheres theres good snorkling

Myself,Elliott and Eduardo. Local Fishermen and boats
Bhaa. Somehow I erased the blog entry I was working on. Probably a good thing being I was on a total rant as to how cultureless people in western society seem to be as they go about there redundant days doing the same thing day in and day out going to the same restaurants, friends, movies, nightclubs ect all in an effort to feel more cultured. They assume the identity of a sub culture so they can feel they belong to something greater than themselves and find security in there new found faux identity to alleviate there insecurity, I myself am guilty of this. I got thinking about this because as I travel around I am exposed to many different cultures because a culture can change here within 10 or 20 kms. But people aren’t searching for culture, its part of the fabric of there being here. This past week I arrived back at my cousins after attempting to go on a surf trip to Tofu but my bike had problems before I made it that far so I ended up stranded in the beach town of Villanculos. Not a bad place at all to be stranded. I rolled up having no idea where to stay and accommodations were slim pickings being it was still holiday season for the South Africans who travel up here to holiday. So I ended up settling down in what I thought or was told was a hostel. Only thing is there wasn’t a single person at the hostel other than me which made me question my decisions but there were a lotta locals hanging around and I always like to be immersed in the real side of a culture or country and not the side you see in tourist magazines ect.After a couple days there I ended up befriending 3 men whom were all Rasta which is big in Parts of Africa being it originated in Ethiopia contrary to what many people think originated in Jamaica. Elliot the one I got along best with was am artist and made his living by painting and spoke extremely good English. So off we would go exploring the town. I was taken to all the places a typical white person never goes to in the area only because white people don’t have the inclination to want to hang with the locals there and stay to themselves in the comfy little all inclusives. Myself I took up the offer to sleep at his house and store my things at the “Hostel” being there was no running water or toilets making it very frustrating when wanting to take a shower. Over at Elliot’s there was a toilet (although it was just a hole in the ground which took me 2 days to figure out how to use it, as simple as it may seem) and an outdoor shower surrounded by bamboo for cover. One night he decided to take me for a walk on the beach to show me some of the monster houses being built by foreigners looking for a cheap tropical destination which frustrates the locals being they think the huge houses are eye sores. As we strolled down the beach we heard yelps in the distance and saw 2 figures standing over 2 on the ground. We decided to investigate. Turns out it was 2 police interrogating a young couple on the beach kissing? As soon as the police saw us they detained us for no reason at all and expressed to us we must watch what happens to people that defy there authority. So out come the billy clubs and they start beating this young couple senseless. What does a person do in this situation?? I was getting frustrated quickly and so was Elliot. Being that Elliot is one of those people that fought for human rights in this country on the side of extremism while in University and it being his country he felt he had an obligation to do something. So the verbal war began the cop was yelling at us we weren’t allowed to be walking on the beach and in response to that Elliot said there is absolutely no law stating that and they were simply looking for a payoff. In the end they let the couple go and turned there attention on us but I’m just a visitor and the last thing a visitor wants to do is get in trouble with the law here so I took a backseat as they argued. Finally we walked away and Elliot felt he had succeeded and I believe he did being the police seemed to be intimidated by him, possibly cause he was educated way beyond there level which is a rare thing here and was able to back up his arguments with facts. They did search me but I just rolled with it. It was a surreal experience to say the least. Anyways. Day in and day out I felt honored to be with Elliott and his family who always insisted I have dinner with them which made me feel awkward because people simply have nothing in this country for the most part. During the day I seemed to live off cokes and mangoes almost exclusively. Anyways the day came that I decided I needed to depart and got my bike up and started. The morning of departure I got a phone call from the owner of the hostel saying that police were there wanting to question me and I better come quick before they come find me. So when I got there we chatted and as it turns out there was a man on a motorcycle from South Africa that was white that hit a cop over the head with a bottle in a village nearby. I fit the description, but the description was vague. It was “white man on motorcycle” I explained that this was impossible I had been in this village at the time this happened and had proof. They agreed but the thing is, even if they agree with you they still want something from you. They said they should bring me into the station just so I can confirm my identity, and all the guys that were there to my aid said “NO NO WAY!!! DO U GO INTO THE STATION WITH THEM” So I knew what they were getting at (the police) even though they knew it wasn’t me the bottled this man they still wanted a thank-you for them making it easy on me, In the end we settled on 200 metical’s for each of them which is the equivalent of about 7 dollars each. Shook there hands and said bye to them, and I promptly said bye to the village.
