Another Day, Another Border

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:09 pm
May 272011

We left Vumba and headed the short distance to the Mozambique border, picking up Ken from Tony’s Coffee House and giving him a lift on the roof (as you do in Africa) to work.

The border was, as usual, chaos. There were heaps of semi trailers lined up both on the Zimbabwe and Mozambique side. Again we had no issues and took about an hour to do both sides. For those travelling, here are the details:

  • Enter the Zimbabwe gate where you get a gate pass.
  • Drive through utter chaos with vehicles coming at you and construction and people everywhere. (Just drive past all the trucks until you see some buildings).
  • Be directed by what I think was a tout to park.
  • Go to immigration and wait for the official to finish reading his newspaper article and get your passport and gate pass stamped.
  • Go to the next counter and hand over your Temporary Import Permit. No questions were asked, nothing was checked (too easy).
  • 5 mins later drive to the exit gate (chain across the road). One guy tells you to park, another guy asks what we have, to which we reply “camping gear” and he accepts our gate pass and allows us to leave.
  • Wait for the chain guy to lower the chain, then for the car behind you to move and leave Zimbabwe.
  • Enter the Mozambique gate where there are 2 police officers sitting at the side but too lazy to move. A tout will go and get your gate pass and tell you to park.
  • Get out of the car and get your gate pass off the tout and tell them you do not need their help and will organise insurance yourself. (They did follow us nearly the whole time we were there, but didn’t keep hassling us).
  • Go to Immigration where there will be no forms and you will have to ask to get one.
  • Fill in the form, line up and then be given the Visa form.
  • Fill in the Visa form. The Visas now cost $78 + $2 for the form (go figure?). A very large unexpected cost! The official was at least helpful and pleasant when we asked him for information such as the border names and address details for Gorongosa.
  • Line up again. Wait for the official to gather all the paperwork then disappear into another room to sort the visas.
  • 5 mins later be called into another room where they take your photo and left and right index fingerprints which are then printed on your visa. (No wonder the visas now cost so much!)
  • Go back to the counter and wait for him to fill in more paperwork and stamp your passport and gate pass.
  • Go to the next counter and pay $2 for a Temporary Import Permit. Read the sign that lists all the things you must have in order to get a TIP, none of which we were asked for (and I don’t think we had them all either), and be thankful.
  • Go outside and purchase Insurance for $23. We went to the first place as there was another westerner there who had done the crossing before and we were told the insurance is the same price everywhere anyway.
  • Drive to the exit gate and wait  5 mins before anyone shows up. In the meantime a semi trailer decides to drive past all the other semi trailers and completely blocks the road. Thankfully the official made him move.
  • Arrive in Mozambique where 10 money changers will wave Mozambique Meticas at you assuring you they have the best price. Keep driving and find an ATM.
  • Welcome to Mozambique.

Gorongosa National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:43 pm
May 282011

Not 10 minutes after crossing the border we encountered our first police road block. We were asked for our TIP and drivers licence by one officer and the other officer pointed out that 200m up the road we had passed another vehicle on the “unsafe” bend. (We had passed a vehicle, which was doing all of 10 km/h, just after the bend where there were no road markings and you could see forever). Time to play the “I don’t understand” card. Wayne just kept saying he didn’t understand, and as usual, they could barely understand him and I just kept quiet instead of translating like I usually do. After them asking whether we spoke Portuguese or Shona (yeah right), they eventually gave in and with an unimpressed wave of the hand waved us on. I’m not 100% sure, but I think that was our first bribe attempt. All the other police road blocks we passed we were waved through.

We headed for the Gorongosa National Park, stopping off in Chomio to get some money and diesel (fuel is cheaper in Moz). Not long after crossing the border we knew we were in the “real” Africa when we could now buy whatever we liked from the side of the road, whether that be a new lounge, bed, mattress, furniture, fruit, wood, chickens, you name it! There were people walking on the road everywhere and things were dirty, not from garbage but from dirt. People were not quiet as friendly and most did not return our waves, but they did still stare at us.

The road to Gorongosa was reasonably good, although there were a large number of potholes that needed to be avoided. The last 40km or so into the park is dirt. The road has a lot of small holes in it and makes the going pretty slow, 25 km/h being about the maximum speed and even then it was very rough. We arrived at the gate to be warmly greeted by the guard. After some disjointed conversation we worked out we needed to take 2 pieces of paper with us to the camp site where we would pay our fees, although we weren’t entirely sure what those fees were as the guard seemed to be quite confused himself.

