72,982 BC

There’s a place in the north-east of South Africa that is the size of Wales, or Belgium if you prefer waffles over a rarebit. Covering an area of over 7500 square miles, Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world, and undoubtedly the most famous. Named after Paul Kruger, the president of the Transvaal from 1883 to 1900, not that guy with the burned face who lives a few doors down on Elm Street. The Kruger is a must see on any trip to South Africa.

Kruger spans over five different eco systems, attracting many different types of animals and birdlife, depending on the vegetation and climate. The park is so popular it does come with its negatives. It was Christmas, all the accommodation and game drives were booked months ago by South Africans. So driving for over an hour to get to the park, then waiting for another hour to get inside meant the best animal activity was over by the time we got inside. Driving around staring into the bushveld for hours on end, was a tedious and tiring experience. We did see plenty of the ‘less exiting’ animals and plenty of birdlife though.


Southern Red-Billed Hornbill


Grey ‘Go-Away’ Bird


Spotted Hyena

After two days of driving looking for predators in vain, we finally struck lucky on the way out at the coolest time of the day. Seeing a wild pride of lions is great, but when they’re surrounded by cars the experience does lose some of its allure. Unfortunately the only way you’re going to get exclusivity in the Kruger is by paying £9000 a night at the private game reserve next door, then you only need to share the experience with Elton John and his boyfriend while you drive around on an air conditioned truck, nibbling caviar and sipping on champagne.

The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world. It forms part of the Drakensberg escarpment and was created over millions of years of the Blyde river gushing through the red sandstone cliffs. ‘Blyde’ means happy in Dutch, and the canyons breathtaking views will make you feel just that.


The Three Rondivals



Where the Treur River meets the Blyde Canyon it creates a series of swirling whirlpools, which over countless eons has grinded a number of cylindrical holes known as Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Interesting stuff, but not as interesting as listening to a stereotypical American Dad punish his son in the queue by removing his ‘privileges’.

A strange American space cadet in Swaziland told me about a mysterious megalithic structure in the Mpumalanga province, that goes by the name of Adam’s Calendar. This was something I needed to check out myself. Adam’s Calendar was discovered in 2003 when a pilot crashed his aircraft into the surrounding mountains. At first glance, it looks like nothing more than a load of rocks. Accurate measurements have been taken and calculations made, proving that this is in fact a stone calendar thought to be approximately 75,000 years old, making Adam’s Calendar the oldest man-made structure in the world.

These boulders weigh up to five tonnes and were brought from a site far away, near the river bed. The larger, central monolith casts shadows over the surrounding rocks, which amazingly still work accurately as a functioning calendar. They even perfectly line up during equinox and solstices. This place really questions how advanced ‘people’ were 75,000 ago. Some believe it’s the birthplace of mankind, some a portal to another dimension. In the distance a few kilometres away, there are three structures known as Adam’s Pyramids, which are on exact same line of longitude as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Coincidence?

There are so many unanswered questions and many theories, some silly, some realistic they’re scary. This mind boggling place certainly makes you think, the most crazy and unexplained thing of all is that when you walk through the central monolith of the holy site with a compass, the needle goes haywire and spins around in a wayward manner. Even the compass on a phone governed by satellites freaks out and I’m pretty sure that whoever built this, didn’t have Facebook location services in mind. Could this have something to do with why the plane crashed in the first place? Did someone, or something, want this place to be found?

It sounds very similar to the TV series ‘Lost’ and was a great way to spend New Year in a spectacular setting. I’m not ready to step through that portal and say ‘see you in another life’ just yet, but I will play Auld Lang Syne on these mysterious singing rocks, pull out my 2018 cute cats calendar and say Happy New Year!

Further reading on Adam’s Calendar can be found here

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The Lord Of Afrikaan Things

Cape Town has many stunning suburban beaches. One that I wanted to visit was the obscure Macassar beach which was home to a holiday resort and water park. The resort was closed and abandoned after financial problems, now the moving sand dunes have engulfed the pavilion, changing rooms and water slides leaving it a weird and eerie place. We’d just got out of the car when a local fisherman pulled over to warn us not to walk around as it ‘wasn’t safe at all’. Now the deserted pavilion is a haunt for druggies who would happily mug you for a few rand. After googling ‘Macasser Beach Crime’ I read that only last year an angler was murdered for his car battery. I guess there’s a reason this place isn’t listed in the guidebooks, time to move on.

