MOZAMBIQUE 2016 & 2010
We only speak a few words Portuguese so most of the time it is “Nao Falo Portuguese”. Mozambique is a long, narrow predominately tropical country on the East Coast of Africa, with white beaches and warm water of the Indian Ocean. Between 1951 and 1974 Mozambique was a province of Portugal. Between 1962 and 1974 the Frelimo launched many military campaigns and by 1966 most was under their control. 23 years of civil war had the country in a very bad shape. It was a very confusing war and struggle (like most wars) and all surrounding countries were involved. Mozambique started to improve but still today counts as one of the poorest countries on Earth. But it is an unfortunate fact of life that those who are poor and repressed are usually good, honest and decent people. In 2010 we were stopped due to flooding and never made it to the North of Mozambique. This time we have a different problem. We have been advised by the embassy not to travel in the area. For the time being we have found a very nice camp spot on a white beach under the coconut trees and are awaiting developments. To travel towards Tanzania we have 3 choices, but all are crossing the Renamo territory. But at present Zimbabwe is the shortest route through the rebel held area (400KM), part of this route we can travel in an army convoy. This way we cross Zimbabwe east to west before entering Zambia and heading north again.
Todays and this week’s newspaper reports in bullet form. 1. Mozambique: Back to War – New Renamo Attacks on N1 2. Renamo Gunmen Murder Two in Attack on Bus 3. Renamo Gunmen Attack Convoy Near Muxungue 4. Convoys Escort Travellers after Rebel Attacks 5. Renamo Gunmen Attack in Gorongosa and Maringue 6. Dhlakama Insists He Will Seize Power in March
NEWSPAPER Article by Joseph Hanlon
A deminer, who declined to be identified and moves from one town to another for his work every three months or so, told IRIN: “Everyone in Gorongosa is suspicious of each other. You can sit down and have a beer and a smoke with someone, but you cannot trust anyone,” he said. “There are Renamo in the town and outside of it.”
“The last [civil] war started like this. It was a small war at first and then it just got bigger,” Domingos Francisco, 35, a community leader in the village of Nhamissongoro, about 7km south of Gorongosa, told IRIN.
Renamo returned to war with attacks Thursday and Friday on the N1, the main north-south road, in Sofala province. Eight cars were shot at; six people were injured but there were no fatalities.
Renamo attacked traffic along a heavily wooded 100 km section of the N1 between the River Save and MuxungueÌ, in Sofala. Two of the attacks were in the same stretch of road, all on individual vehicles.
Six Renamo gunmen shot a community leader, Cipriano Sineque, and his son in Bebedo, Nhamatanda, Sofala. The head of the Bebedo locality, Bernabe Ndapitaia, who accompanied the wounded men to the Beira hospital, said that Renamo is targeting traditional chiefs and community leaders, in an attempt to weaken these authorities. This was the fourth such incident in the area. “All the community leaders in that area no longer sleep at home, because they are afraid the Renamo men will come after them”, said Ndapitaia. “The Renamo men have drawn up a list of their victims”. “Fear has spread through the area”, he added.
Renamo guerrillas raided the town of Maringue, Sofala, burning houses and injuring two people.
SWAZILAND BORDER to POMENE
After Southern Mozambique our next stop is Tofo, a small village with a stunning eight kilometres stretch of sandy beach. There are great bars and restaurants where you can while away your day sipping the local beer or a cocktail, and sample the local prawns and other delicious seafood.
Tofo has a small market and a few shops. At the beach front you buy fish. We unloaded the scooter and explored the area around Barra Point a North facing beach with calm waters and squeaky-clean coconut lined beaches. From here we also took a dhow and visited some outlaying islands. After 10 days exploring the area it was time to our next destination Pomene, an unspoilt paradise situated on the Mozambique coast half way between Vilanculos and Inhambane with miles of pristine beaches and a magic lagoon. The 60km drive in is very sandy and the last 10km is very soft but for us the height of the truck made the going slow. 6 km in 7 hours (2 locals with machete on the roof and one clearing the road, but once we arrived in it was worth it. We lived for 2 weeks in paradise.
