Sunday, July 12, 2009

Safe Passage

Since I never managed to arrive at a destination before sunset in Mozambique, I tried to have things set up so I wouldn’t be crawling around in the dark. In Beira, Lisette, my Dutch couchsurfer, picked me up from the bus stand, having employed her friend to graciously pick me up. I was not so lucky when getting to Maxixe. It was 7pm before I arrived there and Maxixe, not the tourist destination that its sister town across the bay is, was void of any guesthouses. The last ferry had already left, and it looked like I would have to go door to door until someone let me sleep on their floor. A few others were stranded, all Mozambican, but they were all familiar with the area and could make do if a solution wasn’t found. A guy with a dhou offered to ferry us across but was asking too much, even for ten people to split. Most of the people there had little to no money as Mozambique is an incredibly poor country. I was also low on money as the ATM was on the other side of the bay in Inhambane. A student from Beira who had been on my bus the whole way started rallying everyone and I joined in, trying to convince people that we should take this guy up on his offer. Finally after 30 minutes of deliberation and my stuffing a power bar into my mouth (it was the first meal I had all day as it was the first time in 15 hrs I had not been on a vehicle), everyone agreed to put in what they could. We raised enough, after some haggling, to get passage across the bay. At that moment, our ‘captain’ stripped down naked, jumped into the water, swam to his boat, and brought it over to the dock. He got out, put his clothes back on, took two canisters and ran to the nearest petrol station. About 15 minutes later, he returned, filled up the boat’s tank, and started the engine. We all piled in and set off across the bay. While I was fatigued, dehydrated, and famished, I was almost overcome with the beauty of the scene. The moon, in all its brilliance, was a giant orb lighting up the sky. Its reflection covered the whole bay, blinding us. Bundled in my fleece and scarf, I sat in awe, mesmerized by the shimmers that danced on the water’s surface. As we approached the other side, he cut off the engine. We were a few hundred meters to the left of the dock as he informed us this was a clandestine trip. Since he was illegally transporting us across, he couldn’t drop us of where the ferry does. I felt like an illegal immigrant, huddled en masse with others who had escaped their lives for a new opportunity. As we arrived to the beach, he disembarked, and dragged the boat to shore. We had made it to the other side.

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