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African Adventure

Overlanding from Nairobi to Cape Town
Currently traveling
  • Day149

    Johannesburg

    February 11 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Passed across to South Africa from Mozambique on a very comfortable bus (who knew they could be easy?) and arrived into Johannesburg early evening. We were a little nervous about arriving so late, especially with the stories about Joburg’s violence, but we were welcomed into a city on the rise- a gentrifying, hipster place with craft beer, street art, galleries and great restaurants. It is almost culture shock coming here, which is almost like a western city’s trendy neighbourhood.

    We head out on a tour of Soweto, a township which was incredibly important in the development of the anti-apartheid struggle. We visit the Apartheid museum which lays bare the systemic racism that tore the country apart- the wounds that inflicted upon South Africa’s society still have not fully healed, but there is the sense of optimism. The arguments made by radical, racist South Africans bring to mind some of the claptrap that our South African tour guide through Botswana spouted. People agree that it will take a few generations before it disappears, but there is hope.
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  • Day144

    Surfin’ Mozambique

    February 6 in Mozambique ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Surf’s up! Apparently... We don’t know too much about surfing, so we’ve booked into a lesson. Tofo is great for beginners, as the waves are relatively small, and there are no rocks or coral to bash your head on when you inevitably take a tumble. The only annoyance is the portuguese man o’ war (bluebottle), which can drift into the bay.

    Whilst we are having our lesson, we see big fish in the waves, and small flying fish seem to emulate us by falling out of the breakers. We also keep a close eye on the ocean, hoping to spot a dolphin or two- however, given our dolphin luck, our sightings remain at 0.

    After the surf lesson, we relax to regain strength in our arms. Later, we head down to the beach, and see fisherman drag in a MASSIVE TIGER SHARK. It’s quite disturbing to see such a magnificent creature having been speared through the eye and in dragged ashore. Our friends from the hostel later see it butchered in the shade next to the beach. They ask the fisherman what it is, and he just replies “a big fish”. Sure buddy. Apparently, fishing for sharks can carry a prison sentence of 24 years, but this must not be enforced, as the shark was being cut apart on the busy, police-patrolled tourist beach. You can’t find shark meat on any menu or in any market- the only reason the fishermen kill the sharks in for the fins, which can be sold for $40, and will be sent to East Asian countries.

    It’s very disconcerting to see this practice undertaken so brazenly, but it seems that so long as the economic incentive for fins is there, the killing of sharks will continue.
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  • Day142

    Tofo- Ocean Safari

    February 4 in Mozambique ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Another day, another safari. This time, we’re off out on the ocean (Indian version) from the small town of Tofo. Everyone is looking for Whale Sharks (and you are offered a free trip the next day if you don’t see any), but since we’d already seen them in Tanzania, we were on the lookout for dolphins and manta rays.

    It was somewhat ironic, then, that we had gone about 5 minutes out from shore and came across a whale shark. Not that we are complaining- they are incredible animals, and the visibility was much better this time around. Also, we had picked up a knock-off GoPro (GoAmateur?) for $38 in Maputo, so managed to get some footage. We swam with the shark for a good 15/20 minutes, and managed to get quite close.

    From the boat, we also saw a Portuguese Man of War (or Bluebottle Jellyfish). These things really pack a punch, and the tentacles trail quite far, so from then on out, I keep a vigilant eye on the surface.
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  • Day138

    Malawi- Mozambique: Journey from Hell

    January 31 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Today, we must cross from Malawi into Mozambique, a journey we’ve been dreading, given the huge distances, and what promises to be a difficult border crossing.

    We say our goodbyes to the staff at Mayoka, Beaura the tailor, Machine the rasta jewellery seller and everyone else we’ve made friends with here. Honeyman sends us off with a bag of banana bread that he cooked for us at home.

