7. Johannesburg, South Africa

It’s been almost 5 months since my first step into Southern Africa. It’s so different from Morocco though, and at the same time many of my conceptions towards the continent has been challenged. It wasn’t as… frightening as I thought it would be. I didn’t see starving children, malnourished, mud cookies, which were part of my Geographical Imagination of the continent. It almost surprised me to see those huge supermarkets with shiny floors and rows of fresh fruits, french fries and meat and cakes and SUSHI behind the glass counters, tall air-conditioned malls, inter-city buses that were just like all the others – air-conditioned, sometimes promising wifi, with music occasionally blasting in the trip. Was I that ignorant, to feel this surprised? I suppose so. Nonetheless I do acknowledge that as a tourist, I saw the shiny bit of things.

Some things poignant to me was how my notion of animals have changed. Wild animals, not the ones I’m accustomed and largely exposed to, locked in the zoo. My notion of fearing wild animals, and the idea that I do not have to worry about HIV in my home country, and the large network of land transport services in my homeland, these were great.

​ Summing up my first evening in Johannesburg – emerged unscathed, had a Joburger, and listened to the various stories about getting and avoiding attacks/carjacks (18 times, he counted). Despite these, the driver and Peter both shared the sentiment that they enjoyed the energy of the city, and loved the city in ways – a ‘un-boring’ place amidst the ‘chaos’, they found a place for themselves.
Free education, free healthcare (even the HIV pills are provided by the government) unemployment benefits, pensions. 11 official languages.
Observing blacks speaking English, or Zulu (the next most common?) language to each other. Medium in schools dependent on which schools you go to.
So many cars, seemed like everyone had a car because of a lack of public transport systems. Didn’t see any bus stops around (although there were those mini-buses), nor motorbikes (too unsafe, Peter suggests).

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6.2 Swaziland – Sibebe Rock

Sibebe rock was quite an easy hike, we didnt really need a guide, to be honest. Nonetheless we did – and we would have been pleased to support the local economy, if not for a grumpy guide that wanted to leave us halfway, while overcharging us from the start which got us off to a rather unpleasant vibe at the beginning.

Nice view at the top, breeze.

6. Swaziland! (Ezulwini)



Swaziland! A small, landlocked kingdom, an absolute monarchy, where the current King was crowned at the age of 18, and married with 14 wives (his father had more than 70, and an estimated 180 children and 1000 grandchildren). People are friendly, weed grows freely in the wild. I feel like lazing all day in this cooling climate, surrounded by all these hills and greenery. Love this place!

​ Tucked in a corner of Mbabane, Cz found a shoe repair shop owned by a Deaf man and operated by two Deaf employees. In 10 minutes, the loose and broken seams were fixed for $1. I tried to sign ‘thank you’, he smiled and I think he understood.

​ It’s funny though, how our notions of ‘modern dressing’ and ‘modernity’ immediately shifts to that of the States. Cultural outfits are perceived as ‘traditional outfits’, even ‘primitive’ was my thought when I think back on the Swazis with their animal skins loosely draped over their bodily parts. The good place

Couchsurfing with Kingson was one of the BEST CS experiences EVER. Hotel-style bedroom, laundry, waking up to breakfast, aircon and duvet – THE BEST!!!!

5. Baobab Forest, Gweta, Botswana

In a country almost 10x the size of SG and only 2/5 of our population, we crossed paths with Jacqueline, had a good night of learning from the most random of topics, and listened to the first drafts of ‘Khaki Fever’ πŸ˜‰ remember us when you’re famous!

chubby gan

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Always wanted to see a big fat Baobab tree 🌳 This one’s more than 1500 years old, it’s seen many, many, many generations of you and me

4. Okavango Delta, Maun

Such a beautiful place, such a beautiful day!
love this

​One thing I took away with me was the heightened awareness of getting cuts, and the fact that I’ve taken for granted the sanitized environment I am in, the lack of a need to test for HIVs.

Testing for hiv together before entering a relationship.