POMENE to ZIMBABWE BORDER
Vilankulos is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique’s only underwater national park. We settled at Baobab Backpackers which had a small camping area. Live is slow and relaxed and is a daily mix of beach walks, swimming and lunch, afternoon naps and a slow dhow or speed boat to some of the islands off the coast. Plenty of bars (barracas) and great little restaurants are in and around the village.
Reason of visiting Vilankulos was to visit the Bazaruto Islands hence we choose a few. Bazaruto Island, (Portuguese for ‘island of the mist’) is the largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago and in the Bazaruto National Park. It is a sandy island with incredible clear water. Benguerra Island is the second largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago and known for its huge sand dunes, amazing walks and stunning snorkelling (and diving).
We saw traditional fishermen sailing their dhows around the islands, to get their catch of the day, as they have done for hundreds of years. Magaruque Island, only eight kilometres from Vilankulos on the Mozambique mainland, offers incredible snorkelling; you can walk from the beach into the deep-water channel and experience a marine paradise. We were told more than 2 000 species of fish live in the aquamarine clear waters.
Renowned as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” the Bazaruto Archipelago offers peace, solitude and incredible sunrises and sunsets. Between them, these charming islands within the archipelago’s coral reefs and crystal waters offer some great snorkeling and diving. Mile after mile of deserted sandy beaches also grace the islands and beaches north and south of Vilankulos. The islands chain is surrounded by calm turquoise waters while the eastern part of the islands offers an even more isolated and untamed seashore with waves constantly pounding the coastline.
Next, we travelled another 80km north to the small village of Inhassoro. Inhassoro is a small paradise just 80KM north of Vilankulos with an idyllic beach opposite the northern Point of the Bazaruto Archipelago. We heard of a campsite called Goodies around 10Km south of town. Perfect spot right on the white beach under the coconut palms. Our plan was to visit Santa Carolina Island known as Paradise Island during the few days we spend here.
This Island is the smallest one of the five islands making up the Bazaruto Archipelago. In its heyday, the old Hotel Santa Carolina was a party venue. Wealthy Rhodesians and international celebrities partied on this tiny Mozambican paradise. Legend has it that Bob Dylan composed his song “Mozambique” on the piano at this hotel. We had to leave all this, as our army convoy was waiting for us to take us across Central Mozambique to the Zimbabwe border. Unfortunately for us our plan to visit Northern Mozambique was not going to happen due to the ongoing conflict between the government forces and Renamo fighters.
BYE BYE MOZAMBIQUE
The white beaches and pristine reefs were uncrowded. This was mainly because of the negative travel advice due to the fighting between Government forces and the Renamo fighters. Our plan to visit the far North of Mozambique is not going to happen due to the many roadside incidents. An extract from the newspaper this week:” Renamo returned to war with attacks Thursday and Friday on the N1, the main north-south road, in Sofala province. Eight cars were shot at; six people were injured but there were no fatalities”. We had to join an army convoy to reach the Zimbabwe border.
We crossed the Save and Manica region including the provincial capital Chimoio. We caught a glimpse of Mount Binga (nearly dark) the highest mountain in Mozambique (2436m). All went well, and we arrived in Zimbabwe at 8PM that night after a 14-hour drive. Just before the border closed but not before we got ripped off by a fixer who worked together with a custom agent and the bank teller. WELCOME TO ZIMBABWE. (more below) Entering Zimbabwe from the East is picture perfect with many waterfalls, streams and lush vegetation.
