How I Almost Got Rabies

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So, at the moment, it’s 3AM in the morning, and I’m having trouble falling asleep.  To combat this problem, I have decided to update my blog, which I haven’t done for a while.  This is actually a story from late June.  Certain person told me that I should write a diary when I was traveling so I won’t forget stuff, but I don’t need to, because I remember everything.  Everything except not to lock myself outside of my car sometimes.

If you can read the title, this happened in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, during the winter.  If I want to tell the story, I might as well start from the beginning, or else the content will be pretty short.  So here goes.

I took a very cheap flight from Puerto Montt, Chile to Punta Arenas, Chile.  There was nothing to do in Punta Arenas during the southern hemisphere winter; the penguins are gone, a lot of the shops are closed, so I left for Punta Arenas as soon as I arrived.  Most people go to Ushuaia during the summer, because first, they might be looking for a cruise to Antarctica (I want to do that so bad), second, it is a lot warmer, third, everything is more accessible, and fourth, there is a lot more daylight.  I actually wanted to go to Ushuaia during the winter because everything look better in the snow.

However, winter poses it’s challenges and it is not just the cold.  Argentina is being bombarded by inflation since forever.  Argentinians often joke that the chicken you buy for 50 pesos today is going to be 100 pesos next week.  While luxury bus costs 1 dollar an hour in Peru, it costs 10 dollars in Argentina.  Therefore, the hitchhiking network in the south of Argentina is really abundant, in the summer.  Meanwhile, in the winter, it is another story.

The cost to take a bus from Punta Arenas to Rio Grande is 15000 Chileans Pesos, which is about 22 dollars.  It is a lot by poor South America standards, but it is not a lot.  However, from Rio Grande to Ushuaia, it is 20k Chi Pesos, which is ridiculous consider it is a two hour short ride.  So I took the bus to Rio Grande and proceeded to test my luck on getting hitchhike.

5 hours and curb sitting in the cold later, I found someone.  When we started on our way, it was already dark and I missed some good scenery.  The road was icy and the previously melted ice made the shitty road muddy.  On top of the darkness of the night, the car window is covered in mud.  The only thing you can do is take a nap and hope you don’t die in your sleep while the car drift into a deadly collision on these icy road.

Due to the road condition, it took us more than 3 hours to get to Ushuaia and it was already past 10PM.  That seriously limited my ability to find affordable housing, not to mention I learned the hard way that being so far south, there is inflation on top of inflation.  Everything is expensive but I did get unlimited cook yourself eggs for breakfast, I can theoretically make up for the money I spent through eating eggs.

The sun rises at 10AM and sets at 5PM in Ushuaia at the end of June.  However, there was no bone freezing cold that I might have associated with being in Alaska in December or streets covered so deep in snow that I can build an igloo (igloos are so much cooler than tents) if I ran out of money to pay for bed.  There was no snow, and it wasn’t that cold compared to Bolivia.

I reluctantly woke up at half to 10AM only to see some magnificent light outside through my window.  The reluctancy became enthusiasm as I pack my camera and stuff and went outside to see one of the best sunrise I have seen even thou it is not possible to actually see the sun during this time of the year.  Ushuaia is the end point of the Andes range, and mountains surround the city from the North while the Beagle Channel surrounds the city from the South.  During this time of the year, the sun is located so northeast during sunrise that sun never goes past the mountain summit.  Despite the sun not showing, the orange, bright red and yellow hue illuminated the summits, the sky, and the Beagle Channel.  The old forgotten boat anchored in the channel looked more haunting in the orange light.  Comparing to woken up at 5AM to see the sunrise on the Amazons, seeing this sunrise after sleeping in till 10AM is a huge blessing.

I really got lucky because the weather near the south pole during this time of the year tends to be shitty, and I never saw sunrise like this again in the next five days.

To be honest, like always, I really have no plan except to catch the Copa America finale at a bar so I can talk shit to Argentinians when Chile wins again.  The Messi fake retirement afterward is an icing on the cake, I had a lot of fun talking trash that day even thou Ushuaia really isn’t the most exciting place to watch soccer because everyone is a tourist.  Talking about tourist, there are more people visiting Ushuaia than I expected.  There is normal Brazilian “we want to ski”ers, and other people who can only get holidays during this time.  Ushuaia is a nice little town, pretty scenic, especially from the road to the airport looking back or from a boat on the Beagle Channel.

There is a lot to do in the winter as well, but not much that you don’t have to pay.  I have seen a lot of pictures from people who have already been, so I really wanted to do this two things, Los Dientes de Navarino on Isla Navarino, which is absolutely inaccessible during the winter, because you need a boat or a plane to go there, and hike to Laguna de Los Tempanos, which is also closed, on paper.

There is a lot of other stuff to do too, like going to Tierra del Fuego park, which is really expensive and not worth it in my opinion.  Or take a boat ride to see seals and birds, which is also pretty expensive and I have done plenty everywhere else.  Or Glaciar Martial, which is a pretty easy hike to go up, which I did, but the glacier had melted so badly that there wasn’t much worth seeing.  I did bring a good amount of beer on that hike so it was enjoyable, and I loved the trees branches in the winter.  They remind me of the weirwood in Game of Thrones.  There is many other places, but almost all of them requires a quite expensive taxi ride.

Now let’s talk about Laguna de los Tempanos.  It is a glacier lake, located right underneath the Vinciguerra glacier, which is also the largest glacier in the area.  I believe this place is the most scenic place in Ushuaia, but of course I could be wrong.  It is part of the trek Paso de Ovejas, which is closed during winter season, but judging by the weather, winter hasn’t officially arrived yet.  So I decided that even if I don’t do anything else, I want to accomplish this.

So I hitchhiked to the road entrance of the village before the trail begins.  It was very easy hitchhike because everyone is going through the main road, however I had to walk about an hour to reach the trail.  The road was full of mud which is bad sign because that means at higher altitude there will be abundant of ice, making things quite dangerous.  There were a lot of dogs and they weren’t at all friendly.  Big dogs, small dogs, hounds, mastiffs like the ones that bit off Ramsay Bolton’s face (sorry spoiler) looked at me like I was going to intrude the home they were protecting.  Barking followed everywhere I walked and some strays even followed me.  I didn’t really mind all the teeth barring and barking because I never thought dogs would bite me because I had always been cool with dogs my whole life.

I got to the trail head and chose to ignore this trail is closed sign and hopped over the little gate blocking my way.  The dogs followed.  While I was surveying for rangers who might kick me out, the dogs kept barking around me while I looked around.  A car started it’s engine outside of the gate and startled the dogs.  One of them decided to take a shot at my calf.  Why did I wore shorts in the damn cold I can never explain.  If I wore my pants it would have been nothing, but I was wearing shorts and I got 4 bloody holes on my leg.

It was probably karma, when something says it’s closed, I probably should just turn away, but I didn’t and karma bit me, quite literally.  I normally feign ignorance to danger because it is no use to worry about it, but this time I was quite worried and more than ever pissed.  I normally have good luck, but at that moment I felt all the bad luck I hadn’t been getting rolled together into a black ball and hit me, in the form of the word rabies.  First of all, I didn’t have a rabies shot, because it is expensive, and second, the last way I want to die is from rabies.

So I wrapped up my leg with an extra shirt and turned back.  Fortunately someone was leaving for the city in the village and he gave me a ride back.  I didn’t go to the hospital.  Because one, I’m probably retarded.  Two, I didn’t think in the southern most city in the world, the hospitals would be stocked with rabies medicines.  Three, I don’t like hospitals.  Four, I hope the rabies virus can’t survive the cold (I know nothing).  So I did what I can.  I washed and iodine cleaned everything so the bite won’t get infected and hoped for the best.

I also drank a lot for the next two days just in case alcohol would magically clean everything up, of course ( I still know nothing).  I also did a bunch of other things like hiking the Glaciar Martial, and go to casinos.

The three days after I was bitten, I woke up with a fever.  I couldn’t stop imagining myself foaming at the mouth and acting all crazy or even worse, imagining myself stabbing myself to death before I go all crazy.  The minute I felt the fever I decided to leave Ushuaia.  Also I can’t keep spending money staying there.  To not burden my body further, I went to look for last minute flights instead of hitchhiking north.  To my fortune, I found a cheap flight to El Calafate in that same afternoon for a really good price.

The view of the end of the Andes was gorgeous from the airplane, and it was a gorgeous day.  It was actually the only day that I saw the sun since I arrived.  I spent the next day feeling sick in El Calafate while asking everyone and anyone for medical advice (someone told me there is no rabies in Argentina) to make myself feel a bit better.  Then the day after I recovered and more than three months have passed and I don’t think any virus have traveled to my brain (knock on wood, I actually did that).

So that’s the story, and I think it is not as exciting as the title suggests, and that’s why I sort of stopped writing stuff.  Things happen, but I’m sort of desensitize to them now that I stopped finding things record-worthy.  But you know what, I’m bored, might as well write some stuff so until next one.

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Diary of a Cow on the Amazons