    Our journey starts by taking a taxi to the police checkpoint outside of town. There, the police promise to flag down the correct bus to take us to Blantyre, Malawi’s second city, close to the Mozambique border. We wait for around 2 and a half hours, whiling away the time chatting to the (assault-rifle-wielding) policemen, who are very charming and talkative. Malawi is often called the warm heart of Africa, and it’s impossible to disagree. I don’t think we’ve met a single person who didn’t want to stop and chat or help us out. We love it here and are hesitant to leave.

    Nevertheless, we reluctantly board the coach to Blantyre. Our first challenge is to find somewhere to sit. The bus has come from the nearby city, and not only are all the seats full, but there isn’t much standing room left. We end up in a small aisle space next to an extremely drunk 20 year old Malawian. He loudly (and, to emphasise, extremely drunkenly) shouts that we have to stand in order to experience the real Malawi. He slurs that we westerners love to write about our travels, and we should write about the real Malawi. Sure enough, here we are. At one point, he gets up and offers Chris the seat. Chris insists that Katie should get the seat, but he screams that in Malawi, the men get precedent over women, so Chris should sit. We refuse the offer, and sit on the floor. After a little while, we get an upgrade from the floor to an upturned bucket (for Katie) and a slanted wicker mat (for Chris), which he keeps sliding down. Later still, Katie secures a seat, whilst Chris now has a child’s head buried in his ribs, another drunk man leaning on his back, a family at his feet and- what’s that? did the baby there just do a smelly poo? yes, yes it did. At 2.50am (not counting or anything), Chris gets a seat and manages to grab a wink of sleep or two.

    At Blantyre, we take another bus to the border. The first (comfortable looking) coach refuses to take us since we don’t have visas- apparently we need to get them at the embassy: but today is Saturday, and the embassy is closed. We hop into a minibus and make for the border, to risk it.

    At the Malawian border, we explain that we need to get Mozambican visas, which is met by a skeptical look and an explanation that visas are extremely hard to get at the Mozambican border. Once we are stamped out of Malawi, that visa is cancelled, so we would need to fork out another $75 each to reenter.

    Nervously, we stamp out, and make our way across no-man’s land to the Mozambique side. The border is chaos, with hundreds of people being processed by two flustered looking immigration officials, whilst their hawkish boss prowls the desks, occasionally pressing a printer button or casting suspicious gazes over the crowd of people. We get his attention after a while, and he gives us some forms to fill in. A little later, one of the lower-ranked officials give us the correct forms. With the right forms filled in, Katie is invited over to the counter and is painlessly issued a visa. Chris’ visa takes much longer, as the system crashes, and we have to wait for the computer and network to reboot. Whilst Katie is waiting, a Ugandan man asks for help with his form. Apparently, the senior official refused to help him, and instructed him to ask the foreigners for help.

    With our visas almost issued, we get chatting to Ian, who had been on the same bus as us, and is also going to Tete. He asks us if we are Christian, and Chris explains that although his family is Christian, people in the UK don’t really go to church much. He looks at us in disbelief and asks “so you are like the animals, Godless?” I suppose so?

    The journey isn’t over yet, though: we still need to get to Tete, before a 1,500km journey to Maputo. To get to Tete, we get into another small minibus. It has four small benches, three fold-down seats, and picks up 31 people. At one point, one passenger is stooped over the others, with his bum out of the minibus. It is African travel at its most challenging, and we decide to fly the remaining distance to Maputo.
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  • Day136

    MV Chambo

    January 29 in Mozambique ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Today, we are heading back to the mainland. Since the MV Ilala is continuing on it’s route to the south of the lake, we are taking the MV Chambo, a smaller boat that navigates the shorter route from Mozambique to Nkhata Bay via Likoma.

    Before we leave the hostel, however, I have a run in with a bizarre, alien-looking spider, who has camped out right next to the toilet seat. Instead of front legs, it has large crab-like pincers; large antannae wave frantically above it. I keep a close (but not too close) eye on it whilst I do my business.