Great White Sharks are an apex predator of a marine ecosystem. It’s scientifically proven that if the Great White was removed from the ocean it would lead to an imbalanced food chain, which in turn would result in excess growth of algae, effectively suffocating the ocean. Shark cage diving, isn’t actually diving, it’s just floating on the surface then holding your breath and ducking under when a shark comes near. Even then the shark had to practically touch the cage to be able to see it through the freezing cold murky water, I actually got more exited by the floating tuna head they used as bait. Paying just shy of £100 each for this wasn’t exactly good value. They did throw in some cold calamari rings though to enhance the severe seasickness.

Oudtshoorn is undoubtedly the ostrich capital of the world. The Highgate Ostrich Show Farm is the best place to go on a tour for all things ostrich. Here you can see the local ladies making ostrich feather boas, feed the forever hungry birds and learn all about their breeding habits.


Ostrich chicks

Four ostrich facts:-

1 – An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.

2 – One ostrich egg is the size of 24 chicken eggs.

3 – A male ostrich’s tail feathers look like Donald Trump’s hair.

4 – Holding on to a running ostrich is absolutely solid.


“They’re all just losers”

In Tsitsikamma National Park you can do the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, or you can save the money and just watch someone do it, which was enough for me to say “I’d rather bathe in ostrich shit”. I opted to do the easy and tame walk to Storm’s River Mouth over the 77 metre suspension bridge. ‘Tsitsikamma’ is a Khoe-San word meaning ‘many water’. That might explain why it hardly stopped raining while we were there.

In Addo Elephant Park there is almost 600 elephants, so seeing a big hoard of them is almost guaranteed. You can self drive most national parks in South Africa, meaning you can have some really nice animal encounters. It’s ironic that in South Africa elephants won’t damage the vehicle or interfere with human things, but if you left your car unattended in a supermarket car park, there’s a good change you’d return to a smashed window and a missing radio.

It’s funny how sometimes a place seems to find a connection with something famous, and then jumps on the bandwagon. That’s exactly what happened with the mountain village of Hogsback. JRR Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein but moved to England when he was three. Some claim that after visiting the town as an infant, the area inspired him to write his 1200 page epic novel. Although the beautiful scenery does look like middle-earth, I think this is extremely unlikely. That didn’t stop the town playing on the ‘fairy dreamworld’ theme making artists, crystal healers and many more pretentious hippies flocking here. I guess if Kate from Berkshire gets sucked in by the magical vibe and wants to walk around with no shoes on before she returns to her day job as the plaster technician, each to their own.


Hogsback is magical. And magic mushrooms are widely available.

Named after the three ‘hogsback’ bristly looking hills that overlook the town, it is certainly an amazing area, great for walks around the indigenous forest where I spotted the localised Knysna Turaco and the resident Cape Parrots. You can hear them before you see them at around dawn when they return home to roost.


The indigenous forest


Madonna and Child Falls


38 steps falls


The Three Hog Mountains

There’s speculation that Tolkien’s nanny was from Hogsback and told him mysterious Xhosa tales of her home at the foot of the hogs mountain, where the hobbits and fairies reside. Believe it or not, the most magical thing for me in Hogsback was being able to take a bath for the first time in three months, and what a way to do it!

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Cape Crusader

Cape Town, the Mother city of South Africa. The Dutch East India Company set up a base here in the mid nineteen hundreds. The locals didn’t like it and shunned them. The Dutch imported slaves from elsewhere in Africa, India, Malaysia and Indonesia to help with their labour shortage and also for the colonists to have sex with, creating a whole new race of people who are nowadays referred to as ‘coloured’. Hence, Cape Town has a rich multicultural history. They don’t call South Africa the rainbow nation for nothing.

District six was a thriving area of Cape Town which housed mainly coloured Muslims but also Xhosa speaking blacks and white Afrikaans. The apartheid regime ripped district six down as their philosophy stated that interracial interaction bred conflict. The district six museum gives moving insight into life during the apartheid.

The colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is the Malay quarter of Cape Town. This former township was originally used to house freed slaves. Now the streets resemble last season’s Ikea showroom.

