Category Archives: Travel

Final Round Up – Get the tissues out

Unless John suddenly comes up with something inspirational this will be the last post for this blog. It feels really strange just writing that. The end of an era.

Time has gone fast and yet slow at the same time since we arrived back. So much has been going on! It’s been lovely to catch up with those of you we’ve seen and we can’t wait to see the rest of you.

The next step for us will be our big move up to Edinburgh, can’t wait! We’re furiously looking for jobs at the moment and very giddy about our trip up there to flat hunt next week. It’s a bit weird for John as it will actually be the first time he’s visited the city. So even though our year of carefree travels is over we’ve got a lot to look forward to and life seems as exciting now as it ever did.

But, of course, it’s still good looking back and so we’ve come up with a list of top 5s for your amusement, or perhaps boredom depending on what mood you’re all in.

Funniest Moments:

  • The entire three weeks of Rightee’s stay with us down at Koh Tao, Thailand, well John can only remember some of it
  • Too much tequila and my salty meat birthday cake turning into a towering inferno in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Various naked co-workers in Madagascar (Lizy, Tom and Pete)
  • John deciding he’ll surprise me when I exit the loos in the depth of the Australian night by chanting ‘Attack, attack, attack’. Only funny in hindsight.
  • A drunken Chinese waiter being in complete hysterics at our pathetic attempts at his language. He was practically rolling on the floor.

Most amazing landscapes:

  • New Zealand Mountains and thermal areas. Truly breathtaking
  • Namib desert in Namibia
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Karst mountains in Southern China
  • Table Mountain and Cape Town

Favourite birds:

  • Myna birds in Koh Tao (also in Southern Africa, New Zealand and Madagascar)
  • Gannets in New Zealand
  • Secretary birds in South Africa (huge great things with fancy hairdos, they like stamping on snakes)
  • New Zealand Robins and Fantails (very curious little fellows that follow you around and look at you)
  • Pukekos in New Zealand (purple dudes that live in little family groups)

Favourite animals:

  • Meerkats in Namibia (so tame)
  • John likes giraffes so that has to go in
  • Green tree ants in Australia and their cool nests made of leaves
  • Chameleons in Madagascar
  • Lemurs of course!

Viv’s favourite plant places:

  • Forests of Tree ferns on the North Island of New Zealand
  • Amazing Fynbos plants of the Southern Cape
  • Fascinating succulents and other salt tolerant desert plants in Namibia
  • Fields filled with Pitcher plants in Madagascar
  • Rainforests of North Eastern Australia

Nicest people:

  • The Japananese. Helpful, respectful, polite and accommodating. You are really looked after well as a visitor in Japan
  • The Vietnamese. Resourceful, friendly, lively and inspiring. You can’t help but admire and adore them, they’re a pretty good looking lot too, especially in the North.
  • The Malagasy. Easy going, welcoming and warm. Nothing can stress out the Malagasy, well except snakes, it’s so easy to relax and feel part of the community in Madagascar.
  • The Kiwis. Laid back, friendly and pretty cool. Like a home from home but with less w**kers around.
  • The Thais. Efficient, friendly and open minded. The Thais just get on with things with little fuss. It’s a great and very easy place to travel in.

Worst toilets:

  • New Zealand’s got to be up there I’m afraid. The ones out in the wilderness were badly designed so that when you go in they’re totally sealed leaving you trapped with the evil smells and flying army of insects.
  • Tianjin in China. I’m singling it out because the rest of the toilets in China were not nearly as bad as you might imagine. The train station toilets in Tianjin however were unspeakable! No doors, and a very liberal approach to where the waste was supposed to go. In each case the entire cubicle was a toilet and nobody bothered to flush.
  • Azafady bush toilets in Madagascar. I have two words to describe them: Maggot farms. Nice eh?

The rest were OK, Japan’s are little complicated but still functional.

This could go on for ever and I’m getting bored now. If anyone has any requested top fives I’ll be happy to include them. In the meantime, thanks for reading and bye for now.

Jiv xx

Wells, orphans and mosquitos

Last Saturday we arrived back from our final bush trip at Ebakika where we dug a well, built a latrine for a school, built a tree nursery and did a talk at a couple of local schools about cleaning your teeth as well as handing out toothbrushes. This was the toughest trip of the three that we have been on while on the pioneer programme as the work was a lot more physical, think mixing lots of concrete by hand, digging lots and carrying countless bags of sand up a hill, and everyone was beginning to get a bit weary from the previous work. Also this time there were no beautiful beaches to escape to on a day off and on one of our days off we were confined to the campsite as it was general election day.

