Thursday, January 27, 2011


When I arrived on the Ilala ferry from Monkey Bay, me and some Dutch friends had planned on staying at big blue backpacker; it was the cheapest in the Lonely Planet.The boat arrived in Nkata Bay at 1 in the morning and wasn't leaving until 7 am, so we decided to go back to sleep and get off right before it left, so as to save a nights accomadation somewhere. When we got off at 6:30 we started looking for a taxi to take us to Big Blue, when someone from a more expensive lodge pulled up announcing free pickups. We were tired and my friends took the offer. I reluctuntly decided to walk on to the cheaper backpacker, and told them I would see them in town later on. I was grumbeling to myself about being lost and too tired to walk around town when the Big Blue people pulled up. MY friends had already left, so I shrugged and happily jumped in. After talking to them later, I found out that I ended up paying less for my room than they did for a rocky campsite. I definatly had to pat myself on the back for mot taking the easy way out.
Big Blue Backpacker is the typical hostel found in Africa. Pretty nice, with different perks. It has it's own little stretch of lake shore, and offered free cannoes, free snorkeling gear, even free hair cuts. At $5 a night for a dorm, you can't really complain about anything. What was the main perk for me, which I'm kind of ashamed of, is the free wifi. But hey, the place turned into a great place to relaxe for a few day and have internet whenever I wanted. I signed up for the advanced scuba course down at the local dive shop, Aqua Africa,which would only cost $300. That night however, my instructor got malaria and hasn't gotten well yet. Now I'm back to that nagging feeling telling me I should keep moving. If I can't take advantage of the cheap diving, well not much to keep me around. My new Dutch and Irish friends left a couple days ago, saying they would see me in Zanzibar. So, I suppose it's time to move on. I probably wont leave tomorrow, I'm waiting for some paintings to be delivered that I had made of some underwater photos I have; got the painting for an old cell phone I had, figure I'll mail em home to ma. I probably wont have internet for a few days, but next time you hear from me, I'll be trekking around Tanzania.

Nomad Chronicals

For the last few days I've been just relaxing. Sitting on the lake shore reading a book, writing a little and catching up on e-mails. I feel like I've been moving constantly, and haven't stopped in one place long. It's like when all my friends left me in Mozambique, I was shot out of a cannon into the life of freedom on the road. Like a squeezed watermelon seed, I shot north as if my tail was on fire. At first I possessed a small amount of regret, thinking that I wasn't traveling like a true backpacker; slowly going from place to place, seeing everything, not worrying about time. I've finally come to terms however, and concluded that I didn't want to or couldn't change. Sometimes, filled with excitement and exhilaration, I feel like a kid with ADHD in a candy store. If I'm in an area, and I do what there is to do, see what there is to see, and am still not compelled to stick around for a long time, whats the harm in moving on? So far all the places I've visited are awesome, but maybe not to the extent that I feel obligated to stay for a year. Tofo is paradise, but is it better than Zanzibar? How about Dahab, or anywhere else for that matter that I plan on seeing? I have major urges to find out for myself. It doesn't help when everywhere I go I meet travelers who say "If you think it's nice here, wait until you this place". Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side for me, or maybe I thirst for the next adventure, but either way I tend to get bored if I hang around a place to long. Something big has to happen for me to hang around a place for a long spell. Who knows, maybe the cheap and great diving in Dahab will do it.
When I find myself wondering why I am still in a place, I realise it is probably just so no one can say I wasn't there long enough to know much about it. Well now I don't care anymore, and am determined to do whatever suits my fancy at the moment. As long as I stick to my budget, what's wrong with that? A few people told me that since I have all the time in the world, I should move slow and take it all in. Spend more time in each place, so you save more money. Now that I think about it, that doesn't make much sense. If I am planning on going north anyway, isn't it cheaper to spend nights on buses, instead of hostels? Plus, Africa is expensive, and I'm going to the cheapest places on earth after Africa, Southern Asia, so in a way I'm saving money getting there sooner. The way I see it, if i get my fill of a place, then no reason not to move on. Hell I could of spent a year in South Africa and still not have seen it all. This trip is not as much about seeing every inch of every country, but enough of many countries.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What brings ya?

