After a hectic day getting my visa and doing final preparations for my trip, Jessica dropped me off at the Gautrain station, which I took to the airport. I had a nice dinner at the airport and waited for my departure.
It’s only a one hour flight from Jo’burg to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique and the time went by very quickly.
Upon arrival I learned why I had to get my visa in advance: there were four custom officials checking people in at some desks and none of them had the means to process a visa on the spot. I’m glad I dodged that bullet!
My taxi driver was waiting for me and we were off in just a few minutes.
Even though it was 8:30 pm, the streets of Maputo were crowded with pedestrians and cars. We inched along for over 45 minutes, just trying to make it out of the city. Since it was dark I couldn’t get a good sense of what Maputo was like other than hot and sweaty. It was nice to see so many people mingling on the streets though, since in South Africa most people retreat indoors since it gets dark.
We finally made it through the city and were driving on the highway for a long time. The traffic thinned out and there were no street lights. Then we came to a foggy section. I had been in the taxi for well over an hour when I realized I was a woman along with a stranger in a car, heading down a foggy, dark highway at 10 pm. It sounded like the start of a horror movie!
Luckily, I arrived safely at my destination, Casa Lisa, where I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The room I was shown to was bare bones, but it was just for the night so it didn’t matter. As I was getting ready for bed, the lights suddenly went out! I thought they had lost power so I just went to sleep, but I was told in the morning that the owner shuts off the power at night but no one informed me of that!
In the morning I met two other women who were getting picked up for the same tour: Sabrina, a 20 year old from Switzerland who came to South Africa to learn English and was then traveling around, and Sonya, a 70+ year old from Sweden who had worked in Mozambique 23 years ago. We ate breakfast together then lingered over coffee for awhile.
We were supposed to get picked up around 11 am, so I packed up my few things then sat outside, sweating and reading. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
Noon passed, then 1 pm.
I was starting to get a bit nervous that the tour had forgotten us when the truck finally arrived at 1:45.
After doing some quick introductions to the other 14 people on the tour, we all piled in and set off.
That’s when I discovered that the others had stopped for lunch on the way to pick us up and were not planning to stop for several hours! Even though I was supposed to get lunch that day, I didn’t. Luckily I had some snacks for myself and there were some apples and cookies that people shared, but it wasn’t exactly the grand start I was hoping for.
We had 500 km (310 miles) to go after I got picked up and the “highways” in Mozambique are narrow and full of pot holes. And since we were in a large truck we could only go 80 km/hour max. We were in the truck for nearly 8 hours that day. I thought that was bad, until I realized that the other people had already been on the truck for 7 hours before they picked us up! They were in Swaziland that morning and crossed the border then came through the Maputo traffic to reach us. 15 hours on a truck is not fun, no matter how many people you have to talk to or how comfortable it is.
I met my fellow travelers that day and discovered that most of them were from Europe. There were 4 people from Switzerland, 3 Germans, 1 Austrian, 3 Brits, and one Canadian. They all seemed nice and well traveled. I talked to a few of them while going along, but many of them also took naps or listened to music.
We finally reached our destination, the Barra Lodge at Praia do Barra, around 9:30 pm. It was too late for the cook to prepare dinner so after dropping our bags in our rooms, we met at the restaurant and ordered dinner. The pizza I had was decent, but nothing on the menu was exactly local or traditional. Everyone dispersed to bed quickly after dinner, except for me, Sabrina and Steffie (a 30 year old from Berlin). We headed down to the ocean and had a mid-night swim. It was super dark and the waves were quite big so we didn’t go too far out, but the water was nice and refreshing after the long, hot drive.
I had signed up for a camping tour and thought that everyone else on the trip was also camping, so it came as a surprise to find that some people had paid for an entirely accommodated tour. There were some older people on the trip so I could understand that they didn’t want to camp. But then I found out that because of the recent floods in Mozambique that most of the campsites typically used were under water! Those of us who signed up for camping were actually upgraded to rooms in lodges for most of the nights. The others on the tour had started in Jo’burg and spent a few days in Swaziland before picking me up and they camped those nights. They were also going through Kruger and the Blyde River Canyon on the way back (after I departed) and they were camping there and got their fill of tents. I really lucked out since I paid a lot less than the accommodated version and got nearly all the same amenities!
At Barra Lodge, I was in a basic chalet that had two bedrooms, a bathroom, small kitchen and a sitting area with two twin beds. I shared with Sabrina but since I had my own room it was nearly like having my own place.
The first day had not been the most exciting, but we were spending the entire next day at Barra and I looked forward to my first real Mozambique adventures then.