Posts Tagged africa

The Portuguese have left the building…A Photo Tour of Ilha’s Ibo & Mocambique

Hello again world,

In my earlier post on the Mozambique travels last week, I promised a follow-up on the second half of the trip down to Mozambique. Don’t say I never deliver the goods. This week – I proudly present Part II – Ladies & Gentlemen, the Portuguese have left the building…

A very Wiki History lesson to set the stage

An abbreviated and inadequate history: Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese empire in 1505. They stuck around for several hundred years and built up colony with an impressive resource-based trading empire. Fast forward to 1975 when the Portuguese decided to pack up and leave after a war for independence and regime change back home. Upon independence on June 25, 1975 – a good riddance law was passed by the new government ordering all Portuguese to leave the country in 24 hours with only 20 kilograms of luggage! I guess lesson is always travel light – you never know. Mix that misguided policy  in with  the economic decline of these indian ocean trading companies and associated government in the early 20th century et voilà  - you have yourself the makings some very eery but fascinating ghost towns.

Needless to say, these places make for some amazing photography sets and I had a field day on this trip as everywhere you turned there were a hundred beautiful and very unique photos waiting to be made. Here’s some highlights – enjoy!

A Photo Tour of spooky Ilha do Ibo

We first visited the more remote and less known Ilha do Ibo in the Quirimbas National Marine Park. Wasn’t on the original itinerary but once we read about it we had to move plans around to make it happen. Easily my favorite spot on the whole trip and one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited in this life of mine.

I could show a hundred more from this place but must show some restraint!

Tired of photos already? Too bad – It’s Ilha de Mocambique’s time to shine

The second of these amazing historic places we visited and spent New Year’s was the somewhat more famous, a bit less abandoned, a lot more touristy, former capital of Portuguese East Africa - Ilha de Mocambique:

As mentioned in the last post – all these photos and more are available for your viewing pleasure in Flickr Set that might just make you drop what your doing and buy a ticket to Mozambique – right here after the link.

Catch you on the flip side

Up next – headed to Ethiopia at the end of March for an exciting 11 days of travel goodness in Northern Ethiopia and around Addis Ababa. Very excited for this trip – should be something very different culturally and geographically speaking than the travels made around Tanzania, Northern Mozambique, and Kenya so far this year.  Plus, as a true fan of delicious food served in large quantities…I’m excited for the prospect of being surrounded by Ethiopian food!

After that – end of April will bring a 5 day Easter weekend trip with friends to the city of Kigoma and the Gombe Stream National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in the western edge of Tanzania. Gombe Stream was made famous by a certain Ms. Jane Goodall back-in-the-day and her research on primates in this remote area. The park offers the opportunity to hike up into the mountains and (hopefully) observe the chimpanzee troops in their non-zoo habitat. But besides this, I’ve heard it’s an amazingly beautiful place, great hiking, and offers a chance to visit and swim (Bilharzia be damned) in Lake Tanganyika - the remaining on the list of Africa’s 3 main Great Lakes after trips to Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi last year. Lake Tanganyika, unlike me at my grade 6 track and field meets, has a number of impressive non-participation ribbons including: world’s longest lake, world’s second deepest lake, world’s second largest body of fresh water, and offers nice views into the neighboring DR Congo across the lake. Advanced warning of possible obnoxious future facebook status update: Dan Albrecht is…peeing while swimming in Lake Tanganyika and looking into THE DARK HEART OF AFRICA!!!

Given my track record with this post – you can expect to see a blog post and photos of these trips sometime in June…2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mozambique by the road less, less traveled

Hello world,

It’s been awhile but have no fear – another dusty foot philosopher is back in February with some photos and tales from December/January’s overland travels down to Mozambique!

I wanted an adventure and I found it

This trip undertaken, with roommate Zach over a 10 day Christmas holiday break, took us down from Dar es Salaam into northern Mozambique  - a known route but one not often taken. I had spent most of the first four months back in Tanzania sticking around Dar on the weekends and generally falling into a rythym and normality of life. I was itching it get away from that so we went out seeking a good adventure and found it.

