Mozambabies

If you’ve read this blog over the past few months, you probably think that moving to Botswana has been super care-free and glamorous. And while we are safe and happy in our lovely new home of Kanye, the year that has just past has been gut-wrenching and exhausting. We fixed up and sold our house. We got rid of all our stuff. We said good-bye to everyone we know. We left our jobs. We left our home. We landed in Botswana. We trained for months. We lived with strangers. We got dropped off in a village and told where to work and where to live. All of that, in succession, takes its toll. We are not asking for sympathy. We got what we asked for. We would simply like to say that recently we have been feeling very ready for a vacation. And so …

It’s summer (we’re sorry to everyone trapped in the ice). And in the summer you go to the beach. That’s a fact. In Southern Africa, the beach is located in Mozambique. It’s also located in South Africa but we’ll leave that for another time. Years ago, we went to Quizzo (bar trivia) and Johnny Goodtimes (the host) asked the question, “What nation has an AK-47 on its flag?” At the time, we didn’t know the answer. The answer is Mozambique.

Flag

When we were kids, you couldn’t travel to Mozambique. Not that our parents had it on the agenda. After achieving independence from Portugal in 1975, the country was plunged into a civil war that lasted until 1992. One million people died, millions of others fled. In the world, windows of opportunity to visit a place open and close. While other windows are closing (Egypt, the Ukraine), the window on Mozambique is slowly opening. Sometimes, you have to take advantage of that window when it arrives.

AKChair

We will get to Mozambique in a moment. First, we had to get to the airport in Johannesburg. What do you think of when you think of Johannesburg? Nothing? Horrendous violent crime? Racism? That movie where the aliens were treated poorly by the humans? And while I’m sure there’s an element of truth to all that (especially the poor treatment of aliens), we live a measly 4 hours from Jo’burg (Jozy) and you can fly to a lot of places from their big airport. We decided to give it a shot and spend the night, not near the airport, but in a neighborhood described as “bohemian” and “walkable.” Lo and behold, there was craft beer and lattes and hipster t-shirts and our hotel had a cool indoor/outdoor shower thing.

BKBeers

 

BKBathie

And guess what? We loved it. Thanks, Melville. We were happy for a taste of the sweet, old city life. And we are looking forward to stopping over on our way back home.

Melville

How did we get from Kanye to Johannesburg, you ask? Well, there are buses. But we lucked out and got a ride from Sylvester, private driver extraordinaire. He lives in Bots, has a sweet 8-person van with AC, lots of mix CDs, and has taken Peace Corps peeps all over the region. He happened to be taking someone from the Kenyan Embassy to the airport that day. We rode along for bus price. In the future, he will take us anywhere we want to go. Swaziland? Zimbabwe? Lesotho? This is something you all should keep in mind as you plan your trip to come see us. Right??!?!?!?!?!

On to Mozambique. Maputo, the capital, is only a 45-minute flight from Jo’Burg. That can only mean one thing: prop plane. Bumpy ass prop plane.

Proper

It was fine, though. A little bit about Maputo before we begin. It was spared much of the fighting during the civil war but it was not spared the economic consequences of war. You can still see building projects left unfinished when the Portuguese pulled out. In 1975. The sidewalks are crumbling. The rain and the humidity have done a number on the concrete apartment blocks.

CoolBlock3

CoolBlock

CoolBlock2

And the Portuguese style colonial buildings have fallen into charmingly sad dilapidation.

Dilaper

The traffic can be a little hectic and crossing the street was an adventure. It was a little overwhelming after six months in the village. Some of the building were pink.

Pinko

To orient ourselves, we arranged a walking our with a fast talking British woman who bought us a bunch of fruit then passed us off to slower talking Mozambican dude named Walter. Walter taught us a lot about the old section of the city on our two hour walk. He showed us the train station and the cathedral and the town hall and the fortress and the strip clubs in the port. It was a lot of walking so we rewarded ourselves accordingly. Kellie drank some beer and Jon ate a whole peri-peri chicken. The food in Maputo is way good. Way better than we’re used these days.

