Maputo, Mozambique to Cape Maclear, Malawi
12.06.2010 - 18.06.2010 0 °C
Finally out of Maputo - early this morning (05:30), got a bus with a few others staying in the same Maputo hostel - Iesha from Canada, Claudia from Brazil, and headed up the coast a few hundred kms to the beach village of Tofo. Of course it took all day to get here, so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to take a dip in the Ocean, but still able to stroll the really nice powder sand beach.
Very relaxing day today on the beach - reading, swimming in the very clean and warm Indian Ocean (big waves!), turned down repeated sales pitches from local hawkers and vendors. Now, having a beer enjoying a really nice sunset.
Up this morning at 06:30 to catch a minibus "chapa" from Tofo to Inhambane, then took an aging ferry across the channel to Maxixe, a charming small fishing village.
Waited around for about 2.5 hours for a bus supposedly making its way up from Maputo to Maxixe, continuing on to Chimoio. But finally at noon I figured if the bus did arrive anytime later in Maxixe, it will be close to midnight before I'd arrive in Chimoio. So instead, decided to cut my losses and instead took a chapa minibus as far as Vilankulos. Got checked into a cheapie, now heading to the bar for some World Cup.
I'm in a double room at some hotel in Tete, with an elderly South African man Fred who is laying on top of his bed wearing some kind of bikini underwear, already snoring away. Well this morning, I didn't think I'd be making a journal entry starting out that way! Back in Vilankulos, got up at 03:45 to get to the bus station at 04:15, in time for my 04:30 minibus - crammed with giant cardboard boxes all taped up and stuffed with fish - the entire minibus smelled like fish. For the first 10 minutes or so, I was crammed next to one box I was sure would begin to leak on me. Fortunately, the conductor had to rearrange some luggage so I was moved to a seat free from fish for the rest of the ride. We finally arrived in Inchope, where a few of us - S. African Fred and an Argentinian - got out and switched to another minibus heading to Chimoio (and there was no way I was paying extra for my luggage after being wedged next to boxes of fish all day), which was a fairly painless ride. Along the way Fred, also making his way to Malawi, asks if I wanted to transfer to another bus in Chimoio and make it up to Tete - which would make tomorrow's journey into Malawi much shorter. I'm game, but when we arrive in Chimoio, come to find busses only leave early in the mornings. While walking around a bit to find other options, some super annoying tout kept following us, trying to convince us to buy a bus ticket for tomorrow (and then collect a tip). Well, we learned from a cafe owner that around the other side of town next to a large hotel, is a truck stop where vehicles heading to Tete sometimes pick up passengers. We bid farewell to the Argentinian (and the super annoying tout), and head over toward the large hotel, which takes a couple detours passing through some run-down market which I'm sure doesn't see many tourists. We ask around at the hotel, but no trucks were leaving in that direction. We try to hitchhike for a bit, but the only people bothering to acknowledge us were locals who were driving with packed subcompact cars, but only around town - the South Africans driving in large SUVs with empty backseats wouldn't even make eye contact. We gave it about an hour or so, until two locals came running up alerting us of a minibus heading to Tete (of course looking for a tip for their "services"). It was a private minibus, brand new. I've never seen a minibus/chapa not beat to hell, let alone brand new. Well, it was being loaded up with a bunch of muddy bags full of oranges, and before I was able to get a picture, so-long brand new minibus... well on its way to blending in with the rest of Africa's bus population. Fred and I snacked on sugar cane along the way (I thought the stuff people were chewing on were sticks!), and courtesy of our painfully slow driver, we arrived in Tete around 21:00. The first hotel we stopped at was insanely expensive. So, being directed to a cheaper hotel here, we grabbed some dinner and a well-earned beer at a bar, catching the end of the evening World Cup match.
Having a burger at my hostel here in Blantyre - about to catch more of the World Cup. This morning back in Tete, was woken up around 05:00 by the loud street outside the hotel. When I started to fall back asleep , woken up again around 06:00 by my S. African roommate Fred, who said he couldn't sleep (well, thanks for waking me to let me know). We checked out of the hotel and headed to the border minibus stop, pausing to watch the sun rise over the Zambezi River.
Arriving at the border and entering immigration, was prepared to deal with some crap about my new passport from the border guard, but surprisingly no hassles, and right on through. On the Malawi side, passing through immigration (again without hassles), avoided the taxis and began walking to the bus stop... and walking, and walking - finally realized that this was not exactly convenient, was fortunate to grab a taxi passing by for the ridiculous 7km journey to the bus stop. Getting to the bus station and boarding the next minibus, which ran out of gas along the way to Blantyre, switched busses and finally made it to the hostel. Got checked into a dorm, then wandered a bit around the town, passing by Church of St. Michael (1891),
then over to the market where I bought some sugar cane (the stuff isn't so bad!). Tomorrow, heading out to the lake.
Monkey Bay, Malawi
Stuck in some dirty hotel in Monkey Bay. No restaurants around are open (are there even restaurants around?), so had to settle for chips (french fries) cooked by a vendor on the street, and a beer from the bar across the street. But at least the hotel manager brought me a bucket of hot water to "shower" with... I took off from Blantyre this morning, connected to a minibus in Limbe. While waiting for the bus to fill, bought some bananas and a juice from the vendors patrolling the bus station - then realized the juice bottle had been opened, so not sure what liquid was actually inside the bottle. Opting not to drink it, I looked around for a bit at the station for the punk who sold it to me. A few passengers on the bus were also helping, but he disappeared in the crowd before the bus took off. Of course the bus took all day, 8 hours to go roughly 200 km - thanks, in part, to the numerous stops along the way to pick up, drop off, wait to fill up with more passengers - just business as usual traveling through Africa.
Cape Maclear, Malawi
Here at Cape Maclear, small fishing village at the southern end of Lake Malawi, and heading over in a bit to a local bar to catch USA game #2 in the World Cup with Liza, a S. African staying in the same hostel. This morning I got up early, grabbed a matola pickup truck ride to the Cape. I think it may have been the most shocking thing ever, but the matola only had a few people in the truck bed and we took off. I mean, the driver said, "OK, we will leave soon, just need to pick something up." - which normally translates to hours after it is filled up beyond capacity. But, we actually left after only about 10 minutes, and practically empty bed. So unbelievable that it easily was the most memorable event of the day! Arrived in the Cape early enough for breakfast ("real" flapjack pancakes - yum), shopped around for a cheap hostel, then after checking in to one right on the beach, sat out by the lake with a book. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and cool today, so no swimming... although with potential bilharzia lurking in the water, maybe it is better to stay dry...