Posts Tagged mzungu

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!

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and this episode is called…

I think this post is going to need a real quick background clarification before we get into the good stuff so let me try my best here.

There is a “game” that we have started playing here in Tanzania amongst us three roommates that is called “and this episode is called….”.  The credit goes to Zach for the genius of coming up with this game while back in Canada. The concept of the game is quite simple yet very entertaining for us (surprise, surprise). You basically just take your real life experiences and try to give the experience a funny/witty  episode title which summarizes the experiences events the best. This is generally done the next morning while re-capping the night’s events with everyone sitting around throwing out ideas until one comes along that just captures it all perfectly. In a rare and bold occasion – one can actually pre-name an episode, telling their friendsin advance “this episode is called….” to really set the expectations for the day’s/nights events that will follow.

To get a better idea of what I am going for, here are the episode guides from two TV shows that I absolutely love and one that I absolutely love to hate:

How I Met Your Mother

Entourage

Friends

With no further delay, I present to you – the episode guide to our first two months in Tanzania.

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Episode Guide – Season 1:

Arrival in September –  October 31st, 2009

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Original date on air: September 15th (Pilot Episode)

Episode Title: Welcome to Mzungu Paradise

Episode Summary: Dan arrives as the third and final roommate in Dar es Salaam to join Zach and Jeremy (who have been in place a few days already) in their MEDA internships and new lives in Dar es Salaam. Not given much information on what to expect before arriving – our heroes are all shocked to find themselves living in the nicest accommodations they’ve ever had in the heart of what they dub “Mzungu (white man’s) Paradise”. The first week is mostly spent breaking their few possessions by playing soccer in the spacious and empty apartment.

Beinvenido a Dar es Salaam

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Original date on air : September 19th-21st

Episode Title: Zanzibar’s man of the ladies/Poa kachize kamandize

Episode Summary: A trip to Zanzibar on the long weekend celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid is a great time and a hell of an introduction to how beautiful Tanzania really is. Along they way they meet a new character named Elvis  -  a local historical tour guide who fits in way too perfectly with our three heroes. Elvis’ smooth operation with the ladies and his desire to land a mzungu girl make for some hilarious times (“This original theatre production is called..Lucy meets Elvis”).  The group of four explore the winding streets of Stonetown, pet sea turtles, go snorkling, visit a mosque for an Eid service, visit Elvis’ family, enjoy countless beaches & sunsets, and generally have one of those “is this for real?” kinda weekends.

Old port and customs house in Zanzibar

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Original date on air : September 21st

Episode Title: That’s what she said

Episode Summary: Our heroes bring the “that’s what she said” joke to Tanzania beginning this weekend and teach it to everyone we meet. Some catch on to the concept better than others resulting in some pretty hilarious moments and a lasting legacy is created. We will now leave this country a better(?) place than when we found it.

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Original date on air: September 24th – October 9th

Episode Title: The curious incident of the malaria pills in the night time

Episode Summary: Zach and Dan both make the unwise decision to take their malaria prophylactic pills at the end of a night on an empty stomach and then going straight to bed.  Waking up to “heartburn from hell”, excessive gas, and a painful sensation every time one eats or swallows – the next week is full of discomfort, regret, and google searches of “what the hell is happening to my stomach”, “malaria pill heartburn”,and other related terms to make sure that they aren’t dying.

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Original date on air: September 26th

Episode Title: The people you will meet on the beach in Kigamboni

Episode Summary: A weekend camping trip for our heroes to the nearby southern beaches of Kigamboni introduces plenty of new and interesting characters to the season plot. After sitting around a Rasta campfire sing-along for much of the night the group moves to find itself sitting around a table with; Winston, a chill rasta from Malawi with a hilarious british accent, Saif, the  woman’s underwear collector Tanzanian, an opinionated American Peace Corps volunteer, and a mzungu  tour operator dude from Swaziland who for some unknown reason is wearing a  bra and make-up. Needless to say, this night ends with explosive results…

Futbol action on the beach in Kigamboni

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Original date on air: October 3rd

Episode Title: Bows, arrows, and near death experiences at the Bagamoyo Arts & Music Festival

Episode Summary: A weekend trip to a nearby town of Bagamoyo for their famous arts and music festival takes a scary turn when our Mzungu-African hero Zach is mistaken for a local trying to break into a resort when climbing a fence. He escapes the close call unharmed and returns to spend the night chilling on an abandoned boat on the beach and hearing the re-run of the legendary and elusive “The dancer with a heart of gold” episode.

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Original date on air: October 6-13

Episode Title: Zee Germans are coming!