BORDER SWAZILAND TO BARRA POINT
Passports, Insurance papers and license inspected; pay 15 Rand for paperwork! Once all this was done I wanted the Carnet stamped. I was asked to fill it out myself as he did not understand what to do? By this time a fixer arrived and explained. Obviously he wanted payment for his service. We were just about to leave when we were asked to pay 100USD road tax. “Why”, I asked. We had already paid 200USD for two quick visas and now road tax! The officer showed his batch and explained that without the voucher he would not open the gate. Anyway it was legitimate, so we paid. We were told of the roadblocks but as we took a small border post (from Swaziland) it would not be that bad. Well we counted seven before Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, in just a 50km stretch.
Lucky we do not speak Portuguese. We decided to detour through Maputo but what a traffic and as you know in Africa, BIG always seems to win. However we had been given one warning. As a foreigner, if you are involved in an accident, you spend 48 hours in a cell. In Africa and Asia it is the same. Never stop because you will never move again. From Maputo we drove to Xai Xai and encountered another 8 road blocks. The road was surprisingly good but we had been warned: Do Not Speed! From Xai Xai to our campsite it was a pothole riddled road but to be fair, the Chinese were busy putting in a new road. We were followed by another huge afternoon storm and the weather was hot and humid. The last 6.5km were on a soft sandy track and as I was in a hurry to beat the storm, I did not let my tyres down. You guessed it: 25 metres before our camp spot we got bogged! Thank goodness for the MAX TRACKS! No photos because it was pouring with rain and lightning flashed all around us. But believe me, with the Mozambiquen people helping us, we could not believe how good they worked. As we set up camp, the rain and thunder continued. Time to light a fire, have a beer and write this web log. Then North, from Childenguela on a road that was at best described as terrible. It was a jigsaw puzzle to work out the potholes, however as per my report yesterday, the Chinese are working hard to get the road in better shape. Today we only had six police road-blocks and so far so good. (No bribes paid!)
No doubt Mozambique is poor and wages for a grounds-man or cleaning person are at around 1000 Rand a month (160 AUD or 100 Euro). For us, it is cheap and when we stop, it is hard not to give them something extra. Fuel is also cheap at around 90 cents a litre (AUD) or 50 Euro cents. The damage from the war is still widespread, visible and many shops and grand old buildings are closed and in a derelict state. But the people are friendly and everyone is an entrepreneur. Everything is sold from fuel in coke bottles, live chickens, rice, oranges, prawns, crabs, lobster, eggs, cashew nuts, shoes, TV radio etc. It is very disturbing to see many victims of landmines, which are currently being cleared in Mozambique. Sadly, there are hundreds of thousands of landmines that have still not yet been cleared in the more remote areas. After South Africa, we thought Lesotho and Swaziland where cheap, but now we are in Mozambique we realize this is even cheaper. We made a stop in Inhambane to check out the village and we needed a bank or ATM. Our GPS (Turn by Turn Garmin Africa Maps) was unable to help us so we tried to work the old way (MAP).
BARRA POINT to POMENE BEACH
Late in the afternoon we arrived at Barra Point and did some sightseeing in the area. We wanted to camp at the Barra Lodge but the camping area was closed for more development. Sounds familiar? However a bush hut with warm and cold water and ocean view was only 1500 metical (45AUD) or 25EURO and that includes full buffet breakfast. Or for Dinner: Cooked Prawns and chips $8.00. After we looked at a camp spot near the Barra Light House which is only accessible during low tide, we decided to back-track a little and continue to Tofo Beach. We were told to stay at Bamboozi Lodge (Back Packers) which has a lovely camp ground and a bar right on the beach. And we paid for half a litre of beer and one glass of white wine, just $3.50 AUD (2 Euro). We had a full buffet breakfast $5.00 AUD (3EURO) including orange juice and coffee, served on the Beach. Bring it on! We are enjoying our stay. An early wake-up call with thunder and lightning and torrential rain, which lasted for about three hours. Not the best start for a day on the beach, but probably a good day in the bar! We also found that we had lost our tyre inflator. This is not good as we have been letting our tyres down anytime we went off the main road.
