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The Magic of Maputo

Maputo, Mozambique


What a difference a border crossing makes, or rather two as was the case in getting from Durban to Maputo. Leaving Durban was not a hardship, in fact I was happy to be back on the road and heading north towards the real Africa. Having lived in Cape Town since October 2006 I didn't exactly view South Africa in the same light as the rest of the continent - and thus was eager to see my visa stamped out for the time being.

The crossing into Swaziland will be, I should imagine, the easiest of all my border crossings over the coming year, and was certainly so compared to the crossing into Mozambique. Having been warned that border officials are unlike the rest of the human race - they seem to have had the section of their brain removed that allows us to smile and laugh - I knew I would have to be all smiles and the example of politeness.

Even that didn't work, although once I flashed the dollars for my visa they soon sparked into action and began helping me fill out a form that, in all honesty, merits an A-Level just for completing it. Still I had my visa and was, in my eyes, officially travelling - that state of limbo was fading rapidly, to be replaced by the first real pangs of genuine excitement since I left Cape Town.

Not being a huge fan of cities, an obvious few such as Cape Town, San Francisco and Sydney aside, I have been pleasantly surprised by Maputo - so much so I have opted to have an extra day here before making the journey to Tofo. What I think appeals to me the most is that the locals let you get on with your life, allowing ones self to blend into the everyday scenery. There is a tendency in African countries for the traveller to be seen as a cash buffalo, leading to all sorts of predators flanking you until you eventually give in and buy something from them.

This is one aspect of African life I don't like, and there is only one place in Maputo where you need to be more forceful than a polite 'no' for people to leave you be - the fish market. Here, slightly away from the bustling streets of the city centre, anyone who steps foot into the market is an open target to be hunted down. Before the hawkers, with their sculptures, art, pirate DVDs and all manner of other curios, get a chance to sink their claws into you the chefs are in with the initial blow.

In a nutshell the market works like this; as you enter there are the rickety wooden stalls with all manner of fresh fish and seafood for sale, after which comes a series of small restaurants built around a small sandy 'market square' so to speak, which backs onto the stalls. The concept is simple, you buy whatever fish, prawns, crab, squid (I could go on) you want and then either take it home or have one of the restaurants cook it for you - and therein lies the problem.

Every chef descends on you as if you were the last diner on earth, telling you how he will cook your food before you have even chosen it. It took me one trip around all the stalls just to shake the persistent chefs off, but once that was achieved the real business of haggling could begin. In the end I settled for a kilo of king prawns, no more than six hours out of the sea, for the princely sum of five pounds - and for another pound I had them cooked perfectly on an open fire.

Luckily I had a good book with me, so could hide behind it and ignore any would be hawker who thought it necessary to offer me his wares even though I had turned them all away at least twice. So, the market aside, Maputo has an easy-going, laid-back atmosphere that lends itself to my personality and it will be with fond memories and more than favourable impressions that I leave here for Tofo on Sunday.


permalink written by  MarcusInAfrica on March 13, 2009 from Maputo, Mozambique
from the travel blog: Cape to Cardiff
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Looks like a very exotic and different place.

permalink written by  Travel Master on March 13, 2009


colonialist dog ! as usual you have proven that your negotiaton skills are not up to scratch ..lol

permalink written by  el presidente on March 16, 2009

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