23 June 2009

Name a Form of Transportation

by Jocelyn
(Note from Cecily: Jocelyn wrote this all up last night but encountered technical difficulties, and I was already in bed. That is why you had to wait so long for another blog post. This will help you learn to be patient, which is a valuable skill, so we aren't going to apologize at all.) (also there will be pictures eventually. BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE VERY PATIENT.)

(Note from Jocelyn: see! the reward of virtue! Pictures!)

TodayYesterday we had a relaxing trip up the Incomati River to a lodge, where we had lunch. Then we took a brief swim and a nature walk and took a boat back down to Marracuene where we retrieved our vehicles and drove home. Or at least that is what was supposed to happen.

map of our adventure

Boats are wooden

We left Maputo on schedule, having joined the rest of our party at a pleasant coffee shop. We drove for a while, through some nice fields and woods. There was only one unplanned stop when someone's tire deflated and we needed to inflate by the side of the road, but that was mostly pleasant. We got to a restaurant at Marracuene, parked the cars, used the bathroom, bought water, and met the boat. At this time, all was still on schedule. I don't have pictures of it because I didn't think of it.

This boat was made of inflated rubber with nice teak benches. It went real fast, and we all got kind of wet from the spray. Fun!

In this picture, Ben is attempting to keep his face dry. Or something.

Pleasant conversation amongst the ladies ensued. Or, amongst the ladies and Ben - because it was us and then a bunch of wives of diplomats, ten travelers in total. Everyone was nice, all day.

Looks like somebody didn't read the fine print

Then our first mishap occurred. We are still not certain whether the tank had contained insufficient fuel to begin with, or whether there was some kind of leak in the fuel line. By the time we were interested in this question, the actual boat and actual engine were completely unavailable for inspection for reason to be discussed, so all of it is speculation. There had been an unfortunate near-collision between the boat and a fishing net which may, or may not, have been involved in the engine failure.

Regardless, the boat was no longer going. It was pretty windy - fighting a headwind the whole way may have had something to do with the lack of petrol in the boat. Or it might not. But once the engine quit, we fairly quickly got blown onto the reeds on the lee bank. Phone calls between the boat driver and the lodge to which we were headed were made, and we were reassured that someone was coming in a different boat with additional petrol.

We sat in the sun and chatted.

No different boat came, and no additional petrol.

More phone calls were made.

You could make a car out of wood...

Ben got bored, and some excitement happened.

This mud was not nearly as stinky as it could have been, and nobody lost any shoes.

Eventually, a different boat did come. Actually three.

We were confused - why are there two canoes and a rowboat, and why do none of them contain additional petrol?

I was under the impression that you could win prizes, or money

As it turns out, the lodge had only a small amount of petrol, and all of it was in the tank of the truck. This amount was sufficient to get the truck to a place where more petrol was to be had; the problem would be thus solved, except that the truck's battery was in the boat, attached to the engine.

So the ten of us, plus Bennie our original boat driver, needed to get into the two canoes and the flat-bottomed fishing rowboat. No problem. Three passengers per canoe (two paddles in one canoe, one in the other) with the battery in the first, four ladies plus Bennie plus two fisherman in the rowboat. Off we go, paddling into a headwind.

The Rolling ... Bears?

This took a really, really long time. Fortunately it was nice out. We looked at birds and occasionally got stuck on a sandbank. Cecily and I were in the rowboat, which took the longest time and got stuck on sandbanks the most often. I enjoyed it a lot. We saw two hippos and some other things. The hippos were on the east bank; we were told later by informants from other canoes (Ben and Nancy) that they were not told about the hippos because the guides and/or fishermen did not want to frighten anyone.

I don't have any pictures of this journey because the boats were precarious and wet, and Nancy's camera stayed in my bag.

An hour and a half later, we arrived at the lodge. The north wind had blown invasive Water Hyacinth all into the beach there, so it was hard to get the boats in.

It was extra hard to get the rowboat in, because we needed to turn right and all the ladies in the back of the boat were acting as a sail, turning the boat into the wind, which happened to be a turn to the left. Eventually in order to make this turn, the fishergentlemen had to put the boat on a sandbank, get out, and push us around until the wind was on our stern.

But it happened in the end, and we had beer and lunch at two o'clock on the veranda. It was really nice.

Blue is not a form of transportation

As soon as the first canoe arrived, the battery went in the truck and the owner went off to get more petrol. As soon as he got back, the petrol and two men went in a canoe back to the big boat, with the idea that they would start up the boat, bring it back, pick us up, and have us back to our cars by maybe 4:30 pm.

After lunch, some of us went for a walk through the sandy woods. The dog went with us, which turned out to be a good thing. We saw some birds, and some lovely cattle.

The cattle were blocking the road we wanted to walk on, so we turned around to go back the way we had come, and promptly got lost.

Some combination of wandering around, asking villagers for directions, and repeatedly telling Kai the Dog to "go home! good boy!" eventually got us back to the lodge.

We were surprised not to see the big boat back. Further consideration led us all to notice that the battery was still in the truck, and so, petrol or no petrol, motorboat was not going anywhere.

A car could be blue!

Backup plan: the lodge owner and a farmer friend of his would put us all in their trucks and drive us down the peninsula to the ferry. We would cross on foot and, since the ferry dock was where the vehicles had been left, rejoin the cars with relative ease.

It took a while, but eventually this did occur. The waiting included sunshine, veranda, and beer, so we enjoyed it.

Two trucks, nine ladies and Ben plus one other guy along for the ride. Some fuss about pillows and towels for those of us in the bed of the bigger truck, but we got underway.

Anyone who is interested in making snarky and judgmental comments about the quality of this photo and the one following is welcomed to zip it. YOU try taking pictures from the back of a truck on a dirt "road".

Round Two, where the orphan points double

We had not gotten very far underway, however, when the second truck got a flat. A bad one.

However, the time was drawing near when the ferry would quit running, so we could not stop to fix it. The passengers from the second, little truck squished into the first truck, with careful attention paid to who was most likely to throw up and thus needed the front seat, and we left the lodge owner on the road with an electric pump for his tire and our best hopes for his success.

The section of road that followed was unbelievable, like the moon or something. I wish I had pictures, but it was too dark. We got to the ferry dock and watched the stars come out and hoped that the ferry (visible on the far bank) would come back that night.

Boats ARE Wooden!

It did. We watched it leave the far bank and, as a car ZOOMed down the hill and was four minutes too late, watched the ferry turn back and dock to pick up that truck. I wish that would happen to me more often.

When the ferry got to us, some trucks unloaded and some other trucks loaded. The ferrymen were not great at organizing this; at one time, the boat was loaded in a way that made the gangway a foot off the dock at one end, and then the last truck couldn't load. Some moving of trucks on the boat and some powerful shoving solved this problem, however, and we were away. Back to the west bank, back down the street to the cars, back down the dark dusty road to the city, and thence home. Maybe only four or five hours late.

Some members of the studio audience will also receive: orphans!

All in all, it was a pretty great trip. The weather was nice, the hippos didn't try to kill us, we saw some birds and ate some good food.

Nobody threw up.

No boats sank.

Tomorrow, maybe we will find caipirinhas. They make them here. Delicious.

map of our adventure


  1. It took me a while, but I got the State references. Well played!

  2. Jocelyn had the title all picked out before we were even past the rowboat stage. Then we bickered about the optimal order of the subtitles. Awwww, The State!