We arrived at Chitengo Camp and found out that there is a once off fee of 525 Mtc per person and 500 Mtc per vehicle, a total of about $50. It is then 310 Mtc per person to camp, so about $20 in total. The thing I don’t like is they then also charge you to drive your own vehicle on a game drive – 875 Mtc ($28) per day. Yes it is cheaper than their game drives, but when you have already paid a vehicle fee and you are coming to a National Park to see animals it is a bit rude.

The camp itself is pleasant enough with heaps of shade and basic amenities. There are no sites as such, just pitch wherever you like. Last night there was an overland group and a couple of other campers and tonight there is only us and another couple, so it is pretty quiet (although last night the staff seemed to want to play repetitive music around midnight).

The park itself is attractive, and there are animals here, although not in abundance. We did see some Oribis, which are new for us and a Bushbuck as well as loads of Waterbuck, Warthogs, Baboons and Impalas and birds. On our last drive, close to camp, we saw a herd of about 20 elephants cross the road in front of us. Although we were not particularly close to them, they were quite agitated and stressed. A number of them turned around to face us, flapping their ears and swaying and a couple trumpeted and charged us. They were really not happy at all. 20 odd years ago most of the elephants in Gorongosa were killed, but there are a few that still survive today and remember what happened – they do say elephants never forget. If today’s reaction was any indication, I would have to say I agree as we have never seen a whole group of elephants be so upset and uneasy.

Bushbuck, Gorongosa National ParkWarthog, Gorongosa National ParkBaboon, Gorongosa National Park

The Road to Nampula

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:03 pm
May 312011

Driving to QuelimaneAfter leaving Gorongosa we again endured the bumpy dirt road out of the park to the main road, although they had started to grade some of it whilst we were in the park, so hopefully it will improve. We then spent the morning avoiding potholes and people. There are so many people sitting, lying, walking and riding bicycles on the road that there is rarely a section of road where there is no one around (which makes loo breaks a little challenging). To add to the driving challenge the road is full of potholes so you spend your time weaving around people and potholes, often driving on the wrong side of the road. (I knew that time on the Playstation would come in handy one day!) Thankfully there aren’t that many vehicles around and those that we have seen are mainly trucks and the minibus taxis. I think we saw one other traveller the whole time. At least we rarely have to dodge cows and goats anymore.

As you leave Caia, which is a very small, non descript village, you cross the river via this enormous bridge that looks so out of place in the middle of rural Mozambique. Wayne thinks it is the most modern thing in Mozambique. The toll is 100 Mtc ($3.20), but given the few cars around it will take forever to pay for it. If only they spent the money on the roads around it instead. As we were paying the toll there was a knock on the passenger window and there stood a guy in military uniform. I wound down the window and said “Hello, how are you?” and the answer was “hungry”. To which I replied “me too, I’m hoping we stop for some lunch very soon”. There was no reply from him and we continued on our way.

We stopped around lunchtime about 1km after the bridge at Cuacua Lodge. They have basic campsites, just a patch of dirt with heaps of shade and a bbq. The amenities though were spotless and the water very hot. You can also use the hotel pool, but it is a bit of a hike back to it. There were only ourselves and another couple camping, so it was very quiet.

From here we headed towards the coast. As expected, the days and nights areDriving to Quelimane getting warmer as we head north. It is hard to believe it is winter sitting here in shorts and short sleeve shirts, even at night time and not even needing to get in your sleeping bag at night.

The road from Caia to Quelimane was pretty good, although you still have to avoid all the people. Quelimane is a reasonably big, busy town. We tried to find a supermarket but didn’t have any luck, so instead we had to slowly pass the small buildings and peer inside to see what they sold seeing as our Portuguese is pretty non existent, although I am learning some words. I managed to find a bakery and with sign language and writing numbers on the counter managed to buy 4 bread rolls and a loaf of bread for 21 Mtc, a grand total of 68 cents! The only other thing we really needed was diesel which we found easily enough. I even managed to ask where the toilet was in Portuguese AND they were spotlessly clean!