The Company’s Garden originally started out as a vegetable patch for the Dutch East India Company. Now it’s a beautiful city garden with many trees, small animals and birds. It is also a place where hoards of Cape Town’s homeless and drug addicts come to try and make money with one scam or another. Ranging from selling stodgy muffins to pay for a child’s education or collecting donations for a make believe syringe clean up program, I heard it all. The best one had to be if I’d like to invest into a man’s ingenious idea ‘the homeless suitcase’. Acting as a suitcase through the day his blueprint explained how it converts into a bed at night – I’m in!

Robben island means ‘seal island’ in Dutch and it’s where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his incarceration. After a 45 minute boat ride which smelt like pickled onion space raiders, you’re ushered into a coach and driven around the island to look at some rather dull sights, but can’t leave the bus. You’re then shown around the prison block by a former inmate. He doesn’t tell you much interesting information, just bangs on about freedom and how great Nelson Mandela is. It’s a very a touristic experience, but almost essential for any visit to Cape Town. The highlight was looking into Mandela’s cell, which is identical the all the others. I really hope his feet weren’t too bad when he was locked in there with no access to his chiropodist.

Boulders beach Penguin colony is the permanent home to thousands of cute African penguins. It started when a breeding pair rocked up here in the 80’s, the perfect bay sheltered them from the wind and the surrounding seas offering the perfect penguin diet, so they had no reason to leave.

Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark in Cape Town and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Unfortunately going to the peak was the one thing I didn’t do. It looked far too cloudy at the top, it will be a cold day in hell you’ll catch me paying £20 to go up a cable car to look at the clouds. Instead I got a decent view of the city from the slopes of signal hill next the noon canon which is fired everyday at 12 noon, great view and the best thing about it? It was free.

Duiker island is the real Seal island of Cape Town, set on the opposite side of the cape to False Bay. After spending half an hour on a yacht with dozens of seasick Chinese tourists I was expecting too see the man himself performing such hits as ‘crazy’ and ‘kiss from a rose’. Instead all I got was a giant rock covered in some big barking water dogs. False Bay? False advertising more like.

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Next Stop Soweto

In 1904 an outbreak of the bubonic plague was used as an excuse by the Johannesburg city council to ship over 2000 blacks and Indians to a settlement 18km from the city centre. By the 1930’s Orlando was built and as Jobergs population continued to grow, by the 1950’s 20 other suburbs had been built around Orlando. The area was officially named South Western Townships, abbreviated to Soweto in 1963. Today Soweto plays an important part in the history of South Africa.

A basic house in Vilakazi street, almost identical to 1000’s of other single floor dwellings in Soweto, is where Nelson Mandela lived with his wife Winnie and their children. Winnie stayed with Nelson for the whole 27 years he was behind bars, but when he was released in 1991 she bin bagged him within a year.

We know Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter, but he was also a boxer during his younger years. The WBC World Heavyweight Championship belt, which was held by Sugar Ray Leonard at the time, was gifted to him by the man himself shortly after his realise from prison.

Only a few doors down on the same street is the house of South Africa Anglican cleric Desmond Tutu, thus making Vilakazi street the only street in the world where two Nobel laureates have lived. Just over the road the chiropodist of both men lives, defeet is not so….

Hector Pietersen was a 13 year old black boy who was killed when the police opened fire on protesting students during the Soweto uprising of 1976. The peaceful protest was against the introduction of Afrikaans as means of instruction in all secondary schools, regardless of the locally-spoken language, some exams were also written in Afrikaans. That’s like telling a load of year 8 comprehensive kids they have to sit their SATS in Mandarin. The Hector Pietersen memorial stands near the place where he was shot in Orlando.

The Orlando Stadium is home to the Orlando Pirates, the third biggest club in South Africa, after Manchester United and Arsenal.

The Orlando Towers used to act as the cooling towers for the power station which fuelled Johannesburg for over 50 years. Now they contain the largest mural paintings and advertisements in South Africa and are used as a bungee jumping centre which included a rowdy bar to build up that Afrikaan courage.

Most visitors who come to Soweto take a tour around the townships on a bus or a bicycle. I much preferred walking around on my own and felt rather safe as I don’t like the idea of people watching in a human zoo. Instead I opted to go on a bird tour with Raymond Rampolongkeng aka ‘The Birdman of Soweto’.

The tour started out around the dirty marshland around the Orlando Towers, where an extremely knowledgable Raymond told me about his life in Soweto and how he became a bird guide. It wasn’t the most picturesque spot, but I could see past the plastic bags and shopping trollies to spot some Cape Longclaws and Red Bishops.

