Irritating, yet Hilarious, African Encounters

Wooow part four! Starting in Joberg 3 weeks ago, I have made my way, mainly by kombis packed with a vibrant cacophony of amiable humanity, through some of South Africa, most of Swaziland and about to fatigue collapse in Maputo after 3 nights full of constant messiness and little sleep. This is worth a story actually. Friday night: Arrive in Fatimas backpackers after a several hour kombi ride with Christine, a lovely Taiwanese journalist who quit her job in order to seek adventure. That night was relaxed; after a few local brewskies and meeting Patrick from Germany – a pertinacious character whose energy is only eclipsed by his love of partying – we crashed.

The next day heralds a full day of exploring Maputo… What turns out to be a rather insipid city, with little social scene and a beach which resembled a desert with naught but a hint of languorous ocean peeping over the horizon.

That first night comes and goes… and it approaches that time when every sane person is in bed or considering the appeal of it. By 2:30am, we are the only people at the bar, everyone else having cleared out ages ago. Patrick, however, resolutely believes the night has only began and with this infectious, and I at the time believed fanciful, enthusiasm coupled with my bus leaving for Maputo in 2 hours, I resolved to join this venture. It began with what I have began to associate as a German anthem, a phrase seemingly sprouting from the lips of any German as soon as the sun hits the horizon “Where is de party yarr?”.

On the way, we are stopped and rudely dragged from our revelry by a godam cop doing passport checks. Apparently, it is illegal to travel without in Mozambique, which is a strange rule to enforce and focus apon considering that the cab drivers outside Fatimas are perpetually sipping beer as they await a fare. We are dragged out of the car by this “officer”, who starts to intimidate us in broken english, telling us how we must now languish in prison as our embassy resolves this abhorrent act of passport misplacement. Our response to this diminutive, four foot character attempting to get all scary on us, is to, naturally, laugh in his face. He suddenly reaches for his gun holster, a unprecedented move which I though may be a harbinger of a sudden negative mood change, and the prospect of spending a night in jail becomes very real… An experience I would somewhat relish I must say, having never seen the inside of a cell (also, think of the blog entry). This opportunity is frightfully worrying due to 2 conceptions, however. 1: When thinking of time in prison, there is really one idea which springs to the front of peoples minds – Forceful coitus (with a capital F). It’s interesting, how that idea has permeated our culture somewhat, the younger me was once told by a friend that he did a brief stint in jail; my reaction to him revealing his time in such a mysterious and unnerving circumstance was not to ask why he was there, what it was like or any generic inquiries which are normally meted to any experience, but instead, with complete, if misguided, sincerity “So how was the sex?”. 2: The unfortunate and devastating profusion of HIV in the country… Those two factors make an African jail a place to be avoided if possible.

Back to the story: In slow motion, as his hand descends to the gun holster, to the symbol of unquestionable authority and subjugation of the masses, the above factors are rolling through my head. By the time he unclips the holster, I had already determined my prison moniker: I would be known as “Tiny”, or perhaps “Vanilla Spice”. Yet this dramatic and even frightening movement, which had encaptured my attention so completely, was suddenly dashed into oblivion as instead of a gun, he withdraws a pair of handcuffs from inside the holster. I cant quite describe the relief and derision which that single move bought – instead of an instrument of death, a flimsy piece of metal not even sufficient to wrap around my wrist let alone sequester two drunk foreigners at 3 in the morning, is bought forth. We both explode in mirthy laughter, and concurrently offer our crossed over arms to this cop whose humourless face conveys more eloquently than his limited vocabulary possibly could of how fed up he is of the situation. He asked for a 10,000M bribe ($1000) but we haggled him down to 200M ($20). It interesting how the same situation and skills derived from haggling with Indian vendors for trinkets can be used to barter for continued physical freedom.