Will try to capture some of that 3 day adventure getting down there in this quick summary. I’m conscious of those out-do each other travel stories so will try not to do that but just tell a fun story! “oh yeah…you think that sounds crazy? I once traveled through {insert little known African country} on $1USD per day,  riding an near extinct species of camel, in the middle of the civil war, sick with malaria and cholera, and with only a toothbrush, a pack of gum, and my wits to survive”.

On the road again

Day 1 had us leave Dar early Christmas eve morning on a bus headed down to the very south of Tanzania -Mtwara. With no tickets purchased ahead of time (apparently a bad idea on one of the bigger travel days of the year) we had to pay extra (count the times this happens with me –  #1!)and squeeze ourselves onto one of the few buses headed down to Mtwara. 12 hours in the hot sun on bumpy roads, kids on laps, and greasy fries and the trip was off to a good start.

We made it into lovely Mikandani, a small old town just outside of Mtwara at dusk and spent Christmas eve at a lovely dive centre eating a good meal with tons of red-faced British men working out on the natural gas rigs off the coast. Mikandani is a beautiful little historic town – used to be a Arab swahili trading centre back in the day and had quite a bit of charm to it and was quite nice to explore -highly recommend it!

Early Christmas day morning we were off to the Ruvuma River which marks the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. This was the big unknown part of the trip -I’d done some reading online and from others accounts it seemed as though it was possible to do – although it had got quite a bit more difficult since the ferry sank 3 years ago. Read in the hostel the night before crossing that this was one of Africa’s least used border crossings and the river was filled with hippos and crocodiles – oh my!

The mini-bus down to the river took about an hour and being our only option to get there ended up being one of the more expensive dalla-dalla rides in TZ history (#2!). A quick  price was agreed and from there we hopped in a row boat with our bags and we were on our way being paddled across the wide Ruvuma. Did you cringe when I said ‘a quick price was agreed”? Yeah, unfortunately you weren’t there at the time to give us that warning.

Needless to say, the currency of the transaction changed once we were in the middle of the river and theres not much you can do when they stop the boat in the middle of the river, hippos about 30 meters away on either side, and demand payment.  For those of you counting at home…that’s #3.

Once we got the price to a respectable compromise and were safely to the other side – we faced another similar situation. One lone transport option to get you from A to B – they name the price and you can only negotiate so much so you pay your “stranded mzungu tax” (#4!) and be on your way or end up stranded in the middle of nowhere. I was hoping to see some elephants and maybe a lion out here in the bush as I had read there were some large wild animal populations out here – but unluckily (some might say luckily) didn’t end up coming across any.

After bumping along on these sand and red dirt roads on this afternoon I truly earned the “dusty” in this blog title – covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime. Fun ride overall though and we were in high spirits. We pulled into the town of Mocímboa da Praia that night and found a sketchy bus station place to crash for a few hours.

Sitting  on another bus from 4am the next day gave me some time to reflect: Northern Mozambique was very much like Tanzania in the end (and why not when borders are drawn up on maps and many tribes/cultures are in both). Swahili was more useful than any Portuguese words for most of the trip and the north of the country seemed to have been barely influenced by the Portuguese compared to what I might have expected and heard but I expect this is much more true the further south you go.

Also, it was pretty annoying paying the stranded mzungu tax so often on this journey- but in the end I couldn’t blame anyone too much. At times it was our own lack of caution and finalizing terms in advance and other times just people trying to take advantage of a rare situation that had presented itself. It was Christmas time afterall…

Pulling into Pemba the third day afternoon was a beautiful thing. The city itself was nice but nothing spectacular to write home about and the highlights were a long awaited shower, good food, relaxation, beaches, and meeting our new travel buddies – two other Canadians working in Mozambique who would end up travelling around with us for the rest of the trip. The remaining days were a less adventurous but a lot more relaxing!

All these photos and more are now posted in a Flickr Set for your visual stimulation here.