    The MV Chambo is much smaller vessel, maybe slightly bigger than the Amsterdam ferry. The benefit of this is that the boat can come directly to the shore, so we don’t need to hire another fisherman’s boat. However, the ferry ramp doesn’t quite extend all the way to shore, so we have to climb up onto the boat and scramble to find a seat, whilst every other passenger is doing the same, with giant baskets of dried fish and sacks of rice. The ensuing pandemonium is good fun.

    We are, however, unable to secure enough seats for our group. Fortunately, the captain invites us onto the top deck to find a spot. This simply means the exposed top deck, so we prepare for a good roasting under the African sun. This same sun is also being used by some passengers to dry their fish, and so thousands of drying fish litter the roof of the lower deck. It is fantastically African.

    After a few hours we dock at Nkhata Bay. Despite liberal applications of suncream (for everyone except for one of our group, whose bald head now resembles a tomato), the sun is getting to us, so we spend the afternoon cooling down in the lake at Mayoka Village.
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  • Day135

    Likoma Island

    January 28 in Malawi ⋅ 🌧 25 °C

    Early in the morning, the Ilala moors up alongside Likoma Island, a small island a stone’s throw from the Mozambican shoreline (though, I suppose, everywhere is a stone’s throw away when you have muscles like mine).

    The boat is too big to get to the shoreline, so anchors a few hundred metres from shore. To disembark, we need to get into one of the ship’s lifeboats. The problem is that the more experienced passengers have already started queueing, and they can only fit around 30 people into a boat (despite the carrying capacity being advertised as 20); there are MANY passengers crammed into the lower deck (alongside sacks of cassava, fish, entire household belongings etc.), so this could take a while. However, it is possible to get a seat on a fisherman’s boat for a small fee- we take this option, as one of our group is heading to work on the island.

    On the island, we pile into a shared pickup and bounce our way to Mango Drift (there are no roads on the island, only potholes), and we arrive just in time for a typically monumental storm. This one is so ferocious that water spouts rise up out of the lake towards the heavens. I am glad we are safely on dry land, rather than out on the rustbucket Ilala (I joke, she’s a fine vessel).

    After the storms subside, we see unfeasibly large swarms of lake flies patrol the waters. There are five clouds, and each inky blot has millions of flies. It is disgusting on an unfathomable scale.

    Now that the skies are blue, we are able to try our hand at the local dugout canoes (sometimes called makoros). The hostel offers a free night’s accommodation if you can make it about 100m out and back with your legs inside the boat, or a free drink with your legs outside. The problems with these boats are numerous- the stern frequently dips under the water and fills the boat, it is incredibly heavy, and there is no keel- it is literally just a tree trunk that has been hollowed out. After a lengthy period of slapstick attempts, I manage to complete the challenge for a free drink- beer please barkeep!

    In the evening, we seem to get caught in one of the lake fly swarms. The entire bar is filled with thousands of the little critters, and the beams of lights become plumes of flies. Luckily, it passes after a short while, and we can safely play drinking games until bed.
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  • Day134

    MV Ilala

    January 27 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    Today we are boarding the MV Ilala, a ferry that has been cruising Lake Malawi since 1951, for what promises to be one of the great African boat adventures.

    In the morning, we head down to the ferry terminal in Nhkata Bay to try and secure a cabin. Upon enquiring, we’re told that the only cabin left is the “Owner’s Cabin”, the most exclusive room on the boat- for £28. We take it, with the justification that we’ll probably never be able to get the most exclusive room on a boat anywhere else.

    The ferry arrives just after 2pm, but we are told that it won’t leave until around 9pm. We wait around, and head down to the ferry around 8.30pm. We settle in with a few beers on the upper deck, swapping travel stories with the other passengers. The ferry leaves at around 11.30pm, and heads off into a curtain of darkness, towards Likoma Island near Mozambique. The upper deck is First Class, but there are no beds. Instead, people find spaces in any nook or cranny, or bring big mattresses to sleep on. Around midnight, a small rain storm forces everyone to huddle under the small amount of covered space. Although it’s fun being up there, drinking beers under the night sky, I’m glad we have our little cabin.

