Day 10 (27th December)
Written and posted when we had internet access.
Today saw us travel down the full length of Portugal, which was particularly poignant for us as we knew that today (the 27th) would be the day that my family would hold a ‘second Christmas day’, this time for my 4-year-old nephew who spent the 25th with his Mum and her family. We were within 60 km of my parents’ house at one point, which seemed very strange, especially as we won’t see them for many months.
We have had bad weather with ten metre waves for the last day and a bit, and have been forbidden to go outside, which is frustrating. We can hang out in between the inner and outer doors though, which we do quite a bit to get some fresh (ish) air.
Last night I genuinely felt I might fall out of my bunk, and slept badly worrying about Lauren in the top bunk. Neither of us have felt even remotely unwell though and its nowhere near as rough as the trip to the Faroe Islands. You can walk down corridors, if zigzagging a bit.
Towards evening as we approached the North African Coast, I was hit for the first time with real saudades for Mozambique.
Saudades is a Portuguese word that cannot really be translated, but basically means a deep yearning for somewhere, someone or something. Its more than to simply ‘miss something’.
I left Mozambique full of anger and depression at what has happened to a country I love; well, what has been done to the country, it didn’t ‘just happen’ like a natural disaster, this was a full-on, man-made disaster caused by corrupt and evil individuals who were already rich and powerful but wanted to be more so, at the expense of the Mozambican people they were supposed to represent. Until today I haven’t felt anything other than anger, rage, and a certain amount of shame at ‘saving myself’ and abandoning ship.
Now though, and even though it’s the ‘wrong bit’ of Africa, the idea of setting foot on the continent again in Dakar filled me with excitement.
What is it about ‘Africa’? I don’t know any other whole continent that gets under people’s skin. And it’s certainly not ‘rose tinted spectacles’ or some nostalgic view of Africa. If anything, given my history, I am more cynical than many about Africa these days. And while I totally agree – and get massively frustrated when other people don’t – with ‘Africa is not a country’ and the nuances of each country’s own history and culture, there is undoubtedly something about ‘Africa’. I’m sorry, I have been known to shout at journalists in frustration when they talk about ‘Africa’ as one undifferentiated mass, it is a complex mix of many different things, but there is something that unites the continent and keeps some of us addicted.
When I try to put my finger on it, all I come up with is negatives – chaos, noise, dust, poverty, the nouveau riche living it up while others suffer, corruption, disorder, mess … yes, there are many brave Africans fighting every day against these things, and I have huge respect for many Mozambicans and others I have met over the last 15 years who raise families and keep things together in a hostile environment, whether that be poisonous governance or terrible climate. Yes, there is natural beauty but that’s not really what attracts me.
Maybe Africa is like the bad boy you know you are not supposed to be attracted to and can’t quite see why you keep going back, even when rationally you know he is bad for you.
I have put it behind me and decided to commit to a nice sensible, if rather dull Europe, but I can’t help the old frisson when I come across my former love. Maybe Europe can be an open marriage and I can continue a sporadic, no-ties, affair with Africa from afar…..
Anyway, given my mixed-up feelings, today was a good day to make some piri-piri, that wonderful chilli mix that is ubiquitous in Mozambique and makes every meal taste better. The Germans and I had finished the dried chilli and almost finished the tabasco, so in Vigo I picked up some fresh green chillies and some dried red chillies. I also got some limes and ‘borrowed’ some oil from the galley. Not exactly a traditional recipe but I had to adapt. Using our one sharp knife, the back of a cardboard folder as a chopping board, and the top of our drawers as a work surface, I chopped and sliced and squeezed until we had a reasonable approximation to piri piri. It needs a few days to really blend, and its not that hot as the chillies were milder than proper piri piri, but it was actually OK and went down well at dinner. Hopefully I can get some really hot stuff in Dakar and feed the piri piri throughout the journey.