Our next stop Pomene requires very low tyre pressures so we have asked the local driver to try and get us a tyre gauge, which fits on our hose. He had never seen the fitting nor a tyre inflator that works in PSI. Because we have been driving through swamp and on the beach yesterday, we decided to get the salt off the truck. We are told the rain will continue this week so we are reconsidering our planned trip because parts of Mozambique are still under water and this rain may make things worse. Regardless of the weather, we are staying here at least one day and I am told not to miss the Pizza Night at Tofo with local music. Mozambique is the place where parties last all night. Mozambique has 500km of white palm-fringed beaches and among the highlights are the Islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago that have extensive coral reefs and host a dazzling array of unique marine life. We were planning to visit this area from Vilankulos, but we are uncertain of our next move because the weather seems to be closing in and flooding is reported further north. Only a month ago, 130,000 people were evacuated in this area. Anyway we will decide tomorrow. Bamboozi Backpackers we loved the place, the friendly and hospitable owners and managers made us feel so welcome, we felt like we had known them for months. This weeks driving was through endless coconut plantations. Once we left the main road, we travelled through real Mozambique with the kids yelling out for money, sweets and chocolate.
The scenery was sensational. Around 20km before Pomene Beach, we arrived at the entrance to Pomene National Game Reserve. The guard wanted 200 meticals per person, 200 meticals for the truck and 200 meticals for the living area! Are you kidding me? Anyway, after a bit of hand and face gestures (my Portuguese is Niente) it came down to 400 meticals for us and 150 meticals for the truck and an official receipt. Hard to negotiate when you are staring at an AK 47. From here the going was tough as the sand was thick and soft. Once we arrived on Pomene Beach (54km took 3.5 hours) we thought we had arrived in Paradise! Coconut trees, white sand a wide 200 meter beach in front of us with blue water similar to that in West Australia. Then there was a large lagoon behind us. What a forgotten piece of paradise. Clary keeps looking for landmines but we are assured that the whole area has been cleared. With our tyres down to 40psi front and 50PSI in the rear, (Toyo recommends 62psi front and 78psi rear), our next challenge will be to get the tyres back to road pressure. But we will worry about this in a few days, once we hit the bitumen. Most fuel stations do not have the pressure to pump up to 102 PSI. Anyway, this is all part of the adventure and experience. At last we arrived at Pomene beach time to rest our legs in the pure white sand of Pomene; taking in the smell the hardwood burning as it sparks into the starlit sky. The blackened camp kettle hisses on the coals and we have another cuppa. It has been hot and humid today but fortunately there`s a cool breeze blowing, so no mozzies tonight. (Malaria is a real issue in Mozambique) While staying at Pomene Beach we met farmers and their families from Zimbabwe and South Africa who are here on a fishing holiday.
It was very interesting listening to them and hearing their side of the South African/Zimbabwe story. The plight of the white farmers who have faced murder, rape and so on. We were stunned to hear this as we have never heard about white farmers being killed in South Africa. We thought this was only in Zimbabwe. We were chatting to the two farmers for an hour or more and they expressed their political views and their concerns about the future. I guess you don`t have to live in South Africa to arrive at that conversation. But their concerns ran much deeper than what we outsiders could start to imagine. Their story was quite disturbing. If nothing else, this made us realize, once again, that we live in the lucky country. Clary and I thought back at how lucky we were to choose Australia as our new home all those years ago. We were telling the farmers that in Australia, it doesn`t matter what colour you are or what religion you follow, as long as you are willing to accept the Australian way of life and the democratic policies that we all conform to. Everybody can enjoy freedom in Australia. we lazed around in the ocean, and the lagoon. What a life! Unfortunately the weather turned nasty again around 1.30pm. The wind started blowing at 40 knots or more and the rain pelted down. The wet season definitely has not finished in Mozambique. The problem we face is what to do next as the plan was to drive to Vilankulos for a two-day island trip in the Bazuto Archipelago. The reports coming in were more and more about flooded roads and the people we met today told us that the inland is definitely out of the question, because the rivers are flooding. In fact some of the main highways started to flood today also. In any case, we have to first negotiate the 4WD track before we get back onto the highway. The local villagers came past and we purchased fruit and coconuts. We had lunch at the local restaurant. Fresh calamari and chips, a beer (500ml) and a coke, all for 12 AUD. We decided to stay for dinner also and this time we ordered a seafood platter – 700gram of fresh seafood including crab, calamari, prawns, local tiger fish ($15.00 AUD or 10 Euro). I ordered pork chops for $6.00 (3.80 Euro) Total dinner bill including 4 drinks $27.00AUD or 15 Euro. We finished up in the bar (too many times) and spoke to Zimbabwean farmers who had lost their farms and one who had 200 acres left out of his original 2000 acres. Heartbreaking stories, from people who were born in Zimbabwe.
