Thursday 31 January 2013

Mission Visa - Ending Phase

Swaziland countryside
Thursday, the third day on the road, and the second out of Mozambique, I woke up a little dispirited in my hotel room. The whole day I thought it was Wednesday, so I didn't think about telling VĂ©ronique I was having troubles to get back into Mozambique. I wasn't hungry so I dressed and left for the bus station without breakfast. I found a bus for Mbabane quickly, and we drove off quickly as well. The ride cost me R 15 and about 30 minutes in time. I jumped out of the bus a little before the city center after having asked where the Mozambican embassy was. It actually was located on a hill in the outskirts of the city to where I walked back. I was there quite early, and a few other persons as well. We all waited until the embassy opened at 9:00. When it finally did open, the official quickly took care of me, but said he was sorry he couldn't help me out that day because they were waiting for visa stickers from Maputo. I should come back on Monday. I later learned that Sunday the 3rd was to be a holiday in Mozambique and that the embassy would most likely be closed the next Monday, like the one in Nelspruit.

Mozambique 4:1 Marcel

I decided to walk to town to check on the best route for Nelspruit, as it was my last option left. On getting to town, I found a shopping mall, in which I bought a pair of jeans and a new shirt as well as a toothbrush and a charger for my old Nokia mobile phone. I went to Maputo with enough material to spend a few nights over. But left some things like the toothbrush and phone charger in the capital city. After that I got hungry so I decided to take it easy. I wouldn't make it in time to Nelspruit to get a visa on the same day anyway. Might as well have a good breakfast before heading out. In the Riverside Cafe in the mall I ordered a Riverside Special which consisted of two fried eggs, two bacon rashes, a sausage, two slices of toast, a slice of tomato and rooibos tea. I very seldom eat a breakfast like this, and it was a welcome change and good for the moral as well.

Swaziland countryside
I then left Mbabane in a big bus which traveled up into the Swaziland hills. I took a few pictures with my HTC mobile phone while we were driving towards Pigg's Peak. Again, it looked a lot like Switzerland with the winding roads and the mountainous scenery. Pigg's Peak is a little mountain town from where I took my next taxi to Matsamo, another border post to South Africa. I changed bus at the border, and then again in Malelane. That was again quite a bit of traveling for the day. The good thing was that there always was someone asking me where I wanted to go in order to offer me advice for the next step.

Arriving in Nelspruit I found the police station hardest to miss, so I went in and asked about accommodation in town. They only knew about the closest hotel which was a block away and was quite expensive. The basic room price is about R 1'000 but I finally got one for R 650, which was still out of budget for me. I was happy to find out by the hotel staff, that the Mozambican embassy was really close.

Swaziland countryside
I slept quite badly and not very long. After quite a few beers on the previous night I had dropped dead around 9:00. Thus I woke up around 4:00, tried to sleep some more and finally turned on the TV and watched the only movie currently playing.

Around 8:00 I left the hotel for the embassy where I filled out another visa application form and paid R 600 for the visa. That was a really good start for the day. Usually when they accept the payment it means you will get the visa. The official told me to come back at 2:00 to fetch my passport.

After some more shopping, I walked the street where the bar where I drank beers the previous night is. The guys from last night hailed me so I went up and had yet another few beers with them. They actually gave me some Hunter's Dry ciders. At 1:30 I left for the embassy where I finally got this long awaited visa. At 2:00 I already sat in a taxi leaving for Malelane. From there I chose to go to Jeppe's Reef border post (Matsamo) to Swaziland. I was afraid some people at the Ressano Garcia wouldn't be too happy to let me into Mozambique despite of my new visa, so I played the safe card. From Jeppe's Reef I drove to Buhleni and then onwards to Manzini.

Swaziland countryside
Sicelo from two days ago booked me into the Park Hotel. My little trip freaked out the credit card agency, so I decided it was best if I called them once I arrived in Manzini. I did just that, and afterwards I ran into Sicelo coming out of the hotel looking for me. We went to the Yuli Bar & Restaurant where I spent my first evening in Manzini. Pxila was there as well having a red wine. He wasn't expecting me, as he only got the message I sent him in the afternoon several hours later.

I invited Sicelo for a drink, and then for supper. We both chose to have the T-Bone steak with chips and salad. It took them more than an hour to prepare it, and once we got it the meat was overcooked. As I was starving, I just ate. Sicelo then told me he was going to work by car the next day and offered me an early ride to the border, which I promptly accepted. I wanted to go as far towards Tofo as possible the next day, so we agreed on meeting at 5 minutes to 6:00 the next morning. There was no point in leaving earlier though, because the border post only opens at 7:00, and it wouldn't take us much more than an hour to get there.

The next morning, Sicelo got there a bit later than what he said, but then we drove quickly towards the border. Driving through the Hlane Royal National Park we spotted quite a few imphalas and a giraffe. At the end of the day I only had a very vague souvenir of this though. This day would prove to be very tiresome. We finally got to the border post of Lomahasha after Sicelo had been stopped by the police and fined R 40 for not wearing a seatbelt. I gave him R 100 for the fuel, which was probably overpaid, but he could no doubt use it well.

Time to get nervous again. Passport with visa in hand, I walked into the Swaziland border post and got stamped out of the country once more. That was the easy part. Then I walked across the border towards the tricky part. I couldn't buy any present in the duty free shop as it would only open at 9:00. It has always been a mission for me to get the right visa for Mozambique, even in Geneva and later in Inhambane, where they found out a number had been scratched out and corrected in my visa I got in Geneva. I was quite nervous and only after a little while did I realize I would still have to fill out one of the border entry forms as the other people did.

Swaziland countryside
My passport then went into the hands of the first official, who looked at my handwritten visa from Nelspruit suspiciously and handed it over to the second official. It was hard to breathe evenly and not to get a nervous breakdown then and there. After what seemed an awfully long moment, the lady official finally started filling out the “official use” part of the form. She did it in a deliberately slow way as if she wasn't yet completely sure she should actually let me in. She then, so slowly again, took the stamp, put the stamp in the ink, and finally stamped my passport. I could barely believe it. I was in Mozambique again!

My new visa
Next thing I know I walk through the gate with a valid visa and a passport in my hands towards “home”. At the border I and 20 other persons were herded onto the back of a bakkie which was going to bring us to the next bus station for mts 10. In the next bus I was squeezed in between the door and a lady that wasn't skinny. When we passed the Matola crossing, I called Luis so he could fetch me at the international bus stop and bring me to Edna's place. Once there I got my stuff together and packed it inside my bag. I didn't realize at that time that not everything was there. I missed some shorts, a t-shirt and a towel, which the maids, instead of putting everything together, put somewhere else where I didn't see it. Luis drove me to the bus station where I caught a bus to Inhambane. Bartolomeu started a conversation with me, so I sat down next to him and we shared some bottles of cheap white wine during the trip. Although the actual trip hadn't really started yet. It would only start about 3 hours later when we would finally leave the station at a really slow pace due to the heavy traffic load. Bartolomeu told me he wanted to be an artist, but couldn't finish the school due to lack of fundings. Instead he joined the army and later the police to finally end up in the special forces. His parents live in Inhambane where he went for a few days.

After a horrendously long trip – excluding the waiting time – of about 9 hours, we arrived in Inhambane around 10:30-11:00. A taxi was waiting for eventual customers that would get off the bus. He wouldn't budge on the fare of mts 800 for the ride to Tofo. So close to “home” I didn't want to spend the night in town.

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