My road to Mozambique

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I leaned forward and gave him a kiss goodbye.

“See you in a few weeks” – I said, and then I walked away.

For the last week and a half we had been driving around Zambia.

Livingstone – where he had come to meet me and we’d spent a lovely few days enjoying sundowners together overlooking the Falls and finally (after three years of visits to Livingstone) getting to do Devil’s Pool – to Lusaka.

Lusaka to Kafue National Park for a week to stay with his sister and her family who own a beautiful little safari lodge, snuggled away in its own little corner of the world and perched peacefully overlooking the Kafue River.

Before finally finishing our trip together here in Lusaka, where this story began… saying goodbye at the airport.

He is heading home, whereas I still have a few weeks to go. In about six days time I’ll be meeting up with my colleague (and good friend) in Johannesburg for the start of a two week work trip taking us back to Zambia and Botswana. This small (and not by chance) window of opportunity between gives me just enough time to go and have my very own little adventure…

…. and so off I went.



“Six days…. hmmm” 
– I had pondered back at home.

Lots of time to do something significant, this much I knew, but not enough time to be too blase. I had to make some sort of plan.

I started to think about what I hoped to achieve in these six anything could happen days. What did I want to feel, see, accomplish?

I imagined watching the world go by looking out of a window. I pictured changing landscapes, unfamiliar yet curious friendly faces. I felt a quickening of the heartbeat and an anticipation of the unknown, a pushing of my limits with my eyes wide open eager yet anxious to see where this particular road was going to take me and what the journey there would be filled with.

These were the feelings I craved. They were my one and only real way of knowing that I am alive. Not just existing.

Of realising the things I’m able to achieve (just me, all by myself). Allowing even for a small moment to feel accomplished. 

In those small little unidentifiable moments I get to share my very own little secrets with a world passing me by. Existing nowhere other than in that tight little gritty place we feel deeply in our chest, where only sorrow or pure joy is shared.

Geez Jen… no pressure then eh! (she sure does set a tone at times don’t she!)

Oh and I would quite like this to be based on visiting a new country. I probably should’ve just led with that huh – much easier to narrow down.

It turned out I knew exactly where I wanted to go and exactly how I wanted to get there… Mozambique. By bus.


 

After that kiss goodbye at the airport I turned on my heel, and so began my journey…

A few hours later there I was back in Johannesburg and still with a few hours to kill. Night time had fallen, I didn’t know the city (I still don’t) and I didn’t feel that now was the time to acquaint myself. Loaded with my bags and with an anticipation in my gut, I decided to take advantage of the shops and the bars of the airport. I needed a new book anyway and there really is never a bad time to sit with a glass of wine and a new book.

So that’s exactly what I did.

Come the time, a few hours later, I hopped into a taxi that would bring me from the airport to the large bus station somewhere in the centre of Johannesburg. When we arrived I could feel the uneasiness begin to rise into my throat. It didn’t feel like the ‘Covent Garden’ side of the city and my taxi driver was almost insistent on dropping me off outside of the station on the street, which was dark and filled with large bodies of people just hanging around. As I write this I find it difficult to justify this uncertainty that I was feeling. I have no doubt that it all comes from the horror stories that we hear and that small thin shred of doubt that accompanies those stories once they’re in our heads. Imagination’s running wild. Nonetheless, as much as the taxi man tried to insist, I insisted harder, and so into the station he drove.

In the end he went one step further and walked me into this huge concrete circus to help locate where I needed to wait for my bus. What a little legend.

There I sat for another couple of hours. Waiting.

I sat next to a man who chatted with me for a while. Asking me questions and taking an interest in my little story. He had been here on business and was now heading home somewhere in South Africa. A while later as we started to walk towards the bus I began talking with a girl, perhaps slightly younger than myself, and we decided together which of all these buses was ours. She was from Maputo and had been here visiting friends, now on her long journey home. I found my seat (a window seat) and made myself comfy. A lady came and sat beside me who, as I found out hours later when we finally began to speak a few words to each other whilst the sun was rising and we were waiting to pass through immigration, was heading back to Maputo (where she was originally from) to attend her late older sister’s funeral later that very same day. I listened tenderly. I could feel the heaviness in her heart as she spoke.

