on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

From Maputo to Inhambane: A Drama in three acts

In Mozambique on May 17, 2008 at 2:29 am

Tamika and I had to take the chapa back to Inhambane. We left Machava, the headquarters of ADPP- Maputo around seven thirty am and waited for 30 minutes to catch a chapa to take us to the Junta chopa station. While in the chopa heading towards Junta, the chapa driver decided that he wasn’t going to Junta after all. We had of course paid. We of course had tons of luggage. Getting from point A to point B can be so frustrating here.

We were dropped off about thirty minutes by foot outside of the Junta station and had no choice but to walk.

When we got to the Junta station already tired, dusty and sweaty, it was a chaotic mess – bus fumes, people, vendors, goats, everything and anything. Immediately, because we wre bogged down with luggage and because Tamika was wearing sunglasses, we got hastled. Men surrounded us demanding to know where we were going. There is always such a bitter fight at these stations to grab Western customers because the price is higher. To tired to fight them off and too disoriented to figure it out myself, I let them lead us towards the Inhambane chapa. We got on.

FYI: A ride from Maputo to Inhambane costs 300 mtc

The man insisted that we pay 475 each. I was so frustrated. I had been living here for months now and knew better. I refused to pay and threatened to leave. I got him to go down to 375 but he wouldn’t go any lower. We had no choice so we paid.

MORE FYI: My friend Lynne was in Maputo on a business trip that same week-end and was leaving on the same day. We were going to leave together, but I told her we’d go ahead because we wanted to make it home before dark.

OKAY…

So Tamika and I are sitting on this nearly empty chapa. Slowly it began to fill. An hour passes, two hours pass, three hours pass and we’re still sitting. Basically, a chapa will never leave the station until it is full. There are no clear departure and arrival times EVER. We can’t get out because the station is dangerous and people are all around waiting to rob foreigners like ourselves and Tamika is still wearing those sun glasses. We couldn’t even go to the bathroom because well there was no bathroom and we couldn’t leave our bags unattended. So we sat and waited.

Suddenly I look up and there’s Lynne. It was completely crazy that I was still sitting in a station in Maputo. I was happy to see her though. We waited for two more hours before the bus pulled out. That means, Tamika and I waited for five hours in a hot chapa. You know how awful it is to wait in a parked car with the windows up in the heat of summer? Well multiply that by ten! By the time we rolled out, I had to go to the bathroom so badly.

The ride was bumpy and crazy. Luckily for me, we stopped at a gas station where I was able to use the bathroom and grab some food. We were so hungry and thirsty as well.

The driver, a few hours into our trip became possessed with a sudden sense of urgency. He wove in and out of traffic. Zipped over potholes. We almost got into a few accidents and about an hour before we reached Inhambane, the chapa broke down. It completely fell apart. This was around 9:30pm. It was pitch black and cold outside. We all had to pile out of the chapa and onto the dark streets in God knows where and were forced to navigate our own way home. No refund!

Luckily I was able to hitch a ride and we made it back to Lynne’s in one piece. (She let us spend the night. She lived in town about 20 minutes away from our rural bush abode.)

I swear I will never ever ever rely on transportation across Mozambique. It is so extremely tedious and frustrating. I was surprised, I think I handled it very well. I have become extremely patient and flexible. I guess I had no choice.

For these reasons however, Tamika and I have decided not to risk our sanity again to travel up north even further to Chimoio and Namantanda to visit our friends who are working at sites there, instead we will stay put.
Home sweet Inhambane home and lay low for our last week of investigation.

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