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Published: November 15th 2010
It's days like these that make me want to revert to easy travel with tours and transfers...
The day starts at 4am with the mosque wailing in the alien-brainwash-electronic call. Luckily I want to get up then anyway. I quickly pack and make my way out of the hostel to try and find some way to Nampula. My stomach has been gurgling all night and I'm nauseous so blaming the awful meal at Flor de Rosa the night before, I amble to the main street. Luckily there is a chapas in no time at all and I ram in with all my stuff. The dirt track, bumpy road is already taxing and I concentrate on not throwing up. We fill the minibus by 5am so make our way to the bridge, we even stop mid crossing and squeeze another one in. I have a middle seat so don't even have anywhere to lean, I am now in a cold sweat and heavy breathing. Just as I get myself under control the woman in front of me starts puking into a spare blouse, which does not help my state at all. Then a baby starts kicking me and another person boards with
a live chicken. It's a long 3 hours to Nampula.
We pull up in a bus station and are bombarded with people as usual, taxi drivers, bag carriers, other bus conductors. In the madness and confusion I don't notice my phone getting stolen, so get in a taxi to find a chapas to Mocuba. A man in the first lay-by tells us they have all left for the day so I suggest the bus station for Quelimane buses. These have all left too but a man helps with a new option. I get a tanzaniano, larger bus, to Alto Molocue, which is in the right direction. I don't know why I ask what time it leaves and how long it takes as the answers of 9am and 2 hours are completely wrong. We leave at 10:30am once the bus us full. At least I get a half decent seat this time with some legroom, my bum has already gone to sleep before we leave though. I pass the time with naps and watching films on my laptop. The man behind insists on sliding the window open into my elbow throughout the journey and after the 10th time the pain makes
me explode. Luckily the man beside me backs me up as he's heard me say ow at every occasion, I then open the window fully and let them suffer the blowing gale for a while. After 30mins they ask me to shut it and then wait a full 30secs before blasting my elbow again!!! When we arrive at our destination at 14:30, I am tired, sweaty and strangely not hungry seeing as I've only eaten a piece of bread all day. I do feel faint though... I had been thinking that I'd stop the journey at this point but that was until I saw the town which was one dirt track, no prospect of a hotel. Luckily though there is another chapas waiting to go to Mocuba so I pile straight into that one. New addition to the problems is that my day pack zip is now broken, but amazingly nothing else has been stolen. Back seat so no leg room at all, can barely feel my feet and legs any more anyway so no probs. Ipod on and rest my head on the seat in front. The road is gradually getting worse so soon it is far too bumpy
to rest. This time the highlight of the trip is a man carrying fish in a bag in the blazing heat, good job I've not eaten or my sickness would return. The man next to me can tell I've had a bad day so he gives me a couple of bananas. The passengers change a few times, a man with sugar cane, a woman with a chicken, we finally take on a woman with 6 barrels of local booze, they are clearly leaking so I get tipsy on just the smell of it! As we approach Mocuba after 3 hours a local starts a chat in English. He tries to help me find the connection for my next journey tomorrow, luckily another bloke is doing the same as me so we book our tickets for the 4am chapas and he takes me to a hotel for 200Mets per night! Local's place so rustic but plenty good enough as I'm shattered. He's from Guinea, working between Nampula and Blantyre. He even treats me to dinner in a local restaurant including beers, very helpful.
We have bought tickets for the 4am bus, so of course we aim to
get there at 5am... I have to wake Sory up as I can hear him still snoring from the corridor at 4:30am. We walk in the pitch black to the small bus depot and find the right minibus. As usual they refuse to leave until full and we are apparently 6 people short. I am shattered to take my seat and intermittently nap. We finally set off at 7am, but that soon ends again. We first stop to fill the tyres with air, then to get petrol, then we turn into a dirt track. On our way!!! No! We stop again and wait for more passengers. The luggage is in a trailer towed at the rear so the driver insists on 4 passengers per row, not including children of course, or the fact that my legs are longer than anyone else's so I can't fit! At 8:30 the engine is turned on and everyone piles in, but due to the hanging about we've now lost some of the original passengers, but we have their bags. Similar to aircraft, we can't leave until we find them and get them on board... We finally find the last man and we're off! 200M
down the road the new passengers shout out and we have to stop again to pick up their luggage, another 200m they shout again as they want to chat to someone on the street, I am starting to wish we never picked these extra blokes up.
The dirt track never changes back to a paved road, so it is bumpy and rough going for 6 hours. There is a safety bar in front of me so I also have to be careful not to nut myself on that, while wriggling to prevent my feet and legs from going dead. Also due to the sand track, we have to keep shutting the windows as the trucks speed along causing huge dust clouds, so the heat is stifling. We stop a couple of times to buy drinks and food from the local shacks. This is too much for the little boy next to me on his mum's lap, he throws up on himself twice, it seems that is my luck for buses in Moz... We are about 10km from Milange, when more disaster strikes. The trailer gets a flat tyre. All the men help out changing the tyre but there is a
problem with the spare so we have no way to fix it. The only option is that some people stay behind, luckily this is the 4 annoying men who caused us to stop extra times, so their seats are free to put the rest of our luggage in the minibus. Finally on our way and at Milange. I walk with Sory for about a km and find a tout exchanging money at a reasonable rate. Sory has lots to exchange so wants an even better deal and decides to spend the night here finding his 'exchange mate'. He gets me two boys on push-bikes, one takes my backpack the other takes me and they ride me the 3km to the border. Good job the road is straight as I've barely eaten again so struggle to hang on. Easy border process as no visa or payment needed for Malawi. A short walk and I'm on another minibus bound for Blantyre, or so I think. This is a more local bus so stops every 15mins or so to drop someone off or pick someone up, a long 2 hours later we hit the rush hour traffic and then eventually the journey terminates in Limbe bus depot, not Blantyre! It's now pitch black and utter chaos. The bus conductor shouts at a few locals hanging round and tries to put me on another bus, but it has left so he tells me where to wait. I get on one bus that then changes its mind and kicks us all off, another local takes pity on my confused look and helps find me another minibus as he's going the same way. It's a scramble to get on so he takes my backpack on his lap, it's heavy and now filthy from the ride in the trailer. This bus isn't going to the depot which is next to the hostel I want so the man indicates to let us off then carries my bag to the hostel for me! He claims it will help him getting a connecting bus but I'm not so sure so I buy him a beer to thank him.
What a journey! Now I need a shower, some food and a good rest!
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