‘Twas a night of mayhem, and I managed to just make my 5am bus! Don’t remember actually getting on it, but I painfully remember waking up at 11am vertically spooning my guitar, hangover as hell, drenched in sweat and smelling like a hobo that passed away 2 weeks ago. I was also cramped up due to two kids who were occupying the single seat next to me who kept glancing my way as if I was about to eat them– overall a rather painful experience which lasted another 5 hours.

_______________________________________________________

One more quick story. So, in my experience every African has proven to be a wonderfully friendly and genuinely nice character. This is my story of encountering one who was painfully contrary to this impression.

I’m outside a club, and my uni mates are inside. My plan is too get some money out of an ATM and I walked up to it to insert my card. As I’m doing this, someone goes points out, rather rudely, there is a line which I am transgressing. Being drunk, I had not noticed this, so I apologize and humbly make my way to the back of the now painfully obvious cue. A few seconds later, the same gentleman who pointed out the line, decides to start a conversation while surrounded by several of his mate:

Him: “Dude, why does your voice sounds so gay?”

Me:”… Excuse me?”

“I said, why is your voice so gay?”

“No I understood perfectly the words you said, but it’s kind of a ridiculous concept isn’t it? My voice box box being arranged so to convey my sexuality?”

“Are you gay?”

“I’m n-.. Actually, I’m not going to answer that. Would it have any bearing on me if I were, is there really anything my sexual orientation says about me as a person that would be interesting to know?”

Him (completely ignoring my loquacious attempts to start a intellectual conversation) : “Dude I think you are gay”

Me (fed up): “Well that’s a strange conclusion to reach, I am outside briefly to grab some money and will return to being surrounded and talked to by beautiful girls inside; while you are sitting outside in a circle of sweaty men, yet somehow you reach the conclusion that I’m the gay one. Also, you should know, this voice right here causes women’s clothes to pretty much slide right off when used right, you sound like your tongue is made of gravel.”

Him (by this time he has cemented my impression of him being an indelible twit): “Yeah but it’s not manly!”

“Manly? Really?

I squeeze his deflated bicep

“Mate, that’s the definition of not manly, look here”

I flex my smaller than usual, but still rather decent, bicep

“This here son, this is how manly feels, how the hell are you going to talk about being not manly when my dick is thicker than your arm muscles??”

This entire conversation is carried out with a big, friendly smile on my face and, despite the content, in a very civil and humorous tone (on my behalf at least). He is posturing and getting up in my face, but I can’t take him seriously enough to start that bullshit. At this point, the 8 guys he is with burst out laughing, and a few push him away and around the corner. One of them even shakes my hand and allows me to jump ahead of him in the ATM line, reconfirming my positive impression of African hospitality. Unlike Australia, they won’t support one of his mates if he’s being an asshole, which is awesome, cause in retrospect, it could have quickly become an ugly situation.

Rest of the night was awesome! Dam I have so much to write about, yet so little time. Isaac out x

(Also, I don’t really think bicep circumference is what defines someone as a “man”, but it seemed the best way to drive the point home to this particular muppet)

Advertisements

Mlilwane Reserve – Stupid Moves pt. 1

A salient part of my nature is the habit of getting in situations which somewhat compromise my personal health. Usually these occurances are selfishly only retained as memory, but in this event I happened to document the entire, rediculous travesty in pictures.

Let me tell you about the trek to Mlilwawe nature reserve.

Swaziland is a place of beautiful people and landscapes. Having been entrapped here as I await the Mozambiquan consulate to work out my visa, I decided to explore the land a bit and choose a day trip to Mlilwane Nature reserve to score some animals. Since I prefer travelling with minimal if no impression of the place I am going to arrive (a tendancy which backfires on me in this instance), I set of one morning and jump on a combi after the driver confirms he knows the place I intend on visiting.

Half an hour later, I get of here:

Image

3.5 K’s, not a big deal for one with calves as bulgy as mine. I set off, figuring since it was only 3:30ish I had plenty of time to find my way. Made a few mates along the way as well:Image

After walking this long, windy dusty road for over 2 hours, I finally arrived at the reserve!!

