A Travellerspoint blog

Cape Town

A quick holiday to South

sunny 23 °C

A month or so ago, I decided I needed to get a quick trip in before I leave Malawi. The two destinations that I chose between in the end was Zanzibar and Cape Town. I had heard amazing things about both, but it is difficult to compare them side by side, as they are different styles of destinations. In the end, I chose Cape Town. If I had been in the States, I likely would have gone with Zanzibar, as it would have provided the biggest contrast to my current location. I'm in rural Malawi. Plus, I was in Indonesia this spring, and while obviously not identical, they are both island destinations with a heavy Islamic culture, although Zanzibar more so. But in the end, what really made my decision for me, was beer. Most people know about the wine industry in Cape Town. What I didn't know until researching this trip was that they have a growing microbrewery industry. Sold! Count me in! After months of Carlsburg, I couldn't say no to being able to drink beer packed with flavor.

I left Neno on Wednesday morning, flew to JoBurg, and then on the Cape Town. By the time I arrived at my hostel, it was 6pm.

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It was my first time on a true solo vacation, so it was a bit of a new experience. I finalized a booking for a wine tour the next day, settled into my dorm, and went to the hostel bar to make some friends. I ended up chatting with Conrad, who had just finished leading an overland tour of a group staying at the hostel. They sounded like a fun group, Aussies and Kiwi, and he invited me to join them for dinner and drinks. He was just waiting for them to return from a beer tour. From the mood they were in when they returned, it was clear the tour was quite a hit. From there a fun night of margaritas, fajitas, craft beer, a great city view, and making new friends ensued.

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Four hours later, I was up and heading to a tour of the winelands, with plenty of tasting along the way. Maybe I was out late, maybe the tour started really early, I'm sure you can figure out which it was. Booking a single ticket on a wine tour seemed like a bit of a gamble to me. Wine has a reputation of attracting an older, more "mature" crowd. I could have handled that crowd, but the group dynamic we had fit me much better. Besides myself, everyone was 27-31 and it included couples, a few solo travelers, and a group of Irishmen. Oh, and one of the couples is from the PNW, and he went to WSU. Clearly a sign for a good day ahead. Go Cougs! Our first stop was at Fairview, a large winery that also produces their own cheese. We sampled a range of both. The wines were good, but the sweet chili cream cheese stole the show for me. The next stop discussed the whole wine process, from vine to drinking, and the sampling focused on their Methode Cap Classique, their version of Champagne. Our next stop was for lunch and sampling straight from the barrels. It was interesting to taste the wines before they are fully matured, and just a cool experience to pour a glass from the barrel. Stop number four was wine and chocolate. The last wine we tasted was extremely sweet, made at the request of uni students for a cheap easy drinking bottle. The fascinating thing was when consumed after eating salted chocolate, it was much more palatable. The last stop was at the vineyard of a famous player for the Springboks, the SA national rugby team. All of his wine matures in the barrel for 8 years, and is quite delicious. From there it was back to town. The ride back may or may not have included some tasting of one of South's favorite drinks, Brandy. It was a great day learning about the wine industry in the region and sampling a large variety of the products. Unfortunately I wasn't able to check a bag on my way back to Malawi because bottles there were very reasonably priced. The prices on this list are per bottle, not glass, with the exchange rate from ZAR to USD at 11 to 1. Since the group got along so well all day, we decided to keep the good times rolling and spent dinner and much of the night together.

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Friday was a slow and easy morning. After booking a tour of the Cape Peninsula for the following day, I set off to see the city with my feet as transportation. First stop, breakfast and coffee. Real, delicious, espresso. That was a welcome taste. From there is was down to the city center for a free walking tour and history lesson. We made a nice loop, learning about the history of the colonization and apartheid along the way. St.George's Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, Company Gardens, City Hall, and the Slave Lodge were all stops along the way.

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After the tour, I decided to continue my tour and head through the Waterkant district to the V&A Waterfront. From there I wandered along the water and around the stadium to Green's Point where I made a much needed stop to quench my thirst. After a cold beer, I started the walk back towards my hostel on a road overlooking the city. I then walked through the cultural BoKapp district, full of colorful homes. As I was getting close to the hostel, I walked by a bar I had heard about, called the Orphanage, known for unique and quality cocktails. The Old Fashioned I had included port and Grand Marnier.