We moved up to the Enoch Sontonga hills, named after the composer who wrote the South African national anthem up here under the Sowetan Skies. Here some of the locals still practice traditional African beliefs and use the hills as a place of worship to be closer to the gods. Here is a good place to spot numerous mousebirds, a species which gets their name from their similar appearance and movement to mice.

Coming to Soweto was a good idea as I feel like I’ve got to experience the real side of Joberg, away from the crime and heavy security of the centre. One things for sure, wind, rain or African hailstone, you can always get a decent grilled chicken in Soweto!

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Swazi Times

Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa and one of only half a dozen countries in the world which is still an absolute monarchy. An absolute monarchy, is a monarchy where the king or queen has supreme power, not recognised by any laws. Swaziland has some interesting laws and deeply cultural traditions. The current ruler, King Mswati III is said to have at least 13 wives.


King Mswati III is pictured on the Swazi Lilangeni banknotes

Hlane Royal National Park is Swaziland’s largest protected area, so protected that rangers are permitted to shoot and kill anyone suspected of poaching. Hlane, meaning ‘wilderness’ is a great place to see some big game and four of the ‘big five’ can be seen here. I was able to see three of them as the weather was bad and a large group of German tourists had taken all the spaces on the game drives, just like they take all the sun beds at popular holiday resorts.

The Transvaal Lions are easily seen here. These ones seemed quite domesticated, but after half an hour of relentless camera clicking one of them got sick and chased the safari truck. Seriously, how many pictures of a lion can one person take? You’re on safari, enjoy the moment with your own eyes not through the lens. I did get sone awesome shots though.


White Rhinos are in abundance at Hlane and can even be seen taking an afternoon nap just around the safari camp. These beasts were originally intended to be called ‘wide’ rhinos referring to the width of their mouths. The early English speaking settlers in Africa misinterpreted the word ‘wide’ for ‘white’. This led to it being named the white rhino and the other species with a smaller mouth, the black rhino. I can understand how this happened as a lot of African people can’t get their tongues around certain English words, my name being one of them – Jarry, Glary, Caarie, Jeery?


Red-Billed Ox Packers feed off the ticks that live in the rhinos skin

On an evening the staff at the campsite got changed into their traditional clothes to perform a dance for the white people. I personally hate stuff like this, especially when it involves audience participation. Some of the German tourists were so enthusiastic about it they got up and joined in, totally embarrassing themselves in the process. It was cringe worthy, but I was happy to sit and laugh rather than take part in the Swazi conga.


Apparently a pair of Benfica football shorts is now part of the traditional Swazi dress code

Swaziland has the highest density of people who have been struck by lightening in the world, even one of those early monarchs King Ndvungunye was killed by a lightening bolt. But what are the chances of lightening striking twice? If someone said that I’d see the world’s tallest terrestrial animal while on a training run, then again while trying to hitch a ride away from Hlane. I’d say ‘you’re having a giraffe!’

Just a twenty minute drive away from Swaziland’s capital Mbabane is the Ezulwini Valley. Known as the ‘Valley of Heaven’, it’s not hard to understand why. A lovely hike up to Sheba’s Breast from the valley takes a mere hour and a half. The trail passes through forest and grasslands where I spotted numerous whydahs and widow birds. Once on the nipple of the breast, you’re rewarded with amazing views of the valley.

The Cuddle Puddle is a hot mineral spring where many locals like to come for a day out. It’s quite a rowdy atmosphere, as there’s school parties and groups of drunk young men having diving competitions. When the white man turns up with his big camera, everyone seems to get super exited.


Pulled a few stunners

After a heavy night’s rain I still managed to drag myself to Mbabane for the weekly parkrun. At the end of the race I was asked to do an interview with a local sports journalist. The next day I only went and ended up in Times of Swaziland national news paper. With a population of only 1.2 million people, it really isn’t that hard to end up in the news. My feature was just underneath an article about a child’s judo competition and on this day the front page headline read ’12-year-old boy sent to juvenile correction facility after insulting grandmother’, told you Swaziland had some interesting laws.

