I purchased the local paper and postcards then made my way to the town post office along the famous Kingsway Road - which welcomed King George VI and young daughter Elizabeth to Lesotho in the late 50s. The clerk at the counter was shocked when I told her I was Nigerian. "You look and talk like an American." Huh! Remember folks, my accent throughout 5460 so far had been a blend of Britico Naija.
Whilst writing out my cards at the counter I was approached by the security guard who without initiating dialogue merely warned that as I was 'taking far too long with business', he'll remove me if I 'tried to harm' him. My belly laugh shook the building. Nevertheless I got the message, promptly sped up my writing before grabbing some Maseru street food. I headed straight to Moshoeshoe 1 International to catch my evening flight to Johannesburg.
Monday 16 March 2015 - Cape Town
5460 begins today in Cape Town, South Africa. Yaay! 1 Down, 53 Countries to Go.
It'll be an exciting Seven and a half Years.
I make my way up the long winding road uphill towards Robert Mugabe Avenue and the looming Statue of Sam Nujoma, first President and founding father of Namibia.
Across the road stretched the Cathedral of Christuskirche. Adjacent on the road heading back into the city centre was the Goethe Institute, monuments commemorating Freedom fighters of Namibia and the teeming tourist segment of Independence Ave.
Thursday 12 March 2015 - Leeds, UK
A monumental start with 4 Days to Go
South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana,
Namibia, Nigeria and Morocco
Less than 24 hours to obtain several Tourist Visas (Mozambique, Zimbabwe & Zambia), South Africa is being sorted by Complicite, whose production of LionBoy kicks off the leg. Mozambique Consulate offers a 90minute 'express' service. Zimbabwe & Zambia may have to wait til my arrival in Cape Town.
My taxi driver, Tebo a Business Management Graduate of six years had been unemployed for the same period - as he poured out his travails he admitted taxi dríving has been his main stay and source of much solace. The airport was 10 Kilometres from Maseru Town. The fare was ZAR150, however due to fast depleting funds we agreed 100 - his genuine plight and extraordinary humility deserved more. Tebo represented a microcosm of the survival story which epitomised his country's strife and an example of many more impoverished encounters my 5460 visits brought me in touch with. Tabo; such admiration and respect.
We boarded and departed at 6.30am for Ladybrand.
I stayed awake for most of the journey if only to capture the serene countryside and the Maloti range of Mountains, (including the enchanting Black Mountain)
which lined our route within Lesotho.
Thursday 12 March 2015
Personal Ambition Set
Visit all 54 countries in Africa before 60
Monday 31 October 2022
Friday 5 May 2017
5 years and 25 Nations to Go
Thursday 19 March 2015 - Baxter Theatre
LionBoy's first 11am show. Four schools within the Rondebosch vicinity in attendance. The auditorium was packed to the rafters with kids braying for the unknown. Every nuance of the production was received and responded to with aplomb and alacrity. The pupils wrestled and jostled for ownership of the material and much to our relief, we ended equal winners. The post show discussion was equally illuminating as it transpired that 75% of the young people in attendance were first time theatre-goers. These were High School kids!
Sunday 22 March 2015 - Cape Town to Bloemfontain (Fountain of Flowers)
Thursday 9 April 2015
Ile-Ife to Lagos, Nigeria
So we left Dad and co in Ile-Ife circa 7.15am. Journey back to Lagos was much swifter and we were heading into Opebi via Maryland before 11am.
Tuesday 31 March, 2015 - Gaborone, Botswana to Namibia
Smooth albeit very very early taxi ride to Seretse Khama International Airport.
Kenny was on time (the complete antithesis to the inbound journey) and patient enough to permit the occasional tourist indulgence.
And so here ends my first adventure traipsing the continent.
10 countries in 4 weeks! (Monday 16th March - Sat 11th April 2015)
South Africa (Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg) , Lesotho (Maseru), Swaziland (Mbabane), Mozambique (Maputo), Zimbabwe (Harare), Zambia (Lusaka), Botswana (Gabarone), Namibia (Windhoek), Nigeria (Lagos and Ile-Ife) and Morocco (Casablanca).
See Over leaf for 5460 2017 starting with
I made my way to the breakfast table (shower postponed - no water).
Need to get out of here as soon as possible - quick brekkie flannel bath and then vamoose!
Breakfast, Sausage Game and bacon was served by Jethro the Gardener (he introduced himself). In the short 10 minutes spent in the lounge, Jethro became an annoying pest, literally sitting down next to me offering every kind of hospitality under the morning sun, including talking me through an outdated Swaziland Official Tourist Guide.
I was just about to lose the will to live when a voice pierced the air. In the doorway, a huge man stood rock solid (well-dressed White Afrikaan) Jethro who was clearly shaken as his name was yelled out again, dropped the brochure and hobbled off in his boss's direction. Moments later several dogs came rushing through the same door leaping all over me. A fierce hench woman followed suit and stood them down. "Good day to you" she greeted as I stood up to brush myself down. It was MM and she knew exactly who I was.
Journeyed via Maruwa to Olufunmilayo Okikiolu off Toyin Street (registered address for Elufowoju jr Ensemble and bona fide abode for Sikuola's Cake and Candy Confectionery Boutique.
I then headed off to Muson, to meet up with Tunde Jegede.
On the Maseru side we hailed a taxi and Tado advised that I drop off at the famous Basotho Hat building (Tourist Information Centre) - named after the Conical straw hat (the Mokorotio) part of the national dress of Lesotho.
The hat is worn to accompany a colourful blanket (the Kobo or Tambo). It was still pouring 'cats and dogs' - but I made it the to the Hat where a kind lady talked me through the Country's heritage, history and current affairs.
Saturday 21 March 2015
Mulzenburg and Townships
As promised Ms Burtt picked me up for the excursion - We started our whistle stop 'tour' from the hectic streets of Ronsebosch and headed for the top of Bishopcourt, an affluent hill housing the 'creme de la creme' including the British High Commissioner and Bishop Desmond Tutu. It was literallly 'downhill' from that point as we cruised through British named districts, areas of forced removal residents to a cluster of informal settlement areas lining our route to our final destination, the Marinas of Muizenburg.
Tuesday 31 March 2015 - Johannesburg
My third and final visit to Johannesburg was pretty uneventful.
Of course it was, I was in transit (Gabarone, Botswana to Windhoek, Nambia)
Thursday 26 March 2015 - Maputo, Mozambique
I woke up at 5.30am in a cold sweat. I realised I had been too shattered the night before to even remember shutting the door - it was wide open. Surprisingly my wallet and passport remained intact on the bedside table. I was stripped of my travelling garbs and covered in mosquito bites. The bed too was a puddle of my sweat and small specks of blood from the raging insects.
I could hear voices emanating from the office down the corridor. To my relief electricity and water had been restored overnight though the toilet remained having its plumbing issues. After breakfast I introduced myself to the 'Chief' Rui Raol, a young blinged up suavely dressed man - he initially paced his defence of the lack lustred services from the backfoot. He bemoaned "This is not a hotel it is a Guest House. This is Africa my friend" - Big mistake, anyone who knows me knows that this sort of apathy only riles me even further. I gave him what for - Africa's esteem is disparaged further by irresponsible perpetrators of the 'African' myth. He apologised with a whisper "I am sorry sir. I am not even the manager, just a supervisor. This has been a terrible week for me and the team, there have been far too many complaints from lodgers, a cocktail of bad issues - you are not the first. I am fed up. Please help me get a message to my boss because he doesn't listen to me".
I was in town for a couple of days so I chose my first day to cross the walkway to the City Mall to gain further insight into the pulse of its people. I meet Kenny a jovial cab driver who I book to pick me up at 6.15am Tuesday morning.
The road ahead of us led to Khayelitsha. A section of this road was lined with RDP homes Reconstruction and Development Programme. (RDP) is a South African socio-economic policy framework implemented by the African National Congress (ANC) Government of Nelson Mandela in 1994. So the Townships were being handed a regeneration push however it is very evident that the push is taking its time reaching the targeted communities. The corrugated rooftops often seen in the media did in reality stretch for miles from far back as Langa across to Mitchell's Plain. And so did the impoverished shacks, popping up wherever an empty space loomed. Some we passed in Gugulethu were ambitiously structured. Ever seen a storey high shack? I have and it wasn't glorious. Thankfully Langa and some of the neighbouring Townships have benefited from formal housing and as we turned left into Thabo Mbeki Road it seemed we were leaving the worst behind.
