Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 137 - Hlane National Park, Swaziland to Maputo, Mozambique

The entire Hlane National Park is run on solar power which was cool but there were no outlets to charge the electronics.  Rained last night so all my gear was soaked.  Fell asleep to hippos snorting.  (Edit note: Rob, you thought my snoring was bad).  Packed up at 7am and headed for the border. The road was packed with throngs of school kids, it was like riding through a pedestrian walkway.  The border was a snap but the hefty 87USD visa was a bit tough to take.  They also did not recognize the carnet.  They had their own form that had to be filled out at a cost of 10 rand (1.5USD).  The whole experience reminded me of Central America.  They even had their fixers but it was on a tip commission so it wasn’t bad.  Really didn’t need him.  Another 70 rand (10USD) for insurance and I was on my way through a pretty questionable border town on the other side.  Loads of buildings that were just shells, paint peeling and what looked like a bad case of mould.  

Found myself in Maputo an hour later.  What a place!  It was like the whole city was built on a garbage dump.  Litter EVERYWHERE and in piles!  The roads were as bad as the one Rob and I rode from Canta to Lima!  Only RobC can appreciate that.  It was like someone took a large meat tenderizer to the entire road network. I would have to say its the dirtiest city I have been to so far.  Ghettos everywhere you turned.  Arrived at Fatimas Backpackers around 11am and decided it was in my best interest to stay here and try to obtain a Tanzanian visa from here. Simon, not sure what his position was at Fatima’s,  told me many Canadians had been here while they worked on demining the countryside.  Yikes!  I was reassured that most of the mines had been removed but to stay off the beaten track ... just in case.   

Called the embassy from one of these phone guys with the yellow vests that wander the streets.  No public pay phones like we are use to. You give him some cash, he types the amount in and you have x amount of minutes to talk on a phone that looked like a land line phone not a cell phone. Weird. If you need one of these guys and you don't see one all you do is walk out onto the street, whistle and they come out of the woodwork.  Amazing. The embassy told me it was a good idea to get the visa in advance, cheaper too so hired a cab, dropped off my passport, 2 photos and 50USD.  It would be ready the next day at 11am.   

Next order of business was to get more cash as I had nothing left.  I went to the ATM and to my surprise my PIN didn’t work.  Oh oh!  Was it compromised?  I know I didn’t type it in incorrectly.  Tried again and again and my attempt limit was exceeded.  I panicked! Went into the bank, they shrugged and said there was nothing they could do.  Tried another ATM.  Same result.  Back to Fatimas and Simon told me to try the TDM (local telecom company) and make a call from there.  It was a half hour walk through some of the seediest streets I have had the pleasure to stroll.  Apparently, its safe during the day but night time is a different story.  The people at TDM didn’t understand what I was looking for and finally told me it was impossible to make a long distance collect call out of Mozambique.  No suggestions either, just walked away.  Simon had told me the same thing before I left on the quest.  On the walk back I tried another bank with the same result, no suggestions and no help.  Back at Fatima's where I talked to Simon again and found out that to buy a pay as you go phone would cost 60USD plus the SIM card plus airtime.  Sigh.  I was about to email MC when Simon offered his cell if I bought some air time as he was out.  Done.  Phoned MC and straightened everything out.  Whew!! 

Met some interesting characters, Keith from Ottawa who has been touring the world for some time and a guy from Germany who supported Apartheid.  That turned out to be a very interesting conversation.

 Fatima's Backpackers

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