Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200608 2 Mozambique

WEDNESDAY 16 AUGUST – Back to the brake place for them to do a bit more fine-tuning and this ends up taking all morning.  At the N4 toll we get through at the R33 (£2.65) car price.  Arrive at the Spice of Life Backpackers near Komatipoort and settle in.  The English group are still there and we spend time chatting to them.  They are now teaching at the local school, mainly their specialist subjects but with aids and HIV awareness mingled in with it.  The majority of people here still hold the strange ideas that witch doctors or having sex with a baby can rid you of the virus.  Most married people have 3 lovers and condoms are sneered at on the basis that “you wouldn’t eat a sweet with a wrapper on”.  No wonder that an estimated 30% of babies are born with the virus. 


R40pp (£3.20)


THURSDAY 17 AUGUST – Set out early and stop at the last petrol station before the MOZAMBIQUE border to fill up with fuel.  We also buy the compulsory 30-day 3rd party van insurance, R200 (£16).  Exchange a small amount of money, Mtc 3,700 (meticais) per R1, as we have heard we can get 4,000 = R1 just over the border.  The border procedure is tedious involving lots of queues, small payments and rubber-stamping but all is completed in 45 minutes and by 8.45am we are cleared to enter the country.  The ATM at the border doesn’t work so we stop at the roadside moneychangers and are immediately mobbed.  The rate soon rises to the promised 4,000 and we ask to change R1000 giving us Mtc 4,000,000 (Approx Mtc 50,000 = £1).  The money is passed back and forwards many times as I count it and then they hold it in bundles of 10 notes, as there is so much.  As soon as the deal is complete another man cuts in offering us a rate of 4,200. It’s tempting but too many more people mob us so we drive off.  Just after 9am the Police stops us but after a quick look at the vehicle registration papers we are waved on.   Police harassment has been a big problem in this country and in anticipation of this we have a letter from a campsite in English and the local Portuguese language explaining that we are just tourists and should be treated with courtesy and not detained but it was not needed.  I begin to sort out my money in anticipation of the road tolls and find that we have only received Mtc 2,400,000 from the moneychanger, he must have cleverly skimmed 16 x Mtc 100,000 notes during the procedure because we tried really hard to keep tabs on it.  At the toll we are charged the lorry rate, Mtc 236,000 (£4.60), 4 times the price of a car.  It’s impossible to completely avoid the capital city of Maputo but we pick up the EN1 heading north and pay the final road toll at the car rate Mtc 17,500 (35p).  There are lots of road works and potholes and traffic is bad as we make our way around the city through busy neighbourhoods.  Stop to fill up with petrol, Mtc 2773 (55p) litre, but get conned when the guy part fills it then adds more as a separate transaction without showing us what the pump first said.  We know it’s wrong unless our fuel consumption has shot up by 50% and try and argue it out but get nowhere.  Try another ATM but it won’t dispense cash, at least we have plenty of rands with us.  Plan to stop at Marracuene but the sign says it is 4×4 to the campsite.  We must do another 150km’s to the next campsite so press on.  Luckily the road has recently been resurfaced and is now wide enough for 2 cars.  Towns and petrol stations are few and far between and there is little traffic.  Turn off to Praia do Bilene where Complex Palmeiras has camping just behind the beach.  Steve’s been driving for 7 hours solid and we are both whacked.  The campsite is OK and “helpers” surround us as we pitch camp.  Steve mentions to one of them about a small oil leak on the van and the lad immediately professes to be a mechanic.  He dives underneath and says he can have the job done for 1,000,000 Mtc (£22).  We remain non-committal.  The beach is quite nice and the village pleasant but nothing is outstanding or maybe we are too weary to appreciate it.  Meet neighbours Des & Mandy from White River and Dana & Engela from Cape Town who suggest we speak to campsite owner Eddie before letting Manuel work on the van.  Jane from Swaziland comes round for a cup of tea and to tell us about the phone cards we can buy here.


