10. November 2012

TIA - This Is Africa, 1

Please don´t worry, we are fine and enjoying our tour. We would have updated our blog already a while ago if... yes, if communications technology would have allowed us to. We are still learning to be more and more patient (admitted, patience is not necessarily one of our main strengths, but we are working on it, at the moment more involuntarilyJ). Either there is no (or extreme slowly) internet access, or no power, or both. In case both is available, this pleasant state could change quickly within just a few minutes. I have great respect for everyone who has to work with the internet under these circumstances day-to-day and who does this even gladly and calmly.

Sneak Preview Moses

Yes, we have seen him, little ele Moses! I am still greatly touched by this amazing experience and will tell you next time more in detail about our encounter with Jenny and her special adoptee. Ex ante I am posting for you today some pictures and interesting links about him.

Ja, wir haben ihn gesehen, den kleinen Elefanten Moses! Ich bin noch immer gerührt von diesem besonderen Erlebnis und werde beim nächsten Mal ausführlich von unserem Besuch bei Jenny und ihrem außergewöhnlichen Adoptivkind berichten. Vorab für euch schon ein paar Fotos von und interessante Links über ihn.

USA today "Moses"
Daily Mail "Moses"
Jumbo Foundation

Cuddling with Louise, Jenny´s daughter
Schmusen mit Louise, der Tochter von Jenny
First contact between Moses and Martin
Moses bei seiner ersten Kontaktaufnahme mit Martin

Beach Life at the Lake Malawi / Strandleben am Lake Malawi

... on the Lake Malawi
... auf dem Lake Malawi

View from Venice Beach, Monkey Bay, to the Lake Malawi
Blick von Venice Beach, Monkey Bay, auf den Lake Malawi

Guys, beware of „Snorkilling“J
Jungs, hütet euch vor dem „Snorkilling“J

Did you know that... / Wusstet ihr, dass ... (Malawi)

Did you know that...
  • Malawi is called "The Warm Heart of Africa"?
  • Malawi is a landlocked country about the size of Pennsylvania?
  • the Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the eighth largest in the world?
  • Malawi is the second country in Africa with a female president?
  • Malawi is not only the country where pop star Madonna adopted two children, but also where Jenny Webb adopted the little baby elephant Moses, who would not have survived without her? (please also see the post "Sneak Preview Moses", the older one "Just Do It!" and the coming ones about the little elephant orphan)

Joseph, the artist of my rhino pendant
Joseph hat meinen Rhino-Anhänger geschnitzt

Country of the Smile, ... / Land des Lächelns,...

Country of the Smile, of Busy People and Bicycles in Africa

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet it does not look poorer than Mozambique or Zimbabwe to us. Here seem to be "just" less rich people who usually increase the per capita income. Apparent is: there are barely cars (of these most are either vehicles of companies or NGOs), but countless bicycles, often used to carry heavy loads. There are plenty people in the field: women and children, working with their axes! And what are the men doing? Many of them are sitting around in groups, chatting or playing. No matter whether male or female, old or young: people here are distinctly friendly, often also a bit shy.

Cyclist or yet acrobat?
Radfahrer oder schon Akrobat?

A Warm Welcome, but.... / Ein freundlicher Empfang, aber...

Easy-going border clearance, super friendly and relaxed officials: this is the nicest welcome to a country so far, is our feeling while we are entering Malawi. However this impression lasts for about one km only, up to the first road block to be precise. We are stopped, and the three policemen are asking not only for the driver license but also for the insurance document. They do not want to accept our insurance paper which is valid for all countries in Africa as they personally do not know our insurance company (!). We are discussing backwards and forwards.  Martin then wants to get the papers back, but the one officer is not willing to handing them back. With this he goes too far. Martin leaves the car, the policemen take a step backward. 

Sacred Baobab Tree / Heiliger Baobab

It is about 5 p.m. and we are on the road towards Mozambique, looking for a campsite for the night. We are attracted by a magnificent baobab tree which is outlying, the next huts are a few hundred meters away. Immediately after we have parked our vehicle under the tree a few curious kids are standing around. They leave, then come back with a man in his 70´s, who turns out to be the village chief. He says something about his mother, about the baobab tree and that he is coming back, thereafter he disappears. Soon afterwards he returns, in a blue shirt, his golden village chief sign attached, with a brief case in his hand and accompanied by a cloud of school kids. 

Oops, now it is becoming official. He stands between us and the baobab tree, speaks to the kids, then to us. We cannot really make out his intention. I ask one of the girls. She says this is a sacred tree (which we know already) and that the elder are praying here as soon as the rain season starts (which will be the case hopefully soon as it is quite dry here in the area). Yet what exactly he wants to communicate she does not know either. 

