Sunday, January 31, 2016

Great Zimbabwe Ruins, January 30, 2016

Great Zimbabwe is the greatest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa.  It was first occupied in the 11th century and proves that ancient Africa reached a level of civilisation not suspected by earlier scholars.  Not much is known about the site but It is believed that 20,000 people lived here.

The Hill Complex construction began in the 13th century-

The king not only lived here but the queen and his other 200 wives had to make the long trek up the hill to see him.  Religious/spiritual acts also took place up here.  Today, the ghosts of leopards have been spotted and shards of pottery have been found-

It's interesting how natural rock and bricks were incorporated into the walls of the fort.  

The Great Enclosure-

is across the valley and where the queen (wife #1) lived.  The walls are mortarless, 11 meters thick and 5 meters wide.  The enclosure is 100 meters wide and 255 meters in circumference making it the largest ancient structure in sub-Saharan Africa.  There is decorative work at the top left: three rings of chevron patterns-

As a form of protection, very narrow passageways were used to enter both the Great Enclosure and the Hill Complex-

The Conical Tower, found in the Great Enclosure, is solid brick and 10 meters high.  It might be a phallic symbol significant for fertility-

Souvenirs, examples of traditional daga (huts) and dancers-

are found in the Valley in between the king and queen's compounds.  It's also where the king's other 200 wives lived.

She stole the show!

The dancers wear gourds filled with seeds strapped to their legs for musical accompaniment-

Unfortunately, probably due to overgrazing and population growth, resources were depleted and by the 16th century, when the Portuguese arrived, the city was deserted.  One interesting fact is that no burial grounds have been found, so what did they do with their dead?

Blue balled monkies hang out in the campsite-

No, this photo was not photo shopped!

There are curios shops along the road-

where all sorts of stone carvings are sold such as replicas of the bird originally found at Great Zimbabwe and the thinking man-

Tomorrow we're off to Antelope Park for 3 nights.  Looking forward to lion stalking!

Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, January 28-29, 2016

I golfed 7 holes this morning at the former Chimanimani Sport Club.  My two caddies-

were great at finding my ball, whether it was in the long grass/rough, maize/bean/cucumber field or in the river.  

One carried along the pin, and ran ahead to stand on the green and hold it near the hole-

The "grounds crew" was hard at it: digging up a bunker-

The former clubhouse is inhabited by squatters-

 and the pool table-

and bar were busy at 9 a.m.-

It's really sad to see the state this once elegant establishment is in today.  The whites did not treat the blacks poorly but were run out and today the blacks have no interest or desire, no money and little knowledge about how to maintain what was once quite grand.  However for just a few golfers/week, it's quite surprising they attempt to keep the course up at all.

Another bathroom sign-

I spent a couple hours at the former casino listening to local entertainment.  Supper was another local meal-beans, chicken and the Zimbabwe ugali - sadza, which is maize porridge.  Unfortuantely, once again, I'm in another country where they only eat to live :(

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Malawi and Mozambique, January 24-28, 2016

Due to heavy rains and silt from the river running into Lake Malawi, I wasn't able to dive.  No fresh water experience this time.

We've spent the last few days driving through southern Malawi and Mozambique as we make our way to Zimbabwe.  Along the way-

A shopping centre in Lilongwe, Malawi-

Mozambique is very poor - still recovering from a "civil" war that wouldn't end.  Villages are made from tree trunks or mud bricks with thatch for roofs-

Kids still come running, waving and yelling hello-

Main streets are hubs of activity-

Most don't have cars so...

they pile in to the backs of trucks with everything else.

The Mozambique countryside-

Looking forward to golfing at the former Chimanimani Golf and Country Club.  

More of Malawi

At first glance, Malawi does not appear as poor as it is said to be.  Roads are generally paved and smooth, without the annoying speed bumps and rumble strips of past places.  The people are friendly and once again it's nice to be able to communicate in English, which along with Chichewa is an official language.

However, the GNP is less than $250 US, half of the country is malnourished and life expectancy is 53, mainly due to HIV/AIDS which is at 12%.  One out of 8 children die of preventable causes.  The population is 16.3 million, of which half is under 15, living in 118,000 square km. and growing at 2.8% / year.  That makes it one of the highest population densities on the continent although I would never guess that because villages are few and far between, at least compared to Tanzania where there seems to be one right after another.  85% of the people work in agriculture, growing maize - which is NOT sweet corn, cassava, rice and tobacco which alone, makes up 35% of the GDP as well as 90% of export revenues.  All arable land appears to be planted and well looked after, with crops in various stages of growth. Once again, most land is tilled by hand - hoes and / or the occasional cow. 