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My mighty horns were being strung by three ropes as many Peruvians tried their dearest to drag me onto the ferryboat Putomayo.  I made several attempts to take charge at these annoying insects of humans, but it was to no avail.  They have mastered the equilateral triangle technique of pulling on my horns, to subdue and enslave me.  While I tried to charge at one of them, the other two would pull me from behind.  The tensions of the ropes pulled against my horns while I charged was unbearable, but I kept trying to destroy those who imprisoned me despite the fact that to give in was much easier.
My cow brothers also tried to get out of the shackles but they have failed.  Now their horns, once a symbol of pride and a given ability to defend themselves, is used to tie their bodies to a makeshift wooden beam.  Each noise they is a composition in the symphony of misery and torture.
I didn’t want to be one of them.  You see, we are being shipped to Iquitos, a place where you can’t be transported by land, yet the people’s need for beef has pushed us onto boats. 
The ferry journey lasts three days, but in south america, three days mean four.  No man would allow us cows to flight to Iquitos, yet man forsake their rights to fly and choose to take the ferry anyways.  From my measly hearing, they say, “It will be an adventure!” “Let’s be positive!”, And of course, “This is worse than I thought”.  These humans take sixteen hours of bus ride from Trujillo to Tarapoto where they take a taxi of equal cost as the bus for three hours through the Cordillera Escalera rainforest where signs noted of a Jaguar populace, in order to reach my current town, Yurimaguas. 
Yurimaguas is a place full of motor taxis aka tuk tuk, diseased dogs, and pretty much absolutely nothing to do.  Yet the wifi in this town is surprisingly fast, possibly due to the fact that no one is there to share the bandwidth.  Food is hard to find, the street is dirty, but Yurimaguas is the primary port to sail off into the amazons region through river Marañon. 
Well, here I am, at the port, being dragged onto a small plank.  My fate spells a scenario much like my cow brothers, yet I hoped my physical prowess would cause harm to these slavers.  The boat is big.  The whole front half is for us cows and maybe even an automobile and some electronics.  The boat has three floors in the back section.  The very back is the boiler room.  The first floor is stuffed with food items for transport, and more electronics.  The folks of Iquitos need their televisions and refrigerators.  The second floor held cereals and eggs.  The third floor held a coup full of chickens and ducks  Among the second and third floor, humans are also a major transport as they pay 80 soles to go to Nauta and some pay 100 soles to Iquitos with us. 
These humans set up their hammock, on the beams of the boat and then proceed to sleep through the sweat and dirt caused by the jungle heat and river breeze for the remainder of the three days while they drift down the Marañon river and then merge with the Amazons river.  The smell is quite unbearable, and bugs are all over the place, and some even bring along their own pet chickens. 
While us cows are fed with the shittiest hay they can find, the human eat things of far worse standarr.  Humans lineup to the kitchen like it is a prison cafeteria where the man lady cook named Pablo pours soup for breakfast and dinner.  The lunch is chicken from the third floor with a side of rice.  The soup is flavored by the chicken being cooked for lunch.  Despite all this, humans take the ferry nonetheless for one reason or another. 
They are still struggling to move me onto the boat as I fight and fight for my freedom.  From the corner of my eyes, I can see the board on the ferry that says the boat is leaving at 230PM today.  Well, my cow o’clock tells me it’s already 4PM and things aboard isn’t half ready.  These humans have been on the boat since 10AM and surely they aren’t happy for this delay. 
As I fought for my freedom, more deckhand joined.  They kicked me and pulled harder.  Some white girls walked past me carefully from the boat to buy more bread and water.  They should have brought more because this ferry sire isn’t leaving anytime soon.  Their faces showed the utmost disapproval, but there was nothing they can do.
As I fought my legs gave out and I fell off the plank into the muddy river bay.  My thousand pounds body full of the premium asado failed make a single splash but I knew the fight was over.  I wasn’t able to get up.  For the next hour they pulled and dragged my half beaten body onto the boat.  Propped me up onto the tail and tied me there.  I felt my bones were broken and my body weak, but the giant green letter on my back indicates that I’m just cow number 37, I’m just a prisoner. 
At 9PM, as all the brothers are tied horns to rail onto the ferry, they started to load the cars and electronics.  Our moans of suffering decreased as we admitted to our fate.  The symphony of suffering reaches its end, yet the suffering just began.  We stayed silent, the only sound is the deckhands working and occasional complaints from the human section about the damn ferry still not moving. 
Then the marine came and the short ferry captain that reminds me of a tree stump ran upstairs.  You see, the Putumayo isn’t a human transporting ship like some other bigger ferries such as the Eduardo IX.  Those bigger ferries are equiped with life jackets and they don’t transfer animals.  The tree stump captain, he happens to have the only life jacket on the ferry, and he is also making side money transporting folks across. 
So the captain asked the humans to get on a small boat while the marine checked for humans.  The elderly and children are escorted to hide in the boiler room while the more capable humans are put into the small boat. 
There was a misunderstanding that the small boat will take everyone to another boat where everyone will wait for the big ferry to catch up. 
Foreign passengers went up to the captain, asking for money back so they can take another boat on the morrow, but the captain did his best impression of pretending to be busy.  He walked away when asked of him, and said wait when a question was fired toward him.  This captain would do well as a president one day.
The small boat wasn’t going to another big boat, but it was to stay on the water and wait for the big ferry.  What people don’t know is that my cow eyes can see far, even in the darkness of the night.  With the bright moon glistening over the calm river water, I saw the small boat engine failing and the boat hitting a tree stump and helplessly docked by the side of the jungle. 
This is the magical time where the Peruvians who have taken the river journey just falls to sleep or play the same salsa songs with different lyrics loudly while those first time boat takers sit in panic hoping this won’t be the entire night. 
Of course I wouldn’t be happy in that situation either, but my situation, tied and beaten in this ferry is much worse.  The flies roamed in the dark of the night, and the night is warm, a bit too warm and humid.  Sitting on a dead boat by the jungle sucks, but so is tied up here.
At about 11PM, the boat is finally loaded and my brothers and I set out on the Puomayo to pick up these humans. 
They were glad, they were pissed, and they were relieved.  It was a mix of emotions, and of course the expression of “what’s next?” shone on the face of these first time boat takers.  At least, the river breeze brought the cold air that put all passengers include my brothers and I to sleep, thus concluded our first night on the Amazon River.
I along with my brothers and the passengers are woken up bright and early by the crowing of the chicken.  Humid sensation is left on my skin yet I still felt cold in the morning river breeze.  Us cows don’t get to shower, but the humans do.  Yet the shower water is brown and the shower is also the toilet and it is already occupied by the bugs and spiders despite its only been a night.
Hours were spent between trying to fall sleep and not really making it happen until the metal on metal knocking sound of breakfast came around.  We were tossed hay to eat, yet we were so cramped together, lowering our heads was impossible.  The humans gathered in a line with their plastic boxes like they are in a prison yard.  Soups of unknown ingredients were poured into their plastics and people sat around sipping on the soup.  They say something is better than nothing, but to me nothing seems to be the better option right now. 
Between breakfast and lunch, nothing happened.  Except of course the boat stopped at every village.  Thatch leafs left the boat while plantains came in.  Between transports the small transport boat is put upon our back like we are just a piece of furniture.  Oh right, the boat can’t exactly afford furniture. 
I can distinctively hear that the humans think the boat is doing the villagers a favor by bringing them stuff. 
More stops came and went and we still haven’t got to the Pacaya Samiria national park yet.  The national park is a well conserved part of the Amazons, many people came to see the animals flourish in the park and I, despite being enslaved, seeing other creatures roaming free would make my life better. 
Lunch time came and the man lady served pasta and chicken.  We tried to eat the hay but again to no avail.  Nothing really happened and the boat kept moving. 
The national park finally came in sight as things became more beautiful.  The narrow passage of the river became wide and the dirty brown color of the water became more of a pretty brown, if such thing exist.  The shower is still brown water and the food is still shit, but the stops by the villages became more interesting.  The pink dolphins that well known to the amazons began to appear. 
Some people didn’t believe dolphins exist in rivers.  They claim dolphins belong to the sea and they can’t be pink. Well dolphins swim free in the Amazons and white dolphins don a pink suit after spending times in the amazons. 
At these village stops, pink dolphins swim free and it was quite a sight even for me as the small boat weighs us to the ground. 
On these stops, people throw food in the water to feed the fishes.  Ridiculous amount of catfishes swam to tear at the food.  They even surface to catch spits, every disturbance on the water leads to a school of fish rising to the surface. 
Some boys throw fishing hooks in the water and they would catch catfishes every minute.  I was to imagine these fishes suffered a worse fate than us.
Dinner was soup again and we all slept in.  It rained in the middle of the night.  The humans have covers for the rain, but us, our skins were our cover. 
The next morning the cloud hung over the sky, it was a huge contrast to the sunny landscape from the day before.  Cloud hang so low over the horizon that we might as well be in Africa.  The threat of rain is imminent and random, but no one seemed to cared and everyone seemed to welcome it instead of the ever increasing humidity and heat.  The cloudy bluish sky makes the perfect contrast against the brownish river.  It seems nature has provided the perfect pair of complementary not found on the color wheel.
Even the chickens didn’t bother to crow without the sun.  Everyone woke up to the metal on metal announcement of breakfast. 
It was soup again and the hay was still unreachable.  Through the night rain and lack of food, some of our brothers are falling down and laying on top of another as if dead.  I thought I would be gone soon, yet still I stood.  The torture is never-ending and I do hope this third day is the last day. 
The third day wasn’t.  It rained, then it didn’t.  Then the sun came out amongst the clouds.  Lunch was served by man lady and it was chicken and rice.  Less stops were made because there were less villages.  The boat went on, quite boringly.  Out den got more dirty, and so did the humans’ bathrooms. 
At sunset, the same two foreign girls came out to watch the sunset.  They came out quite often and they seemed to be quite sympathetic over our pain.  The fiery sun set over the distant jungle, lighting the dark clouds on fire.  The sun was there and then it was gone, and everyone went back for the soup dinner. 
At 7PM at night, the boat stopped at Nauta, the last town before Iquitos.  Most passengers got out since one can bus to Iquitos from Nauta and the deckhands started to unload the chickens, eggs, cars and electronics.
We had to stay because we were headed to Iquitos, but so did some other travelers. 
The lady captain told all the humans decided to stay to hide in the boiler room if the marine decides to show up.  The captain was no where to be found again. 
Not much happened except movements and the gathering of mosquitos.  The boat set out again at 10PM.  The captain said the boat will get to Iquitos around 3AM, but no one is to get out until the break of dawn. 
At this point I have submitted to my fate and I am just waiting to get to Iquitos, and then possibly be slaughtered and eaten by the humans aboard.  The same girls who sympathized my pain will probably share my meat unknowingly. 
The ferry boat reached Iquitos around 430AM.  I was awoken by the light in the distant horizon.  Over the city of Iquitos, the light pollution lit up the cloudy sky.  The horizon appeared yellow despite the sun isn’t to rise for another hour.  The yellow aurora led the way for the boat to dock, and we fell asleep again. 
When dawn broke, the journey was at an end.  It should be a relief for everyone, but it wasn’t without accidents. 
I was woken up not by the incoming light, but one of the foreign girls asking the captain about her lost shoes.  This time the captain was available, but the lost shoes aren’t.  This of course puts a black shade of dot on their otherwise “wonderful” boat ride. 
The humans gathered their things and sailed off in a motor boat to another dock to take tuk tuk to the city, while I stayed and watched as I waited to be carry to some meat factory to be cut up. 
This was my passage to heaven. 

Last Week Fails Week

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I always have shitty luck with finishing every trip.  Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.  The Chimborazo attempt.  The Boston to New York drive.  Now this.  They all happened at the end of my trips and they kind of all turned into disappointments because I tried to do too much in too little time.
I left Cape Town with the desire to climb the Drakensberg escapement.  I wanted to leave the way I came in, climbing and hiking, in the mountains where I feel at peace.  Little did I know, I didn’t get all the intels I needed to have a good trip.  I was aware the Easter weekend is approaching and things might get a bit busy, but I didn’t think between the beaches and game reserves, people would come to the cold Drakensberg to spend their long weekend.
I was only half wrong.  People did, but not exactly for climbing and hiking.  There are two music festivals in the mountains.  One in Clarens, northern part of Drakensberg, the other in Underberg, the southern part of the escapement.  All the accommodations from camps to hostels were fully booked, even thou in Africa, booked is not always fully booked.
However, this time, I can’t just go and find out because accommodation are limited and if I set out to drive there, I must be sure.  Normally, I would just go try out my luck anyways, but when renting a car is involved, I became more hesitant.
Let’s go back a bit, the trip started with complications.  The night bus to Durban was fully booked, so I took the bus to Umtata, just to check out Coffee Bay on the wild coast because it was recommended by friends.  You get off the bus in Umtata then a minivan takes you to Coffee Bay.  As if the 24 hours bus wasn’t long enough, to get to Coffee Bay, another two hour drive through pot holes is required.  To get out is even more complicated but fortunately I got a ride out.
Coffee bay is said to be the poorest part of South Africa, even more poor than Soweto.  It isn’t a city, or a town, more like a less densely populated village.  It lies on the coast, with a lot of nature near its grasp.
Coffee bay is one of the most popular spot for tourists of the backpacker variety on the Wild Coast, mostly because it only costs 50R to get a half day surf lesson.  Europeans love it because I can’t imagine anywhere else that do rentals and lessons for so cheap.
Coffee bay is supposed to be warm, but at night it gets damn chilly and I can’t figure out why.  It is at sea level, it is on the east coast, by the Indian Ocean, it shouldn’t have been chilly, but it was and I liked it.  What I didn’t like is the German chain smoking gain.
The most popular spot to stay is Coffee Shack,  because it is right by the tiny bay.  It looks like a small place, but it’s deceptively big.  In Africa, people will tell you it’s fully booked, but it never is, because no one knows how to manage the rooms.  Of the hundred people staying there, literally, ninety five of them are German and they all have a chain smoking habit.  It is hard to sit at the same table with twenty Germans and breath in dense cigarette smoke every second.  That’s one of the reason I left.
The other reason is an Australian couple was leaving to Pietermaritzburg for one of the Drakensberg music festivals and life is a lot easier if I just go with them.  I really wanted to do the hiking and stuff around coffee bay, for example, the “Hole in the Wall” rock and the cliff jumps, but that would mean a ridiculous combinations of bus and walking to get to Durban.  Another reason that made Coffee Popular is the drugs.  Locals would walk around and sell foreigners weed, mushrooms and whatever they get their hands on.  Some of the mushrooms are blue and definitely would make one sick.  There are some crazy drugged out people living in the area too, their blood shotted eyes, and crazy demeanors were just too much for me.
So the next morning, I got in the car and we left.  The Australian couple is really cool, and they actually went around trying to find out how does the black population think about the dangers of South Africa and picking up hitch hikers.  There are many folks who are just walking on the road and hope to get a ride to make their life easier.  It turned out everybody has the same perception of South Africa being a dangerous place and picking up people is an absolute don’t do.
Driving through the wild coast area exposes you to some of the most beautiful landscape I have seen in Africa.  It isn’t a game reserve, and it isn’t some special mountain ranges.  It is just an infinite amount of land of ultra green low grass up and down rolling hills.  To be honest, it gets quite boring after a while, but then you think of driving down the 101, and all of a sudden we are driving in paradise.  The real problem is that the drive is slow because there is only one lane, and quite often you are stuck behind a truck that is carrying thatch.  You slowly watch the truck loses half it’s cargo on the road because it didn’t secure it’s thatch correctly.
We drove all day and finally arrived in Pietermaritzburg(PMB).  PMB is the capital of KwaZulu Natal(KZN), also known as the most boring city ever.  Huge streets, giant malls and a gigantic school, but other than that, absolutely nothing to do.
It was full moon again.  My third full moon in Africa.  I never notice stuff like the full moon back home or anywhere else, but in Africa, you can’t help but notice.  The full moon is so bright that it illuminates the streets like street lights.  My first full moon was summiting Kilimanjaro, my second was at the Victoria fall watching lunar rainbow, and my third one just happened to be in boring ass PMB.  I guess good things don’t come in threes.
PMB was only a good spot for me because it is the closest place to Drakensberg and they have car rentals.  So rent a car I did, a little hatchback Hyundai.  I drove to the bottom of Royal Natal National Park where the Amphitheater, Tugela Falls, and the Sentinel are located, only to find it was raining.  All the camp grounds and hostels are “fully booked” just like when I email inquired, and I wasn’t ready to ghetto camp in my car on the street.  Normally, I’m pretty numb to danger, but I wasn’t brave or stupid enough to do that.
So with disappointment, I drove to Durban and decided to just chill for the next two days instead.  Durban isn’t my kind of city.  First, it’s big, I’m not a big city kind of person.  Second, it’s hot, you do less when its hot compared to in the cold weather.  Third, the beach and ocean is dirtier than the tar rigged Californian beaches.  Driving into Durban was hard too.  Drunk mini van drivers are the primary source of public transportation and they have a habit of running red lights.  They turn on their emergency lights before they do it, so you are supposed to know it’s happening.

