Posted in travel

Dolphins at Tofo 

After a little over a week in Africa I moved on to Tofo. I’d been at Palm Grove Lodge on Praia do Barra in Mozambique for a six days and was trapped after hurting my foot. When my prepaid time at Palm Grove was up and my foot had begun to heal, I made my escape. 

I set off walking once again for Tofo, this time with a huge backpack on my back. I walked quickly and took only one break, making it to Fatima’s Nest hostel before midday. I checked into a private hut with a shares bathroom. 

The staff here were very friendly and I met a nice Canadian called Paul. Overall I was happy to be in the land of the living again after a week of isolation. 

I walked around the coast to Tofinho and then chilled at Fatima’s for a while. Then I went around town asking dive shops about the legendary whale shark diving. I had barely been in the water during my week at what was supposedly a brilliant snorkeling location. 

One shop agreed to take me and o convinced Paul to come along too. 

—-

The next morning I went to Diversity Scuba who were teaming with Peri Peri for the ocean safari. We set out on choppy seas after an explanation of what would happen, and scanned the seas for life. 

We spent two hours looking for whale sharks and found none. Eventually, having resigned ourselves to seeing nothing, we got to swim with a pod of dolphins. It made the whole trip worthwhile. Not as good as seeing a whale shark… But still exciting. 

I shot a few decent photos on my GoPro. 

   
   

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Posted in travel

Praia do Barra cont.

The following day I decided to walk to Tofo. I had downloaded maps.me for offline directions, and so even without wifi I knew the way to town. I could either walk along the road (14km) or the beach (10km). 

It was a no-brainer: I had to walk the beach. 

I set out early I avoid the harsh midday sun. It was cloudy, thankfully, and I made good progress. But as I neared the lighthouse between Barra and Tofo beaches, I saw a big storm sitting over Tofo. It was a tough call – to go on or go back?

  
I decided to go on. I walked two km down the beach before the storm swept north and hit me hard. There was nowhere to hide. Just beach and dunes. I turned and reluctantly headed back, but when I got to the lighthouse the storm passed and I could see sun over Tofo again. 

I turned and walked back down the beach once again, arriving at a place called Dino’s Bar about 11:30, which was much later than I wanted to arrive. I was desperately thirsty and tired. 

After a brief beer and lunch, I continued on to explore the town. However, by now the sun was blazing. Very soon I could feel my skin burning and sought shelter. I visited a supermarket to buy cooking supplies, then another restaurant for a beer. 

About 3pm I tried walking back to Barra but the sun and fatigue were getting the better of me. I had to rest twice, and when I finally made it home I’d walked 25km. 

My feet were badly blistered and my shoulders scorched by the sun. The trip to Tofo had been a huge mistake and I hoped it wouldn’t affect the next days of my holiday. 

—-

Alas, the next days were spent in major pain and discomfort. My right foot became very difficult to walk on and my shoulders were burned badly so that sleeping was difficult. 

  
With no public transport nor any form of taxi, and with my foot turning black from the blister, I was trapped. 

I tried to relax and wait for the foot to heal, but I’m not good at relaxing. I kept waking small distances which turned into longer distances. Boredom drove me on. 

I was a little disheartened. I’d come to Mozambique to snorkel, yet the surf made it impossible. I couldn’t go to Tofo for activities because it was too far and the beach near my hotel was pounded by huge waves. I tried to sit and read but after a few hours I needed to walk about. It was frustrating. 

Also, I’d booked six nights at Palm Grove for some reason. 

I busied myself cooking dinner and reading, and walking to the nearby Neptune’s Bar, which was mercifully open. There I met other frustrated visitors who’d planned fishing trips which the waves had made impossible. 

After a few days I walked as far west as the beach went (near Pansy Island) and saw some flamingoes. 

 

 
On my last full day at Barra I ventured into the big waves to test out my new GoPro and the blister on my toe exploded. It was a miracle. Very soon after the foot began to heal and I set my sights on an escape from Praia do Barra. 

Posted in travel

Praia do Barra – Day One

After a night in Maputo, I headed to the airport for my flight up north to Inhambane. 

The plane was one of the smallest ice ever flown on. It had propellers and from my seat I could see right into the cockpit, where the pilots seemed to be navigating via the sort of gps device you might have in your car. 

We flew up the Mozambique coastline – hundreds of miles of unbroken white sand – and landed only an hour later at the tiny airport near Inhambane. 