I was wondering if there was a trend or some reason that some nationalities travel more than others. So I decided to take a tally.
           Israelis- 15               Japanese-5
           Dutch- 12                Irish-1
           English-10               Chinese-1

I know for a fact that I've met more of each of these nationalities, but these are just ones that I remember. Theres also people from many other places that I've met, but that would take forever. You might be thinking that contrary to what I've been saying about Americans not traveling, I've met a lot of them, but out of the 10, there was only 2 that were'nt in the peace corp, and were just traveling. I do meet alot of peace corp volunteers, but I don't think that is the same a backpacker. The corp pays for everything, and there is a lot more security in that. None of the others were volunteers or had jobs waiting them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Insights of a newbie

One of the lessons I've learned when becoming a good backpacker, is what to bring and what to leave home. Like I said before, when I first got to Africa I was carrying a 70lbs backpack, and had a "smaller" pack weighing 20lbs, that I used for a carry-on during flights, and for walking around town later. I really hated life while carrying those packs, plus my fishing pole, through the airports and to where ever I was going. When I was packing at home I told myself that I was smart, and only bringing the essentials. I laugh at that now. Who needs 5 pairs of shirts and 5 shorts in Africa? I even brought a pair of long pants, just in case it got cold. Other useless stuff included a big hoodie,( I only needed my light rain coat), a blanket, large amounts of soap and shampoo, and tons of other stuff that I can't think of right now. As of now, Both of my backpacks have been down sized, and the smaller one can fold up and go into the bigger one. I have all of 3 shirts, and 2 pairs of short plus one for swimming, A much smaller, thinner blanket, more like a sheet, sandals, and a pair of shoes that I brought, but are so far unused, and will probably be traded for nicer sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, and then a small pack that goes inside my main bag, that carries the odds and ends like extra contacts and tooth paste and such. This might not seem like much, but I have wanted, well needed, for nothing. Well nothing that is but a steri-pen. I was told to get one before I left, so I could sanitize any water, but they're being about $80, I thought I could go without. I've spent that much already on bottled water. I also get tired a lot less often when backpacking around now, and that saves on taxis and stuff, when I can just walk there.
Things that I think are essentials, but really aren't, include my small compact laptop that I use to blog and save pictures ect, and my camera. I feel like a dumb tourist when I use either of them in public places, like I'm trying to show people how much of a rich American I am, considering no one else around has them, but I just can't help it. The compromise is that I don't carry around either of them on a regular bases, resulting in far fewer photos than the usual tourist. There's been many times that I wished I had my camera though. On the other hand, today I met an old guy that loved that I was a backpacker like him, but didn't understand why me and a few others on the boat would go grab our cameras and take tons of pictures every time the occasion called for it. He asked why pictures were so important to me, and all I could say was that I wanted to show people at home what I was seeing. He didn't really understand that either, saying that I was here for myself, not anyone else, and if they wanted to see Malawi, my friends could either get here or turn on the discovery channel. "You got your memory and stories don't you?" Can't really argue with that.


