Posts tagged ‘Mozambique’

40 hours in Ponta Do Ouro

Friday, October 29th, 2010

For the trip to Ponta D’Ouro from Maputo you should take the ferry to Catembe (20 cent) which takes about 10 minutes, and from Catembe the minibus (4 euro). Be aware that it can take time to fill the minibus, and although they tell you the trip is about 2,5-3,5 hours it will probably take longer. The road is really bad, mostly dirt road or sand, and if you decide to drive yourself you will need a 4 wheel drive and a good map. For me, because of missed mini buses, problem with driver, flat tire and police bribes the trip took about 8-9 hours from Maputo.

Arriving just when the sunlight is gone, the driver takes me the whole way to a scuba place I found on the Internet in advance. There I am lucky enough to be able to book a scuba dive for the next morning (because of low season) and also get a recommendation for a nearby hostel with really nice owner and workers. The first evening I spend in their company and also checks out a restaurant for an incredible sea food pasta.

The next morning I wake up 6:30 for my scuba dive. The dive is good, just me and another guy that joins a scuba diving club traveling here from South Africa. When trying to return to land from the furious sea with huge waves, one of the motors don’t start and on top of this the radio is dead. After a while we gets rescued by a boat passing by and they drop us off near the shore.

In the afternoon I take a walk away from the normal beach along the coast and a rocky almost hidden path (towards South Africa). After a while I arrive at a beautiful misty beach with sand dunes, where I am totally alone and without earlier foot prints. I soon realize the mist is not mist at all, but instead sand blowing in the air which I also feel on my skin when the wind picks up in speed now and then.

I take a long walk, running up and down the sand dunes and playing around, finding a water snake plus hatched turtle eggs. To have a big chance of seeing turtles I should have been here some weeks later though when the turtles lay their eggs.

Back in town I walk around the small huts in the alley behind the local outdoor market. After a while I decide for a restaurant with excellent food, and end up spending the evening there talking to people mostly from Maputo and Tanzania.

The next morning I go up at 7 to do some wave surfing for the first time in my life. The board I rented for 10 euro the last evening, to be able to surf before the surf shop opens in the morning. The waves are perfect, which not my technique is of course. But a good start and now I want more! One of the reasons why I move to Spain in November is actually to learn how to surf.

When I have no more strength to fight the strong current I end my surfing for this time, moving on to the minibus where I write this blog entry while waiting for the minibus to fill up. Little do I know it will take 5 hours for the bus to get filled and start the journey.

Boat Maputo to Zitundo, Mozambique

Zitundo boats

Zitundo stranded boat

Mozambique packed/crowded minibus taxi

Minibus 4-wheel  drive punctured

Fruit stands under tree shadow

Ponta do Ouro sand road

Cliff passage Ponta do Ouro

Crab on cliffs (Mozambique)

Deserted empty beach - Ponta d'ouro

Strong waves & current in Mozambique

Blowing sand storm - Mozambique

Sand dune - Ponta do Ouro

Ponta do Ouro turtle beach

Unknown object on beach

Water snake on beach

Water snake shallow water

Water snake in wave

Desert flower beach

Footsteps in sand beach

Ponta do Ouro market

Simple Mozambique houses/sheds

Ponta do Ouro backstreet

Walking chicken with her children

Mozambique boy with car toy

Woman carrying on head

American mine sweepers in Mozambique

Surfing board room

Point D’Ouro facts:

When I write this the town have got only one ATM-machine, although so far it only takes some specific cards so bring cash to be sure to have money.

Minibuses leave from/to Maputo at least two times every day and costs 4 euro. Be prepared for one of the most uncomfortable bus trip in your life, or one of the best, depending on how good seat you get and what your idea of fun is. Also bring food and water because there is no place on the way to buy this.

What else to do in Point D’Ouro:

Swim with dolphins (90% hit rate, book in advance)

The Ancestors

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I was invited to lunch at a newly found friend’s place, a Mozambican girl born in Maputo, and after the food we started discussing religion. She told me about the different beliefs in Mozambique, and the most interesting for me was the Ancestors, which usually are combined with a “normal” religion.