I got my bag and found a taxi driver who took me to my accommodation – Palm Grove Lodge at Praia do Barra. On the way I couldn’t help but notice how similar it looked to Cambodia – red dirt roads, palm trees, blue skies.

I checked into my little house. I hadn’t realized it would be a house with kitchen and living room rather than just a simple hut with a bed. But this meant I could save money by cooking for myself. 

  
After checking in, I walked past the hotel bar/restaurant to the beach. It was paradise – white sand and blue seas as far as the eye could see in either direction. 

I turned right – east – and walked for a while. I met a man selling cashews and bought a huge bag of them. He probably ripped me off but I like cashews and usually pay 6x this price. 

I had a beer at a nearby bar and then continued along the beach to a lighthouse. I walked too far and my feet hurt a little. I realized how far I was from anything else…

In the evening I had beer and pizza at the hotel restaurant. It wasn’t great and wasn’t cheap. I looked forward to finding a shop where I could buy my own basic cooking supplies. Even a loaf of bread. 

At night I lay under the stars on the beach and looked at the galaxy. In China you can seldom see so many stars but from here j could see everything. I grabbed my GoPro and shot a reasonable picture. You’ll have to click the image and zoom in.

  

Posted in travel

Arriving in Maputo

I left Scotland on the 13th from Edinburgh for my much-awaited trip to Africa. I’d spent twelve days back home in Scotland having a belated Christmas with my family, but although I was sad to leave, I was excited to see a new continent. 

Unfortunately, the flights were all delayed. First there was an ISIS attack in Istanbul, and as I was flying Turkish Airlines I had to wait an extra hour in Edinburgh, and an extra three hours in Istanbul. The plane stopped for an hour and a half in Johannesburg, too. 

When I finally arrived in Maputo I navigated the bizarre immigration system for the first time. You’re now meant to have a visa prior to arrival, but for a small fee (bribe) you can still get a visa on arrival. They’re surprisingly open about this. I got a weird mugshot and soon was waiting to have my bags arbitrarily x-rated before setting out into the city. 

  
Having passed through immigration and customs, I looked for transport to my guesthouse. There isn’t much of anything at Maputo airport. Eventually a pushy man convinced me to go with him. On the way to his sketchy car, I saw a real taxi and decided to take that instead. The man was furious. “Look me something!” he shouted. He meant give him money. 

Later, the taxi driver told me that this other man was a “bad man,” whatever that meant. 

I checked into the Guesthouse Lokal, which was very nice, though a little expensive. Every room in Maputo had seemed expensive, but at least this one, unlike others, was clean. 

  
After checking in I decided to explore the city. I didn’t take my camera because I’d heard there are so many muggings and it seemed to be inviting trouble. I also didn’t take out my iPhone to take pictures for the same reason. 

Maputo is a strange, dusty city. It’s hot as hell, even at night. The pavements are falling apart and so walking is dangerous, and the high fences and armed security guards make you feel a little wary. I walked around but saw nothing, then bought supplies at a little convenience store. It was nice to see bread and cheese on offer after so long in China. 

Tomorrow it’s off to Inhambane and then Praia do Barra. 

Posted in Photography

Waves at Anstruther

Since getting back to Scotland on New Year’s Day the weather has been atrocious. In fact, for five days I couldn’t leave the house. There’s been flooding and high winds consistently. A few days ago, however, I got to visit the seaside at Anstruther, where, it seemed, even the sea was trying to invade the land.

Photos taken with iPhone 5s.

Posted in essay

North Koreans are not their Government

It pisses me off when I hear the hate espoused for North Korea. People seem to forget that the people are not their government. It should be obvious but when I see Facebook threads about yesterday’s H-bomb test, it invariably comes to comments like, “Let’s bomb them!” from even semi-rational people. 

Even the most reasonable argue for sanctions because they forget that North Koreans are humans who suffer from these sanctions, and that it is because of sanctions and blockades that the government has developed its militaristic hardline in the first place. 

I visited North Korea last year and let me tell you that the people are people just like anywhere else. The children are the same as children in any other country, yet we conveniently blot them from our minds when picturing the hermit kingdom.  

 Travel to North Korea may be controversial but for me it was eye opening, like travel anywhere. If you don’t want to go there then fine, but don’t forget that these are people just like anywhere else and that our approach to “dealing with” the DPRK causes their suffering. 

Posted in update

Back Home

It’s New Year’s Day and I’m back home at my parents’ house in Scotland. In two weeks I’ll take off for a trip around Southern Africa.

I’m writing this post on my iPhone on the WordPress app so hopefully this works.

Here are some photos of the house on Christmas mode: