Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Last Rolls: Photos from Uganda, South Africa, and Mozambique

It is fashionable these days to point out that Africa is not a country. Since I've returned to the US, mentions of living in Ethiopia have earned me questions about Ebola (nope, that's in West Africa these days), that movie about the young doctor and the dictator (that's Uganda under Idi Amin), and--of course--how hot it must have been (also off, 70's year-round fortunately).

Of course, many Americans have less inaccurate conceptions of Ethiopia. These are often centered around the food (they really do eat spongy bread and raw meat) or around interactions with those of Ethiopian heritage in the US.

This thread isn't really meant to go anywhere except to say that, while Africa is not one country, living in Ethiopia did provide an opportunity and jumping-off point to explore other parts of Africa. When my contract expired in May, I took the opportunity to add three countries to the list see a few more places before the long flight home.

Roll 1: Uganda -- Kampala and Gorilla Safari
1) View toward central Kampala from the Gaddafi Mosque.

2) Idi Amin's torture chamber at the palace of the Buganda king (head of one of Uganda's ethnic groups). Amin would stack victims in the rooms to the right as they awaited their fate, then flood the hallway with water charged with electric current to prevent escape...

3) Driving to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we crossed the equator (which has been made into a good place for roadside coffee and souvenirs).

4-7) We got to spend an hour with a group of about 18 gorillas as they fed. The silverback is the dominant male. 

After a 12-hour drive from Kampala the day before, we spent 4 hours trekking through the rain forest to find the gorillas (sometimes up streams and over paths cleared by our guides using machetes).

Still the official trackers started 3 hours before we did to track down our assigned gorilla cohort. And other park employees apparently spent years acclimating the gorillas to human contact (we were told they go in there and pretend to be unobtrusively feeding on leaves nearby, to show the gorillas we have similar interest and mean no harm). Good to know the permit fees buy you something: the conservation effort actually seems to be taken seriously.

9) We stayed overnight by this lake. The mountains in the distance are volcanos across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Roll 2: South Africa -- Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope
1) A view toward Table Mountain on my first full day in Cape Town. Unfortunately the "Table Cloth" (cloud cover on the mountain) is in evidence. The view is from Company Gardens, the civic center established by the Dutch East India company, which founded the city.

2) Cape Town city hall. Nelson Mandela gave his first speech after being released from prison in front of this building.

3) View up the beach in the wealthy Cape Town suburbs (Camps Bay).

4) Picturesque graffiti mural in a rougher (though hip) part of the city (District 6,a former mixed-race neighborhood that was razed in the 70's).

5) Photo of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, where the Cape Malay community was based. (When the early Dutch settlers wanted slaves, they tended to import them, including from Indonesia/Malaysia. There is still an active community in Cape Town). The brightly-painted buildings are apparently a post-apartheid trend.

6) Here's a view from below the ramparts of the Castle of Good Hope. Cape Town is very photogenic.

7-9) Visiting Robben Island, where Mandela and other political prisoners were imprisoned. Our guide himself was a former prisoner (that's not his ID card, though). The cell pictured was Mandela's.

10) Part of the Victoria & Alfred waterfront. This area has been developed as a shopping destination (I viewed it as Cape Town's version of Fisherman's Wharf. Other things about Cape Town also seemed analogous to San Francisco: the geography and climate, the hip food, the level of diversity).

11-13) Now I've taken the Cable Car up Table Mountain. The top of the plateau is 1,000 meters above the city below.


14) And here's a brief interlude from the "township tour" I went on. The more well-established townships are more economically diverse than you might expect. The one we visited clearly had a local middle class, a serviceable main street (this isn't it), some old and some new publicly constructed housing, and some thriving businesses (including--in the more central townships--the business of giving township tours). That said, there was a long way to go.

15-27) These photos are from my trip down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (both of which are geographical features on the coast south of Cape Town that were useful to ships navigators, and neither of which are the southern point in Africa). Highlights included the harbor at Hout's Bay, views from the cliff drive, the penguins of Boulders Beach, views from the lighthouse at Cape Point, surprise rain squalls, the Cape of Good Hope, plus funny wildlife and funny road signs.

28) For a close, here's something interesting from the South African national gallery.

Roll 3: Mozambique
1-2) I don't have that many photos from Mozambique. For a start, here's two from Inhambane, the sleepy regional capital that I flew into.

3) And here's a nice photo of the beach in Tofo. It was winter and off-season, so the water was a little cold, but it was a summer-in-Maine cold. Very chill, good seafood, I spent four or five days there.

4) Now I'm in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. A rapidly growing city with not-too-much to really recommend it as a tourist destination, Maputo still feels pretty livable from its coastal location and Portuguese feel. (Here's a piece on Portuguese moving to Maputo to escape economic stagnation at home). This building seems to have not had much attention since the last time the Portuguese were around in numbers.

5) Snakes at the natural history museum.

6) Skyscrapers going up in the central district.

7) Maputo's own colonial-era fortress.

8) This statue  in front of city hall of the post-colonial founding father (Samora Machel) was apparently adapted from a statue of Mao, even though they don't look alike. (I guess the Soviets also took a one-size-fits-all approach to foreign aid).

9) The not-exactly-pristine coast looking toward the city center.

Bonus Photo -- Paris layover:

From the palace at Fontainebleau. I can't remember anymore if this is the bedroom of Louis XIV, Napoleon, etc., but I'm pretty sure it was somebody important.

No comments: