Today was long, but wonderful.
We were first to board the bus back to Joburg, so Alex quickly snagged the front seats on the top level so we could appreciate the last views of mozambique and admire the beautiful South African landscape. I was a little hesitant to sit with three sides of glass on either side of me. Ever since our bus accident in SA in 2007, I have been very aware when riding public transportation of how we would survive/get out if we crashed again and front seats/glass did not have a good outcome in my mind. Alex tried to reassure me by pointing out that the front seats have seat belts- it did not help.
The bus slowly rolled through Maputo providing us the opportunity to look at the city from a different angle.
Walking through the streets of Maputo had been a hectic dance of the senses. Everywhere people were hoping on and off chapas, talking loudly with friends, selling fruit, cars were rushing past, honking horns, the smell of sewer would incase your nostrils one moment and then the next the smell of sweat bread. But from the bus it was has if someone had pushed slow motion of the remote that controlled the pace of the city. I observed things I had completely missed walking around Maputo like the high rise apartment buildings with chipping paint and clothes hanging on the window sills to dry.
When we reached the Mozambican side of the boarder we queued up several people behind a man and his two little boys that were on our bus. Several women in line watched with motherly smiles (the one that implies you shouldn’t be doing what your doing but since your so cute… ok) as the youngest boy collected bottle caps off the ground, despite his father telling him several times that they were dirty. When we finally reached the doorway of the building we saw the lined continued to snake back and forth several more times before people reached the counter. Luckily the gentleman with the boys had been to the boarder on numerous occasions and knew to cut to the side with his work visa and flagged us to come along with him. No more then 5 minutes later we were back outside with our passports stamped ready to walk across the boarder.
Let me take a step back and explain how we came to know this gentleman and his two sons. When we arrived at the bus station in the morning the 3 of them were surrounded by several large suitcases and plastic bins, but they had been asked to let people who were going all the way to Joburg put their luggage in first. As I approached the trailer the youngest boy with beach blond hair and clear blue eyes waved and said hi, “hello” I responded, then his older brother with the same hair and eyes chimed in with a hi. In their minds we were now friends. When the boys got on the bus the father let them choose where they wanted to sit and they opted for the closest seat to me that wasn’t already occupied. They were soo cute!
So back outside the boarder crossing office we officially introduce ourselves to one another, which for the boys meant repeatedly giving Alex and I hugs around the legs. Before departing down the road to the South African side the father tells the boys they need to hold hands. Immediately both of my hands are grabbed and interlocked with a small dusty hand of each boy. An unusual train is formed as the father proceeds forward with the oldest boy behind him, myself in the middle, and the youngest boy making up the end. Walking down the road was not easy on my arms as the oldest tried to keep up with his father pulling me forward as the curious youngest is moving significantly slower and several paces behind me. The whole time I was afraid that the oldest would pull me hard enough that little one would get pulled as a reaction and fall. Safely to the other side my arms only got several moments of rest as the littlest one began to use them as a spring to jump higher. We once again were waiting in line and the boys were getting bored so Alex and I became the entertainment. The father told us we didn’t have to play along, but I didn’t mind they were both so sweat and energetic it was hard not to get swept up into their charm.
Passports stamped and back on the bus the boys chatted with Alex and I about animals, the crocodile river and their mom who was in SA already to have a baby. The youngest told us that the name for the new baby was going to be little brother, when we asked “what if it is a girl?”– he didn’t have a response. It wasn’t until the boys began to complain about how hungary they were that I realized how long we had been waiting to leave. There must have been something unusual with someones passport or the SA officials didn’t feel right about something because they came on the bus and checked passports for entry stamps. Quickly stashing our iPad and Nikon D90 back in the bags we hoped they wouldn’t ask to check bags. The father of the two boys had told us that when his wife had gone through 3 months before they had checked her bag and yelled at her for not claiming her Macbook. As the customs officer proceeded down the aisle past the boys seat the youngest says loudly “Daddy he’s got a gun”. I held my breath as the father shushed the boy but the officer never turned around.
On the road again we finally got to stop to pick up lunch. Alex and I quickly ran across the highway to Steers (a SA burger fast food chain). It really is not great quality food but it tasted delicious. I don’t know if it was the fact that recently our meals had been 10-12 hours apart or that none of them had been too spectacular, but the smell of the spices on the chips was too much to handle. I had at least 5 or 6 before we even crossed the highway again.
By the time we reached Joburg at 6:30 (2hrs behind schedule) I was laughing at myself for being concerned that morning about sitting in the front. Most bus drivers in Africa speed, which is part of the reason we crashed the last time, but this guy drove way bellow the speed limit. We were being passed by semi trucks.
Back at Elna’s house tonight. Off to get the car in the morning!!