Spring Break Part 3: MozambiqueCape Town, Spring 2012
So, part three of spring break! Writing all of this out makes me realize what a long trip it was. We managed to pack quite a bit into those eight days. Here goes the third and final part…
After we finished up our safari and Soweto part of our spring break, we were given the choice to either go back to Cape Town with IES or plan our own adventure for the last bit of spring break. So, six of my friends and I decided to visit Mozambique.
Mozambique borders South Africa to the Northeast. It is classified as an underdeveloped country, so this was my first time being in a “third world” country. And so the adventure began…
We flew into Maputo airport with a plan. And by “a plan” I mean one plan… one plan that was not exactly full proof. See, we were supposed to meet up with a woman that we had been in touch with about the trip; it was understood that she would be organizing the transportation for us upon our arrival in Maputo. Since Bilene is about two hours up the coast from the airport, it was not within walking distance. However, when we go there, we could not seem to get in touch with her.
After a little while we wondered whether or not it was our phones failing to roam properly in another country. This led us to ask the man at the information desk for help. After trying several times unsuccessfully, he told us that he had a friend that could take us, someone that also worked at the info desk with him. Having no other options than to sit in Maputo airport until God knows when, we took him up on his offer. We hopped in the car with a complete stranger, and we were on our way. We picked up the driver’s girlfriend (he wanted company on the way home) and our tour guide along the way.
Driving through downtown Maputo was overwhelming. I had never seen so many people bustling around the streets, and this is coming from someone who spends a great deal of time in New York. There were literally people everywhere. We also were told to keep our cameras out of sight, or at least on the inside of the van with the windows shut. One of the girls was told that there was a high probability it might get snatched right out of her hand if she continued to poke it out of the window to take pictures.
It was then that I also realized we might as well have printed “foreigners” on our foreheads. It hit me that we were literally the only white people in sight. While this obviously wasn’t a bad thing… it was just the first time that I had ever experienced anything like that. A very weird feeling came over me when I realized that throughout my entire life I had never truly been in the minority. It forced me to take off those rose colored glasses for a second and realize that Cape Town was very different from many other parts of Africa.
Once we got through Maputo, our first stop was to get groceries. The plan was to be camping on the beaches of Bilene. Since we were planning on roughing it for a couple of days, we figured we would need the basics: jugs of water, beer, toilet paper, and a truck load of PB&J. We were also planning on having a no showering contest, but that’s besides the point. Anyways, after we finished food shopping, we were finally on our way to Bilene. It had been an interesting start to the trip, but we were just happy to be en route to the campsite.
We drove through the countryside, where I saw for the first time why Mozambique is technically considered an underdeveloped country. We passed by many huts that in no way had electricity; we also saw many people carrying foods and fruits on their heads in baskets. It seemed to be a much more rural way of life, I guess you could say.
We were about halfway through the trip when we were pulled over by one of the policemen that search cars at random at certain checkpoints on the main road. Though we could not understand him, as he was speaking Portuguese, he seemed to want some kind of a bribe. At one point, our driver mentioned that we might have to give him some of our groceries.
Apparently, the only thing that saved us was the driver telling the cop that his girlfriend was in the car and that they were trying to hurry along and drop us off so that they could return to Maputo. I’m not entirely sure why it mattered that she was in the car, but our tour guide seemed to think that while the policeman was willing to rip off some loud American tourists, he did not want to do that to natives. After this little hiccup in the trip, we were once again on our way.
We were so happy when we arrived at Laguna Camp in Bilene, Mozambique! We had finally made it. As I said, the plan was to camp on the beach for the next four days. However, upon our arrival we were informed that the camp owner had forgotten about our reservation and had not set up our tents and campsite just yet.
Upon hearing this, we began to wonder if we would be sleeping under a tree instead. This was right when the camp owner asked us if we wouldn’t mind staying in one of their beach houses instead, since they didn’t have the time to set up our camp. Our response, “Um… DUH.”
We immediately threw our bags into our room and ran down to the beach. It was everything I had expected it would be…. Beautiful.
After hanging out on the beach for a little while, the sun began to set. This was probably one of my favorite sunsets ever. Who gets to say they got to watch the sun set while sitting in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique?!
The next couple of days were relaxation time. After the more adventurous parts of spring break, we were really to sit back and do a whole lot of nothing. Aside from lying on the beach and doing a whole lot of nothing, we went snorkeling and explored the lagoon that we were situated on. That was about it. We also met these adorable little boys who loved to play by the lagoon and make things out of the palm leaves they found. One of them made this for my roommate…
Oh, I did forget to mention the time our boat got stuck in the middle of the ocean though. When we were on our way back from snorkeling, the boat broke down. It took the driver about forty minutes to fix it… but we ended up being able to get back. So, crisis averted!
On the morning we were supposed to leave we came to another unfortunate realization. After talking to the camp owner about how we managed to get there, he seemed pretty convinced that our tour guide and his driver friend were not coming back. He said they overcharged us and would not be coming back to bring us to the airport. We made the rookie mistake of paying him when he dropped us off at the camp. But in our defense… he made it sound like he would be asking for more money on the trip back; so we assumed if he needed to collect more money he would be back.
This was not the case. And since we were dealing in Meticai, we were not very familiar with the currency. I guess you live and learn…
So, our next challenge was getting back to the airport so that we would make our flight on time and get back to Cape Town alive. The camp owner’s suggestion: hop in the back of his friend’s pickup truck. Our response: “We’ll take it.”
And so we hopped in the back of yet another stranger’s pickup truck. He drove us to Macia, a neighboring town about thirty minutes away. From there, we yelled for a minibus from the side of the road. Getting into the minibus was the challenge, as we all had large backpacks, but somehow we all managed to fit. We couldn’t move for the next three hours, but it was a heck of a lot better than walking to Maputo.
We kissed the ground when we finally arrived at Maputo airport. We jumped for joy when we finally touched down in Cape Town.
I will never forget this adventure; in part because it was probably one of the more ridiculous things I have done, but also because I got to experience a country very different from both the U.S. and South Africa. I had a great time as well as had a couple of interesting realizations.
And that concludes my spring break saga. Hope you enjoyed reading! –Rachael
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