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After a quick stop back at the Hostel, I walked a few blocks down to a festival that was going on. My tour guide from earlier in the day had recommended stopping by for a show by local Jeremy Loops. The venue was packed, the sign of a good show to come. He uses a loop pedal, harmonica, beat-boxing, guitar, and vocals to make some awesome music. For a couple songs he had drums, bass, and sax. For a couple more there was a rapper on stage with him. Overall just a really sweet vibe. All in all, my walking for the day was somewhere around 11 miles. The night started out planned for being out on the town. And then someone bought another round at the hostel. And then someone else. And then they decided they were leaving. Me, I was going to bed. Already having one short night before a tour, I didn't want another one.

Saturday was another day of exploration. I headed off on a tour to do, well, touristy things. Our first stop were the seals in Hout Bay. Maybe I'm jaded from the number of seals I've seen in my day, but they weren't overly exciting. We then drove Chapman's Peak, one of the most beautiful drives on the planet. Although it did seem to be a bit short, especially when compared with Big Sur or the Oregon Coast. The drive took us to Boulder Bay, home of penguins! I'll admit, I wasn't overly excited to see them, but they were pretty neat.

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We continued down the peninsula to the Cape Point Nature Reserve and Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of Africa. After lunch at the visitor's center, we drove to Cape of Good Hope and then walked on to Cape Point. From there we cycled back to the entrance of the park. It was a beautiful day and the views were breathtaking.

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Once I was back at the hostel, I originally planned to run up to Lion's Head for sunset. But after the amount of walking from the past 36 hours, my legs told me not to. I walked down to Long Street to find a bite to eat. I ended up with a burger with chorizo and chilis blended into the patty and jalapenos and guac on top. I then set off to complete my final mission of my trip. I walked into Beerhouse, the location I found to have the most local brews on tap, waltzed over to the bartender and told him, "I'm from Seattle, where we do good beer well. Which one of these will send me back home confident in saying Cape Town does, too?" The Woodstock Californicator did just that folks. An American Pale Ale, it was flavorful without overwhelming, with just enough bitterness. I closed the evening with a round with new friends back at the hostel before packing up.

At 6:45 Sunday morning I was out of the hostel and head to the bus station. I took one last opportunity to walk the city on my way, and made a quick stop at MickyD's for breakfast. It's odd how much more I eat there abroad then I do in the States. Part of it is simply the curiosity of seeing how the menu changes from place to place. They almost always seemed classed up some as well, with this location's McCafe having pastries and paninis and doughnuts. I went with the Mega McMuffin. Judge me all you want, with two sausage patties and bacon, for $2, it was superb. I caught the bus, convinced the ticket agent not to make me check my bag at the airport (Whoops! a bit big), and began flying. After a rainy, but quick, layover in JoBurg, it was back to the hot weather in Malawi. Two hours in the car and I was back home. 11 hours door to door.

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Overall, it was a great trip. It was obviously too short and there are things I wish I could have done, but I have no complaints. To start with, the weather was amazing. It was low to mid twenties the entire time I was there with clear, sunny skies. While I never made it up either Table Mountain or Lion's Head, I was busy soaking in the history and the culture of the region. I had really wanted to do Lion's Head at sunrise, but sometimes things don't work out. Due to colonization and slavery, Cape Town has influences from all over the world. Dutch, British, French, East African, and Malay, all combined with the cultures from the neighboring countries. The city itself blends century old churches with modern towers, all on the same block. I was able to see City Hall, where Mandela gave his first speech as a free man. I prayed in St. George's Cathedral where all people were allowed to worship, even during apartheid, and where Desmond Tutu preached. I walked the V&A Waterfront where modern shops and attractions make it one of the most visited locations on the continent. I tasted great wine, that I could actually afford to buy, took in beautiful nature scenes and wild penguins, and enjoyed the selection of locally made beer and great food. If there was snow nearby, I might consider living there.

