Over the Easter holiday earlier this year, my cousins Karen and Tania, our friend Rose and I decided to go to Mozambique. It was Rose’s suggestion and a good one at that! Unfortunately we had only 2 and a half days to really experience it so it was quite a whirl wind trip. Drama and fun followed us from day 1, nothing went 100 percent as we’d planned.
Our plan for getting there was as follows:
- Leave Gaborone on Thursday at 3 pm latest
- Arrive in Park Station Johannesburg at 9:30 pm latest
- Leave for Maputo with the 10 pm Intercape bus
- Arrive in Maputo at 8 am Friday morning
We left Gaborone at around 4 pm on Thursday afternoon, we had intended to leave at 3 pm but because we were using public transport there were a lot of delays. We had to wait for the minibus to get full and then we spent about 40 minutes at the border because one of the passengers had overstayed on a previous visit to South Africa. An hour later the mini bus made a scheduled stop at Zeerust so passengers could buy food or take a bathroom break. That stop cost us another 30 minutes and by the time we left Zeerust the sun was setting. We had began to seriously panic now. By 8:30 pm, we were convinced we would miss our Maputo bus. We seemed to be in the middle of nowhere (since it was night we couldn’t see much) and not getting any closer to Johannesburg. We attempted to call the Intercape office to see if they would wait 30 minutes for us but they basically said either you make the bus or take the next one. Our minibus driver assured us we would make it to Park station by 10 pm so we could catch the bus if we ran to the Intercape terminal. Lo and behold we arrived at 9:30 pm, I do not know how that driver did it! We were so elated we tipped him quite generously before scrambling for our bags and rushing to the Intercape terminal. Despite the stress of the trip to Joburg, we met some awesome people on the minibus. I spent some time teaching the man next to me how to count in Mandarin and one of the other guys gave us his phone credit so that we could call Intercape. The highlight though? Sweet wine juice boxes and ciders, they can diffuse any tense situation!
At Park station, we frantically looked for someone to assist us, only to discover the bus had not began boarding yet and the terminal gates were shut. In fact, there was a long line of very exhausted looking people who had arrived earlier looking at us like we were insane. After we calmed down, we prepped ourselves for the 2nd leg of the journey. Much to our dismay, the bus only began boarding at 10:30pm. Buzz kill. All that rushing was for naught. Later on, a lady we sat next to on the Intercape bus told us the Joburg-Maputo bus is never on time, ever. At 11 pm we finally pulled out of Park Station and the 10 hour journey began. Thankfully we spent most of it asleep and only awoke as the bus arrived at the border.
The border was ridiculous! Being a holiday, they had set up a temporary border post for public transport. It was cold, drizzling and the queue was unbearable. We spent a good hour to 2 hours shuffling forward a few steps at a time. I can only imagine the horrors we would have experienced had they not set up a temporary border for us.
Our friend Rose had to get a visa at the main border post and when we asked the driver to wait for her, he told us he would do no such thing. A couple sitting with us in the back seat thought this was unfair and the man went to talk to the driver for us. He convinced the driver to wait and went with Rose to get her visa. After 15-20 minutes, they were back and we were off again.
After about an hour we began seeing signs of city life, heavier traffic, shops and neighborhoods. The bus made a stop at a town 12kms away from Maputo called Matola.
I must admit we were worried at first that Matola was actually Maputo… Not that we had a particular expectation of it in terms of it’s appearance but whatever we’d imagined was not Matola! So we relaxed a little when we saw this sign…
The best thing about our drive into Maputo was the scenery!! So much green! Everywhere! The countryside is lush and pleasant to the eye.
As soon as we entered the city we hit some awful traffic. It felt like we moved 100 m every half hour, it was so annoying! However, being Easter Friday it was to be expected due to people heading home or out of town to the beaches.
We just wanted to get off the bus! We longingly gazed at the city around us, taking pictures to amuse ourselves. Maputo is such a beautiful city, however, it is dirty. That is probably the first thing that strikes you. There is litter everywhere! I don’t know whether they have poor city cleaning facilities or littering is a bad habit the people generally have but the rubbish is such an eye sore. The private areas or government areas are clean but public spaces are a mess.
Our driver seemed to get lost in all the identical looking long streets so we only arrived at the final stop 2 hours later. Yes, we spent almost 2 hours driving in circles. Needless to say we were overjoyed when the bus doors opened and we were set free.
Travel tip: Do not travel by bus from Johannesburg to Maputo if you can avoid it!!! Intercape buses are generally comfortable but 10 hours in any bus is physically painful and mentally exhausting. Maybe driving there yourself would be better since you can stop at your leisure but booking a flight is much wiser.
In the next post, I will detail what we did with the rest of the day. We explored a little, made a friend called Joanqvin (I have no idea how to pronounce that now) then we painted the town red, well, more like pale orange.