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

Thursday, June 12, 2008


So this isn't exactly Paradise like Tofo, which isn't to say that it isn't extremely touristed. It's a different kind of tourist. Rather than bursting at the seams with backpackers, Vilankulo caters more to well-heeled South Africans, arriving by plane from Johannesburg to stay at expensive lodges just off the coast, in the Archipelago de Barazuto. I am going there tomorrow, on a day trip. There are actually only two people staying at my hostel, the other one being an Aussie fellow named Lachlan who is years old, just out of high school, and travelling up the Indian Ocean coast camping. Definitely not what I was doing at the age of 18. Our dorm is actually open air. Even though it gets pretty chilly at night, that's fine by me - my mattress is covered by a mosquito net and plus, it's rather nice going to sleep listening to bats fly around and hearing the wild dogs cry out in the night, as they grow restless longing for some solitary company.

My ride here was pretty wild. I had to catch a 7:00 bus out of Tofo. I was supposed to catch it with some Dutch guys, but I woke up late and hurried to the bus station rather than meet them at their campsite, as planned. They weren't at the station, but I got on the bus anyway. The bus drove at great speed with the doors open, slowing only to let people standing along the road jump on. The bus went only as far as Inhambane, which looked like an interesting place. But I was there only to catch a ferry to Maxixe. The jetty was two blocks away from the bus station, but it was under construction. A temporary one has been constructed, basically a bunch of 2 x 4s nailed together and reinforced. It was rickety, and it creaked a lot. The boat was a 15 seater boat with 25 people crammed into it, very common for Mozambique, pushed along by a 20 horsepower motor. It took 30 minutes to cross a very slow channel to Maxixe. Once there, I walked to the bus station, but the buses to Vilankulo were leaving from elsewhere. I started to walk there, but a guy pulled up in a pickup truck and offered me a lift. Mozambicans are ludicrously nice, and offer their services like this all the time. I jumped in the back of the truck and he motored off so fast that I almost fell out of the truck. But I got to the Vilankulo bus station all in one piece.

The "bus" is actually what in Mozambique is called a "chapa": so something smaller than a bus, but which still travels long distances. In this case it was a Chinese-made minibus. In North America, it would have seated 10. In Central America, they would have packed in 15. In Mozambique, they squeezed in 20, plus a formidable stack of luggage. It felt like a clown car. For whatever reason, there was a long discussion between the driver and a passenger about what to do with my backpack. It lasted about 5 minutes, but in the end the driver told me to board. I was assigned the absolute worst seat in the chapa: at the back next to a window, but right over a wheel, and with a steel bar digging into my shoulder. The seats were like concrete. I was sitting behind a talkative fellow who could speak a bit of English. He had a bottle of wine and offered me some - in Mozambique, it's polite when on a chapa/bus to offer everyone some of your food/drink. I accepted. It tasted like kerosene, I'm assuming it was home brew. The guy drank the entire bottle of wine during the 4 hour trip to Vilankulo and got extraordinarily drunk. His questions became more and more strange as the trip went one. At one point, he turned and asked me if I was a fan of Westlife and the Backstreet Boys.

The trip to Vilankulo was extremely uncomfortable. The road was potholed and absolutely abominable. That was the main north-south highway, too. Everytime we went over a pothole my shoulder dug into the bar next to me; I have a rather large welt there now. Something else you should know about Mozambican highways: they are both completely deserted and teeming with people. There aren't any towns. Periodically you'll see a shack made of sticks or corrugated tin in the bush, and every 100 kilomtres there is a service station, which in Mozambique consists of a shack manned by a dude with a bunch of jericans full of gas and a funnel. But people are always walking along the side of the road: white shirted kids hurrying to school, women carrying great weights on their head. The chapa honked at them as it slalomed around the potholes.

A couple random thoughts I had along the trip, which I think illustrate the poverty of this country. When you finally hit a town, people selling everything rush at the bus. I tried to buy a bag of tangerines, which would have cost me the equivalent of one dollar. I paid with the equivalent of four dollars. She didn't have enough change to give back to me. This happens a lot here. Four dollars is a lot of money here; if you don't have small change, you can't buy anything. Secondly, on the bus from Tofo to Inhambane, I found myself sitting immediately in front of the door, and I braced myself to move for a senior when one boarded. But no seniors caught the bus; this was, as I realized, because the majority of people in Mozambique don't make it out of their 40s.

At some point I need to properly discuss Mozambican food, which is amazing, but I've run out of internet time...


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