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Back in the real world of Neno, I've continued to experiment in the kitchen, while Marco and I continue to push the project forward as efficiently as possible. Last week, I finally decided to make tortillas. They ended up as a blend of flour and maize, and by the last few were thin enough to not be flat bread. They were Africa-good. Meaning they weren't the best things in the world, but when you haven't had a tortilla in months, they do the trick. The next morning I fried a couple of the leftovers and topped them with mangoes, homemade peach/mango ice cream, honey and cinnamon. Talk about a nutritious start to the day! When I returned from CPT, I discovered a package from my good friend Amanda that included Peanut M&Ms. They immediately went into the freezer, where I eat them slightly more slowly. The next day I remember that there were some overripe bananas I had put in the freezer before I left. By the end of Tuesday, I had created chocolate peanut butter banana bread using homemade chocolate ice cream, Reese's, and M&M's. It is a small wonder that I haven't noticeably gained weight with the amount of baking I've done.

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Project-wise we are THIS close to starting the roof. The first section of rafters have been fixed in place, so all we need now are the metal sheets. All of the ring beam is now complete and we should have the walls complete by the beginning of next week. Exterior finishes continue to move along and once the roof starts going on, we will begin interior finished and electrical work. It is definitely a race against the clock to get as much progress made as possible before heading back to Seattle. I've known for awhile that the work won't be where I want it to be by the time we leave and it is really sinking in this week that I will have to leave an unfinished project when I go. There will be people here in January that will help oversee the completion, but I still hate the feeling.

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Posted by tylerwein 02:17 Archived in South Africa Tagged wine cape_town penguins south_africa cape_point cape_of_good_hope cpt Comments (5)

The Beginning of the End

Only 5 weeks left in Malawi.

sunny 32 °C

This weekend it has really set in that there are only 5 weeks left of my time in Malawi. That is still 20% of my total time here, but it seems so short. A major factor to that is how busy the clinic construction is, and also how busy the next few weekends will be. In order to try and meet our completion goal, we cannot afford to have any lulls in progress. Additionally, I am going to Cape Town this week for a long weekend. The following weekend is Thanksgiving and the weekend after that we are hopefully meeting up with friends from Lilongwe one last time before we leave. There will then be one last full weekend in Neno before spending the weekend we leave in Blantyre. Whew, it will go far too quickly. I was asked the other day if I will be ready to leave. I'm really not sure.

The last few weeks in Neno have been status quo for the most part. Last weekend, Marco, Ernest, and I went into Blantyre for the weekend. Sometimes just being able to go to a bar, having multiple options of take-out food, and walking the aisles of a supermarket are enough the refresh the batteries. Tuesday was a late Halloween of sorts in our house. My sister and each grandma sent me packages and CfC sent Marco and me one a piece. All in all there were 5 packages of goodness. Part of that goodness, 4+lbs of Reese's PB cups. One Wednesday I took a bag to our jobsite for the crew. They were a smash hit. The kitchen has been active this past week. Last week while watching the 'Hawks, I made an attempt at mango bread, with oats and coconut. It was a little bit dry, but still good. Wednesday I made goat and mango curry, with plenty of leftovers which aged wonderfully. Within the packages were two different kinds of snack mix. One had oreos, M&Ms, peanuts, and goldfish. The other pretzels, peanuts, PB chips, and Reese's Pieces. I took a cup and a half of each, plus 2 cups of oats, and some coconut and mixed it up with melted peanut butter, sugar, and honey. Once pressed into a pan, I froze it. Bam, snack bars. They were so good that I made another batch today. This time using the Archer Farms Peppermint Hot Cocoa snack mix my grandma sent and the second mix from the first batch. Tonight, I'm making ice cream. A batch of peach mango and a batch of chocolate. I was originally going to add Reese's to the chocolate batch, but it has come to my attention that a friend has TJ's cookie butter.

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Work on site continues to move forward. This coming week we will begin rafters and then begin laying the roof. Hitting milestones feels great. That said, we are a bit behind our original schedule. It will be interesting to see how much work we can get done in the next two weeks. It will go a long way to determining what stage of completion is realistic to expect by the time we leave.

