The Wheels on the Bus Go Bump Bump Bump

8 June

Up at 4am this morning as we want to catch the 0500 or 0600 chapa (pronounced sha-paa, think Arnold saying ‘Get to the Chopper!). It’s so nice to have a proper hot shower to start the day, as I’ve forgotten how much African public transport abuses your body. It’s not the tight spaces that wear on you it’s the pounding your body takes through the speeding up, slowing down, and swerving to avoid potholes at high speeds, and then of course the constant bumping plus the major ones that the driver doesn’t avoid. As I was on the far side of the chapa yesterday I had the full force of 3-4 other people in my row exerting the force of the turn against me into the side of the vehicle. Luckily we were already crammed together so there was no ‘sliding’ just the force of the movement of the chapa. The hot shower did wonders to cure these resultant aches.

As we’re leaving we ask the security guard which way to the chapa station. He proceeds to grab and take us on a early morning stroll through our part of Maxixe (MA-sheesh). Along the way, we realized that our cash reserve, which we thought would last us through the end of our stay in Mozambique had been used up on transport and accommodation yesterday. And as you could assume, ATMs weren’t exactly in abundance, nor ‘open’ at 5am. What’s the point of having an ATM on the street if it’s not open 24/7? Save power?

We finally find one, and we’re on our way to find a bus. Our security guard leads us to a actual coach bus, and we query about it’s destination and time of departure. “Maputo” they say, and it departs at 0630. A 30 minute wait and a actual bus (though well worn? Sounds like a good deal. We pay and board and are joined by a Frenchman and a Dutchman. The seats are about as tight together as possible. The term ‘leg room’ The bus is suprisingly empty for a 0630 departure, and as we wait for more people to board, we realize that even though it is a coach bus, it is still going on the African standard of departing when every single seat and luggage space has been sold. So we wait.

Come 0945, Alisa and I have taken our morning naps, and we make a stutter-stop departure as more people try to board at the last minute. We were originally told a 1430 arrival time, but that was also when we were told we were leaving at 0630. So looking at a later arrival (closer to nightfall) made us wonder where exactly we would be arriving…

The trip was for the most part uneventful. We saw more of the Mozambican countryside, and dealt with the cramped space by putting our World Cup blankets in between our knees and the seats to avoid smashing the remaining cartilage.

Arriving into the Maputo area in the heart of rush hour made our journey further prolonged and when we reached a major taxi stand and saw the majority of the people on the bus get off (they had been hopping off at various stops as we made our approach) the bus ‘manager’ looked at us inquisitively, and asked us where we were going. We answered Maputo. He said, “Well this bus is going to Matola”. I gave him a look of disbelief and said that he had told me we were going to Maputo. He then waves his hands in a circle and says yes, this is the Maputo area. And I reply that I want to go downtown. He then tells me that they will drop us off and we can catch a taxi into town. This doesn’t go down well with our French and Dutch friends, but there’s no choice. So we are dropped off on the side of the road, and make our way to the road going in the direction of the city. Of course, by taxi he meant minibus taxi. Ones that would be completely packed at rush hour, and have no space for us, much less all of our bags. We of course stand out completely as four white people with luggage standing on the side of the road, and we eventually manage to arrange transport with a guy just standing around that had a bakkie and we piled in with me and the two guys in the back and Alisa up in the cab.

We go on a jaunt around the city, with the French and Dutch guys wanting to go to a specific Guest house in the city, and us wanting to get to Fatima’s as our booking at Base was canceled because we missed our arrival bus due to the no show of the TCO bus, and Base Backpackers being completely full.

We jaunt around the city checking out another location, and then settle on all of us trying Fatima’s. Alisa is trying to give the driver directions, as we have a map, and know the city extremely well from four days of walking nearly ever street in downtown. But he would not listen. He called a friend, and he was off. Alisa was still trying to direct him to take the right turns, but he eventually started down the wrong way of Mao Se Tung (the road that Fatima’s was on), but he wouldn’t listen to Alisa to turn around. Finally the three men get it through to him that he needed to turn around, and we finally arrive at Fatima’s and score the last four beds in the dorm.

Fatima’s is absolutely hopping with people and music when we arrive. A much different atmosphere when we departed, and we quickly settle in for the night looking forward to showering and getting home to South Africa the next day.

This entry was posted in Mozambique, Travel and tagged , by Alex Laverty. Bookmark the permalink.

About Alex Laverty

Recent graduate from USC's Master of Public Diplomacy and UCLA's Master of Africa Studies programs. My interests lie in understanding the interactions between digital ICTs & society. I try to make sense how are these interactions are changing democracy, diplomacy, and development.

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