The well was our favourite project and the one that the villagers got most involved in, they loved teaching us new words and hearing us repeat them, usually to fits of laughter from them. We had great fun one afternoon when the heavens opened and turned the latrine into mud wrestling pit, I got a bit of the action and Viv was an amused spectator.

We really loved the villagers here, particularly the children. Everywhere we went was greeted with choruses of the few English phrases that they have previously been taught – ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’, ‘What is your name?’ and variations on that theme including ‘Hello goodbye my name!’ The children also got involved in the projects, mostly helping to carry sand or help out at the well.

Other notable moments were finding a scorpion in our tent, Mark breaking his finger and Charlie getting malaria. On our very last night there we were treated to an fantastic performance from the two local village bands with dancers, a really high note to end our bush trips on.

Back in Fort Dauphin Viv and I organised a Christmas day at the orphanage where we made decorations and decorated the school room with the orphans as well as playing musical statues and pass the parcel with them outside. It gave us a really warm glow to have brought a bit of Christmas to the children, the delight on a little boy’s face when he got a watch in pass the parcel was just priceless.

Viv had been feeling particularly tired all week which we put down to the hard work but on Thursday night she developed a fever and on Friday morning it was confirmed as malaria. It isn’t actually as serious as it sounds and the treatment is straight forward as we have caught it early so she’ll be fine in a couple of days and was looking much, much more spritely this morning.

And that’s about our travels almost over. We have until Tuesday left in Fort Dauphin then it’s on to the capital Antananarivo for a couple nights then we fly to Johannesburg on Thursday where we’ll spend the day with Martin and Joanne and later that day we step onto our homeward bound flight arriving in Heathrow at 5.15am on Friday, just 6 days away! We’re getting so excited at coming home and can’t wait to see all our friends and family we’ve been missing so much.

And now I really can say to most of you ‘SEE YOU SOON!!’

A very brief post…

The only internet cafe in town is down at the moment (and has been for the last 2 weeks apparently…) so I’m using an azafady office coputer so will have to be very brief as time is very limited.

We arrived back from Sainte Luce yesterday where we successfully completed the house for the maternity nurses, a well, planted critically endangered trees and collected their seeds and made a few more improved stoves. I have now had 8 parasys and am currently sporting a rather fetching tropical ulcer (responding to antibiotics thankfully!), Viv has still escaped any such nasties.

We are currently enjoying the luxuries of town such as running water that is clear rather than the brown eggy smelling substance we pumped from a well and into a bucket to clean ourselves with in the bush and food that isn’t beans & rice, although the fish meals were excellent. We have now become food obsessives and many group conversations revolve around all the lovely foods that we currently have no access to and are longing for when we get home.

Our time back in Fort Dauphin is limited as we’re back to the bush on Thursday for a bit more well building with a latrine thrown in for good measure.

Only just over a month till we arrive back home – getting very excited by it now!

Veloma!

About to go back in the bush, minus a phone

Yes guys i’m afraid our Madagascar mobile phone has been stolen so nobody can call us for the time being. John still has his British phone for texts (07940 513969) but we’re not sure how he’s going to keep it charged as our only charger was also taken. Ah well, these things happen, we’ll see if we can arrange something when we get back from the bush.

Since John wrote we’ve been hanging around town asking passers by about their awareness of AIDS. Azafady are worried about AIDS in Madagascar even though the rate is pretty low in comparison to mainland Africa. The evil mining company John mentioned, Rio Tinto, are planning to bring in hundreds of workers from South Africa where the AIDS rate is about 1 in 4 compared to 1 in 90 here. The workers will be a long way from their families and so it’s not difficult to imagine the potential consequences if the locals are not aware of the risks.

The AIDS rate in parts of Africa, especially Swaziland, is truly incomprehensible. It’s really weird when you look around you in an African internet cafe and know that maybe four or five people you’re currently sharing a room with will die of AIDS.

Anyway back to Madagascar and the surveys: they were pretty interesting and caused much hilarity about town. Most people knew about sticking to one partner and wearing condoms but changing behaviour is a different thing entirely. Many people still don’t believe in AIDS as they’ve never met anyone who’s had it. There is clearly still a lot to do here if we want to stop Madagascar going down the same route as Africa. We’re not scheduled to do any more work on the issue here but Azafady is bidding for some funding to continue.