There is allot to learn from "veteran Vagabonds". Most people I meet really have their stuff together, probably, unlike myself, because they are far into their trip, not just a couple months as I am. They've already gone through all the learning processes that I'm trying to get through, and are just sailing along the right ways now. I don't know what it is about Dutch people and Israel people, but I meet them more than any other nationality (except for the locals). I don't know what's going on in Holland, but everyone seems to want to travel. I've met them continuously from day 1 on the road. Now Israelis I can understand. After school, it is compulsory for every male to do his time in the military. When they get out, after they've done their time, it's almost tradition that they want to get out and see the world for years on end on their own. It's amazing how incredibly independent these young Israelis become at an early age. I've learned allot from them, from our various long conversations. Since they have little money to start with, I thought it very curious and dumbfounding that they are able to travel so far, and see so much. I then realized that it is my typical American reasoning that is making me think this way. I can't think of a single person back home that doesn't want to travel, but I also can't think of a single person that is willing to leave their comfort zone and just do it. Most say, "ya if i had about $30,000, I would go travel the world for a year". But I know as well as I do, that they will never have $30000 extra money that needs waisting. The Israelis I talked to said they got about 5000 U.S after they left the army, for services rendered, then about that much more from their family as gifts to "go experience the world" then left on that 10000 and made it last for more than a year, seeing huge areas of country, going to the most remote places on Earth. That thought is crazy to most Americans. No one I know would ever say "I'm leaving, and I don't know when I'll be back, no matter how much money I have." Maybe that is why the are so admirable to me, I tend to think the same way. This is all well and good but I wanted to know how they stretched the money that far, considering that there are expenses that just cannot be gotten away from. After hanging around them for a few days I begun to understand the problem; me. It had never occurred to my American way of thinking that I should take an uncomfortable, 50 hour train ride through countries for maybe $40, instead of taking a nice, fast and cushy flight for say $400. I'm on no time line, so why not? My new friend Simo had taken the train from Tanzania to Zimbabwe, which took 48 hours. I asked him why he didn't just fly, and he said that was stupid, he could get all through Africa on trains for that price. That thought never occurred to me, what a great point. Then another time I rode on a long bus ride with an Israeli. At some of the stops I found myself buying drinks and snacks and little things like that. I was doing it with the mind set that the stuff was pretty cheap compared to back home. But then my Israeli friend showed me what he brought with him. He had bought a loaf of bread for about $.50 cents, and a jar of peanut butter for $1. That right there lasted him the whole trip. He also had a great big water jugs of tap water that he had sterilized and didn't have to buy drinks once. So for $1.50 he had enough food and drink to get him bye for 2 days. One of the packs of cookies I bought was about $1 by it's self. Water bottles were about $1 also, and I probably bough 10. I don't remember what all else I ate, but I'm sure it added up.The guy showed me to live like a local, if you don't you will run out of money and have to go back home and work. that make sense. Say I spent $15 in those 2 days on food and drinks. that's enough for him to last 15 days or something (not doing the math, just saying). So in reality, he could last 15 times longer than I can, just on food and and drinks alone. Then you can take into effect his cheaper modes of transportation, plus the fact that he carries a tent and takes the cheapest accommodation possible. When the local people come up to him asking him to buy trinkets and stuff, like paintings and carvings, he doesn't give them the time of day. I have found myself time and again buying crap I don't need just because it's pretty cool. So I have learned allot, and have a lot to learn, but I'm soaking in every bit possible, and believe me, by the time I'm done, I will be a seasoned traveler that others look up to.

Good bye Monkey Bay

trying to catch the eagle catching the fish on camera is hard

After only 4 days (or was it 5?) in Monkey Bay, I got the travel bug again. I woke up this morning and said, screw it, I want to go north. I guess I got my fill of the beer, beaches and broads (i mean ladies). It just so happens that the ferry was in town, and leaving in an hour. So I threw my junk into my bag, paid my bill, and hurried down to the docks. First class all the way to Nkata, a three day ride, was only $80, so I took it. You think I would of learned the difference between American first class and African. My visions of sipping wine on the deck and a cushy bed at night dissipated away as I got to the first class deck and it was nothing but just that.. a wooden deck with park benches along the sides, and a bar that over charges for drinks. At night they rent out mattresses for a price, and everyone just sleeps where ever. During the day everyone huddles together on the benches that are under the tarp awning, to try and get out of the sun.