The Motor Park I was heading to was located behind the MetroRail section of Park Station on Upper Ground. More minibuses were lined up to multifarious locations and as per usual the park was awashed with vendors selling food, drink, belts, watches, books, belts etc.
I found my Mbabane bound bus at the bottom end of the garage. Next to it were a couple of men collecting fares and checking Passports. Mine was added to a pile on a table and I was urged to book my place in the bus.
So I promised him that I'll declare my misgivings in the social media. Rui upgraded my room for the remainder of my stay and I skipped out of the door for the city's 'delights'.
The rainy weather limited my scope for sightseeing, nevertheless I had accumulated enough evidence to corroborate my short stay. And after ninety minutes of surveying the immediate vicinity I was ready to hit the road back to the airport. Kwacha Man got me toa my rendezvous ahead of schedule but on arrival and much to my despair my original credit card flight booking hadn't gone through, therefore I had to make a fresh payment - all $270 of it. And as if to rub it in, the cashier mentions I reminded her of Chris Rock! #random
I declined purchasing postcards in Zambia - far too extortionate - a dollar each! I'll double up on the ZimZim ones)
Saturday 28 March - Johannesburg, the Return
Landing in Johannesburg (from Lusaka, Zambia) for the second time this week,
I chose the Speed train to Park Station: great choice. And it was straight to Lamunu and bed. Looking forward to discovering other cultural highlights in the city in the morning.
We were stopped at a police checkpoint, our luggage searched, passports and visas checked then moved on. The driver drops me somewhere near the top of the hill bearing Av Karl Marx - he has no change so I break 200 Meticais purchasing 2 jumbo sized pears for 50! I begin the mile long descent circumnavigating sand, litter and call girls.
Twenty minutes later I locate the obscure dòorway to the MozGuest Residence. Outside sits a vagrant who points the way up. A bolted door opens and a teenage looking concierge ironically named Elder (Anosef) attends to me - he doesn't speak a word of English, only Portuguese and communicates with me via a translation app on his laptop. He checks me into a basic single room. No TV, no tea or coffee.
As he shuts the door behind me on cue...... power shut down.... no electricity!
So today begins my first road trip adventure! Seems so long ago (a week ago now) I remember the Intercape Coach trip (ZAR306) from Tourist Centre Bloemfontein vividly, as the weather was intolerable (heavy rain).
The festival focus (now in its 5th year) was to promote the indigenous written 'Xhosa' word.
There was a pungent stench in the room which on entering the bathroom I discover came directly from the toilet..... no water.
I erroneously took the long winded route to the Island Ikeja (Toyin Street) - Ojuelegba -CMS - then Maruwa to Muson instead of Toyin Street straight to CMS then onwards from there (but even that's wrong as Muson is on the opposite end of the Island).
Tunde was waiting patiently. Sef was in the house (met Sean K and a young photographer from Port Harcourt, Bernadine).
The various permutations for October's MUSON Festival of Music were explored, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives (Revival), African Messiah and the New Horizons Concert. It was lovely seeing Tunde again. Both him and his wife Sunara Begum were working tirelessly to put the African Classical Canon via Muson on the international map. I was going to try my damn hardest to assist with this laudable ambition in my own inimitable way.
The town of Mbabane was cocooned within a ring road. Watford immediately sprung to mind. The Taxi driver sped towards Eden Lodge. Tengetile was spot on. It was far out meeen! As the car slowly descended Malagwane Hill, I noticed there wasn't a spot of light illuminating the buildings. As the car pulled up outside Eden drive it was very clear something was out of kilter. I walked through an open door guided by a ray of candle light coming from the reception area. Sounds of chitter-chatter and home cooking wafted from the kitchen, and so did a Mozambican matron. She checked me in apologising profusely for the absence of electricity.
I requested to speak to the manager and within seconds I was handed a phone. On the other end was 'Madam Mongrel' - Afrikaan by accent Afrikaan by nature. Very arrogant in a treacherous colonial sort of way. She had no time for my grievance and put the phone down on me. 'MM' made it abundantly clear that there was nothing she could do about the 'power-sharing' in Swaziland, and if I couldn't hack it, I should leave.
Matron could feel the tension building and appealed to my tolerance and understanding. She sent up a night cap, a bowl of grapes and fresh drinking water to my room. I climbed into bed and slept off like a new born baby, praying for morning to swiftly ascend.
We reached a small district on the outskirts of Maputo with signs to Bella Vista and Salamanga. It was beginning to feel and look different already - the buildings, the nightlife, the people, the children - playing safely under streetlights and the sky lit moon.
Mozambique - you are bliss
I calculated that my overall sojourn continues across further Southern African regions, such as Bloemfontain and Johannesburg, and that in fact the latter was to serve as a conduit to many neighbouring countries targeted along the way. It made sense to collapse my entire SA expedition under this segment, and pick up with Lesotho straight after the many detours and returns.
Mojisola arrived safely and Mr Adegoke (another Gooner albeit extortionate entrepreneur @ N5K per drop) was at the shuttle bus end of the car park waiting. On arrival at the Adewuyi ranch in Opebi was my lovely Aunt Moji, adorable Cousin Sikuola and my Bros-in-law and namesake Yinka. Hearty supper followed by a well-deserved lie in.
So today on the end of its closure and under its new guise, Saro 2 promised much more. Quite a few friends and members of the family were in attendance.
And much to our delight, the show was simply divine.
Known for her punishing travel schedule Hillary Clinton has just announced her 2016 Presidential bid. As Obama's Secretary of State, she visited 112 countries in four years! Honeychild I just done 10 in 3.5 weeks #maybeIshouldbeyourrunningmate - you'll be able to run tings a lot quicker!
Bernadine put me on the straight path on my way out this time - took half the time to get back. Maruwa - Hospital Road - Ikeja via Maryland - Opebi.
Home by 11pm. Shattered, bed. Doing it all over again in the morning.
Harare, Zimbabwe to Lusaka, Zambia
An airport official emerged and declared the check-In desk closed and my flight flown. Impossible, the flight couldn't have left without me. I'd checked in online and my luggage was onboard (apparently not). I literally got on my knees and pleaded with all my heart
(I was pathetic!). I had to be on that flight to Lusaka by hook or crook.
The check-in clerk was adamant that my plane had flown and my luggage disembarked. I asked to speak to a supervisor (a recurring mantra). She obliged and she got on the blower and as if by under a spell my prayer was answered. My plane was not on the runway because it hadn't actually arrived. Boarding card issued I rushed through security (despite being asked not to) and arrived at the Depature Gate panting profusely. There were hundreds of exacerbated passengers slumped in their seats but I was in a better place, despite my 5460 Zimbabwean experience was far from being encyclopedic.
A passenger and pilot stood in a corner engulfed in deep conversation. I asked the 'pilot' to confirm the announcement made re the Harare flight from Maputo i.e flight delay was due to military operations in the Yemen airspace.
He wasn't a pilot but a Christian missionary who had been based in Zimbabwe for the last 3 years. His parent's had travelled over for a brief holiday and was taking him back home to California.
My first impression of this novel side to South Africa was comforting.
Like Bloemfontein, Johannesburg is awash with Black people holding their own.
Like Cape Town the poverty and homelessness is evident
(body bag shrouds a homeless man serving a midday siesta)
Water restored, I packed and made my exit heading down Malagwane Hill with a view to hitch-hiking into Mbabane town.
I soon hit MR3 Motorway
Sunday 5 April 2015 (Easter Sunday)
Up in time to prep for 10.30am service. Ashamedly, my first worship at God's office this year. The toil of the gruelling extensive LionBoy tour is my excuse. Sikuola, Aunt, Mojisola and I made our way to
Day Star Christian Centre.
The next 90 minutes were arguably the holiest and most enchanting 'gathering of the hosts' that I've experienced in a long while - a penetrative sermon, rousing choir and a heartfelt inspired congregation.
Truly thankful for making it to church today, almost marking a significant near end to the first stage of the 5460s sojourn.
Family lunch at Yellow Chilli Restaurant on Joel Ogunnaike next. The towering mounds of traditional dishes is always anticipated.
Then home to rest and reflect.