The highlights of our stay included a crazy little mini car ride to the fish market.

And the fish market itself. Where you are supposed to walk around and look at fresh caught fish and then go eat some. Only you get mobbed by touts as soon as you arrive and they never stop trying to sell you everything thing imaginable the whole time: battery operated helicopters made out of wire and plastic beads, cowrie shell bracelets for him, cowrie shell bracelets for her, wooden heart keychains you can get your name carved on, fabric prints, manicures, phone chargers, sunglasses, bootleg DVDs. It was painful. And the price for the cockles and the grilled tiger prawns that Jon ate was outrageous. But it was worth it. Every penny. Every painfully awkward and annoying interaction was worth it. The food was amazing. Jon would do it again tomorrow if he could. Here’s Jon expressing his shrimp-stained gratitude to the guy who helped/gouged him the most.

FishGuyz

We drank coffee and ate Portuguese style custard tarts and pizza and Indian food and gelato and walked around the city and strolled the beach and despite the decay, we always felt safe. Even after dark. There was a pleasant vibe on the streets. People seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. There was construction everywhere, new glass towers going up. The Chinese were there. Building everything in sight. Even the Portuguese seemed to be coming back. The spic and span new grocery store was full of Portuguese products from olives to wine to lupini beans. Maybe this time everyone can figure how to live together. Enjoy the food and the beach and leave it at that. Time will tell. Here’s to hoping the window stays open for awhile.

On to the beach. Stop number two in Mozambique was Tofo Beach, 500km to the north. Not so fast, though. The alarm is set for 3:47am. We have arranged for a cab to take us from our hotel to a different hotel to catch a shuttle that takes us to the bus station in Maputo. The shuttle leaves at 5:00am. We arrange for a 4:30am cab the night before. We change the cab to 4:15am right before bed just to be safe. Always be safe. Jon worries about the arrival of the 4:15am cab and wakes up at 2:30am to think about the cab and whether or not it will arrive. The 3:47am alarm goes off. Jon showers and dresses and walks outside at 4:10am to look for a cab. There is a cab in front of the hotel. A man is asleep inside of it. Jon taps on the glass. The man wakes up and agrees to take us to the shuttle. 4:22am arrival at the hotel with the shuttle. 5:10am shuttle leaves. 5:30am shuttle arrives at the Maputo bus station. 4:00pm we arrive in Tofo. What the hell happened in between, you ask? 500km should take 6 hours in a bus, not almost 11 hours, you ask? A lot of this happened.

BKBus

And this.

BusTime

What else? We stopped a lot. Sometimes to pee but not enough. To get gas once. To pick up people on the side of the road. To pick up things on the side of the road. Once, a cooler full of cooking fuel. Another time a big sack of potatoes. Sometimes, we stopped so that our guys could pass money to some other guys. Mostly we stopped to get shook down by the police. We stopped at least 10 times for that. They stood in the road in their white uniforms, waved us to the side of the road, observed the condition of our old style Chinese city bus; looked at the stickers on the windshield which included stickers promoting marijuana, Monster Energy beverage, and Barcelona FC; and to very closely study our driver’s papers and license. We always passed muster. They wanted to stop us but they couldn’t.

Along the way, we looked at scenery. Birds alighting from flooded marshes. Actual flowing rivers (as opposed Botswana rivers which have all the makings of a river without the water). Tall palms fat with coconuts. Villages and towns with names like Xai-Xai. It was a long ride. Our butts hurt. We were sweaty and dirty. But we saw Mozambique along the way. Sometimes, it takes awhile to get to a new place. To a big, giant white sand beach with the bluest water we’ve ever seen. And, basically, it’s just us out here. There are a few others around. But not many. A few heads bobbing in the water. Maybe, 3. A few sunbathers. Another 3. When we eat in restuarants, we are alone. When we walk the dark paths home, it’s just us. Drinking beers and dipping our first toes in the Indian Ocean.

BKToes

Going for swims at 6:30am.

BJDip

Sitting on the veranda of our little casita and typing this blog.

BKSpot

We’ll write soon.

This entry was posted in Africa, Mozambique, South Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.