When a bad storm kept the Silver Wind in Maputo, Mozambique a second day, three of us from the ship decided to take a day trip to the nearby country of Swaziland. One of my shipmates, Dan, arranged a car/driver/guide through one of the local immigration officials who came onto the ship. I was glad only three of us went (Dan, Bob, and I) because no one else could have fit into the Toyota Land Cruiser. We left the ship a little before 10 am. Our driver/guide was supposed to be English-speaking, but his language skills were minimal, although significantly better than our Portuguese, which was non-existent.
I began to get a little worried when I saw the car - bald tires, no air conditioning, no seat belts in the back seat, and automatic windows that had to be pushed up and down manually. Our first stop was at a mechanic's shop, where they added oil and changed the front left tire to another very used one. The manual transmission car was started by having a group of men push us off - not a good sign. Then we stopped at a gas station. I was beginning to think we'd never leave Maputo, but we finally started on our adventure. Riding through the Mozambique countryside, I felt like I was looking at the "real" Africa we've all seen in the movies. Many villages with huts made of sticks, cardboard, and thatched roofs. Dozens of people of all ages walking the highways -- going who knows where. Many of the women and children were carrying bags, baskets, boxes on their heads. We drove through the "suburbs" and into the countryside. Supposedly, we were only 50 km (about 30 miles) from the border, but it seemed much further. The roads were okay, with not many more pot holes than our paved country roads. We did have a few cows in the road along the way.
The flat lands turned into beautiful, lush rolling farmland, filled with corn, goats, and cattle. Dan kept wanting to stop to make photos, and once when we pulled off the road and started up again, the driver swears in Portuguese, pulls back off the road, and we all get out of the vehicle. Oh no! A flat tire on the left front, the new tire we had picked up in Maputo. As the driver changed the tire, about a half-dozen children appeared out of nowhere to watch him and gawk at the three white faces.
Soon we were on the way with an even balder tire. When we arrived at the Mozambique/Swaziland border, the officials gave our driver fits about our passports. The best we could understand (hand gestures, and our guide's short translation) was that the cruise ship visa did not allow us to go into the provinces outside of the city of Maputo and we couldn't leave the country without paying $25 to exit Mozambique and then return without buying another visa for $25. Sounded like a rip off to us, but we paid the $25 and drove into Swaziland, stopping long enough to get photos at the border. Of course, we also had to stop at Swaziland immigration and customs, but the official stamped our passports, said he loved our new President Obama, gave us a free tourist newspaper of things to do in Swaziland, and we were on our way.
By now, it was almost 1 pm, and we stopped at the first store to see if we could find a Swaziland refrigerator magnet or get some coins. I had a few South Africa rand in my billfold for trading. So, we traded a 1 rand coin (worth about a dime) for a handful of Swaziland coins. We couldn't help but smile when the owner proudly displayed her photo of the king of Swaziland. Since it was about an hour to the next town, we decided to return to Mozambique, having spent a whole 15 minutes in Swaziland and going 1.5 km (less than a mile) into the country. Re-entering Mozambique was another hassle, and we had to wait about 20 minutes to get our new $25 entry visas. Dan and Bob tried the restroom (they had to pay $1 to use the urinal), but I got about 20 feet from the ladies' room, took and whiff and decided I could wait to get back to the Silver Wind.
The ride back to Maputo was uneventful, but we all agreed the adventure was worth the money we had to pay for the vehicle, guide, and two exit/entry visas. Great story, and I've now added another country to my list. I might eventually get enough to join the Traveler's Century Club.