Have you ever gotten into a car and felt like you are going to die? If not, than keep on doing whatever you are doing; if so, welcome to traveling in Mozambique. Now don’t get me wrong; I do not feel this way every time I hop into a car. However, with the high prevalence of drinking and driving, extreme exhaustion, and lack of car maintenance for years, Mozambique has a serious problem with some of its drivers. Luckily there is always a choice to get in the vehicle or not, and there are plenty of vehicles to choose from. The chapa is the Scooby-Doo Vehicles that hasn’t had an inspection since I stopped watching it in the 90s. The Mystery Machine holds true to its name with the magical amount of people, animals, and breastfeeding children than can be crammed in. Once inside the vehicle expect all extremities to go numb within thirty minutes. If you thought you have been in a tight spot before, think again, and for you taller folks out there, expect your knees to hit you in the face consistently as the drive rampages along the bumpy, unpaved roads. You are likely to be the entertainment for everyone in the car; if it is not for your knees being up to your ears, it is funny enough to them that a foreign would choose to travel in one of these death traps. If that description is not enough to sell you on it, this beautiful ride is guaranteed to get you to your destination in the most time possible with the least amount of comfort. Welcome to the chapa – the most common transportation throughout Mozambique.
The “My Love” chapa is just as romantic as it sounds. “Everybody love everybody!” Without hugging your neighbor in the scorching heat, you are sure to slip out of the bouncing pick up; everyone is a team looking to stay in the truck. It is not a bad experience except when your hands fall onto the wrong part of the caravan; if your hand finds it way anywhere close to one of the many chickens in the truck, you are likely to be that chicken’s last chance at survival. It will peck at you as if you are personally offending it. With all of this close nature, “My Love” shows the love and trust of Mozambicans with a nice breeze and hopefully not too much rain.
The machibombom is the Greyhound of Mozambique. You are guaranteed to maybe get a seat but certainly have “leg room” in front of you. These busses are a straight-shot to your destination and have a bathroom break every hour. The luxury machibomboms sometimes have at least one working television in the middle of the isle; this television, if it is not blocked by someone’s head, will certainly be playing the worst kung-fu movie you have ever seen. If this blood ridden, Portuguese dubbed action movie is not sufficient for your entertainment, you will have at least a couple of drunk people making a fool of themselves. If you get lucky and hit jackpot, then that person will be your neighbor and you will get to hear the screaming in your ear the entire ride. With all of these luxuries, it is hard to deny that the machibombom is a not well-oiled machine full of activity. However, you should not expect to grab one unless you are traveling on the main highway.
The semi truck, 18-wheeler, or camão, whatever you want to call it is a common and often cheaper alternative to a chapa or machibombom. I’m sure the picture that settles in your mind consists of the comfort of the seat next to the driver. Ha! If only that were the case. Allow your mind to go more towards a vagabond lifestyle on top of whatever cargo the truck is carrying. While you may worry about the climb to the top, the view once up there is beyond being in any car. Once you are on top, you have the paradise of a nice breeze and enough room to stretch out and lie down. You should lay back, close your eyes, and imagine slightly choppy waves aboard a Caribbean cruise ship.
The boleia. Of course there has to be an option that puts all the parents’ minds at rest. The literal translation of a boleia is a ride, but it most closely resembles hitchhiking. I know a red flag goes up as soon as someone in the States hears hitchhiking. However, with all of the problems and accidents related to public transport here, there is no better option. When you are used to sweaty, stuffy, animal filled cars, a personal car is a sweet sigh of relief. If you are lucky, you may have the incredible blessing of air conditioning and someone that speaks English. From the time the car pulls over to when you get out, you better be counting your lucky stars because the boleia is the best ride you that you could have in Mozambique. The stories of traveling range long and far from having someone die in the chapa seat next to you to having help push a chapa through knee high water. Though the choices may sound bleak, the sites of Mozambique are well worth any troubles along the way. After all, sometimes the adventure lies in the traveling, not always the destination.