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After out usual site visit on Friday, Steve Mtewa took us on a drive. We left the site and continued to the border. A while back, I posted an entry with pictures from the border. We were on a different portion of the same road. He showed us the area that his parents are from and also where he owns land which has been inherited from relatives. Most of the areas will be directly served by the clinic that we are currently working on. He told us about how hard it was to receive medical treatment when he was growing up. If you were sick, that was that. It was an impactful trip. Being here has been a crash course in the international health field and the operations of NGOs. The politics. The often ideological and impractical viewpoints. Driving through the catchment area of the clinic helped to bring the human element back. To remind me why I am dedicating half of this year to making sure this clinic is built properly. The people.

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This is how my Sunday ended..

Cheers!

Posted by tylerwein 04:16 Archived in Malawi Tagged construction cfc pih dambe Comments (2)

Ring Beam

Hit a significant milestone on the project this week as we started pouring the ring beam.

sunny 28 °C

Well, since returning from Victoria Falls, the pace of life has very much slowed back down. Before heading out to Zambia, I had fully become content with Neno life. After such a fast paced and busy 10 days on holiday though, it has been much harder to adjust back to it. I don't remember the last time I finished a book. Part of that is because I am slogging through Lawrence In Arabia. It's interesting and fact filled, but as is the case sometimes with non-fiction, it can become very dense and lose a touch of the storytelling aspect. I'm determined to finish it before I come home though.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit slow on the project site. Between some missing carpenters and a supply truck which broke down, we weren't able to make as much progress as we wanted to. Until then, we had been keeping on schedule though, so in the end it is just one of the many punches that we have to continue to roll with. Yesterday marked a big day, as we were finally able to start pouring concrete for the beams. Once the beams are done, it should only take a couple of weeks to get the roof on, which is extremely important to make sure the building is sheltered from the rains that are on their way. It was definitely our longest day on site, as we arrived just before 8, and stayed until after 2. I even jumped up on the form work at one point to help demonstrate the best way to tie the rebar together.

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On the personal side of life, there really isn't too much to report. Marco and I continue to play soccer 2-4 times a week and have also started playing in the home matches. Neither one of us are nearly as good as everyone tells us we are. In the last match, the crowd went crazy when we subbed into the match part way through the second half. It was weird playing a sport in front of a crowd again. One nice development in Neno has been the availability of Mangos in the market. They aren't yet ripe on the trees here in town, but a few of the stalls have been able to get some good ones. At last, the long period between avocado and mango seasons appears to be over.

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The sunsets continue to be amazing and the kids entertaining.

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Posted by tylerwein 03:45 Archived in Malawi Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises sunset malawi construction cfc neno pih Comments (4)

Falling Water and Bus Rides

Victoria Falls, the bus rides that got us there, and the adventures in between.

sunny 33 °C

Hello, hello. More than two weeks away from the blog and a lot has happened. The project continues to move forward, only slightly behind schedule, and there were plenty of adventures last week, as Marco and I headed out to Zambia.

First, the happenings here in Neno. The day before we left town, we headed up to Dambe to make sure everything was in order for the following week. It was a rare foggy day for the season, reminiscent of our first trips up to the area back in July. Good progress had been made on the exterior walls of the clinic, with roughly 75 percent to the bottom of the windows. Additionally, a quarter of the entry columns were poured, with formwork for the next two in progress.

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In order to get to site, we squeezed into vehicles that were headed to the village for a community event at the primary school just down the road from the jobsite. After walking the site and talking with the foreman, we walked down to the school to see what was going on. There were some local government officials that spoke, along with a few community members (I think), and a few skits. The PIH band also played a number of sounds, leading to a lot of dancing. The event was called Candlelight, though it was during the day and I didn't see any candles. My understanding is that it was some sort of AIDS awareness event. I had my camera with me, but didn't want to start taking pictures right away because just us being there was distracting enough. Once the camera came out, the kids flocked.

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After returning from Zambia, Marco and I made it back to Dambe on Monday, after ten days away from the site. I think the longest we had gone previously was three, so there was a small relief to see that progress had continued while we were away. Unfortunately there were some areas that needed to be reworked, but it the grand scheme of things, I was pretty happy with the effort. The columns and slab of the entry were poured, and the walls started. The clinic's walls were all completed to window height, with the corners done to the top of the windows.

