When we initially told people about the trip and intended route the general consensus was that our trip only actually start in Mozambique. Excited to finally start our trip, we drove to Lomahasha to go through the Namaacha border post. I prepared myself for at least an hour or so of complete silence while Clayton mentally prepared for the infamous Mozambique border control officials.
At the Swazi-side we met Peter, a Mozambican that sells 3rd party insurance which is a legal requirement to enter Mozambique. He took us under his wing as soon as we entered the Moz-side of the border control, translating the documents for us and assisting with filling in the forms (not that it was rocket-science). I figured out his game plan when he just took our copies of the filled in forms and walked over to his ‘office’, basically forcing us to buy 3rd party insurance from him. R280 later we had our paperwork and continued to the gate for inspection. Bertus again proved to be a hit with the officials and Clayton jumped on the bandwagon, explaining everything about the car, showing them the engine and telling them that Bertus is 41 years old – which always seemed to surprise them. They waved us through, all smiles and no issues.
Mozambique delivered on my expectations of border crossings in that it was completely different to Swaziland and South Africa. Not just in landscape but also everything was in Portuguese that made things slightly more complicated. We also had to get new currency (you can use Rand in Swaziland as the exchange rate is 1:1) and with that came the complication of converting everything to Rand before we decide whether to buy something or not. Living with Clayton who thinks, on average, 4 times before he buys something in normal conditions, this added complication destroyed any possible retail-therapy enjoyment for me.
We reached Maputo, passing through a couple of roadblocks but they just waved us through. Everytime we see a cop we held our breath and hope they do not notice us – luckily for us it seemed that they were targeting trucks that day rather than little red beetles.
People CANNOT drive in Maputo and they do not even attempt to hide the fact that they cannot be bothered to follow the rules of the road. Road signs are purely suggestions and apparently only apply to cars with foreign number plates.
It would seem that even in a different country Clayton and I cannot stay away from a Builders Warehouse and we made a quick stop at the one in Matola.
We fought our way through the traffic and finally reached Fatima’s Place Backpackers which would be our home for the next 2 nights. They had off street parking, semi clean bathrooms and camping (albeit in the roof). The guy behind reception lacked some personality but we were willing to overlook this and were not about to pass judgement on this backpackers. At that point it was the most unfriendly place we have stayed thus far.
Armed with a faded map that was shoved in our direction and some mumbled directions to a place where we can get some Meticais, we took to the streets of Maputo. The map was crap and the directions he gave did not make sense. We walked about 2kms, up and down the streets of Maputo in the humid weather, before deciding to backtrack. We found the place, a dodgy looking but nevertheless legit place and converted some of our cash to Meticais at a surprisingly good rate.
Slightly nervous about walking out of a bureau de change in the middle of Maputo where it was clear as daylight that we have cash on us, we agreed that it would be better to head back to the backpackers. We dropped of some cash and went in search of a bottle store to buy a local beer – you get 2M in South Africa but surely it must be different drinking it in the country of origin. It was not but it was still nice and refreshing.
We popped into a couple of restaurants to enquire about their seafood selection and was shocked to see the high prices. We’ve been starving ourselves for seafood in Mozambique since leaving Cape Town and it would seem that it was a waste. Not easily discouraged we started googling places using the backpackers wi-fi (we did not dare ask Mr Congeniality) and found that the best place for cheap seafood was the seafood market. We decided to head in that direction. We walked for another 4km before deciding to turn round – it was getting dark and we weren’t even sure if we were heading in the right direction. I still had to buy a sim-card so my google-maps was of no use.
We arrived back at the backpackers, made some food and went to bed. Although busy, there was an odd vibe in the place that did not really made us want to hang around or get to know our fellow travelers. We thought about updating the blog but the laptop was out of juice and we did not have an international plug – when we asked for an adapter the guy behind the bar, who was surprisingly good at avoiding eye contact, informed Clayton that if he wants one he can buy one outside. All right then…
The next day we again took to the streets with the sole mission of finding a simcard and getting connected to the outside world. Once that was done we went to explore more of Maputo. It was a strange city where wealth and poverty lived next to each other. The city was in the process of rebuilding itself but it was taking its sweet time doing so.
All the cars had a metal strip over the indicators on the side of their cars. Curious as to why they did this we were told that people would steal those little lights. Not wanting to antagonize the cops the owner would be forced to go buy a replacement and wouldn’t you know it, there will be someone around the corner selling you those lights, in most cases the ones they just stole from your car! It is very clever business model that is thriving in Maputo.
We walked to the nearest Spar and spent about 2 hours just strolling around inside, hiding away from the heat and humidity. We were again surprised to see the exuberant prices of everyday items. R50 for 2l milk, R100/kg for chicken and R125/kg for not so lean mince. It would seem that I will be forced to go cold-turkey on my meat addiction (excuse the pun).
After much deliberation we decided to not go in search of the seafood market. I read some reviews that really did not make it sound like fun. I was not in the mood to be harassed so we opted to go to a restaurant we found the previous day with the best price for 1/2kg prawns (Mt950 = +-R230) which was still a rip off. It was nice but a bit disappointing. It however did the trick for now.
On the way back to the backpackers we took a stroll through the craft market where surprisingly enough Clayton was the one that wanted to buy everything! He finally settled on x2 dipping bowls for Mt400. Again a slight rip off but we were still new to this negotiating for everything way of doing our shopping.
The backpackers was quiet and it had a stifling atmosphere. We went to bed early, excited that when we woke up we would be able to leave this place.