Green Rwanda: Rolling Hills, Motorcycle Mechanics and Rebuilding after a Genocide.

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Rawanda was one of the biggest surprises of the trip so far. A green undulating country with fertile soil, rivers, lakes and friendly people.

After Tanzania’s rural, muddy and remote travels it was a glorious change of scenery to see such a lovely run country with well kept fields, pothole free roads and many smiling faces. The food is lovely and the amazing roads curving around the beautiful lush green landscape is perfect for motorcycles!

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We got the opportunity to sleep in a nice warm bed and eat buffet meals before we made our way to the capital of the country Kigali. In Kigali we stayed at Discover Rawanda Youth Hostel where we met owners of another backpackers in the North of the country.

I had another fork seal go on my front shocks due to the ridiculous off-roading done to enter the country, so had to do a quick bit of mechanics before we went out to discover the capital.

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We met the youth of Kigali in the local art scene which is a bustling creative hub of African artistic expression. The materials used are generally freely available and the results more often than not, astounding!

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After a day of arts and crafts we made our way to the Rawanda Genocide Memorial Museaum. This is probably the most well known thing about Rawanda and is also one of the most recent genocides in human history and therefore still leaves a gloomy shroud over perceptions of the country.

The horrific images and scenes portrayed in the museum insure that people know the atrocities committed during this era and ensure that nothing like this occurs again. The country has many institutes to educate people about the horrors endured by the country and proposes a peaceful way forward. However, while travelling in the country you would not imagine that this occurred 20 years ago. The country is one of the best run and most developed countries in Central Africa and definitely worth visiting.

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While we were in the town Tom managed to infiltrate the factory one of Africa’s unique products: The Tyre Slop. Tom went into the workshop where these shoes are produced from recycles truck tires.

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The finished product is a 100 % recycled and incredibly durable pair of slops that will last much longer than any pair of shoes you can purchase at any store. They have also been souped up by the Kigali art scene to be more funky and fashionable.

This concluded our stay in the capital. Travelling north we made our way to The Volcanoes National Park to stay at the best backpackers in the whole of Central Africa: Red Rocks Rwanda. This establishment has what is probably the best system for sustainable tourism in Rwanda. Nestled in the town at the base of three huge volcaino’s, this gem has a wonderful camping area, engaging cultural activities as well as participation in the local banana beer production.

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The local dancers were full of energy and kept attempting to entice you to join in.

During the banana beer production the locals make music to assist and motivate the people mashing the banana’s (Mike and Myself) in the grass. Mashing banana’s with grass is much more difficult than it sounds, luckily Istene quickly put her dancing skills into play during the motivational music.

Tom also had his hand at banana smashing and attempted the odd pickup line.

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The banana juice is then filtered and left to ferment   for three days after which it has gained the attributes mentioned in the below video.

Mike and I tried our hand at grinding down the local grains.

 

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The campsite was full of oddities,but was a great place for Tom and Mike to hunt down some illusive short circuits on Tom’s bike. This was noticed when Tom’s bike (Frankenstein) began smoking and catching flame.

Once Tom had rewired his mechanical monster we were ready to get on the road, but before we left we had to acquire some extremely rare cheese from down the road. Below is a view of the local cheese “factory” and a volcano in the background. The areas around Red Rocks are lovely, friendly and safe.

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We were excited to continue travelling and felt content that we had had a good insight into the landscapes, cultures, history and joys that Rwanda had to offer. The time had come to travel to Uganda and see more of Central Africa’s Great Lakes.

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Cheers

Trent Seiler &

The Nitty Gritty Nomads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanzania: Giant Horned Cows, the Longest Lake in the World and Hundreds of Hippo’s

Forests, Mountains, Hippo’s and Great Lakes! See our rather late installment to out Tanzanian adventure!

We exited Zambia at the Zombe Border Post under turbulent skies. The border post was small, remote and time consuming on the Tanzanian side. As we finished the border post administration a large downpour began, leaving the roads muddy and hazardous.

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Trucks were unable to climb the slippery mud roads, luckily we could sneak in between these bogged down giants and get where we needed to go.

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We eventually made it to our destination of Sumbawanga, our first stop in Tanzania, which directly translated means “throw away your witchcraft”. Our route through Tanzania was a straight one for a change, where we made good progress North, in a shortish period of time as you can see from the route below.

