More Hectic Driving and Beaches
5th – 6th February 2007
We drove to Quelimane and bought giant avocados, perfect tomatoes and a woven basked filled with giant crabs for Mts50. I struggled to keep the contents of my stomach inside, after seeing the goat meat on offer. Flies were very busy laying their eggs all over the fresh meat and the putrid smell of the intestines and other organs was too much to bear.
It was pretty scary crossing the mighty Zambezi on a dodgy ferry. There were entire islands rapidly floating by. The guard ordered me to keep my window down, just in case the ferry sank!
I thought I’d seen everything with regards to the chickens on buses and being sold by hawkers everywhere in East Africa, but half a dozen chickens hanging from the bicycles on the ferry were an eye opener. At first it looked very cruel, but upon further inspection I realized that the chickens were pretty comfortable with the means of transport. They simply twisted their necks around and stared at their surroundings. They even had time to play/fight with their fellow fouls. Perhaps it was built into their genes.
After searching high and low for an hour, we couldn’t find a gas station on the other side of the river. We were forced to buy petrol from the hawkers alongside the road. They siphoned the juice from large yellow drums and charged an exorbitant $2 per liter. I wasn’t happy with their measurements, nor did I trust the quality.
200 km later, the red light on the fuel gauge came on and we were nowhere near a city. We hadn’t put enough fuel in as it was too expensive. I did every possible thing to minimize the consumption. We endured the stifling heat without the aircon, I drove 80 km/h, freewheeled down hills and avoided braking or overtaking.
I had driven over 50km since the red light came on, and started to smell fumes. When this happens in my mini, it was usually followed by jerks and splutters, and a few hundred metres later I was stuck.
I was driving on love and fresh air.
We counted down the kilometers to the nearest town while debating whether we would find any fuel there.
Every incline was met with anxiety. The last thing we needed was to be stranded in the middle of nowhere in this heat
We coasted into the ugly town of Gorongosa and there wasn’t a gas station anywhere in sight.
I have no idea why there weren’t any conventional gas stations in the surrounding 200 square kilometers. We did find another man selling petrol from cans, except he had receipts and very large containers. The price was only slightly better.
I was desperate to empty my intestines, and went on the hunt for a concealed bush to perform the deed. A mama preparing lunch noticed me and pointed behind to an outhouse behind her shack. I briskly walked there, clenching my but cheeks, only to find it was locked. In desperation I broke open the door and despite the spider webs and wasp nests, I had the best crap in a long time. I repaired the door to the best of my abilities, thanked the sweating mama and went to buy some ice cold cokes. On my return she was screaming at Silva and demanding separate amounts of money for the use of the toilet and the damaged door. I screamed back at her telling her to be more polite to tourists and clean her toilet.
We drove through the Gorongosa National Park which was once one of Southern Africa’s best wildlife parks, that is before it was totally destroyed by poaching and the war.
I insisted on regularly checking the front left tire for abnormal wear, as the kingpin was seriously damaged causing the wheel alignment to be very off.
I pulled over at a small village near Nova Golega, and was confronted by a young boy. He displayed some martial arts and we ended up showing each other all our techniques. It reminded me of the boat builder in Zanzibar, where we also communicated using martial arts. After a few minutes he simply walked away, without saying a word. It was a very weird experience.
After 10 hours of driving we made it to Inhassoro and pulled into the Hotel Seta where I immediately arranged for the chef to cook all our crabs. Silva wanted to stay in the self contained white chalets, at $30 a pop, and start cooking the crabs. I showed him the campsite which we had all to ourselves. There was a row of eight hot showers in the spotless ablution block, and the crabs were already in the pot. It cost $5. Silva gave the kitchen staff clear instructions as to how he wanted it done, and they provided us with an accompanying salad. I setup my tent on the soft sand overlooking the moonlit ocean and had a naked warm shower under the stars. The long arduous drive had been worth every minute.
