Friday, 31 August 2012

First day in Mozambique

LAM (Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique) have got a small aircraft with the back of the left propeller support slightly burnt. Can't see the right one, so I cannot tell in what kind of state it is. But maybe that's just how it's supposed to be.

I don't know what kind of craft it was, I was about to take off in. I was sitting in seat 14A which is located under the left wing. The craft is not even half full. As expected, the crew speaks mostly Portuguese, but the captain always says his messages in English after having said them in Portuguese. Although the English version mostly was way shorter than the Portuguese one.

Landing in Inhambane (pronounced Iñamban) was a new experience to me, as i received parts of aircraft on my head. Actually it was just the cover of a neon light. But still...

We left the aircraft on the tarmac of the airfield, which was parts of the Aeroclube de Inhambane, and were directed to the customs office. Confident of having done the right thing in going to the consulate in Geneva to get a 90 days visa for which I paid CHF 130, i strolled into the office to present my passport. I just had to fill in one more little form before going through customs. But then, at the desk, the officer told me I couldn't go in, that there was a problem with the date. I didn't understand as he brandished my passport under my nose saying « don't you see ? » to me. But then a lady from some tourism department who was on the same plane, tried to help me sort it out. She couldn't get anything done, so she left me her number on a piece of paper, and i gave her mine. She was going to call her director who was maybe able to help me. I never could thank her, as the paper went to a customs officer, and I forgot to retrieve it. So in short, the customs officers told me I had falsified my visa and that I could not get into the country like this. There actually was some marks left where one of the dates was written. So I had to buy a new one. Fortunately by then Ana Alecia, my CouchSurfing host, got there and helped me translate what they wanted. I didn't have any Meticais yet (the local currency), so I wanted to pay in USD. They would rather take Meticais, they told us, because the price wouldn't change, as the dollar's price vacillates. That's how Ana Alecia ended up paying for my entry visa to Mozambique. Obviously I paid her back later that same day. They told me I could go to Maxixe (pronounced Maschische), which is a 20 minutes boat ride across the bay, to go sort out my visa problems, and get reimbursed for the first visa.

Tassmir & Grimer
After all the visa hassle at the airfield, we finally got into town. The drive was very short, but filled my with memories from my Madagascar trip, which was closest in terms of how it was. There were people in wooden huts and stalls selling stuff along the road to the airfield. Once in town, the feeling left and was replaced by the feeling of new discovery. A short drive through town showed me one of the main roads with most of the banks and mobile phone operators.

After having settled in, I went out to check out if I could get some money out of my bank card. I happily discovered that Barclay's Bank accepts my Maestro card, and that BCI accepts my Visa card. My wallet full of 500 Meticai banknotes, I went to check out two phone operators. Megan, Ana Alecia's highschool friend who currently lives here, told me that Movitel is a new operator, and that they offer a good service. Their customer service was much better than Vodacom's.

In the evening around 6pm, I went out for a walk. I started going down to the waterfront, and walking in direction of the fancy place. I was thinking about trying out the local beer in some bar, but definitely not at the fancy place, as this would have fancy prices too. Although this place should be nice for a sundowner, I was told. But the sun was already down anyway. Passing a group of guys hanging out on the walkway, we exchanged greetings. As I came near, the one closest to me shifted out of my way in order for me not to have to leave the walkway. I walked into a second group of guys who were having a nice time drinking some beer. Again, one of them went out of my way, we exchanged greetings, and one said something to me. As I didn't think it was directed to me I just went my way. As they called again, I turned back, then asked to repeat because I did not understand. They offered me to share their drink with me. So it was I was to try Tipo Tinto, which is Rhum with Sparletta Sparberry juice (some kind of strawberry juice).

Mercado Central de Inhambane
So I met Tassmir, Grimer, Ruben, John and Zeca. We connected on Facebook and later exchanged numbers to keep in touch. I spent some time with them until the Rhum was all gone. They then decided to go buy some alcohol somewhere, and invited me to join them. I climbed into Zeca's pickup and we slowly drove off to town center. Behind the gas station there should be a guy selling some cheap alcohol, but he was closed. So we went off to another place, which was a small bar in the rua opposite Barclay's rua. The guys wanted to buy the bottle of Rhum, but the lady at the bar wouldn't let us having it whole. So we chose to drink Manica beer, which is the local beer around here.

Later John and Zeca left by car, and I left with Grimer, Ruben and Tassmir by foot.

Tassmir stayed in contact with me, and the next day we took the ferry to Maxixe. But that's another story.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

CouchSurfing in Johannesburg

Braai with Laurentia and Robert
CouchSurfing, ever the best way to go discover a new place. You get right to the point within a few hours of meeting your host. I didn't see much yet, but knowing a bit how it works down here in SA (South Africa), I feel quite good while recognizing things that are the same around Namibia and in Cape Town.
Robert fetched me at the airport. His heavy Afrikaans accent in English takes me some time to get accustomed to. His first wife passed away, and he's now been married to Laurentia for 4 or 5 years.

Robert works for a geologist study. They are looking for whatever the earth can give them, be it platinum, gold, diamonds and so on.

Laurentia and Bruce (and Laurentia's brother Arnold) live in a quiet suburb called Norkem.
In the evening I then met Laurentia. She's a ever smiling woman and a highly enjoyable person. Being coloured is not always easy in SA, especially if you marry a white person. It's not easy for either part. In Laurentia and Robert's case, Robert told me some of his brothers don't talk to him since he decided to get married to Laurentia.

Laurentia would love to travel to Europe and other places. She's been to New York so far (maybe to some other places too, but I can't remember). She likes getting to know new cultures and enjoys watching a nice scenery. She seems awed by the Alps that run across several countries in Europe. I showed her my pictures of different hikes i took in different parts of the Alps in Switzerland, showed her pictures of France, landscapes and ancient towns and cities. She loves the old architecture and the general aspect of towns and cities in Europe.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New project

Un nouveau projet s'est profilé dans mon esprit ces 4 derniers mois. Le but en est de voyager sans but précis et surtout sans date de retour définie. Les diverses étapes sont bien entendu secrètes, mais en gros, j'ai parlé de mon projet à Ben qui a vécu en Afrique du Sud. Quand j'ai mentionné la plongée, il m'a dit qu'un de ses amis vivait au Mozambique et qu'il y avait été plongeur. L'ami en question, Lorien, travaille maintenant dans une agence de voyage à Tofo et conseille à ses clients d'aller à Tofo Scuba ( pour plonger.

The diver backpacker
Après avoir pris contact avec le centre de plongée, défini la date de début du stage (1er septembre) et commandé le matériel nécessaire au travers du centre, il était temps d'annoncer mon départ au travail.

Le projet se décline donc en deux phases clairement définies:

  1. Stage de plongée de 4 mois pour devenir PADI Dive Master
  2. Voyager indéfiniment

Le reste sera défini ultérieurement.

Les détails du projet ne sont pas non plus très définis, à part pour la phase pré-initiale (c'est-à-dire l'arrivée sur place). Mais ce n'est pas le moment d'en parler.