Rebecca Jacobson
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Six Countries in Six Photos (and a Bonus Video)

January 12, 2010 @ 5:49 AM | Permalink

My passport received a great deal of ink over the past five weeks. As I mentioned in my last entry, I took off for an ambitious circuit of southern Africa, lasting 35 days and covering more than 4,200 miles (not including wrong turns and various detours). I didn’t enter a single plane or train — I spent the stretch from Blantyre to Cape Town in a friend’s car, and from there opted for crowded local buses. Ever wondered what it’s like to spend 14 hours on a bus with two dozen wailing, pooping babies? Spare your imagination.

Before I record the journey’s adventures in detail (up next: a night at a truck stop in Botswana! Crossing the Zambezi with Jimi Hendrix!), here’s the six-country trek in six photos. And because I couldn’t resist, I’ve included a bonus video at the end.

That’s Clutch!

Tete, Mozambique

When traveling, it’s always polite to learn a few words in the local language — hello, thank you, toilet, etc. I never thought, however, that I would learn how to say “clutch spring” in Portuguese. Somewhere between Malawi and Zimbabwe, a stretch of road with potholes the size of moon craters, Charles felt his clutch give out. We went on to spend a few hours searching for an auto mechanic in Tete, the sauna of Mozambique, and eventually found a nice man who sold us three bottles of brake fluid. They did little for the clutch, but they gave us the charade of repair. We wound up spending three days in Harare waiting for a proper fix-up.

Pimp My Minibus

Harare, Zimbabwe

In Malawi, the minibuses have crosses hanging from the rearview mirrors and windshields rendered useless by spider web fissures. In Zimbabwe, they had blue velvet upholstery, crystal chandeliers and gold glittery gear shifts. Such an ostentatious display shouldn’t have surprised us — we visited a shopping mall with larger-than-life statues of Mickey Mouse, My Little Pony, Santa, and Japanese geishas (of course). Zimbabwe also proved notable for its currency situation. The country uses U.S. dollars ($2 bills are in astonishing supply) but lacks coins. When I needed 40 cents in change at the grocery store, the cashier pointed me back to the aisles, where I bought the cheapest chocolate bar I could find.

Hemingway Drank in Africa, Didn’t He?

Somewhere Along the Road, Botswana

When we picked up Frank, our tattooed Swedish friend, he encouraged us to inaugurate a new tradition — celebrate every 500 kilometers with a drink. We commemorated that first marker with a gin and tonic (served in a sawed-off plastic bottle) and all subsequent milestones with a beer. Here, Maryan makes Hemingway proud by blazing through her book and guzzling a Black Label, a brew advertised as “America’s lusty, lively beer.” The girl’s Canadian, but a passenger’s duty comes before national loyalty.

I’ll Trade You a Magenta Push-Up Bra for a Shot of Jägermeißter

Somewhere Near Barrydale, South Africa

Along Route 62, an impossibly picturesque highway in the Western Cape, we spotted a sign for Ronnie’s Sex Shop. (Actually, there was no apostrophe, but my inner grammar stickler can’t bring me to leave it out.) We couldn’t resist the souvenir possibilities and pulled over. Turns out the place wasn’t a sex shop (Ronnie had some prankster friends, who repainted the sign after a tipsy night) but the most cluttered bar on the African continent. Padded bras, gossamer thongs and the world’s largest onesie dangled from the ceiling. Christmas tree tinsel and money notes from across the globe plastered the graffitied walls. Elderly women drank wine with their tea as they played chess, and our bartender Hugo lit his cigarette underneath a newspaper bearing the headline “PENIS FOUND IN HOSPITAL SOUP.” It was 11 a.m., the perfect time to order a round and make friends at the bar. Leon was a young South African who argued for a reappraisal of Hitler. Anthony was an Oxford-educated Brit who dreamed of living in colonial-era Kenya and wearing white shorts and tall socks (his bed, he told us, would straddle the equator, so he could fall asleep in one half of the world and wake up in another).

Where Everything You Touch Turns to Photographic Gold

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sossusvlei played home to the most stunning landscapes of the journey. But being tourists raised on Facebook, we couldn’t stop ourselves from taking dozens of jumping shots. Taro, an Aussie medical student, got the best air. He also entertained us with stories of past travels, including the time he tore down an entire wall in his friend’s London apartment and the garment he fashioned from leaves and mud in the Amazon. He told heaps of dead baby jokes as well, none of which are appropriate here. But here’s this gem on feline euthanasia, courtesy of Taro’s veterinarian friend: Dude, kittens are so hard to put down. Their veins are just so small.

My, What Big Rapids You Have

Victoria Falls, Zambia

We drove across the Zambezi in Mozambique and crossed it by ferry in Botswana, but you don’t really know a river until you wade through it, right? Or get sucked down the waterfall. We evaded the latter, but fording the torrents above the falls seemed the grand Zambian adventure (and way cheaper than whitewater rafting or a helicopter tour!). Expect a full entry devoted to the soggy escapade.

And now the bonus video!

I’ll Take Feathers Over a Mane Any Day

Oudtshoorn, South Africa

Thanks to some scarring summer camp incidents, I’m lousy on horseback, but these ostriches were no more temperamental than the angry stallion who tossed me off the saddle a decade ago. Think I’ve got a future as a jockey? In the video, take note of the KKK-style hood the ostrich wears. It’s tossed aside right before the gallop begins.


Posted on 1/12/2010 by

Angela Allen

Rebecca ; that ostrich video was HILARIOUS! I loved the pix of the guy jumping and the bra bar. I have some new pix on my flicker i shot in Ky., not quite as exciting as yours! Check out the infinity pool abstract. You are having an adventure. I'm jealous, or envious. Angela

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Rebecca: I love the ending and I LOVE the second picture with the bright blue guy and the sepia tobacco. Angela

Angela Allen on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-29

Thanks Angela! The second photo is my favorite as well.

Rebecca Jacobson on Trafficking in Tobacco 2009-09-30

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