THE LOWVELD TRAVELOGUE: The Marginal, Maputo
Kerry Lee Correia is a mother, wife, writer. Red wine enthusiast. Aspiring photographer. Reared in the Western Cape; now living in Maputo, Mozambique
The Costa do Sol restaurant reopened in 2013 after a talked-up revamp. There’s long been a rumour that there are plans to open a hotel school upstairs from the restaurant. Nothing has happened yet and the top windows gape out over the road like the mouths of sleeping giants.
Downstairs the infamous veranda fizzes with conversation. Knives and forks scrape plates and waiters fly between tables like humming birds. The restaurant has a new logo, mounted on to the wall. Only there’s a letter that’s gone missing: the first “o”. I suspect indignant ghosts, in a bid to resurrect the air of benign negligence that was once the soul of Costa do Sol’s charm.
Across the road women swathed in bright cloth grill spatchcock chickens over half-drums of ashy coals. Others squat over small fires, turning whole fish on blackened grates. The smoke fogs and sours the air, but the food smells inviting.
At a stall hung with sacking I ask for a half-chicken with chips. My bird is dipped in a basin of marinade (brown vinegar, oil, garlic, “spice”) and the sauce cracks and pops on the hot grill. The vendor has a limp, making her shoulders rise and dip like the dhows moored in the bay. I like the punchy red of her toenails. She leans over a table slicing potato, her mind somewhere else. The thick-cut chips slip into a pot of coppery oil sitting on the coals. They come out like fat fingers, pale and greasy. I eat at a table dug into the sand, listening to the flop and pull of the waves on the beach.
The road that clings to the seaside is now part of a four-lane highway. Cars slide by with a lazy drone. Along the distant rise skyscrapers hold to the land like a small army watching for enemies at sea. Like the Mozambicans did once; like the Portuguese did too from their squat, red-stoned fort behind the harbour. Cranes hover above the buildings. We used to count them, but by now the novelty’s worn-off.