Stay tuned next week for the follow-up blog post Ladies and Gentlemen, The Portuguese have left the building” for photo tours of two amazing history-filled islands we visited in the remaining portion of time!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Even more past Ayoba Time – Stories and Pictures from the 2010 South Africa World Cup – Part II

Welcome to Part II of my posts about the June/July adventures travelling down to and around South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. If you missed Part I – you can check it out here. That said, this is (as usual) just a collection of ramblings, pictures, and stories with very little common-thread…so its not so much necessary that you go back and read it…I’ll leave it up to you.

Tales of ordinary murder

No, this is not a reference to all the hype and media scare which built-up to the World Cup about how every fan was risking their life to visit SA. Lucky you – it’s a new addition to Dan’s “I doubt Oprah even reads everything on her book club list” Book Club! Throughout much of my time in SA, I was reading a book that I would like to tell you a bit about and add to the reading list: My Traitor’s Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe and His Conscience by Rian Malan. First off, warning for all you young children that read this blog before bed-time – this book ain’t a Fun with Dick and Jane light-hearted jaunt. It was definitely one of the darkest and most disturbing accounts that I have ever read. That said,  South Africa under apartheid in the late 80′s was not a pretty place for anyone.

The book is an account of a white South African Afrikaaner who returns to SA after many years to become a journalist covering crime cases. He tells the compelling story of SA through the lens of the crimes he reports on and what they say about this society. It is a very raw and personal account of his own battle to understand the entrenched racial systems, his own place in all of this, and the violence that were very much tearing South Africa apart when he wrote this account.  I really enjoyed his writing style -unedited, emotional,  honest, confrontational, and conversational. Here is (one of the more intense) snippets:

“…I think I should rest my case right here, for fear that I lose control, leap off the page, and tear out the throat of the nearest enlightened white man.

….Am I upsetting you my friend? Good. Do you want to argue? Do you want to tell me about the evils of apartheid? Do you want to talk about democracy and the allied civil and human rights that fall under the umbra of its name? Okay. Let’s open my bulging files of tales of ordinary murder. You choose your weapons and I’ll choose mine, and we’ll annihilate the certainties in one another’s brains.”

Phew! Don’t let that scare you though – he’s not that raging angry the entire book! During 4 weeks travelling through SA, I read a lot of other historical accounts and visited the both Nelson Mandela and Apartheid museums  (all amazing as well) – but I have to say that this book provided a completely unique level of analysis and eye-opening understanding. If you are interested in learning more about SA under apartheid and especially the turmoil and events that began the chain of events which led to Mandela’s release – I highly recommend you check it out… of your local library branch (everyone is looking to save money in these hard times you know).

Think happy thoughts and look at the pretty pictures

Was that a bit dark and troubling? I don’t want to leave you with bad taste in your mouth about that beautiful country. No, that would be no good…we must do something to fix this. Or do I just want a chance to post more photos? Either way -Let’s take a tour through some of the breathtakingly beautiful scenery in South Africa as captured through my camera… which was at last fixed and operational for the final 3 weeks of the journey.

The photos from the trip are starting to make their way up onto my Flickr Page little by little – so if you want to see more check out the South Africa Roadtrip Set here.

A brief tutorial on how to make tax-free billions off the taxpayer

Overall, the World Cup pretty much lived up to all my expectations. South Africa put on a great show and were amazingly hospitable hosts for the tournament and proved all of the bad press and nay-sayers wrong which was certainly nice to see. Unfortunately, how it will do with the giant white-elephant stadiums and debt legacy that these giant world events leave a country/city with is a different story.

To skim the surface of this topic  - the most corropt sports organization in the world, our host FIFA, made off with $3.5 Billion USD in TAX-FREE profits from the event – meanwhile  while the SA government was saddled with an estimated $2.9 billion USD in debt to build new stadiums and airports for the two month event. Congratulations goes out to the taxpayers of Russia and Qatar – the recent winners of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups… BUT since there isn’t much to do about that now and its all a bit depressing (blame the system not the fan, my friend) – I think they should be lauded for a truly great achievement and for showing the world a different and truly capable side of Africa than many might have expected.

