Blantyre to Tete

Thu, 14 Aug 2008 15:58:24 +0000

Back to Blantyre Index Tete to Maputo

I woke up well before seven, my diurnal cycle desperately trying to build a routine out of the chaotic schedule of the last few days. That counts as a major lie in at the moment. I didn't have any reason to hang around the hostel, so went straight to where the minibuses hang out. I found one immediately and hopped on. The guy asked for 600 kwacha. I knew it should be 500 and said so, and he didn't even blink and said yes. I was actually mid-protest before I realised he'd already agreed. Hardly seems worth their while to even try, really. Surprisingly, the minibus left soon afterwards, with only a fairly small number of passengers. So I was underway by 7:30. A good start.

We made just as good progress as last time. I had a bit more opportunity to appreciate the scenery on this leg of the journey. I took this photograph of a coffin joiners in front of a mountain. There seem to be a lot of shops selling coffins along the road, which is a bit disturbing. Especially the ones that proudly say "Any size!" Child-sized coffins are apparently a major industry in Malawi.

We got to the Malawian border post about 9:30 and I rolled through. This time I was careful about the taxi ride. There was a tout who followed me all the way off the minibus, through immigration, and to the taxi, and when I blatantly chose a different taxi to the one he was offering, he didn't skip a beat and got in beside me. Clearly "James" from before really was a tout, not a fellow passenger. I don't really understand why taxi drivers ferry these guys around. This one was constantly trying to engage me in some kind of transaction, either negotiating taxi rides, changing money, or something, I didn't understand half of it. I was really, really trying to obviously shut him down. At one point the driver actually turned to me and told me it was better to "just listen, don't answer". Happy to. What the hell is he even doing here, though?

Mozambique immigration was a breeze and I found a minibus. This one was the rattiest minibus I'd yet seen, with all the paint and upholstery peeling away and the seats badly broken. The back of the bench I sat on turned was held up with a twisted lump of wire, not nearly enough to stop it crushing the passengers behind me when I leant back. When I realised I was effectively sitting on their shins I was forced to hunch forward for the rest of the journey. But it would do. And again, we got off to a good start this time, underway by 10:00.

There was only one disruption to our journey: we were stopped at one of the many checkpoints you have to endure in these countries, and the policewoman objected to the number of passengers in the car. Apparently it's licensed to carry 15, and there were 16 in there, including the driver. I think the driver's argument was that he didn't count in that figure. Eventually they wandered off, had a row, and then I assume money changed hands and he came back and we drove off again. I didn't fancy the notion of trying to flag down another minibus if I got the short straw and was kicked off, so I was glad it all worked out. The irony is that we'd been far more crowded during most of the journey, and had only just let a couple of passengers out.

Tete was, of course, much easier this time. I walked to the cheap hotel and immediately got a simple room. The toilet didn't work, but I changed rooms without trouble. Then I went straight down to the buses to book a ticket out.

I've made what is probably a very stupid decision: I'm going straight to Maputo in one bus journey. This is promised to take 26.5 hours. Ineveitably, it will be more. I have a proper seat this time, a window seat too. So it won't be as bad as that wooden stool. I heard tales of the bus journey from Santiago to Lima that made my hair curl: 50 hours. So surely I can endure this journey to Maputo. Right?

The advantage is that I don't need to organise another bus journey and a hotel room in Beira, which is a completely uninteresting place anyway. I will emerge from the bus in Maputo early in the morning (but not too early in the morning) a physical wreck, but I'll get a taxi straight to Fatima's Place Hostel and recuperate for a day before taking an onward bus journey the day after. I think this makes sense.

What I'm not sure about is what I'm going to do after Maputo. The plan had me going back to Johannesburg via Mbabane in Swaziland. Swaziland and Lesotho had always fascinated me when I looked at my atlas as a kid, being weird little islands stuck in South Africa. So when I was plotting the journey I thought I'd swing by one or both. But looking at the Wikitravel pages, the cities in those countries aren't very interesting. You're supposed to go out and look at the wildlife, something I definitely won't be able to arrange. Is there any point visiting Swaziland just for the sake of having visited Swaziland? I'll think about it.

I had a late lunch, revisiting the place that refused to sell me pizza last time. Turns out they do serve food, just not the pizza that the sign outside promises. None of the food looked especially interesting, from what I could translate, so I just got a hamburger "completo". This turned out to be literally a hamburger, i.e., a patty of meat, no bun. There was an egg and cheese, and chips. Weird. Not especially nice to eat.

I gathered in some supplies for the journey tomorrow, and had a beer in the bar at the hotel. I have to get up at three o'clock again to catch this bloody torture bus, so I'll try to get another early night. But this really has to be the last time. After this, I'm going to aim for Intercape luxury the entire way.

Back to Blantyre Index Tete to Maputo