Fears that Hold Us Back

Many of our cruise mates missed Maputo altogether.  A couple of hundred got on buses and went right to the South African border for their safaris in Krueger National Park.  Others’ buses took them to the airport for their flight to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls.  Still others did not get off the ship because of the hefty $75 visa fee.  Finally fear drove some away.

The fear part is troubling.  Barbara, our lecturer/guide gave her normal cautionary notes, don’t wear jewelry, backpack or fanny pack, don’t carry excess credit cards;” don’t take anything ashore that would make you cry if you lost it.”  It is good advice traveling anywhere.

She told us to expect to see a lot of poverty but to be open to Maputo because if we are we earn more in experience than we spend in money.  One of the lecturers said, Maputo separates travelers from tourists. But some of our cruise mates heard all of this in the context of some social media posts.  These posts made people more nervous than they should have been.

Postings from past cruises included reports of muggings, bribery attempts, in your face touts and hassles with police.  Also, an incident from this fall was on some folk’s minds.  Immigration officers came onboard a ship and delayed issuing visas for a couple of hours.  The Captain was frustrated, threw them off and sailed away without anyone getting off.  It sounded to me like a bribery shakedown.   A couple of other ships canceled Maputo until an outcry in the papers over lost business caused the government to fire the people involved.  We had no such problems.  We were cleared and could leave the ship before 8.

On shore there is an in your face hassle factor but no more than in Cairo, Agra or any number of other places we’ve visited.  I was approached for a “tip” on behalf of the harbor police, “paid so poorly but protect you so well.”  The approach was made near a big sign showing an outstretched palm with a “Stop” sign over it saying, in English and Portuguese, “No bribery!”  Unfortunately it was in a no photo area and the policeman was watching.  I didn’t want to tempt him further.

On the streets most people were happy to have me take their pics.  Some young women in the red light district actually asked us to take pictures (and post them perhaps?).  If people declined I respected that.  Generally people were polite and friendly.  Many wanted to talk a little.

The area around the ship looks seedy.  Some friends were concerned enough that they went on a tour rather than walk through town.  Many took the ship’s shuttle bus to a fenced in crafts market in the embassy district.  This colorful market serves foreigners at the big hotels, the embassies and off of cruise ships.  She felt safe in that neighborhood but not in the one near the ship.  Yet, looking at travel warnings, parts of that fancy neighborhood have more robberies than the port.  Makes sense, people there have more money.  The only theft I heard of off the ship in Maputo was from a woman who had a watch lifted within the fenced market.

Suzi and I walked all morning hitting the sights, the railway station, Portuguese fort, Saturday crafts market (where Suzi did some early Christmas shopping), main market, mosque, cathedral, Independence Square, Workers’ Square, city hall, botanical garden, and the Iron House.  While neighborhoods we strolled looked seedy they were not outright slums.  They were vibrant with active street life, lots of people but not so crowded that you couldn’t keep some personal space.

After our walk we went back to the ship, cooled off a bit, and took Holland America’s shuttle to the fenced market.  It was well laid out, colorful and vibrant.  There was some good stuff, although I thought things in the Saturday Market where we walked earlier was, in some ways, perhaps better.  In this fenced market we saw identical tapestry wall hangings.  Each vendor told us he had made it himself, identical tapestries with different signatures.  I bargained for an ebony walking stick.

On the bus back to the ship some folks told us they had spent the day at this market and the 5 star hotel a block away so had not seen much.  The driver, overhearing this, decided to stop at a couple spots we had visited earlier to allow people to get off, staying close to the bus, to take pictures.    Of course as soon as the door opened we were mobbed with touts who also tapped, than banged on our windows demanding we buy stuff.   Unfortunately this confirmed the fears of some of our cruise mates, to me, it’s a poor country with a 50+% unemployment rate,  There is more stuff to sell than people with money to buy and this bus just brought people with money to buy.

When the bus stopped we saw some other people from the ship walking.   Some of those on the bus urged them to get on “The walk is too long, it’s not safe.”  I tried to reassure the bus people that we had walked there this morning, it was only about a mile to the ship and we were quite safe.  I probably shouldn’t have added that the hookers wanted us to take their pictures.  The walkers stayed their course and I am sure they were the better for it.

The pictures below are from some of the Maputo markets.  The first 5 are from the main market, where people buy basics like food, and get a dose of political propaganda as their leaders watch over their purchases.  The next 7 are from the Saturday craft’s market near the fort and waterfront.

The last 12 pictures are from the fenced in market in the Embassy district near the 5 star hotels.  It was colorful, shady.  We browsed and stopped for a coke under some trees before getting back on the shuttle bus.

In other posts you will see some pics from our walk through town, one post will just have street scenes and one will show some of the major landmarks of Maputo.

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