Archive for south africa

not a typical sunday

you’ll be happy to find this post with no pictures. there is a reason for it. this is a post about how one simple sunday of just plain plans to visit the Namaacha Waterfalls about an hour from Maputo and to stamp aldo’s passport on the border with Swaziland became my nightmare…

That morning I has woken up with only one worry and told karen: “no matter what happens today, I will be sitting on this couch at 9pm. I cannot miss G’s A last 5th season episode… no matter what!” she laughed. Little did i know I was about to think it was the most impossible thing to do.

We left Maputo, me , aldo, karen and martim, after a quick breakfast at the Cristal and drove to Namaacha… the trip usually takes about an hour. It tooks us 1 hour and 30minutes because I was stopped by the police for going 20km/h more than what I should’ve… and off we went again.

The first thing on the list to do was just drive to the border, drop off aldo and martim to get their passports stamped and then go see the waterfalls… karen and I would stay inside mozambique waiting to pick them up again when they were ready… 15minutes passed… 30minutes passed… 45 minutes passed… a call from aldo saying:

“they won’t let me in. I have to stay in Swaziland, go to the embassy at the capital Mbabane and get a new visa… it can take up to 30days”

Panic didn’t reach my face straight away, I had karen right in front of me and my first thought was to not let her see how wierd this day was about to get. But she’s too smart… and when I said on the phone even in italian “what do you want me to do” she knew something was up. He explained to me that there wasn’t much alternative to the idea of staying in Swaziland, either I joined him or he’d stay there by himself. I confess… I cried, because not that he was in danger, but it reached a limit in my heart. I am so fed up with these idiots that wake up on a sunday morning and decide to control people’s lives, even when they are legal. 

I excused myself with karen and martim, put them on a chapa to Maputo, explaining that one day I’ll make sure they see the Namaacha Waterfalls and the Limbombos Dam… one day… not today.

As soon as their chapa left, by the way, chapa is the minivan they call taxi buses, I’ll explain as soon as I get up the nerve to get into one. Anyway, they got on, they left and I quickly turned around the car and drove straight to the border building. I left Mozambique without saying a word. They asked “conversation questions”, I simply didn’t answer, I didn’t even look at anyone, I was angry. Too angry to speak.

Next step was to enter Swaziland, it was easier, it’s not their fault Mozambique border patrols work like shit, so I didn’t talk but I looked at them… never ever was I rude. Only because I decided that being silent was my best medicine for the nervous system.

I called by “bosses” and told them, between tears and angry words that I was about to enter Swazi to pick up aldo and sleep in the capital Mbabane, in order for the next day, monday be ready at the Mozambican Embassy to take care of business. But fortunately, Sergio didn’t let me panic too much, he let me know, asking first if I was up for it mentally and phisically, that if I drove to Mananga, the Swazi border with South Africa and cross onto ZA from there, he assured me it would be a piece of cake… easy peasy. From there all I had to do was drive to Komatipoort and enter Mozambique through Ressano Garcia. If by any chance we couldn’t, we could drive to Nelspruit and sleep there and go to the Mozambican Embassy the next day. He asked “if you drive slowly you will be home for dinner, but it’s a long drive and exhausting to go through 3 border patrols in one day”

To which I answered “I’ll be home before 9pm. Just won’t talk all the way there”. aldo gave me permission to drive silently and off we went.

In 4 hours I drove throught 3 border patrols and 3 countries.

By the time we arrived at the Komatipoort border I was about to collapse, not only did I not talk but in the mean time thought so much about myself. As we entered the last border building I had run out of things to critise this system, and for that I kept silent, and before I started taking care of my own papers to get into Mozambique, I waited for him to have his own permission… it would be the second to last step before home. So we waited. And waited. And 40 minutes later there is was, his permission. He could enter from here, but not from Swazi……… go figure these idiots.

I got my things together, papers and all, for me and the car, and drove off… now I spoke, now I let it go. No more Namaacha Border, no more of these horrible experiences, no more embarassing moments. I am done with this. From now on I am not doing this anymore. And I’m sure he’s giving up on it too. It seems that things will get resolved soon, his DIRE and permits and whatever… but seriously… if only state workers would get their shit together this would be a better place… but no, for some ridiculous reason, it serves some sort of purpose. If they would concentrate on getting the thieves, and corrupt polititians, and abusive drivers.  

To stop this right here, I will only tell you this: at 8:50pm I was sitting on my couch, with FOX LIVE on and G’s A starting the most horrible and most intriguing episode ever. Couldn’t have been a better ending for this NOT typical sunday.

blyde river canyon #002

GOD’S WINDOW and the RESERVE was for sure amazing but we still had a few meters up to travel until we reached the top north of the CANYON.

everything seemed to change around us as we left the RESERVE and traveled north. it almost became desert like, very dry and yellowish in color. all of this to make us even more astonished about our next stop: DRIE RONDAVELS!