What we are going to do next is to rebuild some damaged rain forest, build a well and some accommodation for midwives at a remote village further up the coast. The accommodation for the midwives will be invaluable as it means that expectant mothers who get into trouble will actually have some help near by. There is no transport to speak of around there so mothers and babies have died in the past trying to make their way to help situated miles away.

We’re also going to build some more efficient stoves to keep fighting against the need to chop down forest for fuel. More silly dancing for John then!

And finally. The maggot tally is currently 5-0 to John. He is now officially a complete scrubber, don’t worry they’ve all been successfully prised away from the inside of his feet.

Take care all!

Sev/Viv

Back from the bush

Right, expect a brief and badly typed email with lots of typos and uncorrected spelling errors. Blame the french keyboard and wobbly monitor screen.

Madagascar is going well for the both of us and the group is now gelling well and we’ve just come back from our first trip to the bush just up the coast in Hovatra. We had a range of jobs to do while we were there, the first of which was building vegetable gardens for some villagers so that they have better nutrition in their diets and also giving them the opportunity to sell the produce. We spent many hours bashing clay into powder and then using that powder to make cement from which we made improved cooking stoves for some villagers which are 6 times more efficient than their present stoves which means that they have to chop down less indiginous forest. My highlight from the stove building was entertaining about 30 assembled villagers while the stove was being constructed with lots of singing and dancing – they loved watching these strange foreigers dance and found it hilarious. although that could have been my dancing! We’ve both taught a couple of English lessons at the local school and also painted the new school building that was built by the last group of pioneers. Viv also dug herself into a hole, quite literally, by digging a latrine that was as deep as she is tall. Fortunately she made it out before it was put into active service! Our time in Hovatra was rounded off with a bit of health education where we did a play about washing your hands after you’ve had a poo after which I became a local celebrity with many children greeting me by my character name, Rokoto, when they saw me around the village. It was a really awesome place to start off as we felt so warmly welcomed by the villagersm particularly the children and the projects we did had a very clear benefit.

In other news we’ve eaten a lot of beans and rice, drank some moonshine with the local village chief, voluntarily woken up at 5.30am every day and had maggots removed from feet (me).

If anyone wants to call us the number to use is 00261 324 356336 and best times for calling us are from 4pm your time till about 7ish. (from 3 till 6 when the clocks go back). You can even write to us as letter will be delivered to us in the bush – see the a couple of posts ago for the address. You have until next Tuesday night to contact us as that’s when we’ll be back in the bush until the 19th November.

Don’t forget also that Rightee is selling charity christmas cards and limited edition photographic prints on our behalf – get your orders in quick! All the details can be found here.

Apologies for everyone I’ve intended to, but haven’t, emailed. We’re getting very little internet time at the moment and there just isn’t the time. I’ll be hopefully seeing you all face to face come Christmas anyway so can have a proper catch up then.

Veloma!

Quick post from Madagascar

Salama!

Going to keep this brief as dont have much time and this french keyboard makes it infuriatingly slow to type!

We arrived last Thursday and are currently having lots of orientation lessons about the work of azafady and have spent two afternoons carry sods of earth to and fro.

We have a Madagascqr mobile that you cqn call us on. The number is 00261 324 356336. It quite cheap to call through skype apparently. Best time to call is from 4pm your time till about 7ish. (from 3 till 6 when the clocks go back)

Finally, Rio Tinto mining company are evil and want to destroy much of Madagascar’s remaining forests and you should buy stuff from traidcraft as they are one of azafady’s main sponsors.

Veloma!

John and Viv

Madagascar and fundraising bits and bobs

Quick post just to let you know about a few bits and bobs prior to us jetting off for Madagascar.

We don’t think we’ll be able to remain in as good contact while we’re there as we’ll be spending a large part of our time out in the bush and the internet is pretty rubbish apparently when we’re near the town. If you do want to get in contact with us while we’re there you can write to us at:

John Hobson/Vivyan Lisewski,
ONG Azafady,
Pioneer Programme,
BP318,
Tolagnaro 614
Madagascar.

Please don’t send any parcels as they are unlikely to get through!

As part of our Azafady fundraising Rightee has set up a website with details about photographic prints and greetings/Christmas cards that you can order from him – all profits will go towards our Azafady fundraising efforts. Go to http://www.rightee.com/charity to take a look at the prints and cards and to get details on how you can order.

Thanks once again to everyone who has donated and helped out towards our fundraising efforts – we appreciate it so much! Could any of you who have donated via the website or sent a cheque to Azafady and haven’t received an e-mail of thanks from us please let us know as some donations may have fallen down the cracks and we’re trying to chase them up.

In other news it’s congratulations to Viv who has had an unconditional offer from Edinburgh University for one of only 14 places to study ‘Plant Taxonomy and Diversity’, well done Viv! The course starts in September 2007 so at some point next year we’ll be moving up to Edinburgh.

I’d also like to apologise to so many of you whom I owe a response to an e-mail, we couldn’t get on the net in Namibia and now we’re in last minute rush territory before we go. Please keep writing, it’s great to hear from everyone and any lack of response on my part in no way reflects that I can’t actually be bothered to pen a reply.

And I think that’s about all we have to say for now. It seems that we’re now entering the last chapter of our travels and doing the voluntary work seems a fitting way to finish up the travels after having been self-indulgantly travelling for over 10 months now.

After Madagascar we will be returning home, we touch down at Heathrow before dawn on the 22nd December. We’re so looking forward to seeing many of you around or shortly after Christmas, until then, goodbye!

From coast to coast

I’ll start this post by mentioning a little from our time in Mozambique a little under a month ago, if I can remember back that far that is. Well, here goes… Our main reason for going to Tofo beach was so that I could get a bit of diving in as this is one of the world’s top dive sites and I was definitely not disappointed. Discovering the world that lies beneath the ocean waves has been one of the major highlights of my travels and the diving off Tofo beach was the highlight of that particular highlight. I dived with Tofo Scuba who I can recommend as an excellent dive charter, but enough about them and onto the diving… In a word it was amazing – most of the sites are deep going down to about 30 metres and the main draw is the the manta rays that drift gracefully into cleaning stations to get parasites and other rubbish removed by lots of smaller cleaner fish. It was quite a sight when I saw my first cleaning station, these two huge (3m across or so) manta rays circling around with a trail of little yellow fish in their wake, it was really beautiful. On a later dive a manta passed right over my head, within about 2 metres, with me just suspended in water agog as this giant creature that was so nonchalantly and gracefully drifting within such close proximity to me. And as if that was great enough most of the dives were also accompanied to the melodies of passing whales singing to one another. This was definitely the first time that I have dived and become so wholly immersed (no pun intended) in the experience. As well as the mantas I also saw many lion fish up close – they’re a personal favourite of mine, the first octopus that I’ve ever seen, a giant whiptail ray, a loggerhead turtle and quite a few massive potato bass and so much more that I shan’t even begin to bore you with. It was such an fantastic place to dive.

From Mozambique we travelled to Johannesburg to stay with my cousin Martin, his wife Joanne and their son Michael. We were so warmly welcomed and had a wonderfully restful week that even managed to encompass seeing lots of lions and a couple of giraffes at a rather lavish and somewhat surreal kids birthday party where the only type of food on the menu for the children was sweets of many lurid colours. I wouldn’t envy the parents after that party with sugar-crazed children running amok everywhere.

I think at the time some home comforts and a hassle free week (dealing with the Madagascar embassy excepted) were just what we needed and it was really great to get to know Martin & family properly.

From there we were with renewed energy to tackle the last leg of our travelling proper in Namibia. We hired a car, an old skool MK1 VW golf with a modern interior installed and duly named ‘Steve’, and set off on the long, straight road to Namibia. Along the way we stopped off for the night at a campsite that had emus and springboks running around everywhere. I found the emus rather scary, especially after what that one that Rod Hull had did to him. I just made sure that I didn’t get up on any roofs and resolved that if I did I check that the area was clear of emus first. It did give me a bit of hassle though when I was trying to get to the car from our tent – I kept getting fronted off and had to take an alternative route and hide from it for a bit. Still, when they’re not being scary they’re pretty funny creatures them emus although maybe best left to the Australian outback where there’s a lower roofs per square mile ratio.

From there the road became increasingly straighter, dustier and deserted. As if to emphasise the fact some tumble weed really did blow across the road in the front of the car! Our first stop was at fish river canyon – a pretty damn impressive canyon formed by geological activity and, less surprisingly, the fish river. Next up was the town of Luderitz, a place that looks much like a traditional German town (Namibia is an ex German colony) stuck right on a windy coast at the end of 300km of desert and wilderness. The Diaz peninsula was the real highlight here – a landscape that looked more like the moon than the Earth and that also had an abandoned Norwegian whaling station slowly turning to rusty ruin, great for some decay photographs! One of the really fantastic things about Namibia is that there are so few people so it’s possible to enjoy so many of the country’s great wildness locations as just that – it’s rare that you see another person while out and about.

