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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REVIEW: Taverna – Maputo

Located a block northeast of Mundo’s on Julius Nyerere, we found this authentic Portuguese restaurant on the advice of one of the Consular officers at the US embassy. It had the look of a German beer hall and it has been so long since I was in Portugal it was hard to tell if it was an authentic look or if they just liked pine.

We arrived around 1730, and were the first customers for that evening. The local eating time is much later but considering the sun sets around 1700 here we decided it better to be off the streets.

Food: We ordered two kebabs, mine a surf and turf, Alisa’s a chicken and pineapple. They were served on skewers dangling from holders about 1.5 feet above the table. Both came with a salad and fried potato crisps which were cooked just till they were crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle. The meat on the kebabs was quite tender save the sausage on mine. This is the second night of sausage and both seem to have used the same type and cooking method. Very little taste and a lot of ‘other’ piled into the sausage. However the onions and red peppers that adorned my kebab were cooked quite well and went deliciously with the crab, grilled calamari, and veal that was part of the surf and turf. This was the first calamari we had had that didn’t have its own marinate and the first I used lemon with in order to add taste to the meat. 4/5

Service: They were definitely pushing the other items on the menu, as they showed us samplings of the starters and deserts on offer. They seemed quite put off when we took nothing from either plate, but in reality the kebab was more than enough. Alisa did end up ordering some corn bread as we waited which was quite nice with the spices on order. They did the standard stand nearby you and stare off into the distance or look right at you that we have become accustomed to so far in Mozambique. 2/5

Bang for your buck value: Moderate. The total for the food plus one 1,5 litter water was 40 bucks. This is in keeping with the theme that Mozambique as a whole is not a cheap place to eat.

Atmosphere: Hard to gauge as by the end we were still just 1 of 3 parties in the place.

Overall: 3/5 on the strength of the food.

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

How to Get to Vilankulos and the TCO Bus Office (Day 3 – Maputo)

Today started out a tad late as these beds at Fatima’s really do little to recharge you at night, they simply allow you to lie back, close your eyes and wake up just as sore and tired when you went to bed.

We set out to get notaries of our passports as Lonely Planet advised due to police checks. The whole process was about 30 Mts for both Alisa and I and was done on Vladimir Lenin just south of Mao Se Tung where Fatima’s is located.

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