I arrived back at my cousins later that day realizing I had to leave the country the next cause my visa was expiring. SO first thing in the morning I got on my bike which had to be jumpstarted everytime and made my way to the Zimbabwe border. Upon exiting the Mozambiquen agent told me I was a day late with leaving and so the drama with more government agents began again. Finally I argued my way out of there, paid a fine and went to the Mozambiquen customs to enter. Now going into Zimbabwe for a Canadian is not a cheap thing, its almost triple what anyone else in the world would pay and all because there’s a claim that a Canadian mercenary made an assassination attempt on President Mugabe. In the end I got through, ate lunch and walked aimlessly around the closest town waiting for a customs shift change so I wouldn’t be recognizable upon re-entering Mozambique to lessen them from hassling me. I went to Exit Zim, the woman took one look at my passport and said “No WAY you are the person in this passport” I explained to her that I haven’t cut my hair in 7 months, have a huge mustache now and am very tanned as opposed to the clean shaved, shaved headed me in my passport photo. She called in a co worker, who agreed it wasn’t me. Finally I threw my hands in the air let out a laugh and said “I dunno, whatever” this humored them and with that they let me go. So anyways that’s about it. I’m preparing to get on my bike and head down to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zambia I’m hoping... I’m not a fan of African officials but at the end of the day if you are innocent they usually know it and it can be rectified, there’s just a lot of them out there looking for an extra tip so its something to be aware of. In our society bribery is bribery. But in society here where there moral values are based on a completely different system than ours bribery is not bribery it’s like a tip or a thank-you. So that defiantly took some getting used to. My cousin Dwight summed it all up real well when he said. “People that come from North America and other countries assume there in a place that runs like it does back home, and it does, kind of, but it has teeth and it bites if your not paying attention” Situations like these seem to be common and how you come out of it depend a lot on a persons ability to read another person and how you react to the situation. On the other hand if I would have chosen to do travels via a tour group or stayed on the beaten path probably none of that would happen with me, but I hate hate hate being a tourist. Anyways I’m done for now.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Eve of Adventure

I should have started this blog many months ago. I'm not the biggest fan of technology so have neglected to spend much time figuring out how to blog, but beter late than never.
I'll start from the beginning. I came to Africa with no real set plans. One day I decided I wanted to leave Vancouver and within a couple weeks I left the insecurity of my false security in that city.Off to do some walking around and talking around amoungst the people of Africa. I am fortunate enough to have cousins in Mozambique here with the mission of serving the people by assisting in there spiritual,medical and educational needs in the bush of Mozambique so this was my first stop.
I arrived in Johannesburg after numerous layovers and delays on random tarmaks in South Africa. The air was sweet and warm as I deboarded the plane or mabye it was just the nervous excitment and anticipation of the adventure to come or the smell of coffee.After being told we couldnt collect our luggage for hours being it was so late the airport was shut. I decided to wander about. Without signs and conventional warnings of leaving a traditional customs exit, I accidently walked right out and through customs with no warning of my exit and without my luggage. Collecting my items proved to be arduous excercise of humouring and befreinding customs officers and police on the side of freedom which resulted in them escorting me back into the secure side through customs for me to collect my baggage.Telling me how fortunate I was for them to help me but still being to nieve to realize they were looking for a nice tip, and I didnt clue into untill mabye a month later.
