Tete to Maputo

Thu, 14 Aug 2008 15:58:25 +0000

Blantyre to Tete Index A Breather in Maputo

A new record in sheer unpleasantness: the alarm went off at 2:30 this morning. This was to give me a bit extra time to have a shower. A nice idea, except that the water wasn't running this morning. There was, however a big plastic bin full of water, whose purpose I hadn't realised yesterday, but was distressingly apparent now. I splashed myself down as best I could.

And then I headed off into the dark. Some of the bars and clubs were still active, and the street lighting is good, so it felt much safer than other towns have been. On the bus, there was someone sitting in my seat, but it turned out they'd just misread their ticket. It's a fairly nice seat, at the front on the two-seat side, next to the window.

The bus wasn't very full when we set off, even having a couple of seats free, let alone anyone standing. A pleasant surprise. There were a couple of other tourists on the bus too. I was pleased to see this: shows that I'm not completely insane going all the way from Tete to Maputo. Except that it turned out they're only going as far as Inhambane. I am insane after all.

We set off dead on four o'clock, and I settled in to sleep. I wasn't especially successful, but managed a little bit, and I'm still confident I can fall asleep tonight. When the sun rose I gave up the effort and just watched the scenery.

The bus is in reasonable condition I guess: or maybe it's just the luxury of having a seat. I noticed that the speedometer and tachometer are broken, stuck on zero. I've never seen a bus driver pay the slightest attention to those things anyway. On the nicer buses there is a buzzing tone when you go over 100 km/h, presumably to warn you that this is dangerous. I like that tone: means I'll be off the bus soon. It's usually present for almost the entire journey.

As with all of these journeys it was basically very boring, with only a few things to liven up proceedings. There was a bag avalanche at one point, and the top bag turned out to be full of dry beans, which spouted all over the floor. The owner gathered together what she could in her wrap and put them back in the basket. I hope that she winnows and boils those beans before eating them: the floors of these buses are appalling. Underscoring that, when the baggage pile was offloaded at one of the stops, there was an entire squashed banana at the bottom of it, that'd spread itself all over the floor. Very gross. Mostly it was on a removable panel though, so they washed it off outside the bus.

Another stop seemed to drag on for quite a while, and I went outside for a wander. We happened to be next to a carpentry shop, and it was fascinating watching the guys using hand tools to produce their carvings.

Wandering around to the back of the bus, there were four or five guys heaving a gigantic sack full of stuff up to the roof of the bus, one on top pulling on the rope and the others trying to climb the back of the bus while pushing up with their heads and shouders. They were really struggling too, but managed it in the end. Looked like tough work. I was glad I wasn't expected to help.

We were stopped at a weigh station and a guy in fatigues and with a shortened AK47 wandered around. I just happened to distinctly see the guy from the bus backhand a 100 meticai note to him. I don't know if we were doing anything wrong that needed a blind eye turned, but I suspect that it doesn't much matter in Mozambique.

We passed a minefield, marked with small red skull-and-crossbones plaques. I saw those in Cambodia, where I guess you expect them, but it's the first sign of the civil war I've seen in Mozambique. And what was positioned right in the middle of the minefield? A field of corn being worked by children. Damn you, biofuels! I guess it's possible that they've already cleared the mines and just hadn't gotten around to removing the plaques, so maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked.

I had some food and drink with me, and I bought some along the way. Unlike last time, I wasn't going to ration myself: if I didn't drink a sensible amount over 24 hours I'd be in danger of killing myself. This left me needing to go to the toilet, which is tricky. The bus stops regularly, but you never know ahead of time how long for. Also, there's no toilets as such, you just have to go by the side of the road. But of course, we only stop right in the middle of towns, and the etiquette of precisely where it's appropriate to piss in people's high streets is just one of many things Wikitravel can't help you with. I tried once, but decided that I was a bit too public and scurried back to the bus. I hoped I wouldn't have to hold on all night, but luckily I spottedanother passenger most definitely going off for a piss, and I followed him and took his lead. That put me pissing basically in the middle of the path by the side of the road with people wandering by all around me. At least it was dark.

There's quite a lot of fires going on, and I'm not sure if they are accidental wildfires, deliberate backburns, or are something agricultural. But it's pretty spectacular to see the fields burning in the night as we pass by. I hope I'm not enjoying watching people's crops being destroyed or something.

My first neighbour, a middle-aged woman who spoke English, left the bus early on. She was replaced by a young bloke with no English. He's thinner, which means more room for me, but has a tendency to fall asleep on my shoulder a lot. I really envy these people that can fall asleep at will, in practically any situation. I'll have to see how well I can emulate him tonight, and maybe fall asleep on his shoulder for a bit.

Blantyre to Tete Index A Breather in Maputo