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Spending Time In Mozambique 

Vilankulo is a town in Southern Mozambique which is named after the late chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukpke and many people in the town still borne Vilankulo as their surname. It’s known for its stunning white beach and surrounding islands. I didn’t bother going to Bazarutto island as I really wasn’t that interested in a mediocre snorkelling trip and gawping at some villagers for a steep price of £50. After all the travelling recently it was nice to do nothing around my camp site, and just spend time in Mozambique, not money. I calculated that I’ve slept in a tent for around 40 days of this trip so far and still no symptoms of dole back. 

Tent life

Vilankulo beach

It’s known that many people in Africa don’t like being photographed unless they’re getting paid. I’ve realised that with a wide angle lens you can rip off the subject by directly pointing the camera somewhere else and capture them on the side, genius. To get to Tofo you need to catch a ferry to Inhambane from a town called Maxixe. It was at the port where I saw KFC and couldn’t help myself, this ultimately resulted in missing the last public boat of the day. This led to the farce of using another boat where the price was ‘pay what you want providing it’s more than anyone else’. 

Praia do Tofo is another beach further South. Here you can eat nice food and do expensive activities such as snorkelling, diving and ocean safaris. All I done was practice a little bit of yoga and tried to avoid fist pumping the many beach boys. A beach boy, is a young man who performs a pointless job such as selling shit souvenirs and braiding hair. They’ll pretend they want to be your friend but somewhere down the line all they want is your money. A lot of them have gullible foreign girlfriends that might be in Tofu for a season doing a work placement who will quite happily pay for their lazy lifestyle, effectively making them gigaolos. The best way to deal with them is to be short with them as whatever they say ‘they’re not your brother from another mother’. 

Beach boy in the making sporting a pair of Toon shorts

Token jumping photo

A bee-eater is a species of bird mostly found in Africa and Asia. As the name suggests, they mainly eat flying insects such as bees and wasps. The stinger of the insect is removed by repeatedly hitting it on a hard surface. Around the garden of the lodge there were a few swallow-tailed bee-eaters. It’s a shame they don’t eat mosquitos, still waiting for that day when I wake up with Malaria. 

Swallow-tailed Bee Eater

The nearby town of Inhambane has a slightly Mediterranean feel. The Church of Our Lady of Conception is the oldest building in town constructed in 1854 by the Portuguese. It was on the way here that Mozambique’s chapas never fail to amaze me, how come there’s always room for one more? 

My final 3am start and long distance bus in Mozambique took me from Tofu to Maputo and took 10 hours, and certainly offered one of most spectacular views from any public transport vehicle I’ve ever had. 

I only spent 24 hours in Maputo as my visa was about to expire and I’d heard rumours of dodgy police trying to bribe tourists for not carrying their passports or walking on the wrong side of the road. This is a problem throughout Mozambique and a few bribery attempts had actually happened to me. The best thing to do is hand over a photo copy of your passport, if you give them the original they metaphorically have you by the balls. If they say a photocopy isn’t good enough just simply plead ignorant and talk at them in English, more often than not they’ll give up when they realise you won’t pay up. It’s pretty pathetic really how the entire police force does nothing but exploit and bribe people and does nothing to prevent real crime. 

Maputo Skyline

Mozambique has been one of the most challenging countries I’ve ever been to with regards to language, getting around, corruption and bureaucracy. I think that sometimes you need to really challenge yourself the see what you’re actually made of, and Mozambique has certainly done that. On the way to the Swazi border while leaving Mozambique it seemed almost fitting that in a private vehicle, there was time for one last flat tyre, almost summing up my month here. Oh yes,  it’s been good to spend some time in Mozambique. 

The Final Breakdown

The shirt of Mozambique’s Football ‘Os Mamba’s’.

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Defeat Is Not So Bad 

A shared public transport vehicle in Mozambique is referred to as a chapa. Chapa is a general term and can be anything from a Toyota mini bus to a pick up truck. On this occasion the chapa to Garué was a battered old wagon which had to stop every hour to refill the water tank. Being a Mzungu, you’re in a position to pay a bit extra for the front seat, didn’t fancy getting severely sunburned. 

The driver

Garué is a mid-altitude town of around 700m asl. There’s a lot of piss heads in the town, and apart from a cinema showing American B movies there’s not a lot to do. The surrounding countryside is the main reason to come here. A short walk from the town there is a river where it seemed like the entire village congregated for laundry day. While the women washed, the kids played and the place reminded me of the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park. Minus teenagers up to no good in the jacuzzi of course. 

