Edging neara the fronteira

Tumbledown island

Nampula is not coastal. It is a relatively large town, meaning running water, proper sugared ring doughnuts, and onward connections to Mozambique Island. A large minibus (capacity around 25, today’s capacity about 35) is almost ready to depart, for the morning’s journey.

The poverty of the island – torn clothes, kids playing in the crumbling art deco houses – gives the place a timeless feel. Despite being the capital of Portuguese East Africa it has a relaxed feel too. There are greeting children, but no hassle. All the same I’m getting tired of Mozambique now. It feels like I’ve been here a long time. Compared to travel through the tiny countries of West Africa, I have.

The next day, on a tumbledown backstreet, which could describe most of the island, a small girl approaches holding a small piece of something shiny-white to her eye. “Click” she says, mimicking the tourists, “photo!”

The cloud breaks into feathers slowly, taking all the day. A jet-ski, purple and scarlet, sits on a trailer incongruously in a dusty square, as incongruously as the green bandstand at the square’s centre. A bundle of bored children watch me write. They are rude, perhaps mocking me or passers-by. Normally I would find them bothersome; I have already told several to “move on” today, the hassle-free of the day before gone. In my supreme sereneness I let them be.

Two minutes before the alarm at 3.43am I think I can hear rain, not just rain, a downpour. I come close to convincing myself not to bother get up, but I do.

The noonuitgang emergency exit sign on a window reveals it to be a South African bus. Its cramped, my legs jammed against the metal frame of the seat in front. Everything is squashed in Mozambique – the transport, the doorframes – except the land itself which seems almost artificially stretched.

We travel well for hours until 9am when the driver remembers he’s in Mozambique, where everything takes twice as long as even the rest of Africa for no apparent reason. Eventually we make it into Pemba, as the sun begins to make it past the clouds, at 2pm.
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