funny looking trucker

It was good to be back to the beach

Unfortunately there are no ATMs in Monkey Bay or Cape Mclear, so when I was running out of money I had to go to the nearest bank, which was Magochi, about an hour bus ride away. I wanted to save moreny and took the ride in a quambi/chappa/minibus, depending on what country you are in, which was 300 kwatcha. It was so packed that the hour seemed like 3. They are hot and stuffy, and besides the constant honking and swerving around potholes, the blaring music, anything from Bob Marley to Eminem, didn't do much to make for a nice journey. after getting to Mongochi and getting my cash at the ATM and stopping by for some water at a drink stand, I knew it was time to endure the journey back. This time i decided i wanted more room, and figured I would catch a ride on one of the many trucks picking people up and taking them down the road for cheap. When I paid the 300 kwatcha to get me back to Monkey Bay, I hopped into the bed of the truck and thought that this was a much better idea. But before long, the 5 people in the truck turned into 20, then 30, and at last count 40. I was standing at the front looking over the cab, but it was so packed that I couldn't even turn to either side, let alone bend down or anything. They just kept picking up people as they went along. They stopped so frequently that the ride turned into a 2 hour ordeal. for 2 hours I was stuck standing in the back of the truck, facing foreword into the wind, getting burnt by the African sun. When we arrived into town, I was stared at constantly by what seemed like the whole town. I was hot and tired, and didn't really care, but when I passed by a mirror I grew an instant understanding of why. I had been sweating all day, so my hair was wet, then at the same time had been standing in the windy truck bed for 2 hours, so my hair was standing straight up into a mohawk. then on top of that I was wearing a shirt that a local guy made me that was black with crazy yellow, green and red stripes going everywhere. It's a helluva ugly shirt that doesn't match anything known to man, but it's comfortable. All that mixed with the fact that I'm the only white boy in town, made me the spectacle of the area. Someone even called me the king of Monkey Bay. Kids and adults alike riding bikes would stare so hard and long they would only be pryed away when they ran into something. It was a little weird, but at least the people are some of the nicest in the world. After only being in a place for a day or so, everyone in town knows or recognises me, and I have to return greetings every 10 seconds, when walking around town. People will yell out things like, "hey big boss, are you fine today?" or "howzit friend?". Sometimes from way down the street they yell for me, and I sometimes just ignore them like I never heard anything, just for the fact that I get tired of saying I'm good, you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fishing Lake Malawi

I decided to splurge on yet another excursion, and go fishing on Lake Malawi. I paid a couple locals to take me out to some majestic islands to find some fish. The fishing equipment I had was some fishing line wrapped around an old flip flop, and some hooks. Definitely regretting leaving my ultra awesome fishing rod and Shakespeare real back in Tofo thinking I wouldn't fish any more. I was getting tired of carrying it around, but could definitely use it now. Never the less, I was able to catch some of the most colorful fish I've ever seen. They looked like giant African Chiclids, which Lake Malawi is known for, but who knows what they where. I also caught some normal chiclids, and that's when the guys showed me a cool trick. We were next to an island full of eagles, and when we caught a fish too small to eat, one of them would start whistling and calling for the birds to look at us. Then he would tell me to get my camera ready and would throw this fish into the air for the bird to see. when the fish landed in the water, the eagle would swoop down and snatch it out of the water. It was awesome, but out of the ten times it happened, I never could catch it on camera.
later on we had a small feast of grilled mystery fish (well to me), topped off with beer that some of the guys made themselves. They called it shake shake, and said it was made from corn and stuff. Apparently it's called shake shake because you are suppose to shake it a couple times before you drink it. it's worth a try, I'll try anything once, but this wasn't good at all. More like rotten mud.

Scuba diving

I feel like I'm doing allot of bouncing around on here, but I forgot to mention getting scuba certified in Tofo. It was awesome. It took four days to get totally certified, and that included 4 pool dives and 4 ocean dives. The cool part about the ocean dives is that we went to a different reef every time, and after doing our skill practices, we always had around 45 minutes to go explore. I spent allot of that time trying to perfect my breathing technique, so as to use as little air as possible, mostly because most of the stuff from the first couple dives I had seen before while being a snorkeling guide in Costa Rica. But then the last two dives where great. I had never seen a mantis shrimp before, and they are awesome. Bright green and maybe purple, they really stand out. A couple turtles, named Steven and Alan where pretty neat also. Our professor was able to go on better dives, since he was already certified, and was lucky enough to swim with the fish that puts Tofo on the map, the whale shark. It was a great experience getting certified in arguably some of the best diving in the world, and am now looking foreword to maybe earning masterdiver status.