Wet ‘N’ Wild

Garué is Mozambique’s leading tea growing region. A walk past the factory through the  Chá Zambezi Estate is very scenic as you pass through the tea plantations and small villages. The problem here was that every single local you passed asked for money. Maybe because it’s very rural and they don’t see many Mzungus so they thought they’d try their luck, it made me feel like a walking ATM. Anyway, how can a woman twice the size of me carrying a hundred bananas on her head claim to be hungry? 

Continue through the plantations and you’ll eventually arrive at Cascata de Namuli where you can cool off in one of the swimming pools and admire the views over Garué. 

One of the main problems with travelling in Mozambique is that long distances sometimes make it impossible to travel from A to B without having to overnight in an anonymous backwater town. On this occasion Caia served as that town, and the quality of the lodgings were much to be desired. The bathroom looked like a scene from horror movie, and it was only intended for small people. 

This is after I brightened the photo

The Catapu Forestry Concession is a 250 square km private concession dedicated to sustainable forestry and indigenous trees. They say that this place is for trees what the Ngorongoro crater is for mammals – which means if you’re a tree lover, it’s absolutely class. I’m not a tree lover but I did love the excellent value lodge there, Mphingwe Camp. The camp has lovely cabins and excellent food all for very reasonable prices, so this was a great place to recharge my batteries after all the traveling recently. I’ll always find something to moan about though, at 40 degrees it was a bit too hot and I didn’t like having to spend two pound a day on bottled water. 

The Cabin


Catapu is an excellent birding spot if you can bare the heat. My spots included numerous sun birds, crowned hornbill, green wooed hoopoe and top sighting – the African cookoo hawk, named so because it resembles a common cookoo but is, well, a reptile eating hawk. 

Collared Sun Bird

Crowned Hornbill

African Cookoo Hawk

Like some kind of miracle, when I left the forest reserve a long distance truck stopped to pick me up that was going all the way to Vilanculos, saving me the horrible journey in a packed chapa and having to overnight in yet another backward Mozambican town. The downside was that I had to spend the entire 14 hour journey sat next to another passenger’s feet, that possibly hadn’t  been washed in weeks. I’ve made the joke before that it was Desmond Tutu’s chiropodist that said “dee feet, is not so bad”. I can rest assured that ‘dees feet’ were very, very bad.  

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Beauty In Decay 

After two days too long spent in Nampula dodging pickpockets, it was time to move on. The chappas broke down five minutes out of town, that has to be some kind of record. On the plus side, while we were waiting for the man from the biscuit shop to repair the vehicle, I bumped into my first Mozambican Newcastle fan. 

Ilha de Moçambique aka Mozambique Island, was the capital of Portuguese East Africa and the most important Indian Ocean port in the Southern hemisphere for four centuries. Only three kilometres long and no more than 600 metres wide, Ilha as it’s more commonly known, is tiny. When the Portuguese moved the capital to Maputo in the 20th century, a lot of the buildings were left to rot marking Ilha a weird place which doesn’t feel like Africa but doesn’t feel like Lisbon either. Some of the old colonial buildings have been restored in the oldest part of town, granting Ilha UNESCO World heritage site status.  

The old hospital

The Cinema

It’s easy enough to take yourself on a walking tour of the Island to admire local life and the decayed architecture. Fortaleza De São Sebastião was built from Limestone shipped from Lisbon between 1546 and 1583. It managed to hold off attacks from the Turkish, Dutch and Omani fleets. 

The locals don’t seem to have much to do on Ilha. Some play Ludo, the most boring unskillful game ever. Some play carrom, a game of Indian origins which is a cross between drafts and pool. But most just sit all day doing nothing, not reading or talking, absolutely nothing. This is something I’ve noticed happens a lot throughout Africa, groups of men get to together to simply sit and stare into space while all the women graft like mad. 



The kids on Ilha were especially excitable. Following, shouting, hissing and asking for their photos taken. The Macua woman of Ilha have a tradition of wearing a natural face mask called musiro made from bark, this is to soften the skin and protect it from the sun. Obviously the woman won’t let you photograph them without payment so here’s one of someone much better looking anyway. 

He doesn’t have a gammy arm that’s just his pose, and yes that is a football

Spider boy

The guys who are actually doing something are the local fisherman, who fetch in their daily catch, which you can buy. £10 for two lobsters was most likely a tourist price so I declined, much to his disappointment.  

