Vail traveler heads beyond America’s fast-food empire |

Vail traveler heads beyond America’s fast-food empire

Luc Pols
Vail travel correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/Luc PolsVail travel: A young street vendor in Maputo, Mozambique tries to sell his carved boxes

The first phase of this African venture is coming to an end. It is not that I am coming home already, but the “luxury part” is over.

From here on in it is buses and wherever possible, trains ,and so I get my first taste of the local transportation. I am the only white person on these buses and people gawk at me, some surreptitiously, others openly, and you can see from the look in their eyes that they are questioning what I am doing here.

As a matter of fact some of the children stare at me and for some of them I might be the first white face they have ever seen. It is not that they are not friendly – on the contrary, they are all quite helpful, but all seem somewhat incredulous. Almost like Asia. Interesting.

There is one more night in a game reserve, this one in Swaziland and then it is on to Mozambique. This particular park has an abundance of rhinos and the first day I see more than 20 of these huge animals and it is a delight.

Whenever you come to this part of Africa, make sure you visit not only Kruger Park, but also take in one of more of the private game reserves. It will give you a good comparison and you will enjoy both of these venues immensely.

A bus drops me at the Mozambique border and I cross on foot without any problems, something my often-faulty guidebook had warned me could be a disaster and would take a long time. Five minutes and I am through.

My first impression of Mozambique is not all that favorable. The area where I am to catch my little bus into the capital Maputo, about 50 miles away, gives the impression of skid row.

People here are harassing you for a drink or if they ask for money, they readily admit that the money is for booze. A guy at the border helps me getting a new SIM card for my phone. When all is said and done he suggests we have some wine. I agree, since I don’t mind buying him glass of wine for his services, but then he takes me to the store and wants me to buy him a bottle. I politely decline, give him a couple of bucks and am on my way. Needless to say, not a place I am inclined to spend a lot of time

I check into my hotel in Maputo and learn that evening from a Swedish traveler that the buses to Inhambane leave at 5 a.m., so I decide to stay another night. Over a beer she and I swap travel stories and it is very interesting, or is it vindicating, to hear that her impression of the Philippines, my last adventure, is the same as mine – not very good

As a matter of fact, she won’t be going back either.

Maputo isn’t a very exciting town and it is extremely windy. I do my chores, however, walk around town and relax. There is one good thing about this city – I don’t see any McDonald’s or any other American fast food place here.

Let’s face it though, it would be a bit ironic, to say the least, to advertise “Come and get your Big Mac at Lenin’s Avenue” or “Enjoy your Whopper at Mao Tse Tung’s Square” or “Have a KFC on The Ho Chi Minh Trail.” These are some of the street names here and it seems that the only one missing is Hugo Chavez Alley.

One of the most interesting aspects of street life here, and this is the first time I have ever experienced this, is how they sell shoes. They just put them on the sidewalk and try to sell them like they were oranges or bananas. Quite ingenious … or is it?

Forget about my remark previously about the concession for barbed wire and electric fences for South Africa. I’d like to extend it to the whole of Africa, at least the part I have been exposed to so far.

Tomorrow it is off to Inhambane up the coast and we’ll see how that works out. I will let you know next week.

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