Road trip. Our first weekend away from Swaziland was to a bustling war torn Portuguese city in Mozambique, called Maputo. A friend of a friend lives there in a big empty house, and was eager to show us the vibrant nightlife – huge Latin salsa dancing scene - that goes into all hours of the night. I was a bit scared to be honest, as Ginger warned we wouldn’t be sleeping at all. Considering my liver was well primed for this getaway, I thought I’d be in good shape to stay up past our usual 9:30pm bedtime. Which, btw, was a welcome change and I liked getting up at the crack of dawn – even if only for the coffee.
All over Africa the locals take taxi’s (think VW size vans) that pile people in for dirt cheap and they drive all over the place – no set times – or pick up locations but routes that go everywhere. Our ride to Maputo on the taxi was around 3 hours, and cost about $9. Ginger and her bf weren’t keen on taking public transport, but twas our only option, and I thought what could go wrong - we take these things all the time? Somehow, everything did 45 mins into the journey. Starting with steam exploding from the engine, the driver dumping cold water on it to cool down, it happening again twice, then leaving us on the side of the road to walk alongs the highway, and then telling us we had to wait for hours until another taxi could pick us up, and nope…we couldn’t get our money back.
In moments like these, our friends would mutter TIA, “this is Africa.” It became a hilarious and poignant way to sum up similar experiences, which happened more often than not.
Left to our own devices, the 5 of us flagged down a ‘real’ taxi, piled in and headed for the border with a quick stop at a bottle store. Somehow adding a cold beer and drinking it in a car feels slightly rebellious, “yeah, now we’re on vacation.” We were to wait just across the border for our friend to pick us up, his house less than an hour away. Nothing but a couple shacks and one with a bar sign was there, so we happily went inside to grab the classic brew of Mozambique, “2M” pronounced “dosh-em” – giving it more of a flare. Making the best of a not so great situation, we got comfortable in a blown out concrete building next door, and made friends with a homeless guy France, who slept in one of the rooms that actually had a roof. He welcomed us into his ‘living room,’ and told us about his wife and child he had to leave behind to find work here.
Chickens and kids ran around, women cooked and hung laundry, and the men sat around grabbing us beers and drinking with us. Somehow it wasn’t clear until hours into our excursion that the friend and ride was at work on a Saturday, and wouldn’t be able to pick us up until later - much later. By the time we heard the loud bass from his car bumping down the street, we had made solid new friends and they joined us in cheering his name as he rolled up. He had no idea the condition we were in, but after a day of dosh-em in the Mozambique heat in a decrepit concrete structure, it was probably obvious. The sun was setting as we drove towards our final destination, and only 1 of us stayed up past 10pm.
Our 3-hour tour turned into 10-hour fiasco, but made the best of it and in the moment, it surely felt like an adventure. Making up for our non-existent night out, the next day we headed to the famous fish market – pick what’s caught fresh that morning and they cook it. Several hours and 2M’s later we parked at the beachfront and did what the locals do, sit on the ledge, dance, and buy cold drinks from woman with coolers. I felt satisfied with our mini-Moz experience in the big city, but still crave the picturesque white sand beaches its known for. Will have to save that for next time, although I was happy Rama was able to get a hint of other parts of Africa and to have a real TIA experience.