Katja Lachmann


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Maputo - Africa becomes reality


Yesterday, at noon I arrived in Maputo and was supposed to meet up with Falk, a German guy that wanted to provide me and Becky accomodation for the time staying here.

We went by taxi, what is actually a mini-bus as usual called taxi in Africa, from Komatiepoort to Maputo. We were left at a seemingly safe place where I could call to Falk arranging a meeting point. I could happily pay in ZAR (South African Rand) as I have not got any change in Meticais (Mozambiquan currency). I called, reached Falk by phone and we made an appointment to meet 30 minutes later at the entrance of the train station.

Thus we had to go there and as I saw on the map that it could not be too far, I decided for us to walk. We ask the responsible for the phone calls where exactly we are and where we best could go. This due to the fact that the road we have been in is very long. And in Africa means long LONG! There was a taxi driver trying to get us for a ride. He offered to bring us for 20 ZAR (2,68 Euro) what I felt quite expensive about for such a short distance. I was not in the mood to make a lower price as I wanted to feel walking in the streets. It might have been risky as we were with backpacks but that is just how it should be when arriving in a city. I had kind of enough from being "locked" in the hostel and just going out by car. The responsible for telephone calls decided to come with us. She lead us all the way to the train station and thus we have been fine without any robbery, attacks or whatever you are supposed to experience when arriving in Maputo...

There we were standing and waiting to meet Falk. We waited about 1,5 hour and after that got a bit worried if he ever will show up. As there have passed some tourist-like people I went to ask them about a bank to exchange money. They were Italians and we arranged that I went with on of the guys to the bank and one stayed with Becky and all our luggage. I changed money, went to a phone call shop and tried to call Falk. I did reach him twice, but he did not seem to hear me. More than always "hello, hello" and some Portuguese I could not get out of the call. Thus I payed 14.000 MT (0.51 Euro). Afterwards we went back to the train station and still found no Falk there. Thus I went inside the train station to search an office where I might buy a telephone card for public phones. There was nothing than some people working in a kind of office, toilets with a terrible smell of urin and nearly nobody around. I decided to ask one of the guards taking care about safety at the train station. He immediatly tried to help me, went with me, found out where to buy a telephone card, I bought the card for 80.000 MT (2,91 Euro). I went back to the telephone, took the receiver and tried to enter the code. As I was used to buy cards with code all the last year in Spain, I did not got any idea it could not work. But of course - how should it be different - it did not work out. The reason was explained right away by the guard as I bought a phone card to recharge my mobile phone...HA! I have not got a card that time! Thus...what to do? The guard went with the card to a man asking if he has got a cellphone. Yes, he did have a cellphone and after the guard explained I want to phone to a friend he gave it to him. The guard entered the code and suddenly...I got aware of the fact that I will never see again the money. It recharged his mobile phone but what would I have got after making the call? But later, I thought. Firstly, we tried calling, I could not reach Falk, the guard could not reach Falk, I phoned a hostel called Fatimas with a certain telephone number that I have out of a travel guide but had a different hostel on the phone. I was told just to take a taxi and to say we want to go to Fatimas. Thus I finished the call and then, the most interesting part started...

I knew my time had come where I had to fight getting back the money...and I did! I was surrounded by 5 men, smiling and not being willed to give me back the money. I said, I have not phoned for more than 5.000-10.000 MT (0.18-0.36 Euro) and that there is still 70.000 MT left that I of course would like to have back. The discussion started and the man whos telephone was recharged just laughed and said I should have said this before his cell phone was recharged. I said, well, how should I know that? I explained him that I just realized that I have kind of lost my money when his account was already recharged with my number. It did not matter for him. The discussion went on and happily there was one guy speaking English as the Spanish-Portuguese conversation was a bit difficult. The English speaking guy explained me that I was supposed to phone that long that there would not be left any money. I said that I might have intended to call to Alaska when wanting to finish that money so soon in such a short time. There were not willed to give back the money, thus I made a lower price. I said, "I would like to have at least 50.000 MT back. That is a good price if you see that I recharged your account with 80.000 MT and have just phoned for a maximum of 10.000 MT. You will have earned 20.000 MT!" The discussion went on and I felt a slight change in behavior. My offer made them seemingly thinking if they should go a step ahead and pay me the money back. Suddenly, the guard that has helped me so much, took out of his pocket 100.000 MT, then he went for a change and I was told I will get 50.000 MT back. I was assured about 3 times that the guard is just going to change his bank note and I will get the money back. I got the money back. I was happy concerning that I found a way not to loose all the money. On the other hand I was kind of feeling bad as the guard really wanted to help me. It was just a matter of misunderstanding through speaking neither he English nor I Portugues a proper way. Actually, it was not my concern to charge the guard for what has happened, but the person that was happy about the recharged account and the unwilling to give me back the money. Later on I found out that 50.000 MT are usually a day loan for Mozambiqueans...

