a plan is born

a few weeks at a perfect cottage in the drakensberg mountains has given way to a definitive plan for the coming months: back to mozambique. when we arrived here, nearly 7 months ago, we had always talked about driving the full length of the country to the untouched north. now, its time. we are put at the mercy of the immigration system again, however it seems promising that we’ll be able to get enough time in moz to make the full trip… somehow.

and so with that, we begin hacking through the to-do list for our trip to “africa”. while we’re on the continent, its finally time to part with all the luxuries of south africa. my days of pesto and 2-step curries are winding to an end, as is the accessibility of spectacular pet care and a wide variety of restaurants. i can’t wait.

northern mozambique contains one of the last true wildernesses in africa: niassa. it is a massive reserve – 42 000 km2 – with some of the largest remaining animal populations on the continent (bryce just barely contains his excitement over this). they are however difficult to find given the sheer size of this area and their wariness of people following the war. people remain sparse as well; they receive 100 tourists a year and have 40 000 permanent residents. in it, you’ll find a handful of hunting operations that fly in wealthy americans to pay US 16 000 to hunt a lion – a relative bargain in the hunting world. these operations have been a significant source of income for the moz gov in recent years. there is one photographic safari operator, backed by an apparently endless stream of money from saudi arabia, and there are a handful of conservation initiatives. beyond that, its wilderness. its the bring all your supplies (the truck will be stocked with pesto), buy a gps, and don’t expect to see many people kind of thing. we spent our weeks at the mountain cottage reading a plethora of south african overlanding magazines, so i think we get the gist.

east of niassa, you find the quirrimbas archipelago – vacation spot to daniel craig. southern moz beaches are beautiful, but the northern ones are supposed to be spectacular (confirmed by my google searches and celebrity visitors). similar to st lucia, you find wildlife bursting out onto the coast – just without the chain restaurants. there seem to be a few very cool lodges opening up there that we’re excited to check out and perhaps spend some time with. it will also be exciting to see if there are opportunities to join them with our own project.

this area of moz has received a particularly heavy amount of attention as of late, given that oil has recently been discovered off the shores. massive bids from foreign oil companies flood the country, and we now stand to see whether the country will go the way of nigeria or norway. this region could be quite a hotbed for conservation in coming years…

the drive up will take us a few weeks, probably months. there are a series of nature reserves that are being rebuilt after the civil war that we’re excited to stop in on. some, like gorongosa, have seen tremendous success in restoration and rehabilitation in recent years. others, like banhine, are apparently void of animals and people. there is also one community owned lodge operating in the mountains with forest elephants that i am also very interested in seeing. from the sounds of it, it has been a rather successful eco-tourism project that is entirely owned by the community (established by a british NGO).

during the trip up, we will hopefully do some international marketing for these start up lodges. im currently in the process of designing a pilot project for the cottages we stayed at in the drakensberg and, with luck, will be able to replicate it fairly easily for other lodges that we pass. we’ll also be doing lots of research on case studies of successful and failed eco-tourism initiatives – we’re downloading our trips ‘reading list’ as we speak. trying to keep the old brain from turning into mush and what not. its been quite a long time since either of us have read academic articles on anything.

anyway. a week now to get ourselves sorted. need to find some kind of GPS and learn how to use it, and stock up on all sorts of south african treats before we return to the land of roast chicken, tomatoes and onions. it will also be time to reshuffle the backpack and pack away all the winter clothes… that, i cannot wait for.

Image

limbo

“sho” – its been awhile. we’ve been in south africa for a few months now and i am happily integrating south african slang into my everday speech. skype with me and count how often i coo ‘shame’ at you to express something sad or positive. i understand its frequent.

since i last wrote, bryce and i have submitted our business plan and have been waiting for news. after weeks of writing and much reviewing, i’m excited about what we’ve created. it lies at the intersection of tourism, conservation and community development. feeling a bit fatigued from straight aid, the opportunity to create quality jobs, learning opportunities and a broader support network is well, thrilling. with investors jumping on africa for the newly cited economic potential, i hope this lodge could be come a leader in the power of enterprise for development and conservation.

anyway – we find out about that in the fall. so, we wait.

immediately after submitting the proposal, we headed down to durban to get launched into the world of southern african tourism at INDABA. it was an absolutely massive gathering of the industry, making it informative and exhausting. moz’s area of the trade show was teensie, with three of the four safari camps represented alongside a handful of beach lodges. each person we spoke with could only reiterate that they too saw loads of potential in the couuntry, and that we were on the right track. each had a pearl of advice to add, which is helping us to build a more complete picture of the country.

overwhelmed by city life (and horrified at the kennel josa was checked into), we scurried out of durban as quickly as we could. having stopped in st lucia – a town on the biggest estuary in africa – we thought we’d head back there for a few days (… or a month). we were waiting on a timeframe for hearing back from the proposals (“surely it will come tomorrow”) so life in st lucia became quite simple. the town offers plenty of pet-friendly walking trails, which are oddly hard to come by. it took a few days (bryce may say weeks) for me to stop panicking about imminent leopard, hippo and crocodile attacks on these walks, but eventually i could start to see the beauty in the area. its not every day you’re able to walk on foot through herds of zebra, wildebeest and impala. beyond our walks, there were hobbies to catch up on: photoshop, running, pushups, dying hair, reading and that damn candy crusher game on my ipad – total pros.

Image

Image

a month of early retirement passed quickly with no news on the proposal, we decided to head to the mountains. an antsy feeling was creeping up and we needed to make plans for moving forward – figured a change of scenery and temperature ought to do it. i had recently gotten into the masters of social work program at calgary and needed to decide if i was going to wrap up this african chapter or not (… ended up with a not). but, more on future plans soon. josa was recently spayed and it has become a full time job to keep her quiet since she seemingly feels no pain.