Battling hassle and potholes in Maputo
25.06.2012 - 26.06.2012 25 °C
I've had a few hassle-filled days getting to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
I left Zimbabwe yesterday. The Victoria Falls airport is 20km outside of town but in a very different world - on the way we were stopped by police looking for a bribe (luckily my cab driver got me out of that somehow). The area outside the airport was filled with around 100 men just sitting around, my cab driver told me they were all waiting for work.
The airport itself is pretty awful. It's very very tiny; the front room has enough space for maybe 2 check-in desks but was crammed with 8. There were lines of people everywhere - you have to line up to check in and get your boarding pass, then line up to go through immigration, then line up for security, all in this one small room. All the check-in desks have computers but none of them work - my boarding pass was just written on a piece of paper!
On the other side of security it's just another small room with two doors as the 'gates'. The plane arrived late and when it was time to board, the flight attendant just shouted across the room!
Transferring in Johannesburg was also a huge hassle involving three lines. Even though my layover was two hours, I still had to rush to make my second flight! And when I landed in Maputo my pickup from the hostel was 45 minutes late. This is Africa!
Maputo is a large, very rundown city. There are huge potholes in the streets and the sidewalks that are filled with garbage, all the buildings are falling apart, and the people aren't very friendly. I think part of it has to do with the language barrier, but Mozambique is definitely a very poor country. Last night at the hostel I met two Brits, Jack and Kate, and today we set off to get our paperwork in order.
Mozambique has a law requiring foreigners to carry a passport or a notarized copy of their passport at all times. The problem is, when police stop tourists to check their passports, they often take the passport and refuse to return it without a 'fee payment', so we decided to get the notarized photocopy. This, of course, was an adventure in itself. We asked at the hostel where to go, but the first photocopying place was closed. The owner directed us up the street, where we found a shop with at least 10 photocopiers, none of which were in use. The owner told us they were all 'busy' and told us to go somewhere else. We found a second place, but they said that the photocopier was busy copying a book (the machine was turned off). We finally found a place that was willing to copy our passports and headed to the notary.
Apparently everything in Mozambique, from photocopies of passports and drivers licences to resumes, has to be notarized, so the office was incredibly crowded. We pushed our way to the front and then had to wait around 30 minutes to get the copies back, all while people were yelling different things and pushing to the front of the line.
But we finally got our copies and set out to see Maputo. There isn't much to see here, so after we found a good breakfast place we wandered down to the waterfront. Unfortunately the waterfront is pretty run down and sketchy, so we got ice cream and headed to the city's only touristy attraction, the old Portuguese fort. The fort is right near a garbage dump and a crowded bus station, but once inside we found a really cool photo exhibit about Albino people in Africa. It was more interesting than the fort, which had no information on it and a 'view point' from the top that was just a view of the crowded bus station. Maputo is definitely not geared for tourists and seems to have no interest in changing!
After that we decided to head to the grocery store to get supplies for our bus trip to the beach tomorrow. We got a tuktuk on the way back but the driver didn't speak English and we got a little lost, and then, to our horror, got pulled over by a police officer. The driver had to give in his licence but we were watching very carefully and no money was exchanged. When the driver got back in, he started yelling that the officer had taken 200 Rand from him (we knew this wasn't true). He wanted us to pay him back for it...we refused, but the situation was getting pretty scary. Finally we were dropped in front of the hostel and didn't end up having to pay him anything more than what we'd agreed on. Yikes!
Tomorrow we're heading to Tofo Beach, a 5 hour drive from Maputo that on the bus takes 8-10 hours (this is Africa!) I'm very excited to be on the beach, where I'll be scuba diving and doing some yoga. Should be a nice break from crazy Maputo!