Change of Plans

We will not be leaving for Mozambique tonight as planned. Alex’s upset stomach from this morning has turned into more (projectile vomit for one thing). Luckily  Elna’s clinic  is downstairs so we have plenty of nurses taking care of him. Alex kept telling me that he would be fine by tonight to travel, but after the vomiting and his paler then normal white face, I made the executive decision to call Computicket and get our tickets changed. I was not going to be on the SA/Mozambique roads in a bus with someone who was feeling sick, thats just asking for problems that no dramamin could solve. If you have ever been in a car,especially taxis, in a 3rd world country you understand why getting on one even feeling slightly sick is a BAD idea. So we are leaving tomorrow night at 10PM, that way Alex will have today and tomorrow to rest and then he can sit on the white sand beaches in Mozambique.

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Tea

Everywhere we went today the World Cup was present. Magazines with pictures of the country players in boxer briefs ( courtesy of Vanity Fair), newspapers with predictions of the winner, passengers on our airplane sporting their teams jersey, everywhere even our little travel pack with an eye cover, toothbrush & socks from SA airlines had a world cup theme. For most die-hard soccer fans that would probably be what they needed to have the ” rush” of reality that they were going to Africa for the World Cup, but I am not a die-hard fan. If you have not already figured this out this is Alisa’s post not Alex’s.

My ” rush” of reality came at 2 AM in the morning somewhere over Guinea. Unable to sleep I was able to enjoy the early morning complementary drink round. I ordered tea with a milk and a little sugar, probably not the best idea since I was already having problems sleeping and tea in Africa means black tea (typically some form of english breakfast) Oh well! One sip of that tea and I was suddenly back sitting with my host family outside our house in Ghana having deep in-depth conversations about politics, religion and culture. Another sip and I was in Namibia having breakfast with Alex and Mo at the base of the tallest sand dunes in the world. So many of my greatest memories of my 2 trips to the African continent revolve around tea. I have been up way too many hours and I am starting to think what was my whole point of writing this?  Well I guess my point is that everyday I look at baskets, masks, photos of my journeys as many people will do when they return home from SA, but they do not illicit quite the same memories or emotional response as that cup of tea. So while we are buying a 2010 world cup t-shirt and other reminders of your trip find your tea. Find the thing that no matter where you are in life you will see, smell, taste and it will bring your right back to SA and the 2010 world cup because when future generations ask you about what it was like to go the first World Cup ever hosted in Africa they are not going to want to see a t-shirt. They will want the little details that made this experience one of a kind, the memories that are often brought about by the smallest and most simple things.

A side note. I feel I should explain my relationship to soccer because it is very different then that of the other writer on this blog. Unlike Alex I had never seen a soccer game let alone a professional soccer game until I studied abroad at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban in the fall of 2007. The first professional game I went to was to see the Kaiser Chiefs play . After that Alex took my soccer education into his own hands ( I’m still learning). On our way back from SA Alex and I spent a few days in London where we did the grand tour of the Arsenal stadium( in exchange for him going to see Wicked with me). I was blown away by the detail that had gone into everything from the grass to the locker rooms. After returning to the states I realized how disconnected Americans were from the worlds most popular sport. Yes there is MLS ( Go Earthquakes!!) but for the majority of Americans it is all about American football. My biggest hope is that the USA qualifying for the 2010 world cup will spark more interest in the sport. Not just because it’s the most popular sport in the world and a lot more interesting to watch then American football ( in my opinion) but because of the power of sports to create peace and friendly competition. Sports psychologist have known for a while that play on a team sport like soccer builds confidence, cooperation and leadership. But recently members of the peace building community, like Search for Common Ground, have used sports ( mostly soccer) and television to address issues, raise concerns and build lasting peace in countries that have been torn apart by war. Please if you get a chance check out SFCG website and information about their program The Team, what it has achieved has only just begun. I will also post the articles I wrote about The Team on this blog if anyone is interested in reading them.

My soccer goal for the World Cup is to expand my soccer knowledge and learn how to kick the ball well enough to play in a pick up game with the kids in the villages I am volunteering at in Kenya starting in August.

The Mozambique Decision

For the past week, Alisa and I have debated on whether we should include Northern Mozambique in our travel plans during our stay in Southern Africa this summer. We have two weeks in the region before we need to pick up our car at OR Thambo and head to Rustenburg for the England – US match. We have debated whether to spend those two weeks in Mozambique and endevour to head north to the Ilha de Mozambique. It’s a place that has been on our radar since we first looked into heading to Moz on our spring break in 2007 while in Durban. However, we learned that to get all the way up there it would take at least a week to make the journey through the countryside.

