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Posts Tagged ‘oasis overland’

Before this entry, I would like to pay my respects to my favourite English teacher in high school, Mr. Gorman, who passed away from cancer on November 29th. He was the teacher who encouraged my development in creative writing, and I wouldn’t have had the courage to pursue writing without him. He taught me Writer’s Craft, Grade 11 and Grade 12 English and played a huge role in my high school career. If I were in Ottawa, I would be sitting in the front row of his memorial service, but since I cannot, I am sending my goodwill out to his family and to his extended Immaculata family who will be so sad during this time.

Today I am leaving South Africa and starting on the next portion of my journey. My flight leaves at 19:55 tonight, on its long long way to Perth. The next part of my adventure will see me and Sarah by ourselves, travelling Australia and New Zealand and South East Asia without the security of a truck and a tour leader — and can we say, we cannot wait. This has been such a great learning experience, and the best way to start our gap years. I plan on writing a recap on the plane ride over, so expect a longer entry over the next couple of days.

Lesotho was beautiful, and I’m glad I got the chance to visit while I was here. I’m sure if I had done SA myself, I would have missed out Lesotho in favour of the Wild Coast, but it would have been a mistake. We pony-trekked in the pouring rain and hail stones the size of golf balls, we hiked in the glorious sunshine amidst the “Kingdom in the Sky”. And the Drakensberg Mountains were stunning, with waterfalls and streams around every bend. It was idyllic, really. And now we are in Joburg, and unfortunately we haven’t had the chance to explore at all. We arrived late last night and leave in the afternoon today. I even have to give Soweto a miss, and I regret it… but it’s just another excuse to come back to this country some time in the future.

To all the Oasis people I am leaving… I will miss you so much! There have been moments on this truck I will never be able to share with anyone except you guys, and that will bind us forever. Even though we all live in such disparate locations, you are all welcome in Canada whenever you choose to visit. You have all my love.

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(This post was written approx. 5 days ago)

This past week has seen me in three completely different countries: Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It is difficult to compress all the experiences and impressions I have had this week, but if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be: overwhelming.

Truck Travel
So far I have said little about life on the Oasis truck, but this week is as good as any to start off. Four out of the past five days have been drive days. First of all, there is no such thing as “clean” on the truck. The seats all face each other, like facing pews in a Church. All of our bags fit under the seats, and there are overhead lockers to store our day-to-day items. There is an elevated area right behind the cab of the truck called “The Beach,” where we are allowed to sunbathe and stick our heads out of the roof. Some people are beach worshippers, and spend hours just baking in the African sun as the miles pass us by. Anyone who knows me will know that I am not one of those up on the beach all the time, but it is very comfortable up there.
The windows on the truck are covered by a large “clear” plastic tarp – it’s supposed to be clear, but it is most definitely not. Most of the time the tarps are rolled up so that the windows are open to the air (there is no glass). This is where the dirty part comes in. Wind and dust blows through the truck sometimes with gale force — there is just no saving hair in that kind of situation. Most of the time I put my hair back into a ponytail when the truck is moving… and when I take the elastic out at the end of the day, the hair is frozen in place. It’s like hairspray but better! Dustspray! Without the sides up
though, the truck starts to bake like a sauna.

Cards are played while the sides are down, but we have lost many Jacks of Hearts out of the windows so playing is treacherous most of the time. I spend most of my time reading (surprise!)… actually, I think a few people on the truck are scared of me, I finish a book or sometimes 2 a day. There is some good reading on the truck, ranging from Out of Africa to Asimov to Kathy Reichs to Arthur Conan Doyle.
The most popular past time of all is sleep… often drive days mean 5am wake-up calls, so a lot of catching up is done on the truck.

Lunch takes place on the side of the road. Stu, the driver, pulls over at an appropriate spot (with shade if we are lucky) and we open the side of the truck to get at the food inside. Each day there is a designated “cook group” of about 3 or 4 people. They will have prepared lunch the night before, which generally consists of a medley of cold pasta, tuna, canned sweetcorn, beans and onion. The truck also stops for ‘pee breaks,’ which also take place on the side of the road.
We take lighters to burn the toilet paper after use. You learn to squat. You learn to get over stage fright.

There have been two nights of bush camping so far, and one of them took place in Mozambique. After being terrified by stories of how we were camping in one of the most landmined countries in the world, we set up our tents. It gets dark here by 6pm. The night is pitch black. Even the stars hide until later in the evening. Dinner prep takes around 3-4 hours, as we cook over open flame. By the time we finish eating, there is little left to do and we retreat to the tents.

Zim-millionaires
After Mozambique, we continued along our journey to Harare, Zimbabwe. Again I was shocked by how different two neighbouring countries can be. Mozambique (or rather, Tete Corridor, which is the part of Mozambique that we visited) is dry and dusty as hell. Zimbabwe is lush. We drove past gorgeous ranches that spread over acres of land, lined with white picket fences and filled with horses. We drove into
an industrial city, with tall sky-scrapers and beautiful architecture. We also drove into a country in turmoil. You can tell the wealth that was once here. But it isn’t any more.

I changed $100USD. The official exchange rate at the border is 1USD:35000Zim dollars. The exchange rate that we got on the black market was 1USD:350,000. I became an instant zim-millionaire! The exchange rate fluctuates every day, prices skyrocket, inflation soars. How they survive, I have no idea.

We visited an orphanage that Oasis supports in Harare. The children were just finishing up a cricket match with the bats that the last Oasis group had brought them. All we brought with us was food. Lots and lots of food. Rice, maize flour, sugar, milk powder and lots of canned meat. The cook was in tears of joy. She laughed with us, hugged us, and said “We were almost starving, and then the Lord came.” Many of the people on the truck wanted to buy toys with the money that we had donated. But once we got there, we knew that food had been the right choice.

I am now in a multilevel shopping centre in Harare, on internet that is 60cents/hour or 200,000 Zim dollars/hour. It is beautiful here, and I love it. We have two weeks in Zimbabwe altogether. I will let you know how fast I spend my millions of dollars.

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