The immense feeling of relief, as the sun is soon to go down and I am literally the whitest thing in this entire landscape, thus percieved as an easy targer for both hungry animals and deperate humans alike, is quickly extinguished when the guard at the front informs me that the backpackers I am so innefectively seeking, Sondzela, is actually located deep within the reserve

Image

As a reference point, in a spectacular example of African ambiguity regarding time and distance, he points of in the distance at three lights, telling me that is where the backpackers are. In response to asking how long it may take, he helpfully replies “Oooooh long time mon, it wood be betta you stee’ soomwere else an’ go in mornin’”, and is incapable of elucidating any further. My friendship with the kids before, however, was rather superficial and I thought it impolite to request a place to sleep from them. Also, we didn’t speak a word of a common language, so I guess hiking it is. Starting right at this ominous sign:

Image

I have found that nothing is a greater stimulant to the human imagination than entering a area, in near darkness, which exists explicitly to seperate humans from certain animals they cant naturally co-exist with. Also, having to check my catapault at the gate was rather upsetting. While the first 20 minutes of this treck were rather beautiful, sourrounded by dry grass plains with impressive mountains in the distant and a lovely contrast of arid plains next to lush rainforests, very quickly night set in and suddenly every shadow because a animal on the prowl, and I started to hear movements of large, unidentifiable bodies near me. This was not my imagination either, in the darkness I could hear constant snuffling and snorting of animals of indeterminate size and ferocity. After a few more minutes, a dark shape errupted from the grasses next to me, seemingly charging straight at me. I yelled out (I assure you, it was not a pre-pubescent soundign scream but a throaty, masculine roar that caused the ground to quake and would have sent any awake birds scarpering off into the distance) and the errant antelope, as it turns out, quickly veered off and stood at a distance with an incredulous look on its face, seeming to express just how out of place I was in the current environs. I managed to catch a sneaky picture of it actually:

Image

At this point it was about 7pm… Already walking for about 3.5 hours with locally made (aka rather poorly) flip flops on my feet. I soon came across this structure, which would have fitted in perfectly at the set of the Blair Witch Project. Lovely Image

The rest of the journey is rather boring and arduous, punctuated intermittantly by event like this:

Image

All those lights, dont happen to be lights. They’re eyes…. Terrifying, disembodied eyes. Obviously some innocuous bovine or antellope like creature, yet my mind was too busy listing off every single large, carnivorous animal I have ever heard of or imagined to accept this rather mundane conclusion.

Check out how close I was at this point!

Image

Eventually, after 6.5 hours of trecking through legitamate wilderness, dodging large animals, jumping at unexplained bellows and prematurly accepting my fate at the hands of a jungle cat, I arrive. I can’t quite summarize just what a godam mess this entire process was. I came within minutes of just curling up in the grass and resigning myself to sleeping out with the animals… Hell if I had bought my big pack with me that would have defiantely been where I spent the night.

Image

I arrive, and the only thing I have to eat is a small contained of protein powder I always keep on me (because gym douchiness doesn’t recognize the borders of nations). After eating that straight, like an idiot – check the picture- I met some germans and passed out.

Image

And that was my Mlilwane reserve hike. Kinda cut it short at the end there, but just remembered my Mozambique visa came through today!! Gonna go grab that. With regret I will leave this astoundingly beautiful, laid back and friendly country to persue parties and whale sharks in Mozo. It has been a pleasure Swaziland.

Also a few pics from the next day at the reserve. Saw tons of bambis of various shapes and sizes, a few pumbas and some zeebras right at the end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isaac out x

Of Sleep and Sexuality

In my brief Johannesburg experience I have challenged, and consequently disputed, two popular preconceptions and believe it is only fair I disseminate the knowledge.

