The highlight of my trip to Mozambique was definitely the Bazaruto excursion, but I also really enjoyed visiting the capital city, Maputo, and the beautiful beaches around Inhambane.
Maputo is located in the southern part of the country, on the coast. In some ways, it’s similar to other African cities that I’ve visited: bustling markets; a giant statute of the first president (Samora Machel, in this case); a passable-but-not-ideal sanitation system.
What made Maputo feel different to me was the architecture — a schizophrenic mix of Portuguese-colonial, modern, and war-torn.
Mozambique struggled through nearly 30 years of war at the end of the 20th century — 10 years on-and-off to gain independence from Portugal, followed by almost 20 years of civil war instigated by foreign governments — and all those years of war have left their mark. In the 90s, the country was riddled with hundreds of thousands of landmines, which caused injuries and deaths throughout the country and also rendered much of the its fertile land un-farmable. Twenty years later, the government and a series of NGOs are still working to remove mines from some areas. In Maputo and other cities, the wars have left behind crumbling buildings that were abandoned and/or structurally damaged during the war and which the government can’t afford to rebuild.
You can see that this building is just a shell, and it had been left untouched for so many years now that it had trees growing inside of it.
Not far from that building is one of the best-maintained structures in the city: the Maputo Railway Station, one of the world’s most beautiful train stations, designed by an associate of Gustave Eiffel in the early 1900’s.
This nineteenth-century Portuguese fort has been turned into a museum and art gallery. In the background, you can see some of Maputo’s modern skyscrapers.
Of course, Mozambique is not a country that you visit for the cities. We spent about half of our time in Mozambique at the beaches near Inhambane, a smaller city a few hours away from Maputo.
Our first stop was at a campsite with a sense of humor (see weather-“predicting” coconut) on Praia do Tofo, an expansive and nearly-empty beach with warm water, soft sand, and a sunrise that was worth the 5:30 AM wake-up.
While we were staying at Tofo, we went out on a boat ride to find and snorkel with whale sharks, but they must have been feeling shy that day because we didn’t manage to find any. Consolation prize #1: dolphins! Consolation prize #2: fresh fish for dinner (unrelated to the dolphins).
On our way back from Bazaruto, we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn (which sounded exciting and exotic to me but honesty is just a sign) and then spent another two nights at a lodge on Praia da Barra. Barra was a slightly less impressive beach but the lodge had a lively bar, and so that was where I had my second birthday celebration — complete with cake, candles, and my birthday hat.