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An afternoon in Maputo, Mozambique
Day broke on another peaceful, if cloudy, morning aboard Silversea’s sleek Silver Wind as we made our way up the coast, destined for Maputo, Mozambique. With our arrival scheduled for the afternoon, guests took the opportunity to sleep in, relax, and enjoy themselves – which in itself is never difficult to do aboard a Silversea ship.
I rose early and took breakfast out on the Veranda at La Terrazza on Deck 7. There’s something fantastic about eating outside, in the warm, humid air, listening to the sounds of the ship’s propellers churning up the ocean dozens of feet below. While I sipped coffee and nursed my fresh orange juice, I watched as a small fishing vessel – little more than a motorized skiff – sat bobbing in the ocean, the three silhouettes aboard her watching us intently. It must be a spectacular sight to see the beautiful Silver Wind emerge like a leviathan on the horizon.
Here’s the degree to which all guests are spoiled on Silversea: I asked my butler last evening if, possibly, I could have the “good old” Green Bvlgari toiletries in place of the more upscale “white” or “silver” Bvlgari toiletries in my suite. I figured he would bring them with the evening turndown service, or perhaps in the morning. Instead, he returned after maybe ten minutes bearing a silver tray with my green Bvlgari toiletries.
I still haven’t had the courage to try some of the nine different pillow options available to each and every guest, or the Ferragamo toiletries. Heck, I just noticed for the first time in days that there are fresh orchids in my suite!
After breakfast, I took the opportunity to have coffee and a pastry in the Observation Lounge up on Deck 9. This is one of the few things that sets Silver Wind apart from her sister Silver Cloud, which still has her original gymnasium housed in a smaller structure. Personally, I love the Observation Lounge on the Silver Wind; it overlooks the ship’s bow and has comfortable seating and a self-serve coffee, tea and juice station. It’s a direct descendant of the larger space developed aboard the Silver Spirit, and to me, just as enjoyable to relax in and read a book. That they’re running Enya’s Paint the Sky With Stars album as I write this doesn’t hurt, either (it’s great cruising music!)
One fascinating observation: Silver Wind used to have a large, cylindrical elevator located on her pool deck that would traverse Decks 8 and 9. It was an odd, ungainly structure that was added during a refit. At some point – I am not entirely sure when – the elevator was removed, likely for the best as it freed up more deck space for The Grill.
I also took the time to listen to Silversea Lecturer and aviation expert Jeff Turner – formerly a Captain with Cathay Pacific – talk about flying. Not all lecturers are created equal, but Tuner held my fascination for the entire hour-long talk he gave in the Parisian Lounge on Deck 6.
Just after lunch, the Silver Wind made her way into the harbour for Maputo, Mozambique amidst another spectacular rain storm. The wind here was also ferocious, blowing steadily from the South.
The capital of Mozambique, Maputo is described as The Pearl of the Indian Ocean by Wikipedia. Home to nearly two million-people in its broader metropolitan area, Maputo was formerly a Portuguese overseas colony until gaining independence in the mid-1970’s as a result of the Mozambican War of Independence.
The Maputo Railway Station was purportedly designed and constructed by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), but I’ve read numerous sources that dispute this, a few of which claim that Eiffel may have never actually visited Mozambique at all. Where does the truth lie? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that the Maputo Railway Station would not be out of place in Paris.
Two Silversea Shore Experiences were available here: A four-hour “Art of Maputo” tour would take guests to visit the Chissano Museum where sculptor Alberto Chissano’s grandson, Alberto Chissano (not a typo; family reunions must be a nightmare) will tell guests about how his grandfather was able to become a world-renowned artist with no formal education.
Alternately, Silver Wind guests could take part in a three-point-five hour tour of Maputo that includes visits to the Natural History Museum and a house made entirely out of iron. However, the costs of sourcing quality guides and motorcoach transportation here are enormous – as Silversea is quick to point out in their Silver Shore Journal – with the city tour running $99 per person. And to my mind, that’s $99 that could be put towards more South African safari experiences.
But there’s also a third option for today, and it’s the one I chose to take: as with nearly every port of call, Silversea has arranged complimentary transportation for guests from the ship to the central market in Maputo, running on 30 minute intervals from 1:30pm until the last shuttle returns to the ship at 5:00pm. I’ve long been a fan of this, as many docking locations are located outside of the city in industrial ports that would require complicated public transit options or costly private taxis.
So, off I went into Maputo on the 1:30pm shuttle, which took us to the FEIMA Market, which turned out to be very much a tourist market in the middle of a park in a residential area of town. This area was almost upscale and trendy compared to the streets we drove though on the way, which were far more run-down and decrepit than I ever anticipated, even after reading guide books on Mozambique.
