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.

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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.

Last day in Maputo! …until we come back to catch our bus to SA

We woke up early and walked down to the TCO office to purchase the tickets that Alex had been unable to finalize the day before without my passport. The lady remembered Alex and literally went over her penciled in booking from yesterday with pen to make it official. Once she was finished filling out our tickets we proceeded to pay her more then the total price assuming she would be able to provide us with change since the taxis we took every night did– we were wrong. The TCO lady told us it had to be EXACT change, so Alex and I searched through our coins and bills to find our smallest denominations in order to give her an exact amount. We finally succeeded but providing small exact amounts in meticais is not easy for foreigners who are getting their money from ATMs because the smallest bill ATMs will provide is 200 & the smallest bill in Mtc. is 50 (that we have seen), coins only go up to 10 Mtc. so there is a big gap in the currency, which is inconvenient for providing exact change. Continue reading

15 Days Out

Life has been proceeding at a brisk pace since the beginning of April. It’s shocking to look back at our last post of over a month ago, as it seems like just the other day. Unfortunately, our current jobs keep us very busy and there has been little resolution on Mozambique. We have decided to simply head to Maputo, check flights to Nampula, and if they’re not to our liking then we’ll slowly head north till it is time to turn around.

Our Lonely Planet – Southern Africa came the other day along with out Kodak Playsport camera. You can see the first shots of it on www.theafricanfile.com under the video blog.  With Lonely Planet as her inspiration, Alisa has been scouting out Victoria Falls and tours to Etosha in Namibia and Chobe in Bostwana. These seem to be popular among the backpackers and tour operators in Livingstone, and Alisa is trying to find us something that will be cost effective compared to trying to do these on our own with no transportation. We haven’t yet worked out how to get to Livingstone, but it seems like all we need to do is get to Windhoek and then there will be transport out to Zambia from there.

In the time just before this, we have decided to head straight from our last World Cup match in Bloemfontien to Windhoek via Kimberley. However, getting between these two places is not as easy as one would expect, because even though they are seperated by just a few hours, they are not on a popular travel route. Buses run from Joburg to Cape Town through either of these two towns, but not between. Our plan was to leave Bloem to Kimberley, then to Uptington and up to Windhoek. This is all still possible, but buses are infrequent and may require us to spend up to 4 days in Kimberley. After reading the Lonely Planet exerpt on the town though, that might not be a bad thing. This seems to be the going plan, but Alisa needs to set out firmer dates for Livingstone and a possible tour based out of there.

Alisa seems to be willing to sacrifrice the Garden route in order to see Etosha and Chobe, so we may be arriving back in Cape Town after the WC Final (11 July). I had been hoping to get to experience the day of the final in country, but that might be something that has to be sacrificed in order to see what we want to see.

Hopefully, accommodation in South Africa will be sorted by next week, and Alisa can coordinate our Livingstone plans simultaneously so those are all set by the time we depart.

Everything in terms of supplies, has been acquired or on our final checklist. Hopefully this weekend will see everything come together so that our 4 pre-flight days can be spent packing and buying last minute items.