1st, the ostensible danger of Johannesburg. I, and I believe most Australians, hold the impression of a lawless city with the populaces favourite pastime – if not local sport – being mugging anyone with light skin. After spending 2 hours wandering the crazy, disorganised and incredibly hectic streets of central Joberg unsuccessfully seeking a guitar, I consider this preconception refuted. While I did occasionally feel my backpack seeming move of its own accord as some enterprising hands sought to relieve me the extra jumper I kept in there, I encountered none of the confrontational armed mugging which is meant to be so popular. While after hours I’m sure could be rather terrifying, Joho has proved to be a warm city full of people who are willing to go out of there way to assist a hopelessly lost and disorientated traveler.

2nd preconception: jet lag can not be cured by cultivating astute sleep patterns or dodgy herbal remedies. Nay! The only way to combat this ailment is a relentless and brutal barrage of caffeine and alcohol, driven by concentrated force of will, whenever fatigue seeks to rob you of your night. After two nights of falling asleep at 3 in the morn and waking up 2 hours later, my body yielded and I have never had a more successful temporal acclimatization. Coffee and beer; it was right in front of us the entire time dammit, how many other conditions may this combination cure? Quick! get the bigots and incurable disease patients of the world on an IV of stout and expresso, WE MAY HAVE THE CURE.

Having said that, I am approaching some level of delirium and have probably convinced several fellow travellers that I am legitimately insane due to my erratic jumping between conversation points and random non-sequiters which spring unbidden from my lips before being fully formed in my mind.

Something else that society should deal with: covert ways to display sexuality. Apart from the ridiculous notion that what side of your face your piercings are on represents which way you swing, society is lacking a easy way for people to communicate which team they bat for (I guess getting a rainbow tattoo on your forehead or wearing one of those douchebag shirts which state “I’m here for the gash” or something similarly abhorrent assertion works, but I hope we have evolved past that). Went clubbing last night with some lovely Germans and Dutch people. Started at some charismatic bar, discussing everything from occupations back home to the unprecedented brilliance and unbreakable moral fortitude of Nelson Mandela. He spent 27 years in prison, 27 YEARS and still came out more motivated, decisive and principled than most will ever be. Apparently there are two occupations which stimulate brilliance more than anything else: extended stints in prison and years of drug addiction. Some of the most amazing people in this planet spent years either rotting in a cell or jamming whatever chemical substance they could find in there veins and came out more remarkable because of it. In an attempt to gain some of the wisdom which these activities confer, Im considering going to jail and concurrently developing a drug addiction while in the slammer to give me a double dose of this brilliance in a shorter amount of time – THAT’S real education. Back to sexuality: After the pub, we headed down the street to Blue Liquid, the most fabulous godam bar I’ve seen since working at the Greyhound (which according to studies, is the most fabulous place after Mardi Gras). After a few beers, we were all loose and started tearing up the dance floor. Of course, since we were at a club, we were soon surrounded by a group of guys doing that awkward dance which expresses interest without actually requiring the person to leave there comfort zone. I thought these guys were trying to win the favour of the rather attractive women we were with, so I employed my regular dispelling tactic which always succeeds in deterring the sleazebags. This involves getting up close, sticking the chest out and aggressively swinging the hips while staring deep in the perpetrators eyes. However, instead of the usual response of a grimace and quiet withdrawal of the offending party, the guy I pulled it on responded with the biggest smile I’ve ever seem accompanied by a solid grab of my ass. All of a sudden, the women are forgotten by the crowd and it become stunning apparent that this was in fact a gaybar, and for some reason, maybe my whiteness or raw, undistilled manliness, I was suddenly the most popular person in it. Did score a bunch of free drinks though (one of them was even from a lady!!)

Mmm there is quite a bit more I could jot down, but so much more happening in Africa I am going to go be a part of. One thing I want to express, really the most important knowledge I believe I can share, is to implore anyone reading this to travel. I don’t mean booking a hotel and staying a few weeks in another 1st world country, or having your hand held through the experience by a contiki tour guide – just go and buy 2 months in India or South America or Africa, show up with no plans or preconceptions and embrace the absolute freedom which it offers. I have achieved a such a level of elated anticipation and pure happiness and I honestly don’t believe I have ever been this content with life ever before. The people you meet, be it locals, fellow travellers or even beggers have so much to offer and will make you challenge everything you believe about success, happiness and the path to achieve true spiritual and material satisfaction in life.

