We arrived Maputo at around two o’clock the next morning. I was stressed and wornout from the previous day’s activity. It was some relief to have arrived Maputo finally but at the same time, I was a bit confused of the next thing to do at that time of the morning. I had neither made a hotel reservation there at Maputo nor have any contact that I could put up with till morning.
The only option I had was to sleep over at the airport and continue my journey to Beira the next day. I spent a couple of minutes walking the length and breath of the airport trying to figure out a good place to sleep. The airport was clean and looked as it it was newly built.
Beira is the capital of the Mozambique’s Sofala Province. I had made a couple of friends there some years ago when I started learning Portuguese. My friends there were so eager to see me and hence waiting and exploring Maputo first was not an option I was willing consider. The other reason why I must arrive Maputo on time was because I would be flying from there to Johannesburg South Africa in two days’ time. So, I almost did not entertain the idea to explore or visit places of interest in Maputo.
I had earlier spoken to a fellow passenger who flew in from Pemba with me the previous day. He advised me the journey to Beira would take up to a day or more if I should do it on road but should take an hour if I flew in a plane. I think I should have taken the option of flying to that of going by road if I knew I would have challenges with communication with other passengers in the bus. Flying from Maputo to Beira he advised would cost me around 3000 meticais ($50 USD). The trip by road he advised may cost me half or less. I almost spent the same amount for flying on the road – but it was part of the experience.
The next morning, the first thing to do was to communicate my friends at Beira that I landed safely. I could not find sim to buy nor wifi. I had to borrow the phone of one of the vendors at the airport to make this call. This young man, Marcus was a nice person and spoke some English. He was able to direct me to Junta Park, where in town I could get a vehicle going to Beira.
Not willing to pay anything to the very expensive airport taxis to drop me off at the Central Park – Junta from where I would get a bus going to Beira. Getting to the park was not difficult but unfortunately on arrival, I was told I could not get a direct Bus to Beira. I was asked to break my trip in two. I was to arrive to a province called Inhambane and then take another bus to Beira. This option was fair and I decided it was the way to go!
I also had a horrible experience that morning. I had wanted to buy a sim card from one of the local vendors who sold sim cards and recharge cards in the park. The guy was willing to sell to me but immediately heard I was a Nigerian, he refused to sell to me. It took the intervention of one of the gentlemen who directed him to me to convince him to sell the card to me. I never bothered to find out why he did not want to sell to me in the first instance but I could guess why. He sold me a Vodacom sim, registered it and then helped me to purchase a data bundle before I went to board the vehicle. His reasons obviously was because so many of them see Nigerians to be criminal minded. He probably thought I was one of them. The other reason is that some of the Nigerians who were in Mozambique were either illegal or were looking for ways to sneak into neigbouring South Africa.
When I was in the park also, a police officer came up to me and demanded to see my passport. I think he somehow noticed I was a stranger or maybe someone called his attention to a travelling Nigerian. He returned my passport to me after checking it. I went ahead to buy some bread for breakfast before proceeding to the bus that will take me to the first stop.
It was a Sunday morning. Sunday’s see very less traffic jam of passengers hence there is no guarantee of getting enough passengers to all destinations. Beira was one of those destinations that does not have a direct bus going to it on Sundays from Maputo. If you must embark on the journey, it is important to break the journey into two. First take a bus to Inhambane then get another vehicle to Beira from there. This first trip costed 1100 Meticais.
The first leg of the journey which was to the Inhambane Province. The journey which almost took the whole day but was good and at the same time boring. Boring because of the set of people I sat with and because the bus was fully packed with goods and there was no available space to move around and to interact with other passengers. I was also constrained by my limited Portuguese skills – I spoke just a few things in Portuguese and the old man who sat close to me was not in the mood to discuss anything.
The journey was continued through the Gaza Province of the Mozambique. It was so exciting travelling through this Province. The driver of the bus observed a 30 minutes stop for people to eat and ease themselves. An average plate of food sold for 150 meticais (almost $2.5). I was awed by the fact there is a Gaza in the Middle East and another in Southern Africa. I also called to mind the story of a documentary I watched about Gaza which is called the Last King of Gaza which I’ll summarize below:
Gungunhana was the last king of Gaza.
The Southern African king who ruled the last great independent African kingdom, Gaza, which from 1885 until 1889 was located on the Sabi River in what is now eastern Zimbabwe; after 1889 it was located on the lower Limpopo River in what is now southern Mozambique. He tried to maintain his independence by playing the European powers against one another but was finally conquered by the Portuguese.
The Gaza Empire (1824–1895) was an African empire established by his grandfather, the powerful general Soshangane. The Gaza Empire, at its height in the 1860s, covered all of Mozambique between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers.
Hence, Gungunhana, the grandson of the founder of Gaza, Soshangane, and son of Mzila, Gungunhana became king in 1885. Gungunhana found himself under increasing pressure from the Portuguese and soon asked for British protection, which was refused. He encouraged contacts with other Europeans, hoping to gain time in which to build up his own strength, but these contacts lost him the loyalty of many of his people. In 1890 he signed an agreement with Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company, but the British government, fearful of diplomatic repercussions with Portugal, disallowed it. War finally broke out with the Portuguese in 1895, and Gungunhana was defeated at the Battle of Coolela and captured at Chaimite. He died in exile in the Azores. He was the last King of Gaza. (This story was sourced from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica)
The Rest of the Journey
We continued our journey till a point where our vehicle broke down. For hour or more, we spent a lot of time trying to fix the vehicle. They attempted to explain what the trouble with the vehicle was to me in Portuguese but my limited understanding of the language was an impediment to my comprehension of their explanation. This problem turned made the vehicle drag for the next three hours or so we had to travel.
The driver of the bus was very kind. He handed me over to a driver who he told to help me get a vehicle to Beira the next morning. He also asked him to help me get a place to sleep for the night. I slept in a not so comfortable 300 meticais ($5) room – without a bath or convenience (I had to share a general one). It had a mosquito net and it was cold that night. At a point, I felt insecure at because the neighborhood was some sort of a ghetto and had several miscreants around. There was a club close by also. I was even tempted to go and see things for myself before going back to the hotel to sleep.
Back to the room, I noticed someone close by was playing a song by one of my favorite Angolan musician Kyaku Kyadaff’s track – Mazakalake. This would be the first time I was hearing someone else playing who is not myself playing the song. This helped switch me off till the next day.
Tips on Movement and Spending in Mozambique:
- It is cheaper to move with buses and shared taxis
- It is better to change money at an approved bureau de change or in a bank
- Always have your passport handy. Police may stop and ask for your passport if they notice you are a foreigner
- Learn a few Portuguese
- Junta Park has vehicle to almost everywhere in the country