Apr 12, 2008
|Hello again. Sorry for the long silence but as you might have guessed, the internet is a little unreliable here to say the least and no, you doubting ones, this is true and not an excuse! Thanks for all the emails – I will try and reply to you all, but bear with me – it took me 45 minutes to send one to Mom and Dad the other day so that they knew we are still alive!
So back to April 2nd, when we were supposed to leave Mbabane at 09:00 for our journey to Maputo. Philip eventually arrived at 12:00 and then told us as two people had cancelled we would have to pay extra - not a good start and it was pouring with rain. I diplomatically kept quiet so I didn't hit the bloke! We decided to go anyway and before we left Mildred and Setsabile gave me leaving presents of a necklace and scarf which was lovely of them and put me in a slightly better mood.
As well as having to buy a visa, you also have to pay border tax, so they certainly get as much money as possible out of you just to get in the country!
In the end it was a good journey and Philip was very helpful, taking us to change money, showing us some good places to eat and drink and joining us for a beer before he went back, so he redeemed himself.
In Maputo we decided to treat ourselves to a few days in the Ibis which was very pleasant and also down in the middle of town, so handy for all the bars, restaurants and banks.
Portuguese is the main language so it is more challenging for us here, but at least the menus tend to have an English translation. However, my first meal just said “Typical Portuguese” – turned out to be a squashy sausage type thing with egg and chips – not exactly a taste sensation.
Maputo is a very nice city, albeit a bit rundown in parts – it’s strange to see as you can be in a fairly nice part and a few yards along it’s all broken pavements, burst water mains and piles of rubbish. There are a lot of road-works going on though. Mozambique is also more expensive than the other countries in the region on first impressions and bizarrely, a small beer costs more than a large one – go figure!
The first night, I went to bed leaving Nige to watch the football in the hotel bar. Suddenly he felt something pressing against his knee and it was the scantily-clad ..ahem…private regions of a prostitute asking him his room number! When he said his wife was in the room she suggested going back to her place. Somehow he managed to resist the kind offer and carried on watching the football.
The people are exceptionally friendly, even more so than other countries. The cars are all parked haphazardly. If they leave their windscreen wipers up, it is a signal that they want the car washing – we never managed to work out how the transaction was completed though!
There are loads of street vendors selling watches, pens, clothes, fruit, kitchen knives, sunglasses etc. so there is more hassle when you are sitting at a café or walking around – not too bad just fairly constant.
Update on things women carry on their heads:
2) Calor gas bottle.
Saturday (5th) wasn’t our most successful day. First we went to book a flight and the office was closed. Then we tried to find the Iron House, but there was no sign of it and no-one had heard of it. After that we headed for the Museum of the Revolution – you guessed it! So we went to a corner café-bar for a refreshing 2M and watched a man trying to sell puppets. Things improved after that.
We visited the train station, dating from late 19th century and designed by Eiffel (yes, the bloke who did the tower in Paris) which was magnificent and then the fort, which was a bit Mickey Mouse, but worth a few minutes. In that region, you have to carry your passport with you at all times and we did get stopped by a policeman for a passport check. To be honest, I think he just wanted a chat!
There is a great mix in Maputo of street life and a posh shopping centre/cinema complex. Fabulous bar/restaurant with a swimming pool down by the harbour called The Waterfront funnily enough. We watched the Baggies going out of the FA Cup there, but on a brighter note had fantastic goat stew – Goat Stew, Goat Stew, So good we ate it twice!
Sunday was stunningly quiet everywhere, hardly any people about including the pesky street vendors – amazing difference.
There is an African league going on and a team from Zimbabwe were staying at the Ibis for a match against a Mozambique team. We got chatting to the team doctor over a nightcap. Nige got subjected to some reverse racism as one Zimbabwe bloke had a go at him and said white people had caused all the problems and Mugabe should carry on. His friends were horrified and shut him up and apologized to Nige.
Monday, we moved to Fatima’s Backpackers so we could use their shuttle service the next morning to Tofo. Not quite the Ibis, but OK for a night and it was near to a good Thai restaurant for lunch. We got a taxi there, which was called for by the policeman outside the hotel and appeared to be just his mate! He was very smiley anyway and didn’t overcharge us.
One last thing here. Before we left the Ibis, a man at reception asked for a map of the Ibis hotels in Mozambique. He was told they didn’t have one. So he asked if they could just tell him. He was asked which province he was interested in. He didn’t know yet, could he just have a list of all of them. The answer? The only Ibis hotel in Mozambique is the one he was standing in. Unsurprisingly, he stood there quite stunned for a few minutes!