Spring Break: Mozambique 2009
Sep 20, 2009
|Olá meus amigos!
Last week was spring break (my second one of the year) in Mozambique! And I must say, it was one of the most adventurous trips I have ever been on in my entire life. Let me start from the beginning – we left Cape Town on a Saturday to fly to Johannesburg. From there, we took a cab to a nearby town called Midrand. It was such a strange ride because he kept playing the same psychadelic/techno/instrumental song on repeat and we were all going crazy! We arrived at the hotel and were able to watch TV for the first time since we have been in Africa – it was amazing! Then when we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, we heard that same song that had been playing in the car. We looked around and we saw our driver in a distant parking lot with 3 other men all listening to the blasting music. We all went to bed early since we had to get up at 4:30 am, and of course when the driver picked us up…guess what was playing? Well we asked him who the artist was and if he had any different songs, so the driver simply put a remix of that song. And he kept missing our exit which was really strange. And so begins our journey!
At the bus stop, we saw the sun rise. We waited and waited for about 1.5 hours because it was so late. Once we were on, all the seats were taken up and there was no extra room! I ended up taking a sleeping pill which helped for 2 hours and then I was awake for the rest of the time watching the movie “Fly Boys,” which I didn’t even like. It was a pretty rough 10-hour trip to Maputo. Once we arrived there, it was too late to make the 2.5 hour journey to Bilene and we went to a hotel instead. After much negotiations, we were able to get 1 room for 6 people for only 3,000 Meticais (approximately $107). The room had 2 full sized beds – we pushed them together and all 6 of us slept in the same bed!! We had to get up early again that morning and ended up taking 2 cabs all the way there.
Now, let me describe the scene to you. We had a lovely thatched cottage with 6 beds. Our kitchen had all the pots and pans necessary to satisfy 6 hungry girls. The sun was shining and the water was totally still and warm. There was nobody else on the beach – it was a true paradise! Of course we immediately hit the beach and I got in the water as soon as I could. We went to a nearby restaurant called Praia do Sol and had delicious sandwiches and ice cream. Then, we went home and took nice long naps to recover from our long journey. That night we went to Praia do Sol again since it is the only place nearby that has food. None of the waiters really spoke English. In case you all weren’t aware, the national language of Mozambique is Portuguese so I felt totally at home, whereas my friends had to deal with the language barrier. After full bellies and a full day of sun, we were ready to go to bed early to enjoy the next day.
Well, as it turns out, the next day was not nearly as relaxing. Most of us needed to get money at an ATM, and there wasn’t one in Bilene so we had to travel to a town nearby called Macia. We walked along the beach to the market. On the way we saw many small fishing boats coming in from the morning’s catch and once again the sun was shining. The term “market” is used quite loosely – they were open shacks that had all sorts of things in stock. Except that the “padaria” i.e. the bakery did not have any bread☹ After exploring the neighborhood, we needed to figure out how to get to Macia. Of course there are no taxis, so the only form of public transportation was the Chapa. Now, on the outside the Chapa looked like a mini-bus or van. But even before we entered, we could smell the B.O. coming out of it. This was just a precursor for one of the craziest rides of our lives. We were spread out over 3 rows (there were only 4 of us) and totally squished in between the locals. The chapa made its round around the town, making sure it fetched everybody that needed a ride. By the time we actually got to the main road, I counted no less than 26 people in one van!! People were standing inside bent over at a 90 degree angle so they could fit. There were people’s heads literally touching my head. Then, the tire popped. Twice. On the plus side, we were able to see the countryside. Mozambique is nothing like South Africa, at least not the part that I’m used to. It’s the “real Africa” that people tend to think of – huts made of straw, chickens and goats everywhere, ladies carrying all their belongings on their heads, and every single woman seemed to be precariously carrying a baby on their back with a blanket. Once we arrived, we were able to find the bank. Of course they didn’t exchange money, so we had to use the ATM. And the ATM didn’t properly work either because it said I only had 430MZN! Turns out I had much more than that, but it was still a little bit frustrating.
