Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's a Boy!

Ashlea and I are proud to announce the newest addition to our Pemba family: Pedro Savanno Webber Hamilton. 
What started out as a hasty decision by Sarah to rescue a dog we constantly saw outside our yoga studio, barely able to walk out of the sand by the road, has turned into our newest housemate.  I was barely able to look at him when she first brought him home; you could see every bone in his body, he was covered in mange, and it was hard to ignore the crooked head, limp right leg, and both ears being basically torn apart.
With just a few days of food and rest, he began to walk, wag his tail, and recognize our voices.  I could have taken in any number of animals in Pemba but this little guy charmed all of us and I think Ashlea and I were both hesitant to just let him go!  Not too many people would be willing to love Skeletor Dog.
We brought him home last week, a bit unsure of what we were embarking on (and I am still thinking about all the consequences of bringing him in) but it has been amazing and totally worthwhile to watch what regular meals and an outpouring of gentle voices, ear scratches, belly rubs, and long walks on the beach will do to a dog that once was a skeleton closer to death than life.
Now we must think about what Pedro will be eating for breakfast and dinner and he certainly will not be winning any beauty contests.  But the bones are nearly hidden by fat, the leg seems stronger (although still bends over like a warthog when he eats), and it's hard to see that his ears are torn because his eyes are so warm and trusting. 
And who needs a supermodel dog when you have one who sits on the front step and watches your every moment inside the house, who spends hours getting bitten on the nose by crabs, and who won't let you out of his sight on beach walks?  Our welcome home from work is now a lot more exciting and we have a permanent #1 fan in our little Pedro!

Taratibu - Solid as a Rock

5 women, 1 cooler, 2 boxes of bottled water, 5 backpacks,
1 Mozambican playlist, and a lot of love (and sweat and dust)
It is a tough life to lead when you must take monthly breaks from the beach and head into the bush with five lovely woman and a 4x4 full of food and Mozambican dance music.  Yet another early morning departure with an even more packed car than before and off we went to Taratibu Bush Camp, in Ancuabe district of Quirimbas National Park, for a short weekend of getting away from the hustle and bustle of Pemba city life.

As per the website, we were anticipating "the rustic Taratibu Bush Camp (meaning to go slowly and carefully) nestled between three soaring granite outcrops known as inselbergs, within the boundaries of the Quirimbas National Park features huge sub-tropical rain-forest trees which shelter a great diversity of bird life, insects and various primate species".  Totally true!

We filled up Sarah's trusty beast of a 4x4, bartered for tomatoes and mangoes on the side of the road, and began the dusty drive.  Things were going very well-the breakfast of biscuits was eaten, dance moves were tried out, and everyone was laughing when we decided to stop for a quick rest break.  We had already pulled off the main road and had begun the bumpier and dustier trek into essentially the middle of nowhere.

When we all piled back in the car and Nil turned the engine, the car made a sound like it was a space shuttle about to take off.  After a couple attempts and the result still being the engine doing a non-stop revving, we all got out of the car and put on our mechanic faces.  Nil's suggestion was to open the hood and "let it breathe, it just needs fresh air".  This was our only remedy so we all stuck our heads in to try to diagnose the problem.  After a half-hearted attempt to remember where water goes for the engine, Yumi called her boyfriend in Maputo who told us to look for the accelerator cable.  Of course, all five of us knew exactly where that was...  But somehow, after the 20 minutes of fresh air, with all of us waiting nervously to see if our last days would be spent in rural Mozambique, the car started like nothing had happened.  We made a vow not to stop until we reached Taratibu...

5 professional mechanics on the scene
"It just needs to breathe"
Hello Taratibu!
Taratibu's reception service
After literally driving through people's backyards, the landscape turned from dusty village to giant forests and mountain ranges and we entered Taratibu to a screaming herd of monkeys.  We were the only guests there and the only people around except for our guide and the woman in charge of the houses.  Of course we were there purely for the rugged adventure, but we settled in and began cooking and eating.

Devil Ear Mountain (our name, not official Mozambican mountain name)
One of the many rock faces surrounding the camp

Fairy trees protecting the camp
Our bungalow

The firepit

Jawbones of the 30 adult elephants poached last year
First order of business: making lunch

Part of the giant monkey and baboon family
that kept us company and ate our fruit peels
After a long lunch and sunbathing on the rocks, we realized, at some point we would have to get up and actually go for a nature walk.  I think a few of our group were lured into this only by the promise of a "sunset bar" at the top of the mountain.  We may not be the typical adventurer clients that Taratibu receives but we still appreciated it for many different reasons.  I think the top two reasons were the open kitchen where we feasted and the ability to sunbathe on hot rocks (somewhat tainted by the bright green snake fell out of the tree right by us).  Our guide's hour long walk was actually 15 minutes which gave us plenty of time to prepare the Amarula cocktails, take an obscene amount of photos, and admire the beauty of Taratibu's mountain ranges.

Our trusty guide

Yumi's sunset bar - according to the Amarula commercials,
"it's what every African drinks at sunset"

A 15 minute walk requires a large dinner and numerous bottles of red wine
Yumi and Nil preparing the barbeque

After sleeping like the dead in the quiet of Taratibu, we woke up for a quick breakfast before a 2.5 hour hike through the forest and mountains.  Not quite what we expected and I was waiting for round two of sunstroke in the heat up there, but it was beautiful to climb to the top of the peaks and look down into the valley at the hidden camp.  You would never imagine that people were living down there as the trees camouflaged everything.

The trek started out easy...

Yumi, our yoga teacher, showing us how it's done

The tree roots are a world of their own

Taratibu fairies

Rest stop between scaling the mountain side

Yah Ho!

The road to Taratibu

Once again, another weekend where I realised how lucky I am - to be in Mozambique, to be with these people, and to come back with the stories of climbing mountains, running away from baboon herds, and being completely isolated from everything.  I never imagined that parts of the earth looked like this and I feel so fortunate to have been to a place on a map I never thought I would visit.