Chuffed to bits with his catch

We took a boat trip out to Goa island to do some snorkelling, which was non existent as there’s no coral and was far too rough. The island’s beaches are relatively nice though and we got to explore an old derelict Portuguese lighthouse. I was half expecting a zombie to burst through one of the doors but the scariest thing about the lighthouse was the used condom on the top floor, and the fact the toilet was in better repair than the one in my hotel room. 

During my self guided walking tour I was accompanied by a dog who started following me from the Hindu temple. At the end I was amazed that he never asked for money or a tip, as sometimes there’s a catch with offers of ‘free help’ in Africa. 

Amazingly on Ilha I bumped into another Newcastle fan making it two in two days, this one had a striking resemblance to former Cameroonian flop Geremi. You wait six weeks to find some Newcastle shirts in Africa and then two turn up together, if only either of them knew exactly what they were wearing, one was the local Sunday league referees and the other had the nickname ‘Northern Rock’. 

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Broken Down

Getting away from Likoma island to Mozambique proved to be no easy task. The large steamer the M.V Chambo, was currently out of service. So I had to take a small fishing boat across the lake, first to the tiny settlement of Cobué only an hour away to get a visa for Mozambique. This was a bizarre way to enter a new country, I had to practically swim to the beach at Cobué as the boat didn’t anchor close enough, here you’re greeted by a border ‘official’ and taken to the immigration office a ten minute walk through the village and issued a visa for $50, no questions asked and a pretty simple procedure.

Just swim to the beach from here

The replacement boat

Cobué immigration officeR

I then swam back to the fishing boat where I sat on a bag of dried fish for the next 13 hours. It was relatively fun at first, but once the sun went down, sitting there in total darkness was very lonely, depressing and tedious as the boat chugged along at about 5km per hour, stopping at every settlement along the Mozambican side of the lake to load on or off more people and/or bags of fish. It was a very psychologically demanding trip. The word Malawi means ‘fire flames’ in a local language, evoking the beautiful sunsets over the lake, something that is clearly represented in the national flag, at least I got to see it one last time on the nightmare boat, almost making the journey worth it.

Before the lights went out

There is not a lot in Metangula on the Mozambique side of the lake, but it’s a friendly town and an ok place to rest after the boat journey. I think the word Metangula might mean ‘dust cloud’, as there were some really strong winds blowing in fine orange dust from the unsealed roads and surrounding hills. It was here I accidentally drank 500ml of water from the lake which resulted in me throwing up my first Mozambican meal. Let me tell you, fish vomit, has to be the worst kind.

Lake Niassa from Metangula

Lichinga is the capital of the Niassa province and home to the Muslim Yao people. The Samora circle in town has a statue of Samora Machel in the centre, commander, revolutionist and first president of Mozambique. This was the closest I’d get to a running track over here so took the time to get some training in. The people in Lichinga seem to like posing for photos – “Mr, take my picture holding a dirty piece of cardboard over my head”.

Mozambique’s airline Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique, or LAM, has a very poor safety record. I have no idea why there is an old LAM passenger plane wreck on the outskirts of Lichinga, I’m thinking it might’ve broken down and they couldn’t be arsed to scrap it.

I was required to arrive at the mini bus station at 3am to get to Cuamba. It’s the middle of the night, but that is when all chappas start to collect passengers. The first chappa to Mandimba got a flat tyre half way, because the road is basically a giant pothole, so the 150k took 6 hours. After changing in Mandimba and eating some rather dodgy looking chicken bits, I boarded a second bus to Cuamba, this one got a flatty after about 20km. My patience had ran out at this point so I stuck my arm out and managed to get a lift in the cab of a heavy goods transport truck. Hitchhiking is normal in Mozambique and it’s custom to pay the same fare as a bus, this was a lot quicker as they’re more suitable for the roads and don’t stop as much.

3:30 am

I stayed in Cuamba for one night in local pensão for another 3:30am rise the following day. The Pensão Zambezi was, well, a shit hole. It was here that one of the little kretins who worked there, snuck into my room through the night and stole money from my bag. I made a big mistake of counting it up in a common area, letting them know where it was kept and inviting opportunity. The guesthouse was only £3 but ultimately staying there ended up costing me something like £60. I may as well have checked in to the Cuamba Hilton.

Had on, I’m sure I had more than this last night.

