Yesterday we went to the Natural History Museum. Bless. They’re really trying their best but the exhibits are very old. They have a lot of stuffed animals that look like they were shot when Victoria was on the throne and some are well past their sell by date. The rotting birds in their sad unlit display cabinets were the worst. The backgrounds were quite recent and they had a disintigrating seagull stuck on a stick ‘flying’ around an ocean scene. Quite depressing. They have also had an attempt to ‘preserve’ some of the exhibits by painting them in grey emulsion, the elephants, crocodiles, dolphin, swordfish and more had been given a few coats (plus runs).
Don’t get me started on the elephant foetus display 🙁
That was jolly wasn’t it! Today I’m on my own, my one remaining colleague has gone north for a few days to seek out more geological records in another dusty regional office of the geological survey. So I sat like a saddo eating my dinner on my own. There must be something about single white guys in restaurants which means they want a ‘good time’, I don’t thank you very much, I just want to eat my dinner!
Then I watched all 3 hours of King Kong, not a bad film, spoiled by being so totally OTT and unbelievable and with some of the worst continuity errors I have ever spotted in a film. I don’t really look out for them but when they are so glaringly obvious you can’t help but see them. Overall, not too shabby and it didn’t seem that long.
Pretty relaxed Sunday after yesterday’s excesses. Finished off gift shopping by buying some T-shirts at one of the street vendors. We nearly bought a full size Mozambique flag, a proper one with ropes and everything, but it was over £30. The guy I mentioned earlier hadn’t quite finished my other gift, he’s made the frame and will finish it by tomorrow, I’m really excited by this as it is very unusual and I’m having it especially made. It’s for my mother-in-law and she’s gonna love it I think!
After this we sat and had some lunch on the beach (during which my fridge magnet seller shadow walked past which was funny, as we recognised each other, I bought a magnet off of him today and we had a chuckle!) and then basically blobbed at home for the afternoon. On the way to dinner we sat and watched the Harvest Moon rise over the sea which was beautiful, but slightly disturbing as we were surrounded by courting couples testing the suspension of their 4x4s under the trees!!
“What no blog last night” I hear you cry dear reader. Well, we got invited to a party by Lina Magaia’s husband in the next street held by some friends of his and my colleagues. And I may have got the teensiest bit the worse for wear!
So let’s start at the beginning. Yesterday morning we went to the Saturday market on Praca 25 Junho to buy gifts. I’ve got some great things but I won’t add spoilers here, I’ve got to go and pick one up this morning as he didn’t have what I wanted and he’s going to make me one ready for today! Prices are so cheap its ridiculous, I feel bad haggling for the odd 20MTn (about 40p)! And I did have a shadow for most of the time, a guy trying desperately to sell me some fridge magnets!!
So we got home for a bit of lunch and then went around to the party about 3pm which was already in full swing, food, wine, beer, music. And Lina’s husband was virtually comatose already! It was held by a French Canadian and his Madagascan wife, so we had a rare old mixture of Portugeuse, French and English being spoken. The party was in celebration of the host’s birthday. We met a really nice Portugeuse family who had moved back to Mozambique and I got speaking to a local French teacher who wanted to practice her English! Quite surreal, but I had had quite a few 2Ms by then! More music, more dancing, more beer until the fridge ran dry. Singing, dancing etc.
People started drifting away about 8.30pm so it was a stagger back to the house for a few more 2Ms and then around to the local restaurant for pizza and 2Ms.
So dear reader, you can see why I didn’t get around to writing a blog entry last night!
A funny old day. Just as I thought we were getting somewhere with the hosting and domain it turns out that my counterpart was supposed to write a letter explaining our requirements to the GovNet people, but he didn’t and now he’s gone to Dar es Salaam for two weeks. We could have sorted this all out three weeks ago but he decided to leave it to the last minute and he knew all along we had to do this. Grrrrrrr.
I had Barracuda for dinner tonight (hence title of blog – if you remember the song Summer Fun from 1980 you will know what this means). I don’t think I’ve ever eating anything as bland. Shan’t bother with that again!
Very windy today, the sea was crashing against the road this afternoon with spray washing across, quite exciting!
Had my most successful day at work today, got to speak with the ministry and the government IT department about hosting the website I’m developing. It’s taken nearly 4 weeks to get to do it! I was expecting a long journey to the ministry as I was told we would need to drive, it turned out it was less than 500m from the DNG! I could see the building just down the road, less than two blocks away! It took longer to drive because of the one way system than it would to walk, I couldn’t believe it! The journey back from the university was even odder, I knew the quick way back but the guy I was with wanted to go to the bank first, so he directs me around Maputo for about 15 minutes, through traffic and down potholed roads etc. Eventually he asked to be dropped off, where were we? About 200m from the DNG building! Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!
The ministry building was such a death trap, God help anyone in there if it ever catches fire, and with all the loose paper on the floor in the ‘offices’ it’s a real possibility. Anyone would struggle to escape, they have divided what was open plan space into narrow winding corridors and ‘offices’ using wooden partitions with windows in that nearly reach the ceiling, too high to climb over. The guy we went to see could see the door out of this space but to get there involved a walk along these narrow wooden corridors and about 6 rightangled bends!! If you got that far you then had the steepest oddest spiral staircase to descend, with broken steps to really help you on your way!
Anyway, we found out who the domain registrar is (boring IT stuff coming so switch off now). In the UK it is a five minute job to register a domain online, here we had to drive to the university and find the person who does it. He gave us a five page paper form to take away and fill in to return tomorrow! At least we should be able to get it done now. Quite expenisve compared to a .com as well, $100 for the first two years for a .gov.mz domain.
