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

Friday, July 04, 2008


So my big plan was to go kto Montepuez from Pemba. Montepuez is a an uninteresting mountain town inland, but there is a lodge there called Aurora. It costs 50 dollars a night to stay at Aurora in a dorm, which would be an outrageous price except that part of the deal is that Aurora organizes cultural activites for their guests. And not bullshit cultural activities, either. For example, they can arrange to send you out into the bush for a day with a traditional medicine practitioner. Or with a local woman to harvest and prepare cassava flour. That all sounded lovely to me. I've always wanted to learn to be a bush doctor.

Getting there from Nampula was a little complicated. I had to take a bus to a village called Metoro - a bus, not a chapa - then find onward transport to Montepuez. The bus was unbelievably overstuffed with people and luggage, and it was an uncomfortable experience. By the time I got off at Metoro, it was too late to catch and westward public transport. I had to hitchhike. Hitching is really common and easy in Mozambique. Sometimes it's the only way to get around, so everyone does it. A truck, driven by an Arab-Mozambican, stopped and gave me a lift. He was hauling beer to Montepuez. He drove like a maniac and talked non-stop the entire way there in Portuguese that was much too fast for me to understand. We were stopped by the police on the way. They wanted a bribe and to see my papers. Cops want to see my papers basically every day. The bribe came up to 50 meticais ($2) - it was paid on the ground that the truck couldn't transport civilians because it didn't have a chapa license. What rubbish.

To make a long story short, Aurora was closed. The priests who run the place were on vacation. I was extremely disappointed, not just because I missed out on a chance to become a bush doctor's apprentice, but because I was sick and tired of constantly traveling. I've basically been constantly on the move since I left Malawi. I hadn't stayed anymore for two consecutive nights other thanh Ihla de Moçambique. Pretty much I would wake up really early, sit on a hot, crowded chapa for long periods of the day, then sleep in shitty hotels, most of which didn't have running water or electricity, before repeating the exercise the next day. I desperately wanted to stay somewhere for longer than a day, if for no other reason then because I'd caught a cold along the way and needed to relax and recuperate.

I would not relax or recuperate in Montepuez. There is literally nothing in that town. There was one hotel, with shabby rooms without running water for $16 per night, and one restaurant, which only served chicken with fries. Plus, Montepuez is in the mountains and gets chilly at night. Screw Montepuez. I would stay the night - it was much too late to head elsewhere - and then head elsewhere in the morning. I decided to go to Pemba. My flight back to Maputo leaves from here, it's hot, and lying on the beach under the hot sun would be good for my cold. I ordinarily don't like spending as much as 5 days in one particular place, but I was REALLY worn out that night in Montepuez. I wanted to go somewhere and do nothing for five days. Pemba was the most convenient place to do that.

So at 6 AM morning I walked to the head of the Pemba highway and waited for a chapa to pass. None did. So I walked back to town to see if I could hitch a ride with someone. Eventually, a truck passed. As luck would have it, the truck was driven was driven by the same guy who drove me yesterday! I think it was a different truck, though; in any case, the beer was gone and there was no load in the back. There was a case of bottled water in the cab. He was going to Mecufi, so I'd have to hitch a ride for the remaining 12 km into Pemba. He actually invited me to his house in Mecufi. There is a beach there, and he said his wife was the best cook in Cabo Delgado. I seriously thought about going. I was curious about how Arab-Mozambicans, who are definitely wealthier than the average person here, lived. But I decided to go to Pemba. It was an awesome ride, once again. He was listening to cheesy Portuguese power ballads. Once again a cop wanted to pull us over. Instead of stopping, this time the guy took out a 100 metical note, crumpled it up, and threw it out the window at the cop! At the end of the trip, the guy asked me if I wanted a bottle of water. He told me to open the box and pull one out. I looked into the box. There was no water there, it was filled with cash. The driver cackled at me. I'm assuming the money was somehow obtained illegally, which is why he didn't want to stop for the cop. At least that's what I want to believe. It's much more interesting to think that I got a ride to Pemba with a Mozambican gangster of some sort.

A South African tourist ended up driving me into Pemba. He was staying at the same place I had earmarked: Russell's Place. They had the only dorm beds at Praia de Wimbi, the beach section of Pemba. Everything else was expensive. Turns out Russell's Place had done away with their dorms. The cheapest option is camping, but I don't have a tent. They also had their own tents on site, with electricity. They charged $32 a night for them. $32 per night for a tent, at a campsite with no running water, is absolutely insane. Their beach chalets cost even more. So I told them no thanks, and left in search of other accommodation. Everything was ridiculously expensive - 100% or even 200% more than the prices as of two years ago (when my Lonely Planet was published). If there was a Mozambican Riviera, Wimbi would be it - the steady stream of rich South Africans seeking palms, prawns and prostitutes who are willing to pay exorbitant prices for accommodation keeps the price high. I began to despair - there was no way I could afford anything here, and I sure as hell wasn't sleeping in a frigging tent at Russell's Place - and I considered hitching back out of town to Mecufi to find my Arab-Mozambican gangster. I ran into a guy named Charles who said he knew of a place about a 10 minute walk inland where I could stay for 1000 meticais a night ($40). I pictured an unventilated room in a guy's house. I said $40 was a ridiculous price and if that's how much it cost I would go to Mecufi. Charles said there may be rooms for 750 meticais ($30). I had no intention of staying in a tiny room with no running water for $30 a night, but I went to look anyway.

Turns out Charles got his prices all wrong, and I had my assumptions about the place all wrong. It was a hotel, run by a Mozambican named Joao. Their cheapest rooms cost 600 meticais a night ($24), which is surely the cheapest room in town and which I could afford. And the room was magnificent - it was actually a two room suite, with private bathroom, electricity, hot water, a mini fridge, and satellite TV. I thought I understood the price wrong, but 600 meticais was what they were charging. I'm pretty sure I backed into the best deal in Pemba. The only problem with the place is that the doors don't go all the way to the ground, so mosquitos get into the suite pretty easily. But I put up my mosquito net - something that proved rather difficult, picture me putting it up to the tune of the Benny Hill theme - and the mosquitos ceased being an issue.

I am so happy in my little suite. I will stay in Pemba until my flight back to Maputo on July 7. I'm overjoyed that I can finally rest. I sleep at least 10 hours a day. I have no ambition other than to go to the beach and eat seafood at night. Fixers around town offer to find me a motorcycle for rent or to set me up with a boat cruise, but I can't be bothered to do anything like that. I could barely be bothered to come into town to use the internet today, but I figured I should let my mother know I'm alive. After netty potting my nose out in the Indian Ocean multiple times, my cold is roughly 500% better. It helps that Pemba is the hottest place I've been in Mozambique so far. There are some bars and a casino on the beach, but I'm too lazy to go to them. I'd much rather drowsily sit in my room and watch Brazilian soap operas. They are a riot. There is one called Os Mutantes (also the name of an unbelievable 60s/70s/80s Brazilian band) that is half X-Men and half Days of Our Lives.

I am rather enjoying my stay here.


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