Episode Summary: The everyday Dar es Salaam life of our heroes is turned upside down with the arrival in their social lives of a band of, at times equally wild, German friends. Craziness, misunderstandings, and many good times ensue in this particularly intensive first week of hanging out together. Jeremy returns from his brief trip to Canada to find that life did indeed go on without him and zee new characters play roles in many future episodes.

some of zee Germans here

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Original date on air: October 10th

Episode Title: The soaking wet guru on the roof

Episode Summary: A night out to a beach club for our heroes and zee Germans turns very wet when Dan decides to throw a German friend into the pool fully clothed. In short order the whole group is in the pool to the shock and entertainment of all the other guests present. Dan ends up dispensing worldly advice on the meaning of life to the gathered group of strangers from his perch cross-legged atop the roof of the bar’s washroom hut.

Malaika House beach bar in Dar es Salaam: the scene of many a crime

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Original date on air: October 17th:

Episode Title: The most wonderful 10th interesting fact about Jeremy/ The most unnecessary bottle of Konyagi ever.

Episode Summary: Our heroes host a smashingly successful dinner party for everyone they’ve met in Dar so far. Wait a minute, guys can cook? A game of “tell me 10 interesting facts about yourself” takes an unexpected turn late at night with  most wonderful and revealing results. Dan makes another (retrospectively) bad/(good?) decision in the groups ongoing complex relationship with Konyagi (the local spirit). A wedding is crashed and the group replays last weeks swimming incident and begin to gain a bit of a reputation around town.

the definition of a love/hate relationship

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Original date on air: October 21st (I think…)

Episode Title: Getting lucky Tanzania style

Episode Summary: Celebrating a recently arrived  friend’s birthday at zee German’s house, the main characters are gathered on a mat in their backyard. Drinks and food are had and stories are being told when a sudden cracking sound breaks the conversation and Dan hears a whooshing sound right before being clocked on the back of the head. Lying in the grass, he’s overcome by a strong odour that smells kind of like a mix of soap and coconut…has our hero died and find himself sent to some kind of a Body Shop lovers heaven?  No, it ends up being a cluster of some kind of coconut-like palm seeds dropped from the tree over head and cracked him in the head. Later in the evening a Tanzanian friend lets him know that getting hit by a falling coconut means you have luck coming your way. Lucky him.

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Original date on air: October 25th

Episode Title: I have an O-face gun and I’m not afraid to use it

Episode Summary: After having a (for once) relaxing weekend staying in and around Dar, our heroes have their friends over on a Sunday night. A Canadian friend Shehz returns to Dar for the weekend to join the group and a new game is invented which involves a charcoal barbeque fan “gun” that has magically revealing powers.

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Original date on air: October 30-31st  (Season 1 Finale)

Episode Title: I came to Mikumi for the lions and all I got was this lousy hangover

Episode Summary: Our heroes and their German comrades head away for a weekend roadtrip to a nearby region called Morogoro which houses Mikumi National Park for a safari. Friday night is mostly spent sitting in traffic but it doesn’t harm the party atmosphere in the back of the Land Cruiser. After a Saturday spent searching for lions the group returns that night to a safari camp in the bush and find themselves somehow invited to partake in a most delicious feast of fresh fire roasted lamb and an open bar party on Halloween night. The hostel reservations aren’t used as people catch an hour or two of sleep under the stars, in the car/on the car hood, etc. No lions spotted on Day 2′s safari either…but that might have just been because everyone slept in car the whole day…

The whole Mikumi safari gang in a rare awake moment

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There you have it, the highlighted craziness from the first month and a half of my time in Tanzania as captured in Season 1 episode guide format. Intrigued to hear the full stories? Well, I think we will have to save those for another day when I see you next in person. But I promise, if you stop and ask me to tell you about “the episode where..” I will be happy to share because I  love telling good stories.

A few quick disclaimers:

-This is completely from my point of view and told as episode stories so certainly not representative of everyone’s views & experiences. Some of the episode titles were determined by the group as mentioned above, others are just ones I came up with for this post.

-These episodes highlight the funnier and more ridiculous experiences that we have had thus far in Tanzania – and ones that I feel should really be told –  but we also do plenty of very serious work and are usually  good citizens. Don’t judge me based only only this!

-I refer to us as “our heroes” throughout the episodes. Don’t worry, I don’t actually think of us like this -I just thought it sounded cool and tv-like. Besides, I should probably put in this disclaimer so I don’t get sued or something. “The events depicted in this blog post are  entirely fictitious. Any similarity to any event, places, or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.” Yes, a hell of a coincidence friends, but now you can’t sue me.

If you do try and sue I will send this fierce Mikumi croc to eat you

Let the fans decide

Is it worth the network re-signing this show for Season 2? If you’re a fan, leave a comment below and I’ll continue the episode guides for Season 2. If not, we will still have just as much fun – I just won’t write about it all here!

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