Next stop was Beira, Mozambique where my cousin inlaw would be picking me up to bring me back into the Mozambique bush close to Zimbabwe where they work out of.Once we greeted and hugged I was up in the air once again in my 6th airplane since leaving Vancouver but I was quite at ease as I sat with my cousin and he pointed out why it seemed cloudy in the region all the time and that being because of the constant bushfires that are a constant in Mozambique.
We landed,exchanged greetings with my cousin Lynne (Dwights wife) and being in the enviroment of family on the otherside of the earth in a 3rd world country labelled as one of the poorest in the world is an extremly peaceful feeling. It felt like home away from home at once.
Time progressed and I helped out where I could for a couple of months absorbing the sights and sounds of the enviroment. Making freinds with the locals. Watching women carry water buckets the size of small cars on the heads.Gawking at the goats tied to the roofs of cars and chickens to handlebars of bikes. Hearing stories from locals of giant chickens in the sky that cause thunder and lighting and of a man who was dragged to the bottom of the river by a crock only to reemerge years later to rejoin his family. Hearing the rythmic beats of a witch doctors drum in the distance at night only to be shocked back to reality as I hear a Jumbojet in the heavens above cut through the night sky, this really impacted me, being in the heart of the bush where theres so much poverty and zero technology almost, people grind away for hours a day to fetch water or pound corn into maize only to look in the sky and see one of the pinnacles of human achievment fly over in complete ignorance as to whats going on below.The beutey in the people is what amazes me though because no matter how poor they are they are always so eager to show hospitality to you. There intellect and values are from another time and place which took myself time to appreciate being I looked at them at first as though they were a simple people,but after putting thought to the daily accomplishments I came to realize there intellect is reflected through there knowledge of the envirment in which they live. Everyday simple tasks which to survive, put before these before me and I'd fail completely in carrying these daily rituals out,.
Anyways enough rambling.BAck to some more stories. The simpliest of things here can turn into something of complete seriosness and I'll take an entry from from journal as an example.
"We had an inncident this evening. The guard caught some thieves stealing cabbages, 18 (cabbage!?? yes Cabbage!).Later on in the evening one of the theives went to the home of the guard and held his wife captive under threats of violence as retribution for making his identity known. Thats where we came in. He asked for help in resolving the matter and off we went to his simple mud hut in a village set umounst mud huts. We crept in stealth as to not alert the thief of our arrival. All my senses were active and I was in a mode of fight or flight yet basking in the feeling of the unpredictablity of the situation. Put me in a situation of happy songs and sing alongs and I feel awkward but put me in a situation of potential chaos and I feel at peace and focused for some reason. We desended into a blanket of darkness beneath an impossing tree and couldn't help noticing how intimidating its limbs were in the little clearing we were situated in and wondering "why am I noticing all these little things.. Is that a spider!!??". An arguement ensued and an old assault rifle was present which neithier my cousin nor I were in possesion of and this made me feel somewhat anxius. I mean I would feel more comfortable with it in my hands than others, or mabye not... mabye its just I dont like the feeling of depending on others skills with things such as a gun in situations such as this, mabye no gun would be better. I dunno this is africa, dont they have guns here like we have blackberrys?. It was a strange surreal experience and the odor of humans penetrated the night air sharply, sweat and breath mixed in one. I'm not very good with tolerating body odour, Bhaaa.!!!. Anyways Dwight was able to difuse the situation and all went home safe and sound."
