Alex’s African Adventure

I'm back! The return flight from Africa took almost 30 hours (and with layovers it basically was two entire days of travel), but I made it. I got back late Monday night and then spent Tuesday decompressing, trying to shake off the jet lag.

After a quick glance around, it looks like the site survived my absence. Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for filling in as the Guest Curator while I was gone. He did a great job. I guess this means I'm pretty much expendable around here!

Africa was incredible, but I had no internet access while I was there (and often no electricity either), so my apologies to anyone who tried to contact me while I was gone.

The trip consisted of a week in Malawi and two weeks in South Africa -- two very different countries. Malawi is a very rural society. In many places the lifestyle doesn't seem to have changed much there in hundreds of years. You still see numerous villages dotting the countryside, consisting of a handful of thatch huts. Women walk around with huge bundles of sticks on their heads. South Africa, by contrast, is much more modern. Many areas of it look almost exactly like America, with malls and office buildings... but down the road from the malls you find vast, sprawling shanty towns where people live in pretty wretched conditions.

One of my favorite sights in Malawi was the guys who stand by the side of the road selling mice-on-a-stick. Apparently many Malawians quite enjoy this dish. The vendors catch the mice by starting a fire in the brush to scare the rodents out. Then they spear about four or five of the critters on a stick and cook them -- fur, bones and all -- until they're charcoal black. Although I didn't sample this delicacy, I'm told that the proper way to eat a mouse on a stick is by beginning with the tail and working your way up to the head. You simply spit out the bones, much like you would do when eating chicken wings. I wanted to get a picture of a mouse-on-a-stick vendor, but I never had a chance. My sister, who lives in Malawi, promises me that she'll take a picture of one and send it to me. (In the meantime, I found some pictures of mice on a stick on a blog called Misadventures in Malawi and Beyond.)

I also spent a couple of days at Lake Malawi, where I kept an eye out for any sign of a Lake Malawi Monster. Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyassa, so it's monster, if it has one, would, I suppose, be called Nyassie. Unfortunately I didn't see a monster, though I did see a couple of otters, which I thought was pretty exciting at the time.

In South Africa, I got to visit Kruger Park where I saw elephants, rhinos, giraffe, and hippos. However, I saw no elephants on acid, nor any hippos eating dwarves.

While in South Africa, I also got to take a trip down a platinum mine, an experience which made me resolve never to quit blogging in order to become a miner.

Here's a few pictures of me from the trip. From left to right: taking a nap in a hammock at Lake Malawi, very cautiously petting a cheetah at the De Wildt Cheetah Park in South Africa, and 500 meters beneath the ground in a platinum mine (you can tell from the expression on my face that I'm feeling a little claustrophobic).

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Posted on Wed Jul 18, 2007


Woooooo! Sounds like you had a good time :cheese:
Posted by Malfunctioned  in  Redbridge, London, England, UK, Europe, Earth  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  10:33 AM
Welcome back! Are you sure that the Lake Malawi Monster didn't eat you, and that you're really just another replicant Alex?
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  10:41 AM
One of my dreams is to go diving in Lake Malawi to look at all the gorgeous cichlids! :cheese:

I had no idea there was an alleged monster there too.

Welcome back! 😊
Posted by MadCarlotta  in  Canada  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  10:45 AM
Glad you made it back safe & sound... and that you had fun 😊
Posted by oppiejoe  in  Michigan - USA  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  10:58 AM
The mouse kabob thing reminds me of the film: "Never Cry Wolf", in which the hero makes mouse sandwiches washed down with Moose Juice (a mixture of Moosehead beer and grain alcohol). Hold the Pepto, hold the Tums, look out belly, here comes small, charred rodents impaled on a piece of wood. I need a hot-pocket, sans mice, thangyew
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  11:11 AM
When I was stationed in Thailand, back in 1970, I tried fried frog skin. You could buy them from street vendors. You picked out the skin you wanted and the vendor fried it up right there. It cost, if I remember right, about 5 or 10 Baht. A Baht was worth a nickel at the time. I liked it. I wouldn't do it now probably but I liked it then.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  12:57 PM

Frog skin ...

Posted by oppiejoe  in  Michigan - USA  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  03:51 PM
Welcome back, Alex. It sounds like an awesome trip. Glad you had a great time.
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  05:09 PM
Welcome back, Alex!
Thank you, Cranky Media Guy!