Just can’t shake that poser feeling

That said, there was something a little bit off the whole time. This nagging feeling I just couldn’t shake. Like a square peg and a round hole, like most of us on that first day of Grade 9 in high-school, like the Pope giving the key-note at  World Condom Day  - I just didn’t quite belong (yes, i am pretty sure i just made that up -go ahead, google it). It felt like everyone there had one distinct advantage over me in the are-you-a-legit-fan-or-just-some-poser-who-can’t-name-a-player-on-the-pitch assessment that sports fans often do when meeting….they actually had their country participating in the tournament.

There were even quite a few other lost Canadian souls at the tournament. At one game in Joburg I rubbed my eyes when I saw a banner hanging from the stands reading “Newfoundland and Labrador – Canada’s Soccer Capital“. Really? Really? Too much Newfoundland Screech for some hoser I think.

…but a super interesting poser at least?

May I present to you, the jury, Exhibit A in the prosecution’s case of Grand World Cup Posering:

During the World Cup travels I found myself  interviewed on four different occasions by the time I headed home by various international tv stations. (What can I say? I am on my way to the personal goal of becoming one of those most interesting people in the world who gets invited to fabulous parties for the sole reason that they are interesting and might make the party more interesting just by their presence.) In a true mark of a World Cup poser, I was supporting a different team in three of the four interviews.

  1. Supporting Argentina – interviewed by Argentinean TV outside the Ellis Park Joburg stadium before the Argentina-Nigeria game
  2. Supporting Denmark (who the hell supports Denmark? Dislike of Dutch > Fear of being the lone Denmark fan I guess) interviewed by Bolivian TV - In the Soccer City stadium -Joburg after Netherlands – Denmark game
  3. Supporting Spain interviewed by Japanese TV – fanwalk outside the Capetown stadium on the way to Spain -Portugal game
  4. Supporting Argentina, interviewed/made the butt of many jokes by a Brazilian comedy show – In a bar across the street from Capetown stadium watching/crying during the live- next-door Germany- Argentina debacle.

So you see, the evidence has clearly been broadcasted out to the world to judge and convict me of crimes of world cup fan posering. But until the year that Canada makes the World Cup (see you in Brazil 2014?), I guess I’ll  have to be that hardcore fan that tries and tries, but just doesn’t quite fit in.

What’s on tap barman?

Since it’s already almost mid-December and I likely won’t get another chance to update you before the holidays are here – thought I would provide a quick update and seasons greetings.

Time is flying by -can’t believe I’ve been back for 3 and a half months already – and I know it will only go faster and 2011 will be here before we  know it. I will be heading south this holiday season for 11 days backpacking around Northern Mozambique and spend the holidays there. It’s a bit weird spending christmas away from family and friends but I’ve found that hitting the road this time of year makes it somehow easier…so very excited for the adventure ahead and will hope to share some good stories and pictures in a new post next year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone!

Cheers,
Dan

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Africa does not exist”

Over the last month and a half while I was at  home in Canada and talking to people about coming back for the year ahead, the word ‘Africa’ was often used as the geographic reference. Makes sense, it is the continent of my destination. However, I read the introduction to a book a few weeks back that made me stop and think a bit about this and I thought I would share it with you in this post.

The term ‘Africa’ is used so commonly for the sake of convenience and in a sense is correct – but it is also an extremely, extremely broad term and simplification. My experience coming to Tanzania will certainly be much different than another person also headed to ‘Africa’ but spending a year in Egypt, Mali, South Africa, or Somalia. Different worlds really. But then I guess I could also say the same on a more micro level – my experience living in a major city such as Dar es Salaam is a completely different world than a rural village pretty much anywhere else in TZ. Reality is that simplifications are useful and sometimes necessary…but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of it and making an effort to go deeper when possible.

Here is the quote from the author’s introduction to the book which got me thinking about this and probably does a much better job conveying the idea than I just did. Ryszard Kapuscinski is a Polish journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent in many parts of Africa since 1957 and the dawn of many independent nations and reported events and day-to-day life over the next forty years. The book is called “The Shadow of the Sun”.

