Published: August 19th 2012August 15th 2012
We got up and felt quite good. So, we negotiated a taxi to take us on a day trip to Mozambique Island, and also to Pemba tomorrow. The taxi was well cared and in excellent condition. It was going to be a good day!
Mozambique Island has a similar history to Zanzibar Island. It was the capital of the country and was a slave trading centre that saw countless numbers of captives mistreated and boarded onto ships for transport to slave buying ports around the world. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was the primary reason for us selecting Northern Mozambique in this trip.
We'd initially planned on 2 nights on the island, but a day trip was just as good, since we had a good hotel in Nampula, the drive each way was going to be about 2 1/2 hours, and the Stone Town and other historic interesting areas could be explored well in about 3-4 hours.
The taxi driver, Eduardo, came to the hotel, picked us up, went to the taxi rank, picked up a car jack from another driver, went to a fuel station and asked for Mtc 1500 to fuel up his car for the trip.
Soon after we left Nampula in the taxi we were stopped by a police road block. We were asked for our passports, and the officers went through each etnry and exit stamp in each passport. After 10 minutes or so, he could find nothing wrong and returned the passports. But, he did find something wrong with the paper work of our taxi driver, Eduardo. This, in spite of what appeared to be standard bribe of around $2 by Eduardo. The only solution was to wait 30 minutes or so.
Yes. There is corruption everywhere. But, it's hard to blame the individual police officers. It's the system that is corrupt and designed to encourage such activity. Public officials, especially in the lower ranks, are not paid a living wage. To make up the difference, they accept bribes in tiny amounts. Officials at the top rake it in much larger amounts, but the people see bribery and corruption everywhere and give up all hope. It's much easier to blame individual morality than re-work the system to provide living wages.
After 30 minutes, the police let Eduardo proceed. He just sighed, got back in and drove towards the coast. He'd been driving at a very reasonable 80-90 km/h before the police stop. He was now doing 120-130 to make up time. So yes, the police action causes more dangerous driving.
Another 30 minutes or so later, at 11:00, the engine kept revving, but the gears were not engaging. It was an automatic transmission. He pulled over to the side, opened the hood and checked the usual things like fluid levels and hoses. He thought he found the problem when he found what he thought was a broken hose with a missing piece. He promptly walked back along the highway looking for a matching piece of hose.
There was no point telling him that the symptoms indicated a transmission problem and not a hose connection problem. He came back by about 12:00 with nothing.
Then 2 cars pulled over and both drivers started poking around the engine compartment and jabbered away in Portugese. One started pulling on a lever between the radiator and the engine. No luck. After 20 minutes, he left, because his suggestions didn't really help fix the problem. The other driver offered to tow us to the next town.
Eduardo found a metal cable in his boot (trunk) and tied the two cars together. The tow worked well on flat and uphill sections, but on downhill sections, Eduardo's newer car kept gaining on the older car doing the towing. This resulted in the tow line becoming slack and then there would be a snap at some point when the cable became taught again. Repeating this procedure over and over resulted in the metal cable breaking.
Namiolo, The next town, was about 25km away, and we'd gone perhaps 5km on a tow. The other driver noticed some tree-fibre rope hanging on a fence, and Eduardo paid Mtc 20 (about $0.80) for many strands of the fibre. They wove them into a rope, and tied the cars up again.
The cars proceeded with the natural fibre breaking several times on downhill sections. We still had another 10 km or so to go to Namiolo. Eduardo negotiated for some "real" rope and this time had to pay Mtc50 for it. N.. used his Leatherman pliers to tie the remants of the metal cable to this rope, to give us a long enough rope.
This combination got us to Namiolo and to a Mechanic who was of course out on his siesta. The other driver borrowed the Leatherman to cut the rope from his car, and N.. gifted it to him as a thank you. He really enjoyed the gesture, and left with a big grin on his face. He'd gone way beyond being a good samaritan in helping Eduardo out in his predicament. We didn't realized it while it was happening, but it was now 14:00. It had taken us 3 hours to tow the car roughly 25 km.
We concluded Mozambique Island was not meant to be!
We went to a local restaurant, had soft drinks, and waited for the mechanic. At 15:00 the mechanic showed up, and it was apparent it was not a simple fix. Eduardo asked us for Mtc500 to pay the mechanic, saying his "boss" would pay us at our hotel that night. We confirmed he or someone else would take us Pemba tomorrow as per our original agreement, and that the money we'd spent today would count as a down payment towards the trip to Pemba.
We called Eduardo again at 20:00 and he confirmed he'd fixed the car, and would be at our hotel at 08:00 to take us to Pemba.