06 September 2011

Maputo - Mozambique - Bustling & Vibrant!

Maputo – Bustling & Vibrant!

We recently did a short stop-over in Maputo, Mozambique which is approx. 3-4 hours by road from White River. The distance is not that great but delays can be experienced at the border posts. There are many touts at the borders trying to assist unsuspecting visitors – ignore them and head into the building. No visa is required for South African Passport holders but the queues can stretch right out of the door! On a hot day, this is no fun!

From the border, the road to Maputo is 90 km, straight and well- maintained. However, it is not very scenic - just dry bush as far as the eye can see. Now and again, small huts or houses are visible – do beware of the goats grazing at the side of the road.

The All Africa Games 2011 were due to start the day after we arrived so all the major hotels were fully booked. We ended up in the Coop District at the “Quiet Corner Guest House” which claims to be 4* rated. Both rooms booked (Diana & Gaia) had no en-suite bathrooms and we had to share. Luckily we were a family so this did not matter too much. However, the toilet was not working properly and the public toilet was downstairs – not great for those night-time pit-stops! My bedside lamp did not work either – it was not plugged in and did not even have a globe. This B&B would not achieve 4* status in South Africa and we would rate it as 2*. Whilst breakfast was charged for, this was a self-serve cereal and coffee.
The beds were comfortable with brightly coloured linens and the air-con kept us cool all night. The staff and owner were pleasant – more attention to detail, tea/coffee facilities in the room and a more substantial breakfast would make this a pleasant stop for a night or two. The price was rather high given the shared bathroom scenario.

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique since 1898, is a bustling city with cars and people everywhere. The traffic is non-stop and you have to keep your wits about you if driving! The cars are all modern and mainly 4*4’s. There appears to be a very rich middle class segment in this city but also many poorer people standing in long queues for buses and taxi’s.

We ate supper at the Fish Market, Mercado do Peixe – a lively affair where you can choose your own fish and then get the little restaurants next door to cook it for you. Alternatively ask the restaurant to buy the fish on your behalf – the rates will be better. Crayfish, prawns, clams, crab, rock cod etc – it’s a seafood feast! Down this all with the local beer 2M (dosh-em). A local experience, second to none. Who needs a fancy restaurant when there is this lively, purely local, fish market? Plastic tables and chairs, the beer brought in a bucket and more fresh seafood than you can possibly eat. Yum!!!

There is an active night-life in Maputo with “Coconut” in Costa de Sol, seemingly one of the best nightclubs around.

There appear to be no restrictions on sale of liquor or ‘drink driving’ laws in Maputo as the beach road parking was packed, bumper to bumper, with motor vehicles by 19.00 hrs and the stalls were all selling beer at the side of the road. It seemed to be the “free” party place for the week-end for locals not wanting restaurants or clubs. One has to wonder what the accident rate is over week-ends.

We were warned about corrupt police who target foreigners and harass them endlessly but luckily we escaped this fate. It’s rather sad that the public need to fear the police in Maputo rather than look towards them for protection! Carry a copy of your passport on you and request to see the Chief of Police if you are harassed.

Mundo’s is a great bar/restaurant with SA Sport on TV’s – they also have delicious cheese cake! They are situated next door to Hotel Avenida on Av.Julius Nyerere.

We went to Nossa Casa for breakfast on Saturday morning – it seems that Maputo is a night-time place as the morning service was VERY slow!! However, the food was good and plentiful so no complaints. It’s a Sports Bar and very popular. We had aimed for the Costa da Sol Restaurant but they only open at 11.00. This restaurant is over 70 yrs old and specialises in seafood. 

Lovers Lane
A stroll down Lover’s Lane shows that Aids is a problem in this city and lovers are urged to use protection!

The buildings in Maputo vary from really high rise slum blocks to renovated individual houses, lovely old Colonial buildings in need of a clean to modern hotels like the Hotel Polana or the currently being constructed Radisson Blu.

The African Arts and Crafts scene happens all over the city – be prepared to be harassed by vendors. This was particularly bad in the Fish Market whilst trying to enjoy dinner. The locals did not seem to be targeted but as Europeans we seemed to be like magnets for vendors!! And they don’t accept a polite “No” either! Good guys just trying to make a living but oh so annoying!! One can buy colourful African fabrics, paintings, wood carvings, bead work and the ever present cashews or peanuts!

The old Railway Station is a must see – shades of another era when train travel was romantic and pleasant. This magnificent station with its long, wide platforms conjures up the past – one can visualise ladies in the flowing gowns and men in top hats, meeting on these platforms before embarking on a journey to far away places.

LM Radio (my childhood Radio station!!) still broadcasts in Maputo (Lourenco Marques) today with a mixture of Golden Oldies and more modern music. Some things don’t change! Thanks to those DJ’s who keep this station going!

The “Waterfront” faces a rather mucky small boat harbour on one side and the sea on the other. Pop in for a drink or a meal overlooking the ocean. There is a swimming pool next to the restaurant should it be a really hot day.

We did not see many tourists (except those taking part in the All Africa games) as this city seems to cater more for business visitors.

The Old Fort was another stop where we met a lovely English lady who is now doing voluntary work at the fort. This fort has fairly low walls and was apparently built in the mid 19th century to keep the advancing population at bay rather than any threats from the sea-side. Next to the fort is a lively craft market and the fishing harbour is opposite (no camera’s allowed)  

Getting out of the city, proved a slow process with 4 lanes merging into one due to an accident. Don't be in a hurry as the traffic is heavy most times - you will be able to leave eventually!

An interesting experience of an African city - wide avenues with old trees, modern new buildings next to crumbling, dirty high rises, refuse dumped all over in the city, busy bars and restaurants, modern hotels and hard to find B&B's! And thousands of locals enjoying their city. 

One of the Yacht Clubs
Bougainvilla in bloom
Rubbish Everywhere!

Watch out for falling coconuts!

Maputo could become a beautiful city if the buildings were restored/cleaned, and the litter collected. Perhaps the locals no longer see the mess they are surrounded by? This old city deserves better care from its citizens surely?  

© Judelle Drake

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