From Mozambique Island to Nampula, it was only supposed to take 2 1/2 to 3 hours. It took us 8. EIGHT HOURS. The owner of the guesthouse we stayed at on Moz Island told us “Don’t worrry! Take your time! Stay for breakfast, relax, you’ll be fine! Once you get to the bus station in Nampula, there will be plenty of buses to choose from to go down to Vilanculos!”
He. was. wrong.
So wrong it hurt. So wrong that it reminds me to get on TripAdvisor just to tell him how absolutely wrong he was about a. taking our time to leave in the morning. b. not taking very long to get to Nampula. c. “plenty of buses” my @#$! No. No. NO. He was all wrong. The only thing he was right about was recommending “Ruby’s” for us to stay at once we realized there was no way we were going to stay at the only other option in town with prison bars circling the entrance to what you would have to assume is where drug deals go bad, women wake up in compromising situations, and creepy crawlies reside. Yes, we’re on a budget. No, you couldn’t pay me to sleep there. No.
Let’s start with our farewell to our lovely host on the island, shall we? After our ‘thank you’s, we walked down towards the bridge to catch the chapa to Nampula. We had to wait twenty minutes or so for it to fill up. No big deal. Standard. I had a seat (on my backpack), I didn’t mind.
We crossed the bridge and unloaded/reloaded and made our way towards Nampula. Twenty minutes later, we stopped. Turned around. Headed back towards the bridge. There, we waited for twenty minutes. Drove for a few minutes back, turned around, waited back at the bridge for another twenty minutes. No explanation given. Not even in Portugese. Give me chickens. Give me babies and children sitting in between my legs while I try to maintain balance standing in the back of a pick-up truck flying over countless potholes in the road. Sure. I can do that. It’s Africa. But to drive in circles, without windows that open, to sit and wait in the midday African sun… This is when I start to agree with everyone who thinks I must be crazy for not only choosing to do this, but dragging Andrew along with me, who, by the way, at this point was getting his knees bashed in by the seat in front of him and his foot was swollen. again. for reasons we still weren’t sure of after the accident…
We stop every several hundred meters to drop someone off, pick someone up. Our driver clearly could care less that he was driving a couple dozen people around. He would get out at the mandatory police checks, chat up the officers, get a drink… have a snack… He stopped at one point, climbed out of the van, and all of the men followed him and disappeared.
“It’s prayer time.” Andrew told me. The women and children, myself, and Andrew waited for thirty minutes in the chapa.
Then we had to change chapas. The first chapa charged us for our bags, something that only happens when you don’t know any better and can’t speak Portugese to argue. I got mad at Andrew for paying. It was maybe $1.00 total. But I was furious at the thought that we were being taken advantage of because we were foreign. Maybe we weren’t. But we hadn’t been charged for our bags in any of the other chapas OR buses we had taken in Mozambique, and after the four hour drive when it should have been less than two, I wasn’t exactly in the mood to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Andrew was. He usually is. Half the time this infuriates me, especially in situations like this. I mean, how dare he be so calm and level-headed when the situation clearly does not deserve such a mature attitude!
I just read the previous paragraph to him. He responded, “Make sure you write that I don’t think we were being scammed.”
The next chapa pulled up and it was almost full, except for two seats- one in front and one behind the front passenger seat. Andrew climbed in front, and I got in the back. I thought we were ready to go and then our previous driver (the annoying one, from our first chapa) came up and pointed to the space in between the front seats and the row where my legs, and three other passengers’ legs were squeezed into a three seat row were. He counted in Portugese, explaining to our new driver could fit three, four more people there.
I debated springing out of my seat to tackle him down onto the pavement below. A man (medium build) and then a mother with a baby tied to her back and child (maybe six years old) climbed in. Facing us. It was tight. Eight people, technically sitting in a space designed for three.Not counting the man collecting money, standing in the row to open and close the door for those getting in and out of the chapa along the way. I cursed myself for thinking that previous bus and/or chapa rides were the worst. Because, I should have known… they can (and will) always get worse.
The chapa left the parking lot only to pull over shortly after. An older woman climbed into the front with Andrew. I thought we were in the clear, and then the chapa pulled over again. The mother (with the two young children) sitting, facing me protested. She pointed out her six year old, asking where he would go. The newest passenger would hold him. It was decided. He climbed in. He tried to put his legs in between mine. I shook my head. I had reached my limit. There was no where for my legs to go and I wasn’t about to attempt to make room for someone else’s legs to go in between them. He pointed again to my legs, stepping on my toes the entire time. I shook my head again. He gave up, but still managed to squeeze in between me and the poor girl next to me. It was the worst chapa ride for me yet.
The medium sized man got out and I heaved a sigh of relief thinking the last hour or so of the trip would lead to feeling my legs again. That thought went out the window when another mother with a baby strapped to her back got in. Ten. Ten people in a row for three. I gritted my teeth and willed my knees to work if/when I could stand again.
Around dusk, we arrived at “the station.” It was little more than a dirt parking lot littered with garbage and random buses and chapas parked or idling waiting for their journey to begin. I fell out of the chapa and immediately we tried scouting out which bus could take us to Vilanculos. We found one, it left at three in the morning. We walked across the street with our backpacks to check out the guesthouse there. We decided we simply couldn’t stay there and grabbed a taxi to take us to the hostel/guesthouse that was recommended to us. Our driver had never heard of it before. He pulled over and asked for directions. The locals had never heard of it before. We were frantic. And then I just told our driver to go in the direction we were told it was in, because surely there had to be something there, right? Luckily, I spotted it.
I ducked in. It was expensive. I mean, for a dorm bed, it was expensive. I tried to ask if we could just hang out on the porch until two in the morning, when we had planned on taking the next bus down to Vilanculos. We couldn’t. I asked if we could get a discount, as we were only going to be there for less than six hours. We couldn’t do that, either. By this time, Andrew was nervous I had been gone for so long. He started shouting outside of the bushes/gate dividing the guesthouse from the street. I ran out. It suddenly all seemed so ridiculous. We were so stressed out. I had already gotten upset with him over $1.00. A DOLLAR. His foot was swollen. I didn’t want to pay $20.00 for less than six hours in a bunk-bed… We were tired, it was going to be another 12-18 hours on a bus to Vilanculos…
“I think we should just stay the night, we’ll figure it out in the morning. None of this stress is worth it.” I told him. He agreed. readily. We checked in, put our bags down, got Andrew a beer and sat down to take a deep breath.
“You guys look like you guys have been dealing with AFRICA today…” Or something like that (I can’t remember exactly), another guest at the hostel said.
“Yea, what gave it away?” I said, quite wryly. He (Eben was his name) chuckled and we told him about our day. He shook his head knowingly and told us about fleeing Mozambique Island by way of an expensive taxi to go directly to a hospital because he was having an allergic reaction on the island.
“I think we saw you at one of the cafes on the island!”Annelies, his wife mentioned.
“Did you have braids?” I asked, remembering her, mostly for her hair. Not many white girls traveling through Africa had braids like she was sporting…
“YES!” She laughed and cracked a Predator joke and I knew we would be friends.
We ended up being in the same dorm room, just the four of us, and stayed up too late chatting (Andrew and I somewhat deliriously, I’m sure) about our travels before falling asleep happy to be in a bed for longer than six hours and to have met another wonderful couple along the way.