Having / testing for children before getting married

Back when my main conceptions of elephants were that they were ‘interesting’ and ‘cute’. Now I’ve lost one of my sandals, and I’ve added ‘terrifying’

When I first heard the lady at the border telling me that hippos were one of her biggest fears, I thought that was almost amusing, because it was such a foreign concept to me. Similarly when I heard the guide telling us that the local woman over at that boat was very scared of elephants. Now that I’ve had this encounter, my mind flits back to how it raised it’s trunks and lifted its enormous body, and brief charging after the rocks were thrown, I remember my heart thumping furiously, strands of regret swept through my mind. The tour shouldn’t have happened today, it did because I pushed for it, but the initial cancellation must have been a warning sign, and now I may be one of the tourists that perished in the wilderness of Africa. Melodramatic as it sounds, I was honestly terrified. If it had charged at me, maybe if there wasn’t a river hindering its crossing, it’s game over for me.

Botsang, our mokoro guide, shared with us the time he was a guide for an American tourist for 21 days in the delta. On night 11, he was woken up by the loud roars of lions; the ground trembled from its volume. With the other guide, he grabbed a rifle and headlights, shone and spotted the lions 10m away. They shot one; the other fled. The next morning, they found the lions’ tracks just outside of their tents.

I love the colours in this series of pictures.

Freedom!

crew!

Housing

Botsang, 30 years old, built this house made out of reed grass, sand and mud found in the Okavango Delta himself. It keeps him cool in the summer heat. He uses the solar panels to charge his cell phone. Sadly, 2 weeks ago, his wife was cooking and a fire broke out. This is his temporary home; it took him about 4 days to build it. He’s starting to build a new, bigger one now.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Victoria Falls (Zambia / Zimbabwe)

Too many of my favourite pictures at one of the world-renowned waterfalls :’) I am incredibly lucky, I know!

Dry season – apparently in wet season you get all soaked!

spare me the melodrama, Mr Gan

We waited for the bus to Kasane, Botswana from here.

​
Feeling incredibly lucky to be able to hear the rushing waters from one of the most spectacular curtain of water in the world! Can’t decide if the Zambian or Zimbabwean side was better, both were absolutely awe-inspiring ❀️

2. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Safari –
The diversity of wildlife.
The park gets about 15-20 poaching attempts a day. Some of these poachers drive in with their rifles, leave them hidden in an area amidst the bushes, and come back for them again at an opportune timing to poach wildlife such as the rhinos for their valuable horns. While park rangers roam the area daily, it is hard to monitor an area this huge. One pair of rhino horns can be worth 40,000 rands to a poacher, an amount considered significant to them. The ‘peak period’ for poaching takes place on full moon, when the moonshine helps with visibility. During this period, park rangers, often from the military, are stationed at various areas and patrol throughout the night.


​ Poaching is the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals. Poaching is a problem in the national parks of South Africa; there are 15 to 20 poaching attempts a day, threatening endangered species like the rhino. While park rangers roam the area daily, it is hard to monitor an area this huge. One pair of rhino horns can be worth 40,000 rands (~ $4000sgd) to a poacher, an amount considered significant to them.

1.2 Diving in Tofo, Mozambique

stonefish

I remember feeling seasick. Putting on the somewhat familiar, somewhat unfamiliar BCD and taking deep heavy breaths through the regulator in a rhythm that echoed my beating heart.

As we rode along the waves into the middle of the sea, I waited as I did my jump off the boat, and the rest of the hour are snippets / a trail of memory – I tugged the rope towards me and swam downwards following the line, past the shells and the cloudy sea around me.

Skipped the deep dive after because the manta rays are apparently not found during this period

post-dive
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Didn’t manage to catch sight of manta rays, but Tofo beach made up for it with its empty stretches of soothing sand and waves β˜€οΈ

(thought: in a country with a life expectancy of 55 years, I have a chance of 27 more years than the average citizen here.)

1.1 Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Didn’t manage to catch sight of manta rays in our dive, but had some good conversations.

I tried looking around for a postcard, but was unfortunately unable to find one – I thought touristy Tofo would have it. The lady at the dive shop explained that a guy tried selling it before, but it didn’t work out. This was partially because nobody really uses the postal system, which doesn’t really work; seems like you’d try to post something and it wouldn’t be received. No stringent enforcement of laws. This makes people displeased, no consistent structure, no order.

This made it flexible, but also made things difficult with unfixed conditions like these. It reminded me of a classroom, and my need to enforce these ‘laws’ to ensure peace, stability and efficiency – like what my country preaches.