R30 (£2.40) pppn


FRIDAY 18 AUGUST – As Eddie has told us Manuel is the best mechanic around we have arranged for him to start work at 7.30am.  However he arrives with few tools and no plastic sheet to put under the engine whilst he works.  Meanwhile I walk to the village supermarket to buy the phone card and get more info.  The owners suggest we write down the agreement with Manuel as it is common for them to start the job and then ask more, not be able to do the job, not be able to get the parts locally and want money to go and get them in South Africa or just to make a mess of things.  They also tell me the people at the border always skim off some notes and often the mob surrounding you steel things from the vehicle including the spare tire.  Race back to check and find we still have ours.  I write up such an agreement about the work on the van and at this point Manuel’s confidence disappears and he backs off!  Walk along the beach and to the lagoon area with attractive water lilies.  Dana & Engela come to look over Millie, as they are keen to buy it at the end of our trip with the intention of putting in a new diesel engine.  Even knowing we have problems there are lots of people who want the van, no doubt if you live in one place and know a trusted mechanic and can order parts it would be a different ball game.  Jane calls round in the evening and asks if we want to join her for a snack at the local restaurant.  It’s a rather attractive but rustic place and our 3 small meals and drinks come to 280,000 Mtc (£6.50).  Return to her tent for coffee and a chat.



SATURDAY 19 AUGUST – It’s a lovely sunny day and the wind has dropped.  The lads are rinsing fresh prawns at the sink then bring them round to sell.  Bargain Manuel down to R20 (£1.60) kilo.  Steve begins the task of peeling them and realises just how fresh they are when many start to wriggle – Yuk.  Once he has finished he begins to thinks there are not many prawns so we take the shells and everything to Mandy who weighs them on her digital scales and says we have 550gm and not a kilo, maybe Manuel’s scales were in pounds!  Spend the rest of the morning on the beach before cooking up the prawns in a Thai stir-fry, very tasty.  Steve goes up to the bar in the afternoon to watch football and rugby.



SUNDAY 20 AUGUST – As we are finishing breakfast Steve hears something like gospel singing and goes to investigate.  He comes back to report a wedding at the complex entrance and I hasten to join him.  A group of guests are stood in the road chanting and doing a bit of a line dance.  The bride looks rather strange with her white dress that makes a huge contrast to her black skin.  Her husband is much smaller than her and walks along almost under her armpit.  The bridesmaid has a lovely long dress but cheap plastic flip flops on her feet.  Their official photographer seems just as keen to get photos of us as of the bride and groom!  Spend the morning on the beach and return for lunch.  A lad comes round selling 1-kilo bags of cashew nuts but as they only weigh 600gm on Mandy’s scales we quickly reject them, perhaps a Mozambique kilo is less than ours or are the Mozambicans worse than the thieving Arabs we encountered in Morocco!  In the afternoon Steve manages to occupy himself watching sport on the TV in the bar.



MONDAY 21 AUGUST – Walk into the village to find the bakery tucked away up a side street.  No problem with pricing as it is all listed on a board with small crusty rolls fetching Mtc 1,500 (3 1/2p).  Forgot to mention that there is a new currency system also running here, the new Meticais is 1,000 old ones and denoted by Mtn rather than Mtc however the notes and coins have nothing to show whether old or new!  Late afternoon a mini bus arrives with tour leader Garran from South Africa, his New Zealand girlfriend Sharon and Australian customers Anna and Tessa from Adelaide.  We immediately begin chatting and they come over for a happy hour then we join them round their campfire.



TUESDAY 22 AUGUST – In the morning we join Des & Mandy in their small boat for a trip across the lagoon to the ocean.  It takes about 40 minutes to travel the 5km across.  It’s a cloudy day and the waves are crashing on to the shore but we can still appreciate what a nice spot it is.  Late morning the sun breaks through and to top it off we see a couple of Southern Right whales out in the ocean.  Return for lunch after which we walk into the village to stock up on beers, 22,000 Mtc (50p) + 10,000 Mtc (22p) bottle deposit.  Settle the campsite bill and find that if we pay in Mtc the price is 75,000 Mtc (£1.70) per person per night, 2/3rd of the rands price.  Join Garran, Sharon, Tessa and Anna for an evening braai with fresh prawns and fish rounded off by my trifle.  Garran used to be a driver and Anna tour leader for African overland trips and they have lots to tell us all. An English overland group Oasis pull up and set up camp beside us.



