Despite a small probem at the border crossing with an unexpected R12 entry tax, South Africa is behind me and I’m about to head north from Maputo along the Mozambican coast. My Portuguese is holding up well enough to buy vegetables off the street and get on the internet – now I just have to figure out how to barter well enough not to get charged the tourist price. An interesting side effect of all the immigration forms and hostel books I have to fill in is that I now know my passport number off by heart.
Maputo seems pretty European – the usual large tarmac streets and concrete edifices with the occasional interesting public building – and feels a lot safer than South Africa despite the poverty being more pronounced. This is the first time I’ve been doing almost all of my shopping on the streets, although I may have to track down a supermarket for razor blades and beans (Mozambique doesn’t go in for vegetarianism very much). It’s also my first time sleeping under a net and not being able to drink the tap water (it’s difficult not to reflexively use the tap for rinsing my toothbrush), possibly a gentle introduction to life in the rest of Africa.
Perhaps unsurprisingy, everywhere was closed yesterday (Sunday) – including the post office, which is the only place one can make international calls. Every ten yards or so there is a telefone publico sign, but public phones here can only call locally. To recycle a phrase from a guidebook, Africa is at the raw edge of capitalism – so I made a deal with a local person to borrow their cell phone and buy credit (Mtn50 – about GBP1), leaving them with whatever I didn’t use. Problem solved! There are also plenty of ATMs here so I can stock up on local currency and (probaby) get to Blantyre without resorting to dollars.
Almost immediately after I arrived, a large group of architecture students from Durban turned up on a week’s holiday. They invited just about everyone in the hostel along on a free trip to a beach two hour’s drive up the road. Three and a half hours and one traffic fine later, we arrived and I spent a good few hours teaching the local kids (who inevitably turned up to sell things) how to play ultimate frisbee. The speed with which they picked it up was incredible – so at the next Sport Relief I’m going to ask for some discs to be shipped out to Africa (frisbee might replace football as the national sport yet).