Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chronicle of a Mozambiquean Bus Trip, Day 2 of 2

So, to continue the story...

Day 2, 9:40am: The Indian-esque men get off the bus and into a minivan. It turns out they were Pakistani. The bus comes alive with chatter and laughter. Someone says to me, “Two days, they eat nothing.” And he was right – the entire trip I hadn’t seen any of them eat anything, say anything, or get off the bus even briefly. Bizarre.

Day 2, 1:20pm: Bread and bananas. This time though, I go crazy with some cashews. Lunch is served.

Day 2, 2:30pm-ish: I notice for the first time how the dirt is caked on me thicker than a notebook. I can rub my skin anywhere – face, hands, arms – and watch as the dirt comes off in rings. It becomes a game after a while. Again, you run out of things to do.

Day 2, 4:23pm: Stopped for the umpteenth time. The stops are getting ridiculous. This time, however, it is the police. Our crew gets off the bus and there's a lot of talking. Somehow we are back on the road in 10 minutes.

Day 2, 4:40pm: That didn’t last long. We end up at the district police station. This is absurd. The driver and his crew are taken inside. Apparently, the driver didn’t have any documents to drive a bus! I assume the situation was amended with a bribe of some sort because we’re back on the road in a half hour. Like an eager dog, I’m the first one on the bus.

Day 2, 5:15pm: The stout Mozambiquean passenger who has been inhaling cheap gin like it’s air is starting to get a bit out of hand. He’s hitting on women, grabbing babies, making loud and obnoxious comments about the driver, and harassing me to buy him a beer once we get to Maputo.

Day 2, 6:36pm: The police stop us again. They start questioning the crew. I start (continue?) questioning my decision to take this bus. People on both sides have their cell phones out. Meanwhile, a drunkard on the bus is being helped off the bus by the other aforementioned stout drunkard – they both make their way to the bathroom. I’m watching this spectacle just as another passenger is yanked off the bus and quarantined by several militarypersonnel. They have him surrounded and are questioning him behind a military truck. Then, just as I'm watching this, another officer hops onboard and comes straight to me, asking for my passport. He looks at the cover and says “America”, before barely taking a look inside and handing it back to me. “Have a nice day” he says to me.

As soon as he gets off the passengers in the back shout “Vamos!” with a sense of urgency that seems to say they just want to get out of there. As we start going one of the women on board says “America!” and is echoed by another man who says, “Obama, Mozambique. No problem!” It’s at this point that I become known as “Obama” to all the passengers. Everyone on board seems to be having a pretty good time with me, the token foreigner who has no idea what’s going – the deer in the headlights so to speak. The passenger who was pulled off is left behind.

Day 2, 7:05pm: Stopped by the police again. An officer gets on and says rousingly, “Bon dia!” The passengers all reply back with excitement. I’m thinking, “Shut up and just drive.” Now I learn why all the police stops: they’re looking for illegal immigrants. The guy who was pulled off was Somali and the Pakistanis were immigrants leaving the bus for small vehicle to take back roads. So we’re transporting illegal immigrants.

Day 2, 8:00pm-ish: We make a big stop in the suburbs of Maputo, and because of all the luggage being unloaded, we sit and sit. Eventually I grab my bag and take local transport.

At 9:20 (6 hours late), I finally ended up in my cozy apartment. My roommate is out with friends, but since I look and feel I’ve been run over by a semi I decide not to join. At final count, souvenirs from the trip include: two phone numbers, stench and filth that would make my younger brother look like a princess, the early stages of a beard, a short-term aversion to bananas, 4 hours of sleep, a digestive system that feels like it’s had a roto-tiller taken to it, a raging migraine, and what seems like a minor sprained ankle (I have no idea how). And I wanted to see the countryside…dumb.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha! This reminds me so much of my experience. I really wish I had taken the time to document it more fully. Sounds like you know what I and everyone else meant when you said you wanted to take the bus. I have to say though, as tough as it was, it was a really good learning experience. Just to understand what the Mozambicans have to do so often. I'm glad I did but definitely do not want to have to do that again. Though it's kind of like racing--you forget how much it hurt so you step back up to the line. I guess I'd probably do it again. Though next time, I'd want to be with a friend. Maybe I'll have to come to Mozambique to visit and we can travel to Ethiopia by bus--a met a German couple who did it the other direction. They're crazy, but did say Moz was the worst.

    Glad you made it! By the way, did you have an interpreter? How did you figure all this stuff out? Did they know enough English to tell you that? Or are you picking up Portuguese?