Jo'burg to Maputo

Sat, 02 Aug 2008 15:40:55 +0000

Johannesburg Day 3 Index Maputo

I got up early for this journey, a bit after six. I expected that to be ridiculously early. But the guy at the front desk told me that if I wanted to be at the bus station by eight, then to avoid the traffic I'd better go straight away. So that's what I did. The taxi driver arrived quickly and got me to the bus station in plenty of time. He even got out and showed me all the way to the Intercape desk, which was nice, because it was early in the morning and scary. I mean, it's just a bus station, but South African paranoia has really got to me.

Incidentally, I noticed on the way a minivan advertising itself as going to Lilongwe. Johannesburg to Lilongwe in one trip? In a minivan? Holy crap, that would be a miserable experience! I must find out if it's for real.

I had enough time for breakfast, which I got from a little cafe place. I just wanted some toast and jam or something, but the only offering they had which involved "toast" was "toast, two fried eggs, sausage, bacon, and chips". So I got that, and somehow managed to work my way through it all, as well as two coffees. That should line my stomach well for the journey.

I sat down to wait. After a while I noticed that people were starting to check in, so I joined them. I really wanted a window seat on this journey, and I wanted to be early. But I was left a bit directionless after walking out into the parking lot. There were two Intercape buses: I asked at one, and was directed towards the other. This was almost completely empty, and I got a nice seat right at the front. But after five minutes I realised I didn't have any confirmation that this really was the Maputo bus, got cold feed, and went to check. Lucky I did: there was a third bus parked over the other side of the bay, and that's the Maputo one. That could have been a disaster. I still got a window seat, but not on the correct side to avoid the sun.

We set off a few minutes after eight. As soon as I'd had my ticket checked to make sure I was on the right bus, I plugged in my earphones and relaxed. There actually wasn't much to see on the way. Much of the area is farmland, and the bits that are rugged are a little bleak and samey after a while.

There were several rest stops, the major one for lunch having a supermarket where I got a chicken sandwich and a donut. That was about the most exciting part of the journey. A bit before the Mozambique border we all had to switch buses, apparently because the air-conditioning wasn't working. It worked about as well as the one from Windhoek, so I wish we'd switched on that journey rather than this one.

The border was a bit confusing, since I didn't realise you had to walk from the SA side to the Mozambique side. But I found a couple of fellow passengers who were similarly confused and followed them. This is a nice border, in that there are ATMs. So no need to deal with the money changers.

It was well dark by the time we got into Maputo, partly due to terrible traffic on the highway just before we got in. It's nice to have a hotel booking to rely on for once. Unusually, I used one of the taxi drivers harrassing the people getting off the bus: usually these guys overcharge, but just this once I wanted to be safely off the dark streets. I was disappointed at the ridiculous beaten up old car he walked me to. During the journey it was constantly rattling, as though every nut was two turns loose. I'm astonished we made it, but we did.

The hostel, "Fatima's Place", was a bit chaotic. They had great trouble tracking down my booking, and in fact I don't know if they even found it in the end. Since it was for a dorm bed, and these seem in plentiful supply, they might not have bothered.

The bed has a mosquito net, which is nice, because there are lots of mosquitoes here. I haven't detected any more symptoms of fever, just a slight sniffle, so I'm sure that it was just hypochondria yesterday, and I don't really have malaria. That just means it would be disappointing to catch it now. I sprayed on some repellant just to be sure.

I asked about the bus to Beira, and got some bad news: some other backpackers had tried to book this, and found it booked out for tomorrow. But I could try for the day after, if I took a taxi to the booking office. I'll do that, but tomorrow, when it's light.

I needed a bite to eat, and was directed to the restaurant just down the road ("Mao Tse Tung Avenue", by the way: they like their communists here). There I just got a small beer and a plate of fries, which came with good mayonnaise. I'm not expecting any culinary excitement from Mozambique. But the beer comes in satisfyingly large 550ml bottles.

I have a couple of roommates, Americans who have studied in Canberra. We got to chatting in the dorm, and later on continued over a beer in the rather nice beer garden they have at this hostel. We compared notes on Africa and other places. I was able to issue another warning about horse rides in Cairo, so there's a karma point. Life is so much easier when you can touch base with other travellers. I have no idea how I'm going to get to Malawi, but I'm feeling fairly confident that it'll work out.

Johannesburg Day 3 Index Maputo