Anyways. Everyday isnt a day of chaos like this and I've had some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Going down to South Africa, visiting Kruger Reserve and seeing all big 5 animals. TAking off on my own into a completely differant jungle known as Johannesburg which I found not at all a destination that was fun and lighthearted. It always was an eyes on the back of your head event, especially driving and driving at night which I ended up doing daily.Car jackings are a common events, as are murders and other violent events. People dont stop at red lights at night because of the risk factor and caused a lot of wonder and dismay for me as I sat there patiently waiting for the lights to turn green untill I noticed a group of men creeping up on me one night. I scooted pretty quik after that and now I drive faster and better through a redlight than any local Joburg'r. I had someone attempt to rob me during the day, or shall I say forced tipping to a random man but myself and the french couple I was travelling with were able to leave safely and without tipping.I met freinds in a random store in which we had no intentions of meeting with eachother. Them from Turkey and I from Canada. I'll pull another page out from my journal of the day.
" Lastnite proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have some freinds on facebook who were coming to Mozambique and were asking quetions and travel advice which I did my best to accomadate. I didnt know there exact travel iternerary, so upon walking into a store and seeing the 4 of them standing there behind the till caused me to take a double take and asked timidly who they were being I knew I recognized her yet could not process in my mind this was actually possibly, because c'mon what are the odds in a city of 7 million (I think) to have a random encounter such as this.We were all taken aback the hand of God or destiny dealt us so it was clear to everyone a celebration was in order.We went and had dinner over laughs in the trendy arts district of Melville and strolled the street full of people and university students. We parted our ways and there 6 hours or so in Joburg had drawn to a close. I started my drive home and got stopped by police. They didnt like I had no seatbelt on. The cop decided to be quite intimidating holding my license for what was an eternity in my mind of thoughts racing of African prison cells. He asked if I had the money to pay for the fine and I responded with "I dont keep that sorta money on me sir" He stood longer pondering my license with periodic "Hmmffss" expressing his arrogance and authority through his hostile demeenor, Then suddenly in is thick African accent which I stressed to understand he said "I GIVE YOU WARNING NOW" to which I responded " thank-you thank-you sir" I put the car in gear and he raised his hand quikly. "WHY ONLY THANK-YOU SIR YOU GIVE ME!!" in his thick accent.Now I had clue of his motives, he went on "THIS MAN IS THIRSTY ON HOT NIGHT LIKE THIS, HOW BOUT U BUY ME DRINK". Me "UMMM O..k.." I pulled 10 rand from my wallet cause "I think this is how it works", yet I was careful not to expose the cash I had.He saw the 10 Rand and said "THIS MAN HUNGRY TOO" I pulled another 10 rand and shoved it into his hand and his response was one of false shock and responded with "HEY!!!! I COULD HAVE YOU ARRESTED FOR THIS!!!!!.... NOW GO!!!!" EISHHH theres no winning I thought. I put the car in gear and didnt look back, sped to the hostel I was staying at to drift off to sleep then awakened by 3 Germans at 3 am screaming and playing the guitar to a Violent Femmes song only to have there noise drowned out by a French man SCREAMING "SHUT UP!!! SHUT UP YOU STUPID GERMANS!!! and throwing rocks at them through there open window. Finally all fell silent and I fell into a deep sleep with dreams of Dolly Pardon and Kenny Rogers singing duets. This morning, woke up, laughed at my hair yet made no adjustment cause it looks as funny and ridiculus as my mustuch went back down to Melville to comb my hair with a few espresso's and watch people watch the Uni students in a buzz as the chased away lastnights punishment with some hair of the dog.BHAA. I dont wanna write more today, im done."

So in anutshell that was my time in Johannesburg. SOmewhere in there I got the idea to ride a motorbike across Africa so I went and bought one. Drove it through the border into Mozambique. Broke down, ran outta gas,got lost,got scared,broke my clutch cable, battery died, got the bike stripped by thieves, hobbled to my cousins, refabricated parts you cant buy anywhere and now I'm off tommorow to go make through Africa Northbound except I'm going South bound to do this cause I want to go surfing for a couple weeks in Tofo. So I'll do this first. Anyways I'm tired and frustrated with figuring out how to blog. I will attempt to update every saturday. OK I'm DONE!
3 goats & a chicken on the roof

locals doing laundry

Tofo beach