My thoughts are all over the place and I am hopping around like a cat with socks on.
In my head I begin by writing about Mozambique as a country and all its history with the Portuguese which is fascinating, which leads to the run down vacant buildings the population will not live in.
Then I digress and want to tell you about our recent little adventure down memory lane in the country – and the hotels which were abandoned when Mozambique was given her independence (giving the Portuguese 24 hours to leave) and the happy childhood memories of seaside holidays 🙂
Oh no, I cannot resist telling you about the geography and topography ….. which leads to coconut juice, whales we saw breaching in the ocean & katembas (red wine with beer – Portuguese drink) on the sweeping white beaches…………
Okay – here goes, maybe I will put it all together and we can swallow it in Chapters – as we do with breakfast…… tea in bed….. then …. orange juice, bacon, eggs, baked beans & French fries….. followed by toast, jam & coffee.
Africa has a reputation for muddling, complicated, time consuming, bureaucratic, difficult and intimidating border crossings so, of course, this is where I will begin.
After joining “DdriveMoz” – a travel through Mozabique group on Facebook (there is a specific group for each other country on South Africa’s borders) and opening all their files, vaults, advice books and following the members travels over the past few weeks ……………. We are all prepared.
Passports (with 2 extra pages), vehicle papers, fire extinguishers – lumo vests – triangles – stickers, cash, medical insurance, vehicle insurance, border crossing permits, visas, doors locked, windows up. Home side, SA, was a doddle but as we cross over the line dividing the 2 countries…….. there are people everywhere, an official handed us a piece of white paper which we were advised (by the facebook group) not to part with. Within seconds we are surrounded by people trying to take the paper away and help us and talk talk talk talk at each window – it was like being surrounded by a swarm of bees. At no time did we feel in danger but confused – YES!!! Chris instructed them, very sternly, to leave us alone…….. but somehow the precious piece of white paper was gone……
Anyway, we went through the queues easily and greeted by very friendly officials – until it was time to buy our Visa (for an international passport). Nice big counter with a smart computer – but nobody in sight to assist us. Eventually a man arrived, gave us a form and asked why we didn’t have a visa …… huh, that is what the counter is for!! I think a genie was in attendance because the first official vanished. Eventually a lady came to the counter…… from thin air……. And mumbled something else ………… and poof….. vanished into thin air. And then the genies’ friend arrived, full of smiles, laughs, questions, jokes about passport photos (and needing a vacation if we look like our passport photo). Fingerprints, smile into camera, more joviality, passport stamped and “have a great holiday Mr A” – poof the genie was back.
Out we go – into the crowds offering help………… and the piece of white paper magically appeared. Relief. More “Go away”, “leave us alone please”, “bugger off”s and out we drive, through the boom where we parted with the magical “proceed past GO” white piece of paper.
Easy peasy. Try Beit Bridge between South Africa / Zimbabwe – now that is what we were anticipating and had a few sleepless nights over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT Border Post is a story !!
Thanks Moz – you were great. It was a lucky day perhaps.
The people hassle & harass border crossers as a way to make a living. The population , based on United Nations estimates in 2019, is 31.41 Million which ranks 47th in the world. The unemployment rate is over 25 %. In 1990 ‘people living in poverty’ was at a frightening 80 %. It is now ,apparently, just under 50 %
A little before midday the traffic began to build up – terrifically! Akin to a tsunami. We were approaching the New Maputo Ring Road. Newly constructed; by the Chinese. This road is “supposed” to bypass the Maputo traffic……………… saaaay whaat??? Judging by that – Maputo itself is the last destination on this planet I want to visit.
Coal Trucks, huge haulers, Tuk Tuks, taxis, donkey carts being pulled by people peddling their wares, motor bikes (sipping inbetween the lanes) , cars, minibus taxis , busses , minibus taxis with trailers …… loaded to an unbelievable toppling height (food, bags of coal, suitcases, chairs, tables, couches, mattresses, chickens in coops, headboards, boxes & bags….. get the picture?!) .
Maputo is the Capital of Mozambique and is a natural harbour (Delagoa Bay) and was discovered by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498. It was originally called Stone Town, then Lorenco Marques and now Maputo.
The population of Maputo is 1,766,823 but I hear that the largest suburb, Matola, is not included in this count – there are 893,000 people living in that suburb.
Most of the way there are 3 lanes going and lanes coming = a 6 lane highway………. I think! Actually it was difficult to decipher which was the correct side of the road and ….. each side had haphazard lanes…… wherein one can drive against traffic on the extreme edge (sand) contraflow, park for a while to chat with a friend- offload – buy something, walk (the pedestrians oblivious to the dangers), busses squeeze in and hoot to make 5 lanes perhaps, ……..” whatever works for you…. You do!” Unless you are a tourist, watchout – watch your speed, amber traffic lights, indicators………….
What I have not told you YET is that on the very edge of this busy traffic, on both sides ………… there is a market, informal traders (who each have their own radio station & music playing (so it seemed…. Or were the minibus taxis playing boom boom?) selling everything from : Shoes, Mobile Phone cards, more shoes, vegetables, clothes, tyres (yes, and you can pull in – on the sand verge – for the trader to fit the tyre you have just purchased from him with a crow bar), more Mobile Phone cards, mini hairdressing salons, tables with umbrellas selling home squeezed coconut juice, chickens, furniture, beds, more shoes… even a rabbit ☹ …………. For the length of 2 hours’ driving, on both sides.
SENSORY OVERLOAD SUPREME
There has been considerable infrastructure built in the past few years, funded mainly by the Chinese, which includes the abovementioned highway and a stunning a bridge. The bridge is the longest suspension bridge on the African Continent (replacing the Matadi Bridge , completed in 1983, in the Democratic Republic of Congo). It is named the Ketembe Bridge and spans 3 km. It is beautiful and a god send for travellers. Over 4 years, China funneled $785 Million into its construction.
Follow Chapter 2 through the countryside to the beach next