As I waited for Mojisola to arrive in from Amsterdam, I reflected on my travels and travails so far. God has been good, I'd been audacious and sheer determination had brought me this far ahead of the first stage. I then had a thought. In my lifetime prior to the 5460 idea being conceived, I had visited Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Monrovia, and over a 'quillion' times, Nigeria.
Once through Passport Control, I exchanged $40 into local currency then circum-navigated myself through the exquisite arrival lounge, dodging cab drivers and friendly 'helpful' hands looking for the airport's hidden secret.
I was running late for my lunchtime reunion date with some of the 2014 'Finding Home' company. I arrived with fair advance notice, 15 minutes behind schedule. Adesola Fakile was the sole attendee. Efe Paul Azino had other priorities but was 'still going to make it' (he never did) Sheila took a rain check (we caught up later in her office) whilst Ndukwe was somewhere far East campaigning. Adesola and I had a delightful catch up over Pounded Yams and a medley of rice at Alata Foods before catching up much later with Mojisola and I within the Ikeja Shopping Mall (where incidentally I bumped into old friend and University Padi, Kola Olayebi - unseen for 30 years!!).
The Mall was a treat and a half, memorable for a couple of things including hunting down Omonike's (my sister's) personal Coke bottle and the Ice-cream juggling boys at the Cold Stone Creamy Palour - I recommend Bailey's Chocolate with either Banana or Coconut flavours, both laced with coconut shavings. The CSC team were full of song 'O when the tip.....' Enroute home picked up some Suya (small chops) for the awaiting Solomon, Afolayan, Adewuyi clan. That with several glasses of Rum and coke put paid to my last night in spirited Lagos of Nation 9. Tomorrow was Governor Election Day in Nigeria, the aim was to beat the morning curfew and be at the airport unimpeded before 6am.
Saturday 28 March 2015 - Lusaka to Johannesburg
My son Oluwashayo turns 9 today, and Africa's most populous nation Nigeria goes to the polls to elect a new President. Breakfast was lush. The hotel itself had a deceptive ambiance about it, a welcoming foyer, a pool bar area and a breakfast lounge partially open to the elements. The Chef was on point too.
After my poolside breakfast I checked out of Lusaka Hotel and made my way through torrential rain to a nearby Bureau de Change. I needed Kwacha, and I've arrived in Zambia across a period when the Kwacha is stronger than the South African Rand (1 to .67).
I dubbed the driver who eventually drove me to the airport 'Kwacha Man'. He was vehement that his fare was going to be K200 and was keen to drive me round Lusaka til I landed a good rate.
We found one and KM capitulated at K150.
Wednesday 18 March 2015 - Baxter Theatre
LionBoy opened to much praise at Cape Town's Premier theatre. It was Complicite's first time in Africa and my debut, as an Actor on the continent of my ancestors. Our opening performance eclipsed the high and euphoria experienced on our first night in New York a couple of months back as the audience rose to its feet.
Saturday 4 April 2015
Evening arrival, smooth flight, no exciting drama bar both bags unceremoniously missing. Disappointed with BA but no fuss, just exited terminal and headed towards the KLM arrivals. Whilst airborne Arsenal had trounced Liverpool 3-1 and sadly Chelsea had beaten Burnley 2-1. We remain in 2nd place, 7 points behind 'leaders'.
On reaching Manzini the last departing minibus for Mozambique was gradually filling up. With me in the bag, we were short of 6 passengers.
Monday 23 March 2015 - Bloemfontein to Maseru, Lesotho (via Ladybrand)
Woke up to the news of Lee Kuan Yew's (man who built Modern Singapore and its ex-Prime Minister) demise. He was 91. During his reign and thereafter Singapore experienced the lowest crime rate globally. He was an Iron PM epitomised the Rule Of Law. A great strategist of Asian affairs and an influential force of economic and political stability.
R.I.P Good sir.
Postscript to Zambia
With all the references to Cairo in Lusaka
I wondered if definitive proof existed pointing out Zambians being the founders of ancient Egypt. The ancient civilization of Egyptian Kingdoms headed by powerful Pharaohs dominated North Africa and the Middle East for almost two thousand years from c 3100 to 1090 bc. This was before Assyrians, Persians, the Babylonian Empire, Greeks, and Romans occupied Egypt. This was also before Christ.
The Egyptian civilization was the first to create a large empire, establish writing using hieroglyphs, large scale political economy, the bureaucracy and built the sophisticated massive pyramids.
Manzini is 36 kilometres from Mbabane, and King Tswati III International Airport (the sole elusive airport so far) is 89 kilometres from Mbabane.
The most I could do with the rest of my day was pack in a quick stroll along Independence Avenue and pop into the local Super Mart for a local meal. Thereafter I retired to bed, looking forward to the day ahead.
Sunday 29 March - Johannesburg
News was trickling in that a new dawn was opening up in Nigeria - Retired General Mohammadu Buhari leader of the APC had beaten the incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck PDP in the weekend's General Election. I was indifferent to the news as in my opinion the ex-Military dictator was merely the 'best' of a poor pair of options. I was in Nigeria during Buhari's initial regime and though he was a strict disciplinarian, completely transparent and incorruptible - he had an appalling human rights record, social infrastructure and the economy fared no better compared to the present. At 71 I remain sceptical of his overall ethos and impact. Hopefully providence will prove me wrong.
I head across Nelson Mandela Bridge into Newtown in search of Brie Street where the Market Theatre is located. Being a Sunday, there is a sparse traffic presence and the walk into the new district is quiet. I stand in awe outside the theatre building - this was where the foundation of pre and post-apartheid theatre in South Africa was built. The likes of Athol Fugard, John Kani and others honed and mastered their craft in this building. And this is from where South Africa was able to peel open the eyes of the world into its internal stride and strife. Mission accomplished I headed back to Braamfontein.
It was our Producer's (the extraordinary Judith Dimant) last day on the road with us. We
convened for lunch at the nearby Hussar Grill. Judith has been absolutely incredible - and in a way, indirectly responsible for allowing me to think up the plausibility of the 5460 sojourn. South Africa fell into place and flights of fancy began. My South African meal! Cream of Butternut Soup served with Croutes (out of shot) for Starters followed by above - Peri-Peri Chicken Livers served with a Portuguese Roll accompanied by a portion of Creamed Spinach and Cinnamon Butternut Vegetables.
I retired early to bed this evening. I have much to reflect upon away from Africa and our exploits storytelling a young boy in search of his parents. How does one respond appropriately to challenges facing loved ones so far away? The ramifications of being absent from home for another four months had begun to reel its way into the forefront.
I joined Tengetile and other awaiting passengers on the Swazi side (Ngwenya). Among them were a motley crew of 'Swazi gyal dem', who had caught wind of my Naija origins. The girls were quite gregarious in their approach and wanted to know where in Mbabane I was residing so that they 'could come and join me with some Nigerian brodas to have fun'. There was a fair amount of giggling - always a good sign that our nubian 'Swaz' were hyper mischievous and potentially up to no good.
Mbabane was another 24km from the Ngwenya but characteristically closer than expected. We arrived a little after 7pm and I bade Tengetile farewell.
The burgeoning love affair with Nation 3 was gradually coming to an end.
Most extraordinary was finally meeting the Sellos (Fiona's family).
I upset a Namibian taxi driver today - not my proudest hour but not entirely guilty either. Nevertheless the experience did leave me a little numb and perplexed for an hour or so thereafter. Basically, Kativa, an enthusiastic taxi driver had intervened in negotiations twixt myself and his colleague (I was quoted NAD280 by the latter, I'd counter-offered half) Kativa must've misheard me, he grabbed my bags and said "Let's Go, I'll take you for that". My lucky day, or so I thought.
Several mountains and a Giraffe later we reached Protea Thuringerhof, Windhoek. He rejected my cash with so much fury, he foamed at the mouth. Kativa hurled verbal abuse, calling me a robber and everthing else untoward beneath the Namibian sky. Regrettably I took him to church too, pointing to the Police Station across the road. He eventually walked away from me in disgust. He never took the money, and for this I was very numb. Not a great start to a potentially fabulous two days I thought.