What else happened to me after that? Well, no friend picking us up, no Fatimas that could pick us up, just we two girls and the two italians. We decided to catch a taxi and to go to Fatimas. The only problem was...how to find a taxi that is going to bring us to Avenida Mao Tse Tsung? Actually, it was quite difficult to find out as the just point out directions but not the streets. Imagine, 4 tourists packed with backpacks standing in a crowd of Mozambiqueans selling, talking, walking and shouting on the street...and then to ask every single taxi where it is going to...and then to be sure you will be brought to and not just say yes...We decided to walk to Fatimas what was at the end a walk of about 1,5 hours. And it was FANTASTIC! At last arriving in Africa, experiencing what life has got in the streets of Maputo, watching the people selling, children trying to earn some money with offering sweets, the heavy traffic and we 4 tourists walking to Fatimas when it was getting dark. We did kind of everything you should not do, like walking dark side streets, walking with backpacks...but, nothing happened, absolutely nothing. We arrived safely in Fatimas.

Maputo is actually a quite dirty city, what should not mean it is not worth being here. With dirty I mean dust everywhere and lots of rubbish along the sidewalks and roads. My shoes have already lost there glance and went from blue to grey...;) It is so nice to see life going on in Maputos streets, often passing places where you smell nothing more than urin, recognizing how life goes on though it gets dark (whereas in Johannesburg, RSA, when it gets dark stops kind of it is street life)...Though the poorness you see everywhere, beside the lots of cars that stand from my point of view for 'having money' and lots of people standing on the walls watching us...I have not felt at all in danger. It might be I as a European cannot measure the danger here, but...I felt safe even in the darkest streets we went.
Today in the morning we went with a local guy that makes business with Fatimas to the beach, driving up the hill and just getting an idea of the beautiful side of Maputo.

You think that was all happening yesterday? Wrong thought. After having nice meal cooked by myself, going out in the darkness to buy water (we have been three persons) and thinking about a shower - I went to the shower. The first shower I saw was a bit dirty, thus I changed to another one. Had shower, washed my clothes and was just happy. A few hours later when brushing my teeth I recognized that I was missing my travel bag usually hanging around my neck. There was my passport and flight ticket inside and I was missing it. I got shocked and thought that could not happen to me, too. I started searching, asking people that I still could find that late hour (it was around 11 p.m.), searching many times my backpack, rethinking my activities since I have had a shower...I could not find it. I talked to the guard and after about 2 hours searching and rethinking what I have done he suggested to go to bed. He was obviously feeling with me and said he will be there all the night and will ask everybody he will meet. I went to bed, could not sleep but around 2 a.m. I fell into deep sleep. That deep that I did not hear my alarm at 4 a.m. I woke up at 5.45 a.m. rising quickly and getting out. Asking people, trying to find the little bag, my passport...nothing. At around 9:30 a guy walked up to me and asked if I am Katja. Yes, of course I AM and then he happily gave the news that they have found it in the toilet (shower and toilet are together), took it and to keep it save did not hand out to Fatimas staff. I was happy, I am happy...!

Now I just have to cure my feet as they got wound when walking in my new shoes 1,5 hours with my backpack. Yeah, I know, it is my own fault but anyway I am going to be fine soon. So much to my first day in Maputo. Bienvenidos!