Cross Maputo off your Travel Wish-list!

Maputo, Mozambique

Arriving in a new city after dark is never a good idea and in the case of Maputo all we can hope is that it looks better in the light of day. Garbage everywhere, plastic bags blowing with the breeze, broken pavement, grimy, crumbling apartment buildings with windows that are barred all the way up to the top floor. Our hotel is in one such building and although it is pretty clean and fairly newly renovated, there are no bedside lamps for reading and the ceiling light is glaring, water sits on the bathroom floor even though we have not yet used the shower and the room has a strong smell of urine even though we have not yet used the toilet, the window looks into an air shaft and about 4 feet away is the window of another room. We can read the title of the paperback on their bed.

We are directed to the Impala Steak House for dinner. It is run by a family of muslims, has no decor or ambience, the overhead fluorescent lights flicker continuously, no alcohol served as it is “halal” and booze is considered “haram” (forbidden) and the chicken biryani comes with a huge knob of mostly bone and gristle, but no other discernible chicken. We are hungry, so try to eat without complaining. A cocktail would have helped!

An after dinner walk gets us about 5 blocks before we start to feel uncomfortable and turn back, to spend the rest of the evening in our dingy hotel room, where the water on the bathroom floor continues to pool, the urine smell is getting stonger, the internet is sluggish and we can hear the neighbours’ TV blaring.

The final insult is breakfast the next morning. A paltry offering that would not be so bad were it not for the coffee. Instant Nescafe just doesn’t cut it.

Should have stayed in the bush with the animals and french press coffee.

Or maybe just change hotels and change neighbourhoods, which is what we do the next morning. By 9 AM we have moved from the Mozguest Residence to the Avenida Hotel. Alas, we are not the shoestring travelers of days gone by. The amenities at our new digs please us more than we would like to admit!

Maputo is not a place I would recommend visiting. Craig, ever the optimist, thinks in 10 years time it will be cleaned up and much improved. I’m not so sure.

The highlights were the oases we found tucked away in some of the nicer hotels, where we stopped for lunch or drinks. And the art is all quite beautiful. Our packs are bulging, but we make room for a few more souvenirs.

For many years Mozambique was a Portuguese colony and this is evident in the architecture and the official language. After independence, in 1975, the country became marxist with strong ties to Russia and East Germany and this is evident in the newer buildings that are very depressingly soviet.

The garbage on the streets is amongst the worst we’ve seen anywhere. The buildings are either under constuction or crumbling and it is sometimes hard to tell which are which. The traffic is aggressive and crossing the street is life-threatening. It is hot and humid and the vehicles belch black smoke. Cars angle park onto the sidewalks, making walking a challenge. People are less than friendly. Hotels are all over-priced. Really, nothing to recommend the place. Take Maputo off your travel wish-list … if it was ever there in the first place!

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