Not only is the airport insanely tiny, it's also in the middle of nowhere. Hence the plethora of Car hire franchises there to greet you on arrival. Ignoring the over zealous Taxi drivers, I made a B-line for Arthur, who'd just picked up two English students visiting Bloem Uni (another prominent town feature). Arthur was loading the boot - I sidled up to him and whispered in a heavy Naija accent "whatever they're paying, accept half from me and I'll not say a word". Arthur obliged and off we sped towards the city. (South African drivers by the way are daredevils in disguise behind the wheel)
Sunday morning renders Bloemfontein a ghost town. Not a soul in sight, save for a Meerkat seen dashing across the renowned Nelson Mandela Way. Enroute there were signposts to Maseru my final destination, and it was all getting exciting knowing that in less than 24 hours from now I'd be in Lesotho:
Saturday 21 March 2015 - Baxter
Final LionBoy Performance.
And then it was back to the Baxter for an emotional finale to the tour. Most members of the cast were inconsolable. We started in November 2014 and have delighted audiences across the globe - London, New York, Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Hong Kong, Seoul. Now closure here in Cape Town. A befitting end to the Chapter, today being World Human Rights Day (in attendance was the author of successful semi-autobiographical 'A Human Being Died that Night' Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela).
It was still pouring 'cats and dogs' - but I made it the to the Hat where a kind lady talked me through the Country's heritage, history and current affairs.
Apparently the current ruling Government was in limbo having recently formed a coalition. The previous cabinet had been resolved and the country after many months was still waiting for who and what portfolios were to distributed to the many factionsin the multi-party led Government. No single majority hence policy decisions more complex to reach
More fascinating for me however, was the fact that Lesotho was one of the three remaining monarchy on the continent. I was visiting the other two (Swaziland and Morocco) in the next couple of weeks.
We arrived at the Swazi/Moza (Mhlumeni/Goba) border post at 7.50pm - what followed next was truly unfathomable. Sulieman the French Morroccan gathered up all our passports and walked us all through in uneventful breathtaking minutes. We were sorted in a jiffy. We got talking about mobile phones. He noticed my Samsung Mega and asked what model it was. He had a Samsung Note 5 and was surprised it was drawfed by mine! We moved on to Arsene Wenger who he thought managed Liverpool - I corrected him. He revealed that Wenger was from the French German border hence the name Wenger. He remarked how highly regarded he was in France. Sulieman was a excitable tall fella and loved talking about his home town Casablanca. "I'll be there in a couple of weeks" I remarked "albeit for four hours" - he yelped! Sulieman switched to ambassador. Do you know there are only three surviving monarchy ruling systems left in Africa? The Kingdoms of Swaziland, Lesotho and Morocco. Of course I did hence doing all three within the incoming weeks!
On the airport departure concourse, I literally had just a few seconds to pay for a Zimbabwean newspaper from a news stand in South Africa Rand (and receive Zim currency change in return). A quick step outside for a hasty shot of the Harare International Airport Control Tower and a mad dash back in to pick up my boarding card from the Check-In desk.
Lawd Jesus! It was closed. Huh?
Thursday 2 April 2015 - Cape Town
Smooth arrival into Cape Town from Windhoek, Nambia.
Fiona Burtt picks me up and drive to Rondebosch to pick up Stanley before heading to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for a delightful lunch. It was here the seeds to Fiona's 50th (January 22nd 2016) was planted - she is the DonDada of Fantabulous Parties having recently organised Bishop Desmond Tutu's 80th Birthday.
Post lunch we embarked on a mini walk round the spectacular and enchanting grounds to the garden. Now I'm not renowned for having a passion for botany however on this rare occasion I was suitably smitten by my surroundings. As we mounted the Boomslang Canopy Walkway and followed it round, I felt 50 feet tall. Ahead of me, and much below, sat much of Cape Town - quite thrilling perusing the town and its surrounding mankind. On our descent we came across a patch of purple undergrowth, yielding divine purple flowers. Crowing up above were the biggest winged birds I've ever seen (Egyptian Geese, Fiona called them).
But alas, all good things must come to an end, we had to leave as I had a flight to catch. I did wish I had more time to spend in this exquisite forest of 'perfect dreams, it was time to head back to the airport.
Checking in was dull - the BA bag drop queues were endless and it took ages before I faced the mandatory security checks. It was after going safely through that I was approached by an officer alerting me that I had an unchecked bag waiting for me at the check-In desk. Excuse me?
Earlier anxieties re my Namibia luggage were duly grounded..... and so it was too! In the Lost and Found department. It had been doing the rounds on the conveyor belt whilst I was being wined and dined at Kirstenbosch. The Gods were certainly on my side and though I now had extra hand luggage, I was thankful it was securely accompanying me to the next stage.
Tuesday 24 March 2015 - Johannesburg to Mbabane, Swaziland
Transmagnific logistics to Swaziland were not favourable i.e travel fare remittance into a Bank account etc. I confided in the receptionist (married to a 'Swazi' and does 'Swazi' almost every fortnight) She advised commuting from the motor garage behind Park Station.
For a measly ZAR210 I could be in Mbabane before nightfall.
Next bus departs 1pm - I had 45mins.
I checked out and made my way down to JPS. Enroute I ventured into a seedy Coach Park teeming with travellers and touts........ it was akin to a motor gateway to the unknown. Power House Cross Border Buses catered for communters travelling long distances to cities as far as Harare, Lusaka, Bulawayo and countless other neighbouring Southern African regions. The depot was characterised by its numerous lines of extra long coaches festooned with destination flags and people spilling out of coach windows and luggage compartments. It was hectic, noisy and I made a quick exit on to Wolmarans St.
A single day in Johannesburg is never enough to cover all cultural highlights. However as this was my first pit stop in the commercial capital, I began to make an itinerary ahead of my next arrival.
Must get to the legendary
Market Theatre by all means!!
Tuesday 17 March 2015 - Robben Island
My trip to Robben Island as a cultural and empowering experience will stand the test of time. So much to share but far too emotional to be articulate. At noon I stood by Nelson Mandela's cell. In one sweet minute I smelt the nobility of a man who though for 27 years recoiled and buckled under the strain of prejudicial incarceration, stood tall and broad with pride and resilience for colour, race and dignity. If I achieve nothing else on this 'flight of fantasy'
- I had that one minute to feed my soul for the rest of my years.
Thursday 2 April 2015 - Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town
Been up since 2.30am doing various paperwork and catching up with outstanding British TV. Picked up breakfast pack, checked out then headed out the door. Within 10mins a dodgy cab pulls up beside me, the driver leans across and asks how much I was prepared to pay to be driven to the airport. I threw a ridiculous sum at him. He converses with a shifty bloke sitting at the back of the taxi. He accepts offer and pops open the boot. I close it and tell him I'd changed my mind. There was something not quite right about this mofo. 30 minutes later another taxi pulls up. It's empty and feels safe. We haggle and he finally agrees to do the long distance gig (37Km) to Hosea Kutako International Airport for NAD220. The journey time takes just under half an hour. I check my rucksack straight through to Heathrow (God help me on that score).
On my way to the departure gate I couldn't help but notice a young girl sat by herself weeping quietly into a handkerchief. I approached her and asked after her welfare and if she needed help. She responded that she was okay but I knew otherwise. I deduced she was German from her accent and though her English was frail, she was able to share very clearly, her misfortune. She had been duped by a bogus 'German' online airline agency and 'sold' a fake return ticket to Cape Town. She had obviously approached the check-In desk hoping to catch a morning flight to South Africa. Only to be told that agency, airline and flight details were all non-existent. She was gutted to have fallen victim to the fraudulent company as it had severe ramifications for the next few weeks. I couldn't really do anything for her. As I left to board my plane, she thanked me for the consolation and conveyed that she felt strong enough to plot her next move.
There's always one! The train station! 40DH as opposed to 226DH into the City Centre - get in! They run on the 5th minute of every hour and I had 20 minutes to spare before the next one.
A muffin and coffee down later, I was on board the 30mins ride. We were mooooovin!
Cultural appetite met, I return to the ranch to retire and plan Nigeria and Morocco.
Friday 10 April 2015
6am, up and running. Unusual for 7b Aderoju Adewuyi water shortage slowing down my exit, however the delightful Eno was on hand to get the good ole pump going. Bros Yinka had an early meeting in Yaba too, so dilemma shared. Minutes later I was boarding a Danfo to Ojuelegba whilst bros was slipping into his fully air-conditioned Land Rover.
Journey time into Lagos this morning was slightly shorter - I left home circa 7.55am and reached Terra Kulture an hour and a half later. Ronke Akinyele
(also Curator at TK) assured me Bolanle (Austen-Peters) was on schedule.