To say going to Durban is like going back to the real Africa is still a stretch.  Parts of Durban reminded me of the real Africa in Tanzania, Moz, and Zambia, but the World Cup really did a number to this city.  First of all, all along the beach, Durban looks like a giant amusement park.  You can literally find everything on this gigantic stretch of beach.  It actually reminded me of Salvador Bahia.  There is a bunch of restaurants, bars, a zoo, a giant beach walk, pools, parks, and even lifts to get you from point A to point B.  There is a huge casino and there is a giant soccer stadium where you can bungee jump off it’s roof.  People bike and skate on the beach walk while a bunch of “artists” make giant sand statues with the tarred sand.  If you are naive enough to take a picture of their artwork they will start begging you to pay for it.  On the beach is the familiar sight of groups of people jumping around in the safe to swim zone of the beach getting bashed by the waves.

I didn’t do much in Durban.  I walked around in the city, and I walked around on the street.  Ate, drank and slept.  I even went to this buffet in a huge water park because I somehow thought that a good idea.  It wasn’t a good idea, and being in a food coma thwarted my attempt to go out.  Far away from the beach where I was staying is the popular street Florida St, where all the bars and clubs are supposed to be located.  I own myself to at least see that part of the town, but I ate too much I couldn’t move.

The world’s largest mobile library, located in a ship called Logo Hope was docked in Durban.  I made an attempt to visit that also, but it was docked in a port where people are restricted from entering.  One can hop on a transfer vehicle and go see the library, but I just didn’t want to wait for the bus, so I left.  On my walk arounds, I definitely felt I’m back in Africa, compared to Cape Town and Jo’burg.  The good old “chinos” are back and so are the Jackie Chan wanna be’s.  A construction worker performed a whole martial art routine in front of me while chanting Jackie Chan, and proceeded to laugh at his own ingenious.  A kid did the same, and waited questioningly for my approval afterward.  I gave the kid a thumb down and felt like a dick afterward.

To be real, Durban is cool, but I kind of let my disappointment over not going to Drakensberg affect me.  However, I don’t think I had a terrible last couple of days.  I didn’t do much, sure, but that’s the beauty of Africa, no one does much.  Compared to a rushed trip to the mountain, just chilling by the beach might be actually a good way to spend my last few days.

On the bus back to Jo’burg, I came down with some stomach problem.  It seemed to me that I always come down with stomach problems on the buses.  I have no idea why or what I ate because I eat pretty much everything and anything except avocado, at all times.  I highly suspect it was the mosquitoes doing the damage, transmitting some type of sickness through their bites.  I ran out of mosquito repellent and luckily I didn’t need it since I arrived in South Africa.  However, in Durban, mosquitoes ran rampant and I just stupidly slept through all the bitings.  I used to view mosquitoes with such fear because I’m quite allergic to mosquito poisons and I wouldn’t go to sleep if there is a mosquito in my room that I haven’t managed to kill.  However, I’m no longer allergic as I aged and my fear of mosquitoes vanished as I spend more time in Africa.  This is probably the greatest gift Africa has gave to me.  What caused the upset stomach is of no importance, but I was quite lucky that it didn’t exacerbate while I was still on the bus.

I arrived in Jo’burg and booked a hotel near the airport because I wanted maximum rest to get through the sickness so I wouldn’t have to go to the airplane bathroom every other hour.  All the rest and comfort worked and the next day I was ready to indulge myself with the free booze on the airplane.

While I was waiting for the flight, on the flight, and now two weeks after I got back home, I had been thinking.  I had been thinking about the things I wrote about in my first post.  How I said I didn’t want to leave Africa without good memories.  How I said I wanted to feel like all the others felt when they visited Africa.  Before I left I watched a ton of videos made by people who visited Africa, Tanzania especially.  They recorded the animals.  The kids playing around with all the innocence of the world.  The rolling green fields.  Even the Massai tribes.  I know now they didn’t include the decaying buildings ran rampant in large cities.  The kids begging for money so their father could get high.  The damn “are you looking for a safari”s.  The forty taxi drivers cornering you like it’s a zombie apocalypse.  Even the Massais are posting pictures so they can get some tourist money.  I remember the one time when a kid demanded that I buy a soccer ball for him like all tourists owe them something.  I remember the kid followed me five or six blocks begging for money to “eat” and eventually admit that his dad sent him out to get money for drugs.  I remember how Africans love soccer, but they only know five teams because they only get to watch Liverpool, Man U, Man City, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

I also remember the piles of burnt trash along a hillside.  The errant dumping of trash outside of vehicles, on the street, anywhere someone pleases.  The worst is the probably how so many needed education.  They use hand soaps to wash dishes because these hand soaps are brought in to sell for money, but no one ever bother to teach the old Africans how to use them.  Zambia has ultra fast WiFi’s, but planned black outs happen every week and shower is accomplished with pots and pans.  Corruptions is very normal in Africa, because outside keeps giving money to African countries for selfish feel good.  I used to be pretty against volunteering in Africa because at the end of the day, short time volunteers don’t achieve much except making themselves feel good.  I don’t feel the same way any more, because it is the same with traveling, they are achieving personal growth and gaining valuable life experiences.

I actually met people who are involved with quality organizations and these people, although only coming to Africa couple months at a time, have been working for the same organization for years.  Two organizations are actually very interesting and deserve a shout out.  Better World Architecture in Tofo, Moçambique, uses local volunteer to teach, and help the community with trash conservation effort.  People work together to turn trash into architecture, art projects or useful household items instead of just littering them on the road, and on the beach errantly.  This organization doesn’t have any funding, so all the work is done by getting locals to believe the importance of keeping their beautiful town clean, and that’s is the way to go.  Africans have to learn to help and better themselves.

The second organization is Skate-Aid.  They started in Kigali, Rwanda, and has been building skate parks and getting kids to live a positive lifestyle all over Africa.  It is just kind of cool that they choose skateboarding to be the subject of positivity.  Spreading a bit of stoke one poor city at a time.  I seen the look of these kids when they first learn to skate, the genuine smile is not the same as the smile of curiosity when they see a mzungu, but the smile of accomplishment and conquering fear.

I also found it interesting that despite all the racial tensions Africa has experienced, especially South Africa, Africans don’t spend much time getting mad over race.  There aren’t any social justice warriors.  They don’t get mad for no reason and goes all “what do you mean you people?”  At a comedy club, someone made a joke that they wish they were taken to America as slaves back in the days so they wouldn’t be living in Africa now.  Now I don’t agree with that, but that level of comfortability of not being overly sensitive about race is what I feel is predominant among Africans that I have met.  I feel this is a good thing, because I believe being too caught on the distinction of race pulls people further apart.

It seems that I’m always talking shit on Africa, but truth is, I would go back to Africa in a heart beat.  Africa is a fascinating place, much more fascinating than latin America in a sense that I can’t put into words.  Despite all the short sights and miseducation, Africa is a world that I much craved.  A world before eating fried chicken on the couches in front of the TVs, before staring at phones like zombies, and before burying heads at work into to make more money than living life.  I can’t wait to go back one day.  There are so many other places to see and experience.  Each country is different and somehow the same.  Each place has it’s good and bad, the genuine locals and the tourist hunters.  I wrote I wanted to remember the good things by the time I leave, but I know now that all the bad experiences also are part of my life experience.  These are something I wouldn’t want to forget, and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Em

Rowling probably wouldn’t cry about it, but I stole her title.  At least my post is probably more interesting than her movie.  And her book.  Well, this post is supposed to make up for the three months of lack of images as well as the time spent at Kruger.  There will be a lot pictures of animals, so enjoy.

IMG_20160123_120103This one right here is the white necked raven of Kilimanjaro.  My guides called them white beaked raven, but a quick google search showed that it is incorrect despite the fact that they do have white beaks.  These birds are very common on the mountain from the park entrance all the way to as high as 4700 meters.  These birds don’t care much about apples or crackers, but they sure do enjoy some fried chicken.  In fact, they are quite stealthy and would steal your fried chicken when you are not looking.  Then at a safe distance they can open the aluminum wrap the chicken is in and proceed to eat the chicken.  These birds are quite big and sometimes you mistake them as eagles and when they land, you realize they are just the same bunch of thieves.

IMG_0118The next one up is the McDonalds of Africa, the Impalas.  Sure the car with the same name back in the 70-80s is a classic, but these bucks are so common, safari vehicles don’t even stop for them.  However, Impalas are extremely lean creatures and their meat are delicious.  I’m not a big supporter of eating venison, but damn I tried it and it was so damn good.  The lions eat them, the human eat them, leopards eat them, and whatever that has teeth and can catch them eat them.  However, impalas can run, and they can jump, not to mention they breed so fast it would be problem if no one is eating them.  The males have nice antelopes, and the females don’t.  Despite all the hate on them, I like impalas.

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That’s impalas fleeing the scene.  They literally almost leaped over the entire stream in one bound and seeing a group of them doing the same thing was quite fascinating.  This is found in Kruger of course because I only had money to afford one safari even thou I was in four countries.  There is a buffalo also fleeing because the animals sensed a threat that we can’t see.  The impalas and the monkeys they have really good eyes and they can see further than human can and they make noises to alert their allies to be careful.  It was pretty cool to see a whole river bank of animals grazing just disappeared when the alerts went off.

Up next is the bigger impala, I mean Kudu.  They are much bigger, and have much more magnificent antelopes.  They are the Michael Jordans of the buck race, because they can jump over cars easily.  The females don’t have antelopes, so they look like a giant camel donkey, maybe they are camel donkeys, who knows.  The Kudu meat is more popular than the impala meat, I don’t know why.  The South Africans make these jerky called Biltong.  If you read the Revenant book after Leo won his Oscar, then you know jerky is made by smoking it above small fire, but biltong is air dried, so they have more texture.  The Kudu biltong is one of the most popular game biltong there is.  Kudu and impala are good friends.

IMG_0223~2Next up in the soon to be eaten alliance is the Nyala, the second biggest antelope behind the Eland.  Yes, it looks kind of just like the Kudu, but it is not.  The fur is slightly different colored, and it is a beautiful creature I say.

IMG_20160308_081113~2Next up in the alliance is the Zebra.  They are friends with the antelopes, but they are much more the tourist attraction I should say.  This is a picture I took for a Zebra webbing, I’m just kidding.  Everyone knows about Zebra, they all walk across those Zebra crossings, so I only need to point out this picture shows that zebra striped leggings could be best sellers.