Hot Area / Heiße Gegend

It is around midday on the 23.10. and already more than 37 degrees when we arrive at the border checkpoint. The Mozambican side needs a lot of time. Just one by one we are allowed to enter the parlour which is in fact a dark, seedy and hot shack. The border officials seem to be unfriendly, but maybe we have this impression only because they speak badly English and we no Portuguese. We have to cross just a short part of Mozambique as this is the fastest way for us to Malawi. They are charging $ 87/person for a transit visa - that is quite a good source of income for the country for one day. They take pictures of us for the visa. The official is still busy stamping the numerous forms when all of a sudden the fan stops working - a clear sign for a power cut. The other official says to us stoically: "Ah, no power any more. This happens quite often here. Sometimes it takes up to two days until the power is coming back. No power, no visa." I am looking at him disbelievingly, but there is no doubt: He is serious. Yep, we are really lucky that me made it in time. A night stop in the no-man´s-land was not on our wish list at all.

Sunday at Mike´s Place / Sonntag bei Mike

We met Mike in Patrick´s restaurant in Mutare when we were asking for the name of a cute colorful lizard. Mike was born in Zimbabwe, his father is from Austria, his mother from Italy. He speaks seven languages. Mike knows a lot of interesting, fascinating and touching stories and we cannot stop listening to them.  Hence we meet again the next day, also as he is supporting passionately the wildlife project WEZ Manicaland Cecil Kop Nature Reserve, with two elephants amongst other wild animals. 

We have visited the Nature Reserve before with Patrick and can stay there now overnight with our camper. The next morning we are invited by Mike, his wife Beatrice and their son Philippe. We are sitting on the terrace of an old colonial style house, enjoying cold drinks, the view into the fantastic park with huge blossoming trees and listening to the stories of Mike. In 1984 he and Beatrice drove down with an old Borgward from Munich to Zimbabwe, through the Sahara/Chad, Niger, Congo etc. Real fascinating stories. Having an amazing day we laugh a lot and enjoy the fact that again we met wonderful, kind people.

1984, Mike and Beatrice in their old Borkward on the way from Munich to Zimbabwe, here: Sahara
1984, Mike und Beatrice in ihrem alten Borkward von München nach Simbabwe, hier: Sahara

walking down the travel memory line
in Reiseerinnerungen schwelgen

Expensive. More expensive. Tony! / Teuer. Teurer. Tony!

Since introduction of the US-Dollar about three years ago you can get fuel at the fuel stations and a wide range of products in the supermarkets in Zimbabwe. However the country has become expensive. In May 2011 for example you had to pay US-$ 1.00 for one liter of diesel. Today the price is about $ 1.30. In the supermarket you can buy carrots, one kilo for $ 2.00. That is a lot of money for the people here, who are very lucky if they have a job and earn about $ 270/month as a waiter, or approx. $ 100 as a domestic. 

We are also surprised about the pricing policy of the National Parks. They cannot offer the level of service they did before, as the number of visitors has decreased, and the income and investment opportunities accordingly. The parks are run-down noticeably. There is not much working any more. However, charged fees of $ 8 per person (in Great Zimbabwe even $ 15), plus $ 8-15 per person per night at a campsite, plus sometimes a fee for the camper, are expensive for the service offered: no electricity, toilets and showers are often ruinous. Water you get only seldom, and there is nearly no hot water for a shower in the morning.

Relaxing Bvumba Hills / Entspannende Bvumba Hills

Bvumba Hills are located about 30 km out of Mutare in the mountains. It offers exactly what I need after the robbery: relaxing under huge old trees, a stunning variety of bird life (with fascinating concerts given by the birds) and an enchanted botanical garden. The peace and pleasant coldness (about 25 degree) are just gorgeous.

Rhododendron as far as the eye can see...
Rhododendron soweit das Auge reicht....

Due to a lack of income and maintenance nature recaptured a lot in the botanical garden. However you can imagine quite well how it must have been looking like in the past. The access route is about two km long. It is framed with flowering rhododendron shrubs, about three m high, amongst deciduous trees of 20 to 30 m height. Between them are some orange red  blooming flamboyant and baobab trees which by the way we are enjoying since we have left the northern part of South Africa.

Our first jungle feeling due to huge fern
Riesiger Farn sorgt für erstes Dschungel-Feeling

Bvumba Hills liegt ca. 30 km außerhalb von Mutare in den Bergen und bietet genau das, was ich nach dem Überfall brauche: relaxen unter alten, riesigen Bäumen, eine bemerkenswerte Vielfalt an Vogelarten (mit entsprechend faszinierenden Vogelkonzerten)

Lesson / Denkzettel

People in Mutare are jovial and friendly. There is very little crime, as they say. We feel at ease. So much so, that we forget to be as much careful as we are used to be. On the 17.10. we are standing with our camper in front of the day restaurant „Green Coucal“, in an up-market residential area. In the evening Martin is reading a magazine, I am writing on the blog. In order to get some fresh air we leave the door open, as we already did so the days before. Martin then walks Momo again in the dark. The door stays open. Apparently two young guys are watching us. They are talking to each other about 70 m away from our vehicle, when Martin passes by. The moment Martin turns the corner they are coming to the camper. One of them asks me to hand over all valuables and money.