Meetings with Bolanle are always a 'packed lunch' affair, and I was particularly hopeful that on this occasion, and being early, food was far from being on the menu. Much relief to be ushered into the administrative ambit of the building. It was also insightful experiencing the office where procedural, creative and artistic decisions within the building were made.
We got straight down to business - my response to Saro 2 and a quick exploration of potential 'next steps'. We confirmed Terra Kulture was going to be 2016 germination home for Nigeria, the Musical, an Elufowoju jr Ensemble Co-production with Bolanle Austen-Peters Production. Commissioning, casting and other pre-production permutations will be finalised on my return in early autumn. Other potentials were mooted to be followed up during the summer.
Seyi 'Lawale' Bankole my soul mate from Great Ife picked me up from TK (delivering her brother's book with a view to me exploring whether a stage adaptation is viable) I hadn't seen Seyi in 10+ years and considering she was a lynchpin which fastened my formative career as a performance artist, we owed each other more than a ride to Herbert Macualay in Yaba, or indeed an 'elbow' as she would best describe it.
Friday 27 March 2015 - Lusaka, Zambia
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Lusaka is a fair distance away from the City Centre. In fact it takes 25 minutes by night and a good 40 minutes during the day.
On arrival I was besieged by many Taxi drivers determined to take advantages of the distance quoting exorbitant fares into town. Blissfully, angels were dispatched to my rescue and the Intercontinental Hotel Shuttle saved me a fortune and delivered me to my doorstep, The Lusaka Hotel.
Presented tonight in the Golden Square Studio was a 90 minute seamless collage of vignettes. I met the organisers of the festival/creative team and seized the opportunity to track down Zikhona Sihlabeni and other members of the Akwaaba Cast to sing and record South Africa's National Anthem. Thanks to Noluthanelo 'Domza' Sishuba, Bumnandi Toko and indeed Thami Mbongo for completing the line-up.
It was a brisky early start packing and whizzing out of Little Scotia Guest House.
Skipped Breakfast, Markson on Reception assisted enormously with checkout.
I miss initial train from Rondebosch Station and being a Sunday the next one was always going to take a long while.
I reached the famous Civic Centre in good time and topped up my CitiCard before hitting Cape Town International ahead of the desks closing. Phew!
With all of South Africa almost conquered and logged, we step back in time and focus on my last city in the country before my crossing into Lesotho.
Welcome to Bloemfontain
We drove through Constantia stopping on the border to buy boxes of Seedless grapes. As we drew closer to Muizenburg, we stopped by Sunrise Beach to peruse the Surfing Capital of South Africa from a distance. We arrived in Muizenburg and saw enough of the resort to conclude I'll return one day with the family. On our return to Rondebosch, we climbed Boyes Hill viewing Devil's Peak in the background and the lushful and expansive Newlands Vineyards beneath it. A great day.
Considering I hadn't documented any of those earlier visits and though my various passports verify my presence in the aforementioned countries, would they qualify under the current ambition? I'm kind of thinking otherwise especially since majority of those trips were made enroute to Africa for the first time in January 1974. I was 12 years old and with my siblings accompanying our mother to Nigeria by ship. With Nigeria, there seems to be more than a voyeuristic enterprise attached. Nigeria was home. I have cajoled, teased, slapped, cursed, loved, kissed, aped, fondled, betrayed and extoled my dear nation (and vice-versa) 32 times - How do I appraise her objectively without being rose-tinted or indeed belligerent without being overwhelmingly damning! It was easy. There and then, I made a decision to draw a line beneath those earlier visits and throw them all back into the pot of new 'undiscovered' adventures.
We start, with Lagos, Nigeria, a country yet again on the brink of political change.
Tuesday 31 March 2015
Gaborone, Botswana to Namibia
The flight to Namibia was quick. The descent provided a breath-taking spectacle; part Kalahari, part sparse woodland, part "lawd this is Lion King". The runway was so different from the conventional - akin to a sandy bush path morphing gradually into single lane motorway with forest on either side.
Av Samora Machel is adjacent to Av Karl Marx so naturally I headed there first. Enroute I was accosted by a security guard for taking pictures of the artwork on the wall of the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism. I told him it was a bit of a contradiction if the country's very remit for celebrating its heritage was also instituting a check on tourists fascination. "I'll arrest you if you choose to continue talking to me" Was it worth it? Nah. I moved on.
Behind us and across the road from the Botanical Gardens of Tunduru was the legendary Iron House. This amazing steel bolted structure was designed by Alexandre Gustav Eiffel (creator of the eponymous Parisian Eiffel Tower fame) in the late-19th century as the governor's residence. (Whip out a camera at your peril). It was transported from the World Exhibition in Paris to Maputo. Understandably it was never inhabited by the governor for the building is not an ideal structure for the hot tropical climate of Maputo. Currently it houses the office of the Museum Department.
I couldn't gain access into the Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens as it was temporary closed because of its rehabilitation. However I took solace in the company of the miniature statue of Mozambique's first President, Samora Machel.
Looming up ahead is Independence Square (Praca de Independencia). It is perhaps the first point of visit to the city. Another statute of Samora Machel (four times the size and height of the previous) stands proudly over this well-situated plaza. Across from it is The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The Roman Catholic cathedral was designed by Marcial de Freitas e Costa in an interesting late Art Deco style; he also directed its construction in reinforced concrete which began in 1936.
It was dedicated in 1944.
as are her historical values and indomitable spirit!
Wednesday 8 April 2015
Seeing Dad's bosom buddies is always a delight especially Chief Adeyombo who'd I not seen for yonks! Mr Awoyele also popped by. They were picking Popsie up and heading off to their monthly 'Comrades in Christ' meeting. A rendezvous with both my cobbler and tailor turned out a misadventure as both were away from their 'offices' (Modakeke and Parakin respectively). As luck would have it Baba Victor's neighbour obliged on the patchwork whilst a chance stumble on a local Shoemaker in the Mayfair area paid off handsomely.
My Aunt Sarah - who turned 80 earlier this year gifted me her car for a quick whistle stop tour of the University campus. Mojisola wanted to visit our bookshop desperately but it had closed (5pm). Luckily the manager turned Saint permitted us a couple minutes to grab a few plays. We later sped round to Oduduwa Hall, its Amphi-theatre, Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library and finally the Institute of African Studies before heading home.
Great Ife despite the many years has still retained its glory.
On arrival in Johannesburg from Zambia,
it was straight to bed, Botswana in the morning.
360 candidates battle for 29 gubernatorial seats today and as curfew descends on the nation at 8am, Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way at 4.30am was clear of traffic like no man's business. Mr Sunday unimpeded, cruised towards the airport save for a cursory army checkpoint 100 yards from the airport itself. We made it to the terminal in 15 minutes flat!
Security at Murtala Muhammed has stepped up over the past few months and on immediate approach is a security scanning machine for all luggage accessing the airport doors. The Royal Air Maroc/Casablanca check in was displayed as Milan "because de machine no like de thing" - hence confusing passengers. By the time I worked the whole scenario out a boarding official screeched "I am about to close the desk, last call last call last call"
Up next - Ebola temperature checks "are there still threats coming into Nigeria?" I enquired "Yes, we're managing the press on these matters. Only last week we had four passengers fly into Lagos from Liberia, they are still in quarantine in Yaba" Ewoo! See me See trouble o! Boarded flight at 6am. We were airborne by 6.20am.
Returned to the Airport 90 minutes before boarding and chilled. Well not before testing their porous security checks. Remember that Can of Coke with the Moroccan insignia? Yep went through the scans unchallenged. Grabbed myself another Can of Casablanca lager, a Moroccan Cheeseburger and Chips, then headed straight for Gate A3 - London, Heathrow was boarding.
Monday 6 April 2015 (Easter Monday)
Been looking forward to today almost close to a year and a half now. Saro 2 closes today after a sell-out Easter revival. Bolanle Austen-Peters its creator and impresario had suffered slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune on its debut way back in November 2013. Suspect script, overzealous staging, sprawling sets, ambitious casting - all the things you wish a production not to be, were levied against and marred the debut Saro promise. BAP hoped it would revolutionise Nigerian Theatre.
I acquired the front seat next to Tengetile Sicebile (Tsholo Tee Tee Habile), a young Trainee Nurse heading home to Manzini on University vacation. She instantly became my new Swaziland buddy, a resource for vital Swazi information.
