The Road to Vilanculos and How Many People Can Fit in a Bakkie?

We arrived at the TCO office in downtown Maputo at 2 am to be ready for our 3am bus. Mary Fitzpatrick (the Lonely Planet author), says that buses leave promptly in Moz and that when they say 3 you should arrive an hour before to get a good seat.

Arriving at the station, we were the only souls seemingly out that night save their security guard and the loud music that was pumping out of a discoteca a block away. The next person we saw was at 0220 and more soon followed and our worries of being at the right place were assuaged. We checked our bags and proceeded to board the bus where we were given seat assignments, a first for us in Africa. As this was Alisa’s second bus ride since the bus accident in the Western Cape in 2007, she still had concerns and when the bus arrived with two massive windows missing replaced by card board covered in black duck tape, her worries were not dampened. And where were we assigned our seats? Yes, right next to one of the missing windows. This set up quiet the interesting trip.

It was not helped that the bus shot out of Maputo like a bat out of hell. We departed at 0420, which I assumed was a late start. Sitting next to this taped up window allowed Alisa to feel to full force of the wind and the sound of how close the trucks and cars passing by really were. My answer was to close my eyes and hold onto Alisa, but her answer was to have me take her spot closest to the window. Adding to Alisa’s worry was the bus attendant checking that everyone had their seat belts buckled before departure. The fact that the bus had seat belts was a first for us, the fact that they insisted upon their use did little to calm Alisa, but I was fast asleep regardless of the cold wind that seeped through the window and the howls of the passerbys.

We were in Maixe around 1130, taking what we thought was our first pit stop, but really just a loading and unloading stop. The bus decided to start to depart while people were still reboarding, causing some annoyance. Everything about this bus was contrary to what we had experienced before. Im addition, the AC was turned on high causing everyone to don their jackets and blankets.

We arrived in Vilanculos around 1320. However this was not Vilanculos. This was Pemara. The town along the EN1 that was 22k from Vilanculos. A local bakkie was soon upon us telling us that it was 25 meticalis to Vilanculos. With no other option, we piled in with a South African couple who had been on our bus. Over the next 22 k we made frequent stops to take on and let off passengers. At one point no less than 20 people were squeezed, some standing, some sitting, into the bed of the truck, surely a record of some sorts, though typical for Mozambique I’m sure. We arrive, get told our bags cost extra (how convenient), and walk to the nearest cafe to begin calling backpackers. We settle on one, Zombie Cucumber Backpackers, and move out.

We had to talked to someone on the phone about their chalets and turn up to learn that the number we had called was not Zombie but another. No chalets at Zombie but they do have dorms. Not wanting to embark further with our bags, we decide to do the dorms for one night at Zombie.

After we clean up we head north along the beach, which is completely deserted. We make it up to Smugglers where they have a legendary sports bar according to LP. After some extremely slow service and pretty terrible burgers we make the 30+ minute trek back to Zombie. By this time the sun has set and Alisa has cut her toe and is limping without a shoe with only my small flashlight to guide her, and so we stumble into Zombie just looking for rest. However, we decide to go out and read into Zombie’s communal area where many other people area reading and on their laptops so that we can take stock of Alisa’s little cut toe. There an Afrikaner gets to play with his first iPad (mine) and want me to name him a price. I tell him talk to me at the end of July. We also meet a fellow Arsenal supporter all the way from Highbury on his way to the World Cup and a German couple from Cologne who are going via Harare, Beira, and Maputo to the World Cup as this was cheaper than flights directly in to Joburg. We talk the night away and it is nice to hear other stories about TCO and traveling through Mozambique that comfort us in the fact that other people are struggling just as much as we are and are forming the same opinions about the place and its people. The Englishman also confirms the beauty of Pemba and Ilha de Mozambique and makes me wish we had the funds to visit, but perhaps it is best not done on a shoestring budget at all.

To bed, as we rise and get our first beach day in Vilanculos tomorrow.

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