Exploring Maputo Mozambique

Avenida Armando Tivane Maputo

The travel day from Amanzimtoti in South Africa to Maputo wasn’t quite bad enough to label “from hell,” but it was really close. The small commuter flight was unremarkable, and I easily passed through Mozambique Immigration, but the drive from Amanzimtoti to Durban King Shaka Airport was full of hiccups.

King Shaka Airport
King Shaka International Airport Durban South Africa
Travel Day Disaster
N2 Havoc

During the drive to the airport, N2 traffic was congested and slow. A truck jackknifed blocking northbound traffic and quickly bringing everything to a standstill. I worried the delay would result in missing my flight to Maputo. Luckily, there was time to return the rental call and check in. I just made it!

Maputo Coastal Skyline
Excess Baggage Again

There was a misunderstanding about the checked baggage allowance, ha – the misunderstanding was explained as clearly mine 😁, not SA Airlink’s! An efficient agent helped sort it. The commuter airline – SA Airlink Ltd. – is privately owned, not the same as South African Airways (SAA), and doesn’t share the same baggage allowance limits. However, SAA handles their bookings, billing, and check-in. The baggage allowance on their website was unclear. There has been much happening with the airline in recent months. SAA is on the brink of bankruptcy and was bailed out by the South African Government. The airline has had consistent solvency problems and is becoming almost as bad as Air Zimbabwe!

Reluctantly, I paid $50 for a second bag – that always makes me angry. Having flown on so many airlines this trip, I’ve become weary of being penalized for having two bags – reasonable for a foreigner on a long trip through multiple climates and countries. I like to leave my flights open and maintain options like changing the itinerary at any time. Booking restrictive round-trip tickets hampers my free spirit and isn’t appealing.

Maputo Fruit Vendor

It’s no surprise that many European and African airlines exploit baggage allowances. If you’ve followed my blog posts, it’s a recurring theme. This unexpected $50 fee didn’t seem worth a fuss. In the past, I’ve thrown a fit when asked to pay as much as $500+ for a second bag! I’ve played every possible card to avoid ridiculous baggage fees, but sometimes the effort involved just isn’t worth it…

Maputo Bay
Credit Card Problems

After receiving an email alert for an unknown charge, I notified the credit card company – when they saw I was in Mozambique, they freaked and immediately cancelled my card. The bank credited the erroneous charge within the hour, but the cancelled card was traumatic. Thankfully, I had a backup to use until the replacement arrived, another card that doesn’t charge currency conversion and other travel fees, or I’d be paying some hefty bank transaction charges.

Maputo Katembe Bridge – Club of Mozambique
Mini Food Crisis

There wasn’t time for breakfast. I was hungry and stopped for a wrap. It was packaged poorly and fell apart in my bag – leaving a big mess of lettuce, tomato, avocado everywhere….

Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gabriel
More Credit Card Mayhem

My credit card didn’t recognize Maputo, even though I’d made a point of filing a travel plan, including Mozambique. The bank’s system flagged it as shady and flat-out rejected payment. After a few raised eyebrows at the front desk and an email, the problem was resolved. I like the hotel. It’s well-located, reasonably priced, and comfortable with a friendly, helpful concierge!

Maputo Natural History Museum
Laptop Revolt

After what seemed like a “running of the gauntlet“, I took a few minutes to sit quietly and take a few deep breaths. THEN, my laptop went berserk and decided it wasn’t changing wireless networks any more. It spewed out a list of WiFi connections for past countries as “unavailable” and sent unfriendly, confusing messages. Don’t understand how the computer remembered the many previous WiFi networks from months ago! Eventually, the laptop finished expressing its ire, came to its senses, and calmed down. It’s fine now. Everything appears in Portuguese and is then translated (sometimes) to English!

Café Avenida Julius Nyerere
Easy Peezee Mozambican Visa

The only “pleasant” surprise of the day was that Mozambique Immigration was an easy, no-nonsense, non-intimidating process. They asked for a passport with sufficient blank pages, a completed visa form, and quickly stamped a tourist visa – yeah! The charge was $50 which thankfully you could pay with a credit card – some African countries require cash in $USD, regardless of your country of origin. Two Scottish tourists held their USDs in hand ready to pay. Immigration officials took fingerprints and a photo, which appear with the visa stamp. If you stay beyond your visa expiration date, you’ll pay a fine before leaving the country.

Avenida Julius Nyerere
Maputo Transportation

I decided not to rent a car, since research indicated there’s hectic traffic in Maputo, and driving is dangerous. Anyway, after South Africa, I needed a driving break. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get around, other than walking. Undoubtedly, Maputo is best seen on foot, but hitting the pavement every day eventually gets tiring, especially in 90+ degree heat.

