It’s 1993 and Mozambique has just been through a horrendous civil war. Travel Africa’s Phil Clisby, who is among the first 10 European travellers to venture there for some 15 years, describes his journey into the north of this remarkable country…
The three of us – my two companions, Lorna and Mike, and I – head down to the docks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to catch the ferry from there to Mtwara, in the south of the country, en route to Mozambique. We arrive a good 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time to find hundreds of people milling around. The ground is extremely muddy and there are piles of cargo littered around the quayside, waiting to be loaded onto the boat.
Embarking on the ferry appears to require a treacherous journey down a slippery, narrow wooden plank, lying at an angle of about 45 degrees, with a 20ft drop into the murky waters below. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
In the meantime, due to the obvious fact it will take ages to load the cargo, let alone all the passengers, we take a seat on a wall, out of the way. By 10.15 – we’d been due to sail at 9am – the crowd doesn’t seem to have got any smaller and cargo is still piled up on the dock. But, with alarm, I notice they have started untying the ropes holding the ferry to the shore. We charge to the gangway, shouting that we have to get on. There’s only one ferry a week, and there’s no way we want to spend another day in Dar, let alone a week. A policeman and another man, who I guess to be Greek, are blocking the gangplank, while would-be passengers try to shove money in their hands to let them on, to no avail.
Fortunately, we manage to talk them into letting us through, although the Greek reprimands us for being late. I ‘politely’ inform him that we’d been waiting for ages, only we couldn’t get on because of all the people and the “not very efficient” method of embarking. We agree to differ, and concentrate on our next obstacle: the 4ft gap that has appeared between the gangplank and the quay.
Did we make it on to the ferry? Of course we did, otherwise there wouldn’t be a story, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you about hitching a ride on a boat with smugglers, a train journey that “could take one day or five”, eating lobster on Ilha de Moçambique or getting stranded in no man’s land. Read on for the full story.