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We had transport for the entire day, so quite a bit was spent on site. Whenever we can, we try and stay for lunch. I decided to take advantage of the extra time, and walked further into the village, where I hadn't been before.

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OK, OK, now for the travel narrative. Brace yourself, it was an action packed 10 days, and as such, there is a lot to show and tell.

Friday morning, the 3rd, our adventure began. We caught a ride down to the tarmac in Zalewa and didn't have to wait too long before a bus pulled into the stop. The buses run from Blantyre to Lilongwe, usually filling past capacity before departing. As a result, you either stand our sit in the aisle. We were left standing for a little over an hour. Just when I was about to give in and take my butt to the floor, we made a stop and the man sitting in the seat next to me departed. Score! Marco shot me an envious look that quickly faded when the seat next to him was also vacated.

The ride to Lilongwe took four hours or so. Arriving at the bus depot was a bit overwhelming after being in the bush for so long. Our original plan was to continue to Chipata, about 2 hours away and just across the border with Zambia. We had plenty of time left in the day to complete that leg of the trip, but the weekend before at Lake of Stars, we had met Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellows, through the Fellows that live in Neno, and they had offered us a place to crash. There was also a birthday party for one of them. We decided spending time with new friends was well worth an earlier start and a few more hours on the bus and decided to stay in Lilongwe. Thankfully the man sitting next to Marco took the time to show us to the ticket offices for buses to Lusaka and also pointed us on the right direction to our friends' house.

After a fun night with an awesome group of friends, night slowly became morning. So, at 3:30am we decided to take an hour nap. Just after 5 we were calling the cabbie that had failed to show up. He finally made it around 5:30 and got us to the bus before it departed at 6. Most of you will think of a nice charter bus w/ aircon and four seats in a row. This bus had 5 seats in a row, 2 on one side, 3 on the other, no aircon, and not a lot of legroom. After initially sitting next to each other, Marco and I each took window seats and hoped for the best. Marco didn't luck out as someone claimed his aisle seat. Just after 6, we were on the road. Shortly thereafter, I was asleep. I woke up at the border, which was an easy crossing, and then we continued on to Chipata. We waited, and waited, and waited some more. When we realized they were going to fill the bus as much as possible before leaving, Marco and I switched to the 3-seat side of the aisle, leaving the middle seat between us. This time, the seat looked uninviting enough that nobody filled it. I can only imagine how uncomfortable that would have been, as it was a struggle to find a decent sleeping position as it was.

Fourteen hours after leaving Lilongwe, we arrived in Lusaka. Our friend that we planned to stay with, Mac, didn't answer. We didn't know where he lived. We were in a huge bus depot, in a giant city, being badgered by cabbies. The friend we were staying with is also a GHC Fellow we met at Lake of Stars. At some point during that weekend after talking about our upcoming trip, Marco got a different Fellows number. There was no name saved with it. He called her and found out they all live in the same area and gave us directions. Clutch! Mac hadn't felt well that week, and there wasn't a lot else going on, so Marco and I took his recommendation for a restaurant named Portico. It was a relaxing night with good pizza, margaritas, and a live band. Things we don't get in Neno.

Sunday morning didn't come too early, as the bus left at nine. It was by far the most comfortable bus ride of our entire trip and only had a couple stops on the 6.5 hour drive to Livingstone. We arrived in town and headed to Jollyboys, our hostel for the week, then to dinner. Marco and I had decided to try the best recommended, but semi-budget conscious, restaurants we heard of. The first one we tried was Fezbar. Fail. While the burger wasn't bad, we were the only patrons in the restaurant. I'm curious to know where all the rave reviews came from.

Monday morning we went to the booking office at the hostel to plan our week. The gal was a great help and got us book for the Devil's Pool that afternoon, rafting the next day, and Chobe Nat'l Park in Botswana for safari on Wednesday and Thursday. I quickly realized this vacation would not have a lot of down time. I couldn't help but grin with excitement. I spent an hour or two by the pool with a book. That would be the only time I opened it the entire trip.