CHANGE OF PLANS
We woke at 5.30am with the wind still blowing and reports of lots of rain up North and flooding inland. We decided to point the truck west towards the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia and leave the warm Indian Ocean behind us. As luck would have it, we were able to re-inflate our tyres using a scuba cylinder. As we ventured inland (east) the tracks were waterlogged and my executive officer in charge of the Catering Department, Housekeeping and Room Service, told me to turn around. Sometimes it is good for me to listen to the boss! After further investigation we were told the Limpopo River was flooding and could not be crossed for at least 3-4 days. There was no bridge and the majority of the tracks in Bahine National Park (our bush stop) are all waterlogged. To make matters worse, the track from Mapai to Pafuri was also flooded. Another crossing option could be to cross the river using a local raft with 2 outboard motors but it was really designed for normal 4WD vehicles such as Landcruisers and Nissans. It was not designed to carry a truck like ours. It is in times like this that it would be nice to travel with another car because with two vehicles we would have proceeded. Because the Catering, House- keeping, Room Service Department is important, I did not argue. Unfortunately we never reached our final beach destination Vilankulos, a popular tourist town. 20km off the mainland lays the Bazaruto Archipelago. This consists of 4 main islands Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque and Santa Carolina. All accessible by boat. Except from the usual wild life it also has Samango monkeys, and flamingo`s on the fresh water lakes. This whole area covers 1400 sq km and is now a marine park and is one of the largest in the Indian Ocean. However this is part of travelling and not everything always goes to plan. But if time permits, we could enter the northern part of Mozambique from Malawi and still visit Vilankulos.
POMENE BEACH to GIRIYONDO BORDER (South Africa border centre of Kruger National Park)
Late that day we hit the main highway 50km before Xai Xai where we were confronted with the largest and deepest potholes I have ever seen in my life. As it was getting dark, we slowed down, but potholes don`t seem to bother the locals as they raced past. Tonight it was dark by the time we found a little bush camp east of Xai Xai. The rain was pelting down when we arrived at our campsite and we hoped that it would ease overnight because we are still hoping to reach Limpopo National Park tomorrow. We are told the roads are red dirt and slippery. We need no more rain! Tonight, no fire but Sauerkraut for dinner. Around 3.30am I woke up after hearing someone around the truck trying to open the power box! By the time I got out and turned on the emergency lights around the truck, there was no-one to be seen. Anyway nothing stolen but he or she had opened the lid. All night it was pouring with rain. Regardless of this we left for Limpopo and Bahine National Park, which is a little further east. As the day progressed the rain became heavy again and we were advised at the entrance gate that Bahine and the northern section of Limpopo were not recommended. Particularly while travelling on your own, due to the flooding and boggy tracks. We set up camp at a beautiful spot overlooking Massinger Dam. We will have a beautiful view once the rain stops. The track in is rough and overgrown (12km off the main track) but well worth the drive. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, links the Mozambique Parks with Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is home to elephants, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, wild dogs, hyena, kudu, hippo, crocodiles and zebra. You name it, they are all here. Our plan was to stay for a week, but the weather is cyclonic and the tracks are getting very muddy. We have to get out of here before we are trapped for weeks. As we left, the rain started again and the track out was a bit of a mud bath.