    Not that our cabin especially lives up to the hype. It is next to the engine, so the air is filled with the fumes, and there are small roaches that scurry around the beds. Still, given that that we are a few beers “deep” (first nautical pun), we “drift” (second nautical pun!) off to sleep easily.
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  • Day132

    Livingstonia

    January 25 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    We wake from a good night’s sleep, and emerge from our safari tent onto our private balcony. The decking is built directly on top of the cliff, so we can look directly out over the lake shore, all the way across to Mozambique.

    Today, we are going on a hike. It is meant to be a hike to the plateau to see more amazing views, but the entire hill is covered in fog, making this hike pointless. We head to a waterfall instead. However, the moment we set off, the heavens open, and we are completely drenched. We carry on regardless, and get to the lookout post overlooking the waterfall. However, there’s not much to lookout on because the rain is so intense. We shelter in a cafe and wait for the rain to subside.

    Once it does, we set off down the face of the waterfall to the bottom. This involves some fairly sketchy paths, and we jump over the raging river, about 20 metres from the edge of the waterfall.

    As usual, the views are amazing.

    On the way back up, we pass a tree covered in hairy insects. I ask the guide what they are but he doesn’t know. I later find out that they are worms, that people eat, once they cook them to neutralise the poison.

    A little further along, we come to a giant colony of ants, who are coming out onto the path after the rain. Since the paths drops off one side into oblivion, we are forced to run through the ants, and spend the next few minutes pulling the soldier ants out of our skin. This seems par for the course in Africa.

    Later, after taking a well deserved shower, we head into Livingstonia town. This is a small town on top of the hill. It was founded by missionaries that followed in the footsteps of Livingstone (hence the somewhat heavy-handed name). It is very atmospheric, with colonial buildings built around the turn of the 19/20th centuries. It is especially eerie with the mist rolling over the surrounding mountains. There is a small museum, with very few interesting displays. We do learn one story about the missionaries who lived here during the liberation struggles. The colonial authorities broadcast the news that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of any British people in Malawi, and they would evacuate them from the lake. If the British wanted to be evacuated, they were to put a large “I” on the ground, and if they wanted to stay put, they were to put a “V” on the ground. The missionaries had faith that the local population wouldn’t turn against them, and put the V, along with a bible passage celebrating equality among races. Sure enough, despite the chaos and violence that took place across Malawi, the missionaries in Malawi weren’t harmed, and there was peace in Livingstonia.

    In the evening, we have dinner with everyone at Mushroom Farm. We discuss Bilharzia medication with a German doctor, who recommends splashing in out for name brand pills, since a study found that 1/2 of all drugs in the developing world were found to be fakes. Bilharzia is a nasty sounding disease, caused by parasites found in lake snails throughout Africa. Symptoms start subtle- mainly tiredness- before you’ve got blood in your pee and eventually the parasites can make their way to your nervous system and can cause loads of complications. We’ll splash out for some name brand pills.
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  • Day131

    Nhkata Bay to Livingstonia

    January 24 in Malawi ⋅ 🌧 23 °C

    It’s time for a change in scenery. Since we’ve been in Nhkata Bay for a bit longer than expected we decide to pack up our stuff and to the North of Malawi to Livingstonia. We plan to stay at a place called Mushroom Farm which is located on the hill up to Livingstonia and has an amazing view over the rolling hills and Lake Malawi.

    It’s a bit of a trek to as we start our day in a taxi to Mzuzu. It takes about 45 minutes to get here and we arrive at about 11am. Onto the next mode of transport!

    We have the option to take a spacious, clean coach bus that leaves at 1pm. Or, hop on a small, cramped and more expensive minibus with makeshift seats made out of wood with no cushions. Obviously, we choose the minibus as it leaves earlier.

