Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Tale of Three Cities

1. MAPUTO

Another day on a bus from the north and, via a lightning storm (http://walter82.blogspot.com/2008/10/stormin-to-maputo.html), we entered the capital of Mozambique.

We saw a large sprawling city with a strange mixture of shanty and post-Stalinist architecture. Having a first walk around after dark, the atmosphere of the city was hard to gauge. Warnings of troublesome police and the odd mugging can’t help but tint your perspective. Better to start from the next day. A city of colour - jaccaranda, fire trees and murals. People walk with attitude and are welcoming.
A multitude of rich 4x4’s and new looking banks aside damp-sodden poverty. A real feeling of South America.
Streets celebrating revolutionary heroes from near and far bring us down to the sea. A comparably prosperous promenade runs adjacent to the green depths and up to embassy land.
We take the other direction, through streets with a bit more edge round into the historical centre. Here and there rotting Portuguese relics. A grand market spilling over with produce, a tiny fort, a church and many a decorated facade.
Stopping in elegant, yet slightly decrepid street side cafes for a top cup of coffee. Viewing a local art gallery complete with haunting carved images from 25 years of war and perusing Indian goods shops – for some reason I did not expect to see so many south-Asians in Mozambique, it never being part of the British Empire, yet there are many and as industrious as in neighboring countries.
A proper crazy night out round the docks. While searching for the infinite variety of the world, some things seem the same where ever you go. A port. Exuberant excess of alcohol, expolitation of women, pimps and sailors. Some surreal moments and unlooked for concern in the guise of a clueless Aussie girl not knowing what she is getting herself into. Then utter comedy as a young one of companions, shameless in the best of senses, takes over the dance floor in a bar of excess.
Back to our backpacks, matchsticks in the eye-lids time and way from this city and its wonderful vibe. A bus and away.....

2. JOHANNESBURG

What I remember of the journey to the Mozambique border seems little different from that of the past however many thousands of kilometers. Thick greenery, thatched hut and people. A long line at the border and then everything changed. Through the mists of sleep deprevation poured a landscape somewhat like Salisbury plain, but somehow stetched. Gone the Africa we had come to know, we were travelling through wide well-tendered fields, marked out by neat fences. Large barns, church steeples and pretty little towns.
Back into a deep sleep and then the big city.
Jo’berg, Jo’ey... whatever you want to call it. Here was the industrial and financial heartland of Africa. For all the news of hijackings, murder and riots, I was taken aback but its sheer scale. A true metropolis of high-rises, fly-overs, huge malls and development as far as the eye can see. A place of severe contrast and significance – impossible to ignore. Large segregated suburbs of the rich, with their lush gardens, pools and privelege. Townships of millions. Areas so bad that hijacking cars is old news – now they hijack apartment buildings. We were in and out of there in a flash. A partial regret as it is undoubtedly a place of interest, but for the one week I had left perhaps a little too interesting - if you know what I mean.
Our plane took off as the sun-set over the arid plains. An image of the vastness of this country and continent.

3. CAPE TOWN
It was Saturday at 9pm. We had touched down in just one of “those” places. The ones you dream of going to, the ones your bug desires. Table mountain was hidden in the dark as we raced towards Long Street. Dave, Dave and I had made it down to the tip of Africa, but there was no time to linger on Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, the people we had met and experiences we had been given...we were just in time to hit the town... and what a town Cape Town is!
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