Most people here in Mozambique (and also in South Africa) believe that when the old family members die they become a personal “god” and looks after their family. Once or twice per year the living family members worship the Ancestors through a ceremony that can for example include sacrifice of an animal and dancing. Usually the family do this when they need something specific, like rain for the crops. Because they don’t have a specific place to worship and pay tribute to their Ancestors, they usually have a specific tree instead that they go and sit under while doing this.

This is another proof that the family bonds in the southern countries are tighter than in the north of Europe. Also in these countries it is obvious for the younger family members to take care of their elders (including the husbands parents) when they can’t take care of them selves. This is totally opposite to Scandinavia where it’s the norm to move your elders to an “elder home”, where they have employed people to take care of them.

Living situation in Mozambique

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

One day when I was at the pub with a friend I asked her about the living situation of the poor people here. I have seen several camps here and also you see people building their own very simple houses everywhere along the roads between the cities. What I wondered was if they are living there illegal like the Roma people in Europe, or if they own/rent the land. What she told me was astonishing!

How it works here is that you go to the old people of the area you want to move to and ask them if there is some free land there. Then they will give you a land for free, but only if you build a house there with the intention to live there. You can also go to the government and ask them for a not specific place to live, which will result in you getting land at a random place, again for free.

The catch is that if the government needs the land in the future, for example if they are going to build a road, you will need to give back the land to them. BUT you will be given a new place to live, and also some money to replace the house you have built on your old land.

I am really interested in the lives and complications of the Roma people and wish that they could get a deal like the poor here in Mozambique. Also people here don’t look down on these people, which leads to them easier getting a job and not getting excluded from the society as the Roma people often are.

Fish market in Maputo, Mozambique

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Wow. I went to the fish market in Maputo last week to get some lunch and got a really nice over all experience. I can not enough recommend this place! The fish market is located near the beach in Maputo so you get a nice walk first to get there. Then, when you enter the place, you see fish everywhere and in all different shapes. Prices (without trying to bargain) was 2 euro for 1 kg of clams, 2 euro for 1 kilo of crab, and 2 euro for ½ kilo of tiger fish. All the fish is incredibly fresh and some is still alive, like the clams and the crabs.

After selecting what you want to eat you can, instead of taking it home, go to one of the nearby restaurants and ask them to cook this. The price for this is about 2 euro per dish, and if you want rice or salad to the dishes it will cost you extra. I can truly say this was one of the best food I have eaten in my life, specially the fresh crab. Because I love sea food I will really miss this place when I move away from Mozambique.

A tip is to go into the kitchen when they cook your food, both because it is interesting and also to see that they actually cook the food you brought and not some older fish to save money.

Maputo fish market (with Barracudas)

Red fish at Maputo fish market

Clam seller, Maputo fishmarket

Living clams squirting water

Huge sized tiger prawn

Raw tiger prawn with man holding

Raw tiger prawns in bucket

Living King crabs

Fresh squid octopus, Maputo fish market

Preparing seafood in kitchen

Clam soup (mussels)

Fresh crab plate

Grilled tiger prawns

Pick pocketing

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Today I had two guys trying to steal my things in a local bus using the sandwich technique (pressing against you from each direction). This has happened to me a lot of times, in a lot of countries, but they never got away with it so far. Here are a few tips that will help you keep your belongings. A lot of the tips are common sense, but it’s still good to be reminded of them.

  • Don’t have valuables in a wide pocket or open handbag
  • If you have a backpack, have a lock on the pockets and keep it in front of you when you are waiting or are in a local transport
  • Same with a handbag keep it in front of you when you are not walking
  • If people are within a hands distance from you, keep your hands in the pockets (or where your valuables are)
  • Don’t think you can recognize a pick pocket; he can be a homeless guy or a guy in suit. At a carnival in India I caught one guy in suit and a business suitcase with his hand in my pocket, probably with a hidden compartment in his suitcase to easily stash away new things.
  • Pick pockets work both by themselves and in pair. In the later case, the accomplice usually stops in front of you with the intention that you walk into them, while the pick pocket are behind you stealing your things. Another common distraction is also when the accomplice ask you a question to distract you.
  • A common technique is that pick pockets hides their hands with a jacket or newspaper (in crowded places)
  • Be extra careful in places where you are more easily chosen in a crowd, for example if you are the only white face or the only one with shorts.

