Ann and I headed up to Vilankulos today to spend New Years with all the other Moz 14s in Inhambane province. With six different boléias we were able to get all the way up to Vilankulos (my guess is it’s about 300K) for free. I love catching boléias because you get to meet a ton of people and hear their stories, and they are always interested to hear what two white girls are doing in Mozambique. I always get mistaken for Spanish or Portuguese now which makes me so happy because it means that my Portuguese is getting good enough to be mistaken for an almost-native speaker. And let’s be honest, American and South African tourists don’t bother to learn the language. One man asked me if I was Spanish and when I said no he seemed really disappointed and asked “why not?” We met an Italian woman and her Mozambican boyfriend who had moved here from Italy because getting jobs here is easier after the economic crisis. They will be opening a bed-and-breakfast in Maputo soon so we got their contact information. We met a couple who knew Ann’s boss and had actually had dinner with her the previous night. We met a man who knew a handful of Peace Corps volunteers from previous years, and knew our colleagues who currently live in Massinga. We met a Portuguese woman and her Italian boyfriend who were tourists and completely appalled by the idea that we would ever take a chapa because they are so dangerous. We met a man who lives in Maputo but also has a house in Vilankulos, and also has relatives living in New Jersey.
The EN1 (the main national highway that runs north-south along the coast), for about 70K north of Massinga, is in the worst condition I have ever seen a road in my life. There are potholes that are six inches to one foot deep and anywhere from one to four feet across. And these aren’t lone potholes. There are ones just as bad to the right, to the left, behind, and in front of it. My explanation can’t do it justice because nobody will picture it as bad as it really is. But for this stretch of road, everybody drives in the sand/dirt next to the road because it is actually better than driving on the road itself. And this is not a rural or remote road, this is the major national highway.
We saw a great sign as we were almost to Vilankulos. There was a gas station with the typical gas station sign that lists what they have. This sign listed the following. “Gasoline” (with an arrow pointing right), “Diesel” (with an arrow pointed right), and “Muslim Prayer” (with an arrow pointing left.