Just outside Luderitz is the long abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskopp. We had a fascinating wander around all these buildings that were slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding sand dunes. I have a real thing for derelict places and was in my element here, snapping away at the decay.

Stifling dry heat aside, travelling in Namibia is almost as much fun as the places you stop and see. Most of the travelling is done on dirt roads through these amazing desert landscapes past a smattering little mountain/large hill ranges. Before visiting Namibia our impression of the desert was of a vast expanse of shifting sands, what we hadn’t appreciated was how wonderfully diverse and beautiful desert landscapes can be as we travelled through 100s of kilometres of hardy pale desert grassland, desert scrub, karoo and dunes, and all of this without another soul in sight.

From Luderitz we stopped off at the most remote wilderness spot – a farm (Namtib Biosphere Reserve) 30km from the nearest road on a campsite with nobody else on it and 3km from the farm. All around we could see nothing but hills and desert. As night drew we witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets of our travels as the dust turned the horizon a thick red once the sun had ducked out of sight. Gradually as the sunset faded the stars started to come out in force until the sky was overflowing with tiny points of light tightly packed into the expanse of sky all around us. The number of stars that you can see when there is no light pollution is really breath taking – the milky way looks like a grey slash running across the sky, always pointing to the southern cross – an ever-present star formation from our travels, one that you cannot see from the Northern hemisphere.

Next up was my original raison d’etre for wanting to visit Namibia – the shifting red dunes of Sossusvlei. I had wanted to go since seeing some amazing photos of the dunes and wanted to see and capture something similar myself. Well, I wasn’t disappointed as on our first day there we drove out to the dunes just before sunset when the low sun lights the towering dunes from just one side leaving the other side in heavy shadow and accentuating the carefully sweeping form of the dune’s ridge. It was a beautiful and majestic sight. The next morning we up before sunrise to get to the dunes for sunrise. Again, the dunes looked really beautiful in the low light and went on a few walks over and along a few dunes and saw a couple of dried up lakes – now just baked and cracked salt-whitened earth. We were glad of being up early as by 10am the temperatures has become stiflingly hot and we had to retreat back to the (overpriced and shabby) campsite to take refuge in whatever shade we could find.

I should mention now that our diet for the last week had been rather limited due to the scarcity of supermarkets (there are none, except in the big towns which we were a long, long way from). Coupled with the cooking facilities being just a braai (BBQ) at every campsite all we ate was braaied boerwors sausage sandwiches for dinner and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Fortunately the sausage was very nice and readily available at every campsite and I had lots of fun perfecting my fire making technique every night.

Next up we visited the nearby Namib Naukluft national park that had far better camping facilities, friendlier staff and was reasonably priced. We spent a couple of days here and did a couple of pleasant walks totalling about 28kms through dried up river beds, down steep sided gorges and over hills. Back at the campsite I had to chase off the ‘very naughty’ baboon who came marauding through the campsite now again. we didn’t fancy taking a baboon damaged tent to Madagascar with us!

On our way back down to South Africa we stopped off at the ‘Quiver Tree Forest Restcamp‘ in Keetmanshoop to take a look at the quiver tree forest and Giant’s playground – bizarre piles of rocks for miles around. The real highlight of our time here though was the wild meerkats who lived on our campsite and would scamper around digging in the sandy soil here and there looking for grubs. We have both longed to see meerkats since seeing the famous wildlife on one episode “Meerkats United” and was simply awesome to be able to see them in the wild for real, and to have them so close to where we were staying was such a bonus. They were fairly tame as well and a nursery of young meerkats came right up to Viv to investigate her. The bloke who ran the campsite had a menagerie of other animals that had been rescued for various places including three cheetahs, a huge warthog and a week old springbok.

From there we had over 15 hours driving in 2 days to get back to Johannesburg where we are currently back at Martin and Joanne’s house. We both enjoyed Namibia hugely and would love to go back in the future. For pure beauty of landscapes we think that it rivals New Zealand, it really is a spectacular country.

We do have lots of pictures from Namibia but unfortunately there was no decent internet cafe to upload them so for the time being you’ll have to live with the just the words.