By some miracle, we were able to find an open restaurant (most of them were closed). The menu was this: beef, chicken (half and whole), head, tripe, and sandwiches. I wanted to try the head just so see how it would be served, but nobody else wanted to so we ended up getting a whole chicken for the 4 of us. That was a good decision because it was delicious! Before our meal the waitresses actually came around and washed our hands for us with a bucket and pitcher. Then we made friends with an older man named Mr. Mula who was definitely the man who ran the town. He told us about his large family and how he stays healthy. Then he wanted to know about America and was impressing us with is English. When we were done with our delicious meal, my friend Zuri needed to find a phone to call home. Mr. Mula led the way to the communal phone, which basically looks like a hot dog stand but with a cheap phone. There were multiple people surrounding us trying to help out, and of course the phone didn’t work. Mr. Mula then said his good byes as he walked us towards the chapa going towards Bilene to make sure we got the correct one. The way home was a little bit better, although within Macia we kept going in circles over and over again. Pretty much a trip that should only take 30 minutes ends up taking about 2 hours, so when we got home it was already getting dark and we were so exhausted! When we arrived, our friends Lauren and Bianca rushed into our arms because they were afraid something had happened. Also, our other friends Sam and Andrew had joined us! They had just come from Kruger national park from a safari and luckily they made it on one piece as well. It was quite a day for everybody!
Up to this point it was all fun and games – the spring break we had been waiting for. Sadly, the next day it was gray, windy, and raining. This continued for the next three days, which was pretty much our trip. The 2 mile walk to the town wasn’t as fun as it used to be because of the cold, and we had to go every day in order to get food and water. We stocked up on chips, cookies, and stale cereal and either slept or read all day. One day, Sam, Andrew, Zuri, Bianca and I walked to the other side of the beach and came across a goat that had literally just given birth to a baby goat. We also saw little children playing in the sand and decided to join them. The scenery was beautiful because instead of beaches, it was more like a white sandy marsh. Our nights were basically spent playing cards which I was luckily able to purchase from the local gas station (apparently gas stations are the center of life in Mozambique). We went to bed on average at 9:30pm. Hey, at least we got some R&R, right?
Now the last day was the redeeming day for us. Unfortunately, Sam and Andrew had already left at that point. However, it was the first day of sun, and we immediately put on our bathing suits and went down to the beach as soon as we could: no sunscreen. There were a pair of Jack Russells that had come to our house earlier, and they also joined. After we were all sufficiently toasted, we went to Praia do Sol one last time for lunch. Everything went well, except that they completely forgot to put in Zuri’s order so she only got her food after we had all finished. It’s pretty typical. We also wanted to order an egg, but they couldn’t do that because it wasn’t on the menu (we knew they had them because it came with my meal). But it was fine, we all went home and packed with the hopes that our driver would arrive at 3pm. And guess what? He didn’t arrive at 3pm. Lauren and I went back to PdSol to ask for a phone so we could call him and see if he was on his way. Joseph, our driver, said that he was only half hour away and that he had brought his nephew with him, but that his nephew couldn’t know about any money transactions. It was extremely strange, and immediately I started regretting having Joseph as our driver. We walked back to the house and that is when our neighbors (Mitch, Tiff, and Brahm) had seen us for the first time and invited us into their home. We knew that Joseph was on his way and that he would probably take much longer than half hour, so we all decided to join them for some drinks and a tour around their house. It was absolutely beautiful! There was a cook making prawns that smelled delicious, they had 10 ATV’s in the garage plus a couple of extra jet skis as well, they had a large flat screen television with cable, and nice comfy couches outside so we could sit and talk. We were all kicking ourselves for not having met these people earlier! Of course shortly after we arrived at the house, Joseph decided to arrive with his “nephew.” We were all sad to leave and told our neighbors how much we wished we could stay. As we were settling down in the car, one of the guys, Mitch, rushed over and told us that he had come up with a plan. We should simply pay off Joseph and the other driver to go home, and in the morning their personal driver would take us down to Maputo so we could catch the bus home. So we went for it! And, we didn’t even pay Joseph full price. We were all ecstatic. Zuri and I took a real bath and we all put on our nice outfits. Then, we ate the most delicious dinner imaginable including prawns, chicken, rice, salad, and other delicious things. The power went out a few times, but that’s ok. The we went to town in the Land Rover (actually I took an ATV) and went to this empty bar called Palmeiras. There was literally nobody there so we became friends with the bartender and we chose all of our own music to dance to. We then went back home, looked at the stars, and went to bed.
