sábado, 25 de mayo de 2013

Day 10 - Ñau (Não)

We get up early thinking it would be a good idea to cross two borders in one day. Our goal: getting to Maputo, Mozambique's capital city, by tonight. The route is about 300km long, but we know that two border crossings can be a whole world.

We ride the 20km to the border of Swaziland, on road scattered with holes, through forests and forests of...well, that very tall tree with a thin trunk that grow perfectly straight, you know which I mean, right? Well I don't. I've realised that I am completly useless when it comes to vegetation and I could not name a tree if it wasn't a pine tree. As I was saying, forests all the way to the border.

Getting into Swaziland turns out to be super easy, the paperwork takes a minute and people are nice and helpful. Have a nice stay in Swaziland! So here we come.

Swaziland, for us, has been three things:

First. Another example of how prejudice is worth crap and how it vanishes whenever you travel. You read the Wikipedia, Wilitravel and wikiwhatwhat and think you are going to find a shitty country, nothing but orfan youngsters with AIDS walking along the road begging, (what am I saying road! I meant dirt path) and that's that.

Reality hits us on the face with a relatively clean country, with perfectly well paved roads with a bunch of modern cars riding on them. People are busy going places and yes, they make a living mostly out of agriculture but noone looks idle. Not even one person on our way has been just sitting there looking at the world go by.

We ride across the city of Manzini which turns out to be a bustling urban area with markets, department stores western style, giant screens and even a friggin' highway crammed with cars. Hold on, weren´t they dying of hunger here? Either cars are REALLY cheap here, or this people live with more than a dollar a day.

Second. Swaziland is a dull country. During our route through it we looked for something to take pictures of, somewhere to stop and look around. But there wasn't anything particularly interesting.

Third and most important, twice during our time in Swaziland we came across... the Google Street View car! Mom, I'm gonna be famous! We have (more or less) exactly the coordinates were we saw them, let's see if we made it in the picture :)

And thus, driving 80 really boring final kilometers in a prefect straight line through sugar plantations, we finally got to the border of Mozambique.

Borders are great places to learn stuff. For example, when you go across "nobody's land" and you get to Mozambique and two men come and ask you for your paperwork "to speed things up", be suspicious. They try to catch you off guard so that you don't realize what's going on. You get there and you give them stuff, they give you stuff and that's it, we're ready.

Oh, by the way, you need to get insurance. That'll be 200 rand.

No, dude, I don't need and insurance, I already have one.

Oh, ok. But you have to give us 200 rand to pay for the forms we gave you that will allow you to ride the bike anywhere in Mozambique.

What? Let me see, I already paid for my visa and I've not been asked for any other money.

Sure, that's because I did the paperwork for you and that is 200 rand.

Mmmm I don't believe you. Hold on, I'll bring the officer and he'll explain it to you.

The officer on-duty excuses himself saying his English is too poor (of course) and he does not understand what you are saying. But they weren't counting on my Portuñol! (Portugués + Español = Portuñol) In a terrible Portuguese I ask the officer if the form has a price and I tell him those guys are trying to get 200 rans out of me. The officer sort of smiles on the side of his mouth, looks at them like saying "sorry dude" and lets me know we owe nothing and we can go. Wooohooo my Portuñol has been useful!

We go through the last barrier, we are finally in Mozambique. And right away you can see you are now in a different country.

Mozambique is (finally) something that resembles Africa. Or what we were expecting to see  in Africa. Buildings on the side of the road are half torn down, everything looks old and like it's been through decades of conflicts. The border is overflowing with drunk and crazy ex-soldiers and busybodies. The landscape is completely different and gets a red tinge to it.

You can see right away that cars are way older and rundown. Except those, and here comes the irony, with a Swaziland license plate.

We soon get to Maputo. Huge city with and huge traffic problem, and going over those 3 last kilometers takes almost an hour. And then right there, on the corner of Salvador Allende and Mao Tse Tung, we fin Backpackers' Fátima, recommended everywhere but with pay Internet. And packed with Spaniards, by the way. It looks like findig a decent Internet access is gonna be hard, so for the time being you'll have to live with deferred-published stories.

Mozambique awaits, long, all the way to the north. We'll go over the coast to Beira before we head back inland to Malawi.

Bon día!

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