Today I traveled from Inharrime to Xai-xai (about halfway to Maputo) to meet a friend for lunch, before continuing on to Maputo. It almost seems like some higher power wanted to make sure that I didn’t make it out of Moz without one last “true” chapa ride. Thus this day of traveling had all the components of a classic chapa ride:
· The drunk chatty man. He was sitting in front of me in the first chapa and originally turned around to scold me for reading my book and not chatting with other people on the chapa. Then he kept turning around to repeatedly ask where I was from or where I was going. He was perfectly friendly (sometimes they can be aggressive or skeevy), but he reeked of booze and wasn’t terribly coherent. He told me about an American he knew and kept referring to her as my “cousin.” He wanted me to call her to say hi, but he didn’t have her number, so he wanted to take my number so that when he found hers, he could give it to me. I politely declined and that pissed him off a little, but he forgot quickly and then the conversation recycled again.
· Other living creatures. The woman next to me was traveling with a live chicken (I’ve never understood this. You can buy chickens everywhere, and the maybe 5-10 Meticais you save by buying one outside Maputo are certainly negated by the annoyance of traveling with a live animal.) It was inconveniently where my feet should have been, and chicken beaks and claws are incredibly sharp, so I rode with my feet propped up on the seat in front of me, putting more pressure on my butt and causing it to fall asleep after the first hour.
· Cozying up with your seatmates. Because I was in the front row, many larger bags were piled up in front of us and at our feet (next to the chicken). In addition to the three other people in my row, we had two kids sitting on laps, plus the chapa conductor who was squeezed semi-standing by the door. So all sense of personal space or individual seats was lost, my knees were propped against the woman next to me, the child on the lap next to me rested her hand on my knee and her head on my arm.
· A nursing baby (a little closer to you than social norms in America would allow). Just as I’m never sure what social convention dictates about greeting someone who is peeing as you walk by, I’m never sure how to interact with babies while they’re nursing. I’m already squeezed up against the mother, but does it get weird if I play back with the nursing baby who is making eye contact with me and grabbing my arm?
· A batshit crazy driver. I don’t think that sane people would sign themselves up to drive up and down the national highway every day, but some are crazier than others. This guy was speeding along, weaving in between other cars, passing while going up blind hills, taking turns too quickly—your typical horrible Mozambican driver. I just closed my eyes and tried to think about other things. But then as we were getting into the outskirts of Maputo, traffic going south slowed to almost a standstill. So our driver pulled into the right lane and proceeded to speed past traffic down the wrong side of the road, and when oncoming traffic came, he made them move over for us (even though we were in their lane).
· Poor driving conditions. In addition to large potholes, it poured for the last 130km of my trip, hiding these potholes underneath about 6 inches of standing water. It didn’t slow down my driver though!