Today’s guest blogger Jo Woods reflects on her first-hand experiences of Mozambique and her own Starry-Eyed Moment in Africa.
I remember it was a melodic racket which first woke me: the squawk of the chicken that had slept among us, the slowing chug-chug of the train, the women on board all scrabbling at once, throwing themselves at the window ledge so as not to miss the best of the days produce. Cabbages, carrots, beans, tomatoes, bananas and onions were all flung wildly into the carriage; children on the ground were yelling to sell their wares, little ones at play, everyone chat-chatting.
As I sat aboard a rickety train (somewhere between Cuamba and Nampula in Northern Mozambique) heading towards the kind people of Malawi, the African sun rose stridently and decisively. While one window was bombarded by the colour of the crowded market place, the other displayed quite a different scene: a carpet of terracotta soil stretched to the horizon, blotted like sponged paint with brown thatched huts and pockets of green bush, the blossoming sight was something so vivid and bright that it at once became a memory to treasure. I had woken to the remarkable hum of life!
As I sat up to greet the day, the December heat swirled about my head. The air was hot to taste, intoxicating, salty, yet somehow refreshing. I felt happily drugged. At first I thought it could only be a sort of sleepy delirium but then a warm sensation ran down my throat to the pit of my stomach and that was it: that was the moment I watched myself become well and truly addicted to Africa. The rising sun had finally tipped me over the edge. I sat and stared at the landscape rising with the morning light and felt my heart throb.
It all sounds like a crazy dream doesn’t it?! But it was all so overwhelmingly real. Although I would never wish to bore you, banging on about some profound philosophy, it is imperative that you know about this spectacular land! Africa is special. Africa is diverse and forever unusual. When the people laugh they laugh for life and I swear the air speaks and that beauty is imbued in its very atmosphere.
The journey by train across the breadth of Mozambique had taken around 15 hours, and despite the shrill of the chicken and the smell of vegetables (and other things) sweating, it now felt oddly like home! Leaving something behind is never nice, and as the train chugged to a halt at Cuamba, everyone piling off together, it left me feeling slightly nostalgic.
But, it didn’t last too long. Nostalgia was quickly replaced by another feeling: anticipation. This swap of emotion is surely common enough among those of us who take on epic trips simply for the thrill of never-ending experience? True to form another adventure was right there waiting for me, in the shape of a one man bicycle taxi. A new home was about to be built and, even if balancing on one’s backside for 2 hours was going to be a rather less comfortable experience than the train ride, the prospect sent electricity through my bones.
Jo Woods is currently doing her final exams for her BA in African Studies at S.O.A.S in London. Where travel is concerned, her interests lie heavily in Africa but she’s happy whatever the destination – discussing travel experiences and future travel plans is her favourite pastime.
You can contact her by emailing her at jopowo[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk or on twitter @SEtravels.