Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Welcome to Mozambique

7/15/10: We left the beauty of Lake Malawi for the Indian Ocean
beaches of Mozambique. It will take us 2 days of travel through the
country to arrive at the shore. We are currently at a stop over in
the town of Tete.

The border crossing from Malawi into Mozambique was time consuming.
First off there is a huge "no mans land" between Malawi and Mozambique
- at least 4km. Not sure why, perhap because of the civil war in
Mozambique which only ended in 1992 (walking in the bush is ill
advised because of land mines). The no mans land distance means you
have to get exited from Malawi, then drive to the Mozambique border
post, and get out again to get entered. The Mozambique authorities are
stricter than we had experienced before. It took a few hours for all
of us to get our visas in order and get permission to enter
Mozambique. They look for excuses to extort money out of you, and when
you do pay a legitimate fee like a visa fee - it seems to fall into
illegitimate hands. Julia and I already had visas, which we had
obtained from home, and this made our personal experience with the
authorities much easier.

While others on our trip were getting clearance, we waited in the
border area. In my other African border crossings, I had not been
harassed as much as I was here. People swarmed our truck upon arrival
trying to sell us things like cigarettes, apples, cell phones, or
phone cards. I said "No thank you" about a thousand times and tried
to remain patient. Many were trying to get us to change money; walking
around with wads of cash. I did not change money because of fears of
getting fleeced (we were warned by the guide). Our guide had to change
money though, understandably to keep the tour going, and was more
experienced in doing so. The guy he traded with looked like a pimp-
wearing a suit whereas everyone else was in tattered clothing - and
the exhancge rate is better on the black market than it is at the
bank. It was shady at best. The shadiest thing about tge border post
was people just hanging around: doing nothing, begging, looking at
you, flat out asking for things (ie: "hey boss, gimme your watch").
Needless to say, we kept close guard over the truck until we were
allowed to leave.

Once driving, the country appeared much poorer than Malawi. I had
expected the worst conditions to be in Malawi. The area we are in is
crowded and dirty. Our campground (named "Jesus e' Bom") is not the
best, but it is on the Zambezi river and there is make-shift plumbing
with hot water heated by a wood fire. Our guides say this is the best
place to stay while on our way to "paradise".

Mozambique seems to be a bit more challenging than others to travel
in. For example, we have to cross a bridge but only 1 lane is open
while the bridge is being retrofitted. It is the only bridge over the
river for miles. They alternate traffic in either direction every HOUR
- and don't keep to the schedule very well. So depending on when you
arrive, you may wait a long time to cross. While you wait, authorities
continually harass you for paperwork in an effort to extort money from
you. When it us finally your turn to cross, they harass you again. Our
guide is definitely earning his wages in just getting us through
Mozambique. There is definitely more corruption here than we had
experienced before. A means to an end though as we are on our way to a
beautiful place.

Note: The children in Mozambique (and Malawi) are more polite than
those in Zambia. When giving out trinkets or pens/notebooks to kids in
school, the kids here are much more calm and patient (no free-for-
all). They also don't speak English (Portugese), but are pretty good
at communicating with gesture.

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