Only a couple of days left in South Africa now, we’re flying Madagascar on Thursday for the start of our voluntary work and currently getting very excited by it!

Thank You Again!

This is just a quickie to say thank you so much to all of you who have donated so far and especially the people who have kindly helped us to raise money. So far our joint efforts have raised an incredible 1484 pounds. With the Jiv donation that makes it 2484 so we’re not far away from the total.

Special thanks to our parents for their help and also to these fundraising stars :

Mary Booth
Rachel Hobson
Gabrielle Porter
Lyndsey Potter
Nicola Shires
The irrepressible Gran T (you need to meet her!)
and last but never least Andy Wright.

For those of you who still want to donate, you’re not too late. We’ll be closing the donation page on Wednesday 27th September, the deadline for cheques will be a week before on the 20th.

Also for anybody interested in exclusive John Hobson photographic art, Andy Wright (with help from his selection panel) has been squirreling away producing photographic prints as well as Christmas and Birthday cards. All in aid of Azafady of course! You should be hearing more about this soon but let us know if you’re interested in a mounted print or set of cards.

It’s now only just over two weeks before we head off for our life in a tent where we’ll be working on projects to improve sanitation, to help create vital maternity health infrastructure and to continue to survey the flora and fauna of the region. How exciting!

Take care to you all again and

THE BIGGEST THANKS EVER INVENTED!!!

Viv xxx

Poor Old Mozambique

Hello All,

We’re back in Maputo now and to the best Internet cafe we’ve found in Africa so far.

This post is full of raw emotion as well as stuff that John and I have spent a lot of time philosophising about. Before I published it I considered toning it down and then changed my mind. After all, this is not a holiday brochure but a collection of our personal thoughts and experiences on our trip of a lifetime. A trip that is as much about learning and understanding as it is about seeing and enjoying ourselves.

Mozambique has given us a lot to think about. It came out of a decade long civil war in 1992 and looking at most of the buildings we’ve seen you’d think it might have been two years ago, five at the outside.

Maputo, as John mentioned, is an extremely friendly city, the people really are absolutely lovely. It’s wonderful to be able to walk the streets at night again without feeling paranoid about being robbed. Maputo is sprawling and crumbling though, really sad to see. There doesn’t appear to have been any buildings erected since the war and hardly anything has been restored. The pavements and roads are still very damaged and there are countless buildings that are just empty shells, no roof, no windows, no doors.

The signs of the Marxist government that took power after independence from Portugal in the 70s are clearly in evidence in the streets, they’re all named after left wing leaders. Lenin, Stalin and Ho Chi Mihn need no introduction but we’ve also spotted Allende, the victim of General Pinochet’s infamous coup in Chile. It’s hard to explore Maputo really as it’s very large and the places of interest so far away from each other. Tomorrow we’re going to do that in earnest though, this is no ordinary city and there seems to be so much to learn.

Last Monday we got up early to travel by bus to Tofo. Tofo gets John very excited as it has one of the world’s top dive sites. It’s about 500km North of Maputo, apparently around 6 hours.

The journey was a classic travellers experience, although we arrived at the bus station for a 6.30am departure it didn’t actually leave until just before nine. As with many of the poorer countries we’ve visited no bus moves unless all the seats are filled. This bus does only fill the seats, apparently the other bus heading North will fill the bus in a much more literal sense. Apparently with people, livestock, vegetables and whatever else needs to go up there. To be honest we’re not surprised, not many people have their own vehicles and the transport infrastructure is severely limited. I don’t know how some of those buses make it up there as some parts of the road are more like four wheel drive territory. It’s only tarmacked part of the way and is Mozambique’s only major road.

The scene on the way up was fairly consistent: flat grassy planes, derelict shells of buildings, straw huts and roadside market stalls (mostly fruit).

The journey took 10 hours in all and the bus was smelly. We were utterly exhausted by the time we arrived. In hindsight the journey was amusing, I’m not sure whether it was a bus journey or a very long shopping trip. For the two and a half hours we were waiting at Maputo bus station there was a continuous and noisy rabble of people banging on the windows trying to sell all sorts. The bus also must have stopped at least a dozen times for people to run to the bus selling their wares. In this respect it reminded us both of Asia, Laos in particular. Although, as far I’m aware, the goods were more conventional things like oranges and tomatoes, we weren’t too disappointed not to see the bats on sticks!