    We’re easily distracted from the discomfort of the ride by the amazing views. We almost even forget we are on this bus that looks to be falling part. This is interrupted when we go over a puddle and the water manages to splash up through the bottom of the bus and get Chris all wet. It’s a good laugh. But, we can’t wait to get off.

    After a 3 hour “bus” journey we finally arrive in Chitimba. We are greeted by Stanley who works for Mushroom Farm and arranges transport up the mountain. Our third and final mode of transport.

    We didn’t realize it would be another 45 minute motorcycle ride up the hill. It’s 45 minutes not because of the far distance. But rather because of the terrible condition of the road. But hey, we don’t really have any other choice so we strap our bags to the back and each hop onto a motorbike. Katie is escorted by Evans and Chris by the name of Gift.

    The “road” is essentially a lot of rocks piled on top of the dirt. Apparently some white guy started to build it but stopped halfway through and now this is the result. The drivers seem to know which rocks to avoid and which ones are safe to drive over. But it is safe to say this is probably the bumpiest motorcycle ride we’ll ever go on.

    Evans tells Katie that it is 20 bends up the mountain until we reach Mushroom Farm. As he counts each bend, Katie isn’t sure if he uses this as a conversation topic or rather to pass the time as he goes up and down the mountain several times a day. They count together as Katie holds tight to the back of the motorcycle while admiring the views as they near the top of the mountain.

    Chris and Gift arrive much later to the top as his bag fell off and needed some readjusting with the straps. It also didn’t help that his bike was experiencing “some problems” and broke down a few times. This resulted in Chris having to climb up most of the mountain.

    Thankful to arrive in one piece, we check into Mushroom Farm. A cloud has masked the views from the lodge. But we opt to stay in a a Safari Tent with a big double bed and nice balcony so that we can enjoy the view once the fog has lifted. The room doesn’t have electricity so we have to rely on candlelit by night.

    We relax for the rest of the day in the hammocks that overlook the plateau and Lake Malawi. There’s one other guest staying named Emiliano who met previously at Mayoka. We chat over dinner swapping travel stories and tips and head to bed early at 8:30pm. We wonder to ourselves if this will be our permanent bedtime.
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  • Day127

    Living with Phillip & his family

    January 20 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 32 °C

    Morning starts off early and rushed with breakfast at 7am and set off from Mayoka Village at 7:15. Today, we are headed to Chimbota Secondary School, a private high school in the village of Chimbota which is about 15 minute drive away from the centre of Nhkata Bay. We’ll be staying here for two nights and quickly learn that driving there isn’t all that easy since the road keeps washing away with the daily rainfall.

    Phillip, one of the founders of the school and member of staff at Mayoka Village is going to be hosting us for the next couple of days while we help out at the school and live with his family.

    Chimbota Secondary School opened its doors in 2016 and currently has over 100 students enrolled. Before, the nearest secondary school was in Nhkata Bay which meant that students previously had to walk over 2 hours to get to school. During rainy season this means it was near to impossible for many eager students to get to school as their method of transportation is by foot.

    With a vision to expand, Phillip hopes enrolment will continue to grow in the coming years as demand for education is growing. However, many families face difficulties in meeting the school fees which are set at 29,000 kwacha (about $35 USD) per term. With today being the deadline for students to pay, the class sizes seem to be dwindling and many students are seen walking away from the school.

    As the school day comes to an end, we pack our things and head home to Phillips house. It’s about a 30 minute walk which is either blazingly hot or torrentially wet. We’re greeted warmly by everyone in the street. The local butcher passes by and shows us his bucket full of pig. We pass on purchasing any as we don’t have anywhere to cook, it but thank him for his generosity. We also meet a guy who calls himself Honeyman, a local bee keeper and nephew of Phillip. We don’t believe his name until we hear some others shouting out for him. He seems to be a popular fella.

    Lunch and dinner is cooked by Phillip’s family as we sit and watch the village life go by. As seems to be standard in Africa, we have an early night, and turn off the lights (by disconnecting the bare ends of wire draped across our door).
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