To minimize the eventual damage you can do this:

  • Have only the necessary valuables and money with you at all time
  • Use a cheap phone when you don’t need your fancy/work mobile phone
  • Don’t walk around with your passport, instead have a photo copy of it with you
  • Use several small size memory cards for your camera instead of a big one
  • Back up your pictures so at least you have them if your camera gets stolen

The most common place to steal from you is at tourist spots, local transports and in generally crowded places. This specially includes train stations, metro and busses.

Pick pocketing in metro

Swaziland, a travel log

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Welcome to Swaziland

One week while staying in Mozambique I decided to go to Swaziland. After about 4 hours on a small and fully packed mini bus from Maputo (6 euro) I arrive to Manzini in Swaziland. After buying some food and taking a quick walk around I continue to Mbabane, about 45 minutes away. This small town is situated just next to the mountains. The plan is to call my Couchsurfing host who I am supposed to stay at for my 3 nights here in Swaziland. But when I try to call him I realize I have no signal with my mobile company here. On top of this, the mobile store don’t sell sim cards TODAY (they are all sold), and the internet places tells me their internet is broken. Anyway, a nice café owner borrows me her phone and I manage to set up a meeting for 4 hours later (the guy is busy at the moment, which is weird because we decided to meet about this time).

Manzini minibus market, with street food

Street food (grilled meat) in Swaziland

While I wait at the place for the meeting, a fancy sports restaurant, I realize some of the food here seems similar to Indian food. This is something I also noticed in Mozambique but didn’t think further on. Later on I learned that this is because around 200 years ago a lot of Indians was moved here as cheap labor to work on the sugar cane fields. Nowadays they have created a big community in the southern Africa.

Back to Swaziland… The local people seems really nice here, calling me “friend” all the time and doing everything they can to help. Even when I asked a taxi driver about the (cheaper) mini bus earlier, he told me how much I should pay for the mini bus not to get tricked.

For the currency, they use Rand here, the same as in South Africa. Be aware though that if you withdraw money from an ATM machine you will get Swaziland currency, which is worth exactly the same, but you will need to exchange/use it before leaving the country as you can only use it here.

After checking a magazine and some billboards, still waiting for the Couchsurfer, I realize there is both a wildlife sanctuary nearby, plus a lot of adventure sports like white water rafting, caving, mountain biking and warm natural springs. I only have two full days here this time before I have to meet some friends for the Kruger Park in South Africa, but I look forward to these days for exploring this interesting and beautiful country!

When the guy finally comes to the restaurant where I am waiting I realize it’s the wrong guy because of a mixup of phone numbers. I borrows his phone and calls the other guy, which now is occupied and wants me to take into a hostel for the night instead. Later on I found out this was because of the guy having a date that evening.

Early morning. The hostel I finally ended up in yesterday was in a handicraft center and protected park, so I start the day with a short walk to see the surroundings accompanied by beautiful bird song. Finds a coin phone but it’s out of order since yesterday (what is it about me and phones on this trip?). Borrows a phone again in a shop and calls the Couchsurfer. The guy tells me to call him from the original place from yesterday one hour later. Walks there, tries to buy a sim card without luck again. Borrows a phone.. And finally we succeed to meet half an hour later!

After driving around and doing some choirs we drive home to my new friend “D”. On the way I learn that he has family from Finland and has lived there for some years. His mother is also a finish consulate here, as I can see on the flag that welcomes visitors on top of their house. D does not have a job so he has a lot of spare time, which he use to activate local kids. On top of this he is starting a business with handicraft workshops with the goal to get the Swaziland artists to create more individual and unique handicraft, instead of stick to the stuff they know sells.

D’s house is a nice cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains. Here I do some work and then we drive around to pick some kids up and continue to a school on top of one of the mountains. Here we do indoor climbing, basketball and ultimate frisbee with the energetic and incredible positive kids.

Swaziland - climbing at university

When everybody finally is out of energy we drive to meet a Canadian couple who have lived here in Swaziland for a month now. They actually came here with the intention to stay for 3 days, but liked it so much they stayed for longer. While hitch hiking here they met a guy who was going on a long trip and borrowed them his house for free if they look after it and the two dogs (called “Big dog” and “Small dog”) + one cat who lives there. Sadly Small dog was attacked by 15 wild dogs today and has some nasty bruces to prove this. Small dog is a Jack Russel Terrier, the same crazy and self confident dog that I was traveling with in Greece for a month.

