Thursday, July 4, 2013

She took a midnight train (that actually had a specific destination)

After spending some time in Ilha I headed back to Nampula so that I could buy my train ticket and head towards Cuamba. I wanted a second class ticket (not nearly as chique as it sounds - third class is basically a more horrible version of a chapa - people, chickens, goats, pigs and massive quantities of food all stuffed into an unimaginably tiny space. Whereas in second class you actually have your own seat, an exciting rarity in Moz travel) so I arrived at the train station at 1 pm so that I would be ready for the ticket sales to open at 2 pm. Of course, nothing in Moz ever goes as it should - a security guard "took me under her wing" and wouldn't let me get into the line to buy tickets. I assumed this meant that she would slip around back and get me a ticket once the gate opened . . . but no. When they started selling tickets my new bffl security guard grabbed my hand and pulled me to the front of the line. SO AWKWARD. I had been within the first two people at the station, so most people didn't gripe too much about the fact that I had just cut everyone. But it was just annoying and so awkward - I was completely okay with standing in line for an hour and tried to explain that to the guard, but she just didn't listen/maybe thought she was doing me a favor? Anyways, later I ended up meeting two Swiss girls both of whom bought second class tickets at around 3:30 pm meaning that everyone I had cut had ended up with the ticket they wanted as well. Feeling slightly less guilty about the whole thing.
Back at the backpackers' I met some girls who were also going to be traveling the train the next day. This was WONDERFUL because the train was the part I was looking forward to traveling with company and since my travel buddies hadn't been able to make it, I was a bit bummed out. We got to the train station at around 4:30 am, probably unnecessarily since in second class you have an assigned compartment and the train was to leave at 6:00 am. The train is now my favorite kind of travel in Moz - it actually left ontime (!!) and the compartments were so large - there were only six people in each compartment and no one even tried to cram themselves in with us. The landscape was beautiful, travel from Nampula to Cuamba is pretty much only by train, the roads are completely unpaved and in some places don't even exist so we didn't see any cars, just village after village. At each stop it seems as though everyone living in that area rushes to the train holding up anything and everything that they think the passengers would want to buy. Did you forget your toothbrush? Need a lifetime supply of tangerines? Carrots? Fried treats? And in case you can't get enough food from the side of the rails, there is also a dining car on the train. I know. Crazy. A dining car. On a train in Mozambique. They only serve the typical Mozambican fare - 1/4 chicken, rice, french fries, and salad, but it was still wonderful. Plus the landscape in northern Mozambique is completely different than southern Mozambique so everything seemed a bit more interesting (photos to come . . . still haven't found a camera cord that I can use). Basically the train was awesome and I would highly recommend it for your next Mozambican adventure :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Takin' everythin' in my stride

On June 7th I packed up my LSAT books and headed down to Joburg to take the LSAT with three other Moz PCVs. The LSAT went decently (and now on to law school applications), but the important part is that Joburg is AWESOME. Most people talk about the crime, etc, but for pcvs it was like a winter wonderland (literally since it was 4 degrees Celsius and I was freezing). There was a McDonald's (quarter pounder with cheese and oreo mcflurries, don't judge), a movie theater (The Great Gatsby in 3D), froyo, and other amazing things that cannot be found in Moz. Despite the fact that Bank of America decided to cancel both my cards (BoA for the win), Joburg definitely made up for the whole I-have-to-take-the-lsat thing. I headed back up to site and had a little over a day to prepare for my next great adventure - which according to usual moz fashion, did not go quite as planned.

I headed to Beira on the 17th on an awkward boleia and stayed the night in preparation for my flight the next morning which was just a little too earlier to make same day travel to Beira possible. Of course then my flight ended up being delayed for 4 hours . . . so I definitely could have made it to Beira that same day. Oh well, a great familiarity with the tiny Beira airport could end up being useful one day (I suppose). My flight was straight to Nampula, and I stayed the night there before boleia-ing out to Pemba. Which brings me to the awesome summary of my travel in the North - I went from Nampula to Pemba, Pemba to Ilha and Ilha to Nampula and spent under 10 dollars on travel across over 650 miles of road. Plus the rides I got were infinitely safer and more interesting than chapas or buses. Win.

Anyways, I made it to Pemba and stayed with some fellow PCVs who teach at a teacher training institute. I read, made awesome food (a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting made a reappearance), and sat on the beach for awhile. Of course this was also the part of the trip where I tried to re-piece together my original travel plans. The Moz opposition political party had created a roadblock across the Rio Save and there had been a couple of violent incidences in the area . . . meaning that my two original travel buddies, who were planning to travel up to Pemba from Maputo on the day the roadblock was implemented, couldn't travel anymore. So I was a sozinha traveler. Not the end of the world, but definitely the quieter route.

After Pemba, I a) remembered that I had a camera and should probably take pictures and b) headed to Ilha de Mocambique. Ilha is a pretty amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site and I took a ton of pictures (some of which will hopefully make an appearance on this blog tomorrow if I'm able to find a camera cord). You can read more about Ilha and its history here: The first day I more or less roamed the island, took lots of pictures (I had visited Ilha before, but for some unknown reason had failed to take pictures) and visited the old fort (built in the 16th century by the Portuguese). On my second day on Ilha, I went with some other people from my hostel out to the Island of Goa and across the channel to a peninsula. The water was wayyy to cold for my moz climate adjusted self (I have become such a temperature wimp it's embarrassing - I'm from the PNW and grew up playing in the Pacific/Strait for heaven's sake!), but the trip on the dhow was beautiful and it was a nice way to spend the day before starting another long stretch of travel.

Next post . . . Ilha to Nampula, Nampula to Cuamba (and hopefully photos!)

Monday, July 1, 2013

So close, so close and yet so far . . .

View Larger Map

I left site (A) on the 17th in order to get to Beira (B) for my flight from Beira to Nampula (F) on the 18th. I found a cheap flight earlier in May and I was SO excited not to have to repeat the epic bus journey of 2012. As indicated by the somewhat depressing song lyrics, the trip didn't quite go as planned. Basically, when I arrived in Beira I found out that the opposition party in Mozambique had attacked a place outside of Beira, I hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary and was fine - luckily I was not traveling overland, so thought that I had nothing else to worry about . . . Until I got to Nampula and found out that as of the 20th the opposition party would be blocking the road that goes across the EN1 - basically the only connection between southern Mozambique and the northern portion of the county. Which also happens to be the only way I can get back to site. Fun stuff right there.
In summary, the rest of my trip went decently well and I'm slightly obsessed with the train between Nampula (F) and Cuamba (G). I was kind of hoping that this hullabaloo would be over by the time I needed to get back to site - but no such luck in that department. So I'm stuck. In Chimoio. Which at least is a bigger city, but I really really really just want to be home. Not even home in the US, but home in Inhassoro, sleeping on my plywood bed (I no longer use a mattress because it basically folded in half everytime I laid down and screwed up my back. I'm obviously the coolest person you know) and eating massive amounts of eggplant from the school's garden. But I'm on school break until the 22nd of July, so I'm not missing classes like many of the other PCV evacuees. And PC is being very proactive about evacuating people and making sure we're all safe.
So, I'm in Chimoio for the foreseeable future. Which means that I'll be uploading some awesome blogs all about my trip. And if I can find a cable/card reader for my camera, there might even be photos involved.
Think positive, peaceful thoughts for me <3