IMG_0285~2The beasts are getting bigger, as the next up is the giraffe.  You can tell the gender of the giraffe by the shape of it’s horn.  The giraffe also can dissolve the poison from the acacia tree in Kruger so they alone can eat the leaves of these trees.  The tamed giraffes let you take selfies with them, kiss them, and go all touchy touchy and feeling happy.  However, these wild ones will kick you if you get close, especially behind, and you’ll probably break some bones.  Giraffes walk one limb at a time when walking and chilling, but they run with their legs in pairs.  They seem to always be eating, not a bad life at all.

IMG_0051The wildebeest.  Another lineup for great meat.  They are the reason people go to the Massai Mara and Serengeti in the fall, because millions of them migrate from one place to another and it’s a great sight to see.  However, in Kruger, there doesn’t seem to be many, but it’s good to see some wildebeests.

IMG_0211~2Fatty magoo of the bush is dying in the Kruger park because the rain season came late.  Actually it didn’t come at all, much to a tourist’s delight, but not to these animals.  The hippos need the waterholes to survive, and they need low grass to eat.  Hippos don’t really have much eating proficiency, they put their giant mounts to the ground and try to scrap as much grass as possible.  The problem with this is that the high grass out in the picture don’t really get in their mount and hippos don’t chew, so getting food isn’t easy when it doesn’t rain.  On my last day in Kruger, it actually rained maniacally.  So much water came down, a road was flooded and water was everywhere.  Everyone who ever cared about these animals were ecstatic, but the rain only lasted a day, and little good it did soon dried up.  So, good luck to these hippos.

IMG_0130~2This is one of my favorite pictures that I took.  Two rhinos and their kid just chilling by a water hole.  A warhog approached, none of them cared and they just shared a bath.  Then a hyena appeared and wanted to join the fun.  Well, that got everyone alerted.  The rhinos got up, the wet skin makes these white rhinos look like black rhino, but the real difference is that black rhinos are leaf eaters while white rhinos are grass eaters.  While the rhinos got up and carefully eyed the hyena, the hyena went in for a nice water bath.  Then the rhinos ran away in unison.  Noticing the big ones are gone, the war hog ran away too, leaving just the singular hyena to the small water hole by himself.

IMG_0087 Straight from the Pride Land is Pumbaa, or the war hog.  Apparently it wears masqueras around the yes and likes to pray.  Actually, I don’t know much about the eye make ups, but the reason it kneels down is that’s how it eats.  The war hog is a ground sweeping animal, just pick up whatever from the ground.  One day there were three war hogs chilling by the pool at the camp ground.  Two kids one mom.  Yes, the Skukuza camp in Kruger has a pool and their tents have fans and electricity plugs.  Pretty damn nice “camp”, and their water pressure in the shower is quite fantastic also.  They also have free wifi and everything was quite unexpectedly nice over there.

IMG_0164~2Since we are on a Lion King theme, I also have Zazu.  The hornbill.  I don’t know much about it except Zazu, so that’s it.

Next up are the birds that I took pictures of, but I just don’t know the name.  Well, I know the one on the left is a vulture.  That I know, I saw them many times, but that’s the only time I didn’t get a shitty picture.  The bottom right I have no clue.  The red headed bird on the top right is supposed to be extremely rare.  They showed up on the day that rained.  The young birds are a brown collar instead of red.

The rain also brought out these fantastic things.  The wild dogs.  The hunters.  They are the best looking dogs I have ever seen, even better than the Huskies I love so much.  They also don’t give a fuck, because the alpha and his woman just got all romantic in the middle of the road surrounded by a bunch of safari vehicles.

IMG_0219The rain also brought out all kinds of stuff.  Especially the turtles.  Watching turtles crawl their way to a stream and off they went was quite fun.  This is a leopard turtle, named after the leopard patterns on their shells.  They are quite small, and love to cross the road.

IMG_0183~2IMG_0248And talking about leopards, here is multiply pictures of leopards at different places.  They are quite magnificent animals, and I got to see them three times within 4 hours.  To be honest, I’m not a big fan of sitting in a jeep searching for animals.  I fell asleep or just went on my phone multiple times.  I look up when others find something and take some pictures.  I only went on a safari because I feel like I’m in Africa for three months, I probably have to do just one.  The free wine every night really got me there to be honest.  I still not sure I enjoyed it.  However, now I’m writing about it, seeing the happenings of the bush was pretty cool.
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As we are on the topics of cats. Here is another rare, but smaller cat. The serval. We found him just chilling and the creature is as beautiful as an ocelot. Sometimes it’s not all about the big animals, but those beautiful ones you rarely get to see.
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Another fantastic cat is the bush baby. This one’s name is Marco and he lives near the or even in the Skukuza camp. He makes frequently trips to get left over food from the camp and the photo shows him trying to sneak down on some salads from a pole.

IMG_0240~2Well, I didn’t get to see any lions, and I don’t really care.  I saw plenty of lions when I went to the zoo.  However, the zoo normally don’t have the number one man killer in Africa.  The buffalo.  Their thick horn shell can block a bullet.  They are also very temperamental, so much so that if they feel threatened, they will charge at you with full force.  That is why they are the number one man killer, so piss them off.  They are not the same buffalo the native americans used to eat, but they are just as important in Africa.

If elephants are horny all the time, they will be the number one man killer, but thankfully they aren’t.  When elephant goes into mating season, they can’t control their hormones and they like to go on rampages.  That’s why you see these videos of cars getting rammed by elephants and them just run out of no where and then proceed to run over you.  An elephant almost walked into our vehicle, but luckily it wasn’t horny so we just backed away into safety.  It is not wise to piss them off.

IMG_0230~2This is also one of my favorites.  I love monkeys, form howler monkeys and spider monkeys in Mexico to these velvet monkeys in Africa.  This picture tells a story.  First we heard monkeys cry, and we arrived at this location.  We searched toward the gaze of these monkeys as they kept crying.  From up the hill we can spot the head movement of a leopard eating.  Well, it doesn’t take a detective to figure out that the leopard got it’s paws on a family member of these velvet monkeys.  The kid monkey is tucked under the mom while a tree full of monkeys just wailed for their falling comrade.

IMG_20160218_122423When monkey is mentioned, we can’t forget the menace of Africa.  The baboons.  Who like to steal your stuff.  Who would attack you haul you if you provoke them.  Many street signs read beware of baboons.  They are also everywhere, and in every country.  On the street and in the jungles.  This baboon is in the Mosi a Tonya Park in Zambia, right by the Victoria Falls.

IMG_0347Another baboon picture is the rare baby baboon who was just born.  On the road outside of Kruger gate.

IMG_20160129_111502My favorite monkey of Africa is these Colobus monkeys.  Found in Tanzania near the Marangu area.  They have long white furs on their back and tails that made them look intelligent.

IMG_20160308_072439Before I moved on to my last fantastic beast, I would like to introduce a rare one.  The American.  Craig, from New York.  While everyone else is on the look out for animals on a safari, it is us Americans who need to be on our phones.  Got to get our priorities right.  Yes, phone services work in Kruger.

My last fantastic beast is the African Penguins.  And man they are fantastic.  They are found at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, an hour away from Cape Town.  They are awesome and there are many.  However, some of them are quite aggressive and their beaks do draw blood.  I can’t wait to go to Antarctica one day and just hop around with Emperors and Adelies, but now, these awesome birds in Africa, Galapagos, and soon Argentina, will do.