A large part of the country is based around huge Lake Malawi where more than 500 species of fish can be found , most belonging to the cichlid family.  99% are endemic to this lake.  Popular ones include the chambo which is very tasty :) and utaka.

There is no Coke Zero or even Diet Coke.  It's hard to find Diet Pepsi but it's possible.  Food is reasonably priced however gas is $1.43/litre but once again, most don't own a car.  Souvenirs are wood objects- masks, salad spoons, key chains - all kinds of trinketry stuff.

As per usual, the people are friendly and kind and Malawi is a great country to just hang out in while enjoying the shores of the lake.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kande Beach, Malawi, January 22-23, 2016

We doddled to get here, stopping at the best supermarket so far and then at a bunch of wood carving shops. 

Along the way-

We are spending 3 nights at this lake front resort and I upgraded to a single room!  I'm spoiling myself! 

Lake Malawi-

More interesting bathroom signs-

Tonight was a fancy dress/punch party.  We drew names and had to "outfit" our person.  

Mick, Rob and me-

Adam, Jess and Poppy-

Dougie, Helen and Rhod-

Fancy dress parties must be a popular thing because when we pulled into the parking lot by the mall in Mzuzu, we were swarmed by guys selling crazy clothes like these.  Where on earth would they even get some of these things?  And, for some crazy reason, women seem to like to make men wear dresses!

Mark truly outdid himself for supper with roast chicken, dressing, carrots, squash, scalloped potatoes, salad, gravy and garlic toast.  It made up for the bad meal I prepared last night!

There have been five different overland trucks here today.  GAdventures roasted a pig for their supper-

Looking forward to fresh water diving tomorrow, providing the silt from the rain has settled!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chitimba, Malawi, January 21, 2016

I went on a village walk this morning and our first stop was at our guide's home.  The 'shower' is a separate room outside-

Eight people share this 2 bedroom home-

The mattresses lay on the floor-

The kitchen is pretty basic-

But the kids are always cute-

Our next stop was at the school which offers grades 1-8.  There are 1200 students for 14 teachers.  The grade 3 teacher, who has 123 students, has one year of training and is spending her second year working as the classroom teacher, but she's really just an intern-

It was very noisy, for obvious reasons!  The blackboard is pretty basic and of course there were no computers-

The first two pages in the grade 7 English text book offer an interesting explanation-

12% of the country has HIV/AIDS.

We visited with the principal, who makes $347 Canadian/month and the head master, who makes $126 Canadian/month.  

Our next stop was chez the witch doctor-

and this was too weird, even for me!  It just seemed completely put on for our benefit from the drum playing and dancing, although he could really shake-

to the whistle blowing, potions (Love potion #7 and #9), to the groaning, to the fortune telling: apparently, I'm going to find a job when I get home and have 2 children, maybe 1.  The witch doctor is only 30 and learned all he knows from his dad.  Many apparently come to him for advice and medical intervention.  The wildest, and most believable part was when he took a red hot smouldering stick and chewed off a chunk without burning his mouth and face!

Thanks to the Canadian government, there are numerous, clean water pumps/wells in the area-

We also visited the local hospital where we saw a young boy with malaria vomiting - poor kid, he was really sick, and 2 women who weren't pregnant but hanging out in the maternity ward-

Cassava is a staple, usually eaten as ugali, boiled and mashed.  It's planted in raised beds-

and is a tuber.  6-8 roots usually grow beneath the plant-

Once it's been harvested, it can be cut into small chunks and dried in the sun-

 At a roadside stand, we were offered deep fried goat, intestines included-

After 3 weeks of-

I decided I'd had enough head scratching, ponytails and heaviness, so I'm back to normal and it feel great!  

Teak and ebony carving shops are plentiful. Interesting goods include chairs and two sided tables that have legs carved from a single piece of wood-

   I bought a mask-

All of the vendors have crazy names like Chicken Pizza, Vegamite, Cheap as Chips, Mr. Obvious and Robert!  Too weird!  I paid Vegamite and his crew $10 US to take out my braids.  It took 3 guys over 3 hours.  I felt sorry for them so gave them an extra 1000 kwacha, which is $2.10 Canadian.  Big spender I am!

Tomorrow, we have a "human start" - 8 am for Kande, another beach town, where we'll spend 3 nights.  Looking forward to a possible upgrade and fresh water diving!

  Cancun, Mexico to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,     December 31, 2023 I was up at 4:30 and walking to the bus depot by 5:30.  I wore my headlam...