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it just seemed to not stop surprising on every angle, wherever your turned your head it became better, or deeper, or greener, or… anything! and because of this aldo and i decided we needed (ok, so I decided, he would have rather not do it!) to take our first actual photo together… in 6 years! the idea was just to prove that we had actually been in this place.

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this next photo is specially for Rosie, she’s the only one who knows KING ALDO!

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see? all we had to say at this point was: WOW!

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not only that but we were so high i didn’t dare stand so close to the edge. i thought i’d be safer if i crawled!!! a mix between a lioness and a scared cat!

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i did stand on that pointy edge, but i didn’t like the feeling. this coming from someone who isn’t afraid of hights, just afraid of sharp rocks hanging from steep cliffs!

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the idea of flying off of that cliff was although intreeging!

it tooks us a long time to part from that spot. but we had to go, there were a ocuple of things we needed to see before heading back to real life in Maputo.

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on the way south again we encountered a strange scene. we passed a bridge and as i asked the camera to aldo (alberto was driving) all of a sudden this helicopter popped out of nowhere with a gigantic bucket full of water to stop a fire burning in the distance! i hope there were more of these seeing how big the fire was and how small the tiny lake where he stole the water from was.

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we passed the BERLIN FALLS and yes it was very nice…

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even if somehow a picture of me and my new shoes became a homicide threat!

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but, you know me. there’s no city like Lisbon, so of course we saved the best for last: LISBON FALLS!!!

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and may i just say, MUCH BETTER THAN BERLIN!!!!! not one, not two, but three waterfalls!! and a couple of rainbows! AH! nothing better when you miss home!

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(little detail of how windy it was, the water wasn’t actually falling but flying upwards from the strong wind. of course we took a great shower just then)

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after this, all there was for us to do was head home, back to Maputo. no traffic, no long lines at the border, nothing exciting. but the day had taken all our energy. worth it!

blyde river canyon #001

i advise you to think carefully about reading this post, i have put so many pictures and am thinking of writing quite a bit of text today so i warn you that this is the longest post i’ve ever posted. i would definetely say it’s worth reading it to the end but it’s your choice.

it is a post of the most well kept secret around here. we went to south africa for a weekend, to the Blyde River Canyon out of the blue. the idea was to go to Nelspruit just for the pleasure of entering a BOOKSTORE, where they actually sell books that interest and for a normal price, not like in Maputo where books literally are too expensive as to say “no one is allowed to read!” anyway that was our main goal this weekend. we had asked quite a few people about what we should see around Nelspruit and where we should sleep and believe it or not, no one was able to tell us what beautiful things there were, we got nothing. so to me this trip became a discovery, and what a discovery.

one late evening Aldo came across on google some pictures of a place called Blyde Ryver Canyon Reserve, and we didn’t take long about deciding that it was where we were going that weekend. for a change we decided to go up to the mountains, enjoy some fresh mountain air and views of South Africa from 1500m of altitude.

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the first evening, just before we got to Sabie, the little town where we stayed for the night, or should i say, FROZE for the night, with temperatures definetely around 10º!!! we were already up almost 1000m high. and we were impressed. i was already starting to remember my mountain house in Portugal, Alberto was surely remembering his home town also in Portugal and Aldo was also thinking i’m sure of his parents place up in Colzano, Italy. it took our breath away from the start.

because we had waisted a day, saturday, on border patrol, nelspruit shopping center and travelling to Sabie we got up so early sunday morning to be able to do the whole of the Canyon in one day in order to get back to Maputo at a decent hour. Sabie was also very nice to see that early, we had arrived so early but hadn’t managed to arrive with a bit of light so all we saw was a town with lots of neon lights seeming like a futuristic town in miniature. those neons were actually to sign of a front door of these small and so organized houses. it was such a ocnforting sight to see that every one had electricity, and what i presumed water too.

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Mac Mac falls were “under construction” so we didn’t actually see any waterfalls here but the scenery lived up to our imagination… or even better. the difference in “capulanas” was already so big and they looked beautiful against the green mountains.

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the road is a slow one, meaning you can’t go over than 80 sometimes and with so many turns it’s difficult to travel fast but it helped these first timers because it gave Aldo and Alberto the chance to take some amazing pictures while i drove trying to look at everything and still keep us on the road… we were difenitely going up in altitude and sometimes next to me there was only a big cliff going steeply down!!!

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the Natural Bridge is very well known around here, seeing that the lady at the restaurant where we had dinner the night before and the lady from the lodge we stayed in say it was a MUST! we definetly wanted to stop and see it, specially when we saw the indication to it in a language we knew perfectly well!!!! 30m wasn’t such a bad walk anyway.

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yes… that was it! look better, because we also took a few minutes to find it!

our next stop couldn’t have been more apropriate. we were reaching hights almost never reached before on foot by someone with such a serious sinus problem, MOI. i really felt we were getting dangerously close to heaven… or should i say GOD’S WINDOW!