Most people would take a taxi the 5 or so kilometres to the falls from the hostel. We prefer minibuses. Or at least how much they cost. When we got to the park, we met our guide and started off across the top of the falls. During the rainy season, Victoria Falls is a blur of water and mist. Individual falls and geological features disappear behind the veil. In the dry season, only the main falls thunders, with steady streams over a few others. This allows you to approach the falls by foot from the Zambia side. On the edge of the main falls is a pool. The current is slow, and a rock wall creates a barrier from the rapids of the Zambezi below. We jumped in.

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After swimming around for a bit, we headed back to the trails and walked around the park for awhile. Unfortunately, the main falls is best viewed from Zimbabawe. Time and visas prevented us from crossing the bridge. Regardless, it was still a magnificent opportunity to see such a nature wonder. Somebody asked me how I would compare Vic Falls to Niagara. There just different. Vic Falls definitely provided more viewing angles, which helped with its magnitude. After the falls, we headed back to Jollyboys. I sat down and started talking with a group. A couple of gals who were thinking about grabbing dinner at the same place as us, so we all went together. It was the first social sit down dinner I had been to in quite some time. And having real conversation between bites seemed almost foreign. Unlike the night before, Olga's Italian was spot on to the recommendations and delicious. Though having cream sauce for the first time in, well, I don't know how long, it felt twice as heavy.

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Tuesday, the adventure continued with a full day of rafting the Zambezi. For those of you wondering, and I know some of you are, it is the stretch of river BELOW the falls. Rated a grade 5 overall, with rapids named things like Stairway to Heaven, Devil's Toilet Bowl, Gnashing Jaws of Death, Overland Truck Eater, and Oblivion, we knew we were in for a fun day. Little did we know, our guide decided he was going to help us out a bit. I didn't buy the pictures, I was feeling cheap, but if I did, they very clearly show him deliberately flipping our boat on multiple occasions. I think the boat flipped four or five times, with 3 other times when half the boat got tossed. My worst spill was into Devil's Toilet Bowl. It has a nice whirlpool that had me spinning around below the surface for a bit. The nice thing about this river, there aren't a lot of rocks in or below the rapids, which makes it pretty easy to ride them through in the water. After rafting, we grabbed a late dinner at Cafe Zambezi. Caterpillars and a croc burger were on my menu for the night. The caterpillars were just crunchy, not much flavor. The burger was really good, but it was a bit more the peri-peri sauce than the meat itself.

Wednesday morning began the safari adventure. We bused to the border of Botswana, which happens to be a river. No silly, there isn't a bridge, you take a little tiny boat across. Watching container trucks cross by ferry, one truck at a time, was pretty cool. After immigration, we continued to the lodge for the first part for our trip, a river cruise. While I brought my 75-300mm lens to Malawi, I decided to leave it there because switching lenses sucks but not as much as carrying and packing the extra one. On our boat there were at least 5 lenses over 8 inches long. I don't know what their capabilities were, but I felt oddly intimidated by them. And then I realized, I love shooting landscapes. If It could get close enough to capture animal portraits, great, otherwise, I wanted to try and incorporate them into the stunning environment. I was successful at times, and at others I went to 55mm and cropped it just a bit tighter. We spent the late morning tracking down hippos and crocs. The hippos were abundant, but hard to capture. We saw a few crocs, but I never got a good angle or had them in a good environment to shoot 'em. Elephants, they were everywhere. And hard to miss.

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We returned to the lodge for lunch, and then headed into the park, where we would camp for the night. Because it is the dry season, the river is the most abundant water source and all of the game flock there. Elephants and impala were all over the place, with hippos, buffalo, kudu, and antelope here and there. Later in the day we also found a few giraffes and a herd of zebras. The coolest thing we saw on day 1 was a few lions lounging in the shade of a tree. On the other side of the tree, a baby elephant. Or maybe it was the impala laying high in a tree. No it didn't jump there, a leopard was responsible for its location. Unfortunately we missed seeing the leopard and we weren't able to find it the next day either.