The robbery sucked balls, but if you drank sour milk once would you never drink milk again? I couldn’t let a carton of sour milk spoil my impression of the Mozambican people. Mozambique’s long distance train from Cuamba to Nampula covers a distance of 350km and has been hauling passengers across the country since 1912. After departing at 5am I thought I was in for a nice comfortable ride by Mozambique standards, until, you guessed it, the train broke down.

An in date carton of milk

The train got going again after a three hour standstill. I finally made it to Nampula 14 hours later after spending the whole journey stuck next to a woman with the two worst behaved kids in Mozambique, who cried, kicked, spat and screamed all the way there, not even the deep fried soya pieces that I covered in hot chili sauce and fed them managed to shut them up. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself, but even after all these break downs, nothing is going to break me down. When I spoke to someone a few years back about Mozambique they said “go to Mozambique if you want adventure”, they weren’t wrong there.

Categories: Malawi, Mozambique | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Magical Mystery Tours 

Livingstonia is perched on top of the Rift Valley escarpment 700 metres above Lake Malawi. Getting there involved an extremely rough ride on the back of a pick up truck. I shared a spare tyre with an old woman and had a bundle of sticks jabbing me in the side the whole way. Why do people in Africa bring bundles of sticks on public transport? Surely that’s the one thing available anywhere? Thankfully the trip only lasted about an hour. Once at the top, you’re rewarded with some amazing views of the lake. 

From this..,

To this.

The town of Livingstonia was founded by a group of Scottish missionaries led by Lt. E D Young, at the village originally known as Khondowe. Named after David Livingstone, the first two attempts set to establish a mission in Malawi failed after a high number of malarial fatalities, hence a site of higher altitude was chosen. There’s a few colonial style buildings in town, although not exactly the impressive architecture you’d find elsewhere in the empire. For some reason they also built a roundabout which sees only sees about a dozen vehicles per day. When the British first introduced roundabouts to Africa the locals didn’t know their name, so just referred to them as ‘keep lefties’. 

The Clock Tower, Stone House and the Keep Leftie

The church is the largest building in town, it took 30 years to complete due to a lack of funding. On this day I found  some friendly sisters arranging maize to be sent out to the local orphans. 

Manchewe falls is the largest waterfall in Malawi. The tallest drop is 125 metres high, it is surrounded by lush rainforests and a number of view points. Some guides hang around the entrance, but there’s really no need for them, as they simply state the obvious. Most of them are just young kids practicing their English and will try to follow you anyway. I gave him 60 pence. 

Likoma island is in Mozambique waters but is geographically part of Malawi, also as a result of its long association with Scottish missionaries. It’s difficult to reach, 12 hours on a basic boat called the Limani. Packed with all the supplies coming from the mainland getting to the toilet was difficult, a terrible time to get the squirts. Likoma has some lovely beaches, clear blue water and is mainly a place where people come just to chill and do nothing. 

Tired of being around the tourist lodge with the self-righteous expats, I decided to go on a tour of Likoma with someone I met in a local bar. He promised to show me all the non touristic sights on his alternative tour of the island, sounded promising. After walking about 6 miles in the blazing midday sun we arrived at our first ‘sight’ – a boulder with a mysterious footprint on it. To me looked far too big to be a footprint and was nothing more than a blemish in the boulder. 

Secondly was the ‘hidden cave’ which was more like a shelter where the locals come to smoke tac. Next up, the ‘singing rock’ which made a high pitched noise when you struck it with another stone. They were amazed at why it made such a noise. I tried to explain that it must be the way it was positioned or that it could be slightly denser than the other rocks around it but they were convinced it was a magic rock. It was at this point that I realised that I’d signed up to the shitest tour ever, in fact this tour was so shit it was almost good. 

The Singing Rock

The Tac Den

Hey Mister, how you enjoying your utterly shit tour?!

What was meant to be the main attraction of the tour ‘the bat cave’ we didn’t even get to see because the ‘tour guide’ said it would be too dark, and he was scared there were snakes inside. More like he realised how shit his impromptu tour was and could tell I was sick of clambering over rocks in the 35 degree heat. Ultimately, the highlight of the tour was when the guide suddenly picked up a rock and launched it into a flock of grouse, injuring one enough so he could grab it to take home for dinner. With that, it brought an end to this magical mystery tour. 

Believe it or not, he was actually happy with his day’s wages and free dinner

Categories: Malawi | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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