The banana seller who has 12 children, had her first child when she was 18 years old.

A fruit seller along the coast of Tofo Beach // Ferdinado(?), a waiter we befriended, told us about how he picked up the skill when he was a child. Piped water wasn’t readily accessible in Tofo until 5-10 years ago, and back then the locals had to walk 1km to draw water from the wells. Some people can carry 25litres of water on their heads to endure the long walk. Once, his mother made him carry a 10kg bag of rice on his head as he walked home, and his head (‘headsick’) and neck ached painfully afterwards, so he told her ‘never again!’. And no, he wouldn’t carry eggs that way, he said with a chuckle when I asked.

 

 

a perfect silky sand canvas

 

 

 

I was also curious about the straw huts. Was it the climate or the abundance of materials that enabled straw instead of wooden slums?

Nonetheless Tofo felt safe. We walked along the streets at night , I slung my camera along my shoulders as I walked. A little more guarded when walking past some locals (men), but I felt generally confident they wouldn’t do anything to me, in a place this touristy. I considered why I felt this way, when I wouldn’t let my camera show in Maputo, which didn’t feel particularly unsafe either.

My first strand of thought was that in a place this accustomed to tourists and their flashy cameras, they’d probably be more or less attuned to this, and may lean more towards conversations such as ‘how are you’, ‘where are you from’, or recommendations for their own food and tour business opportunities. Viewing tourists as potential markets (not that hard) rather than potential to-rob targets.

Also, if they rob any of us, in a town this small, word may spread readily regarding this individual, or tarnish the reputation of Tofo as a tourist-friendly site, which may earn these aggressors a backlash from the community.

The car just drove past a group of 3 children pumping water from a well, and others working in the field.

It brought to mind yesterday’s conversation with Ferdinado (or something).

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.0 Maputo, Mozambique

sg – ethiopia – south africa

overnight bus (10pm) to Maputo, Mozambique

Bye bye South Africa!

​ Love overland border crossings, where I step across the imaginary lines to enter a new terrain πŸ‡²πŸ‡Ώ
The policemen stop our bus due to (apparent) issues relating to drivers’ documents. We wait for almost 4 hours (πŸ˜’), stepping out of the bus to soak in the cool breeze.


Awesome hosts and company πŸ™‚
#everydaymozambique We spent our day in Maputo with Luis and Irene.

​Maputo has been a wonderful experience with Luis and Irene. Luis was incredibly helpful even before we arrived, asking about our schedule to help us to plan in a way that allowed us to enjoy the city with the short time that we had. He’s funny and intelligent, and Irene is really sweet, and I really enjoyed our conversations and the stories they shared. They took us on a drive around the city, and showed us the various sites, including a newly opened mall and another market / museum, which was very lively. They are a very popular couple and seem to know everyone around :p They also made us Asians happy with the Super-cool arcade game devices (!!) brought back so much nostalgic memories! Hahaha we got a little too excited and they were kind enough not to mind our late dinner :p Maputo is made different because of you guys, truly, thank you for the memories, great conversations, food and time well-spent together. You guys are truly awesome!!

An Intercape bus stop sign in Mozambique.

View from inside a mini-bus. Armed with soft drinks, snacks, bread and others (knives), sellers call eagerly to the buses for their sales.

I have to admit – I found myself staring, almost in amusement, at the ways the women and men were nonchalantly carrying bread with their heads.

Like other SEA countries, they set up their fruit stalls and sat in a row to sell them to passing passengers. What intrigued me was seeing the villagers going about their daily activities, carrying a bundle of sticks on their heads as they walked. I’ve seen women carrying their luggage bags, bread, a ‘bowl’ of soft drinks, and now sticks! It was somewhat amusing, and I wondered about the origins of this practice and how they managed to do so so readily.

Huge supermarket in a gleaming month-old mall.

One of the funniest / worst stories was the one where their teacher spent their physical education lesson time writing a textbook, leaving them to play on their own, and then after publishing his book, made all of them purchase it with their own money, saying it was compulsory for the subject.
Rising past the landscapes of Mozambique as we travelled from Maputo to Tofo, I took in the sights of the straw houses / slums, the shops, the dressing of the people…