Sunday Morning ~ Nampula, Mozambique
April 8, 2018
It’s early and I know I won’t have time to write all I want about this trip before we have to be on the road back to Malawi, but I’ll get started and finish it next week. We drove three hours yesterday to get as far as Nampula so we’d only have ten hours to go today. It’s been a great trip and I have a little feeling of dread about getting home tonight and facing the next few weeks. I keep wondering if I could just make a career out of travel writing, but then I guess that would take some of the fun out of it. We have had few anxiety-provoking adventures, as always, but we really do travel well together and are a good team. Every time we take a trip we get more reinforcement of that.
Mozambique Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s much smaller than I expected, about a mile long and a quarter mile wide. It was the capital of Mozambique for a couple of centuries under Portuguese rule but moved to Maputo when the trade routes changed. The governor’s mansion still has it’s original furnishings and is the most European building I’ve seen on this continent. I felt like I was in a museum in Portugal. The island is crowded; there is very little space that does not have a building on it and most of those are crumbling. Many have been renovated, but most of the small alleyways look as if they are condemned. The southern half is sunken because that’s where they took all the stones to build the fort at the northern tip of the island. The poor people live in the sunken area called Makuti Town, in thatched roofed houses made of mud. The nicer section is called Stonetown where all the buildings are made from stone taken from Makuti. We were told when they had heavy rains a few years ago all of Makuti was under water. They installed major drainage ditches in the sunken narrow streets to keep the houses above water. It looks like you’d lose several children a week in them, but I guess there is no traffic down there, so there’s a trade off. There used to be five thousand people on the island but during the civil war another fifteen thousand found refuge there and stayed. It’s a bit overcrowded. The beaches are used for ablutions so swimming there is out of the question. Do not go there for a beach holiday. We discovered it is 98% muslim, probably why Easter wasn’t a big deal. I mean when the Catholic church doesn’t even have a mass on Easter, that’s saying something. It was blisteringly hot and George was recovering from a nasty virus that turned into pneumonia, so we didn’t push ourselves too much. We walked the fort, toured the museum, and strolled the streets. The food was fabulous. Oh my God, the best seafood ever, cooked to perfection. The bread was amazing, and wine was good too. Thank you Portugal; I must visit you sometime. We sort of ate our way through the city. But after three nights we’d had enough there so decided to say goodbye to our hosts, Bruno and Judith, and head for Chocas where we’d heard there was a gorgeous beach and more good food. Bruno had advised us to take a boat over from the Island. Chocas is on the coast of the mainland and only a few miles across the bay from the Island so we considered sailing over for a day or two but then if we wanted to move on, which we thought we might, we wanted to have our car there. Bruno said the road was a dirt one and might be bad but we told him the road we live on was dirt and pretty bad, so we weren’t worried. We were basing this erroneous assumption on the condition of the main roads we’d been on. Silly us.
We left the Island on Monday but first visited the Memorial Garden where the slaves were warehoused before being boarded onto ships to sail for whenever they were to be enslaved. Harrowing. Mozambique Island was a center for slave trade. There was not a lot of signage or description of events, and the upkeep was lacking, but the horror of that part of history was evident. Awful.
Sobered, we headed off the island and around the bay to Chocas. We needed gas and passed a few stations on the way to our turnoff, but none had any petrol. We had a quarter of a tank and sixty kilometers to go, so thought we’d have enough to make it there and felt surely there would be some petrol near there since it was such a tourist destination (you might see where this is going). We found the turnoff, no problem (I was driving) and started on the forty kilometers of dirt road which had just been saturated with about seven inches of rain. Ponds. We had to drive through ponds. Many of them had edges of the road showing, so I could keep a couple of wheels on what we knew was earth and slowly make it through, but three of them were just ponds. No idea how deep. We were in four wheel drive the whole time which was eating up the gas, but it was totally impossible to turn around. I was thinking just go steady, keep up the momentum, and every tough patch we got through seemed a huge accomplishment. A pickup truck was coming toward us and stopped to talk to us. He asked if we were going to Chocas as he’d just come from there. He said, “I’m just telling you, the road gets really bad.” I’m like, “What do you mean ‘get’s really bad? Worse than this?” “Oh”, he said, “Much worse than this. If you have four wheel drive you might make it.” It was twenty more kilometers and it had taken him an hour. We asked if he passed any gas stations? He asked his passenger if there was gas in any of the villages we were passing. She said, there was, in Mousseril, about another ten kilometers. Ok, that was good news since we were almost on empty at that point. And he was right. The road got really bad. Some parts of it were washed away, but the car was great and managed to get through mud and water and parts of the bush where the road was gone. I was thinking there was no way I was doing this road again in the near future. I was considering just moving to Chocas. And he was also right that there was a gas station in Mousseril, but that station also had no gas. The rule of thumb when traveling in Africa is to fill your tank every time you pass a gas station. We are now more aware of abiding by that rule. We had ten kilometers to go, I was exhausted from gripping the wheel and being anxious about running out of gas. Walking through that mud was not an appealing thought. And then what would we do? We started brainstorming. George said he’d pay someone to take a motorcycle to find some. Then I thought maybe we could take a boat back to Mozambique Island and find some there, but we just wanted to concentrate on getting to Chocas, which we finally did in one piece and with a few fumes to spare in the tank. We found the lodge with sweet little bungalows on a beautiful beach and I felt like doing, what I call, a JP2 move––getting prostrate and kissing the ground.
We’ve got to get going so I will finish this later…
…and now it’s fourteen hours later, we’re home safe, no problems, but George didn’t pay the internet bill before we left (he could barely get out of bed) so we don’t have internet. He’s going to try to connect with a hotspot from his phone, but I’m not sure this will get posted. The story is on hold until next week. I got What’s App message saying the course I was supposed to start teaching this week actually started last Tuesday. I have no idea where that stands and can’t get on-line to email anyone to ask. Ugh. And so it begins. The women’s group is supposed to come here tomorrow morning and a local news program was supposed to come and do a little story about them. I don’t know where that stands either. We have been totally incommunicado so have no idea what’s going on in the world. Living in the dark for a week was quite nice time to face reality…
Love to all,