Maputo seems to be a hive of activity today, we’ve seen police escorts for the President and Prime Minister and the Avenida Marginal (the road to our house) has been cordoned off all day with long diversions. Some sort of do? Conference? Who knows, but driving around in a car with the plate PM and with flags and a police escort is hardly driving incognito! Talk about drawing attention to yourself!
We’ve been invited to a wedding tomorrow afternoon, should be interesting! I’ve got nothing to wear though!
Halfway then. Seems to have gone really quick but also seems like I’ve been here ages! Everyone seems pretty tired today, quite a quiet day and evening. We lose one of our number tomorrow as it is her last day for this trip, she’s got some holiday before she returns to the UK.
I’m really getting into the swing of this trip now and really enjoying myself. Work is going really well, having a lot of fun in the evenings and meeting some nice people. Health is, touch wood, great as well. Just about halfway through and entering the time when I thought the time would start to drag, but exactly the opposite is beginning to happen where I’m thinking about all the things I want to do and how little time there is to do them all in.
Here’s a small video showing Bilene beach…
Bilene Beach (1.5Mb DivX Movie)
What a night! After a routine day at work we had arranged to meet with Lord Waverley and two geologists who visited the DNG earlier at the Costa do Sol (see previous entries for my thoughts on that place!). After sitting there for about 15 minutes the phone rang, “we’re in a meeting, we’ll phone in 20 mins”. An hour later the phone rang again, “we’ll be there in 10 mins”. Twenty minutes later the geologists arrived, but no Lord. He was still in the meeting! By now of course we’d had a few 2Ms, were starving and had exhausted every Lord joke we could possibly come up with. Into this the geologists arrived.
Several more 2Ms were consumed with dinner and then we were invited back to the Polona for cocktails (it’s about midnight by now). A few Singapore Slings later and the bar told us it was shutting so we got kicked out. My colleague is a proper Yorkshire lass and as unladylike as you could imagine, she gave the poor geologists quite a bit of grief over “his Lordships” failure to show. Oh dear! Hey, at least it didn’t cost us a penny and we might see them again tonight. I’ve just gone teetotal…
Today was a public holiday in Mozambique, Fighter’s Day or Armed Forces Day depending on what reference you use. We met up with one of the DNG staff and drove to Barracuene just north of Maputo where there is a ferry across the river to a beach lodge, unfortunately the road was not suitable for our car so we stayed this side of the river and had lunch. We then attempted to drive down a road completely unsuitable for a car but turned back just before we got stuck!
Tonight we met up with a couple from a geological consultancy in the UK who very kindly bought us dinner.
This blog is a bit brief as I’ve had a few beers and the keyboard is tricky to use!
Just returned from a weekend trip to Bilene, a beach resort about 190km drive north from Maputo…
Saturday: We set off around 10am for the drive to Bilene. After negotiating the outskirts of Maputo with throngs of people and chapas we hit the open road. Very smooth, very straight and very quiet. Easy to cruise along at 100kph and only a few small villages between us and our destination. The journey taking us about 2.5 hours we found a reasonable hotel to stay for the night and hit the beach. Went for my first swim in the Indian Ocean, although this is a lagoon it is connected to the open ocean. The sea wasn’t as warm as I was expecting, but it was by no means cold. The only down side of Bilene is that it is a popular weekend spot for South Africans and they like to bring their quad bikes with them and thrash around the village destroying the peace. This was compunded by the fact it is a holiday in South Africa this week so more people than is usual were at the resort.
The highlight of the evening was a powercut during dinner at the beach restaurant. This gave me my first truly dark southern night sky of the trip with the milky way directly overhead. It is a sight to behold and nothing compares to that completely light free environment. Fantastic.
Sunday: The whole purpose of the trip was to seek out a geocache at one of the lodges (see About Me for details of this hobby!). Sadly we couldn’t find it despite enlisting the help of the managers and half of the guests in the search. My first Mozambique geocache will allude me I think (there are only 6 in the whole country and this was the closest to Maputo). It then decided to rain on us during lunch, unbelievable! We still managed an hour on the beach in the afternoon before the drive home. Again negotiating the outskirts of Maputo was exciting, with me driving the wrong way around a burger roundabout at one point!