Over The Mountain Where It’s not So Africa

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It is the time when you are leaving that you truly realize how much you treasured a place.  As I sat on my ridiculously long bus ride to the KwaZulu Natal also known as KZN, emotions dawned on me while I watched the sunset painted the sky crimson over the backdrop of the Table Mountain over the window pane.  I realized I might have made a mistake.  I should have stayed until I had to leave. 
So many people told me their favorite African city and even favorite city in the world is Cape Town.  I didn’t think much of these statements.  It must be because it’s more European than the rest and therefore it felt more like home for them.  Well, it felt more like home for me.  Cape Town is a combination of West Hollywood and Santa Monica, except with better public transportation and a cheaper price tag. 
I feel guilty my favorite city in Africa isn’t so African at all, but I guess you can’t choose where you fall in love with.  I still remember the first time I took a glance of a picture taken atop of Table Mountain with Lion’s head in the background.  I said, “Oh, Rio de Janeiro, I have been there.”. Well, it was Cape Town.  I was wrong, but geographically it was very similar to one my favorite cities, Rio.  Lion’s head looked like Pão de Açucar, and the table mountain looked like Corcovado where the photos are taken from.  There is the beach and there is the bustling city.  I guess that is the formula to be everyone’s favorite city. 
The moment I got out of the train station into Cape Town, I saw the table mountain and I couldn’t believe it is so close to everything.  That’s the first moment that I knew everything is going to be fun.  My first impression of the city was that buildings and roads are well maintained, and even the water fountain in the middle of the traffic circle was in working order.  Two homeless did beg me for money, but the homeless problem plagues every city in the world. 
I couldn’t have guessed the amount of Caucasian population by the first 30 minutes of entering Cape Town, but I came to full realization more than a week later when I visited this Saturday market in Woodstock, the supposedly more ghetto neighborhood.  When I walked through Adderley for the first time toward where I intended to stay, Cape Town was just a more beautiful version of Jo’burg. 
Whenever I land in a new city, I kind of needed a drink, because land travel is exhausting, not to mention I arrived on a Friday evening.  I started on Long Street, the party street of Cape Town central.  Shitty music is blasted through out the streets.  Restaurants, bars and clubs are one after another.  I didn’t walked more than three blocks while trying to make a choice of which place to go first that three dudes asked me if I want to buy some weed, and the fourth person escalated to asking me to buy crystal meth.  Pretty crazy street indeed.  I ended up getting a beer at Beerhouse which is kind of well known for having 99 taps, but the place was full of people shoulder to shoulders that I left after just one beer. 
I’m pretty claustrophobic and Long Street was indeed not the place for me.  It happened that some of the friends I made in Kruger is in Cape Town also so I inched toward where they are staying.  That led to my discovery of Bree St.  Not much of discovery actually since it is parallel to Long and Loop.  Bars and restaurants lined up along the street but just two blocks away from Long, it lacked the ghetto vibe Long has.  From Spanish tapas, Peruvian food, to German sausages, different cultural restaurants along with bars with weird names like Orphanage crawled the street. 
In South Africa, you can’t just buy hard alcohol and beer anywhere.  There are liquor stores and they close by 6PM.  So unless you stock up, you can’t get your last minute party supplies.  So licensed bars and restaurants are essential. 
I grabbed one beer with my friends but they didn’t want to go out that night because of the “girls aren’t safe at night in Cape Town”, which I find not true at all.  Afterward I moved around a bit on Bree and that’s the first hint of LA that I experienced.  The crowded atmosphere, along with the specialty and individuality of each place all reminded me of LA. 
You can’t come to Cape Town and not hike up the world famous Table Mountain.  You just can’t and the first thing I did once daylight broke was just that.  I hadn’t hiked for a while.  More specifically, since the Usambara mountains.  Well I didn’t get a damn bus card there that first day so we had to walk to trail head.  It was a good warm up walk, but I made sure I got my bus card after that, because it was just so much more convenient. 
There is a cable car going up the table mountain, but let’s be honest, if you aren’t old and crippled, you hike up the mountain.  From behind the cable car, there are two trails.  One is listed as “hard and dangerous” and the other “the easier route”.  I did both in the ten days I was there, the hard and dangerous get you up the mountain faster. 
That day I was outvoted by my friends to do the easier route which takes forever in the blazing sun.  It was full of switch backs and giant rock steps that reminded me of the two Machu Picchu hikes that still make my knee cramp when I think about it.  The trail actually starts two kilometers East of the cable car and from the trail head behind the cable car, one has to go down from the contour path that leads to Devil’s peak trail to reach the Plek Gorge trail. 
After two hours of going up rock steps, we got to the top.  View is gorgeous and there is a cafe on top selling alcohol.  Nothing like a beer or two after sweating all over the place on the mountain.  Drinking some refreshing beer and looking down to the endless ocean while a dassie is chewing some grass next to you is quite an experience.  The city, the pier, the beach, and the sea, all made a great panorama over the plateau of Table Mountain. 
Table mountain is a mountain range, not just a mountain.  It is pretty big and while Devil’s peak is its highest point, there are many peaks and area one can hike to.  Go from the botanical garden, go from Camps Bay, whatever.  In my ten days in Camp Town, I went up three times.  The scenic route from the Botanical Garden, the “hard route” from the table car and the switch backs of Plek Gorge.  The other two times were mostly to sweat out my hangover, but it was good exercise for my ever increasing body weight. 
The girls took the cable car down, I went down by foot on a bet to beat them to the bottom.  I lost by 15 minutes. 
That night was the Cape Town Carnavel.  I thought it will be crazy like the one in Brasil.  It wasn’t.  Alot people went to see the parade which lasted two hours but the after party was extremely lacking in participation.  The live music didn’t draw much people in except the resident homeless who were having a dance battle.  It was a good experience to get to experience the carnaval but I expected crazy and it didn’t deliver. 
Well, there are three must do’s in the Cape Town area:  Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, and the Boulders Beach Penguin colony.  Some people climb the seven summits, some people travel to all the continents, but I want to see and swim with all the Penguins.  Having already seen the Galapagos Penguins, African Penguins is up next. 
To go to boulders, we had to take the metro train to Simon’s Town, a really quint and scenic marine town.  The metro is no different than the Jo’burg ones.  Graffiti plastered the train cars, old seats, and very slow.  The only difference is that the doors work, and you don’t have jump and roll when you reach your destination. 
The train first pass through the suburbs where people actually live, like Wynburg, Newland and Saltwater.  Then the train goes onto the coast of False Bay.  Muizenberg, Fishhoek, and other beautiful beach towns.  Waves crash onto shore and giant rock formations outside the slightly graffitied train window make the arrival in Simon’s Town more exciting. 
Simon’s town beautiful.  Buildings stole straight from the movie sets of Western films, clean air, and a really laid back vibe make the town really approachable. 
After some fish and chips, we walked to Boulders Beach.  The place has two paid entrances, one is for viewing the other is for swimming.  At the swimming beach one can easily jump around rocks and sneak in for free, but the girls got caught so we paid our 60R.  One payment allow you to go to both beaches so technically just pretending to have paid would have got you through both for free. 
These Penguins are way prettier than the Galapagos Penguins who are smaller and has less features.  They don’t smell like I read online, and some of them are quite aggressive.  I got bitten by the king penguin and it was quite a low light of my traveling career. 
The Antarctica water made the water near and around Cape Town extremely cold, but that doesn’t stop me from making swimming with penguin part two a reality.  I got my snorkel gear and everything, but the water wasn’t really clear so I never got anything worthwhile on film.  The water was extremely cold but once I started swimming, it wasn’t bad.  I learned later that the water in Clifton, and Muizenberg are way colder by comparison. 
Later on the Penguins started this call, and it was the mating call because soon they all started humping each other.  We just chilled on the beach watch these tuxedoed motherfuckers do their pendulum walk all around the beach.  After my cloth dried in the sun, we went to the viewing platform.  A beach full of Penguins jump chilling there.  On the rocks, on the beaches, old and young. 
The metro doesn’t always travel to Simon’s Town.  Most of the time, they stop at Fishhoek, but they have a free bus service that takes you to Fishhoek.  Then from Fishhoek, it is a very jam packed train back to Cape Town.  How jam packed?  More than the chapas in Moçambique.  Sometimes I don’t understand how people can just keep going into the same train car when there is absolutely no space left.  I respect how a society wants to keep their culture alive, but when this particular culture is to stuff as many people into a space that isn’t designed to fit this many at the cost of yourself and others, I just couldn’t see how this is something worth keeping around.  By the way, the reason the train didn’t make it to Simon’s Town was because someone fell off the train and onto the track.  Looking at the five people hanging outside the door of the moving train, I wondered how that happened.
I have to put hiking up the Lion’s Head on the Cape Town must do list.  The hike is short, but fun, with ladders, chains and staples.  What’s more astonishing is the view.  The beach view, the Cape view, and even the table mountain view.  You get to see everything this beautiful city has to offer.  What’s even more astonishing is to hike up this place in the evening for the sunset and the skylight at night.  Yes, I went up twice, once in the morning and once at night, and you should too.
After Lion’s Head, I took some beach break at Camps Bay and Clifton Beach.  Clifton Beach is arguably the best beach in the city area.  It is between sea point and camps bay even thou camps bay is the more touristy place.  The white sand is amazing, and being below a giant cliff, Clifton Beach is protected from wind inland.  Camps bay is the more active beach even thou it is often plagued by the strong wind coming from inland and sea.  When the sand blown by the wind hits you, it really hurts sometimes. 
While the view with the giant boulders sticking out of the sand and the shore as waves crash down and making its splash is something from the postcards, the water flown from the Antarctica is so chilly that only the brave can stay in for more than a second long dip. 
Slightly going toward the city you’ll find sea point.  The more specific place is the sea point pavilion.  Three giant 50 meter pools and a deep diving pool, only 20R to enter.  On a hot day, it is definitely the place to go and I couldn’t recommend it more. 
After sea point is the soccer stadium and then waterfront.  Waterfront is probably the most visited place in Cape Town.  Malls, piers, fish and chips, all remind me of San Francisco.  There are food markets, comedy club, and an aquarium just to name a few.  A great place to just take a day off to explore. 
My favorite lunch spot is Food Lover’s Market.  It is a chain store, and it is quite similar to the Kilograma buffets in Brasil, except they have everything from sushi to grilled meat.  The options are quite healthy too, perfect for packing in food for a day trip.  My favorite cheap place is Food Inn India where you can get the most food for the cheapest.  The Gatsby is a giant Sandwich filled with meat and fries.  I personally can’t finish a whole Gatsby and I have tried.  My favorite place overall is Sunday evening at the tapa bar, La Parada, “The Stop”.  They have this Paraguay dude and his Argentinian drummer who performs on demand Spanish live music every Sunday evening.  The drinks are good there, and the food is kind of expensive, but watching the Paraguay guy Ernesto getting more drunk as the night goes on from free tequila and even played Tuyo the theme song from Narcos was quite a highlight.  My favorite place to drink is on top of Lion’s Head.  We packed two backpacks full of beers from the liquor store and hiked up Lion’s Head to watch the sunset.  I mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again, Africa is special. While the sun is hanging over the Western sky, so is the moon, but in the other side. The sunset hid behind the clouds, but giving our extra beers to everyone out there who cared to have a cold one and enjoying the evening was fun and special.  All the karma didn’t go unnoticed, we got a free ride back after.
There was one night where everyone played beer pong, flip cup and I even taught everyone guacho ball before we went out.  The next morning I had the worst hangover since I arrived in Africa because the world famous tap water in South Africa really doesn’t do much to rehydrate you. 
In the ten days, I befriended a lot of good and interesting people.  We drank, explored, and played a shit ton of drinking games.  The new Zealand King’s rule in King’s Cup that I learned in Ecuador became a huge favorite, as well as Ride the Bus. 
The hangover got to me pretty bad, and I still blame the tap water.  Instead of doing touristy things, I climbed Table Mountain a couple times to sweat out the alcohol.  I found a basketball court in camps bay and shot around.  I got kicked out UCT and Cape Town High because I wasn’t allowed to play basketball there. 
My Stellenbosch wine tasting attempt looked quite futile, but I made an attempt to bike to Cape of good Hope, the last thing one must do in Cape Town.  I skipped drinking one night and left the next morning full of energy.  Little did I know the owner for bike rental in Simon’s Town wasn’t around and I walked and tried to hitch hike my way to Cape Point.  I actually got to the entrance after 4 hours of walking, but no one wanted to pick me up. People are really reserved about picking up hitchers in South Africa, but 4 minutes after I decided to go back someone gave me a ride back to fishhoek.  I was just glad I didn’t have to walk, so I chilled around Muizenberg and caught the wave a few times before I went back. 
I also went to botanical garden, which is huge.  We never explored the whole place, because we spent most of the time taking naps on the nice grass lawns.  They also have concerts every sunday night, which I just remembered that I totally forgot.  The place is beautiful, but I witnessed this English family committed the worst atrocity of wasting food ever.  Plates of lamb chops only half eaten are sent back while I was sitting there, extremely hungover, I wished those were sent back my way. 
I already mentioned earlier that I was told by a friend that I should go to this market that is held in Woodstock every Saturday.  Woodstock is right after District Six, which is filled full of apartheid history.  It is supposed to be a not so safe neighborhood and but the market is phenomenal.  District Six still stood barren, just bunch of empty grasses that people say robbers are hidden behind to jump you.  Years ago, during the colorful days of apartheid, groups of ethnically diverse people living harmoniously were divided and sent to different places to live as the then government tried to divide people by race.  Now district six looks like shit, and people who were moved, lived like shit during the apartheid period.  Quite a history, so I was intrigued what I was going to see in Woodstock. 
Well, Woodstock didn’t particularly looked dangerous or shitty.  Just alot of poorly dressed locals walking up and down the street.  No one was bothering anybody, looked just like any other town.  The market, on the other hand, was quite the surprise, and not in a good way for me.  I was intending to find some cheap jerseys and food, but what I encountered was the most racially diverse market I have ever seen in my life.  That I say sarcastically.  That was a Caucasian gathering, so much so that I don’t even think there were as many white people in a klan’s meeting.  Anyways, the food there, although expensive, are quite good, I can see why people flunked to the market. Let’s go back to the culture preservation thing. Is preservation of one’s culture still important when the one taking over is so much better? I have been in Africa all these time, I still don’t know.
I admit I really don’t know much about how people lived after the apartheid was over because I have only briefly read about it in the books.  It seems that blacks were painted with the image of dangerous because whites were afraid of retributions after blacks took over government.  Locals, of all races, paint their own country as a dangerous place and they still do.  Visitors are scared to go out at night sometimes because of the tales they heard from time to time.  The worst is when a black person approach me, the first thing he says is don’t be afraid.  I mean why do they look at themselves and think others will be afraid.  It takes years of others acting afraid around them for them to think everyone is afraid of them.  I can’t imagine having to tell someone to not be afraid of me every time I start a conversation with a stranger. I can’t imagine how much self esteemed I would have lost every time someone appeared scared when I approached. Fear keeps one alert, but blind fear is detrimental. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
I spent my last day playing basketball with friends and some neighborhood kids in Camps Bay. To be honest I haven’t played a single game since Mexico and it was water for my thirst. Many people asked me and themselves if Cape Town is a place they could live and work in. For many, it was an easy yes, but for me, I don’t know. Can I live in a place where I can’t play basketball daily like I have enjoyed doing my whole life? Still, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my last day.
Despite the lack of basketball, and the predominantly ear splitting trance music played everywhere, I love this city, so I didn’t mind I never made it to the southern most point of Africa.  I didn’t mind I left the wines in the winelands undrunk.  I didn’t mind I couldn’t stay longer.  I will be back one day, and I wanted to see an even better city.  As I sat on the bus looking at the sun dip below the horizon and table mountain became a huge shadow, I felt certain.