The rest of southern Africa

I've been regretting not being able to write about, and show the pictures of the places I experienced in Africa before I started this blog.I didn't start the blog until about a month into my trip, so there are definitely places worth mentioning. We started out in Johanessburg South Africa. We didn't do a whole lot of exciting things there besides visit museums. I quickly get museumed out and bored, so wasn't real impressed with our time there. The museums we visited were the Apartheid museum,

 Nelson Mandelas old neighborhood and house, and another one in Soweto that I don't remember the name of. After that we took a 31 hour train ride to Cape Town. I loved Cape Town. We stayed at Blue Mountain Backpackers, right on Long street; the biggest party street in town. From there we went on an awesome cage diving excursion. We ended up seeing 6 different great whites, which is apparently a rare thing.


The next day I took the tram up Table Mountain. For those who don't know, Table Mountain is a World Heritage sight, and is a candidate for one of the new wonders of the world. you can see why from the pictures. From the top you could see all of Cape Town, then Camps Bay and other beaches on the other side. You can also see Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned all those years.

The day after that we rented scooters and drove all the way to Cape Point, Africa's southern most point. the ride was awesome. We also went to check out the penguins in Simons Town, considering there would be very few chances to see them in their natural habitat.

From Cape Town, we flew to Livingstone Zambia. We were forced to divert from our backpacker ways due to time constraints, and had to fly. The first thing we did when we got there was to go check out Victoria Falls. We ended up going to the top and hiking to a place called Devil's Pool. It is definitely the most scary thing I've done. It is a pool on top of the 350 ft falls where you can swim to within a few feet of the edge because of a small rock barrier stopping you from going over. There was still a current trying to push me over the whole time, and the guide just kept yelling to hold on with my feet. I was over it by the time I got out. It is definitely something that they would never let you do in the states. Even just to get to the pool, you had to swim across the river about 20 meters from the edge of the falls, with nothing to stop you from going over but a little rope. The guide would just say to swim very hard up stream and across and by the time you are to the island with the pool you are back down stream. Not very comforting, the lack of control that we Americans become accustomed to. 

From Livingstone we went to a remote village in Mwandi to do a volunteer project, building mud houses for people. we were only able to stay for 3 days, but almost completely finished the house. From there, still because of the time restraints my friends had, we flew to Maputo Mozambique, and started heading north to hit the beaches and diving.


wanna buy a chicken?

We arrived in Chimoi Mozambique around 8:30 or 9:00 at night, and some of us wanted to continue on to Tete (tet), but the driver would only do it if he could get at least 10 people, to make it worth it. In the end we only came up with 6, so it was a no-go. Then, through like 4 of the passengers putting their English skills together they told me that they would stay in Chimoi for the night and leave at 4 in the morning. Well that's when I played my cards right and acted like a dumb tourist. I had already been planning on staying the night, I had the address of the Pink Papaya hostel, and was ready to go, but just for grins i told the people that their plan sounded good, but where would I sleep until then?? The driver felt bad and told me to sleep in the bus on the back bench seat for the night when he parked it in the truck stop. So I did of course. It saved me $10 that the hostel would of been, and was just as comfortable. After the 6 or 7 hours to Tete, I was ready to get to Malawi, happy that the constant bus rides were saving me lodging cost so far, so I headed out. First I went to one of my new bus friend's house to eat dinner with him and his family, somewhere I can't pronounce. When I was about to leave, we went to a store across the street and after some convo, a semi truck driver offered to take me the 2 hours to the border for free with him. that was a fun ride. from there I was kinda forced into paying for an expensive taxi, because the Mozambique and Malawi borders are about 6 kilometers apart, and there is no public transport, just expensive taxis.
After getting through Malawi immigrations, I negotiated a taxi driver so far down on his price that I couldn't say no. I negotiated a pretty cheap ride all the way to Monkey Bay, right on the southern end of Lake Malawi. It took 7 hours, but I was glad I did it considering the only transport outside the border fences were chappas. I would rather play leap frog with a unicorn than ride a chappa for 7 hours. I rode one a couple times, and It's a nightmare. They manage to gram about 40 people into this 15 person bus, bags and all, not caring if the door shuts or not. I'm a big dude already, and can't get any leg room, especially with a big bag. Put someone on my lap, and people on the laps of the ones next to me, 9 times out of 10 carrying a live chicken or something weird, and I'm no happy camper. Add to that all the not too shy people poking and rubbing my tattoos on my arms, and everyone in the bus staring in amazement at the white boy with tats, as if i had just lit my hair on fire and was singing something from Bob Marley, and it's a great time.