Did I mention I got stopped by the police AGAIN last night? This time three coppers were hiding in the bushes and leapt out with a very dim torch to check my papers which they said weren’t in order. They struggled to see the big UK on the licence and kept asking me where it was from. That cost me 300Mtn to ‘save me time as I’m a busy man’, it would have cost more but I said I wasn’t that busy and let’s go to the police station to sort it out. They wanted a quick resolution then that’s for sure!
Today was another public holiday in Mozambique, Peace Day celebrating the signing of the Rome Accord. We took ourselves off to Namaacha which is about 90km drive west of Maputo and is the border crossing to Swaziland. It’s pretty high up, 600m above sea level so a reasonable climb into hilly country, quite markedly different from the flat coastal plain around Maputo. We could see the city in the distance, the atmosphere was amazingly transparent today after the rain. The city was 54km away as the crow flys!
Namaacha’s only claim to fame is a waterfall mentioned in the guidebooks. A narrow tarred road took us down steeply to the site. In the past Namaacha was a popular spot for holiday homes for the Portugeuse living in Maputo. Since the war and they left the town has decayed, it’s very much a town past its heyday. Ruined buildings abound and the remains of what were large colonial houses were sited near the waterfall. It’s clear it used to be a popular spot, with huts, picnic tables and bridges, now all but gone and now a place where locals come and drink and have fun judging by the amounts of broken glass and litter. A pretty spot though with loads of lizards basking on the rocks, the waterfall itself was barely a trickle at this time of year.
Afterwards we explored the town, taking in a pretty little church and a ruined church, before finding the one and only hotel for a spot of lunch by the pool. We drove back via the main reservoir near Boane which feeds Maputo and drove across the dam wall. We stopped at a nearby hotel for a drink advertised as being on the lake but actually not within sight of the water!
A fascinating trip, seeing how lively Mozambique must have been once. Decaying towns, disused railway stations with rusty tracks, quiet out of the way barely used hotels.
We’ve had two nights of intense thunderstorms separated by a dull, cool damp day. I eventually managed to get a photo of lightning. It isn’t that exciting but it’s the first I’ve ever taken!
Now had two local people come down with Malaria whilst I’ve been here. A guy at work and our maid have both come down with it. Maybe taking the Lariam is worth it after all, even if I have to suffer the slightly out of it sensation it gives me occasionally, or maybe that’s just me!
Across the road from our house lives Lina Magaia a pretty famous person in Mozambique. I met her a few days ago and she is good friends with my colleague. Tonight I met her husband and went to visit her in the school she set up for children orphaned during the war or through AIDS. A very lovely couple, if slightly eccentric, and the school is fantastic. We should be going for lunch to some friends of theirs with them on Saturday.
Storms threatening again tonight, I’ve worked out how to do long exposures using my camera and I’m desperate to get some lightning pictures!
What a day! We knew something was happening in Maputo as the Avenida Marginal has been shut for days now. It turns out it was a huge music festival on the beachfront. I have never seen so many people, absolutely mental, even Monsters of Rock wasn’t this packed.
We decided to leave the madding crowds and head to a quiet hotel overlooking the city for a drink. The trouble started on the way home, we have to get to Costa do Sol which is effectively a deadend and there is only one way to get there. The road was completely jammed, cars all over the place. Most of the traffic problems being caused by idiots steaming down the road on the wrong side or on the pavement and not being able to get back in the queue preventing anyone from moving at all. It was starting to get dark, we’d been in the queue for about 1.5 hours now and there were a lot of drunken people around. A fight broke out next to the car as we were moving slowly downhill and a guy was thrown against the front nearside of the car and I ran him over, when I say ran him over I may have run over his foot. I wasn’t stopping to find out. We moved a few yards further, no one came after us so we basically forgot about it.
About half an hour later an injured man on the back of another with a crowd of men started banging on the car, it was getting quite ugly, they were shouting and hitting the car. Luckily a police officer was nearby and came over and asked for my driving licence which he took away. He came back and said I should talk to these men – like I was going to get out of my car into an ugly crowd! Some police troopers were drafted in and it was decided we had to take this man to hospital but he would travel with his mates in the back of the police pickup and we would follow. So after spending 2 hours getting down the road we had to follow the police back up the road to the hospital. A really nice man who could speak English translated all these instructions to us, he was really kind and he was a big help.
A police escort through Maputo at night! At the hospital the police there took over, I had to pay 100 MTn (£2) so the injured guy could be admitted to hospital. The injured guy who we had followed as he laughed and danced in the back of the police pickup. The injured guy who leapt from the back of the pickup at the hospital and then remembered to limp!!
I was told to wait (I was taken away from my colleagues they were not allowed to follow). We had to wait for the doctors verdict and I couldn’t get my driving licence back until they were happy. About an hour later I was told he had no injuries but needed money to get home and I would have to pay the policeman to get my licence back. Now the scary part – I was lead into a dark corner by the police and made to hand over money (450Mtn, about £9) for the bus fare and to get my licence. I wasn’t going to argue with a policeman with an assault rifle in a dark alley!! He told me to go quick, so I did.
Woah, what an adrenaline rush though. Don’t think I’ve ever had such an endorphine high.
So an exciting day, quite scary at times and could have got very ugly on a couple of occasions. But a couple of really nice locals helped us out and it all worked out OK in the end!
As mentioned yesterday we were invited to a wedding in Matola today. The invite said 1.30pm so we duly arrived at the alloted time forgetting that this was African time! We were the only people there, the bride and groom and most of the guests turned up at 3.00pm. We had a good time, the reception was held in a garden of a restaurant and the food was lovely with plenty of free beer. After the food there was music and much winding n grinding, there was some hot booty on show – I didn’t know where to look (well I did actually!).
A big thank you to our hosts for a marvellous afternoon and evening.