Big dog & Small dog

When we arrive to the house the lights are out and we only have candles plus an open fire on which we make some food. After a nice evening with a lot of interesting talk and travel stories I decide to stay for the night.

The next day we go up around 7 to run for a while and to take a morning dip in a nearby, ice cold pool. I then decide to take a walk in the center, so me and a friend hitch hike there. After walking around for some hours, and also working for a while from a café with a beautiful mountain view, I go with some more friends to an art exhibition of an university here. The exhibition is great and shows the students final works before leaving the university and entering the big real world. After the exhibition we go back to the house and relax with some beers at a nearby lodge.

Cellphone repairs store in Mbabane, Swaziland

Swaziland house near Mbabane

Swaziland art exhibition at the university

In the next morning I go up at 6:30 to hitch hike to the Kruger Park, where I will meet some friends from Mozambique. The hitch hiking have to wait though because a minibus stops and picks me up almost immediately. In the middle of the way the bus stops and the driver handles out tickets. I soon realize why when around the corner a police car stops us to check the papers of the bus. This is common here and a lot of minibuses seem to be illegal but still have no problems. The feeling in the bus in happy and cherish, with the people joking and having fun with each other. I think about the differences here and north Europe, where people take maximum distance between each other in the busses. Also I realize it will be difficult to leave Africa with its smiling and happy people. I came here thinking it would be a dangerous region in the world, after so many people warning me. But what I have found here is an incredible helpful and friendly people.

Swaziland mini bus with people inside

Actually, taking a minibus is one of my favorite things to do in Africa. The interesting road, African music pumping in the speakers (if you are lucky) and really positive and easy going people.

I make a stop in Pigs Peak, a small town with beautiful surroundings. Here I also find an ATM machine to increase my zero euro in my wallet to 7 euro, not wanting to take out to much because of the Swaziland currency.

Pigs Peak, Swaziland

Swaziland - Pigs Peak mountains

After about 2 hours, 3½ euro and 3 minibuses in total I arrive at the South African border “Jeppes Reef”. Now when I have crossed the border  its only about 2 hours to klimatipoort (3 minibuses, total 5 euro) before reaching my final destination, the Kruger Park.

Prices in Mozambique (examples from Maputo)

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

After three days here in Mozambique I am ready to give some examples of the prices here, mostly for regular living costs like food and transportation:

50 cl water bottle (store) 30 cent
500 cl water bottle (store) 1 euro
Tea (restaurant) 40 cent
Bread 10 cent
Vegetables (street) 40 cent / kilo
Fast food 40 cent – 1 euro
Food in normal restaurant 1-4 euro
Food in expensive restaurant 6-8 euro
Minibus (chapa) 50 cent
Rickshaw (chopela) 1-2 euro
Taxi within the city 2-3 euro
Mobile phone card
store / street)
50 cent for the card, 1-20 euro for charging
Mobile internet (mcel) 5 euro/day (1 GB – called “unlimited bandwidth”)
16 euro/week (3 GB)
20 euro//month (1 GB)
27 euro/month (3 GB)
48 euro/month (10 GB – called “unlimited bandwidth”)
Prices above are excluded modem and mobile phone card

South Africa & Mozambique

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Yesterday I arrived in Maputo (Mozambique), after a weekend in Johannesburg (South Africa). Johannesburg was huge and I was lucky to get to know some new friends with cars. In other case it would have been very difficult to get around in this 10 million people city. As the locals say there is not so much things to do or see in JB, besides partying which I of course managed to have on the agenda. Also I did a visit to the apartheid museum plus it’s temporary exhibition of Nelson Mandela.

After 9 hours on the bus and a somewhat confusing border control I am now in Maputo. This city seems much more easy to get around in, both with walking (6 hours today) and local transportation. You have the local mini busses, shapas, which have fixed but somewhat unknown routes, that stop anywhere you want on the route for you. On top of this there is normal taxi which is quite cheap, and the motorized rickshaws (chopelas) which is like a taxi but about one third of the price, and reminds of the bicycle taxis you can find in Thailand and a lot of other places In Asia.

The food here seems great, with a lot of influence from Europe but also with it’s own dishes. Focus is on sea food which, luckily, is my favorite.

Chapa (minibus) in Maputo, Mozambique

More updates coming soon!