WEDNESDAY 23 AUGUST – Leave around 8am to rejoin the main highway heading north.  Beside the road we get lots of boys rushing over to try and sell bags of cashews, piles of wood and bags of dried grass, leather sofa’s and dining room tables for sale in the villages.  There are people walking everywhere, the women carrying their children slung around their front unlike South Africa where they were carried on the back.  Millie is stuttering when Steve doesn’t have his foot on the accelerator and in Xai Xai we pull up at a garage to investigate.  Before Steve has chance to ascertain the problem a “mechanic” comes over and offers to help.  He won’t take no for an answer and returns with another mechanic.  We say that before they do any work we want a price, as we don’t have much cash with us.  Mechanic 1 says he will tell us that once he can see what is needed.  Mechanic 2 removes the carburettor and uses petrol to flush out lots of sand.  It takes only 45 minutes and seems to do the trick but he asks for 1million Mtc (£21), an English price for English tourists.  However we know that a basic days wage here is 50,000 Mtc (£1) so he’s having a laugh – until we negotiate down to a lower price.   North of the city we notice the children are no longer smiling and waving back to us but starting to look aggressive, many hold out their hands, some wave sticks at us and one even points his bum towards us.  The good road ends and Steve becomes a dodgem driver negotiating potholes that could easily swallow us up.  Luckily the traffic is light and we can use both parts of the narrow road to manoeuvre.  Just before out planned lunch stop at Quissico the engine begins to sound like a large aircraft.   Pull up at Quissico and before we even have chance to check things over a man comes over but this time he is very welcome as the driver of the Oasis Overland truck parked just ahead of us.  Jeremy and Steve work out that the exhaust pipe has split but with Jeremy’s wire it can be fastened on well enough to get us further on.  Today’s journey is over 400km and in order to arrive before dark we cannot wait to get a repair done.  It’s frustrating for us to find these huge distances between campsites but we must press on.  We hit lots of road works with detours of up to 20km along bumpy sandy dirt tracks.  We turn off to Inhambane and find the resorts off to the right are all 4wd.  Stop in the town to get money from an ATM then press on to the opposite coast.  The road to Barra looks too difficult for us so that just leaves Tofo where we should have 3 options.  However on arrival we find that Bamboozi is now only accessible by 4wd and Casa Barry stopped doing camping in 2002 in spite of being in this year’s caravan book.  It’s almost dark so we must stay at Fatimah’s backpackers.  The only place we can just about get a level is in the corner of their car park by the entrance gate and at the junction of 2 roads.  We are too far away to get electric and it’s a long walk over sand to the ablutions etc.  The resort itself is quite attractive with straw roofed huts, ready erected tents on platforms overlooking the beach and dorms.  Maybe in the light of day it will all seem much nicer.  We are so shattered that after having a back massage Steve falls asleep before 8pm and I’m not much later.


100,000 Mtc (£2.20) pp


THURSDAY 24 AUGUST – The beach is stunning and it’s a really nice place if we could just find a spot to park up.  Walk around the town but find nothing suitable.  At the far end of the beach there are 2 big new buildings going up, dozens of men line the roof as rolls of straw are swung up then rolled out along the rafters.  Set out to confirm that Bamboozi is not an option.  The track is much too bad for us but we carry on to check out the place and find it’s really nice.  Set out like a traditional African village with a swimming pool and a bar above the dunes with superb views over the ocean. We sit and have a drink and watch a number of whales passing by.  Chat to an American couple that got robbed to the tune of R500 (£40) by fake police.  Walk back along the beach and return to the van to finally trace a bad smell down to the carpet.  Although the van was sold as having a 3-way fridge it has become blatantly obvious that this is not so and consequently on long journeys the fridge defrosts.  An assortment of foods have melted, seeped through the shelves and out at the bottom of the fridge and into the carpet, now to emerge as an awful smell.  I send Steve off to the beach whilst I clean up as best I can until we are somewhere to get the carpet out and properly wash it.  Spend the afternoon on the beach being hassled by hawkers.  We will move off tomorrow to get the exhaust done and continue up the coast.  So not impressed with Mozambique so far.



