36 Hours in Nampula City

This post is loosely based on the New York Times’ series: 36 Hours

Nampula City is a little known city outside of Mozambique. Reviews from Lonely Planet include the fact that Nampula “is no sultry good-looker” and Getaway admitting the city is “one of the least inspiring cities to spend time in.”  Yet, it is a haven for Peace Corps Volunteers, home to three large supermarkets and one Mozambican-Chinese restaurant. It might also be the only place to find dip-cones in the north of the country, so it is no wonder that PCVs choose to spend (often times more than) 36 hours here.

Friday:

Wa-Resta Chapa Stop – 13:30 pm

Wa-Resta Chapa stop is the western-most long-distance transportation stop coming into Nampula City. Situated inconveniently about 8 kilometers away from city center mixed and mashed into a local market, Wa-Resta will give you enough of the shock to enter Nampula City. Usually by the time you’ve come here from my side of the EN8, it means your boleiaing, hitchhiking, situation didn’t work out as planned and you’ve had to opt for public transportation. 2/3 of the time, you drank too much water in the Chapa and will be forced to catch a 200 met taxi towards Ruby’s Hostel, instead of the 10 met inner-city chapa, because otherwise you will pee your pants. While at Wa-Resta, make sure to hide your phone in your money belt and lock your backpack tight, banditos are no joke here.

2. Ruby’s Backpackers – 13:50

A 20 minute taxi ride towards city center will bring you to Ruby’s. A favorite Peace Corps hang out stocked with two rooms of dorm beds that will set you back 750 mets, and a few private rooms, Ruby’s is also conveniently located between Nampula’s three supermarkets and some of the best bars. Ruby’s veranda is a favorite to lounge eating take-away if one is too tired to actually leave the hostel for dinner or lunch one day.

3. Lua’s Chinese – 14:20

After having peed and checked into Ruby’s, head down the street and to the left until you find a hidden restaurant stacked on top of storage containers. You’ll probably be the last to arrive at Lua’s meeting up with other PCVs on the so-called balcony, decorated by sun-washed red lanterns, and Cerveja Manica plastic coated tablecloths. Try the 40 met spring rolls and split order 103, frango com amedoin, piri-piri e verduras. If your stomach doesn’t hurt from having overestimated your hunger, then head across the street to get a chocolate dip-cone (110 mets) before heading back to Ruby’s to rest through your food coma in peace.

4. Sporting Bar – 20:00

By 8pm, it is pitch black outside, your food coma has mostly disappeared, and you and a couple other PCVs are craving gin and tonics, amarrula and coffee or whatever drink of choice that you can’t find at site. Take a left and then an immediate right as you are exiting Ruby’s, and three blocks later, you’ll find Sporting Bar. Named for the Portuguese soccer team and with arguably the best terrace in Nampula, its a perfect place to post up at the bar in front of whatever soccer game is playing that day (but don’t forget your bug spray and malaria prophylaxis!) As you order your drinks, realize that you won’t be back in the city for another month or two, and treat yourself, order the shrimp petisco with garlic sauce or the beef kebab.

Saturday:

1. Nampula Central Market – 6:45

Wake up at Ruby’s, clutching a bottle of water and wondering if last night’s idea of starting Nampula’s first sushi-sake bar with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer is actually a feasible idea. Look at the bunk across from you and see that said PCV is awake and also craving avocados. Put on your fanny pack, bring 100 mets, leave your phone behind and head out to the Nampula Central Market, on the hunt for eggs, avocados and onions, to make avocado toast for breakfast. Spend 15 minutes walking about the aisles, wondering why your site only has tomatoes, onions and the lonely cucumber, compared to the Central Market which oddly reminds you of Mozambican versions of the Whole Foods’ vegetable section.

2. ShopRite – 9:00

After a lovely breakfast, it’s time to get down to business, you have at least 15 items on your shopping list and that requires a stop at at least 2 of the 3 aforementioned supermarkets. First stop is ShopRite, where you spend more minutes than you want to admit oogling at the cheese section. The wine aisle is a quick stop— where you fit a PCV favorite: a dry white called Unbelievable, in your basket. At the cheap price of 229 mets and the fact that it does not taste awful really does make it unbelievable.

3. Flavours and Friends – 10:30

After checking out of ShopRite, making sure none of the creeps that hang out in the entrance try to kiss you, you speed walk across the street to Flavours and Friends, a new café with delightful ham and cheese puff pastry tarts. Settle for one of those accompanied with a seasonal fruit juice (last month’s was beet-apple-orange) and get all those vitamins inside your body! Make sure you tip the waiters, who put up with a bit too much shit and yet are extremely attentive.

4. Cafe VIP/Supermercado Spar – 12:00

After spending an hour lounging in Flavours and Friends it’s time to hit the road again, grab your bags and walk the 10 minutes to Cafe VIP/Supermercado Spar. Conveniently located one on top of another, VIP is known for its delicious and enormous Shwarma Platters while Spar usually has Nutella and shampoo on sale. Order the Shwarma de Carne or Kafta, and try to force yourself to finish the copious amounts of food (fries with garlic aioli) until you give up and return to Ruby’s for your second food-coma nap of the past 24 hours.

Quick tip: On your way towards VIP, you might stop by an abandoned veranda where four of five men are selling what we call “Nampula Sandals.” Leather and beaded, made in Tanzania, they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Haggle them down to 600 mets, wear them for a day to break them in, and then never take them off again.

5. Museu – 16:00

By 16, you’re up again, wondering what you have to do for the rest of the day. Three blocks away from Ruby’s is the Museu, a museum of ethnology in Nampula. The large building can be visited for 100 mets, but the real treasure is the hidden artisans’ market in the courtyard behind the museum. Makonde craftsmen working with pão preto, black wood, making sculptures, pilãozinhos, and even keychains with your name or phone number. Prices are easily 5 times less expensive than the Maputo Artisan Market (but the selection is a lot more limited). After wandering the different stands, enter the straw roofed restaurant hidden under shady trees on your left and enjoy a fresh pineapple juice (shot of rum added in: optional) for 170/250 mets.

6. DDPub/MP3 – 23:30

If you have the courage to go home exhausted on Sunday, the two most popular night clubs in Nampula are DDPub and MP3. In order to look your chiquiest, wear mostly white clothes (which will glow under the blacklight) and pull out that lipstick that you were sure you had misplaced. Mozambicans love to dance so gather that courage and twirl into the night to the sounds of Mr. Bow or CEF. For more information of DDPub or MP3, look up their Facebook pages, where you’ll find out if theres cover and/or a theme.

Sunday:

1. Wa-Resta Chapa Stop 8:00

Your journey on Sunday will end right where it began 36 hours earlier. The one and only Wa-Resta. Get there early and stare at the EN8, wondering if any of these cars are going to your destination. Walk ten minutes past where the chapas are parked and start waving your hand and smiling as hard as you can to every Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilander you see passing by. Either you get lucky and someone brings you towards your home, or you give up after an hour or so of waiting in the hot African sun, and get yourself on a chapa, bracing yourself for the discomfort, bruises and smells that come with Mozambican public transportation.

Honorable Mentions (for those who have more than 36 hours in Nampula City): Sunlight Food Court, Istanbul Restaurant, Cobacana Restaurant, Milenio Hotel and Restaurant, Rocheio Supermarket.
A HUGE shout-out to Peace Corps Volunteer, and fellow blogger, Leslie for teaching me how to love Nampula City and for at least half of these pictures. Namp City wouldn’t be the same without you.
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