Of course with such amazing days come really bad days to balance them out, which is what happened the next day. We had to wake up at 4:30am in order to make it to our 7:30 bus trip in Maputo. There was no room for me in the car, so I ended up staying in the trunk for the 2.5 hour ride. Luckily I was so tired that I just passed out the entire time. We had gotten a little lost on the way, so when we got there most of the passengers had already boarded. We quickly threw our bags into the back and went to the office to check in. I was last in line and most of the girls had already boarded. When it got to my turn, they couldn’t find my name on the list. I made them check and recheck, but all to no avail. And then I showed them my confirmation code and they said that I had bought the ticket for the day before! The same thing had happened on the bus towards Maputo to me and two other friends. Clearly there was something wrong with the website because there is no way that I had gotten both of my dates wrong. Still, they would have none of it since the bus was already full. My friends were trying to figure out a solution to the problem when the bus started rolling away without us! My friends had to literally run and hop on in order to catch it. Meanwhile I was stuck alone on the sidewalk in the streets of Maputo with a laptop in my bag and no ticket home at 7:30am. I couldn’t even believe it. I went back to the bus office but they were not helpful – they said the only thing I could do was catch the night bus. That was totally out of the question because I had a flight booked for Cape Town that I had to be on and I did not want to be alone till night time and then miss my classes in the morning. So I took the first taxi I could find and went to the airport. When I arrived nobody else was there since it was too early so I didn’t even know if I would be able to get a ticket back home. I bought a SIM card to put in my phone and called my family but since it was 2am at home nobody answered except my sister. Luckily she was able to calm me down! My only company was the beggar who I had already given a box of cereal to but kept insisting on more. I literally had nothing, and after the 3rd time of being in my face, I blew up on the poor guy! Man I was a wreck at that point, but after my measly breakfast I was able to go to South African Airlines and buy my ticket for only $30USD! I think that we all should have just gone by plane in the first place, but the only reason I got that price was since I was on a waiting list and they were trying to fill up the plane so it really isn’t the most reliable method of traveling. Still it made things a little bit better, at least until I got in the line where they checked my passport. The border patrol officer pretty much looked at my passport and told me that I couldn’t leave the country since I didn’t have a stamp coming in. No further explanation or solution as to what are my options. He directed me to another man who wouldn’t even look me in the face, and I almost started crying. Then he asked which border I had come across and I didn’t remember so they thought I snuck in or something (please keep in mind that I am running off of 2 hours of sleep). I finally unpacked everything and found a little piece of paper that I had saved by chance with the name of the border, and they reluctantly let me though.
After that point, everything went well. Andrew and Sam were at the Johannesburg airport waiting for me on the other side, and I was able to vent with them. After they left (they had an earlier flight back to Cape Town), I actually found somebody from my class who I knew so I sat down with him and his friend and we exchanged spring break stories until I had to go check in. My flight was at 6:40 and my friends were supposed to be at the airport around 5, but they never showed up since the bus company ended up being late. Finally I got a call from them and they said that the air conditioning in the bus wasn’t working and there were small children screaming the whole time. In other words, I got the good deal! But what is not so nice is that they had their apartment in Cape Town broken into and some jewelry and cell phones stolen. I took the plane back by myself and my friend Joe was there to pick me up and it was all good. The girls didn’t arrive till much later. All in all it was one of the most stressful days of our lives and I felt like I needed another vacation!
Yeah so that is my spring break. I have done more since I have gotten home, such as write my 10-page research paper (due that Monday but I turned in a day late), see yet another Goucher friend, and see a play. But I am to tired right now and I am sure you are all tired of hearing so many stories as well, so I will just save it for another day. Até logo todo mundo! Beijos!