Thursday, January 26, 2006

Maputo, Mozambique . . . “Bom Dia”

Maputo, being the capital of an old Portuguese colony is described as having a ‘Latin-party atmosphere’. Anticipating some major festivities we set off to celebrate New Year’s Eve there. Too disorganized to get a ticket for the 7 hour bus ride we embarked on a 12 hour overnight train ride from Jo’burg to the border of Mozambique. Arriving at the border at 6am on 31 December we haggled our way on to a ‘combi’ bus for a few more hours journey in to Maputo.

Oh the joys of the combi. For those not familiar with this method of transport, I should explain that the ‘combi’ (known throughout Africa by different names) is a minivan with seats for 15 people that typically carries up to 20 or more people (and sometimes the odd goat or chicken) anywhere from around the corner to a neighbouring country. Combis to various destinations can usually be located in at least one place in any city. They have no set schedule and leave when they are ‘full’. Combi drivers are particularly talented and, on occasion, have managed to drive: while collecting the fare from and providing change to passengers; while shelling and eating peanuts; while talking on the mobile phone; without a driver’s license; without a steering wheel (don’t ask); without half the floor of the van; surrounded by mist and rain; without windscreen wipers; and (most shockingly) without a fear of death. Despite the obvious brilliance of these men (and they are always men) we have decided to avoid combi travel whenever possible.

After the combi trip, actually arriving in Maputo was cause enough for celebration. Our mission was to find somewhere to celebrate that and the New Year. We spent the rest of the day scoping out our evening. We thought a good place might be Costa do Sol, a restaurant renowned for its seafood and for staying open through Mozambique’s 20 year civil war (now over). I had planned on a 45 min walk to get there but, somehow, it took us 3 hours. [Note to self: Damn those maps can be misleading]. We arrived in the late afternoon to find that Costa do Sol was closed for New Year’s Eve, apparently more concerned with the wild parties on the beach than the previous civil war.

New Year’s Eve in Maputo was quite a night, as we expected. Unfortunately we didn’t actually experience it. After our long walk and a seafood dinner elsewhere we were so exhausted that we barely stayed awake to hear the fireworks. Our only assessment of the New Year’s Eve that the rest of Maputo enjoyed was from the debris left in the streets the next day.

Still, we loved Maputo and would visit again. Next time making a more determined effort to stay awake.


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