Off to Swaziland tomorrow!! Gonna score me some wildlife. Isaac out x

Actually, lets finish with a few N Mandy quotes, saw some pretty inspirations stuff at the apartheid museum and feel rather moved by the truth in his words.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

“Everything is impossible until it has been done”

“Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will”

 

The Beginning…

Well hello there.

Prior to leaving on my joint travels/exchange program in Africa, I made innumerable promises to people regarding keeping in touch. Anyone who knows me well enough to warrant constant contact, however, knows that there is not chance in hell of this happening! So instead of sending off emails and skyping and constant letters etc etc etc as I promised, I have instead established this little smidgeon of internet to keep you, the person kind enough to grace this page with your attention, on top of what adventures and bad decisions I have been making. There will also been a lot of musing… Since arriving in this magnificent country a few short days before I have found constant reason to question so much of our everyday preconceptions, culture and attitudes – often arriving at rather ugly, yet possibly wildly incorrect conclusions. Annnnd onto the blog:

Johannesburg!! A city renown for its crime, blatenly racist history, crime, Nelson Mandela and oh-my-god so much crime! As bad as the Joho rep in Australia is, however, I am incredulous at the complete lack of congruity the region presents in real life compared to this bleak and crime-ridden hole which I was expecting to arrive at. I have yet to enter the city, which admittedly may destroy this favorable first impression, yet  staying in Yeoville and Melville, and a brief venture into Parktown, I have been walking around constantly and have yet to experience any hint of danger. I may have pushed it to some extent actually, because as one will visit the Taj Mahal in India or drink a bucket in Kho-Pi-Pi, I somewhat desire the authentic experience of being mugged in Joho! Something to cross of the bucket list. Also, the authentic experience of me righteously defeating this foolhardy and selfish individual in hand-to-hand combat, proving that inherent justice does exist and averting this poor souls path from destruction and instead converting him into an indelible agent of good… Maybe he would adopt a bunch of children or become a doctor, due to my intervention, and I would stand, out of site, at the back of the hall where he is receiving his awards, with an enigmatic smile on my face reliving what had occurred and that short moment where it all changed. I forgot to mention in the beginning, this blog will also probably contain a decent portion of bullshit.

Arriving in Johannesburg on the 10th, I had to suffer the awkward situation of negotiation a cab fare with absolutely no knowledge of the exchange rate of rand to aussie bucks. Literally negotiating with no knowledge of what was being negotiated or what the final payment would actually be…. A problem further compounded by the fact that I had only a few hundred rand in my pocket, and literally none in the bank account until either the tax return or uni scholarship came through (thankfully these both arrived ahead of time, I joke now, but for a while I was in a situation so shit it bordered on humerous and could see no method of escaping it.) Once that had been sorted out, I had to deal with the next awkward situation of arriving at the street which, according to Lonely Planet, was the center of nightlife and a safe place. After 15 minutes of cruising around, wondering where the hell the promised travelers and revelry were amongst the dilapidated bars and poverty-stricken drunkenness (drunk-stricken povertyness?) , I had the brilliant idea of checking the Lonely Planet copy I was going from and began to marvel at just how much had changed in the 15 years since its publish date. If you think this last paragraph makes me sound something like a muppet, you should know that for my first foray into traveling (to India) I arrived with a child’s backpack bereft of pants, a towel, a toothbrush and several other items which life invariably necessitates. I also lost my passport before we had cleared customs – Looking at this trip so far, I’m actually impressed at the progress I’ve exhibited so far. (Also, Jordan if you’re reading this, check it, I own 2 whole towels now!!)

Well, shit, I’ve covered only my first hour in Africa in three paragraphs. Off to socialize now, but will come back and update this if anyone displays interest. Isaac out x