Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The pull of the road

Working on the road

We left Vilanculos with no clear plan for our trip to Nampula, except that we would not like to drive in the dark. The kilometers up to Inchope seemed to stretch as we approached, and it is known that things expand in the midday heat. The Inchope filling station told of an excellent hostelry just a few kilometers down the road to Zimbabwe, but we thought that this would take us off our track, and Nampula was still far, far away. Gorongosa sounded much more interesting. There is always the hope of something better, just over the next hill!

Travellers share a feast
At the entrance to the Gorongosa park an expensive-looking signboard announced luxury lodgings, but also camping, but that was twenty kilometers and more out of our way. We tried phoning to get prices, but received no reply. Gorongosa town, only another thirty klicks down our road, promised hotels, and there they were. The best we could find had no windows, and a party was brewing up next door, but the price was fixed at 2 000 Mts.

Our map promised lodging and camping at the Mountain inn, and we even had GPS references! But references come and go, and truck drivers bargaining for a few goats had never heard of an inn in that area. The best thing, they advised, was to press on another two hours, but the road was bad.

Night set in, and we grasped at every light we saw, while dodging most of the potholes. At eight we had decided that we would find the next small road turning off, and sleep in the car, because we would have more than six hundred kilometers to do the next day.

Forestry accommodation
And then we saw it: A sign advertising a sawmill with a restaurant and accommodation! Life out of colonial Africa, simple and tasteful.

And we wondered: Do we not always get drawn on and on by hopes of a better future over the next horizon? And, sometimes, that better future is there!

Vilanculos shipbuilding
This remote part of Mozambique has its signs of neglect: potholed roads, small, poor villages next to the road. But there are many smiling, happy people here, people who welcome strangers with no diffidence, just a wide, welcoming smile, an effort to understand our halting Portuguese, and a willingness to help. Even the soldiers stopping us seem embarrassed to ask if we had brought them something.

The people here hope that the discovery of gas will bring them a better future. Maybe the young boy who helped his even younger sister to sell us roasted cashew nuts, and then shyly asked if we had sweets for them, will wear a suit, and be an oil industry accountant. We wish that their hopes will also be answered by more than they expect.

Vilanculos airport: one of us had to go back to slavery!

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