Life is made up from small encounters, one passing on to the next, and to the next, and to the next. Everyone of us has a story. Each face that you see has a past with a head full of memories. Just like you. Each one of those faces are following a path into their  own future, unknown and unwritten. Just like you.

I had gotten my visa before I left home, so passing through immigration was easy. I always have a slight hesitation when passing through any immigration (don’t we all) worried that something is going to burst up onto their screen as they scan my passport. I mean god knows what it would be, I’m hardly on the top 10 wanted list and as far as I’m aware I’m a fairly standard law abiding citizen. However, this never stops my slightly heightened beating of the heart and my die hard, try hard, attempts of appearing as nonchalant as could ever be possible as I step towards the screen and hand over my passport. As ever though, all is fine and through I go.


I’ve passed across many a border on foot and always there is that small bit of land we have to walk through where I wonder “to which country does this belong?” I’ve scanned my passport to exit the one country, but have not yet had my passport scanned for entry into the next. A sort of ‘no-mans land’ I suppose.

Welcome to Mozambique… and yes folks, that is another new country to add to the competition!

The journey from the border to the capital was not that far. I watched again from my window as we drove by. As per the norm, one very long road with people walking either to somewhere or from somewhere, who knows, along the side of the road, and with signs of development and construction all around. The sky was gloomy, a sort of mix of white and grey that is common back home in England… a non-colour that makes my eyes squint and hurt from the glare. I didn’t actually have much of a clue where I was going. It was definitely somewhere in Maputo and I remembered the name of the stop but for the life of me I couldn’t remember if that was the first stop or the last stop. But as there was supposedly only two stops I figured it wouldn’t be too much of an issue to overcome. Turns out it was the last stop but with a handful of stops in-between meaning I kept going up and asking “this stop?” to the coach rep. In the end I gave up asking and just waited until basically there was no-one left on the coach.

Fortunately this was where I was meant to be.

I had passed through a variation of what seemed to be the older part of the city where kiosks and small little self run shops lined up in abundant, through then to the business district with high rise buildings, offices and shops blasting out bright lights and air-conditioning. Until eventually I ended up in a tree lined street dotted with travel agency’s, ATM’s and curious looking tourists. The end of the road. And where I would need to come back in a few days time for my night in Maputo. The hostel I would be staying in was somewhere near, just around the corner I think. For now though my plan is to head to the beach….

So after I disembarked the coach, off down to the marina I headed.

It was on the other side of Maputo Bay where I knew I could get a chapas (local bus) that would be travelling down the sandy road from the capital to Ponto Do Oura about 70kms away.

It’s just a short little journey across the water to get there. You can take either a larger passenger ferry, or for something a little more local hop on to one of the smaller boats, used essential like a bus.

I waited at the end of the smaller pier with my stub of a ticket, waiting for the little boat that would taxi me across. These are some more opportune moments to people watch…

Everyone seems so familiar with each other. – I observe. Perhaps they all know each other. (This is a thought I often ponder).

Or perhaps, simply because I cannot actually understand the languages around me, this is a common misconception. Quite possibly they are just asking to pass something or help with something, or perhaps they are sharing a passing joke to the persons surrounding them, passing jokes that we can all make at times with our neighbours when standing around waiting. Common niceties and interactions.

I smile and try to make eye contact where seems appropriate.

Here I was, I thought to myself, on another little adventure, all by myself, in a new country and without much of a plan.

I smiled.

Across the bay the boat crossed and towards a number of waiting chapas’ I walked, all of them with the intention of eventually heading off in their own directions. I located the bus for Ponto Do Ouro and boarded. I sat until the bus filled (a common protocol to the bus system I’ve noticed throughout my travels in Africa… wait until the bus is filled, be it half an hour, an hour, or two. We wait as long as is needed). Fortunately today it seemed a few people were heading in the same direction and before long the bus was filled up to within an inch of its broken and battered life and we were on our way and headed to the white sands and blue oceans of the Mozambique coast.

My destination on the horizon.

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