|Main canal in the heart of Amsterdam|
Friday, August 18, 2006 | Amsterdam, The Netherlands (map)
Thursday, August 17, 2006 | Pemba, Mozambique (map)
|On the dhow from Ibo, at the start of a very long—but revealing—day of travel.|
With little wind, the ship's sails drooped and the crossing soon slowed to a crawl. The crew used long canes to pole us slowly toward our destination as the sun burned down. A school of dolphins followed us for a few moments, their glistening fins arching up gracefully from the sea all around the wooden craft. Five long hours after we boarded, we finally hopped into the water to slog by foot through the last stretch of mud onto the shore at Tandanhangue.
Having nearly exhausted my supply of meticais on the decidedly ATM-free island, I offered my beat-
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Ibo, Mozambique (map)
|When they receded each day, the drastic tides around Ibo revealed a plethora of bizarre creatures.|
A few minutes later, at the edge of the village I crossed a wide grass field, hacked out of the brush, that served as the island's airstrip. Further along, as I traipsed through a wide meadow soggy with the risen tide, sacred ibises rose and soared overhead in elegant formation.
By the time I reached the island's far eastern shore several miles further, the tide was rushing outward. Hoping to swim, I tossed aside my sandals and began walking through the muddy clay of
Monday, August 14, 2006 | Ibo, Mozambique (map)
|The streets of Ibo's town see little traffic on an island that has only one truck and a few motorbikes.|
The only exception to the rule of near universal cheerfulness and warmth on Ibo was the island’s "tourism officer," who hounded me and all other visitors to the island in an attempt to convince us to register our names in his log and pay the five dollar "tourist tax." Most considered him a pesky, overeager young bureaucrat and obliged simply to be rid of him.
I, however, was convinced from the start that he was nothing more than a self-appointed "tax" collector who had managed to procure a poor approximation of an official-looking hat and log book
Sunday, August 13, 2006 | Ibo, Mozambique (map)
|In the main square of Ibo's only town, a woman wears a traditional facial mask of musiro, made from a local tree.|
In Pemba that afternoon, I made arrangements for a flight back to Dar es Salaam, my ambitious overland travel plans of several weeks ago having by now proven woefully over-optimistic.
Saturday, August 12, 2006 | Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique (map)
|The crumbling yet still vivid façades of Ilha de Moçambique's buildings are just one part of the island's charm.|
I walked to the Church of Santo Antonio, on the island's eastern coast, passing through the waking village on my way. Many residents of Ilha's southern shanty town, lacking running water or indoor plumbing, were relieving themselves on the beach, and kicking sand behind them like cats as they turned back toward the houses. Though it may bring funds for restoration and tourism revenue, there is a price to pay for having the UN decide that the place you live is to be "preserved." The shanty town is excluded from major development and renovation funding yet must still abide by the
Thursday, August 10, 2006 | Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique (map)
|Local fishermen on Ilha de Moçambique, with the Portuguese fort in the background|
Meant to seat at most 12, soon the minibus was loaded with more than 23 people (plus their baggage) by my most conservative estimate. On our way out of Nampula, our driver presented the appropriate papers at several police roadblocks along the route, the 50 meticais note which he tucked into the documents no doubt smoothing our passage each time. We drove toward the coast and its famous off-shore island, the Ilha de Moçambique, which had been my ultimate destination during the last week's travels through the country's rugged north.
Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | Nampula, Mozambique (map)
|The train trundled all day across northern Mozambique, stopping at every market town along its route.|
The frigid, damp morning air streaming into our cabin window soon warmed as the sun emerged, gently illuminating the large granite cliffs that unexpectedly loomed up from the otherwise flat plains of northern Mozambique.
At each station—every few hundred meters, it seemed—the train skidded to a long, screeching halt to allow an exchange of passengers. It was accompanied by an onslaught from the small army of men, women and children which each village had conscripted to hurriedly hawk fruits and vegetables alongside the train at the top of their lungs. After several minutes the chaotic scene would explode
Monday, August 7, 2006 | Cuamba, Mozambique (map)
|Cuamba: every bit as boring as it looks.|
In mid-morning I found myself sitting on a pile of dirt beside the road, eating corn from a can and breathing the dust of the few passing cars as the minibus driver ploddingly changed a flat tire. Joop and Rene, who had slept in and hitched a ride from Lichinga hours after I had left, pulled to the side of the road right in front of me, relishing the moment and telling me how good their breakfast had been.
Thanks to the tire their driver lent ours, I finally arrived in Cuamba later that afternoon, and located the Dutch pair. At Cuamba's train station, we discovered that the train we hoped to take
Friday, August 4, 2006 | Lichinga, Mozambique (map)
|A member of the crew that ferried us to the Mozambican mainland on their handmade craft.|
Soon after dawn the two spirited Dutch men and I set off together, hiking back across the island to town, where we made arrangements with a local dhow captain, who agreed to sail us the 10 kilometers to the Mozambique coast of the lake around midday, once the wind picked up. At noon we hopped aboard the small dhow as its three young crew members unfurled the sail—a sunbleached, multi-color patchwork of burlap rice sacks, bedsheets, t-shirts and plastic flour bags, hand-stitched with a large, uneven weave that left the sail gaping with holes. Sweating in the relentless sun, Joop and I threw a line overboard, jumped in and let the sailboat tow us along in the cool water.
Thursday, August 3, 2006 | Likoma Island, Malawi (map)
|Guests play bao by candlelight each evening at Mango Drift.|
At breakfast in the open-air beachside bar, I made the acquaintance of a few British and Dutch guests before they set out to visit to the island's witch doctor.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | Likoma Island, Malawi (map)
|Aboard the MV Ilala, I reached Likoma Island just after dawn.|
Useful to a great degree (and more so once you learn what to trust them on and when to ignore them) guidebooks rarely lead one astray. In some cases, however, they can become "victims of their own success."