Entering Mozambique

It was time to leave Kruger National Park and I was ready.

Six nights of sleeping in a tent. Six nights of shoveling cough drops methodically into my mouth and counting down the minutes until the sun came up.

We’d decided the night before to arrange a doctor for Ryder. He had a fever. I called and made an appointment for 10:30. “What’s the address?” I asked. 15 *** Street. “Can you spell it?” Eh as in Eh said the lady. “Oh…A as in Apple?” I asked. No. Eh as in the eh you breathe. “Ok. Air Street.”

We somehow managed to squeeze in all of our parcels and sleeping bags and pillows and suitcases and guitar and backpacks. With the two kids in the car seats in the back and my GPS telling us the doctor was 30 minutes away, we sailed out the gate.

 

Driving the Ford Fiesta through the town, I’m finally getting used to driving on the left side of the road. Parked. The doctor writes us an antibiotic prescription and a steroid for his sinuses. She says if he doesn’t take them his eardrum could burst.

My throat is in loads of pain. I’m popping pieces of gum to compensate. I’m hoping I don’t have what Ryder has. And I try to convince myself it’s just allergies and will go away.

We eat at a Spar’s diner which has surprisingly yummy breakfast food and checkered tablecloths.

And then we drive to the border.

“You look so nervous,” teases Zim

It’s the first time she’s done this. I’m a veteran, and as she will see, there’s a reason to be nervous.

I’d only just read the day before that Americans need a visa to cross into the country. I didn’t have one, and wasn’t sure if we’d be let in.

We got approached by a grinning man who waved us over and sold us the required Mozambique car items: vests, a triangle, SA sticker. If you don’t have these items, online forums report, you will be threatened with jail by corrupt police. And on we go again.

We are stopped by men in green khaki who keep giving us the run around. Zimkhitha should not have taken a picture of the welcome to Mozambique sign. She must buy him a drink. It takes me a while to see that we can’t leave without the bribe. 200 rand.

A man guides us through the whole rigamarole. He’s expecting a tip. We must walk here and there. Get third party insurance for the car. Take photos. Sign documents. It’s done and we can breathe a sigh of relief as we maneuver among the hucksters.

It’s a difference immediately. The houses are light clay or sticks. So many people, full families in fact, sitting on the sides of the road or carting heavy buckets of water. It’s a much longer drive than it looks. We drive on dirt roads, slowly with all the pedestrians, until we finally arrive at Marumadi Planeta.

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We get instructions on how to find an area with several restaurants by the hotel manager, who says I look like a child raising a child. Her directions include many lefts, rights, tar roads and T junctions. We set off and realize we’ll never find our way back in the dark. We barely can find the place even though it’s three minutes away. We come back and ask for help walking to a place where we can get the kids food. Although she said it was so close, just straight ahead, it’s a 20 minute walk away as we find out. He waits with us while we pick up our pizza.

The next couple of days we stick to Maputo. Rather than go out to Punto de Ouro because we don’t have a 4×4. Mozambique’s best is its beaches. But we had to stick to the city ones like this one:

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It’s an interesting city, though we were told to stay away from it by some folks because it is “shady” and “the civil war is brewing again.” It felt safer than South Africa, and the people were so warm. For example: Ryder’s listlessness, lack of appetite, and returning fever made us decide to go to the after hours clinic with him. The hotel owner’s daughter came with us, translated for us, stayed up late rather than going home to her own family, and drove us back. I could not figure out how to add data to my phone. A random man heard me asking, helped me out and sent it directly from his phone, and refused payment. A group of Angolans lined up and wanted selfies with me. Sarah, the girl of the group, told me that she and her brother were so honored.

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When I finally caved and bought antibiotics for myself, a man translated for me at every step, and spoke poetically about how perhaps under another sun we would meet again, which was charming especially since I’d just described to him the pus in the back of my throat. The antibiotics began to work immediately and I could finally eat again.

We went to two markets, the fish and the regular market. The fish market was touristy, the calamari took forever to come but was quite tasty. I wanted to get out quick because the vendors were so aggressive. Zim called them “paparrazi” and said she’d never experienced that ever in her life. They swarmed our car as soon as we arrived. We didn’t get out, calmly eating chocolate and taking photos, but they had nothing but time and did not leave.

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The regular market was fascinating, we bumped into it on accident. There seemed to be no one buying, only selling. There were coal sellers and used shoe sellers and bags of grain and miscellaneous electronics and speakers with music for sale. Ryder and Elithle got new clothes. Elithle wanted to sleep in her dress that night she was so excited.IMG_4241IMG_4266

We took a ferry out to a beach. We saw a dead man being carried away on a stretcher with a woman singing a religious sounding song.We guessed he drowned? There were drunk men next to us on the boat. Zim was afraid of them because of their prison tattoos. It was the first time she had been on a boat.

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We ate a salty local dish made with coconut milk and cashews. Everything seems to be quite salty here, even the tea. But it was still tasty.

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I feel like I will not find anything difficult about driving again after managing Maputo traffic. The parking is so horrible people are working full time to just try to convince people to come with them to their parking spot. All the traffic lights exist but don’t function. It’s every which way on the road and it’s full of potholes and speed bumps. Everyone drives extremely close to each other and the pedestrians are fearless when they really shouldn’t be.

Nothing about Mozambique is making me wish we lived here. The beaches are what it’s famous for but to get to them you need something more than a Ford Fiesta. The men are quite handsome so that’s something. The people are sweet and helpful. I’m glad we stayed in a place with a bit more character, outside of the city. That’s a benefit of having a car. You don’t have to stay downtown.

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 364 awesome articles for us.

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