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Our next stretch was up through Katavi National Park, we stopped just before the park in a section of woodlands that had been dug up to create a portion of the road through the park. We ended up having a lovely small grouse – still warm and in prime condition, roadkill- for dinner. African Bush Cuisine cooked in an Asiatic style by Tom with ginger garlic onions and chillies, rice and fried eggs. It was a lovely meal done on the fire, under the African stars. This was not the case in the morning as the rains had arrived, we got rained in for two days!

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Katavi National Park was beautiful and even though we were only on the main bus route through the park we still managed to identify several species of animal, including: Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo and two female Lions that crossed the road 50 meters in front of us while we stopped for a drink of water. Possibly the most interesting of the animals were the massive amounts of Hippo’s that had all congregated in a tiny pool on the northern border of the national park. There is massive competition for water sources toward the end of the dry season.

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Another interesting animal we noticed as we entered Tanzania was a new species of cattle with colossal horns, these seem to be the dominant species around this central African Great Lake area. They are a breed unique to Africa (Bos taurus africanus) and are likely to have been domesticated in the area on the west shores of Lake Victoria.

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Tanzania was full of incredible and vast landscapes with wilderness and forests, we managed to hit the country directly in the rainy season so the roads were muddy and the scenery green.

Our next stop was Mpanda, to pick up supplies and recover, during this portion of our trip Mike had caught malaria, Tom had one or two days down with stomach issues as well as wounds that would not heal. Istene was also down with a stomach bug. Thus, we spent several days at a little local hotel (White Rose Lodge) and mended.

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Once we were ready we departed for Uvinza, The road there was one of the toughest and muddiest of the trip. I crashed due to my rear wheel slipping out and bent my crash bars, Mike also managed to slide out around a corner. Mike came out in a bit better shape than me but luckily we were just a little bashed up and could continue travelling.

Luckily the road was full of mushrooms and incredible scenery. The picture below is how our motorcycles looked by the time we arrived at Uvinza.

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Once again we pushed north, to the town of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the town is 10 km from the historical town of Ujiji where Richard Burton and John Speke discovered the lake as well as the spot where Henry Stanley found Dr. David Livingston and reputedly uttered the famous words “Dr Livingston I presume?”. The area is rich with history, both colonial and Arabic, Ujiji was an Arab settlement and is the oldest town in western Tanzania. We paid a visit to this historical town to see the museum as well the mango tree that Stanley met Livingston under (a graft but same same).

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In Ujiji we walked down an old cobbled street with very little going on, you can see the main economic activity of the area has shifted toward Kigoma. Once the main economic activity in Ujiji was the slave and ivory trade, until the slave trade was officially abolished in the area in 1873 (but continued on secretly into the early 20th century.) The museum was expensive but luckily open to negotiation. There was a tour guide that took you to the  historical spots and gave a fairly knowledgeable account of the happenings of the era of colonial expansion in the area.

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After we were satisfied that we had seen and learned as much as we could we took a walk down to the current waterline of Lake Tanginika, some 500 m away from where it was in Livingston’s time. This is due to King Leopold’s reign in the Congo, where he apparently opened the outlet to the Lukuga River which flows into the Congo River. This was done to increase the volume of the Congo River to make it more accessible to steam boats. Thus, increasing trade opportunities deeper into the Congo.

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We returned to Kigoma and enjoyed a meal on the beach where Alex decided to take a nap while still in his chair.

We managed to meet an epic Latvian named Aldus who owns a boat that ferries businessmen from the Congo to Kigoma. We were lucky enough to stay with him, enjoy a few whiskeys and catch a Sunday Booze Cruise on Lake Tanganyika with his luxurious boat.

Once we had done the mechanical Nitty Gritty’s (services, accelerator cables etc.) in Kigoma we made our way toward a tiny little country named Rwanda.

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The western areas of Tanzania are wild but well worth a visit for a view of pristine(ish) African wilderness. You cannot access the lake at many points due to the geology and vegetation. However, the thick woodland areas are busstling with hundreds of edible mushrooms, giant trees, incredible mountains and waterfalls.

Cheers

Trent Seiler

& The Nitty Gritty Nomads

All photos and videos by Tom Da Silva

 

Zambia: Rock Art, Waterfalls, Worlds Largest Mammal Migration and Mushrooms!