MadCarlotta, I had no idea you're a fellow cichlidist!
Are you coming to the American Cichlid Association convention in Sacramento this week?
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  05:56 PM
What this country needs is a good 5-cent mouse-on-a-stick.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  05:57 PM
I'm glad you had a good holiday, and it's nice to see you back! 😊
Posted by Madmouse  in  Edinburgh  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  06:05 PM
Welcome back babe! Although Cranky did a great job, you were missed so not so expendable after all 😊
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  06:17 PM
Maybe Cranky can still post articles and stuff? Like Flora? I thought he was a nice addition.

Anyway, welcome back!
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  06:56 PM
I don't know if I qualify as a cichlidist Gary. I was a planted tank enthusiast, so my cichlids were all of the New World variety, I'm sure you understand why 😉 Apistos, discus, etc. Do you hardcore rift guys count those? 😉

I dismantled all my tanks when I moved to Canada, so I'm currently not active in the hobby. However, rift tanks are a big deal where I currently live, and I know why - the water here is PERFECT for them. I'm seriously considering keeping them now, especially since I can't afford the lighting and gear for plants anyhow :lol:

I wish I COULD go to the convention though. I'm assuming Ad Konings will be there, right? 😊 It's always a treat to hear him speak.
Posted by MadCarlotta  in  Canada  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  07:05 PM
Gee, thanks for all the kind words, folks. I've acquired a new appreciation for what Alex has to do on a daily basis to run this site, believe me.

Sounds like you had a fascinating trip, Alex. Welcome home!
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Wed Jul 18, 2007  at  08:20 PM
MadCarlotta, the ACA is not just about rift lake cihlids. There's a large discus contingent, and an Apisto Study Group.
And yes, my friend Ad Konings is on the program too.
You should come next year, if not this one.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  01:08 AM
Alex, welcome back.

I wonder if you've heard anything about the current political situation in Mozambique? I was asked today if I wanted to go there for my next job assignment. I'm not sure if it's a good idea or I should get a doctor's note excusing me from going.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  05:04 AM
Yay! It's good to see you're back, Alex! *hugs*
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  06:04 AM
Welcome back Alex!

Carlotta, did you ever read Tijs Goldschmidt's book (if ever it was translated in English - I din't know)? You'd love it.
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  06:14 AM
Glad you arrived home safely Alex!

Capt Al - Mozambique is great. Some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Maputo is a fun city. It is stable politically. Crime exists, like any big city in the world. The roads are getting better and better. And the seafood is awesome.
Posted by Kirsten  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  08:52 AM
Welcome back, Alex!

Speaking of being claustrophobic, I guess it didn't help when they asked you to write your name on the helmet... you know... just in case we need to... oh well, just write it, it's regulations! 😉
Posted by Gutza  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  08:58 AM
LaMa, the Goldschmidt book was published in America as "Darwin's Dream Pond." I've read it and it's quite interesting, although some biologists disagree with his take on the evolution of Lake Victoria cichlids.

If you like this subject, I also recommend "The Cichlid Fishes" by George Barlow (the subtitle is something like "Nature's magnificent experiment with evolution."
Posted by Big Gary  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  12:52 PM
That Cheetah looks TOTALLY photshopped. 😉

Glad you enjoyed yourself!
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  05:41 PM
Welcome back, Alex. Glad to see you enjoyed yourself! I hope we can hear more stories of your wacky exploits in Africa 😊
Posted by Archibold  on  Thu Jul 19, 2007  at  11:03 PM

Thanks for the information. I feel a lot better about this now. I know they had some big problems back in 80s and I didn't know if it was still going on. Where I work we send people to a lot of "questionable" places in Africa, South America and the Middle East so everyone is on edge when these assignments come up. It's good to have some inside info. Now I can pretend there is lots of danger and negotiate a better deal!
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Fri Jul 20, 2007  at  12:51 AM
Captain Al,

I currently live in South Africa and things seem fine in Moz. From what I have heard from friends that have been there lately that it is definitely on the up. The only issue is poverty. As for conflict there has not been anythin for at least 10 years.
Posted by AK  on  Mon Jul 23, 2007  at  06:16 AM
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