Asia. My next frontier. These are the voyages of Valerie Cooper.
My continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where few muzungos have gone before.
Saturday, 11 August 2012
The Great Northern Adventure! Part I
During the school’s winter break, my sitemate/now roommate Emily and I decided to take a little trip up to Malawi and the Mozambican provinces we had yet to visit. Armed with a backpack each, a jar of peanut butter and no solid plans, we took off on the morning of July 21 on an excursion of more than 3,900 km - our Great Northern Adventure! Part I Chimoio, Manica - Gurúe, Zambezia = 814 km
We got up at 2:40 in the morning (careful not to wake the three sleeping people and one sleeping dog also crashing at my house that night) and headed to the chapa stop to see about buses north. They only had standing room on the big buses leaving at 3:30, so we opted instead for a small chapa to take us to the main road where we could boleia. Go figure, there’s not a whole lot going on at a chapa stop at 3:30h – at least nothing we wanted to be a part of – so we settled for finding our chapa and snuggled into the backseats to asleep until more people showed up and we left at 5h. Around 6:30, we arrived in the town of Inchope on the National Highway 1 (EN-1), which starts in the southernmost province and capital and stretches to the northernmost. After doing our boleia dance (flapping our hands at oncoming cars and looking desperate) on the side of the road for an hour, we had the great fortune to land a Chinese business bad English and worse Portuguese. Which didn’t deter his conversation and frequent chuckles at all. With limited vocabulary, a lot of gestures and five hours on the road, he told me about his work with cotton in Moz, how he misses his family and hopes to go back home (the Xindan province…?), and then explained that one of the songs we listened to (in between the Chinese boybands) was a song of praise (he broke out the English/Chinese dictionary on his BlackBerry and showed me the word – “Buddhism”). He turned off the road in the village of Zero (no joke) and Emily and I resumed our dance until a bus with two open seats pulled over around 13h. We settled in with books and iPods for the next few hours, until we got down at our turn-off at the electricity-less truck stop village of Nampevo around 18:30h. We walked to our next boleia spot using the light of our cell phones and the moon, where we had the incredible fortune to catch a small truck headed our way. An hour and a half later he told us that we were coming up on the village of Invinha, just outside the city of Gurúe, where fellow PCV Annie lived. Annie had given us directions to her house ahead of time (Invinha doesn’t have cell phone service), but we had been in town all of two minutes when we saw a flock of mzungos headed for the car – four PCVs. They had dinner ready and waiting for us, and after catching up we finally snuggled into the house’s two beds – for Emily and I, a difference of about 20 hours and 800 km from where we’d started the day.
Gurúe is renowned for its rolling hills covered with chazeiras - tea plants. It sits at the base of Namuli Mountain, the second largest in the country, and this and the waterfalls make it a superb hiking destination. As such, the six of us got up the next morning to check it out for ourselves. We hopped a ride on a truck transporting wood (pokey sticks…ow), about 20 other people and a bike.
As luck would have it, the truck ended up taking a shortcut that got us way off track and hopped off in the middle of one of Gurúe’s endless tea fields . (“Peace Corps – never the adventure you think you’re going to have,” Allison says.) With the help of our good friend Buffalo (who we picked up on the side of the road), we decided to try to find a lake buried on some random trails.
After a detour through a bamboo forest (seriously , it’s like CandyLand: Africa Edition), we found it!
We hiked back into town to meet up with another PCV, Julia, and have an early birthday celebration involving red velvet cake and puppies. Seriously, you simply can’t beat that. Happy Birthday Julia!
We hopped in the back of a pick-up moving furniture for the 20 minute ride back to Annie’s house and said farewell to the gorgeous Gurúe and its infinite tea.
back row: Anna, me, Emily, Allison, Caitlin, Annie
front row: Julia and friends