Tengetile was a single mother who's unique tale of parenthood was inspirational - having to give up her child to her 'in-laws', and forever facing the perennial challenge of being dutiful to her estranged partner. Her saga was heartbreaking but I admired her strength and courage.
Did you know that due to the country's high altitude, Lesotho's natural air and water is the purest in the Continent? Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that wholly lies above 1,000 meters (1,400 to be exact) above sea level.
Femi elufowoju, jr
Performer & Director
We moved on from the border post into Mozambique at 8.15pm. Maputo remained 42Km away. These roads are rough Meeeen! We only did 2km in 10mins!
Friday 20 March 2015 - Baxter Theatre
Up early booking lodgings in Bloemfontein and various other Intercape trips within Southern Africa. After breakfast, it was back to the Baxter for our penultimate show at the venue, followed by another insightful post show discussion moderated by the charismatic Ongezwa Mbele.
Flight to Bloemfontein was swift
(Mango Air - no frills no thrills)
On arrival I was surprised at the size of
Bram Fischer International, considering the town's significant role within the country.
The City itself was founded by
Major H.D Warden, British resident of the area between the Orange and Vaal rivers.
In 1854, it became capital of the new Boer Republic, the Orange Free State. Following the Union in 1910, Bloemfontein became - and remains - the judicial capital of South Africa, an oddly provincial town with imposing
public buildings and museums.
I noticed a few passengers had purchased crates of eggs and loaded them on board to cross the border. Could it be poultry is cheaper or of better quality this end than in Mozambique?
The afternoon enabled me to catch up with Fiona Burtt, an old friend from the UK (one of the second wave of Board members that took my company Tiata Fahodzi through its renaissance years). Fiona is now a resident of Rondebosch and offered to be my official guide over the weekend, to the Townships and other rare glimpses of Cape Town further beyond.
I found a small heritage shop selling postcards and after a customary visit to Swaziland's answer to Waitrose, I boarded a bus to Manzini (ZAR17) hoping for a connecting vehicle to Maputo, Mozambique.
Off the bookshelf, Manthali picked out her reference point which she later described as her pride and joy - a colourful pictorial hardback written by renowned German Photographer Dirk Schwager.
On my departure Mantahli gifted me a souvenir, the book 'Lesotho, Kingdom in the Sky'. It covered most her earlier cultural highlights and more -It was truly sad to leave having only spent a total of 8 hours on the Basotho Soil.
A fabulous kick start to 5460 and a promising beginning to a love of a Kingdom I'll certainly return to one day.
For some reason I was under the impression that our flight time was a mere hour and 20mins, breakfast (piece a cake, water and choice of soft drink just didn't cut it) being served at 8.15am suggested otherwise. I was on board this quite strange grubby albeit sprawling aircraft only to fulfil the 5460 criteria of visiting Morocco - otherwise sorry, never again. The male cabin crew were obnoxious, impatient and couldn't speak a word of English. Which made me wonder what laid beyond the city ahead.
Landed at Mohammed V International Airport and on disembarking I experienced the most 'bizarre' Ebola screening ritual going. The pictures speak for themselves - suffice to say the 'men in white jump suits' do not play and reminded me of particular scenes from the early noughties hit HO series 'Lost'. Lawd Of Merci!
My complaints to Elder fell on deaf ears - he was helpless and quivered in fear as I vented my frustration (he did offer me a cup of tea on my arrival - wish I had taken it up) Elder couldn't even provide a candle as he had no matches "no fire, speak to Chief tomorrow"
It was late, I was completely exhausted having been on the road four days crossing four countries and many borders - this was Planes, Trains and Automobiles the Reboot. I was Steve Martin and these issues were a euphemism for John Candy.
I'll face the 'Chief' in the morning I sighed and retired into the darkness.
On arrival we walked up the hill from Seentraal Motors (Shell Garage) on Piet Retief Street to the Methodist School on the corner where a fleet of minibuses were loading for the South Africa/Lesotho border (ZAR15) - Speed limits in South Africa is 100Km per hour and boy do these motorists fly! The young lady I met on the coach, Tado was heading in the same direction and effectively became my guide circum-navigating me through the menagerie of many stops and starts.
We disembarked at Maseru Bridge Entry Post and walked the few metres to have our passports checked and stamped before walking across the Bridge to the other side for the same proceedure with the Lesotho Immigration. The last time I experienced this was almost 16 years ago at the US Canadian Border in Buffalo. Marjorie and I were attempting to cross into Canada visiting Niagara Falls. I was arrested by the Border Police for forgetting my passport.
This time no such thing.
Sunday 29 March 2015
Johannesburg to Gabarone, Botswana
Flight to Gaborone was straight forward. Botswana's airport competes with South Africa's Bloemfontein for most imaginative exterior so far. The Botswana currency is the Pula - also stronger than the Rand. I exchanged enough to get me into town. Max my taxi driver and fixer wanted P100 from me. He had quoted the bloke ahead of me (flown in to look at the country's IMF) P150 so I shrewdly jumped into his cab paid Max P50!
The Gabarone Hotel sits smack bang in the heart of the city's industrious Bus Rank.
A strategic spot and gateway to local and national commerce. I couldn't have chosen a much better and central location. The building itself is a hotchpotch of service provisions; a church, a casino, conference centre, ballroom for Wedding receptions, birthday parties and of course lodgings for its guests.
Smooth arrival in Cape Town. Breeze through Passport control and Customs
I was a couple hours early for my flight and the main arrival departure lounge (a shoebox) was empty, save for a small tourist information office covered by the delightful Mantahli.
Mantahli worked for the Lesotho Tourist Development Corporation (she too thought I was American, and said I gave all Nigerians a good name. Mad!). She kept me company right up to my departure talking me through the exquisite geographical history of the country (all the bits skipped over earlier at Basotho Hat).
An eventful first day - post afternoon siesta ventured into the local neighbourhood and Metropolis by train! 5.30pm and last train back to Rondebosch not for another 4 hours. Highlight of the day - Encountering King Edward VII at City Hall, the Grand Parade, Long Distance Bus Stations, Corn on the cob and a misty Table Mountain Sunset.
We finally leave Manzini at 5.45pm!
The 18 seater minibus was jammed packed. I was sandwiched between two buxom Swazi women and my right leg was wedged firmly against the seat in front of me - immovable. Among the passengers were several other foreign travellers;
three white Americans (two males one female) and Sulieman a French Morroccan. Tom could be heard saying that he'd once done a similar journey going in the opposite direction. He recalled being stuck between two female Mozambicans who basically munched on grilled fish through the entire six hour journey. He spoke too soon. The two women with me as if on cue began to unfurl their brown KFC bags. My days were 'numbered'. I daren't move a muscle as they were raucous with intent.
This is the first in three stop-overs in JoBurg (Jozi to the trendies) and I needed to maximise my hours exponentially. This extraordinary city has a High Speed train (15 minutes) direct to the heart of the Metropolis - somehow I was persuaded not to use it by my Taxi driver Joseph who was finishing off his shift. He wanted ZAR350 for the door to door service to Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein. I offered him ZAR200 - and off we went with Police Captain Geminia as co-passenger. It transpired that the duo were inseparable friends. The Police Captain was undergoing a relationship crisis and asked for my wisdom ("you look like a respectable gentleman". Far from me to oblige considering my chequered past but I gave it my best shot. Turned out she'd done a Lisa Stansfield and has finally ended up with a guy she first met 40 years ago in Secondary school. I just had to laugh. Sounds familiar? Geminia loved my 'building solid foundation from hurled stones' anecdote. 20 minutes later I was 'home' at Lumuna.
Tuesday 24 March 2015 - Johannesburg
The flight into Johannesburg the night before was unreal. A three-man crew manning the tiniest light aircraft ever and the loveliest air hostess from Botswana the 37 passenger plane could wish for.
Zambia and I were going to get on just about fine. The mosquitos were a pain in the jacksy but it be fair to say, where Zambia pose challenges, Zambia goes a fair distance in resolving them.
Here I make put in abeyance my next African country - Lesotho
Lesotho is the second country in the 5460 series via Bloemfontein, South Africa.
A Rastafarian was at the reception desk pleading for 'spray' on my arrival. Several hours later I realised the significance of that request.
I experienced an unfortunate delay checking in due to an oversight by the management.
