A German and tiger prawns in Maputo

Trip Start Mar 17, 2007
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Where I stayed

Flag of Mozambique  ,
Thursday, January 24, 2008

I get up at 07h40, make coffee, take a shower and I am ready for some more internet at 8. I am going to let hubby sleep another hour and I can update my web blog. Right? Wrong! As I start up my web blog, the lights go out and the internet goes down and ... stays down. We paid big dosh for this hotel plus 24h internet and it does not work. Our airco went down at about 21h last night too.

I complain at check out. The whole city went without power yesterday evening. Their batteries took over (for the electricity but not for the airco) and now their batteries are flat too. They cannot process credit cards and will send the bill home. I have a feeling our visa will not work, without power.

09h30: Mozambique embassy: we have to pay for the papers to apply for a visa! This is the first time. The chick says: 600 Rans a person. 60 Euro for a visa is a lot of money! But what to do? Dr T starts counting the 1200 Rand when she says: 'when are you leaving?' Now, tiens! Ah, no, there is no power so it will come back on within 4 hours, normally, so come back then. Hubby says, no way, we just drive to the border. Me: 'what if they do not let us in?' He: 'then we drive back, it is only an hour drive'. Makes sense to me and here we go.      

The expensive toll road is indeed comfortable and we reach the border after an hour. As usual, a little manny is jumping on us. They 'escort' you through a village, a shopping mall, immigration and want money for it. We are not enthusiastic. But he turns out to be useful, this time. The other white people have a chico too or are completely lost. It is complicated! Not the checking out of South-Africa.  But, checking into Mozambique! We had to go to 3 places for the car, alone. For us, we have to wait 10 minutes, while they produced our visa. For: 172 Rand! Compared to the 600 the chick in Nelspruit was going to charge us. Next to a mail to Avis, I need to send one to the Mozambique embassy, to find out what the story is. Customs: Chico gets a fat guy, who starts to go through our luggage. He tells Tony he will need some money. Mozambique is a Muslim country, they are strict on the alcohol. The fat guy has a vague look and signs our papers. Chicko gets 2 Euro for his services (which is a lot in a country where the low income is average 60 Euro a month) and asks 5 more the bribe for the customs. Hubby pays. We have no idea what would have happened if we would not have paid. But, we got through in less than an hour at a forth of the price the Mozambique embassy in Nelspruit would have charged us.

Just over the border, wood transport is popular: children, as young as 8 years; walk around with HUGE branches on their head. There is no water nor electricity so I guess they cook on wood.

One hour later, we are in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. And, we are looking for the backpacker's hostel Fatima's place:
www.mozambiquebackpackers.com

.

We follow the instructions of the web page:
'COMING FROM SOUTH OR NORTH, YOU WILL COME INTO MAPUTO TOWN ON 24 DE JULHO AVENUE . ALL OUR STREETS HAVE THEY NAMES ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD JUST BEFORE THE TRAFFIC LIGHTERS FOR EXAMPLE.

SO, WHEN ON 24 DE JULLHO START LOOKING OUT FOR AMILCAR CABRAL AVENUE, THE SIGN SHOULD BEEN BEHIND A TRAFFIC LIGHTER THAT HAS ON YOUR LEFT HAND SIDE A PETROL STATION. TURN LEFT AT THAT TRAFFIC LIGHTER, AND YOU ARE ON AMILCAR CABRAL AVENUE . THE ROAD GOES UP, AND YOU ARE GOING TO GO THRU THE FIRST TRAFFIC LIGHTER, THAT IS EDUARDO MONDLANE AVENUE , CARRY ON AND BY THE SECOND TRAFFIC LIGHTER IS MAO TSE TUNG AVENUE .TURN LEFT AT THE TRAFFIC LIGHTER, AND ABOUT 2 MINUTES DRIVE ON YOUR LEFT HAND SIDE YOU WILL COME TO A OUTSIDE GARDEN WITH COCONUTS TREE, THAT HAS ALWAYS SOME OF THOSE WHITE PLASTIC CHAIRS WHERE OUR SECURITY GUARDS SEAT (SLEEP) DURING DAY TIME. WE ARE ON MAO TSE TUNG AVENUE , NUMBER 1317 - 1321 - 1339 (NEXT DOOR). IN CASE YOU GET LOST, PLEASE DO CALL OUR NUMBERS ABOVE, AND SOMEONE WILL GO AND MEET YOU WHERE YOU ARE. HAVE A SAFE TRIP AND SEE YOU SOON!!!'

We find it and check in. Dodgy as anything. We do have a private room (with 4 beds) but no en-suite bathroom. We share that with a couple of other rooms and the dormitories. Billa, who checks us in, answers to my question: 'where is the tourist information with: here.' They have a book with information, which we do not find so useful. The ice cold local beer, at the other hand, we approve of.  We get a map of the city with areas: 'no go day/night' and 'careful day/no go night'. Signs on the walls: 'do NOT take knifes with you, the police will confiscate them'. 'ALWAYS take your passport, you can be arrested for not having it on you.' Also warning against their own personal: 'ONLY give your laundry to the management: do NOT give them to the bar manager or to the cleaning staff.' How do I know, who is who? Anyway, they do not guarantee anything if you give it to the wrong people but they also do not guarantee to have it back in time, clean nor not damaged: hmmmm.

Dr T goes out to look for an ATM, while I stay in the garden, writing stories. It is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. One more beer later, Tony is back: he had to try 4 banks and still did not get more the 3000 Meticais, about 80 Euro.

We have another beer and discuss our plans, when a guy sits down at the next table and asks: 'Are you a journalist?' Why does everybody think I am a journalist? His name is Ingo, he is German and sits down with us. He has been to the fish market for diner the other day and loved it. Whether we would care to go together? Sure! Finish story, shower and we are ready to leave at 18h30. Dr T drives and Ingo knows the way. We arrive, indeed, on the fish market. Ingo is greeted enthusiastically by the people of the restaurant, around the market. We are taken to the market to choose our food. We want tiger prawns. They are fresh and look delicious. Ingo chooses the small version. We take our shopping to the restaurant, where we confirm: you just baked in olive oil and garlic is perfect. And perfect it is! Dr T gives me all the heads, which I suck out thoroughly. You can tell the quality of a prawn by the taste of the brains. But, hey: someone is eating prawns and someone is eating brains: I want an animal or two, too, please! The crappy wine I ordered (not a lot of choice, the best of the bad), is drunk by me. Hubby has one glass. 40 Euro for Tony and me, for local standards a lot of money, for what we got: cheap!

Back home, we have another beer. Afterwards, we roll into bed, at least I do, the bottle of wine was a bit much for me. Hubby reads. Tomorrow, we go to Tofo, one of the diving paradises. There are 3 of the top 100 dive side there. It is a 500 km ride. Ingo came from there and says the roads are OK. We do not have a map nor a guide book. We did ask Billa this afternoon to book us Fatima's Nest there, yes, again a backpacker's. Did we like Fatima's that much? Not really, cheap (20 Euro) and clean. But since we are in a cheap mood and we do not expect to have a lot of choice in Tofo, it seemed like a good idea.
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