Tale of Two Cities

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Well fed and feeling pretty happy, I arrived at Johannesburg once again.  Except, everything went smoothly.  The customs was extremely fast, and within 10 minutes of getting off the plane, I was in the Gautrain.  Named after the province, Gauteng(pronounced Hauteng), the train is really modern, nice and fast.  However it’s quite expensive for African standards, but it sure is cheaper than taxi.  Actually, due to growing problem with vehicle hijacking, people rely on the service of Uber now in Jo’burg.  It is quite a pain in the ass for me because I don’t like using Uber and my app doesn’t really work for some reason.
Well, it is not a problem for me, I know the metro system well.  I got off at the Park Station, and went on to take the metro train to Maboneng, which is geographically named Jeppe.
The metro provides a stark contrast to the Gautrain.  The Park Station and surrounding area, including Jeppe, is considered inner city.  So it is considered the ghetto of Jo’burg or with a fake brandish of finger pistol, Jozi.  The metro train ticket office is lined with people, begging for money so they can take the train home.  All of the passengers are black African.
The waiting area is messy and unorganized.  I had to ask around a bit before I found my platform.
The train is just a thin metal rectangle that fits people.  The doors don’t close.  Sometimes the train only slows down at stations, so you have to jump off a moving train like in the Divergent movies.  As the train moved along the tracks, I saw police trying to get rid of some homeless squadding on the rails outside.
The train is also slow, but Jeppe is close.  I got where I wanted in no time.  United States is well known for its gentrification projects.  When a shitty neighborhood gets gentrified, first thing they do is chnage it’s name.  Jeppe is a connotation to some of the shittiest squatter areas, so now it’s known as Maboneng.
When Nelson Mandela became the president, white folks fled Jo’burg fearing repercussion for the many years of apartheid from the black folks.  Many buildings became deserted, and therefore, people with low economic profile, just came and squatted in.  Many people tried to stay, but with the increase in crime, they were forced to leave.  Jeppe was one of these areas.  It was bad, until some rich land owner decided to make this a gentrifying project.  He hired security guards, he hired artists to paint buildings and murals and graffiti.  Soon, all the tired old buildings sport fancy restaurants, bars cafes, and apartments.
Technically he didn’t kick anyone out of their property, because no one really owned any property in the inner city, but I doubt he created any local jobs either.  The people who work and hang around in Maboneng are very different than people who live three blocks away.  One minute there is a bunch of well dressed hipsters, next, after the divide line, poor people selling corn on the street.
To be honest, the restaurants do have really good food, but the price is Western and I crave huge servings that they aren’t providing.  From Tanzania to South Africa is like living through the inverse of Heart of Darkness where things go from crazy to orderly.  However, I was eating chicken whole for two dollars worth back then and now for eight, I’m getting a fancy looking leg and a wing.
Things are really easy in Maboneng.  Drink beer, all kinds of beer, there is alot of craft beer.  Watched Arsenal blow a good start and lose to Barcelona in the Champions league.  There is even a gym built on a side walk complete with four punching bags.
Apart from the inner city, there is Sandton, where mansions with security after mansions with security lined on the street.  Nice five star hotels and other nice buildings are also in this neighborhood.
Little bit below Sandton is Rosebank where I spent a day while waiting to get my Moçambique visa.  Rosebank looks alot like Sandton, except there is zoo, and a park, and a mall where I chilled in the air conditioned niceness while I waited for my visa to be ready.  The area is really nice, and a more white congregated neighborhood.  The food is alot cheaper than Maboneng too.
I took the train home after getting my visa, only to find the metro isn’t running from Park Station to Jeppe that day.  So I took my own inner city tour that day and walked back.  With my passport in my pocket, I was ready to protect it with my life, but of course, nothing happened. People say it’s dangerous and scary walking alone in inner city Jo’burg, but I thought it looked just like the rest of Africa.  The poor areas people don’t have too many choices for weapons, they’ll jump you with a fork if they see you alone, but not much else.  In the rich neighborhood with security systems, people organize hijacks with guns and plans, that’s scary.
I hadn’t seen much rekkis or minivans in South Africa yet, and they run in the inner city.  Everywhere.  The street is shit, the road is terrible.  The traffic lights don’t work.  In Rosebank, everything works and people follow traffic rules, and it was absolutely impossible to find a rekki.  It’s crazy how much disparity is in this city.
That night, I didn’t want to bullshit around for another night so I took a night bus to Maputo.  I love night buses because it’s my transit hotel room.  Lay there and sleep then you wake up and you are at your destination.  Buses in South Africa is really comfortable double deckers and I had a good sleep, until I got to the boulder.  The stamp out and then stamp in process took 10 minutes, then everyone waited an hour for the bus.  Then I went back to sleep.
Arriving at Maputo I can instantly feel the heat.  I don’t like heat at all, but I’m excited to speak Portuguese again.  Maputo is smaller than Jo’burg, and way nicer than Dar.  It’s not a bad city at all.  Walking along the street no one howled at me with stupid comments and buy this and buy that.  Everyone just go about living their lives.  The buildings are less beaten down but the plastic sign boards are back.  This time, it says Vodacom everywhere, not coca cola.  Vodacom is the biggest telephone service provider.  Kids wearing Vodacom gears sell minutes and data on every street corner.  The side walks here are miserable excuses.  Dirt roads parked full of cars.  You have wade through a maze of cars to get to the other side of the block.
I liked Maputo alot until I got hungry.  First, most banks use this ATM interface that requires 6 pins which I have less.  I couldn’t draw money except with Barclay.  Then, there aren’t many restaurants that I can find and I walked all over the city, from independent plaza to the waterfront.  I thought moçambicano food will carry the distinct brasilian and Portuguese flavors, so I had to try something authentic, but fast food.
However, except, expensive places, I didn’t find any cheaper options.  Even the restaurants in the market isn’t so cheap.  They have fish market where you buy fish, bring to the restaurant and they cook for you.
The food fell below expectation, as well as the beers here.  Dois M and Manica are sorry excuses for beers, as sorry as Brahma.  Got some shrimps and other sea food at the market restaurants, but the large quality I craved again eluded me.
The money I took out disappeared really fast just from finding good food, so I had to go very far to take out money again. I wouldn’t mind staying in Maputo and just speak Portuguese, but walking miles to take out money, to eat, then take money again in the blazing heat isn’t a good way to live.
I talked to some brasilian who is studying lusophono economics there and he mentioned the priority of feeling safe. He said to get an apartment, he had to pay alot, about 600 dollars a month. He said that was the cheapest and I laughed because if he really wanted cheap, he could have rented like a normal Moçambican, because I doubt everyone in Maputo can afford 600 dollars a month homes. Then he said it includes a maid that get paid 400 meticais a month for cleaning and cooking for him all the time. I didn’t feel like talking anymore, 400 meticais is about 8 dollars. 600 dollars to rent an apartment, but 8 to pay the maid that cooks and cleans everyday.
I liked Maputo, but I was ready on my way to Tofo.

The Fall over Zambezi

IMG_20160218_140929The water flows in a continuous motion, from the sea, to the Nile, to Lake Victoria, to many other bodies of water that fueled the vast animal kingdom that is Africa.  From where I’m standing, the same water drops some 130 plus meters over a plateau in a gorge that is the Zambezi River.  The same water will go to another land mark that represents the wonder of nature.
I was at the Victoria Falls four days ago, but tonight, at 9PM, the water looks more intense, more terrifying and more sublime in the moonlight.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is vast, stretching from Zambia to Zimbabwe.  In the dry season, the water flow looks like a veil, over the long stretch of Plateau.  However, in the wet season, now, water drops magnificently down the gorge, while mist raises up from bottom, making you soaking wet.  The droplets of water falling down on the observers rival that of the thunderstorm in Dar.  Within minutes, you are soaking wet, but the sun is so intense within minutes you are dry again once outside of the mist.
The famous explorer David Livingstone found, stayed and died of malaria in this place, and therefore the town is named after him.  Livingstone, the Victoria Falls town in the Zambia side.  The city is quite like Lusaka in terms of the level of westernization.  Many Shoprite and Spar markets, and despite being a famous tourist destination, the annoyance in the streets is quite negligible.
I stayed five days in Livingstone.  Known for its adventures, I thought there would be many things to do, like Baños in Ecuador.  However, Africa is not Ecuador, rafting costs 150, Bungee costs 160, many others cost even more.  I didn’t do everything I wanted to do, but I had quite a few good days with the little money I got, and became friends with some really good people.
The Angel’s Pool.  It’s more famous counter part, the Devil’s Pool, is the area right above the Victoria Falls by Livingstone island where people can swim during the dry season when the current isn’t as strong.  However, this is the wet season, swimming there probably require a barrel, so it can possibly break your fall when the current sweep you down the gorge.  Going through the upper Zambezi in any of those places are actually prohibited, but that doesn’t mean the “guides” won’t take you there.
Normally, you pay alot, then people take you to Devil’s Pool on a boat.  That is the legal way.  It’s boring and not adventurous.  The adventurous way is after a few hours of admiring the fall at the park, you go up the river and one of the people waving at you will take you walking, swimming, and crawling through rocks, currents and other obstacles to the Angel’s Pool for really cheap, depending on your negotiation skills.
Probably the sketchiest thing I have done since coming to Africa, I enjoyed every moment of it.  It’s the ultimate adventure in Vic Falls.  No harness, no straps, just you versus nature.  Your prize for winning is standing over the actual fall and being able to admire it’s beauty from so close.  Then you get to jump into Angel’s Pool.
The next day, some locals took us to a place down the gorge.  There is a river beach, an area where the current circulates, but never gets too strong to sweep you away.  Most of all the scenery is splendid.  The sand was hot no one could stand on top of it for more than 5 seconds.  The water was the perfect temperature because it was constantly flowing.
No one knows the way there except the two locals we know.  Even after we got there, still no one knew.  We traveled through dirt roads and thatched roof village huts.  Some good songs were played in the car and everyone sang.  I even had to zipzap down a bunch of switchbacks to get down to the secret spot in my flip-flops.
We stayed there long just chilling.  Afterwards, we drove back in the late afternoon singing.  It was a good day.  Especially it was free.  That evening we bought chicken and beef and sausage because we wanted to barbeque before everybody start leaving the next day.
The search for charcoal was quite a journey but we obtained everything from spices to spiced rum.
The barbeque was quite a success.  The food was superb and everyone had fun.  I knocked out early, while some went out.  One of the British got mugged at 3AM at night, when he lagged behind, which put a dent on a good day.
The next day no one did much, except we went to a high tea which the price had hiked to twice as much as what some of our friends told us.  The high tea is an all you can eat cake and tea.  It is quite British and it is in a 5 star hotel located in the Mosi ao Tunya national park.  So occasionally you can see giraffes and zebras.  I haven’t seen hotel that nice, well, since ever.  I also don’t know why people would stay in such places when they go to Africa.
Everyone’s last day came and so it was also one of the British’s birthday.  However, I had to go the doctor to take a piece of tree out.  The hospital was quite an experience.  First, the doctor wrote an essay on a paper just about my predicaments.  Then after an hour of writing, he took me to a room and started filling up a needle of anisthetixa.  I said it’s just an infected tree piece in my foot, I can handle the pain but he numbed me anyways.
It took 1 second for him to cut out the tree in my foot.  Didn’t clean the wound, didn’t even give a bandage.  I could have done it with a dirty fork for the same result.  At last he prescribed me some painkillers but he prescribed it to the place I’m staying instead of my name.
We drank for Ben’s birthday.  Then we were off getting wet watching the lunar rainbow at the fall.  There was no power for most of the day, so some of the gas stations were out of business.  Taxis ride on the E line.  We had to push our taxi in the end because he ran out of gas.  Getting splashed wet at the fall, I thought I had a pretty good few days despite not doing rafting, Bungee or any of the activities that cost alot.
In Africa, you miss the last place you have been.  I have said that many times, but this time, I’m going back to the first place I have been.  Hooping on the cheap plane ride back to Johannesburg, the airport was surprisingly awesome and they even serve food on the one and half hour plane ride.  The plane slowly descended and goodbye Zambia.

