N a v i g a t i o n : Home > Glimpses of Africa > Lichinga, Mozambique
When I look back at our family's first foray into Mozambique, visiting the Nyassa provincial capitol town of Lichinga, I fondly remember a few things... fresh bread, cafezinho (like espresso--Brasilian style), cafe con leiche (a coffee and milk mix), the absence of people yelling "uzungu" ("white person"), a classy cosmopolitan feel, and a huge market where almost anything can be found.
Click photo for larger view. Taking the foot-tour from the main roundabout in town you'll find a former cinema (now a coffee shop), government buildings, fancy new hotel with tennis courts and a pool, tree-lined neighborhoods, shops, local library, and a cosmopolitan feel.
I realize, though, that other travelers might not feel the same way. After all, I'm comparing it to my past year's experience of living in a Malawian village setting devoid of coffee shops, a decent market, or fresh bread.
Still in my comparing-Mozambique-to-Malawi mode, I ask myself just what is it about these former British colonies like Malawi that bring a seeming absence of decent street food?
Why does Mozambique, a Portuguese colony until the 1970s, seem to have plenty of backyard bakeries that actually make decent bread while just a few miles away across the border there is none? I find myself trying to steal away as often as I can to the bakery/coffee shop. I'm a sad case, I know.
Click photo for larger view. I was enamored by the fresh bread I could buy in town. We brought back 100 rolls for our family to love and enjoy over the next few weeks.
It's interesting to notice --how could you not-- how well the people seem to dress here compared to Malawi. Maybe it is the influence from Brasilian soaps that air on the local television station. Maybe it is the history of doing business with classy Portugal while the former Malawian President-for-life Kamuzu Banda tried hard to keep his nation from going the immoral way of the West. I'm not talking immodesty here; rather a taste for fashion that this unique mix of people enjoy.
One thing that I didn't experience was any resorts: on the lake or otherwise. The closest thing we got to visit for some r&r was an off-the-beaten-track place that offered a restaurant next to a duck pond, complete with small chalets for overnight accommodations. An airplane off in the distance is being retrofitted to become a restaurant some day, a nice idea that I hope will work for the enterprising spirit of the management. (If you're reading this in hopes you may visit someday, here's some directions: To get there, turn right onto the road as you head toward Lichinga with a Petromoc on the corner. You'll pass a radio station tower on the right. Keep going until it becomes a dirt road and follow that for a few k's until you see a sign that will point you to the left. You'll cross a train track and follow the winds in the road for a short distance.)
Click photo for larger view. A simple getaway with big plans for a restaurant inside a Mozambique airliner.
A word of caution to would-be visitors. Portuguese is pretty much a must-know here, unless you know one of the local Bantu dialects (which we were able to use with about 50% of those we met with in Lichinga). Of course, having a native Portuguese speaker in our family helped a ton with immigration officials at the border, explaining more complicated things to people, going shopping, etc. And as I took photos of parts of the city, I realized there truly are off-limits areas for photography. No government buildings, or not while any of the ever-present police officers are around at least. I even tried taking a photo of the Olympic medalist Maria Matola's (sp?) life-size cardboard cutout present at the local cell phone shop, only to be turned away by the shop proprietor and the local police who weren't quite sure what to make of a digital still camera. Perhaps not knowing Portuguese does come in handy after all: you can get away with playing 'stupid' though perhaps "playing" might not be too accurate.
Click photo for larger view. The airport, which isn't too bad from what I saw of it (not much; granted). What they should do is start offering flights to Blantyre.