Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Life Is A Highway

I’ve been trying to start this blog for a while now and just can’t seem to find the right words. So much has happened in the past two months and I’m still processing most of it. School ended at the end of October and I was proctoring exams in the first weeks of November. I finally had some free time to travel and coordinated a trip to the north with my friend Amanda for a couple Thanksgiving celebrations. I met her at the house of some other PCVs in Zobue, Tete on the Malawi border and we cut through there to get over to Mandimba and Lichinga in Niassa province. Malawi was beautiful and the roads incredible. We zig-zaged our way through in under six hours and crossed back into Moz in Mandimba via bike taxi. From there a chapa goes the 150km up to Lichinga on one of the worst roads I’ve seen. I understand that the road to The Dombe is unpaved and pretty crappy, but a section of a national highway, leading to a provincial capital should be better taken care of. My butt may never fully recover.  But the trip was worth it as I saw several PCVs for the first time since swear in and we had an incredible feast with the local Doctors Without Borders group. The day after Thanksgiving we took our leftovers out to Lake Niassa/Lake Malawi and spent a relaxing day getting sun and swimming. Along with a few other volunteers, I started my journey south the following day. Over the next couple of days I went from Lichinga to Cuamba to Gurue to Macuba to Gorongosa for a second Thanksgiving in the park. After stuffing myself with turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing and pie for a second time I returned to Chimoio and Dombe to regroup before meeting my Mom and Marv in Maputo. Unfortunately I got roped into proctoring and grading the English exam for the second round of national exams and barely got out in time to catch my TCO bus to Maputo. And like my 15 hour flight to the states last June, after traveling in country on frustratingly bad roads and slow chapas, my 12 hour bus ride was a piece of cake. I arrived in Maputo at 5am and had a couple days to get my head together before Mom and Marv arrived.

Mom and Marv in Chidenguele
Now describing the next couple weeks will be difficult. We had so much fun and did so much traveling that I’m going to let my pictures do most of the talking (Mom and I both will have a bunch up on facebook here soon). But we started with a couple days in Maputo before going to Kruger National Park for three days of safari-ing. Shishangeni was just incredible. We were at one of the private lodges in the south part of the park and it was truly ‘chique’. Over the course of our four game drives (two early morning, two late afternoon) we saw elephants, rhinos, lots of impala, kudu, wildebeest, buffalo, lions, giraffes, vervet monkeys and so much more.  I honestly can’t describe my feelings as we approached the pride of lions picking the remnants off the previous night’s kill or seeing a massive elephant walk peacefully by our truck with its baby.

After our final game drive we returned to Maputo to pick up our rental car and start the journey north. Very little of the trip was preplanned and we hadn’t made any hotel reservations so we ended up rolling into each town with our fingers crossed and were lucky to find somewhere awesome every time. Lots of beachfront property for us. It’s going to be a rude awakening when I finally get back to The Dombe. We spent a stormy night in Chindenguele at a place on the dunes and a couple days on the beach in Tofo. Mom and I swam with the whale sharks (unbelievably cool, a true lifelister) and got a bit sunburned. Onto Vilankulos for our two day dhow ocean safari, lots more seafood and great company. We found a quiet little backpackers to return to for Christmas that was, of course, right on the water.
We got up to Chimoio and I was able to get a bed frame made overnight and a new mattress to take out to the mato. Dombe lived up to my descriptions as it was the hottest place we spent time but a few people were around for Mom and Marv to meet. They saw my school and my house, met Panda and had a cold coke in the vila. You’ll have to ask them for more impressions and opinions because that’s just life for me. But I think it was even a bit more remote than they expected. We arrived back in Chimoio as it was getting dark and met up with my friend Amanda for dinner. We “snuck” her into the hotel and she traveled back to Vil with us for Christmas. It never quite feels like Christmas here due to the heat and general lack of decorations and materialistic fervor but we had a great day on the beach complete with seafood dinner (Mom has a great picture of the platter we shared!). We then started our journey back to Maputo with a stopover in Zavora at yet another picturesque dune top resort. Arriving back in Maputo was bittersweet knowing it was our last night together but we had had an amazing trip. To be so far from home at this time of year is hard but having them here made all the difference. Plus we got to talk to Dad, Mary, Jesse and Ashlee and the kids on Christmas day. I love technology!

But then Mom and Marv left and “real life” began again. A good friend and fellow PCV was getting ready to return to America so I spent time with him in Maputo and caught up with others passing through. I had a rough travel day coming north and it took me about 14 hours to travel the 480ish km between Xai-Xai and Vilankulos. Luckily Drew was just arriving back in Vil from a vacation with his family in Paris and I was able to spend New Year’s Eve with him partying with a bunch of Zimbabwean tourists at a nearby resort. Both of us were exhausted from traveling but managed to rally and welcome in the new year until about 3:30am! Now I’m back in Chimoio preparing to head back out to The Dombe and start the new school year. I have no idea what exactly I’ll be teaching this year but I’m excited to get out to my new bed and get rid of this backpack I’ve been living out of for the past month. Feliz Ano Novo! Happy New Year!

Life Is A Highway - Tom Cochrane (It has to be his version because we mentions Mozambique!)


  1. From Mozambique to those Memphis nights! I will forever be greatful for all the amazing times we have shared thanks to your adventurous nature. Every bit of jet lag I am still experiencing is worth it and I love you so much. Wish we could have left our cool truck with you!

  2. I'll just sit quietly, in all my happy envy for all three of you, and summon the "courage" to look at the pictures on Mary's Facebook pages!

    There is always the 2-Day Marathon Picture Show your Mother will surely assemble for us here!

    Love, Dad

  3. em, these pictures are incredible! sounds like you had a wonderful visit with mom and marv. i love you and miss you!