Published: October 30th 2009August 25th 2009
The TCO bus is an anomaly in African transport, like a readable passage in a Harry Potter book. Though not hitting Argentinian heights of comfort, it makes the 16.75 hours to Beira pass in a trauma-free fashion. The promised toilet and AC are present and correct, and the secret to reaching our destination in just one day lies in infrequent stops and certainly none for fruit and veg shopping. I wonder if the ripping sound I hear is the tearing apart of the very fabric of African travel.
There is one cause for concern, however, and it unexpectedly revolves around Westlife. The bus has insufficient DVDs to last the duration of the journey and, though we only get one showing of "Operation Delta Force 2:Mayhem", the Westlife Greatest Hits DVD gets repeated.
I consider myself as being fairly clued in to the musical era in which Westlife experienced their success, but I have to reconsider that in the wake of this overdose. Most shocking to me is that I realise I couldn't pick the lead singer out of a line-up though, disturbingly, I not only recognise Brian McFadden but know his name. Two of the others are familiar but
number five is unknown to me. Their destruction of "I Have A Dream" is a further slap to the face.
Our steady onward progress comes to a grinding halt near Mocuba. "Overnight" work on the bridge over the river Licungo has encroached on the daytime and we wait for over two hours to be able to cross. It's a testament to the awesomeness of TCO that we subsequently make up more than half of this delay.
The landscape for the trip is nothing special but we do cross one of Africa's great rivers, the Zambezi, though it's via a bridge rather than the ferry that was the only option when the WLP was written.
We arrive in Beira well after nightfall - not the best time given Mozambique's second city's grim reputation - and half-heartedly haggle down a taxi driver's initial quote. He agrees to return to the hotel at 3AM to take us back to the bus terminal but the wee small hours fare will be nearly twice the current one. We're too tired to complain.
The hotel we choose is fine for the six hours I spend in it. In particular, there are no
signs of the malarial mossies for which Beira is famous, but it's still an unwelcome intrusion when the alarm goes off at 2:30AM.
The taxi driver is on time - not that difficult as he appears to have spent the previous six hours in the bar across the road - and the emptiness of Beira's streets at this time means he can weave around with impunity. We're dropped back at the TCO terminal without incident and prepare for another day on a bus. Dull but possibly useful info
i. Took the TCO (Transportes Carlos Oliveira) bus from Nampula to Beira, which left at 4AM from a filling station a block behind the cathedral, cost M1,610, and took nearly 17 hours (the schedule is 16 but we had the delay near Mocuba). The TCO "office" in Nampula is at the Galp filling station (i.e. different from where the buses depart from) in Casa Fabiao on the corner of Ave. 3 de Fevreiro and Ave. de Independencia. The bus is a single-decker and has a loo, AC, and you get a cheese sandwich and a muffin for both breakfast and dinner (wasn't sure if dinner was included or was just brekkie leftovers due to the bus only being half full). Lunch is picked up at a gas station en route - you're given a menu in advance for your order and they phone ahead. Chicken and chips is M110 but the chicken was nasty. The gas station also has crisps, choc bars, etc so they might appeal more. The bus runs on Tuesday (definitely) and Thursday (possibly - couldn't really understand the ticket woman's Portuguese but I think she was saying there's a service to Beira on Thursday but no onward connection to Vilankulos on Friday). The comfort level was high - no aches and pains even after the 17 hour journey.
ii. Paid M150 for a taxi from the TCO terminal (location unknown) to Hotel Infante, and M250 for the reverse journey at 3AM.
iii. Stayed at Hotel Infante, paying M800 for a decent room (no mossie net but no mossies) with a broken TV and en suite (towel but only cold water).