FRIDAY 25 AUGUST – In Inhambane we find a garage on the main street, situated in what would have been a very elegant art deco style theatre in its time.  Steve shows the mechanic the exhaust problem, confirms and then reconfirms the price by writing it down, 300,000 Mtc (£7.20).  I set out to explore the town and find many more art deco style buildings in bad repair.  When I get back the job is almost done but a rubber ring is needed.  We suggest that we will drive the mechanic to the parts shop and pay for the ring.  At the shop I am pretty sure the man tells the mechanic the part is 30 Mtn (he says something that sounds just like “trenta”) but when I confirm it at 30 they say it is 60 Mtn (£1.30).  At least the bill for the 2 men spending 45 minutes welding is the figure agreed upon confirming that the man asked far too much for the carburettor job.  Return to the main highway heading further up the coast and stop for fuel.  The petrol pumps are in neither the old nor new currency so you have to either knock a 0 off or add 00 to get to one or the other.  The attendants take great pleasure in using this to their advantage and once again we realise after we have left that we have been scammed out of some of our change.  In future we will ask for an amount in money.  At Maxixe there is a campsite beside the highway and it’s rather pleasant and cheap.  We get a grassy stand overlooking the water with Inhambane clearly visible on the other side of the bay.  Get stuck into the washing including the carpet, which takes ages.  The beach is not great but it’s interesting to watch the local fishermen.  A group of South African born Indians come onto the site, brothers and cousins Ishmael, Mohammed, Hussein, Juan and Feraz from near Pietermaritzburg.  They are here for a few days fishing and have visited Mozambique many times before but tell us they got pulled by “police” and done to the tune of 5 million Mtc (£110).  When they asked for a receipt the 2 men raced off into the bushes.  From what we can gather the genuine police wear white shirts, navy trousers, have an official police car parked nearby and come in pairs of threes.  The ones that have stopped us have been no trouble at all but the problem now rests with the fake ones. 


70,000 Mtc pp (£1.55)


SATURDAY 26 AUGUST – its rather pleasant here so another day seems in order.  Late afternoon a bit of a storm brews up and we get a picturesque rainbow framing Inhambane. 