I think we will be able to make a trip to Xai Xai, the next provincial capital, one weekend. Now we know what the roads are like it is only another 50km further on from Maputo. Or maybe we will return to Bilene and rent one of the thatched chalets at the resort. A truly magical place.
There was a annular eclipse of the Sun today off the southern coast of Africa (the Moon’s apparent diameter is too small to cause a total eclipse and the Sun appears as a ring in the path of annularity). Most of southern Africa saw a partial eclipse of the Sun and Maputo saw around 30% of the Sun covered. I took loads of pictures of the Sun projected using binoculars. Once I have processed them I will up them here.
For the second time we had no internet connection at work all day, which is very frustrating when you need to upload and download scripts. I did reboot the modem for them (the internet is provided by the local cable TV company and rebooting involves pulling the plug out and plugging it back in again!). But it appears the whole of Maputo was out.
We went for cocktails after dinner at the Polana hotel this evening, so posh it’s quite incredible. There was us heathens knocking back Singapore Slings and Pink Nellies!!
Might be going to Bilene for the weekend so if there is no update tomorrow it’s because I’m too busy swimming in the crystal clear sea or drinking beer in a lounger on the white sand.
Had a mildly embarrassing moment at work today. The director of DNG came to see how we were getting on, I’d met him in his office earlier in the week. Problem was he came very casually dressed and I didn’t recognise him, I just thought he was some random bloke! He started asking me about my work etc., and all the time I was thinking ‘who is this guy?’. Anyway he was obviously interested so I showed him everything and he left very impressed with what I had done and what I propose to do. It was a little later when someone said the director had come to visit that I twigged! No harm done!
My colleague decided to cut short her trip to Tete and came back today, so I drove and picked her up from the airport, had a mildly amusing episode at one road junction where the traffic lights were out. A traffic policeman was stood on a box directing traffic, his actions were very confusing and very exaggerated, he almost looked like a ballerina perched up there in his white gloves. I half expected him to do a pirouette!
Time for a mild rant. The ‘in’ place is Costa do Sol, you see so many well heeled people eating there and it has airs and graces. The guidebooks wax lyrical about it. It is the place to be seen in Maputo. We ate there again tonight. The problem is the food is just so average, it’s no better than you might expect from a Hungry Horse, in fact it’s worse than that. I just want to go around the tables where all the la-di-da people are sat and tell them ‘look it’s a nice location n all but they are making no effort with the food, you are eating in no more than a glorified Little Chef’.
Tomorrow is payday, so I expect to see loads of drunk people tomorrow evening.
Kind of a frustrating day at work today. The web server is all set up ready and secure. The website is all templated and I’ve done all the necessary preparations for testing it live. I just need to adjust the settings on the network, half of which we control and I can do, the other half is controlled by DNG and the network guy is on holiday this week. He said he would come in and see me, but he didn’t show.
Friday is payday and Monday is a public holiday so I can’t see much being done before Tuesday. It’s a 5 minute job and I could do it myself. Ah well, this is the African way sometimes.
I’m starting to drive like a local, had a couple of mad manoeuvres today, but we had a good laugh about it (nothing dangerous you understand). We also know where the police hang out for their road blocks so we tend to avoid them now.
Oh and I pigged out today, two tosta mistas for lunch (cheese and ham toasties), the waiter thought I was mad!
Tomorrow morning is Lariam time. I’m going to take one more and see what happens, I’m hoping nothing too serious.
What to say, we went to work, I finished templating the DNG website. Now I just need to work out how and where to host it. We did go to the large indoor market at lunchtime, similar in style to the covered market in Oxford, lots of narrow aisles and stalls selling fruit and veg, toiletries, gifts, crafts, clothes etc. Very atmospheric and very busy, it was nice just to mingle and soak up the vibe.
In the following short video you can see the scene from the Café Continental where we usually have lunch. You can see the chapas (small minibuses) that are everywhere and usually in a very poor state of repair. A couple of street hawkers and general street scenes.
Café Continental (8.2Mb DivX Movie)