on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

The Harrowing Trek from Maputo to Inhambane

In Mozambique on February 22, 2008 at 11:41 pm

After two days in Maputo, filling out paperwork and acclimating ourselves, it was time for us all to disperse to our various placement sites. Tamika and I would be parting here, her site was Maputo. I would be heading North about four or five hours to Inhambane.

Sergio, another Development Instructor and I, were told to be ready for a cab to pick us up at the gates of the ADPP office at 430 am. We didn’t get any sleep the night before because there was no point. We got ready, and were on the porch by 4:15am waiting. Somehow we managed to lock ourselves out of the house but we figured it didn’t matter because we’d be catching a taxi soon. So we waited and waited. Mosquitos were eating us alive, bats swirling overhead, frogs singing in the tall grass. We see the sun rise and we see people emerge from their respective homes. The stupid taxi didn’t arrive until 7am. We were so mad. Sergio missed his time frame to catch his bus to Namantanda and couldn’t go so I had to go with the taxi driver alone because I still had time to catch mine.

Mind you I don’t speak Portuguese well and the driver didn’t speak English well either. I told him to take me to the bus station, but he took me to the chapa station. I of course didn’t know this at the time. If you remember, chapa’s are the cargo vans converted into sardine cans full of people and are in terrible working condition. So we get out of the taxi in the busy chapa station and right away two men come up to the driver who was carrying my huge 90 plus pound suitcase and began to pull it away from him. I join my driver and grab on and we’re all pulling and tugging. I couldn’t believe they were trying to rob me. I was so angry. I started screaming at them in English which caused more chaos. I’m not sure what happened next but the two men who where trying to steal my bag started fighting with each other. My driver began to run with my bag on his head and I followed. He passed my bag to another man who carried it on his head and loaded it somehow into a crowded chapa. I thanked my driver and got on the chapa. It was full. There were like eleven people plus bags and livestock and crates. I had to sit in the seat on the hump of the wheel so my knees were to my chin. I had to balance my 30 plus pounds of carry on luggage in my lap. Behind me was a crate of fish that smelled rancid. I was so upset, I was ready to kill someone. We would drive and stop and let more people on. I could’t believe it. People were on top of each other. Some were standing and crouching with their butts in peoples faces. It was horrible. Everytime we stopped, children and women selling things would come to the windows, open them from the outside and cram goods in my face while sweaty arms reached over me to pay. It was hellish.

I didn’t go to the bathroom, eat or drink all day. Remember, I’d been sitting locked outside since 4:15 am that morning.

All I could do was sleep and stare out of the window.

Eventually though, as we got farther away from the city, my view became more and more beautiful. By the time I was in Inhambane, ten hours later, I was calm and excited. I was also extremely hungry and thirsty and tired and in need of a shower and in need of a bed. But what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

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