We travel into the country with the worlds largest mammal migration as well as the worlds largest edible mushrooms!

We crossed into Zambia from Chitipa in Malawi, going through a tiny two man border post, they stamped our passports but could not obtain a Visa for Tom. Traveling through 85 km of very sandy and windy roads (always fun on a loaded motorcycle) we arrived at Nakonde, the nearest town where we could do the necessary Visa arrangements.

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After getting all the admin out the way our convoy pushed toward Kasama, the capital of the North of Zambia. In order to get there we had to cross a river barge and about 300 km of sandy roads. We ended up making camp next to the river after we crossed the barge, this area of Zambia is extremely rural and unaffected by the west and technology as you can see in the photo below of the grass hut. This is a form of housing that was usually made by nomadic peoples compared to the more advanced dung and mud huts with a thatch roof. Not long after we set up camp, we were joined by a few local village children who found our little convoy to be very interesting, Istene grouped them all up to join her for a little yoga session.

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After spending the night we hopped onto our motorcycles and journeyed toward Kasama, we noticed the same theme as Mozambique and Malawi, a slash and burn approach to agriculture. Placing massive strain on natural forests “a quick fix” for the enrichment of the soil. This method of agriculture has been the main technique used for hundreds of years, however, with population increases, the strain of this outdated agricultural technique on the environment is too great to be sustainable. Possible alternatives should be introduced, education and the production of better soil quality is the best way to ensure older forests do not get cut down.

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On the road westward just 10 km before reaching Kasama we discovered a gem by the roadside in the form of the Mwela Rock Art reserve. This area has some of the densest concentration of rock art sites in all of Africa (More will be written about this fantastic area in an upcoming blog).

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We found a quiet place called Airport West Villa, with a lovely garden camping area with two local zebra that roam around the property. We spent a few days as Tom searched for tire levers (replacements) and got my tires replaced. The tires that were taken off my motorcycle were kept as spares in the case of a side wall tear.

Chishimba Falls is around 30 km from Kasama and was the logical next destination of our Zambia journey.  This is one of Zambia’s 17 main waterfalls, and a lovely stop over in the north of Zambia.

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From Chishimba we turned southwards towards Kasanka National park. stopping at an old colonial household (Africa House) and farm that belonged to a diplomat who managed the borders between the Congo and Zambia in the early 1900’s. A huge house in the middle of Zambian wilderness, It was an achievement to have undertaken such a large project in such a remote place.

We stopped at Kapishya Hotsprings and spent a night at the camping area which is a modern establishment a few kilometers from Africa House. The springs were beautiful and we got to camp right next to the river.

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We went through some beautiful and wonderful areas including the  Mutinondo Wilderness on our way down to the highly anticipated Kasanka National Park.

The reason for our anticipation for Kasanka National park (a 1000 km detour in the wrong direction) was to witness 10 million straw colored fruit bats descend onto a few hectares of swamp in the smallest Zambian National Park. This migration is the largest land mammal migration on the planet and one of the continents best kept secrets.

We woke before first light to try and catch the returning of the bats from their evening foraging. We crammed five people into our little Sukuki Samurai. We had a new team member (Alex) joining us for a leg of our African journey. All this rush was to little avail as we did not see a single bat that morning. We drove through the reserve and canoed in the scenic Luwombwa River.

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After waiting out the heat of midday next to the river we went to investigate where the best view point would be to see the nocturnal bats leaving their roosts as darkness falls.

These platforms/tree houses are pre-booked and are generally for high paying customers. Luckily we got ushered toward a viewing deck as we were making our way our intended spot (in a field) to watch the 10 million bats emerge from the swamps for the evening. Bats began to emerge from their slumber, viewing millions of bats from 30 meters high, in a tree, was an experience I will never forget.

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Tom with his brilliant David Attenborough impersonation catching the first bits of the bats leaving their roosts for the evening foraging for fruit. Below you see the bats in full force, it truly is an amazing special to see that much life in one location.

The above video shows how the density of the bats gets higher the later it gets, until eventually 10 000 000 bats have flown past you in order to forage for fruit throughout the night. We witnessed the Bats and then made our way northward again to Lake Bangweulu. We arrived at the white sandy beaches of this huge lake and made ourselves a chicken stew with mushrooms.

