A Breather in Maputo

Thu, 14 Aug 2008 15:58:26 +0000

Tete to Maputo Index Maputo to Mbabane

I really surprised myself at how much I slept last night. Intermittently, true, but I think I must have accumulated a good seven hours of sleep all up. I figured out two separate positions. The first was crouched over as if braced for a crash landing, with my head wedged into the corner between the side of the bus and the seat in front and my towel draped over my head as cushioning. That was very uncomfortable. The second had me upright, leaning my head back and against the window, with my handbag wrapped in the towel as a pillow. This was more comfortable, but it was cold. I'd grab maybe half an hour's sleep in each position, get sick of it, switch, and go to sleep again. I wouldn't want to do it every night, but it was far more comfortable than I'd imagined possible.

At dawn I decided that enough was enough and I stayed awake. Sunrise is always beautiful, and sunrise over the bush as you're hurtling towards somewhere where you can get a proper night's sleep turns out to be even more beautiful than usual.

There were plenty more stops to drop people off before we got to Maputo. At one of these we offloaded five gigantic sacks of beans from off the roof. They all seemed to belong to one woman carrying a baby, so I have no idea what she did with the sacks afterwards. We just left her by the side of the road.

We eventually rolled into Junta at ten o'clock, by which time I was starting to feel that it was high time the journey finished. That's 30 hours on the bus. True, I stretched my legs occasionally, but I'm still dicing with deep vein thrombosis here. I was going to take a taxi to the hostel, but the guy who was sitting behind me offered to give me a lift into town. He turned out to be a physics teacher at a high school in town, but we didn't have a chance to chat much. Nice guy though.

Fatima's Place did have a bed free for tonight, which is nice. The American guys who were there last time are here again, having just returned from spending five days sitting on a beach. A weird way to spend a holiday, but I guess it takes all sorts.

After gathering my wits and chatting to the Americans for a bit I headed out to use the Internet. I went to the cafe and gorged myself on chicken giblets and chips, a cheese croissant that turned out to be a croissant-shaped loaf of the usual rubbery white bread, and a massive slice of chocolate cake smothered in the same sickly cream-in-a-can I'd had in Blantyre. Man, my eating habits have badly degraded over the last few months. I'm going to pay for this sooner or later.

I had a big list of things to do on the Internet, and achieved almost none of it. The connection was appalling, maybe 20 seconds of action followed by two minutes of nothing, so trying to make any kind of booking or using a bank was going to be impossible. I'm going to go back to Johannesburg via Swaziland - not for any particular purpose, just to break things up. So I wanted to make a booking for Mbabane, but could only find one hostel, and not even a phone number. I guess the taxi drivers know the way.

I also wanted to find a postcard, but this was tricky because almost all the shops seem to shut early on Saturdays. Instead I found the poshest hotel in town, which unlike those in other Mozambique towns is really properly posh. It turns out that these places are really helpful, even if you look and smell like you've spent the last 30 hours fermenting in a ditch, which is good because I do. I got my postcard, I got my stamps, and the bloke even retrieved a gluestick to stick on my stamps for me. I'm going to have to remember that: posh hotels, useful resource.

I found a post box outside a post office. It was actually a red pillar box. Mozambique is a member of the commonwealth despite never being in the British Empire, but if they've got proper red pillar boxes I'd call that qualification enough. It's door was missing and replaced by a piece of cardboard, and it looked pretty derelict. Instead a woman selling fruit in the street directed me to just shove the postcards under the door of the post office. I hope they actually get through.

I went back to the hostel to have a couple of beers and relax for a bit. It occurred to me that it was now nearing 40 hours since I had last had my boots off. I've done a lot of walking in these boots over the last few months, often in 40 degree temperatures, and lately almost entirely in very cheap Syrian socks. So I waited until I was well away from company before attempting to take them off and survey the damage. My feet smell bad. Very bad indeed. I'll have to clean myself up before getting to South Africa, or they might not let me over the border.

I had a chicken burger at the diner down the road, and it was surprisingly good. And then it was time for a shower. Man, that felt good. Actual hot water! It's been far, far too long. Throw in a soft bed for the night, and I'm feeling truly pampered. I'm very proud of my arrangement of the mosquito net around my bed: it's one of these bell-shaped ones designed to be attached to the roof, which is useless when it's on a bottom bunk. But tying some knots in the netting and threading them through the slats of the bunk above, I made myself a nice cozy little cocoon. I'm all set for some truly extreme good-night's-sleeping.

Tete to Maputo Index Maputo to Mbabane