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As sunset approached we started driving right along the river, towards our camp. We stopped for a while to look at a pride of lions just off the road, looking out over the river. The sunset was amazing. Being in Neno, the sun sets behind the hills. It is still beautiful, but there is something special about seeing the sun hit the horizon. The only downside of soaking in the sunset, was that we were driving when at moonrise. It was a full harvest moon and the full spectrum of oranges were present. It was stunning. We arrived at camp and shared some drinks around the fire, before dinner was served. It might have been the best meal of the trip. Then again, sitting around a fire, with a full moon lighting the sky will make most meals taste that much better.

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The next day we were back out searching for game. There were some great elephant, zebra, and giraffe sightings but as I mentioned, no matter where we drove, we never found a leopard. I was also disappointed to catch a good look at a male lion. There was one sleeping a ways off, but nothing worth taking a picture of. We saw the circle of life in full effect while leaving the park. Where the lions had been the day before, vultures had arrived to complete the next phase.

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After arriving back at Jollyboys, we walked into town to buy bus tickets for the next morning, back to Lusaka. We then hit the last restaurant on our list, The Golden Leaf, for some delicious butter chicken, palak paneer, and garlic naan. Love me some Indian food. Our last night ended up being our latest, as a fair number of people we had met throughout the week stayed up chatting late into the night. The week at Jollyboys was full of meeting new people from all over the world, but oddly close to home. We met new friends from New Zealand, the UK, Norway, Amsterdam, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Israel, Canada, and the US. Basically all over the globe. But a group of gals from Norway work at Queen hospital in Blantyre and had taken the same bus route over a Marco and I. Kenshi, from Vancouver B.C., and Samuel, who went the Western Washington and lived in Seattle before moving to Rwanda. An older group mostly from Montana, with a few guys from Seattle. Oh yeah, they decided everyone somehow knew everyone in Montana. Sure enough, one of them lives in Billings and recognized, though didn't know, Kerns, a cousin's last name. Then there was a group that had been on a mission trip in the area. They go to church in the other Vancouver. You know, by Portland. One of them grew up in Selah and sure enough, knew my buddy Trevor Brink. It boggles my mind the think about how vast the world is, but how quickly the dots can be connected.

Friday morning we wandered back to the bus station to catch our bus. It was definitely the morning with the most miscues. First we somehow missed the main stretch of shops, where we had hoped to pick up Zambia national team jerseys. Not because we loved Zambia that much, but because they were just really slick. Then, when we got to the bus depot we attempted to get on the wrong bus. Evidently, being exhausted from the safari and the heat, we bought tickets for the wrong bus! It left at the same time, it just wasn't as nice and made more stops along the way back to Lusaka. It made the trip a bit more uncomfortable than it needed to be, but it wasn't the end of the world. When we arrived back in Lusaka we did some research to figure out or best option back to Chipata. The options included a wide range in bus quality, with departure times around 3, 7 or 10. One of the better buses left at 3 and we decided to book it, hoping it would make sleep more likely. There was a GHC birthday, so we headed out to dinner with that group and then to the bar afterwards. When they decided to move to another bar, around 2am, we caught a cab to the bus station.

It was a long ride. It wasn't too bad until the sun came up and it started to warm up. The bumpy roads and heat just put me into a semi-conscious state, awake but constantly dosing off. We made Chipata around noon, convinced a shared taxi to stop so we could get lunch, and then headed to the border. After immigration, it was onto a minibus back to Lilongwe. Our GHC friends were at a retreat for the weekend, leaving us without a friendly place to crash. Luckily, the contractor we are working with put us up at a hotel he operates. It just so happens to be one of the nicer places in town. If we hadn't made plans to meet up with friends that night, I likely would have gone to bed by 7pm and just laid on the comfortable bed. Instead, we went out. Another short night of sleep before our worst bus ride of the trip. While it is the shortest drive, it was the most uncomfortable bus. 2x3 seats, cramped legroom, and seats that felt more like a cheap meeting room chair than a bus seat. Eventually we made it to Zalewa, where we only had to wait for a half hour before getting transport back to Neno.

Overall it was a great week to rejuvenate for the last couple of months here in Neno. We were extremely blessed for the friends that helped us out along the way and the new people we shared memories with, if only briefly.