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At Tofo we’d booked a hut to stay in. That’s what it was, a straw hut with no windows and several large holes. We had two mattresses on the floor and a Mosquito net. We enjoyed the novelty of it although it’s certainly the most basic place we’ve stayed. Needless to say, the mozzies had a feast on us.

While we were there John was not disappointed with the diving. He swam with Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and numerous other wonders. I myself went out in a boat and saw whale sharks and mantas very close, truly amazing creatures and I can’t believe how big they are. I was too much of a scaredy cat to snorkel in the open sea though, I hate it when I can’t see the bottom and I don’t know what’s lurking.

Tofo is amazingly under-developed, there’s hardly anything there, it is like a tropical paradise. Unfortunately for us we were a bit unlucky with the weather and although John still managed to dive all other trips were cancelled for the first 5 days after we arrived. Not wanting to sit in the bar all day and the beach being too wet and windy I spent several days sat in the hut reading and getting bitten by Mosquitos.

Already feeling affected by the destruction and poverty in Mozambique I delved into a history book about a girl and the Vietnam war and read a supplement about global warming and energy that Andy Wright gave us from the Guardian. With the solitude and depressing reading, confusion reigned in my head. The confusion centres on a revulsion for humanity but a love of people. I’ve been prone to that sort of thing from a very early age, being the kind of kid that at ten worried about everyone dying, in my early teens about nuclear war and in my late teens about the environment. At Tofo it all got a bit overwhelming and I had the urge to give away everything I’ve ever possessed but had no plan what I might do with myself after that.

I was walking around Mozambique feeling guilty for being so lucky in where I was born and starting to loathe myself, I didn’t want to go out and face the world. Argh, what am I doing? John to the rescue, he acknowledged all the ills in the world but let me know that I wasn’t on my own in my thinking. I know I’m not, and thank you John (a man that genuinely understands and to whom I owe much, permission to puke granted.) We have now hardened our resolve to help as much as we can, turning angst into action. It makes all the struggles with our thoughts seem worth it. We need to figure out ways of keeping it that way when we get back to Britain, where it’s easier to forget about the world beyond our doorstep.

Five days into our stay I reluctantly travelled to Inhambane, a local town crumbling even by Mozambique standards, the school has broken windows and every other building is derelict. Weirdly, unlike Maputo, the place was very unfriendly, smiles were only returned by hostile glares. Given the recent history of colonialism and interference in the civil war by the South African apartheid government, it’s not really surprising. It turned out that unlike Maputo it had a pretty large part in slave trafficing, particularly to the French colonies of Mauritius and Reunion island. John and I have had plenty of discussions about why the people of Inhambane and Maputo are so different but without being able to speak to lots of them we can only speculate. I really wanted to ask but didn’t have the courage.

‘Travelling back from Inhambane we caught the same style bus as on the way in, while deciding which bus to catch a guy had stamped on my foot and gave John a really good push. We were polite to everybody so didn’t deserve that treatment and were feeling pretty glum when we got on the bus. There were no seats for us so I sat between someone elses feet. The more people that were squeezed in when it didn’t look humanly possible, the more I giggled. I couldn’t see John anymore, he’d disappeared at the back somewhere. We all squeezed up ever tighter and held each other’s shopping. That’s when everything changed. It was a bus full of smiles, me with my bad Portuguese and they with smatterings of English. A woman was carefully extracting the hair out of my eyelashes every time it blew in, people were saying thank you lots and telling me I had ‘lively eyes’.
What a relief, I can’t tell you how good that felt. I suppose the difference was our role, the bus was a real leveller and made everyone the same. That way we can all be friends and we, the visitors, are not walking around in a bubble.

On our last day in Tofo we had a sunny day on the beach, we had intended to travel further up the country but with the weather delays we ran out of time. The little boys who sold bracelets on the beach were watching us play backgammon. We really warmed to them even though there are limits to the number of bracelets we can buy. One of them was called Fernando, he had something different about him, a bit more talent and spark. I hope he’s getting enough education so that he can live up to his potential. He’s very good at selling bracelets but could do so much more.

According to what we’ve read, people with too much education and talent were sought out and shot during the civil war. I hope that this country can rebuild itself enough to allow people of Fernando’s ability a better chance in life. I would like to come back to Mozambique one day and see how it’s faring.

Take care all

p.s. If this post is depressing, blame it on James Blunt, maybe we should buy this internet cafe another CD?!