The southern end of the Park had not much game and the Ranger told us that the locals who still live in the Park hunt the animals. However we are assured that some animals have survived and since the end of the war, the Park has been restocked. We never saw any wild life and as we headed inland, the tracks became waterlogged and our GPS alert warned us that land mines were in the area. Clary was really impressed! We did meet up with people who had just travelled in convoy from Pafuri Gate via Mapai and the stretch between Pafuri and Mapai had taken them 12 hours.
The Limpopo is in flood so they had to come all the way south and the road is flooded. Bogged on a regular basis they were happy to have each other? The boss of the Catering Department had enough by now and between mud, landmines and flooded tracks, it was a 360 degree turn and back. It was not long before we realized the truck was not performing as well as it had done and as well as it should. A close look told us the bottom bracket for the shock-absorber had broken off completely. Not something I wanted to have happen in the middle of no-where and on a 4WD drive track, in the rain and in 4WD mode. What now? Closest town in Mozambique would be 7 hours drive and we would not arrive before dark. Kruger National Park border gate 3 hours. However, Giriyondo in South Africa would be a better option than Mozambique as we were not sure if they would have a welder strong enough in Massinger and even whether they would have power. So here we were struggling along with 3 shock absorbers and one dangling useless. And it had still not stopped raining. Late that night, we arrived at Balule Bush Camp.
MOZAMBIQUE PART 2.
MALAWI to ZIMBABWE BORDER (TETE CORRIDOR)
We have never been in a hurry, however today we were, and as they say, Murphy`s Law. The exit from Malawi was easy and fast. But once we arrived at the Mozambique border, things changed. The official was after a bribe. We had no visa because the old one had expired. What we needed was a transit visa. He gave us paperwork to fill out, but after we handed it back to him he told us it was the wrong paperwork! He told us that we should go to the Mozambique embassy in Malawi. (NO WE WOULD NOT) He was annoyed and wanted money. He told us to come back later and kept our passports. Others who paid money went first. But as we saw him pocket USD10 from a Chinese with an expired passport he started looking at ours and told us he wanted USD 54 for the visa, USD 27 for third party insurance and then we also had to pay USD 75 at Customs for road tax and our Carnet was not correct! It was correct 2 months ago! Another USD 20. All up, USD 176. Welcome to Mozambique! Oh yes, and this is just for the 2 days it takes us to cross Mozambique. The only way this could have been achieved for less money, would have been if we had planned it and had the paperwork in order. Naturally, we couldn`t plan it because we didn`t know our problems with the truck would force us back to South Africa. After 2.5 very hectic hours at the border, we were cleared to go. Obviously someone needs to have a good look at those officials because the travelers who are willing to pay up to USD 20 are done in 1 hour? Furthermore the poor local population just waits and waits and waits…! Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Tete, a small town on the Zambezi River where the ferry was out of order and the bridge was under repair. The line of trucks extended back for 10km because the bridge had a weight limit. Anyway we were allowed over with the normal cars and one hour later we were on the bridge. It looked like it was still under construction.
A bit scary to say the least when you look down below the bridge to see the fast flowing, crocodile infested Zambezi River. More of a problem was the fact that it was one- way traffic and only 2 semi trailers were allowed at any time. When we were in the middle of the bridge we counted 11 semis and all oncoming traffic was also dodging the workers as no-one cared about the traffic controllers. By this time it was dark and we still needed to get some Mozambique money. And were desperate for fuel as the last two towns had no diesel. Anyway, it all worked out well and we found ourselves right on the Zambezi in the car park of the Tete Motel. It was very noisy but we had no trouble falling asleep to the background of African music. The following day we entered Zimbabwe.