So, Mozambique is done and I have returned. About 10 showers later it’s safe to say that Mozambique is dirty. But it’s more akin to if one took the word ‘dirty’, shoved in a mud patch, left it in the sun to bake a bit, and then cleaned up with bilge water. Yes. Third world countries are filthy. I don’t honestly know why this still surprises me.

Anyways, the trip itself was quite cool, and it’s always great to see a new country. Considering I’ve never actually been to another African country, this was quite important in that I can actually say I’ve seen more of the dark continent than SA. There were a lot of similarities to SA, a lot of differences, and a lot of things I can compare to my trip to South East Asia in 2007/2008. Here’s the summary:

The Land

Mozambique is hot as a bastard. It reminded me a lot of the humid, 36+ degree summer in Durban. It’s much like walking and breathing in a muggy soup. From the moment I disembarked from the bus in Maputo I sweated nonstop until I got back onto the Greyhound to Johannesburg. It also seemed to have a tendency to rain in torrents. Contrary to popular belief, this didn’t cool things down a whit, and instead only contributed to increasing the humidity. That being said, we did still traipse around the capital (Maputo) in the rain with nary a complaint. We were much like a bunch of drowned rats afterwards, but it was still great to see the city.

From Mozambique

The backpackers in Maputo: ‘Fatima’s’

For those not in the know, a quick history lesson; Mozambique was formerly a Portuguese colony until, post-WW2, in a fit of compassion, the colonial overlords took sympathy on their vassal state and gave it independence. Overnight. In a week virtually all the Portuguese skilled workers and civil servants had left the country, creating a power and skills vacuum in Mozambique which would make post-revolutionary France look like a timeout in a football game. The inevitable civil war erupted and two leading factions warred for supremecy, RENAMO and FRELIMO. There’s a lot more to it, including South Africa’s own dirty dealings in Mozambique, as well as intentionally bringing in thousands of migrant labourers from Mozambique instead of taking them from the local bantustans, ultimately impoverishing Mozambique of skills and disenfranchising the local black South African population who might otherwise have found a lot more work in SA’s mines.

Put simply, Mozambique crumbled post-independence. Visiting it now, many years later, it’s incredible to see a population effectively squatting on the ruins of a once-impressive country. The infrastructure is literally decaying away, and if you can find an apartment block in Maputo that has been painted in the past ten years I’d be impressed.

The outlying rural areas flood in heavy rains, and outside of the cities most dwellings are palm-rooved huts dotting the landscape. It’s quaint from a tourist’s perspective, but for Mozambique it only highlights the oppressive rot that has occurred. Still, it makes for some truly remarkable scenery.

The People

The people tend to reflect the above a little. And that being said, my holiday was all of a week so perhaps I was limited to the “let’s fleece the mlungu for all he’s worth” crowd. In that respect, the people reflect almost as obviously a mercantilist ethic as the Thai and Laotian vendors in Asia. They all have the same hungry gleam in their eyes. Buying anything requires bartering and you almost always get shafted. In Asia one haggled over a paltry dollar or so more for the hell of it than any real loss, but in Mozambique, the prices are effectively the same as – or often more – than South Africa. Thus haggling takes on a far more desperate atmosphere, where both vendor and customer have very invested interests in milking the other for as much compromise as possible.

I loathe this rampant looting and pillaging of whitey, but I recognise why it exists.

The Holiday

The holiday consisted of seeing 3 major locations: Maputo (city), Tofo (beach) and Inhambane (town). As previously mentioned, Maputo is what one gets when one ceases any and all development of a city for several decades and allows it to decay over time. It’s charming, but I would never, ever wish to live there.

Following Maputo we took a ten hour shuttle to Tofo, an idyllic little beach spot, littered with backpackers, campgrounds and timeshare houses right on the beach. Put simply it’s a great place to go, if you have a 4×4 bakkie and all the equipment necessary. I might be biased due to spending 3 nights in a 45 degree oven/tent on the sand, sometimes in the pouring rain and sometimes suffering from sunstroke due to too much swimming in the sea and general beachness. After 3 days a bed was very much in demand. Tofo is pretty much ruined – and made – by South Africans. We flock there in droves, interspersed with a remarkable amount of Peace Corps bleeding hearts who come to Africa to do… something (what precisely they do is beyond me), but they stick pretty much to themselves and the South Africans generally be what South Africans do best: drink beer, braai and generally raise hell. The affluent ones flood the coast with 4×4’s hitched with speedboats rigged for deep sea fishing, quad bikes, trailers, everything. They spend barely any money in the country, as most food and supplies are simply brought with. It’s shameful, but then again, when foodstuffs and general supplies cost a metric crapton, it’s possibly understandable (rather save that money and use it for petrol to power your hundred-thousand rand boat and Toyota Land Cruiser.

From Mozambique

The beach

From Mozambique

On the shuttle to Tofo

From Mozambique

Lunch (the food poisoning comes free!)

From Tofo we opted to spend two days in the ‘port’ of Inhambane, which actually turned out to be my favourite spot of all. It’s a quaint little town with one jutting pier accounting for its ocean commerce… or something. The town itself is jsut as decrepit as Maputo, but still has a little more charm, somehow. The night life was fascinating, the town pleasant to walk through, and the accommodation slightly more comfortable. Not much happened there per se, but it was still a great little town to be in. I shall instead speak with pictures!

From Mozambique
From Mozambique

The dockside walk

From Mozambique

The ‘hotel’ in neighbouring Maxixe (“Masheesh”)

As mentioned before, this was a short, week-long trip with not a helluva lot of excitement, but simply seeing a new country is in itself awesome in its own right. Coming back home, I was very much looking forward to the ‘petty’ trappings of 1st world living. Things like hot water, a comfy bed, painted buildings, and vendors who wouldn’t take the clothes off my back given enough leverage. Nonetheless, it’s important – I feel – to experience places like these firsthand, rather then simply be intellectually aware of them. Visiting Mozambique provides unknown, yet essential, affirmation as to the evils of perpetual exploitation and war gone very, very bad. It’s developed it’s own character in spite of this, but resembles, to me at least, merely the scab covering the rather painful wound beneath. Mozambique is screwed, and won’t be unscrewed for a very long time. That, I think, is a lesson anyone who has aspirations of power and governance should learn.

From Mozambique

The border point. The people at the top right of the photo are the end of the queue (I was sorta in the middle)

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