Oh Where Oh Where Did My TCO Go?

Woke up at 6:30, we ate breakfast, put the last items into our suitcases and walked to town. We quickly found a bakkie that was heading out to the N1 and got in. Not more then 5 minutes into the trip I began to doubt our decision as something on the bottom of the bakkie went clank, clank, clank against the asphalt. Of course the day we NEED to be out at the N1 on time to catch our bus back to Maputo we pick the vehicle that is falling apart. Mid way through the journey, after struggling up the hill the driver pulls the bakkie over and gets out. The guy who collects the fares and the driver are discussing something in Portuguese and then look at a wire coming from a spare battery in the truck bed, but the driver shakes his head “No”. One of the passengers in the back had wrapped his machete with plastic and a string, so he removed the string and gave it to the driver who proceeded to get under the truck and I presume tie whatever was clanking back to the truck. If that is what he went under the truck to do he failed because as soon as we started moving again the clanking began.

We reached the N1 with 20 minutes to spare so Alex and I put our bags down in the shade and waited. The TCO bus never came at 9:15. Sabrina, at Zombie, had told us when we asked her where we could get the tickets that the bus didn’t leave Vilanculos until 10:30-11 so figured maybe the lady who sold us the tickets was mistaken. In the shade I pulled out my murder mystery that I had picked from the book exchange at Zombie the day before. Deeply engrossed in my book I hardly noticed the hours drift by except for when the sun was beating down on me and I moved back to the shade. (See this picture of another traveler at the EXACT same spot) At around 1:30 a women approached us speaking Portuguese. From what we understood she was also waiting for TCO and wanted a number to call them. When the Africans begin to worry about a bus showing up you know there’s a problem. A little while later she came back over to explain that the TCO bus was late and it would be awhile before it arrived, plus it would get into Maputo very late. Alex asked her if it would be possible to get a refund, no was her answer. What to do? Wait for the bus that may or may not arrive. Go back to Zombie stay another night and take the early 2:30 bus. Or try to get on a chapa going to Maxixe which is the half way point and stay the night there.

Alex left the decision up to me and I chose to get a chapa to Maxixe because an 11 hour trip in a chapa means no bathroom, no air con and no place to move for a REALLY long time. It was better to split the trip into halves. When the next chapa pulled up it looked full but the fair collector/seat conductor insisted that it would be no problem. Taking our suitcases he placed them in the back on their sides and went to tie the back door down but the old rope snapped. Great, I thought, some where on the N1 the rope that he is now using to tie our suitcases down with will also break and our stuff will fall out the back to be then be hit by another chapa or bakkie. Inside the chapa Alex and I were squished in one seat with four other people, personal space was non existent. I was looking out the window most of the way, taking in the African scenery – huts with women in front cooking, long stretches of trees, shrubs and bright red dirt. I was astounded by how many shiny new beach cruisers and other bicycles people were riding, either an aid organization had recently donated them or there was a mass importation of bicycles into Mozambique. A large section of the N1 looks like the surface of the moon. Large crater like potholes consume most of the small strip of concrete that no longer qualifies to be called a road. Our suitcases were transferred to the the top of the chapa where they were once again tied down with this precarious piece of rope. The driver switched back and forth between driving on the “road” and swerving around the potholes to driving on the side in the dirt, which wasn’t much better, either way we were bouncing. My bum was getting numb. There was a section of the N1 where we actually saw people in blue jumpers working on tarring up and repaving the road, but it was a very short stretch. I was astonished to see women out in blue jumpers working beside the men in a country that still has the very traditional view of women staying at home to cook, clean, and bare children.

It was dark when we pulled up in Maxixe and we were not sure where exactly we were supposed to get off. Lonely Planet had mentioned a restaurant, on the N1 near the jetty, that had basic clean rooms, but with no map or daylight we had no idea. One of the last ladies on the chapa had asked to get off, unsure of where we were I turned around to get a better idea and I saw a very tiny sign the read Stop, which is the Resturant that LP had listed. We quickly grabbed our suitcases and went to inquire about rooms. No problem, there was space. The lady behind the bar gave the guy, I assume was a waiter, our key, he picked up my bag and we started to walk. After walking several blocks I was thinking about the fact that he could be leading us anywhere. We could be turning down a dark alley any moment and our valuables would be gone.

We finally stop at a one story building with numbered doors on the outside and a guard on watch. Phew this was a good choice this place is actually legit. The room was basic but it had air con and hot water! Our stomaches were telling us put the bags down and feed me because we hadn’t had anything other then some power bars since 7 in the morning, that was 12 hours ago.

Consumed some pizza, took showers and now we are off to bed!! Up early tomorrow.

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