Saturday, July 05, 2003

Taxis in Mozambique are a story in themselves. Since the streets can be dodgy at night you really need to use a taxi to get home any time you go out in the evening. But since the radio-cab system hasn't yet reached Moz, the only solution is to have a vast array of Taxi numbers in your phone and ring them one-by-one until you get someone who is actually 'on the job' just then.

The other day I had to get home very late from the place where my cousin had been staying. I had no joy with any of my numbers, so I hunted through the yellow pages there until I found one that claimed to be 24-hours. The only problem was that my cousin's place was a backpackers little known to Mozambicans, on the long winding street named (in the style of all Maputo streets) after an anti-colonial hero - in this case Patrice Lumumba. This street always makes me a bit sad, since it is a reminder of the poor man who was in many ways the 'fall guy' who took the hit for the Congo's implosion when the Belgians got out, after the 75-year human disaster of their colonial rule. Lumumba only ruled for a few months, then he was ousted and killed by a coup which led to a CIA trainee taking the top job in Kinshasa - the delightful Mr. Mobutu. Poor Congo.

Anyway, when I phoned up this guy he sounded a bit doubtful about being able to find me - as a result I agreed to bump up the price by 40%. So after 15 mins he still hasn't showed up and I ring him 'yes, I'm on the way, just coming up the street now'. After 10 more mins still no sign - so I asked the security guard on the gate for a hand. He pointed out that while no-one had heard of the Backpacker's, /everyone/ knew about the famous restaurant just opposite. Said famous restaurant didn't look much from the outside, being a dusty classic of 60s architecture, but I took him at his word and sure enough when I rang the motorista (taxi driver) he brightened up at the mention of 'Restaurante Chai' and appeared 2 minutes later.

I was a bit miffed at his navigational crapness, but when I got in the car he was such a class act that there was no point being annoyed. He was quite a chunky guy, made even bulkier by his two coats and balaclava against the cold. The car was some kind of old Trabant, so the overall effect was of Batfink's sidekick 'Karate', crammed into the driving seat. He was a good laugh and explained that he managed his unique 24-hour coverage by doing shifts with his son. Despite the advanced age of the car we got back to my hotel in no time, seeing as Maputo has almost no traffic at 11.30pm! Needless to say I have added his number to my phone...

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