Left Tofo with a much smaller pack. I finally realised that I didn't need so much stuff and and that it wouldn't be fun hauling it around while hitchhiking. I also noticed that this time they didn't charge me double for the bus rides because of a huge bag I had, like they did on the way to Tofo. Leaving Tofo I hitched a ride the 22 km into Inhambane, then took a ferry ride across the bay to Maxixe (ma-she-she). Since leaving Tofo, I havn't seen a single white person, and am feeling glad to be getting away from the tourist destinations and getting into the real Africa. Even though i was the only white person on my 11 hour bus ride from Maxixe to Chimoi, and no one spoke more than 10 words of English, I quickly became very popular and made friends with everyone on the ride. When i pulled out the camera to catch some of the great scenery, all my new friends wanted me to take pictures with them. Back in Livingstone Zambia, my friend Nick had a flag made for me with his school clubs motto on it, "stay positive", with the idea that I would take pictures of it with cool things from my trip behind it. So I got the great idea to start with all my bus friends holding it up at the front of the bus, while going down the road. It seemed fitting considering how hard it was sometimes to stay positive on a 11 hour bus ride in Africa with no AC.
If you ever really want a good pineapple, it might be worth the trouble of flying to Mozambique, then taking buses or whatever other means and getting to the middle of the country. I hate pineapples back home, but then some dudes made me try one they had just bought on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, when the bus stopped and everyone lined up to pee on the road. We watched the guy that sold it to us cut it into 4 long slices. when he cut into it, it was like cutting into a hose; it just gushed juice everywhere. when I bit into my piece, it was still so juicy I had to hang out of the bus window to eat it, or else get everything soaked. It was kind of a spectacle seeing 10 of us hanging out the bus eating pineapple on the go. But, yes, the verdict was, that it was the best pineapple in the universe.

time to go

No more Tofo. I love it here and the people are great, but I am ready to go. it's a great beach location, and the diving is unparalleled, but it's also a huge tourist attraction, and is swarmed with everything from Australians to Europeans, and even a few Americans. Mostly I would say it's full of the South African beach bums coming for vacation to raise hell.
One thing I forgot to mention is that about 3 days into Tofo, I completely ran out of money because the money I expected to show up in my account from the school never showed. I had to get a job right away to pay for things. The first person I asked was the owner of Fatimas, Fatima herself, about getting some work. Right away she hooked me up with a job running her friends Internet cafe for a few hours a day, just to cover room and board. It was a sweet hook up, I would sit in a hammock and read, while people used the computers. It also felt good when I went to leave Tofo, and had no room bill, or had payed for all those meals for 2 weeks or more. Now I have my money, but am going to try and get work everywhere I go, just to spend as little money as possible. I guess I'm learning and perfecting my travelers technique as i go.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13, 2011- Tofo

Today half of the class left Tofo to make their way back to the States. The others will be here for a few more days, except for Mike, Mark and Annie, who are going off on little adventures on their own. Yesterday I finished getting scuba certified, and am now getting the travel bug. I've talked to so many people who I would consider travel veterans, manly from their extensive travels, that I've gotten a pretty good idea how I will handle a lot of my solo trek around the planet. I heard hitching was easier here than in the States, so have been trying it out on short journeys for the last week. now my plan is to hitch to Vilanculo, a few hours up the coast, then work my way to Monkey Bay Malawi. It will be bitter sweet leaving Mozambique. On one hand I love this beach paradise here in Tofo, and the people are great. One the other hand, I can't wait to get to a much cheaper country like Malawi and start seeing more great country.