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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Visiting the "big" town

MOZAMBIQUE | Friday, 13 April 2012 | Views [581]

I've gone to Inhambane twice since arriving in Tofo.  First time was with the group coordinator, who took us there to become familiarize; the second time was on our own to run errands and shop for groceries.

A chappa runs between Tofo and Inhambane.  The chappa is a mode of public transportation in a minivan (think old school delivery van with seats), and the fare is anywhere from 5 met to 15 met (~US$0.50).  It officially has seats for 13 passengers but often there are at least 16 people (my ride had 23 people once); I can't describe how everyone fits but people just crouch and somehow "fold" themselves in, it's quite a sight.  Since Tofo and Inhambane are the terminus, there's always a chappa waiting for passengers to board; it won't move until it's at least somewhat full though, so if you board when it's not yet full, you'll just sit and wait until it's fuller.  For passengers waiting along the route, they simply wave from the side of the road.  

"Downtown" Inhambane is not huge, we can walk the whole area in about 30 minutes.  There are banks, post office, pharmacies, churches and a mosque, a pier for ferries, many restaurants, and two open markets with numerous vendors selling produce, artwork, woodwork, illegal DVDs, etc.  There's a decent-size "mercado" (supermarket); I looked at the name and recognized it was a Chinese-owned business, which came in handy when we shopped there.  The market sold a lot of things:  from groceries to liquor, refrigerator to fans, toiletries to memory cards.  Now we know where to go and stock up on beers or munchies.

On our first Inhambane visit, the coordinator oriented us to the area, took us to the bank to exchange money, even brought us to a small museum that presents local history and artifacts.  He next took us to a (literally) hole-in-the-wall restaurant; it has no sign, no menu, just an open-air "kitchen" with a made-shift BBQ and a few tables and chairs inside two rooms for diners.  It serves only three dishes:  roasted chicken, chicken curry, or roasted fish (they made a vegetarian dish for the vegan gal in our group).  Before the food came, a woman came by to let us "wash our hands" by pouring water into our hands over a wash basin, nice touch!  Every dish was served with rice, and they were tasty!  Nothing fancy of course, but satisfying.

On the second visit, four of us ventured on our own.  Once we arrived via chappa, we first headed to the post office.  I was a bit nervous leaving my postcards there; the man behind the counter took my money and postcards, yet did not actually put stamps on them; he also didn't have enough change, and this is the post office!  We did some "sight seeing" but it was more like just walking a lap all the way around downtown.  We passed a bakery and couldn't resist the fresh bread; I bought a baguette-like roll (2 MT), gave the guy a-20 MT bill, and again he had no change and wanted me to buy 10 rolls!  I think I see a pattern now.

Our final stop was the Chinese-owned mercado.  We were specifically looking for minced meat to make Swedish meatballs, so I asked the Chinese workers in Mandarin if there was any, but the only meat were frozen chicken and fish, and chicken feet!  When we left, I asked them where I could buy minced meat, and they suggested the open market.  We left for the open market, and there was one stall with no refrigeration with a huge slab of meat (maybe a leg?) on the counter; the Swedes balked at the sight (I was OK with it but would have hesitated in buying).  As we were walking away, the two Chinese workers from the mercado happened to walk in; they actually came looking for us because they wanted to tell us there's another place that sells frozen meat, and one of them even took us there himself, my "pulling the Chinese-relation string" worked!  It reminded me of similar moments on the Amazing Race, when strangers helped the contestants without being asked.  He took us to a shop that sold all kinds of frozen meats shipped from South Africa, score!  

As we were leaving the open market with the Chinese guys, we stopped at the coconut vendor, who offered the coconuts at 10 MT each.  We had been paying 35 MT each in Tofo, so thought this was a steal and was about to buy 5; I told the Chinese guys the price and they said "so expensive, she is ripping you off because you're tourists!"  So we left without buying any, and later returned to buy from another vendor, this time lowering the price to less than 10 MT each.  Thank you to my Chinese friends again!

On the chappa ride back to Tofo, I was thinking to myself how a year ago, I would have never thought this is what I'd be doing a year later, sitting in a crowded chappa with three new friends and six coconuts in my bag, while admiring the scenery (Inhambane region has endless coconut and cashew nut trees) and the people-watching along the way (e.g. political rally for a local election, kids walking to and from school, women carrying very heavy things on their head while their two hands are swinging by their side).  It's not for everyone, but I am enjoying every moment!

Tags: chappa, imhambane, tofo

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