The market itself was full of vendors eager to sell their wares, and I did enjoy bartering with a few of them. One guy – who looked shockingly like Miami-singer Flo Rida – was a true salesman. He snapped to attention from the lawn chair he’d been laying haphazardly in, came over to me (like any good salesman), shook my hand, and began to talk up the paintings he’d had strung out on the chicken-wire fence lining the park. Now, I doubt he painted them – when I pointed out that the signatures were different on each cloth he said he had many names, which I also don’t doubt. But this guy was so much fun to talk to that I just kept it going. I didn’t buy a painting, but we left with a good handshake and he went on to the next couple who got within fifty feet of his setup.
I did buy two little trinkets from one vendor. I don’t like buying trinkets as a rule of thumb, but this guy had a good sales pitch and so we exchanged, very hesitantly, South African Rand for said trinkets. At one point, I was pretty certain he was going to rip me off and run with the cash, but he was a decent guy about my age and the transaction went off without a hitch.
In retrospect, buying anything was a bit of a mistake, because half the vendors in that area immediately beset me. “My friend, come here. I’ll give you good price, very good price.”
“Hey Boss, hey. Boss-man. You come here, have a look, yes. You will see. I will give you very good price.”
“No, don’t listen to him, he will rip you off. Come over here. I will give you better price. Two for what he wants for one. Fifty rand. Fifty rand.”
On the way back from the market, the mini-bus drove us along a different route. We stopped at a red light with several shanty huts lining the left-hand side of the street. Interspersed were two overflowing garbage bins that looked like they’d been set on fire at some point recently, as ashes were still present on the cement – or what was left of it. Off to the right, there’s a man shovelling a pile of mud and miscellaneous debris out of the gutters and into a wheelbarrow. And to the left was a Mozambican girl, who looked roughly my age. She was dressed in a nice pink top and a flowing skirt that went down to knee-length. On her head was a large basket of nuts which she carried without the use of her hands.
Her pink top made her stand out amid the piles of debris around her. She looked straight up at me and right into my eyes. Her eyes were this hollow mixture of sadness the likes of which I’ve never seen before. She had the eyes of a tired, old woman; the eyes that no longer held expectations or hopes or plans. But they weren’t pleading; they weren’t saying, ‘help me.’ They just said nothing. But she locked my gaze until the mini-bus pulled away from the light.
I realized today that I am not the traveller I’d like to be. I am a good traveller, I think. I make sure to treat everyone with respect; to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and to know that just because something is done a certain way in my home country, doesn’t meant that it cannot be different somewhere else. I travel because I want to learn from and embrace these differences.
But I don’t know what I can say about Mozambique. It assaulted each and every one of my senses; I admired the very Parisian-looking train station while lamenting the massive crowds that had gathered outside, waiting to mob the one bus that was going to take them – presumably – somewhere else. I saw burned out, half-destroyed buildings on every block, coupled with people walking by on iPhones. A line stretched around four decrepit-looking city blocks, covered in garbage, because some company was giving out cell phones.
I wanted so much to like it here. I can’t say I didn’t, but I can’t say I did, either. Instead, it left me with an awkward feeling that just refused to go away. But, Maputo is part of this fascinating itinerary and overall journey that is Silver Wind Voyage 2302. And I’d rather go to a new port that I’ve never been to and discover it pushes the wrong buttons than visit some of the mass-cruise ports and do what everyone else does.
Even as the beautiful Silver Wind set sail this evening, I know that I will forever remember Maputo. And I appreciate what I have here, on this ship and in life, that much more this evening.
Back onboard, I attended Tea Time in the Panorama Lounge at 4pm. I don’t think I have ever seen a more popular tea time; nearly every seat was full by the time I left at 5pm. One of the waiters, Oscar, was instrumental in helping me choose a tea; he recommended the Morgentau, which was a blend of green tea and petals that left it with a summery, almost orange taste. This was accompanied by the usual finger sandwiches, cookies and other goodies.
I was on my way back to my suite when I ran into my butler, Ronaldo, carrying a tray of cheese and crackers that were destined for me. It made for an absolutely fantastic afternoon snack!
Dinner tonight was with new friends at The Grill. What can I say? A Silversea cruise lends itself remarkably well to meeting an enormous variety of new and fascinating people. I even discovered I’m not the youngest person onboard, after all! There’s a little girl onboard who looks to be seven or eight years old, which I think is totally wonderful. What a great experience to give them!
Tonight, as I settled back into the warmth of my suite, full from dinner and entertained by the guests and crew of the elegant Silver Wind, I wondered what the Mozambican girl is going home to.
I’m haunted by the answer.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind continues tomorrow from Richard’s Bay, where we’ll spend an overnight stay immersing ourselves in the nature of South Africa!
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