On our travels in Zambia we managed to catch the beginnings of the rainy season, this meant that we caught the beginnings of the mushroom season. Some of the species that grow in Zambia are among the biggest mushrooms in the world. The Termitomyces titanicus – “Chingulungulu” is the worlds largest edible mushroom and found almost exclusively in Zambia and Tanzania. The hat has an average diameter of one meter. The stem reaches a length of 50 centimeters. The entire fruiting body weighs on average 2.5 kilograms. Although we did not encounter such large specimens of Termitomyces we did encounter some large and diverse edible mushrooms. This made for great eating in Zambia as the locals sell various Termitomyces species on the side of the road.

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Northern Zambia has an abundance of remote places if you look for them, with a bunch to see and learn, with very few tourists and huge open spaces. Zambia also has over 40% of southern Africa’s water, 60% of that water is from the northern portion of the country, with dazzling greens, enormous ant hills, in a country full of flowing streams and rivers.

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We will continue with Zambia in another blog where we will show you some of the incredible waterfalls the country has to offer as well as the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Cheers

Trent Seiler

& The Nitty Gritty Nomads

 

Zambia Backroads: Giant Waterfalls, Congo Refugees, Two Great Lakes and Tom’s snapped frame!

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Zambia continued! We left Samfya and the sandy beaches of Lake Bangweulu as we began our gradual ascent in latitude. Travelling northwards again gave a feeling of progress as we etch closer to Ethiopia. We had set a course for Lake Mweru and the small town of Nchelenge, to tick off another Great African Lake in the Great Rift Valley. The road there was a muddy one and we did tend to opt toward the dirt roads through the bright green Zambian woodlands.

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Along these rural back roads we encountered the UN who were in the process of creating a refugee camp for 6000 immigrants fleeing the Congo. Intensive fighting in the Congo has shifted from the northern borders of Lake Tanganyika to the southern end of the lake. The border between the Congo and Zambia in the area east of Lake Mweru is not well defined or patrolled. Thus, Congo raiding parties and refugees have made it less safe to travel further north in Zambia than Mununga.

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Later that afternoon we arrived in Nchelenge on Lake Mweru, which is the second largest lake in the Congo River Drainage Basin and is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth between 20 and 27 meters. We made camp at a place overlooking the lake and had a few beers to the sunset.

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From Lake Mweru we made our way toward the famous and remote Lumangwe Falls.  Getting there involved some windy and muddy back-roads that were welcomed as a new challenge.

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The countryside is incredible with woodlands towering on both sides of the muddy paths. When we eventually got to Lumangwe Falls we decided to stay for three days, camping right next to the waterfall.

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There are two waterfalls within the reserve Lumangwe and Kabwelume Falls. Lumangwe is the largest waterfall in Zambia that doesnt border another country and has a height of between 30 and 40 meters and is 160 meters long.

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Kabweume Falls is a spectacular semi circle cascading down three connected waterfalls.

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When we left Lumangwe Falls we took the tar road toward Kasama once again but turned left to head north toward the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika. Unfortunately on the dirt roads to Mpulungu Toms’ bike, Frankenstein, frame snapped toward the rear. This is a result of too much weight on the rear as well as a bolt or two that came loose on the hectic roads.

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Luckily the frame broke 75 meters from a construction site with welders and various metal off cuts. Within 2 hours the motorcycle frame was repaired stronger than before and we were back on the road.

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The following day we eventually made it to the banks of Lake Tanganyika the second largest, deepest and oldest lake in the world! This is where we found a spot to settle for a few days in order to celebrate the birthdays of Tom and myself. Preparation was vital.

Ingredients for success were:

  • Alcohol
  • A goat
  • A good place to camp

We found all these ingredients in and around Mpulungu, finding alcohol in the form of millions of tiny bottles of mainly energy based alcohol.

The goat was slightly more challenging, first finding it and then the transport on the motorcycle proved interesting followed by slaughter and preperation.

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Once all the ingredients were collected we began the sheep spit this took place in sections over the next 3 days.

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Bellow are two videos of the preparation of the goat and the actual spitting of the goat.

