Monday, 16 January 2012

The Long and Winding Road from Quelimane to Morrumbala

The turn off from the main road to Morrumbala is at a village named Cero. 
It is a conglomeration of thatched huts and market stalls under huge mango trees.  The branches of the trees are used to display an assortment of brightly coloured second hand clothes, sarongs and shoes, their laces looped together and hanging from branches in chains of assorted sizes.

Suddenly the tar ended, and we were now bouncing and banging about on a bush road full of corrugations, ruts and pot-holes in the truck that OLAM has supplied to Graham as his company vehicle.
I thought gratefully about the sports bra I was wearing. Any woman with breasts larger than walnuts would not be a happy person without the support of a good binding around that area of their anatomy! 
The truck is a working vehicle. Certainly not a luxury one and the ridged shock-absorbers are not kind on one’s back or boobs!

It was now twilight and we still had an hour’s driving to complete before reaching the OLAM cotton complex where the staff houses were safely surrounded by security fencing.
OLAM Offices, Morrumbala

Native houses nestled in the midst of their small patches of maize and manioc, lining the sides of the bush track in an endless seam of humanity. Mozambique boasts a huge population of approximately 24 million people.  I remarked to Graham that I noticed mainly young adults that appeared to be in their twenties, teenagers and infants, only occasionally did I see an old person. (Perhaps they were all sleeping.)

At last we pulled in to the grounds and arrived at the Manager’s house and I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of five well built houses which had been constructed by the company that owned the cotton company before OLAM bought them out two years ago.
Our House

“Welcome home Babe,” Graham said to me as I eased my aching bones out of the truck. It had been a long journey; I was tired, dusty and interested to see the inside of my new abode.
“Not bad”, I thought. Lounge/dining room, kitchen, three bedrooms, bathroom and 2 WC’s. Each house has a house-keeper and a gardener to look after the “Boss” as the managers are called here by the people who work for them. However, the house-keepers, (they are generally men and apparently know basic cooking) are used to working for bachelors and have no idea of cleanliness.

A thick film of grease covered every surface in the kitchen and the furniture was covered in red dust. The gardener’s idea of gardening is to sweep the grounds around the houses with home-made brooms that look as if they escaped a Harry Potter novel, and lay huge importance on vegetable gardens which are well stocked and could supply an army. (Well, actually they do as they gather the veggies in bags before they leave work in the evening. I presume they either take them to sell in the Morrumbala market, or home to their families.)
Shanty-Town Surrounding OLAM Complex

The entire complex is surrounded by a massive shanty-town that has attached itself to the borders of the Morrumbala village, evolving and stretching to the boundaries of security fencing that protects the OLAM cotton gin, ware-houses, offices and staff houses.

There is a constant buzz of people’s voices, loud music, the base on full blast, bellows from huge speakers strategically placed in the door ways of numerous moon-shine bars where people can be seen outside whistling, dancing and gyrating, their bare feet pounding a rhythm on the bare ground, sweeping up swirls of dust whilst slapping clouds of flies off their ebony skins.
Everyone appeared oblivious to the mingled smells of cooking, refuse dumps and night soil. Occasionally the cry of a slaughtered animal entwined itself in the continuous buzz of the human vocal hum.

Graham saw me looking at the state of the kitchen, chuckling to himself more than at me, I heard him say “I warned Pedro to clean the place before you arrived, seems he did not listen.” He then went on to tell me, “These people allocated to the houses do not like to work very much. They always think they can do a chore on another day or at another time.”

Even although it was late evening it was humid and the temperature was 40°Centigrade. 
It was far too late to worry about Pedro and the thought of taking a shower to slake off the dust from our trip, and then imbibing in a nice ice-cold drink and eating a sandwich was more appealing.
Pedro and Illoma

Tomorrow was another day and would be a new challenge.  I had never spoken Portuguese in my life and I was going to have to somehow communicate with not only Pedro the house-man and Illoma the gardener, but with people in general. I would be living in an ex-Portuguese Colony for the next three months.

The Eagle had landed.

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