My Favorite Photogenic City
7th – 9th February 2007
I woke up at 05:00 after just three hours of sleep and went on a mission to take photographs of my favorite city. I had taken many great shots three years before and wanted to add to my collection.
I put on my photographer’s jacket and filled all its pockets with lenses, filters, film, cleaning brushes and three cameras slung around my neck.
I first went to the local market to take early morning shots of all the stallholders getting ready for the day’s trading.
After this I found interesting buildings and people to shoot, including a drunken vagrant passed out on a bench. After taking a dozen shots of him, he moved slightly and almost in a trance, started playing with himself while having a mini epileptic fit. I was shocked, as the pedestrians didn’t bat an eyelid and the nearby police didn’t care either. I found two old buildings framed by two really special trees, and while taking pictures of them I saw a ‘banana man’ pushing his huge cart piled high with the bright yellow cargo. I took a picture of him and his cart, and was then accosted by two policemen, the same two who didn’t give a shit about the masturbating vagabond. They arrested me without supplying any reasons (they couldn’t speak English) and took me across the road to the police station. Once inside, a plain clothed policeman explained the nature of my crime: I took pictures of the police station. I completely lost it, especially when they demanded I remove the film from my cameras. I informed them I was a journalist, taking pictures of their city that I’m in love with, and that they should rather focus their attention on masturbating drunkards and petty thieves than harassing tourists for no apparent reason other than to illicit a handsome bribe!
I showed them pictures of the masturbating culprit, as well as the banana man and buildings.
The police station wasn’t in them. The debate got heated at one stage, and then I told them to listen to my story from 3 years before:
I was in Maputo after driving three weeks from Cape Town with seven Europeans in my massive 1966 Forward Control Land Rover. We were on this very road buying some Nando’s fast food, parked in front of a bank avec security guard.
My phone disappeared during the 5 minutes I was inside, and the security guard refused to divulge any information other than “I look after bank, not car. Bank pay me little, you pay nothing!” I freaked and almost throttled the poor guy, making him spill his guts and tell me what he saw. He refused to give details, but pointed in the general direction of an informal car wash operation diagonally across the street. We ran after the culprits (two members of the group, the guilty ones obviously, had made a run for it). Not being able to run far in sandals, we jumped in the truck dragging a hijacked car wash thief with us, and he led the way to his friends’ house. After following the trail from one house to another and from one purchaser of the phone to the next, we knew exactly who had it and what the sale price was. They were just too scared to come out and do the deal as they were warned about my state of mind. It was at this stage that I decided to involve the police – a bad option but a highly entertaining one nevertheless.
They were so eager to help, that five of them jumped in the back of my cavernous Landy and enjoyed my reckless driving around the city. One of them found my police-issue handcuffs (used for sexual and vigilante purposes) and thought it was his duty to confiscate them, for ever! They needed search warrants and court cases and sworn statements and I was leaving the next day and they were too lazy to catch the fuckers with my phone!
So after I reminded them about this experience, told them I had just driven the entire length and breadth of their country and only encountered corruption, and threatened to report them to my embassy (I chose the British one for added effect), they agreed to let me go with a warning.
They still wanted my film though, at which point I stood up and walked out. On the way out I asked if I could take a picture of the plain clothed officer, for my own personal memories, to which he laughed and declined. I explained to him that he wasn’t in uniform, there was nothing in the room indicating it was a police station, and I liked his smile. He agreed, but asked for money. I shook my head in disgust and left the police station with uncontrollable laughter.
Once I’d got back to Fatima’s backpackers, I relayed the story to some of the staff, to their horror, and couldn’t believe I had displayed such a brazen attitude towards them. It was risky, but in the end it worked, and I kept my slide film containing award winning shots, including one shot of the banana man in front of the police station.
I visited a travel agent in the hope of finding a direct cheap flight back to Cape Town. MTS 8,500,000.00 was the best deal I could find – roughly $320! Even if I wanted to, I didn’t have that sort of money, so I investigated other options, including get a lift back home with some Germans in a Cape Town registered car.
I joined some backpackers for an espresso and Portuguese patisseries and bought a brick of butter and the biggest mango I’d ever seen from the deli.
It weighed 2kg and cost MTS 4,200,000 – about $2 – quite steep compared to Maputo-mango-prices. It was truly the best mango of my life and a memorable gastronomic experience. After gorging myself I was a sticky bearded, sticky fingered, content backpacker.
I helped Kiwi’s Steve and Tarryn with planning their journey through Africa – they had eagerly read my blog and came to the decision that I knew how to plan a trip, especially a budget one.
We walked Maputo together visiting travel agents, markets and a brilliant Lebanese falafel restaurant (we all ordered a second falafel it was so good).
It was hot, we were tired, and we couldn’t resist getting a ride in an MCEL yellow tuc-tuc type taxi that looked like a giant motorcycle helmet. He took us down to the fish market where we had planned to buy enough seafood for a banquet.
This is exactly what we did, splashing out on 2kg of giant Lagosta (Langoustines), LM (Laurenço Marques) King Prawns, 1kg of clams, a squid and a cuttle fish for calamari.
The taxi broke down on the way back home, seizing its tiny engine trying to get up a steep hill. The driver radioed in for a replacement while we sat in the shade looking at the diplomatic palaces in the suburb of Sommerschield.
For the next three hours Tarryn and I cooked up a storm and the three of us ate slowly for two hours while the rest of the back packer residents had to deal with the tantalizing aromas emanating from the open-plan communal kitchen. We gave them the leftovers once we were done.