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Birthday weekend/marathon was a lovely way to cut loose and enjoy our time on the banks of such a massive Lake, as well as a good way to bid farewell to an incredible country. Adventure is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Northern Zambia. There is so much space to just get lost and see spectacular environments along the way. Our road from Mbala, Zambia into Tanzania was a wet one.

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Zambia is still a lovely source of adventure not too far from South Africa, what Zambia lacks in infrastructure in the north it makes up for with the amazing ecosystems and phenomenal waterfalls and collection of great lakes.

Cheers

Trent Seiler

& The Nitty Gritty Nomads

Malawi: Lake Malawi, Beaches and Wilderness

An adventure into the warm heart of Africa!

We’ve entered Malawi early in the morning through Mulangi border-post, putting Mozambique behind us and the first of Africa’s great lakes in front.

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We pushed to Blantyre to meet Graham, a good friend of mine. He and his family took in our dirty group of Nomads and made us feel at home. They also gave us great advice on where to visit in Malawi and how to make blindingly potent home distilled moonshine.

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While in Blantyre we were approached by an elderly lady who just happened to be the principle of a primary school. She invited us to speak to her learners and share with them the details our trip, the archaeology and geography of Africa, as well as the understated topic of sustainability in Malawi.

After a few days of recuperation in Blantyre we traveled up the beautiful Zomba Plateau for a beer and then on wards to Cape Mclear, located on the southern edge of Lake Malawi. We went on a boat trip to see the neighboring National Park/World Heritage Site, an unspoiled haven in a over exploited land. Lake Malawi offered us the opportunity for diving and snorkeling with the +/-1000 different species of Cichlid (endemic fish to lake Malawi) and feeding fish eagles along the shores of the great lake.

At cape McLear some mechanical issues rose (Mikes battery and my front fork seals) so, we decided to go to Lilongwe, which is the capital city in Malawi with possibilities of getting Mike a new motorcycle battery. On the way back from retrieving Mikes battery he was cut off by a car and had a small to moderate motorcycle accident, luckily the motorcycle (and Mike) pulled through with minimum damage.  With the assistance of Istene’s needlework, some welding and plasters all was fixed. My mother heard of our position in Malawi and decided to fly up with my step father to join our journey for a few days. But first I had to rebuild my front shocks, the fork seal had collapsed and the fork oil was leaking. This took the greater part of the morning before we once again got on the road.

Before leaving we bumped into other adventurers on their way back to South Africa after climbing the five highest mountains in Africa. Team Tane took the time to point out some of the best places to see in East Africa and pose their Suzuki Jimmy with our bikes and little Suzuki Samurai.

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We convoyed to Senga Bay to a lovely place called Cool Runnings. Our crew had now grown by my parents rental car.

After a lovely evening we made our way North to Kande Beach, run by Skanky, an old overland legend we met in Lilongwe.

Our next slice of Malawi paradise came in the destination of Nkata Bay at the lovely eco-friendly Mayoka Village, which is set on a hillside overlooking the majestic Lake Malawi with its’ crystal clear waters.

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After a few days in paradise we made our way to an remote location, inaccessible except by boat or a 25 km hike from the nearest village. We did the hike.

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After 20 km of flat hiking the mountains began, scorchingly challenging due to the steadily increasing Central African temperature. Luckily when we arrived at the remote Zulunkhuni, there was a clear water lake to soak in at the end of a hard days hike.

We followed the stream next to the lodge up to a waterfall we had heard about. Another opportunity for a great hike in the African sun.

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We found an epic little cave with ceramic shards scattered around, thus, making it an archaeological site. We tried to document the decorated ceramic (as seen above) for future reference & identification as well as the coordinates to locate the site again in the future. There were also stone tool scatters surrounding the cave, which indicate the presence of forager/bushman communities, whereas the ceramic would have come from a Bantu source.

After two days at this remote location we caught the Lilala ferry that comes to the nearest isolated village once a week, saving us the 25 km walk back home. From Usisya Bay we traveled to the small village of Livingstonia up a large mountain, where we located the permaculture paradise eco-lodge named The Mushroom Farm.

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Mushroom Farm is an absolute must to see in Malawi, lovely staff, incredible food, amazing views, yoga, good wifi and happy days to be had. They also engage with the local communities by selling the local woman’s crafts and employing the local villages men as tour guides to the nearby waterfall.