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(amazing how that is the only place in africa i’ve seen with such a sign)

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no wonder it has that name. it basically leaves you stunned. it makes you really wonder if he’s right there next to you looking at that same spectacular view. it took us a long time to leave because we realized how much we were going to the beach. we hadn’t seen mountain in a while, specially Aldo and i. maybe wearing sneakers, socks, scarves and pants isn’t such a bad thing. GOD’S WINDOW is definetly a place to visit. and it’s so close to Maputo and so easy to find. it’s a pity no one could tell us about it, but then again i love secrets and there was no one there to bother this peaceful and amazing view.

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the vegetation is stunning and so tropically strange in this high altitude.

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yes i sometimes go shopping around here and i have decided to leave Mozambique with a full ZOO, so this time, i got myself a HIPPO, a fat sandal wood HIPPO!!! ok and a necklace too!

nest stop: the actual BLYDE RIVER CANYON RESERVE. you oay to see it, your car pays to be parked bu what you get for 80ZAR is worth every penny (cents just don’t work for me in this sentence).

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from the beginning of the descent to the reserve it’s nothing really amazing, it looks very tiny and very simple, such a small cascade of water with a desert like vegetation around it. the sun was getting warmer and it felt as if we’d be back in the car soon. silly me!

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as soon as we got to the first bridge it all changed. nothing was LITTLE, nothing was INSIGNIFICANT. it all transformed. there was the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon just beneath us exposing every contorsion every detail and every secret. again, with all my sinus problems i still was gobsmacked by all of this. and it wasn’t all.

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couldn’t resist sitting down and getting my feet in the water, now i was a bit cold still, only my arms were being warmed by the frail sun light and as soon as i put my foot in that water i froze! it was obviously freezing!!!!!! i smiled for the photo but i took less than two seconds to put my dear feet in my socks in my shoes. aawww, sweet warmth! nonetheless i wanted to take a dip in that water. the clearest i’d seen in ages!

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everywhere we go we see creatures.

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from the spot we saw the creature above, yes cute but so disgusting, all we had to do was basically turn around and again AAWWW ourselves! there they were, the POTHOLES!

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they are called this way because of the clear way the water and the erosion have created what seems to be bit Potholes where the size of houses! it is funny how the water cascades from where i froze my feet into these potholes leaving these amazing shapes and keeps moving from on to another in order to reach it’s destination, the Blyde River.

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there is just something about shadows that can’t be denied.

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A + A+ A

if we could we’d stayed longer, but this trip was only just beginning. next stop… 1500m!

kruger park #002

the Kruger Park is without a doubt a gorgeous place, not as savana as i would have expected after last year visiting the Gorongosa Park in Mozambique, but still so exciting, searching for all t«of the BIG FIVE or not, was a challenge, it exhausts you because it seems like so much land for only four pairs of eyes! we were very lucky though because apparently eventhough it’s normal to see so many animals, not everyone gets to see so many of the BIG FIVE in one visit. usually december is not the best time, the grass and bushes are very tall at this time of the year… but i guess when you’re not expecting much, when things have happened that make you just wish to have good fun with you boyfriend, sister and friend, i guess the animals didn’t mind showing just to make our weekend so much better!

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there is a giraffe behind me!

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a whole family of zebras

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a sleepy rhino

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another hypnotized bambi

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a funny and ugly couple of pumbas… ok so their technical name is WARTHOG, but to me they’re just pumbas!

now prepare yourselves for the master, the king of the animals, ladies and gentleman, i give you MR. LION KING!

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the lovely royal couple enjoying the breezy shadow on a very hot morning… just in case you think the pictures have the zoom on, not really, we were about 7 meters away from them, the thrill of seeing them so close was something i cannot explain, they look fierce, strong, owners of the land… but in a way they looked very cute!

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in the eye of the… crocodile!

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and a turtle on the rocks!

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again the bird that pees

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another bird, which by the way was also 2 meters away from me and was so huge i’m sure it took take your head off with that beak!!

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we found this lagoon without expecting it and guess what we found IN the lagoon… HIPPOS!!!! see the lumps in the water? ok, so we had binoculars… we even saw them get up, yawn and get back in the water.

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the tree in the middle of the lagoon was also full of nests of different time of birds

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and there she was again, hiding but still so curious!

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this is a KODU… family of the bambis i think, with just a meaner face!

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mommy and son. 

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our cabin in the SKUKUSA CAMP

 

and just before we left the KRUGER PARK, we had an amazing, exciting, almost scary moment…

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right there next to us, they passed, on with their business, took their time, ate a bit (apparently elephants have a really bad digestive system making them spend all their time awake eating… this way they’ll digest all day and get filled up all day. ah an another detail, zebras have also a really bad digestive system, they fart a lot and that’s why you’ll never see a think zebra… they hold a lot of air!), looked around them,

and headed home… and so did we.