This is a blog about my travels. My "regular" life is much too boring to bother blogging about.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


This is my last day in Maputo. I wouldn't say I love it here, but I definitely like it. I can see how it's earned a reputation as one of the more palatable capital cities in Africa. It's physical location is pretty stunning, set on a bay in the Indian Ocean. There are pretty good beaches maybe 1km from the city centre. But it's also dirty, smells like raw sewage in some areas, has the most uneven sidewalks I've ever seen in my life, and many buildings haven't been rebuilt from the civil war (18 years and counting). The thing I like most, other than the communist theme to the street names (I forgot to mention Rua Kim Il-Sung, which is where this internet cafe is!), is how laid back it is. I wouldn't call Maputo chaotic. It's big and loud and bustling and impoverished and traffic careens through the streets at 100 km per hour, but it's not really chaotic. People leave you alone here, for the most part. I spent maybe an hour chilling in the botanical gardens yesterday, and nobody harassed me, not even once. I also like how multiracial Maputo is, which is something I didn't expect. There are a lot of white Mozambiquans - evidently they didn't flee en masse in 1975 as happened in Angola - as well as white South Africans who now live here. There are also noticeable populations of Arabs and Chinese. I'm comfortable here. Wandering around here certainly isn't an ordeal, as it was in many large Central American cities. Or perhaps I'm just dealing with it better.

So what have I been doing? Not a whole hell of a lot. Relaxing, loitering, listening to music blaring from cars, getting lost in the streets. Observing. Going to markets. I went to the National Art Museum and was blown away by the calibre of artist that a small country like Mozambique has produced. There are two really famous Moz. artists, Chissano (a sculptor) and Malangatana (a painter). But I saw paintings in that museum that rival anything Malangatana, or any other artist I've ever seen, has produced. Check out names like Bertina Lopes, Samate and Naguib if you're interested. There are like 10 others that I liked but I can't remember their names right now. There was also some moderately interesting communist and revolutionary art on display, as well as a room displaying the strangest sculptures I've ever seen in my life. I guess a doctor here in the 1930s commissioned a sculptor to recreate boldily deformities out of clay. So this room was filled with sculptures of heads with gigantic bloody tumours protruding out of the necks. I wish I had pictures, but no cameras were allowed in the museum.

Today was all about the ocean. I went to the local fish market, about 2 km up the coast from the centre, with a Zimbabwean/Polish couple I met. The deal was this: you buy some seafood, then there are restaurants in the back where you pay people to cook it for you. The restaurants supply fries, salad and drinks as well. As as we got there, people latched on to us immediately and tried taking us to specific fish mongers. They pretty clearly wanted commission, and were a nuissance. The opening price quoted to us was 200 meticais (like $8) for a kilo of shrimp. Eventually, after much wrangling, histrionics and bartering, we found someone to sell us shrimp for 150 meticais ($6) a kilo, and a kilo of squid for exactly the same price. Then I had to fight 3 or four random touts to take possession of the bag our seafood was in - again commission - and we went to find a restaurant. So then we had to bargain with restaurant owners. Everyone was offering a price of 150 meticais, but eventually we got one man to lower his price to 100. After he sat down, he told us that the 100 was just for the cooking, and it would cost 40 extra for cleaning, etc. I told him to fuck off in my best Portuguese (which is to say, not very well) but he knew he was being naughty and agreed for 100 meticais total for services ($4). So we got 2 kilos of seafood with fries and salad for about $5 each. Pretty damn good!

Mozambiquan prawns are amazing, by the way.

I'm frittering away the rest of this day watching volleyball games on the beach, and eventually I'm going to buy a pineapple from a fruit stand for an extremely low price. That will be my supper.

Tomorrow I go to a beach town called Tofo, where I will swim with manta rays and dugongs. I'm rather excited.


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