I’ve yet to find only one resource that has talked about traveling that far north and it is dated in 2007. Reading the author’s further blogs makes me worried that having only two weeks to get up there and come back would put our plans in South Africa during the World Cup at risk. However, I’m wondering if we’ll ever be so close and have that much time to get up there as we will this summer. We are considering using the four weeks after the World Cup to make the journey, but what state will our funds be in by then?

Most of the blogs I have read on traveling in Mozambique never convey much confidence in the transportation, and while that’s to be expected, I have yet to find a recount of someone pressed for time in getting around the country. The one instance that I did find someone in a time crunch, they had the fortune of teaming up with someone with a 4×4; a luxury that is out of our price range. We also can’t head there in the hopes of someone else making the same journey we are and wanting to split petrol costs.

The question that we posed to the famous backpackers, Fatima’s, was how long would it take to make the journey north. They replied that the roads to Beira were quite good, but going further north was playing roulette. Unfortunately, Beira looks to be a 2-3 day’s drive at the least, and if that’s the best part of the transit system, it would surely be close to double that to reach our destination, thus putting us 9+ days away from Johannesburg if we turned around as soon as we arrived. It looks as if the easiest way to the region would be through Cuamba, which we could then catch a train to Nampula, and then onto the Island. However, it looks like the best way to Cuamba is through Blantyre, Malawi. Even that route sounds challenging. Plus, Alisa does not have the best memories of the 35+ hour bus ride from Joburg to Blantyre…

Alisa is worried that I am too enamored by the challenge and will take us on the journey just to prove that it can be accomplished, and as I read more and more blogs about the journeys through Northern Mozambique, I am starting to agree that it is simply a route that cannot be navigated by two people with limited time. However there is a travel agency offering a $500 dollar package for a three night stay on the island, including airfare. Even though would make a serious dent in our budget for just three days, I am serious considering whether this might be our best and only chance to make it. I am not sure what the allure of the island is beyond the difficulty in reaching it. But I have always had a fascination for seeing the ‘oldest’ or the ‘first’, and on the Ilha de Mozambique, there is the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere: a Chapel built by the Portuguese in 1522. It was the first capital of Portuguese East Africa, and has since been named a World Heritage site. All cool facts that increase the desire to be able to say “I’ve seen that”.

The other part of wanting to make it all the way up to Northern Mozambique is the fact that most of Mozambique is still wild. It’s not yet a tourist location, yet on every travel site, that fact is repeated over and over, thus it can only be a matter of time till the beaches of Mozambique become world-renowned and ‘civilized’. A part of me wants to make this journey not just in spite of the difficulties, but also because of them. If we return in 20 or 30 years and make it to the Ilha, and take a chartered tour, or hire a nice car with aircon and set it on cruise-control up the nicely tarred roads all the way from Maputo to Nampula and over to the Ilha, there will be a sense of failure. Challenges like this inspire me and drive me forward, and even as I read how difficult it is to make the journey, it makes the possibility of accomplishing it so much more tantalizing.

So as our accommodations for the World Cup are nearly complete, Alisa and I will spend the next month finalizing the rest of the journey. I’m afraid I won’t be able to convince Alisa of the merits of a adventure to Northern Mozambique, but perhaps we will find another challenging adventure that will satisfy even more…

Trip Planning Software for Mac

As I started planning our trip to South Africa, I searched the web for software that would help me manage it better than just writing out an itinerary in iCal or Pages. I immediatley noticed the dearth of software until I came upon Knapsack (new link – 2011). It looked the perfect solution.

The ease of use, and ablitiy to print great itineraries made it seem the solution I had been looking for and well worth the cost. That is until I started exploring their application and website, where it was posted under their blog that their company, TinyPlanet Software  was up for sale. AND, there had been no significant update for their software since Aug 2008. That was devastating. Looking at other Mac Forums, many others had lamented the company’s demise and that no one else had stepped into this barren landscape with a competitor.

The biggest draw back to using it now is that their demo only lasts 30 days, and I thus I would have to pay 40 bucks for a piece of software that is nearly defunct. Plus, their maps function makes planning that much more difficult because there’s no Google Maps integration. It would be worth the $40 if it did integrate and allowed directions to be placed into the itinerary or created inside the program.

The integration with iCal would’ve been great to use and then publish via MobileMe, but alas I’m stuck drawing it out by hand and then simply typing it up. Perhaps there will come a solution before June?

[UPDATE]: Find Knapsack here, at Outer Level.