Malawi is not called the warm heart of Africa for no reason, there are a multitude of amazing people and places to see. This accompanied by one of Africa’s cleanest and clearest Great Lakes’ creates a formula for one of the best locations in Africa for an incredible getaway.

Cheers

Trent Seiler

& The Nitty Gritty Nomads

 

 

 

Mozambique: Deforestation, Reunions, Beautiful Beaches and Bloodsuckers.

Mozambique! An epic journey, reunions, and close encounters with Vampires!

We left Zimbabwe and entered Mozambique through the seldom-used border post at Espungabera, a dusty border town with cheap accommodation and beer. The town was a strategic point during the Mozambican Frelimo-Renamo civil war from the late 70’s to the early 90’s for the FPLM due to its access to Zimbabwe.

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After a long day of very dusty riding behind multiple massive trucks carrying hundreds of tons of illegally logged hardwoods like Chante, Ebony, Leadwood, Panga Panga and Pou Preto. We arrived at a small trucker town at an intersection on the main highway through the country (EN 1) and found accommodation in some reed huts (above photograph).

Deforestation was a theme that was constantly present during our travels in Mozambique. The Chinese have approached many of the rural communities and given them chainsaws for the purpose of cutting down trees, for which they pay the locals between R60 and R100 per felled tree. According to an article written for the Mail and Guardian, the average farmer turned tree feller cuts down about 40 of these slow-growing hardwood trees each day.

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As soon as we hit the highway we made our way toward the beach paradise of Vilankulos. A town that has grown significantly in the past 10 years due to its spectacular beaches, crystal clear water and its position as the gateway to Bazaruto Archipelago, which Mike and Tom were lucky enough to visit.

While Tom and Mike were busy catching boat rides to Archipelagos I travelled south to meet Istene with her new mode of transport, a Suzuki Samurai, which had taken the place of her Yamaha XT 250 motorbike since her crash and subsequent partial recovery. We met at the lovely touristy town of Inhambane, which is one of the oldest settlements on the Mozambican coast with evidence as early as the 11th century where Muslim and Persian traders were the first outsiders to arrive and commence trade with this portion of Africa. In order to make it to Istene, I had to cross the Tropic of Capricorn for the 5th time on this trip.

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It had been two months since Istene departed from us in Maun Botswana, returned to South Africa for her recovery and now rejoined the trip on the white sandy beaches of Mozambique.

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Meeting the tiny Suzuki Samurai for the first time! Istenes new mode of transport for the remainder of the trip.

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Istene and I travelled back to Vilanculos to meet with Tom and Mike. With beautiful scenes like the one above you couldn’t blame us for taking a day or two at the lovely secluded Baobab Backpackers.

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From the picturesque Vilankulos, we made our way North to the Save River Bridge where we spent the night at a little place named Nyama Star, a little bar and stopover where the beer is cheap the R&R’s cheaper and the company monumental. We highly recommend stopping here for a beer or accommodation, good vibes and smiles all round.

With hazy cloudy eyes, we made our way toward the coastal town of Beira, the third largest city in Mozambique with a significant port to the central portion of the country as well as the landlocked countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The port at Beira is also where all the illegally deforested trees from the interior of the country come to get put in cargo ships and sent to China, where they are sold for literally hundreds of times more than the purchase price from the local Mozambicans. The local government officials are all being paid off by Chinese businessmen to turn a blind eye to this complete decimation of the natural resources.

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Beira is not the most incredible place to visit but a hidden dirt road in town leads to a little-known paradise about 50 km up the coast. Rio Savanne! On route there you still see bicycles over-loaded with charcoal making their way to the town to get better prices for their exploits.

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When we arrived we found small fishing villages dotting the coast, beautiful beaches and friendly people.

In order to get our vehicles to the campsite at Rio Savanne, we had to travel to a small village to the north and then travel south along the beach. The beach was riddled with litter, Tom got right on the job and proceeded to fill up about five bags worth of rubbish.

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After collecting rubbish we battled our way through extremely thick sand to get our vehicles to the beach,  it was our first time riding our motorcycles on the beach, which came with its own learning curves. Mike managed to get his bike nicely stuck just in front of an old shipwreck, luckily we managed to pull him out without too much difficulty.

