Moving in Mozambique

The most common form of transportation in Mozambique is the pickup truck. The idea is to pack in as many paying customers as you can. It doesn’t matter if they are going to market or church. Perhaps it is safer if they are all crammed in like cattle.

To be fair, when they do transport cattle, there is a cage on the bakkie.

If you want a bit more luxury, you can go by coach, but you have to be able to tolerate the garish colour scheme. Or you can just lie on a mattress in the back, holding on tight when the pickup goes around corners. If you want a better view, just climb on top of some massive logs.

Another way to get around is by kombi. It can get packed. The general rule is that there is always room for one or two more. Plus their chickens. And a sack of rice. Oh, and some barracuda. There is no concept of personal space in Mozambique. It is a frotteur’s delight.


This is the kombi I took to go to Inhambane. Additional passengers have to lie across the back of the seats. I counted 23 people (excluding the driver and conductor) in this Toyota. The floor of the kombi was flexing, especially when we went over rough stretches of road. There was no functioning suspension at all. At one point, I felt we would be “doing a Flintstones”.

The kombi waits at the terminus while it fills with passengers. It goes when it is full. Board the kombi early and you get a better seat, but usually this means sitting cramped in the heat for 20 minutes. The alternative is to let the conductor know you’re a potential customer, and stroll around for a while before getting aboard. But if you leave it too late, you may not get a seat. I was ushered to the back of the kombi with a mother and three children. She kept the infant on her lap, feeding him biscuits, and plonked the two year old on my knees. The child didn’t bat an eyelid, and just started playing with the hair on my forearms. She then went to sleep, clutching a fistful of biscuits so tightly that they crumbled onto my trousers.

To cross the bay, you can take an ancient twin-hulled ferry. It must have been manufactured in Greece because the safety instructions were written in Greek. To avoid overcrowding, you get numbered tickets which are sold at the quayside. With such a large superstructure (windage), the ferry can only make slow progress against the wind. If the current is against it, progress is even slower. It was blowing a gale when I crossed to Maxixe. As a safety measure, someone had removed the louvres on the window and bashed out the glass. I had secured a window seat and so got drenched by spray. The engines were going hell for leather and belching out black diesel smoke which blew back into the boat through the windows. Then I realised why it had been so easy to get a window seat.

Strangely enough, there are granny-carts, but they have to keep to the road and it’s advisable to wear a crash helmet. Perhaps it is best to stop worrying, trust your luck and let the driver take the strain. Note the caption on the back of this kombi – “No stress”

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.


  1. I love that there’s a Nike swoosh on the back of the truck. Just do it? That truck looks about as reliable as Lance Armstrong’s urine sample.

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