Zamtrification

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The pestering of “taxi!  Taxi!” and “you looking for a safari?” are nonexistent in Lusaka.  Getting off the minibus station was easy and effortless.  A few “Chinese! China! Japan!” are easily countered with a more sarcastically voiced and high pitched “Somalia!!”. I figured that Somalia is totally the place no African wants to go this side of the continent right now, subjecting them to the wrong nation will help them understand how it makes others feel.
There are lots of schools in Lusaka.  Not just schools, but large malls, shopping centers, and fast food restaurants sprawl all over the city.  The malls are state of the art Westfield like malls, along with air condition and all the western brand stores.  Each mall even has their own movie theater.  This place is very different than Tanzania.
However, the money that went to the building the malls should be used to improve the sidewalks.  Well, there is no sidewalks in Lusaka.  People just walk in the various kind of dirty path along the well paved road.  The traffic is pretty bad, and people can’t drive.  That is normal for Africa, but having no sidewalk means each local has a story of their own of seeing pedestrians getting hit by a minibus while walking on the street.  When it rains, sidewalks become lakes and rivers and walking become pretty difficult.
The malls, the streets and the shipping places make me think if gentrification.  Very popular concept in the slums of America.  Let’s build nice buildings the locals can’t afford to make the area look good is the slogan.  Fancy malls and restaurants attract well to do people to come and spend money but the money never goes to the people who struggle to live there.
I didn’t stay too long in Lusaka, so I can’t personally confirm my thinking, but people wise, they are much nicer and much more polite.
English is common on the streets, because the different tribes all speak different tongues and English unite the difference.
I have two goals in Lusaka:  relax and hopefully get my Moçambique visa.  One of them I failed.  The embassy asked me all the same documents everyone else asked and I don’t have flights there, and I don’t have hotel reservations, so I guess Pretoria will be my last try.  I tried to explain my situation and giving that everyone in Africa takes the bus, I don’t know why “this is Africa” isn’t a valid excuse for getting my visa.
Some Ethiopian who went to Harvard did tell me that American passport will get you through any borders.  A very stupid statement for someone who went to Harvard.  I take his advise with a grain of salt, because he did also say that he had an injection for malaria.  However, some other conversations did lead me to believe that I could get a visa to Moçambique easily by paying slightly more money at the border.
I had some interesting conversation about Donald Trump at the bars with locals.  They say Trump will win, but the fourth Reich won’t happen because as a president he will not be allowed to do what he wants.  It is the beauty of democracy.  They listed their own presidential election as an example.  Their president won on racism against the Chinese.  However, the first international meeting he conducted was with the Chinese.  This is the problem, if a bad candidate was elected instead a better one, we as a country still lose even if we won’t become a racist fourth Reich.  I think their thinking is changing as Pope Francis said Donald Trump is not a Christian.  I’m laughing.
The relaxing in Lusaka was achieved properly.  I watched Deadpool in a state of the art movie theater all by myself, for only 4 dollars worth of Kwacha.  I can even bring food in.  Then I drank coffee and watched champions league.  There are many interesting people to talk to, and a lot of farmers and other men of occupations of the European origin.  They were born in Zambia and worked in Zambia.  You don’t see that alot in Tanzania.
Even the villages are different here.  Better build villages can be seen in the plain.  The land is vast, on the high way all you can see is land.  Land stretch so far that you think you can observe the curvature of earth.  Land stretch so fat the puffy clouds connect with the land at the horizon.  Among these lands, thatch roofs huts are scattered here and there.  They are the Zambian villages.
I don’t know why thatched huts, but there are many, and it gives a very Caribbean vibe.  The Lusaka weather is very much like Arusha due to higher altitude, but every where else is scorching hot.
I went to the bus station to purchase my tickets and I lied my through the crowds selling me their buses until I found the one I was looking for.  I told someone I’m going to Somalia and he told me I shouldn’t go there, its dangerous.  I kind of felt bad about how much of a dick I was being, but the I’m going to Congo and Somalia lines get people off my back as efficient as deeds get rid of mosquitoes.
Talk about mosquitoes, there seem to be pools at every property in Zambia.  That is both good and bad.  You can swim and chill, but the mosquitoes lay eggs in the water and there are quite as few of when the scorching sun goes down.  Compare to Tanzania, the mosquito nets seem to be an necessity, but things could be worse.
I wanted to stay more, but time is getting thin, the time I allocated myself for south Africa and Moçambique is being compressed even more.  I hate the fact that I have a return ticket that I can’t change, but I’m not made of money, it was the most economical way.
With all that in mind, I actually boarded a really comfortable bus and off I went to Victoria Falls.

The Locomoto to the Copperbelt

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The Chinese built the Tazara line, from Dar es Salaam all the way to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia and back.  Why?  Because they used the railway to carry all the copper from the famous copper mines in the Copperbelt of Zambia to a port in the Coast.  The train station has banners that read in Chinese, the passenger trains themselves have equipments in Chinese, such as the water pressure gauge in the bathroom.  The train is single rail, and quite magnificently, goes through Savannah and mountain terrains.  How the fuck did people laid down so many rails in the middle of no where will forever be beyond me.
I thought I wasn’t going to be on the Friday train, but I managed to get on anyway.  I read somewhere, that I should book the first class train.  The train breaks down, the compartments are dirty, this and that.  I cherish that stuff, I wasn’t expecting beautiful maids massaging my feet in the morning on my lush king size bed in my train compartment while eating lobster for breakfast anyways.
Of course I didn’t get first class, but I got a second class sleeper train.  It turned out to be awesome.  The train is clean, even thou as the trip went on it did deteriorate a bit, but nothing as exaggerated as the stuff I read online, probably written by safari goers who are used to their shit taken care by their money.
The second class carrier is right next to booze carrier, which is a plus.  Also, I had Africans, three Tanzanians and one Zambian bunk mates.  I would probably be stuck by some Finnish kid not even 20 if I was in the first class trains.  I saw a bunch of Finnish, or maybe Norwegians, or maybe Germans waiting in the first class lounge before I went on the train.  They looked so pale that I wondered how did the African sun not tanned them.  I was glad that I had African bunk mates and get to hang out with locals.  Also in our compartment is a Korean guy who quit his job and traveled through Russia, Europe, eastern Europe, mid East, and now on his way to Malawi.  Pretty hard core, I can dig that.  We don’t have a bad group at all.
One Tanzanian is going back to his home town Mlimba.  He was more talkative than others.  He is a private driver for some British big shot in Dar now, but he wants to start some business back home.  It is his first vacation in a while.  The Zambian is going back to his home town, but he lives in Tanzania now.  The others weren’t around for much.
Eventually, everyone except Korean and myself departed out compartment by noon of the second day.  Two people for a whole compartment isn’t bad at all.
The scenery on the train is beautiful.  Savannah plains, mountains, national parks, and villages.  Kids would line outside watching the train approach.  I don’t know if we have the express train or the ordinary train or if the passenger compartments are new.  All I know it’s that the ride has been wonderful.  Alot of space, to sleep, to sit, to walk.  The second class is really cheap too, cheaper than the hour and half ferry ride to Zanzibar.  The train takes me from the biggest city from one country to almost the biggest city in the other.
I threw away the guidebook that someone gave me a while ago because guidebooks lead you astray.  It makes people paranoid about danger that isn’t there and doesn’t show you many of the pristine stops Africa has to offer.
Dar has fake taxi driver that robs you they said.  Because some dumbasses decided to fly to Dar es Salaam at 2AM at night.  One of my favorite story is actually this girl who had nothing to do in Dar and asked a taxi driver what to do.  Then the driver showed her all the cool places.  That should have been a story on a guidebook, but some dumbshits flew to Dar at 2AM and then got robbed.
Africa is a place where you can observe infinity.  The cloud feels infinite.  The landscape, the trees, the grass, the bushes, stretch so far you can’t imagine where it will end.  The beach in Zanzibar feels like it’ll go on forever as well.  Even time feels slow.  The train ride proves that.  I can stare outside the window out day.
At Mbeya, the waiting became infinite too.  Mbeya is the last big city until the train reaches Zambia.  From the train station, it seems like a lovely town surrounded by the Ngozi mountain.  The scenery is beautiful and weather ambient.  I wished I could get off and checked the city out, but I have allocated too short of my time for my Africa trip.  The following stupid things occurred.  Our train needed to wait for the Zambia to Dar train so they can switch track.  An hour passed, the train came and our train started to wait for them to depart so we can depart.  There is so much stupid in this I don’t know how to form it into words.  Another hour passed.  No one moved.  I don’t really mind the train not moving, because I have a place to sleep, and there is food, I can lay here for days.  It is just so stupid I have to point it out.  It wouldn’t surprise me the trains are waiting for more passengers like a dala dala.
There is a train from Lusaka to Livingstone on Monday night, so I do prefer to make it to that train, but if I don’t, its not the end of the world.
Three hours later, the train finally departed and I drifted into sleep soon after.  Knock on the door woke me up, and we were at the border.  Tanzanian immigration checked me out, then thirty minutes later, Zambia border checked me in.  I got a single entry visa for 50 dollars, which is sort of illegal because American passport holders aren’t supposed to be able to get single entry visas.  I was just glad to save 30 dollars on visa, and hopefully on my way out I don’t have to pay for it.
Zambians started to get on the train since the border crossing, and they are extremely loud, at 5AM in the morning.  The time zone changed from eastern Africa time to southern Africa time and I gained an hour, but still I kept getting woken up in the middle of the night by people talking loud in the corridor.
The train barely traveled at night and I wonder why.  It looks like the “2 days” journey is going to take 3 days, but I didn’t mind.  It is colder in the Zambia, and it rains alot.  I got ripped off a bit changing the schillings to kwachas on the train, but I have no where else to exchange so the “convenience fee” had to be paid.
Since the Zambian crossing, there are alot more people crowding in the corridor, walking around, and talking.  It seemed like more people are on the train, but there is still just three people in my six bed compartment.
Zambia has 70+ tribes and adding all the immigrants, there is also 70+ languages spoken in different regions.  I have no time to learn all that stuff from Bimba to Chichewa, so I’m not going to try this time.  The local people also talk in slangs so my dictionary approach isn’t going to work either.
Soon, I was the only one in my compartment.  It got quite boring, but my books kept me occupied.  Zambia is raining here and there, and the speed of the train really picked up now we are in open plain now.  I wanted it slow down, because I don’t want to get to Kapiri Mposhi at night.  There is no bus to Lusaka.
I went to get some beer, and a guy sitting at the train bar asked me to buy him a beer, because, pointing to my wallet, he said I have money to. Haha.  I told him that since I’m the visitor, him, the host should be the one buying me a beer.  After finally understood what I meant, he brushed at me with a hell no.  I wouldn’t let that go so easily, so I asked him so that’s how he felt when I asked him to buy me a beer.  No answer.  I hate this beggar mentality, it sets their country back.
I drank more beer and ate train food.  The food cart played fast 6 on the screen and I watched it.  The train picked up speed late in the evening, to my horror. The locomotives roared and the smell of diesel filled the dining car. The train was shaking, and more rains plastered the window while trees zoomed by.  By my calculation, at that speed, we are going to arrive at 1AM.  I turned out to be right.  My prayer for a breakdown was unanswered, I was awoken at 1230AM to get my things packed.  Of course my things were packed, so at a bit past 1, I went in and sat at the station.
A lot people were sleeping at the station that night since buses don’t come until 530AM due to the no night driving rule for buses.  Nothing really happened, I just talked to some guy who seemed a bit retarded because his English isn’t good, but he’s funny though.  He was going to the mining area, because he works there he said.  Maybe rocks had fallen on his head.  Then he went off to the only other foreigners in the train station, two white girls, and told one of them he loves her and wants to marry her in a comedic way.
I took a little 2 hour nap because I couldn’t hold out and nothing happened.  I woke up at 6AM to the shouting of “Lusaka!” “Lusaka!” by the mini bus driver.  I asked for the price, he said 55kwacha (k), I knew he was bullshitting me because that just adds up to 5 dollars exactly.  We literally stood outside the minibus and argued price for 15 minutes.  He was only willing to go down to k40.  I was a sucker, I took the bus anyways.  I didn’t want to wait till 8AM for the next one.  It seemed some others were paying k40 too, but sitting there all squeezed in by others, I knew I was a sucker either way.
For the ride, the driver’s feet never left the pedal and he past so many cars.  In the traffic section going into Lusaka, he literally went on the side walk to pass other cars while honkering at people walking.  I guess I paid the money for that experience, even thou we arrived at a further bus terminal, the minibus terminal.