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After leaving the beach paradise of Rio Savanne we travelled back to Beira where we made our way on treacherous but lovely dirt roads to Caia which is the town before the longest road bridge to span the mighty Zambezi River. This was our first time crossing the Zambezi River after we met it for the first time three months previously.

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About 40 km after we crossed the Zambezi River we turned off toward Morrumbala with the intention of taking dirt roads along the Zambezi to Tete where we would meet up with my old supervisor Dr Tim Forssman. Tim had managed to bring up a much-needed compressor for the team. Unfortunately, the barge at the Shire River was decommissioned the week prior to our arrival so any access to that side of the country was placed effectively out of our reach.

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This decommissioned barge had thrown a large spanner in the works, we had to backtrack and find an alternative route. It was no longer feasible to make our way to Tete, thus, the decision was made that we would make our way straight to Malawi. A strange phenomenon began occurring in the rural towns of this rural northern portion of Mozambique, we began noticing that people would be wary of us and run away if we stopped for directions. However, when we stopped in towns they would gather in large crowds very quickly. Apparently, this was due to rumours of Bloodsuckers in the area. Bloodsuckers are apparently powerful people who disable a target using some sort of electrical charge or chemical substance, after which they remove 5 litres of blood from the victim then making their escape by taking the form of a cat or a dog. I can assure you we have none of the above experience or abilities.

We found out more information about this phenomenon later so when we were accused of being bloodsuckers we laughed it off. We were warned to sleep at or very near to any police stations, a warning which we nonchalantly dismissed. There is very little reason to be surprised of being accused of this due to Toms chosen helmet decorations.

It was only once we crossed the border and raced through Mulanje toward Blantyre in Malawi that the rumours about bloodsuckers spiralled out of control, resulting in the deaths of nine people in the area. Six people including a tourist and a village headman were burned alive by angry mobs for being accused of being bloodsuckers. The UN  evacuated all their non-permanent staff and volunteers from the southern portions of Malawi near the Mozambican border due to this unfortunate superstitious resurgence.

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Luckily we got through these areas and safely into Blantyre Malawi. The route through Mozambique was long and rough. The country is vast and wild and the impact of the civil war has left it far behind its surrounding countries in terms of infrastructure and roadwork. This kind of adds to Mozambique’s rough charm between incredible beaches.

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In the next blog, we will show the lovely Lake Malawi and all the lovely places to visit, from the remote to the executive.

Cheers

Trent Seiler &

The Nitty Gritty Nomads

Khami Ruins! The little brother of Great Zimbabwe!

Khami, the forgotten ruins of Zimbabwe.

Khami is an archaeological site 20 km outside of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, it is famous for its stonewalling complexity and designs. The Khami civilization started in the 14th century but rose to power when Great Zimbabwe fell into decline and held the economic power in the area until the 16th century, it was completely abandoned during the Ndebele incursions of the 19th century. They had trade routes that included items from Europe and China where they would have traded gold, ivory and pelts for glass beads, porcelain and cloth.

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Above is a useful breakdown of the happenings of Khami as well as a well-illustrated diagram of the various patterns found in the stone walls at Khami. The stonewalling patterns were much more intricate and plentiful than those found at Great Zimbabwe showing more advancement in certain stone working techniques.

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Although not as grand in scale as Great Zimbabwe, Khami is still a beautiful and fascinating place with impressive stonewalling techniques. It is like southern Africa’s own Machu Picchu, well not even close, but Khami had some very impressive stonemasons in its day. However, the site is in a terrible condition with the little reconstruction of breaking or collapsed walls, unlike Great Zimbabwe.

 

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Khami is set at the start of the Motopos hills, making it a beautiful landscape to explore the ancient archaeology of this once great and powerful African civilization.

 

The cross below shows contact with missionaries and the introduction of Christianity in this portion of Africa.

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Khami was a great place to visit to see the culmination of centralized Bantu society in southern Africa. Seeing the chronological place that Khami has between Great Zimbabwe and the current Zimbabwe culture is humbling. Today’s Zimbabweans look to these impressive ancient capitals of Great Zimbabwe and Khami for cultural enrichment and an almost a patriotic pride, to such an extent that the country Zimbabwe was named after an archaeological site.

Cheers

Trent Seiler &

The Nitty Gritty Nomads