Tuesday 6th After a comfortable mosquito-free sleep I woke up at 04:00 and had a long walk on the beach. We had a long day ahead of us and were hoping to make it to the Bamboozi lodge in Tofo, stopping at Vilanculos and Inhambane on the way. I purchased an oil on canvas ‘trumpeter dude’ painting as well as an ‘African musicians’ batik, which I bargained down to $28.
I persuaded Pedro the painting salesman to swap his vest with me. It was an authentic ‘100% Mozambicano’ shirt that everyone was looking for. It was part of a Vodacom advertising campaign and you couldn’t buy it anywhere.
In the village I found Silva some popcorn he’d been searching weeks for.
Vilanculos, Tofo & Inhambane
6th – 7th February 2007
We had a relatively short distance to cover – only 400km. Unfortunately our first stop was involuntary. Silva was caught driving 72 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. We didn’t trust the corrupt officials, who were ignoring the locals and clearly targeting tourists. Having a South African registered vehicle didn’t make the situation any easier. They demanded $100, we refused. They wouldn’t let us go. While we were arguing, an elderly South African couple got pulled over. They were also doing 72 km/h. The woman freaked out, saying she’d already been bust two hours before, and was purposely driving under the speed limit. None of us had enough money anyway. Silva’s Brazilian Portuguese accent got us all out of the mess and we promised to pay the fine at any police station before we left the country. We all knew that this could never be enforced, and were happy to get away with it. We stopped in Vilanculos where we ate a piri-piri chicken, changed some dollars, used the internet and bought some souvenirs.
After Vilanculos, I drove the next three hours through Massinga, religiously sticking to the 100-80-60-80-100 speed limits. We stopped in Inhambane to stock up on fuel and water and couldn’t find the famous craft market. It was past 18:00 and obviously closed. We drove the last 22km to Tofo, the bustling vacation town which has long been legendary on the Southern African holiday makers scene. It had long stretches of sandy beaches and crystal clear azure waters. Unfortunately it also had thousands of ‘suthefricans’ crawling all over the place. I must say I was embarrassed by my fellow countrymen, most of whom were blind drunk! So we headed for Tofinho where there was supposed to be a secluded campsite in front of a surfing beach. We got stuck in deep sand and decided to abandon the truck and go for a naked swim in the huge waves. The rip current was pretty scary and we soon headed back to the truck to dig it out and find the camping spot.
Silva received a business call from the States and wasted half an hour of valuable sunlight hours without realizing it was quickly getting dark. It took as another hour to finally find a place to stay – the Bamboozi Lodge 3km out of town.
I slept in my tent after we ate a lovely meal in the dune-top restaurant with superb views over the moonlit sea.
We woke at 05:00 and went for a dip in the sea. The further south one travels the more refreshing and powerful the sea becomes. It was one of my best swims on this trip. While packing up, we helped a Frenchman who’d emigrated to Swaziland, dig out his 2wd truck. He told me “South Africa is still the best value for money destination in all of Africa”.
We visited the Inhambane market for souvenirs, where I finally found my Palmar cigarettes and bought a carton. I promised myself after these 200 cigarettes I wouldn’t touch another. Exactly three months later and I’ve stuck to my word. I bought seven grass bags for gifts and a ‘Frelimo 9º Congresso Unidos na luta contra a pobreza a força mudança’ pack containing matching scarf and kikoi to hang up in my room. Ignoring Silva’s protestations, I went to the Frelimo party office and begged them for a flag. I told them I was a supporter and was going to hang it up in my garden. They fished one out of a cupboard and refused to accept any money for it. I was stoked!
We shared the driving and made it to Maputo by 17:00. Silva dropped me off at Fatima’s Backpackers and I did five trips to get all my stuff out of the truck and into the hostel. I setup my camp on the roof like a seasoned traveler – mosquito net and all, then sat down on the same chair for the following eight hours advising backpackers which transport routes to take through East Africa. I felt a sense of completion – 71 days of travel, 10 countries and 5000km of Mozambique!