Early breakfast. Early departure. We drove from Tofo Beach, with a couple of stops en route, a total of seven hours, to Maputo. Through the main towns traffic jams, car accidents, wedding parties and livestock greeted us from every direction. Fortunately, the national asphalt roads were well maintained and drivers mostly behaved. Unlike when we first entered Mozambique.
GRAND DAME BECKONS
After checking into the palatial Grand Dame of African Hotels, known as the Polana Serena, we decided to leave the car behind and walk to Baixa, old town Maputo. Mozambique’s capital city, previously known as Lourenço Marques. After twenty minutes winding through the backstreets, we reached one of the wide main roads leading straight into the town. Suddenly it no longer felt safe and exciting. Many were finishing work and didn’t appear too pleased to see us, the only tourists as far as the eye could wander.
“Let’s go back and get the car!” This time I put my foot down, defiantly insistent. Being enclosed within a vehicle made all the difference to feeling safer. Still, I felt on edge, keeping my wits about me even when in the car, ensuring the doors were locked and windows rolled up.
BUSTLING CENTRAL MARKET
At the Mercado Central de Maputo, also called the “Bazar da Baixa”, a covered market built in 1901 housed within a Portuguese colonial building, its design dating back to 1900. We stocked up on good quality fresh produce, along with peri-peri cashew nuts and sauce, both being the hottest and tastiest ever devoured. The vendors welcomed us without pressuring us to buy anything. We tended to purchase from the friendliest, despite wanting to support all of them.
DEEPEST DARKEST AFRICA
A drive through the deepest, darkest streets where hawkers sold clothing alongside the road and people over spilt onto the road, blocked vehicles passing by. Evident of their struggles, it proved challenging to relax and appreciate our fortune of being able to travel and explore.
A few streets up, towards the coast, the nucleus point in the town is the Praca de Independencia, a public square where a statue of Samora Machel, the country’s first president, looms. Surrounding Machel, the French-Mozambican cultural centre has been elegantly restored to its colonial splendour. The Roman Catholic cathedral gleams a brilliant white, almost too perfect for the rest of the town.
Searching TripAdvisor, Peri-Peri, the restaurant on the outskirts of the old town came highly rated. All the tables inside, people relishing the aircon, were occupied. Outside, the humid heat clung to our bodies. But the food made it worth it, very much worthy.
It’s hard to believe the Polana Serena Hotel was less than four kilometres away from the old town, the contrast so palpable it made me feel out of sorts.
I’m undecided if I’d ever have a need or desire to return to Maputo. Perhaps as a stopover, for practical reasons and to dine at Peri-Peri again.
Please Note: For copyright purposes, the resolution of each image below is considerably reduced.