Xai-Xai, Mozambique

  • Date
  • 24 July 2000
  • Lodging
  • Complexo Halley
  • Distance
  • 277 KM
  • Total
  • 92416 KM

Driving through Southern Mozambique, we see how the devastating floods that hit earlier this spring continue to play havoc. Small villages remain underwater with people rebuilding out of thatch, wood and mud nearby on higher ground. Fields, which look more like small lakes, still have water waist deep in places. Crops were not planted after the floods, but the abundant water has led to lush grass. Scattered across higher, dryer land, small wooden homes have been built recently replacing crumbling and rotting ones.

Just before Xai Xai (pronounced ‘shy shy’), road-crews are building dirt roads wide enough for two lane passage. Present one-lane paths lead people and cars to swerve, wait, and wildly point fingers when another car gets too close. We passed narrow strips over newly formed rivers and gauged the car’s wheels so as not to slide down the embankment. In lucky places some of the pre-flood roads, which look like they were tarred just before the torrential rains, remain with varying amounts of surface washed away. This causes traffic congestion since many of the remaining tar pieces are wide enough for only a single vehicle. And, these remaining narrow tar stretches are built on embankments high above the ground, perhaps 10 feet – to survive the rainy season – so a driver cannot pull his car over easily to allow another to pass.

Still people go on living, walking and driving along the bumpy dirt and tar roads leading to and from Xai Xai, looking a bit like a town destroyed by war. Granted the Independence and following Civil War helped wreck the city, but the floods have drawn the final curtain. One or two buildings show recent paint jobs or structural improvement, but most of the city looks worn and disintegrated. Underground water pipes uncovered by the floods stand broken or disconnected and people depend on the polluted streams for washing water. A group of tents functions as a school, since the old one washed away. An impressive, large new school on the northern edge of town is near completion. This is the best sign of hope in Xai Xai – soon the children will depart the tents for a school with large classrooms, a few air conditioners, and basketball court and soccer field. And, the school is built high off the ground, on cement stilts.