This was swiftly resolved and I was booked into a double bedroom with an impressively huge mosquito framed net hovering above the bed. The net made absolutely no difference and how I wish I had asked for some spray too. I was bitten mercilessly through the night.
Wednesday 1 April 2015
A relaxed day. Part lie-in, part excursion.
Wednesday 25 March 2015 - Mbabane to Manzini, Swaziland
No surprise then that I slept right through the night. One of the perilous thoughts running through my head on arrival the night before seeing all doorways and windows open to the Swazi outback, was that bedrooms would be vulnerable to reptiles and all kind of God's creepy crawlies. Safe in the morning my perennial fear was allayed - the lump in my throat wasn't a cockroach but the beginning of the realisation of what I had accomplished so far.
Passing through adjacent Newlands we hit Athlone (a small neighbourhood boasting its own Stadium) and the borders of Claremont a place spotted earlier during the week on my local railway travels. Ahead of us, the inimitable Kenilworth - anyone familiar with the name would think Midlands, West of Coventry. However before hitting our stride towards Gugulethu (second oldest Township after Langa) I couldn't help notice the 'jungle telegraphic' behaviour of plying taxi and minibus drivers. There were police checkpoints ahead and motorists were alerting their comrades. Of course this was all quite perilous for other road users. Approaching a major crossroad where the road to the left led to Cape Town International Airport, Fiona mentioned that the road in the opposite direction led to a certain notorious township universally dubbed
'the murder Capital of South Africa' - Nyanga.
The Lusaka bound flight was not exactly full and I had free reign of the rear of the plane. I settled for an aisle seat on an empty row. However as my luck would have it, seated across from me was a fairly elderly woman who immediately leaned across and introduced herself, "My name's Denise Gardner, what's yours?" Oh lawd I exclaimed internally, this is going to be one very long flight!
Denise, York born and bred had eloped to Zimbabwe with her husband (now deceased) in the early Sixties. Her husband she says "was born in 1936, the day a British player (Fred Perry) first won a Wimbledon title and died (77 years later) on the very day a Brit won it for the second time (Andrew Murray) in 2013. She misses her husband (Colin) terribly but was determined to live the rest of her life to the fullest. She said she was forever seeking adventures and travelled a fair bit. When she discovered what my profession was, she became very excited. She had an opinion about the state of the industry in Zimbabwe. It wasn't a good one. "Very unprofessional" she claimed, "a bit amdram, there isn't even a National Theatre - but the ballet is very good" she went on.
She disclosed she was firm friends with Esther Rantzen dating back to her 'That's Life' days. "Whenever she's in Zim she always looks me up, though I have not seen her in a while" she added, "it was when she was doing her programme 'holiday memoirs' when we last saw each other". I'm thinking that was quite an age ago.
"Whenever you're back in Harare, don't even think about booking a hotel,
bring your wife over to stay at mine"
"You do know why there's been several hours delays on the flights recently across the ZimZam airpace don't you?" I nodded "That Yemen excuse is a disgrace, I tell you." Dis-Grace, get it? Get it?" Actually, no I didn't. Denise went on to share a well-known rumour that Robert Mugabe's wife 'First Lady Grace Mugabe' had been battling a long-term illness and have been receiving treatment in Dubai. Her trips abroad were customarily preceded by Harare's runway being closed for her exclusive use. Hence the knock on effect on other flight schedules.
Unbelievable! Zimbabwe the basket of Africa indeed.
Denise's parting advise to me as we landed went a bit like this
"Remember Femi, not to get too comfortable with the Africans. You may be Black but you're British through and through" What a character!
We landed in Lusaka. Denise and other Dubai bound passengers remained onboard the Emirates plane, whilst the rest of us disembarked.
Long day ahead tomorrow....
early night required
A scholar Dr. Siame had found out that the Bemba term 'uku tunkumana' about two thousand miles away South of Egypt may have descended from the name Tunka Men the name of the ancient kingdom of Sudan suggesting a connection between the Bemba of Zambia people and Ancient Egypt.
Manzini to Maputo was going to cost ZAR90. Down to my last stash of SA currency, I was going to require Moza cash on my arrival.
I approached our driver and he obliged.
The official exchange rate for the Mozambique Meticais was 2.9 to ZAR1. The driver had his own thoughts and offered 2.8.
My final landmark was one of Maputo's most imposing buildings.
The Train Station (Estacao de Comboios) may look familiar to many visitors having appeared in the film 'Blood Diamonds', starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. It was designed by Eiffel and an associate, although Eiffel had never visited Mozambique. Its turn-of-the-century pillars, verandas, dome and wrought-iron lattice work are a joy to behold.
A couple of things I needed to get a grip with pretty fast - the Lingua Franca here, what was it - French, Portuguese? These folk hardly spoke a word of geesi, French perhaps but certainly not the Queens. Secondly there's an open door liberalism towards smoking in this country right from the cabin door opening on arrival which took me back to the mid-80s.
Passive smoking on turbo-charge defo. So whilst musing over the above I completely miss my stop - an unremarkable tiny station - Casa Voyagers, which literally translates as City of Tourists - completely passes me by.
All motor garages across the world characterises its nation through its activity and people. Mbabane certainly was no different. Mbabane's was the hub of the capital without a shadow of a doubt.
The pulse, the rhythm the heartbeat, the optimism and the pride was all here. Hawkers, entrepreneurs, students and various communters from all walks of life, blended and parted in harmony.
Saturday 11 April 2015
Lagos, Nigeria to Casablanca, Morocco
My anxiety and fears were allayed this morning. I had set the alarm for 3am and woke up with final checks all tied up. Mojisola stirred lightly to whisper farewell and as Mr Sunday (pre-hired cab driver) honked at the gate to alert me of his prompt arrival, Sikuola opened up the gates and hugged her goodbyes.
Sikuola and Egbon Yinka had and have always been incredible hosts.
I was up by 3am - Lamunu (part of the Easy franchise of hotels) was basic, comfortable and with days to come prove pretty reliable. The helpful receptionist in mapping out JoBurg, advises me against the MetroRail and highly recommends the Gautrain (pronounced with a 'Ha' followed by a guttral sound prior to the 'train' bit)
I venture out to soak up the impressive city, catch the Gautrain (their Gold Card works like our Oyster) from Johannesburg Park Station to Sandton (did a reece on the elusive Transmagnific Coach service which I later abandon).
I'd love to think it fortuitous and rather smart of me getting off at the end of the line (Ain Sebaa) where everything appeared to look like something off the earlier Jason Bourne movies; Motorbikes cruising down pedestrian walkways, rusty taxis shaped like miniature beetles, rows of rooftops sprouting hundreds of Satellite dishes, sandy roads almost reminiscent of Mozambique only these streets with no names were a lot cleaner and the surrounding air fresher. There was also that dark sinister feeling about the city which suggests that one could easily disappear without a trace on these streets, yet there'll be no questions asked or answers given. Thrilling!
We crossed Matola River/Bridge and entered Matola City Village at 9.33pm. Matola has an enormous vicinity and the lines between her and Maputo city centre were blurred by the night time activity.
At 9.50pm we were in Maputo Central
This town with streets with no names played tricks on us, one minute bustling with hundreds of commuters lining the street, the next we were in Baska - the mini-bus terminal desolate, dark and pretty eerie, bar a lone taxi parked up in a bare taxi rank.
"I like it where we were earlier" whispered Tom's girlfriend as we all piled in. My co-travellers were going to a Backpackers Camp whilst I was in search of Av Karl Marx which apparently was a couple of minutes’ walk from Baska.
Nevertheless was grateful for the security. He wanted 100 Meticais I offered him 50. He had no idea where precisely the hotel was.
Girls dropped off at Rise and Shine and we reached African Footprints Lodge minutes later. The reception was an oddly conceived and positioned hut besides the main building.
A cleaner called away from duties attended to me and what ensued was my voyage's first mini drama. There was a small issue about paying extra for breakfast in the morning - but I have paid for an all inclusive package. Cue chain smoking hell raising Brenda. Yee! Oh lawd.... I met my maker. Brenda took no prisoners and possessed the look of thunder. "I don’t care what it says on your piece of paper - what kind of business do you think we are running giving away free WIFI and Breakfast? There is free nothing......" She went on and on. It was all resolved...... eventually. "Okay I will give you Yoghurt and Biscuit in the morning I am not cooking for you, okay?" I retired to my room to unpack. There was more drama to follow later that afternoon, all too overwhelming to include here - it will be 'no holds barred' in a few years from now when the 'play' is written. A brief stroll into town followed returning swiftly to Lodge in time for the Chelsea Hull, Liverpool Man Utd games.