SUNDAY 27 AUGUST – The roads seem very quiet when we set out at 8am.  We are very glad of this when the road condition deteriorates dramatically about 30km up the road, just north of Morrumbene.  There are occasional stretches of new tarmac where palm fronds cover the areas where you should not drive. Mostly there is so little left of the single lane strip road that we could barely fit one tyre onto it and drive much of the time in the dirt.  Mainly the “road” is a mixture of severely potholed tarmac, tarmac mended with so many pieces that it is like a 3d jigsaw puzzle or just plain rough dirt.  When lorries come towards us they take the best part of the road, force us off and then leave us blinded by dust.  Even getting off the road can be hazardous with drops of up to 12” at the side.   Sunday must be washing day as every river and pool, no matter how muddy, is full of people washing clothes or bathing.  The laundry is then strung out over all available bushes to dry whilst being coated by the traffic dust.  Just north of Massinga we turn off the “main” road onto a dirt track towards the coast.  This is even worse than the other road, narrow and often muddy or sandy making it difficult for us to keep going.  We’ve been told about a superb campsite at the end of it so this induces us to press on for the whole 14km.  There’s a small rustic village leading to the gates of the campsite.  We are surprised to find the off-season rates are R60 (£4.80) pp plus R35 (£2.65) for electric, the most expensive we have encountered in Africa.  It must be really good so we walk in to find out. .  You descend down a very steep, narrow, rough track that would just about be passable in the motorhome.  The campsite is nothing special and the beach is as nice as many others but there is rubbish lying around   The camping area is either behind the bungalows meaning you have no view of the ocean or there’s another area where you can camp behind the beach but to have a hot shower you must buy paraffin for the water heater.  Even ignoring the high price this is not for us.  Although we don’t relish the thought of back tracking for 2 ½ hours we both agree that even ignoring the high price this is not for us.  Further north is Vilankulos but we have heard mixed reports about it and basically have had enough of rough roads and duff information.  We will back track the 2-½ hours to Maxixe, which we know we like.  We’re getting pretty blasé about the common roadside sights.  Some of them are lots of small villages made up of a number of grass huts of many different designs.  Lots of people but especially women walking with huge loads balanced on their heads, bundles of roofing straw and wooden poles for sale and elaborate displays of exhaust pipes to indicate a garage – but where was one of these when we needed it the other day?  We pull over when lots of rally cars coming racing towards us, luckily they all have headlights, as the dust is terrible.  Back in Maxixe we stop to photograph a couple of lads proudly pushing their home made cars around town, amazing what you can do with a few old wire coat hangers and some coke cans   Settle back onto Maxixe campsite and enjoy the view whilst eating lunch.  The fishermen arrive back with a huge prodigal son fish, rather like a large tuna.  They bring me over some steaks and freeze the rest.  In the evening they invite us to join them for a supper cooked on the braai. 



MONDAY 28 AUGUST – After doing a bit of washing we make it a lazy day to recover from yesterday and prepare for tomorrows drive.  The “mad Muslims” leave early afternoon and the site is very quiet.



TUESDAY 29 AUGUST – Away at 7am and manage to buy some “super” petrol in town as no garages had any on Sunday.  The first lot of roadside sellers have coconuts and I want to buy one and know they should be 5,000 Mtc (11p) each.  The seller tells me they are 8,000 Mtc but when she sees my 5,000 Mtc coin she nods her head and gives me 2!  As usual we traverse many different road surfaces and vendors change from oranges to wooden carvings, bundles of firewood, bags of charcoal, miniature straw huts to cashew nuts.  A couple of hours into the journey the Muslim lads pass us, they race on ahead at 140 kph compared to our 70 kph.  Arrive at Quissico for a stop and find the lads already there, last night they stopped early, as they couldn’t resist a lake that looked good for fishing.  Pressing on we see the burnt out shell of a bus at the side of the road, hardly surprising when you see the speed they travel, the way the roofs are loaded as high again with luggage and the number of potholes they have to navigate.   At Xai Xai we pay the 20,000 Mtc (44p) toll to cross the Limpopo River and make it back to Bilene by 2pm, just as the Muslim lads are leaving after a lunch stop! We are the only campers on the site until a 4wd motorhome arrives with an elderly couple from Somerset West.  They have just travelled up through Namibia and Botswana and give us loads of info as Mike used to live in Namibia.  In the evening I get a text with the shocking news that Claire’s bridesmaid Angela died at Alton Towers Hotel at the weekend after having her drink spiked. 



WEDNESDAY 30 AUGUST – After sweating out yesterday evening with the fan on a cool change comes through and we have showers and wind during the night and wake to a cloudy morning.  Walk out to buy some tomatoes, bananas and fresh bread.  The town seems deserted and few of the shops are open.  Phone up Daniel to wish him a happy 9th birthday and have to be quick as he has a call coming in on his new mobile!  Spend the day relaxing, reading and playing cards.



THURSDAY 31 AUGUST – Wake to a brighter morning but it’s still very quiet in the town when we go walk about.  Sit out for most of the afternoon, the sun peeps through the clouds but it is much too windy to be on the beach.  Steve finds out that the bar has reopened and there is football on TV so he’s a happy bunny. 



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