Thursday, June 10, 2010

Avoiding the Rut and a Mozambique Exodus

“I hate routine. That’s how you fall into a rut.”

--Alwyn Viljoen, a South African I stayed who was replying to his wife’s comment that he wasn’t sitting at the usual dinner table seat.

It’s easy to get complacent. Working in an office with AC and fast internet, personal driver, and a comfortable place to sleep in a city and country you feel like you know like the back of your hand is great. You’re efficient in your efforts, you know what you’re talking about (or at least most of the time…), and you don’t have to interact with strangers if you don’t want to. But, after 6 months of working with TechnoServe and CLUSA, I was starting to get comfortable. It was almost too routine.

So, with my contract up, I headed south in a plane to Beira, the middle of the country. All I knew is that I was heading west toward the border of Zimbabwe. At the Beira airport, I kept my ears open and maneuvered my way into a free ride to a town 60km from the border. After two nights stay at the CLUSA office in a bed I had to somewhat construct myself in the office kitchen, I hitched the rest of the way to the border town of Manica, trading phone credit for one ride (when would I need it again?) in a car that was cruising at over 100 mph down the ragged Mozambican roads. Spending my last 5 meticais on a piece of bread that was my lunch, I remembered I had some South African rand left over from my previous bout in that country, which I traded for a minibus ride from Manica to the country line. Wedged into the back seat with all 40 lbs of my luggage in my lap, I could only see to the left and right of me, where two large women were painted on me and a baby took turns crying and wet-coughing on my arm.

I finally crossed the border with easily the most hassle from the border police I’ve ever received (usually, they see a white foreigner and usher you in to spend your greenbacks), and by my wonderful planning it was now almost dark. Alwyn, the South African who supplied the quote at the beginning of this post, also told me that his #1 rule of travel is to always figure out where you are staying before nightfall. Fail there. Not even that, I didn’t know very much about the country or city (Mutare) to which I was going, in general. This seems to be my style. All I had was a reference from a friend that there was a girl at a restaurant which I thought was called The Cooklio (actually The Green Cookel), and a bar called The Legion, which is where a lot of white farmers went.

I jumped in a truck heading toward Mutare, and since “The Cooklio” didn’t ring any bells with the driver, I had him take me to The Legion. It’s now 6:30pm, pitch black outside, and I stumble through the door, barely able to fit through with all the luggage dangling from my body, and find about 10-15 farmers with beer and whisky in front of them, in pure silence.

The Zimbabwean farmer circle is quite small, and it turns out the folks at the bar know the guy who was referring me and they had the number of his daughter, who I was supposed to fetch at The Green Cookel. Four beers later I was feeling much less stressed, I’d made 7 or so new friends, and the bar manager had offered me a bed. We headed back to his place where we cooked steak and potatoes and I listened to his stories. I am definitely not in the rut.

1 comment:

  1. Man I miss those days of just showing up and finding a place to camp out for the night. I'm craving another trip like that. Have fun in Zimbabwe!