Location Challenge; Tour de Chappa

I was browsing about at The Pen of a Ready Writer yesterday, and found this fun Location Challenge.

So, naturally, I wrote something.


Busy Day | Charles Nkomo

- Tour de Chappa -

Morning wind, still cool, blows in from the ocean. I pick my way across the puddles left by last night's rain, avoiding a gaggle of medical students in white coats, scanning the writing on the rear windows of the chappas lined up by Hospital Central.

Estoril via Chipangara

Ponta-Gea via Macuti

The writing is, of course, more of a guideline than an actual indication of route. You should always ask before getting aboard. But, when a third chappa wheels in, Macuti via Matacuane, I press forward hopefully.

"Shopriteee! Shopriteee! Shopriteee!" The coprador shouts.

That's far enough for me.

I take my place in the jostling group (you couldn't call it a line, not really) that waits for the passengers to get off and give us their seats. I gather skirt, backpack, and passagem in both hands, and manage the step-up, crouch-down movement of chappa entry without stumbling over myself, anyone else, or banging my head against the roof. Every successful entry and exit is a small victory, as is every time I complete a chappa run without someone calling undue attention to my skin color. Admittedly, I have more control over the one than the other, but still, sitting in a chappa like a normal person, strong sunshine pouring in through the window, Afro music blasting through the speakers, I feel pretty good.

If you really want to experience Beira, you ride the chappas. It's like putting your finger to the city's pulse. You rub shoulders (literally) with children in school uniforms, vovôs in capulanas, businessmen in suits, and everyone in between. You hear the gossip, you experience the experiences. You are very rarely comfortable, but that's life.

Every time I need to remind myself of where I live and why, I ride a chappa.

We rattle away through Macuti, the coastline on my right curving out of sight, giving way to nice buildings, peeking out from behind their high, guarding walls and stands of trees. Then a left turn at the simafóro, and Macuti quickly gives way to Macurungu.

Macurungu is not so posh, but has much more bustle. The chappa fills up quickly. I squeeze companionably up to the robust lady beside me as the seats fill. People begin pendurando; standing between the seats, bent over the heads of their neighbors. Just as I think the chappa's about at capacity, another lady shoves her way in, a blue capulana on her back.

The robust lady next to me begins to admonish her.

"Você está subir com bebé? Desce! Desce!"

Others take up the chorus. "You'll crush the baby! Don't get on here like that! Take it off your back."

"It's not a baby." Blue capulana lady replies. She miraculously manages to twist about in the chappa and demonstrates to everyone that the capulana on her back is carrying some species of bulky bundle that is, in fact, not a baby.

"Ah!" My seatmate settles back into her spot, content.

The coprador is still fussing. "How am I going to shut the door?" He complains to blue capulana lady. "Your bundle's in the way."

She wriggles in a few more inches, and the coprador coaxes the door closed with the resounding shriek of abused metal.

It's time to pay passagem. With an encouraging, 'chink! chink!' of coins, the coprador stretches out his arm between all the heads and shoulders. Those sitting in the back tap the shoulders of the people ahead of them and pass the money forward. I hand over the 10 metical coin I've been holding.

The coprador asks if I have a 5 so that he can give me 2.

I shake my head. "Desculpa."

I wait patiently as he performs feats of mathematical prowess, giving and receiving change as he hovers over the heads of the passengers, never forgetting who has and who has not payed, and for how many people. Eventually it's my turn to receive my 3 mets of change.

I reflect that, at least people have a habit of carrying the smaller coins around with them now. When the chappa prices first went up from 5 mets to 7, no one ever had the right change, and I watched many a heated discussion between a coprador and a vovô who felt cheated out of a 2 metical coin.

The temperature within the chappa increases. Since it's still early in the day, the smells are of Omo and cologne and dust. We pick up speed, whirling into the outskirts of Matacuane. I hold my hair in one hand to keep it from blowing into my mouth. The man on the other side of me recognizes an acquaintance perched in the space between the driver's and passenger's seats and they have a briefly shouted conversation over the beat of the music (this time, a slightly heretical Gospel song in Zimbabwean English). The robust lady gives someone instructions on the phone before calling, "Paragem!"

The chappa swoops toward the side of the road and halts. All of the penduradores make way, and the rest of us try to become as small as possible as she squeezes past. I slide into her spot by the window, and everyone else scoots down to make room for one more. I shut the window. I've never actually had anything stolen from me on a chappa, but I've heard enough stories to be cautious of sitting next to an open window. Sun, the peculiarly intense variety of Mozambican sun, when summer is performing its last hurrah, streams over me through the smudgy glass. It may be early yet, but I consider that another important olfactory component will shortly be added to the in-chappa bouquet.

I have to remind myself not to call 'paragem' as we pass the chappa stop closest to my old house. Stay on the chappa, past the padaria, past the igreja católica...


I get up and squeeze past the row of knees between myself and the door. A step down and a jump to clear the muddy gutter, and I'm standing on the pavement, adjusting my backpack and trying to restore order to my hair.

Another chappa ride come to a close.


  1. Ahh! Thanks for the visit! I feel much better after spending time with you on the chappa.

    1. You are welcome to come do it in real life sometime...


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