Tuesday 7 April 2015
Lagos to Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Today I had a British Council application to complete.
By 3pm we were enroute from Ikeja to Ojota. But it wasn't till 5.30pm before our vehicle was ready for the mother city.
Baxter Theatre and Zabalaza
Caught up with Mamela Nyamza, a South African dancer/choreographer putting finishing touches to her piece 'Rat Race' for Jazzart Dance Theatre, one of the opening events in the Zabalaza Festival. Zabalaza is a theatre festival broadering Baxter's vision of becoming a vibrant and intergrated cultural hub. It reflects the diversity of the country's demographics for all its patrons, communities, artists and visitors. The festival features across one week, over 40 productions with over 300 participating artists.
Major scare on the outskirts of Siteski/Mzilikani when bus abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere. Vehicle did not have the capacity to mount the steep hill. After several attempts, the minibus finally accumulated the prerequisite horsepower and surmounted potholes and speed bumps. A couple of kilometres later we turn into the Maputo highway - smooth like a baby's backside!
Elder Lane is only 24 and a generous soul. I told him about my 'epic assignment' and asked him why most Bureau de Change worldwide did not stock the Zimbabwean currency.
His response was revelatory. Something about it being devalued home and abroad beyond recognition. Folk hardly used or spent it. On parting, he offered me a 50 Billion Zimbabwean Dollar note to add to my collection.
I discover Constitution Hill, Mandela Square, JoBurg Theatre (where school kids had just been entranced by Jungle Book) and begin a near futile search for The Kingdom of Swaziland Consulate (which I eventually locate hidden away in BraamPark) Much to my relief, I needn't have stressed as I didn't require a nevertheless Visa.
2.30pm - we were off. I asked Tengetile if she knew where in Mbabane, Eden Guest Lodge was (my crib for the night). She certainly did and warned me that it was located off Malagwane Hill, one of the most dangerous corners on the MR3 motorway. It was a notorious deathtrap which had claimed hundreds of lives in the last decade. She advised, considering the time of the night, to grab a Taxi for ZAR30-40 from the City Centre. We race down many motorways, cruised past countless city malls, crossed many rivers and hit numerous twin towns including Kensington, Balmoral, Belfast, Redhill, Amsterdam, Carolina and Waverley. Carolina struck me as a small community town with a peaceful demeanour going for it, almost reminiscent of a daytime Wakefield in West Yorkshire. We were fast approaching Oshoek Border Post (South Africa side of Swazi) despite the mad sign-posting with its erratic mileage calculation. On reaching the Border we disembarked to process the prerequisite Passport checks - very laid back at this port I have to say.
I am sure from the little I saw of Downtown Lusaka it was enough to give me an idea of what the rest of the capital was like. Unlike Mozambique where the colonial and war ravaged past dictated the aura of its present, Lusaka could still hold its own. And though it remains an impoverished hub for many, the instinct for survival felt more fervent and progressive.
This was my Protea debut - not all that I must say. I've always admired the stunning Ikeja, Lagos branch from a distance and with much fantastical ambitions. But if Namibia's was anything to go by then I was pretty disappointed. Suffice to say, I've stayed in finer salubrious Travelodges in West Yorkshire. There was the free WIFI and breakfast thrown in though. And like Lusaka and Gaborone the hotel was pretty accessible to everything. These were huge redeeming features.
Friday 27 March 2015 - Harare, Zimbabwe
We boarded at 4pm, took flight at 4.15pm and landed in Harare 5.30pm. On arrival the tannoy announced my Lusaka bound flight was delayed
a further half hour. So far I was winning.
I dashed towards Immigration filled in a Visa request form (I made up some BS about a brief meeting with a theatre director on the arrivals forecourt). I came face to face with two female passport control officials.
The questions volleyed over.
"What kind of Visa?" The Univisa (Kaza) please.
"Theatre director, what does this mean?
Explain? (Gate closes in 45)
As I waffled through an excuse, a visa was being stuck and stamped into my passport.
But it was a Zimbabwean Visa and not the requested dual purpose kind which included Zambia. I questioned the $5 hike too (U$D55). They smirked back in response.
6pm - Mugabe's cohorts were having a field day.
"You should have said you wanted a Kaza Visa, why are you lying? There's nothing we can do passport has been stamped and processed"
However if I insisted - they'd require an additional U$D50 for a UniVisa issue.
All this under the watchful eye of another female supervisor. Damn, these girls were good!
I declined lining their hipsters, I grabbed my passport and rushed through into the Zimbabwean air.
5 hours later we arrived in Ile-Ife.
My 82 year old father and his newly acquired carer, Foluso had stayed up. Both they and electricity welcomed us home with open arms.
Monday 30 March 2015 - Gabarone, Botswana
Never been to a country where everything is so relaxed including its National Security. Within Gaborone rests the seat of Government, and I did things within 'inches' of the President's office that I could of been permanently 'silenced' for.
It's a good 20-30mins stroll from the Bus Rank to the Secretariat district of Gaborone, but boy was it worth it. The sprawling Ministries, Governmental departments and indeed the President's office are all laid out within an area in which all walks of life are able to walk by unchallenged.
The House of Assembly overlooks a rock garden and the inimitable Statue of the Country's national hero Sir Seretse Karma. Across the road from the Parliamentary building sits the British Council.
Friday 27 March 2015
Maputo, Mozambique to Harare, Zimbabawe
Fell asleep listening to Question Time podcast. Great night sleep, less mosquitos though Rui attempted to get me out of bed at 5am only to tell me that water had resumed normal service. Breakfast was swift during which I booked my returned flight to Gaborone, Botswana from Johannesburg. It was originally intended to be a road trip, however logistically it wasn't going to work as the 12 hour round trip would throw my Namibia connection into jeopardy - road was the cheaper option but definitely not worth the risk.
Rui was full of apologies on my way out and remarked that he was looking forward to reading my comments online. Rui hoped I'd return. Nothing against Rui but it'll have to be a strong lead offer in a Blood Diamonds sequel that'll lure me back to this God forsaken country. Shio!
As I made my way towards Estacao de Comboios to catch the 9.35am to Maputo International I took stock of the day ahead of me....
3 countries in 1 day?
Am I insane?
I waited almost half an hour for the 66. My oblivion to the Portuguese language was killing me as only 3 in 10 people spoke English in Maputo and this morning my 'deficiency' almost dented the 'mission'.
Basically I got on the wrong bus. I was halfway across the Maputo plains enroute to Albazine when it suddenly occurred to me "wait a minute, I'm sure my research books said something about the airport being uniquely placed within the city. We'd be on the road now almost half an hour!" I whipped out my phone, text scribed 'Aeroporto' and showed it to the guy sitting next to me. We'd gone too far. The bus had skipped the Aeroporto route. Struggling with my rucksack (which was passed out of the window) I got off at the next junction and joined another bus heading back in the opposite direction.
I arrived at the airport an hour ahead of time. However my noon flight to Harare had been postponed til 4.30pm. Damn!
Dilemma lockdown. I had a connecting flight from Harare, Zimbabwe to Lusaka, Zambia scheduled for 6.50pm - I had only 45mins between landing and getting to the gate. Plus my East Africa 5460 being at stake considering I had forked out £159 to fly to Zimbabwe in the first place!
I explained my dilemma to the South African Airlines ground staff, and damage limitation went into overdrive. First of all my luggage was checked all the way through to Lusaka, Zambia. Secondly I was checked in online to save me standing in line at Zimbabwe's Harare Airport for the same purpose. Understandably they were in no position to help delay the Lusaka flight to accommodate my 5460 challenge. So I began to strategize.
Meanwhile the SAA team (discreetly) began to speculate the real reason behind flight delay. Paul, one of the senior operatives at Maputo International and a Zimbabwean by birth was simply amazing. He gave me exclusive passage to the Flamingo 'Executive' Lounge where I sat eat and drank how to get into Mugabe County.
Visited both the National Art Gallery and the National Theatre of Namibia. The latter was closed. The city boasts several branches of the Namibia Museum - these were all closed too.