103. Big Bad Africa

Moving on to this second continent was much to our relief and also, especially, to my surprise. The exotic, the dangerous… the quite unexpected Africa is very unlike what I’d imagined – granted I’ve only seen a small part of two countries.

The final and loooong 24hrs we spent in Asia also happened to be the beginning of the New Year, which, in Thailand, also means surprise water fights and traffic jams. Getting to our hostel we had to take the BTS train which was just about as cramped as the metros in Seoul and quite a challenge with our big and clumsy backpacks. And as we were walking through the station we started to notice that everyone else was frozen still. Our internalised group-behaviorisms kicked in and we also slowly came to a halt, looking puzzled around us and listening to the music emanating from invisible speakers. Shortly, as if someone had pressed “play”, everything set back into motion and we stumbled along again as well. My first thought was that we had walked into a flash-mob, but after further deliberations it is probably more likely to have been some kind of ceremonial equivalence of standing upright when we hear our national anthem being played.

After having reacquainted ourselves with civilisation and the hygienic luxuries that follows, I headed to a masseuse and Niamh to look for badges. In Bangkok you’ll find massage places with every few steps you take and how to tell the good places from the bad is a mystery – and if you find out, please let me know. I went into the first place I saw and came out with an ache in my left shoulder and neck. The masseuse was on facebook while giving me massage! I mean, there are many components to a great massage; the skill of the masseuse, aesthetics of the surroundings and calming music to mention a few, but that the hands of the masseuse are busy on your back should be a given!

A wonderful Thai tradition during the four-day long New Year festivities is splashing water on every passing stranger – and we were not an exception. Kids with water guns, adults with buckets and tourists with huge water guns are roaming the streets and no one is spared.

Travelling has never been so easy nor have our commutes been as smooth as they have with arriving in Johannesburg, South-Africa, and making our way to Maputo, Mozambique – ironically enough. One would think Seoul to be a piece of cake to navigate (which it is) and South-Africa a slow torturous hell, but in my experience it has been the complete opposite. We were picked up for free at the airport by our hostel and driven to the Eastgate (a big shopping mall) for no money at all, again by our amazing hostel. Eastgate became our second home, our refuge from a power shortage at our hostel, and our sole mean of recreation. Here I experienced first-hand the amazing service in South-Africa, I mean you get pizza delivered straight to your seat in the movie theatre – do I really need to say more? Eastgate was, in my opinion, the only telltale sign that we were in a big city, and Johannesburg is the largest city in SA, yet Joburg looks nothing like the many big cities we have visited in the last four months. To me, it seemed more like a large residential area – no tall buildings, no real hustle and bustle, no colourful forest of signs and not a lot of noise. The parts of Joburg we saw looked perfectly peaceful and nice – but from all you hear and the many warnings I received from Niamh, I’m not totally fooled by this first impression. Also, every single building and house is encircled by tall walls with barbed wire or sharp spikes you could impale yourself on if you tried to climb them which is a crystal clear indicator of what kind of neighbourhood you’re in. Now, Maputo looks much more like a big city, and a very nice and warm one as well, with its tall buildings, many lights and restaurants on about every street corner. So far we’ve passed the time here with going for walks, buying food, cooking and hanging out by the pool – all in all, nothing special but chilling in a big city.

// Louise