Artisan Market
Maputo Artisan Market

Public transportation in Maputo is non-existent and problematic. The government scrapped a project for building a much-needed tram system – primarily because of the high construction cost. Hopefully, they will address this, as not everyone can afford to hire a limo or physically walk long distances. I’m still pondering using Maputo taxis. Unpleasant taxi episodes in foreign countries is a reoccurring theme I’ve experienced traveling solo.

Avenida Julius Nyerere Maputo

The concierge advised that crowded local buses were dangerous for tourists and suggested avoiding them, especially the minibus local taxis called “chapas“. Public transportation is a sore subject in Maputo, especially for working commuters – I missed this major point while doing my research.

Maputo Chapas – MMO Noticias
Typical Street Cart Maputo

After the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992), Maputo had a “public transport crisis”. A state-owned company, Transporte de Moçambique (TPM), tried to fix the problem by acquiring several hundred buses which are now old, but still operating.

Mozambican Wood Carving
Electric Trams

In the 1900s, Maputo was home to “one of the first electric tramways in Africa”. The tram system lost popularity and caused “protests from the public, because certain ‘classes’ had limited access to its use”. The trams haven’t been used since 1936, so maybe it’s time to rethink this?

Buildings Avenida Julius Nyerere

Maputo also has three-wheeled tuk-tuks like those used in Cambodia, India, and Egypt. They pose a competitive threat to the taxis and are called “tchopelas“. The ones I’ve ridden are pretty funky. I wondered if we would make it to the destination without wheels falling off. The interiors were dirty, damaged, and in bad condition. Most drivers speak zero English. You can always try speaking Portuguese?

Pancho Guedes Architect, Sculptor, Painter, Modernist – The Architectural Review
View from My Accommodation
First Day Exploring Maputo

The first day, I explored areas near my hotel. Avenida Julius Nyerere and Avenida Armando Tivane, both are lined with interesting street art, architecture, shops, cafés, and restaurants. Julius Nyerere was an anti-colonial activist politician and the first president of Tanzania. Armando Tivane was a political commissar during Mozambique’s national liberation struggle. Tivane is said to have excelled at boosting morale and helping guerrillas gain the freedom and strength to defeat the Portuguese.

Portuguese Pastries Taverna Doce Avenida Julius Nyerere

The cafés on Avenida Julius Nyerere are cozy and serve great pastries, tea, and espresso! The street pavement throughout most of Maputo is a mess – cracked, crumbling concrete on the sidewalks. I’m not sure if it’s damage from the civil war or cars parking on the sidewalk, but it’s definitely dangerous for anyone with a disability.

Mozambican Capulana

After the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, the politics of Mozambique is obvious from some of Maputo’s street names. Mao, Lenin, Marx, Engels, Ho Chi Minh, and even former North Korean President Kim Il Sung have streets named after them. Like many other African countries, Mozambique politics seems very complicated – at least to me.

Modern Maputo Building

Reminiscent of Bogotá Colombia, guards are posted everywhere – some with machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. I’ve seen no direct evidence of violence or crime. Every bank ATM has an armed guard. Very little English is spoken – so I’m learning survival Portuguese, which is similar to Spanish in many ways.

Greek Orthodox Cathedral

It’s nice to be in a large city again. Maputo reminds me of other cities visited – of course Lisbon, and maybe parts of Bogotá, Buenos Aires or Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. The outside cafés and exotic tree-lined streets are beautiful. Food is inexpensive and fantastic with good service. It’s a late-night city with active nightlife – quite a switch from Amanzimtoti, Durban, and the isolated Seychelles. I went out for dinner last night and enjoyed a lively evening.

Batiks Maputo Artisan Market – Pinterest
Tropical Modernism

I bought an interesting book – Maputo Architecture and Tourist Guide, by Philipp Schauer. Schauer is German Ambassador to Mozambique. His book includes maps and describes interesting walking tours. It “focuses on Maputo’s architecture” but also tells “stories of local inhabitants, giving Schauer’s perspective and in-depth history of the city”.  Maputo has fascinating people, architecture, and art. Every day I get an education and learn new terms, like Tropical Modernism.

Tropical Modernism Forms Maputo – traveller24.com Photo Phillip Schauer
Tropical Modernism Building Pancho Guedes

Tomorrow, I’m taking an all-day guided tour of major points of interest. The hotel concierge helped arrange it and found a reasonably priced guide. Haven’t taken many photos yet. Walking around with a camera in hand is a bit dangerous – as I was reminded by a group of rowdy, menacing young guys hanging out on the street! I’m looking into nature reserves to find an affordable one to visit. Getting there is complicated, and accommodations are pricey.

Mozambican Capulanas

Can’t believe it’s already February! More when possible….


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