“Two cold beers please” and “Thank you” is about the extent of my vocabulary in Portuguese but somehow, with good will on both sides, and a good sense of humour, everything can be accomplished.
The taxi screeches to a halt and we all pile out, thankful for a slight breeze from the Indian Ocean. Christmas in Maputo has been tremendous fun, full of colour and life and no more so than in the vibrant bustling markets.
We now sit by the side of the road, amidst a certain degree of confusion, as sugar cane is slashed with a machete and fed into a juicer, the resultant liquid, laced with fresh ginger and lime, is instantly refreshing. Money and handshakes are exchanged and we are on our way again, this time to the fish market further up the coast.
Giant prawns and calamari are piled on counters, the gimlet eyed fishwives constantly swatting the clouds of flies, as the claws of huge crabs creep over the side of buckets in an effort to escape. Behind the small, busy market are simple wooden tables and metal grills for barbecuing those wonderful prawns.
Earlier I had spotted a small flower market and, against a little resistance from the men in my party, we stop to look. Why do colours seem more vibrant, clearer, vivid ,under an African sun? Deep purple gladioli, buckets of proteas, orange strelitzias, pink and purple anthuriums …
We climb through a gap in the wire fence to discover a handicraft market – stall after stall of carvings, woven baskets, a profusion of creative talent, tin cans, wirework, chairs … who will buy them from these very needy people?
Earlier, we had visited the food market, Mercado Municipal in Baixa, in the centre of town. Built by the Portuguese over 100 years ago, it is an impressive building, spotless inside, with stalls piled high with tempting fruit, fish and of course peri peri, African bird’s eye chillies, for which Mozambique is famous.
Later,much later, on a cold train from Paris to Brussels, making my way home, I felt as if I had left a technicoloured world for the grey conformity of life in Europe.