Wed, 06 Aug 2008 13:20:09 +0000

Jo'burg to Maputo Index Maputo to Beira

Last night it was explained to me that I'd need to take a taxi to the place where you reserve buses to Beira, so that was the primary mission for today. But I took things fairly easily. First thing was breakfast. I walked up the road to see what I could find, and was overjoyed to spy a bakery. Unfortunately, they didn't have a lot on offer. The only non-sweet thing was bread rolls, so I got two of those. I also got a pastry that in Germany is called a "schweinohr", an unexpectedly familiar sight. I've never gotten around to trying them before: this one was delicious.

The lady at reception gave me directions to the booking office. She seems generally very competent, but she had to ask the guard at the gate which way to go, which didn't inspire confidence. She did give me a photocopied map though, which was very helpful. The directions seemed simple enough, just walk to the end of the street and they're on your "left" (here, she pointed to her right, but I'm prepared to try both directions). However, when I got to the end of the street, I couldn't see anything like a booking office. My map shows all the bus companies as being on a completely different road, so I decided to make a big loop to get there via the main street. It was quite a long way, and when I got to the road I couldn't see a single booking office there either. It was definitely the road I'd arrived on. So I'm a bit confused.

I went back to the hostel to sort this out. This time she called the hostel manager, and he suggested I go to a place called "Junta" and just find a bus there. No booking is required, or possible, it seems. He said early, meaning 8:00, but then he asked his mate and he said 4:30. I understood now: these are the buses I've read about, the really uncomfortable ones that are the major means of transportation in Africa. That's good, it's what I'd been expecting. But it's bad, in that it's going to be chaos tomorrow, and dark, and the bus ride will be the most unpleasant experience in my life. This is exactly what I signed up for when I decided to travel in Africa.

So with that out the way, my day was free. I asked about laundry, since I'm down to just one change of clothes, but it was expensive and complicated here. I was given directions to a laundromat on Lenin Avenue, but I knew I probably wouldn't have time.

Instead I went out for lunch. I'd noticed a cafe on the main street with lots of people with laptops, a sure sign of wifi, and it turned out to be free. I ordered an omelette for lunch and started browsing away. I managed to do quite a lot. Apart from the usual downloading the news from the last five days, I got some maps of Mozambique and Malawi, a bunch of Wikitravel pages, and even some Wikipedia pages for Namibia, Mozambique and Malawi. Man, I had the history of Nambia completely wrong. It's a sad indictment of Namibia's national museum that I had to resort to Wikipedia to get a feel for Namibian history.

I also booked my plane ticket from London to Beijing. The original plan had me taking the trans-Mongolian railway to Beijing, but it was always an improbable squeeze to do that in just a couple of weeks, and the lost passport makes collecting the necessary visas impossible. I'll do it one day, and I'll take my time about it. I hadn't been sure until this point what I'd do instead, whether I would visit London, spend time in Germany, or what. But I felt that I really needed to get something booked now, so I got a flight for the fifth of September from London to Beijing. That should give me enough time to organise my Chinese visa in London, and be in plenty of time for the start of my course.

It took well over an hour to make that booking. Not helped by Expedia refusing to use my profile because, of all things, I hadn't specified my title. Ten page loads of updating my profile over an extremely slow connection just so Expedia would know whether to call me "Mr" or "Ms" on the documentation. What kind of idiot builds these things? (Oh, yeah. That would be idiots like me.)

HSBC, by contrast, defeated me completely, and eventually I gave up on the world wide web, paid for my omelette and innumerable coffees, and left. I walked around to see if I could find this laundromat. I walked too far, walked back, found Lenin street, and then found the place. It turns out to be a dry cleaners, not a laundromat. Damn. So I'm just going to be smelling bad for the next few days. Sorry about that, Mozambique.

I went back to the hostel for more computery stuff. I realise that if I'm going to be taking a dodgy 24 hour bus packed in with other people, my chances of being robbed, mugged, or just plain foolish enough to lose my backpack again, are very high. So I really have to sort out my backups, which have been rather lax of late. I spent ages making sure I have extra copy of my photos, all my blog entries, GPS traces, and other bits and pieces. I can cope with the loss of practically everything else if need be, but it'd be a shame to lose my photos.

I still need a place to sleep in Beira. I asked at the hostel if I could make a phone call, and the manager said just to buy a Mozambique SIM card. This entails walking down the street and finding a hawker selling them, but instead I found a guy set up under an umbrella with a simple phone and a meter. So I decided to just use that.

Incidentally, there was a South African bloke at reception who's also travelling tomorrow, so we agreed to share a taxi. That helps a lot - assuming he actually shows up on time. It is, as he put it, fucking early, so I won't be surprised if he oversleeps. But taking a taxi into the middle of nowhere alone at that hour is a fairly scary proposition, so it'd be nice to have some company.

As for making a booking in Beira: the first time there was no answer, so I decided to wait for half an hour. The second time, I got through, and the number was wrong. That's the only hotel phone number I have for Beira, so booking in advance just isn't going happen. Damn. I will just have to, yet again, wing it when I get there. Fortunately (I guess), this bus is expected to take about 24 hours, which will put me in Beira early in the morning. I should have plenty of time to find a place to stay, just like Windhoek.

Jo'burg to Maputo Index Maputo to Beira