Today Ann and I set out for Maxixe (and possibly Inhambane city which you can take a ferry to from Maxixe because it is on a peninsula directly across an inlet from Maxixe) to buy house things. We live on the EN1 (Estrada Naçional), the main highway which runs north-south along the coast of Mozambique, which is great because that means you can always catch a ride. (We also have the advantage of living on a nicer stretch of the EN1. South of us there are long stretches where you can’t average more than 20-30mph because the driver is constantly maneuvering around potholes.) “Boléia” is the Portuguese for a lift, or a hitched ride, and in Mozambique it is the second most common form of transportation (after only the infamous chapas). There are many disadvantages to being a white female in Mozambique, but a HUGE advantage is when you want a boléia—you will get one. We were walking for less than a minute when we were able to get a boléia. The driver asked “where are you going?” and we said “Maxixe” but when he said “well we are going to Inhambane” we looked at each other, shrugged, and said “sure, we can go to Inhambane.” So we rattled along rather uneventfully for about an hour. We pulled over once and the guys got out to cool the engine but then soon we were on our way. But then the second time we pulled over the guys told us that the engine was overheated and they needed to wait for another car to come, so we got out and started walking again. Pretty soon we got picked up by a guy who wasn’t going into Inhambane, but could drive us to the chapa stop, so we talked about tourism in Mozambique with him for a while. Then we sucked it up and took the chapa the rest of the way for 7 meticais.
We wandered all over Inhambane today, just sticking our heads into every store to see what kind of stuff they had. They have these amazing huge canvas bags that are incredibly strong and the size of a medium suitcase and by the end of the day both of our were full with all sorts of things, an iron, water boilers, plates, cups, hangers, floor cleaner, bug sprays, food, dish detergent, etc, and Ann even had a closet and electric oven in her bag. We looked a little like hobos. One guy actually asked us if we were selling things.
We found the Chinese walmart which is just a world of wonder. We were back for the second time today waiting for our water boilers to be fixed because they had Chinese plugs originally, so they were putting on Mozambican ones instead. Ann studied abroad in Beijing during college so speaks some Chinese. I had been urging her to talk to them but she kept refusing, saying “my brain is only thinking in Portuguese right now!” But when she mentioned that we should really become friends with the guys there because they would be great people to know and connections to have, we both knew she had to do it. The guys loved that she had lived in China and spoke some Chinese. We had a funny conversation in English/Portuguese/Chinese with them for a while. Turns out they have a friend who runs a factory in the town where we live (the Chinese have a pretty big presence here, more on that some other day), so we exchanged numbers and Ann is especially excited to be able to practice her Chinese again.
One of the disadvantages of living where we do is that because of the EN1 and all the beaches, there are tons of tourists. We turned onto a street today and were both immediately shocked by all the white people we saw. It’s just frustrating to know that for the next two years I will be mistaken for a tourist which means that the little kids come up to you begging, the vendors try to speak English to you, and the price you are told is about twice what you should (and locals do) pay.
On the way home we decided to try to catch boléias again, but going to a small town is much harder than going to a large city and many drivers apologetically told us they weren’t going that far. Eventually we got picked up by a South African couple who have been coming to Mozambique to vacation since the war ended in ’93 and even used to come before the war. They seemed to really like us and gave us a bunch of contact numbers, introduced us to their friends who own a hotel on the EN1, and gave us their card (they own a resort on the beach), telling us that we should call them and come up for a weekend in the off-season. Unfortunately they weren’t going all the way to our town, so we started walking again. We got picked up by a truck of people who weren’t going all the way, but could take us to a chapa stop, but we had to pay 7 meticais. Asking for money for boléias here is not the norm, but definitely not unheard of. Of course it also might have been because we are white. Then we caught a chapa home for 50 meticais. In total we traveled about 140k today for just over $2.