Beach boys and Putos Massais

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Zanzibar, a giant archipelago of which the “zan” in Tanzania is actually named after, is the most touristy place in Tanzania.  The island has a town of Muslim and Arabic flavor and its streets so twisted and narrow, people get lost even with a map, picturesque beaches, dolphins, and windy beaches made for kite surfing Paradise.  Just like highland and Savannah Tanzania, every location has it’s own geographic signature.  These traits, but mostly the beach, attracts those who are looking for vacation.  I thought about skipping this island, but thought the ocean would do me wonders.  The ferry was nice, nice seats, on time, movies on flat screens, and air condition.  The wavy ocean made people queasy, but that didn’t affect me.  The shake and ramble seemed like a mother’s carese of her baby compared to the Galapagos lancha.
The island was hot, but not unbearable.  The city looks old and historic.  White walls with peeling paints stood firm in the background of the giant Karibu sign at the ferry dock.
Immigrant and health officer checked my yellow fever certificate, passport, and I even got a separate passport stamp.  I might as well went to different country.  The Indian ocean has the color of turquoise, but Stone Town is no place for a swim.  Without trash trucks or appropriate plans, they dump their shit in the ocean, literally.
Tourist are everywhere as taxi drivers try to lead people around for a fee.  The buildings all squeeze together, and the streets turn and twist that they are more alleyways than streets.
I will be spending, possibly, my last two days in Stone Town to get my Moçambique visa, so I left as soon as I came and took a dala dala to the Paje area, the eastern beaches of Zanzibar.  I was told that the east beaches are more quiet than the northern part, where its more touristy.  The north of Paje, Bwejuu, is even quieter.  I was told it’s 30 per night to stay there, which I mistake as 30000 tsh.  It was 30 dollars which was why I stayed for only one night, and I wish people stop using dollars instead of tsh.  People should try to promote their own national currency for once.
As soon as I arrived I jumped in the ocean because once the tide retreats the ocean isn’t swimmable.  The island is guarded by reefs, so waves don’t pass through and water only begins to saturate on the beach on high tides.  The sand is white and almost snow like, but the wind is strong, so the tiny sand particles blow in your face and cover your feet as you walk.
I jumped in the ocean only to be greeted by hundreds of tiny blue jelly fishes ten minutes later.  One slap right across my face and left a streak of stinging red.  I asked a local about it and he told me it started happening couple days ago.  The sand is white, and where the high tide ends are filled with pretty shells and dead blue jelly fishes washed ashore.  I walked around the beach and checked out the tide retreating before going to get food and beer.
It was Friday, and I went to Paje that night.  Only four people were in Bwejuu as far as I could tell.  About fifty plus people were in Paje.  They have party every night playing the shittiest trance music on the beach.  People dressed as Massai but already lost what their tribe stood for partied with tourists, shitty music played till the morning.  It’s not Cancun, but it tried to be.  In a way, I rather talk to touts on the streets.
The next morning I moved to Paje, because its cheaper to stay there.  People come here to kiteboard.  In the morning, at least 50 Kites filled the horizon, in the reef area.  The wind pattern traverses instead of moving perpendicular to the beach in the low tide morning.  People brave the reefs to have favorable wind.  Some people are standing on the beach with their instructor learning how to feel the wind.  It looked real boring, but more importantly it is expensive. Every touristy thing is expensive in Tanzania. Some local even told me its more expensive because Tanzania is a poor country like it actually made any economical sense.
I relaxed on the beach and explored the nearby area with a friend, then went to a seafood barbecue, and went to bed early because I was not going to another shitty trance fest again.
The next day I walked to the blue lagoon to find snorkeling.  It was quite a walk, it took the whole day for the round trip.  I got there, the place is named after the hotel by the area.  The tide rolled high and I swam around for a hour and only saw the fish and stepped on a sea urchin.  At least it was a good swim practice as the tide pushes back inland while I tried to move outward to the reefs.  Much to my suspicion, you need low tide to snorkel there, but tidal dependencies made the fishes that live among the reefs there questionable.  I always thought high tight would occasionally bring the eagle rays and more marvelous creature to the area, but it’s Africa.  They fish so much, there isn’t any fishes around because the reefs are broken.
I went back and drank beer and just chilled through the night.  It turned out to be quite fun.  I had many just chill and drank beer days in Africa, and they make me think maybe I should just go home.  That’s exactly what I do on the daily anyways.
It was the Superbowl that night, at 230AM in the morning.  I tried to follow the feeds, but slow internet bored me sleep.  When I woke up, Broncos won and I was sad Cam didn’t pull through.  When I checked the scores and read the news, it seemed like a bizarre game.  Cam dropped the ball, quite literally, a few times, and the team did too.  I guess you don’t need offense in the NFL.
That morning I decided to head north, for better beaches, against my better judgment. I began to like Paje, mostly because I can comfortably do nothing.  It felt at home.  There is a cool bar, a cheap place to sleep, friendly people.  The beach brings that kind of feelings.  I wanted to move on.
I went to Nungwi, the north, the touristy place.  I regretted going so early.  I sat in the back of a converted truck and got there for cheap.  The beach is more blue and picturesque but it didn’t make the place better.  In Nungwi you can see the sunset, because it is at the northern tip of the island.  The sunset was beautiful, the beach was more fun to swim in, but there doesn’t seem to have the camaraderie among others I felt in Paje and else where. People go there for their couple vacations.
People selling you tours and Massais selling you other shit talk to you from time to time.  The fee isn’t unreasonable, but I’m not eager to book anything.  My train to Zambia leaves next Tuesday, which gives me a lot of days to do nothing.  If I choose to spend some flying money I can go to Mafia island which I think is a really good idea, but the 20 minutes flight is quite expensive.
People come here and really stay here.  It’s chill, it can be cheap, and for cold climate Europeans, there is the beach literally 10 steps away.  It is the Montañita effect.  People come here and they party hard, and they go to full moon parties and they eventually forget to leave. Even the hotel owners forget how much you owe. Some girls get an African “boyfriend” and stay till they absolutely has to leave.  They told me that Massais here are even worse than the ones else where.  They are basically male prostitutes.  The other group of “annoyance” are the “beach boys”. Teenagers who sell you tours on the beach.  Massais and beach boys hate each other, I don’t know the reason because they provide completely different services.  I don’t really find both annoy except the few who called me china with a specific high tone that just makes me what to use the n word.
What is worse is the children.  In Paje, they come to you, ask for food, ask for water.  Then with confidence, ” You buy me football, tomorrow, at 10AM”.  Ask you to take photo and then ask for money, just like the London mime.  The children are developing the beggar mentality, and it makes me wonder what will make of them growing up.  I’m not someone with much emotions, but the children made me feel sad.  Africa can be a sad place, if the children are like this now, where is the future?
I do have hope, for every child playing with their water bottle car on the beach asking me for free stuff, there are others going to school.  Some of them will pull through and make this continent a better place.  I don’t really blame Tanzanians for all this.  It is the others my who shaped them.  Tanzanians don’t need to kill lions to feel they have a bigger dick.  They are not the ones who kill their animals.  The Massais were once a proud tribe people.  There weren’t any beach boys.  The tourist made it this way.  The outsiders put them through changes they weren’t ready for.  The outsiders shaped Africa, and in a way made things worse.  In Nungwi, the locals even try to cheat money from other locals, not just mzungus.  It is sad.
The people in Nungwi are much better nourished than Stone Town and Paje.  There are fish, and more food.  Teenagers work out on the beach and do acrobatics and bboy.  In Stone Town, drug addicts stroll the streets asking tourists money for “food”.  I had some octopus that reminded me of tripas, and no they don’t want the free food, just some money for ” food” please.
Fishing is big here, so big that I saw people carrying tiny baby sharks not even a foot long back ashore.  It is sad.  One beach boy asked me if I like to do a snorkel or this tour or that tour.  I asked him about deep sea fishing.  You can even do that for a price.  He proceeded to show me pictures of people posing with giant catches.  Then he talked about fishing by the mnemba island, which is where the snorkel he is trying to sell.  I told him fishing by mnemba is going to kill their snorkel business, but he just said OK.  People in Zanzibar tend to say OK when they don’t understand, so I told him of mzungus keep killing lions in game reserves, then there will be no more safaris for people to sell.  He seemed to understand then.
The best part about Nungwi, and it actually can overshadow all the bad parts, is the stretch of beach outside of Cholo’s bar.  It is active.  People do acrobats here.  Every evening people play volleyball.  Swim, beer, volleyball, and couple flips make a beach interesting.  I miss the serenity of Paje, and how I can just drink beer and relax all day long.  However, I like how I can put in a couple hours of volleyball in more.
The weather in the morning hasn’t been so wonderful.  It was cloudy, with a scatter of rain.  However, the evening, with its fiery sunset, is wonderful.  I made some local friends doing flips on the beach even thou I absolutely can’t get any bounce on the sand like they do.  Day one the skill level was average, but the second day, the tricks for complicated and more entertaining.  Between all the eating shit and bail outs I play volleyball couple steps away.
Two days was all it needed, and all the touts along that beach know me.  I talked to them and fed them elaborate lies for fun, and soon they just greet me and there was no selling anymore.
One of the girls that stayed there for months told me to try to eat at this place.  It has the price of local food, but the food is cooked well.  I walked 20 minutes and had food there.  Price of local food?  More like price of mid higher end Dar.  The food?  One of my chicken was undercooked, I might get salmonella.  There is another place near the local market that is actually better, and cheaper.  It doesn’t matter how long they have been here, it doesn’t mean they know everything.
So far, I have seen so few Americans in Tanzania, I actually miss meeting Americans.  One girl who goes to Yale in Arusha.  The Texan Californians on Kilimanjaro.  A guy from Baltimore and two girls from Frisco in Paje to hear my Superbowl talks.  And how about people from south America?  Zero.
I talked with guy one day just chilling on the beach.  He was probably bored and I definitely was.  He said his dad married another woman in Germany and lives there.  He studied to be a physician in Germany and worked in Kenya.  Then he came back to Zanzibar because his mother lives here.  He works as a receptionist now, but he got an offer coming as a physician in Stone Town.  He then proceeded to show me box moving game on his phone.  He said it took him 3 hours to figure it out and wanted to see if I can solve it.  Fifteen minutes passed and I kept trying two combinations that didn’t work.  That got him bragging and talking shit.  “A girl did it”. ” Even n*ggas like me solved it”. For someone educated in Germany, he is still pretty racist and misogynist.  I played stupid ass phone games since I was a kid.  The shit talking got me bit fired up and being pissed off is the fuel to my engine.  Within two minutes, I realized I just needed to combine my two previous approaches and solved the box puzzle.  I showed him the congratulation sign, but he wanted me to show him how I did it.  I showed him and it made me think he never solved it but tricked me to do it for him.  We parted way soon after, but between the touts and random encounters, I was never alone in Africa.
I can’t decide if I like Tanzanians or not.  I have some really interesting conversation with many, and then I see people with absolutely zero dignity walking.  How can I respect them if they don’t respect themselves.  I see rude people.  “Chino!  Japanese!  Korean!  Ogaliwa!”. Some of them just yell it out nonstop.  I didn’t mind much when central and South Americans called me chino, they don’t see Asians often and they are just intrigued.  However, these Tanzanians, they saw plenty.  From my observation a lot of Asians go to Zanzibar, so they know.  They are just a bunch of African racist and they would sure like it when if I use the n word on them.  I mean for a race where slavery and racism had been common, they didn’t seem to mind much to categorize others they don’t know with stereotypes.  The less rude ones just say my friend.
At the same time, I did get a bit of laugh out of calling Tanzanians who just fucking can not stop calling me china, Japanese, or Korean, racists.
” Konichiwa Japanese!  You looking to snorkel?”. “I’m not Japanese bro”.  ” Chino!  Korea!”. “Guess again”.  ” Konchiwa!!”.  ” I don’t want to talk to y’all, y’all fucking racists”. It stuns them and I get a bit of laugh out of it.  A proven method to deal with savages who lie is to talk over them.  The louder it is the more authority you have.  It is completely against the rules of civil debate, but everyone does it and it works in Africa.
Nungwi WiFi was shit.  At least back now,e I was staying, they pretend they did pay for the WiFi, but they haven’t paid shit.  So I succumbed and got a phone card.  5000 tsh, for 3GB of internet.  That’s a dollar for a gig, cheap as shit.  Didn’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.  Oh, actually I know.  They nano cut my sim card with a butcher knife and the card is forever stuck in my phone.  Just the thing I tried to avoid.
Life is good on the beach, volleyball, acrobatics, and snorkeling. I went to a dive shop and found a map where I learned there some reefs. All the reefs are easy to get to early in the morning when its low tide. Most of the reefs are broken because of the fishing and boat activities around Zanzibar. I still saw some stuff I hadn’t seen before. Sitting on the beach drinking beers at night after a long day of doing stuff. No wonder people stay here forever.
I saw a bad piece of news on a Thursday morning. They changed the train schedule to Zambia to Friday, not Tuesday. I cut my beach vacation short and took the ferry back.
Traveling in Africa is different. Every new place I go, I wish I stayed at the old place. I want to go back to the oxygen depleted peak of Kilimanjaro, pitch a tent and just sleep there everyday in my down jacket. In Dar, I wanted to go back to Nungwi. I got used to snorkeling and doing nothing. It was good. Dar is the only place I never want to go back.
Every time its something new. It is not the dystopic landscape that puts me back its the every day faces lack of emotion and smile that set me back this time.
I finally got through to Tazara on the phone. I can’t get on the first class sleeper train, but second class will do. I’m not big on luxury especially when luxury is quite relative speaking here. I can not wait to get out of Dar.