Here I am in Maputo, Mozambique. It took quite awhile to get here—two hours to Toronto, then 13 ½ hours to Addis Ababa, and then five more hours to Maputo. In Toronto, I encountered yet another Richard Serra massive art piece. I first saw his work in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, and then saw a smaller installation in the Toronto airport, years ago. Now they’ve come back for seconds, with this new piece.
In Maputo I’m staying at Fatima’s Backpackers, a hostel with a friendly clientele and pleasant staff. There are quite a few Americans staying here, which I find rare. Two of my roommates (Vermont and Tennesee) and I had a nice visit. They are teaching school in Botswana, and left the next day to return. I also had breakfast with Joe, a young accountant from West Virginia, who spends most of his time doing Christian missionary work.
My first impressions of Maputo are: 1) it’s a sleepy, slow-moving town with the light (from the north) streaming into the streets in kind of a ‘funny’ but beautiful way; 2) the cars are all quite new and there are lots of them; they often park on the sidewalks which makes walking difficult; 3) the ‘slow’ extends to waiters in restaurants, where it takes forever to get your order and more than forever to get the check; 4) there’s a lot of trash in the streets and the sidewalks end here and there in sand/dirt; 5) the people are friendly and I don’t see much abject poverty.
I spent my second day at the National Art Museum, which was small and didn’t seem to have the collections in it that were described in the Lonely Planet. That was disappointing, but I pulled myself together over a nice salmon dinner and a couple of draft beers at a restaurant in a park. Then I walked home and took a nap!
We only have wifi at the hostel from 7:00 PM until 6:00 AM. The whole city of Maputo has it (free) from midnight until 6:00 AM, so the hostel only needs to pay for it from 7:00 PM until midnight. Everybody sits around the living area at 7:00, ready to wifi!
I have gotten money from at least three ATMs, unlike when I was in Colombia last winter, when they were on the ‘European system” of needing an extra security chip in the ATM card. Last week I applied for a Visa credit card, which has the extra chip, but it didn’t arrive in time. The bank said they are going to convert all our debit cards to this system in the future. In the meantime, it looks like I won’t have any trouble getting money from ATMs in Mozambique.
After having breakfast, I went to see the Saturday Craft Market, which had a lot of batik, woodcarving and clothes. The salesmen were not nearly as aggressive as in many countries. Obviously if I buy something, I will wait until the day before going home, so I don’t have to carry it. This was near the port, where the fishing boats come in.
There’s a big election coming up—there are pictures and election ads for ‘Frelimo’ everywhere you look, even on this woman’s skirt! There was some talk about this election causing ‘trouble’ (a resumption of the civil war that ended in the mid-90s) but a Mozambique man staying at the hostel said that there was nothing to worry about—all would be cool. I hope so!
After walking toward home for 45 minutes, I stopped for a (Mozambique) beer in a neighborhood restaurant where I usually eat my breakfast. The weather is fine—highs of about 79 with a nice cool breeze that you notice when in the shade. In the evening I’m more comfortable with long sleeves.
The next day I found the Natural History Museum in a pretty building that had lots of stuffed animal exhibits. There was also a collection of elephant fetuses (!) from one to 18 months gestation. One never knows what one will see in these funky museums.
I took a very spiffy tuk-tuk back to the hostel. Most of the taxis are yellow cars, but there are a few tuk-tuks.
Sunday afternoon I joined most of Maputo on the Costa Do Sol on the ocean. I ate at a restaurant of the same name, having grilled prawns that were extra good! The lemon/butter/cream sauce was spectacular!
A couple more days here, and then I’ll be heading north.