|An early start from Windhoek, a brief stopover in Joburg and we were in Maputo - capital of the ex-Portuguese colony Mozambique - and had to prepare ourselves for learning pigeon Portuguese.
After a long wait with the throngs of South African businessmen (hoping to make millions out of the development of this country) we handed over our passports for yet another stamp. After a long delay (this is true African timing), Neha hoping that the immigration office spare pity and not deprive her of another of her few remaining blank passport pages and we were out. Changing our rands into millions of Meticais we got into a taxi and to a guesthouse.
Immediately the difference between developed South Africa and Namibia and the civil war ravaged Mozambique was apparent. We got to our guesthouse and later headed out for dinner. Maputo streets are littered with testimonies to communist 'brothers.' We were staying in Avenicda Mao Tse Tung, hung a left down Vladimir Lenin Avenue (ironically where the British Embassy is - what would Maggie Thatcher think!!) and ended up on Avenida Julius Nyerere - a Tanzanian socialist brother/leader.
Ordering food was entertaining. Our Portuguese is as good as our Mandarin - hello and thank you! We got the feeling that the lost, confused expressions on our face was the equivalent of tattooing 'we're new in town' on our foreheads. Who would have thought our Nandos education of frango with piri-piri would prove so useful at dinner.
We spent our only other day in Maputo walking around. The city is recovering from 30 years of civil war and it showed with building work everywhere and lots of dated cold war high rise blocks. The railway station was the only real structure of note but overall the city didn't really have any sites to mention. Dining out at the fairground (we know that sounds strange but that is where the better restaurants were) and we were ready to leave Maputo and head north.
It was an early start to get a bus to Inhambane, 6 hours north of Maputo. Getting to the bus station - picture 4 buses outside a corrugated shack - and quickly our bags were taken and we had to struggle through the hoards just to keep up with the lads carrying our bags. Thankfully it was 'make some money by helping the gormless, sleepy tourists venture' rather than let's nick their bags!
Kiran waited for the office to open. The office was through a Hobbit-esque flimsy iron door. Inside there were no lights but he could make it out was a warehouse with an office with lights on some metres away. Avoiding the broken bus and the stripped spare parts Kiran reappeared with 2 tickets. Neha got involved in the scrum for seats and finally we were on the bus.
It would appear that Mozambique shopping is done from a bus. Everything from fruit, cashew nuts, toothbrushes to a new phone cover for your Nokia 6620 was sold. Who needs supermarkets when everything comes to you? Even Cutty Sark whisky and local vodka (aka paintstripper) was being sold - a little early at 6am maybe?
After the passengers had boarded the dilapidated bus and the weeks shopping had been done we were off. In no time we had left Maputo and it was immediately obvious that the further you get from Maputo the worse the roads get.
Mozambicans are friendly people. They try and talk to you - albeit us not understanding a word of what they are saying - and try and help their fellow people if they can. A classic example was when a lady and her child were being taken off the bus for not having the full fare. Before she knew it the other passengers had put some money together to make up the difference in the fare. It seemed entirely normal. As we saw in Cambodia also, by and large a prolonged civil war can make people feel more compassionate towards each other. Hopefully that will persist as they get richer.
After 6 hours, cramped bus seats, stifling heat and some bouncy roads we reached Inhambane praying our luggage was still in the hold and in one piece, which it was. We were later told how lucky we were in comparison with some recent travelers on the same route having a dead cow in the back of the bus.
After Oz, New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia getting used to a poor country will take a while, especially with a language that is alien to us. However as we have realized we seem to revel and thrive in chaotic, lesser developed countries and the sight of an African child with a huge gleaming smile would make most forget the hassles with traveling here. Especially as we are off to the beach!