If you read this entire post, I would like to congratulate you because this is the longest piece of literature I have written in years. Please pat yourself on the back, smile, and have a great day. Also you get to see my favorite today's favorite picture from the trip.

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CHEERS!

Posted by tylerwein 13:41 Archived in Zambia Tagged elephant safari zambia lusaka malawi zebra rafting lion giraffe botswana chobe victoria_falls zambezi chipata lilongwe Comments (8)

The Adventures of the Golden Beard

A weekend away at Lake of Stars

sunny 31 °C

Hey y'all!

With oh so little to do sometimes here in Neno, it would easy to think that I relax, a lot. However, do not find being stir-crazy to be relaxing in the slightest which is why it was a great reprieve to escape the bush this weekend and get over to Mangochi and Lake Malawi for the music festival Lake of Stars. It took a day of travel on Friday to get there, aided by our friend Ernest, a Global Health Corps Fellow, finding us a ride from Blantyre. I never thought I would be thankful to be three people wide in the back seat of a car, but compared to long haul minibuses, it was a first class trip.

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We arrived Friday evening and set up camp before heading into the festival. The festival was held at a resort right on the lake, with the stage built on top of the sand. It made for a beautiful venue, but it still couldn't top The Gorge. Once we arrived, we met up with other GHC Fellows that Ernest. They turned out to be a pretty awesome group of people, and we hung out with them for the majority of the weekend. It was a late first night and as anyone who has slept in a tent knows, the sun often turns those late nights into early mornings thanks to sauna-like conditions. That was the case for us.

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In the morning we were finally able to take in the view of the expansive view of the lake. For a bit I forgot I was in Malawi, as it was in no way similar to the area that we live and much more resembled the tropical Indonesian beaches I spent time on this spring. After a refreshing swim, the shade of a coconut tree provided the perfect location for a rejuvenating nap. From there is was back to the festival after a lunch stop for chombo and nsima, which we proceeded to eat 2 more times before the weekend was over. The day was spent truly relaxing on the beach, listening to music, exploring beyond the resort, swimming, and even getting in a few games of ultimate. After a quick trip back to camp for dinner and drinks, including fresh coconut, it was back for another great night partying with new friends.

Sunday morning we took our time packing up as we knew we had a long day of travel ahead. We left the resort around noon and after a cramped right in the bed of a pickup, three minibuses, and the ride up the hill from the tarmac to Neno, we arrived around 7. I think I have forgotten what comfort is. Probably a good thing. Above are the only two pictures I took during the weekend. No camera, no phone, little in my pockets, less to worry about, more relaxing.

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Since I last posted, the job site looks drastically different. A week ago, we were just finalizing the preparations to pour the slab. Yesterday we we staring walls and forming columns.

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I am ecstatic to finally be above grade and to be able to see the progress. From here the next few weeks includes much more of the same. We should be finished with entry way slab and columns by the beginning of next week and then it will be mostly all blocks for a bit. Overall the timing works out well, as Marco and I will be leaving on Friday to make a trip to renew our visas. If we need to leave the country, we might as well go somewhere beautiful, right? I thought so, which is why we are headed to Victoria Falls. Not to worry, the camera and phone will be often in hand for this trip.

Okay, to fill y'all in on the title of this blog post. I don't often post pictures of myself because, frankly, y'all don't need to see my mug. The one thing you would notice if I did is that I haven't been to see the barber since I got here. Anyways, Ernest took to calling my beard "Golden Beard" this weekend and I thought it was catchy.

Final thought, while everyone back home is experiencing the beauty of autumn, the weather here seems confused. Technically it is spring, it feels like summer, but here and there are hints of a Northern Hemisphere fall.

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I won't be taking my computer with me to Vic Falls, but I might try to get some posts in along the way to avoid an overload when I get back. I'll definitely be on Instagram throughout the week if you want regular updates on the fun we're having.

Cheers!

Posted by tylerwein 01:35 Archived in Malawi Tagged malawi los minibus lake_malawi cfc pih ghc lake_of_stars mangochi Comments (0)

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