“…this is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there – about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa”. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to finish the book before leaving– so can’t add it to Dan’s Book Club reading list just yet. It is supposed to be one of the classic memoir/travel books in the Africa literature section. From what I got through, it had many interesting insights into countries and their citizens in the early days of independence and I look forward finishing it some day soon.

Tangent: The thing I find about travel books – they are cool to read when you are far away, or even just visiting a place – I highly recommend the strategy of reading fiction or non-fiction about or from a place where you are or will be travelling –even if its an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or something. But when it goes into rich descriptive detail for those who have not experienced it, describing riding the crowded (understatement) public buses or visiting the colourful market…it’s a lot less exciting to read about when its already your day-to-day life.

Anyways, when I read that quote it helped me realize that – despite having now lived and traveled on this continent for almost a year – I really have only experienced a small piece of it and can only really say that I now know some of Tanzania and flashes of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa from the “epic” trip. It also underlined just how much of a simplification it is when we say – “yeah, I’ve been to Europe/Africa/South America…etc” as if we now have it checked off the ‘to-do list’ –  when in reality we have experienced only a small part of that world. I  hope to get to better understand Tanzania, this little piece of the continent, in the year ahead as I am sure I barely scratched the surface last time. I also hope to see and experience some new parts – Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Mozambique are all on the current to-do list for the year ahead. Ethiopia, Sudan, Morroco, Egypt, Tunisia, DRC, West Africa…hell, really the rest of the continent….on the hope-to-see -maybe-someday list.

Even then though, as Mr. Kapuscinski so eloquently put, I don’t think I could really check Africa off the ‘to-do list’  - because that destination just doesn’t exist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

How BIG is your Africa?

Alright, so I realized writing the posts for this blog in the past 4 months that I have a serious problem…with keeping thing concise. (what? you thought I was going to say Konyagi?)

The fact that my next and still unpublished post is still sitting in the Draft mode after about two months is a testament to that fact. As such, in an effort to make more more regular and brief posts – here is a shiny NEW post under 453 words!

———————————————————————————————————-

How BIG is your Africa?

I was lucky enough to have my parents and sister come to Tanzania to visit me in the month of January (and they were lucky to have a son/brother who ended up working near the beautiful beaches and tropical weather of Tanzania to escape the Canadian winter). We toured a good portion of the countries world-famous sights that roll off the tongue…Zanzibar, Serengeti Plains, Ngorogoro Crater, Kilimanjaro (from a distance) and had a great time.

Near the end of the trip, my sister (sorry if I make you look dumb, but that’s what big brothers do best) made a comment to the effect that Tanzania wasn’t really that big, it was probably comparable to Southern Ontario.. as it took only a few hours to fly between our destinations.

Eager to prove her wrong, I hit up my trusty Wikipedia for the facts and will report them here for all to see;

Southern Ontario: 139,931 km2

Ontario:     1,076,395 km2

Tanzania: 945,203 km2


Turns out, Tanzania is pretty close to the size of the whole province of Ontario and it’s endless expanses of lakes, woods and granite up north.

Part of the problem is that many of us in the West grew up using Mercator and other seriously flawed map projections that distort the North and South poles to make them fit nicely into aesthetically pleasing globe form. It shrunk Africa and other continents/countries along the equator to fit the projection and our minds have always just made the automatic connection since.

I’ve seen this trick done now a few times so I though I would share. It’s  where the African continent’s true size is put in perspective by putting all other countries inside it  (not literally, I don’t think China would agree to that. Just through new-age techno-graphic wizardry).

Check it out!

It's a party inside the African continent and your invited

Interesting stuff. This place is huge! I just calculated it and at the end of May I have a 2,500 km journey (“as the crow flies”) from Dar es Salaam down to Johannesburg for the opening of the FIFA World Cup. I guess I had best find some good walking shoes.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your geography lesson today kids. And remember, being blonde just doesn’t pay, respectability is just a hair-dye box away :)

Tags: , , , , ,