We left Quelimane for Zalala Beach. The road out is a one lane “tar” road that passes through rural villages and coconut trees. It was a very scenic 45 minute drive, well for me at least, Wayne was too busy dodging potholes, people and bicycles. There is supposed to be 2 campsites there according to our GPS. We found the first location – hmmm pretty deserted although beautiful spot amongst pine trees on the beach. Neither of us felt quite safe enough camping there. We couldn’t find the other one, however some young boys followed us and showed us what looked like it used to be a restaurant and bar. We could camp there in a semi enclosed area with access to toilets (flushed with a scoop of water) and views to the beach. There was no water on tap for a shower, although they did bring us a huge tub of clean water which we used with our own hot shower so we were fine. The place itself was kept clean, but there were unfinished bits that with a reasonably small amount of money I am sure you could fix and have a really nice business. The afternoon was spent relaxing with an audience of 3 young boys (the ones who had shown us the place). Conversation was a little tricky, but we did manage to find out a little about them and they were only too keen to help us if we needed them. We ate reasonably early and ventured into our tent to read and have an early night as we had a long day ahead of us the next day. Not long after we got in the tent we could hear someone outside. One of the guys that worked there laid a reed mat down on the sand next to the low front wall, put some poles in the ground and hung a mosquito net. He was obviously our security for the night as that is where he slept.

The road to Zalala BeachZalala BeachZalala Beach

We had an early start this morning as we knew we had a long drive ahead of us. The road is actually pretty good wide tar the majority of the way, although there is a really bad section about 10km north of Mocuba until the junction that goes to either Gurue or Alto Molocue. This stretch took us about an hour Driving to Quelimaneand is mainly poor, corrugated and potholed dirt, with an occasional patch of severely potholed tar thrown in. There were still the inevitable people everywhere to be avoided and driving takes 100% concentration. We did some shopping along the way, buying a lovely large pineapple for 25 Mtc (80 cents) and 10 bananas for 10 Mtc (30 cents) all from the comfort of the passenger seat. We could have bought: gravel, chairs, doors, tomatoes, bamboo poles, moonshine, cassava, oranges, wooden beds, charcoal, sweet potatoes, live chickens, wood and that isn’t even including the hundreds of other things available when you pass through a village.

We are staying at Complexo Nairucu just outside of Nampula. So far it seems ok and there is one other couple staying here. They are from Holland and travelling for 3 months, although a few years ago they spent a year travelling in Africa.

Tomorrow we have a couple of hours drive and we should be on the coast which we will meander up for a while.

Ilha da Mocambique

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:02 pm
Jun 012011

After first stopping at Shoprite in Nampula to stock up on groceries, we headed east towards the coast and the Liha da Mocambique. (For anyone who needs to shop at Shoprite in Nampula, we were warned by the couple staying at the campsite with us the previous night that they had their car door prised open and their mobile phone stolen, but not their GPS or camera, whilst they were inside shopping even though there are security guards outside and heaps of people around).

Casuarina Camp, Ilha da MocambiqueThe road was generally in pretty good condition and we easily made it to the Casuarina Camp by lunchtime. The camp is located directly beside the bridge that connects the island and the mainland. We camped on the sand and sat watching the fisherman and the local people for the rest of the afternoon only moving to venture a couple of hundred metres up the beach to see what was going on when the fishing boats came in. Our interpretation is that you must pay for a place on a fishing boat and then whatever you catch is yours. The boats were overladen with people and I’m not sure I’d want to be travelling very far in them, but I guess it works for them. People were then selling the fish directly from the beach.

Ilha da MocambiqueIlha da MocambiqueIlha da Mocambique

Ilha da MocambiqueWe cooked our dinner over the campfire on the beach whilst we watched the the world go by. It was amusing at times to watch the traffic on the bridge as it is a one lane bridge, about 3.5km long, View from our tent, Casuarina Camp, Ilha da Mocambiquewith 3 passing bays and African traffic. The camp has no running water, so the toilets are flushed with a scoop from the bucket and we chose to use our own shower and showered on the beach. The picture shows the view from our tent – such a hard life!

As we left the next morning though, we managed to get very stuck in the sand. 4 cars with trailers had pulled in the evening before and our only way out of camp was down and onto the beach – bad idea! We ended up with every male in the village I think helping to push us out and eventually made it back on to firm land.

Unfortunately the President of Mozambique was visiting the island the day we went across so the Fort and the museum were not open. We were told they would be open by midday, but being Africa I doubted that very much and when we left at 11.30 the President had still not arrived. We did though drive all around the island. It must have been a pretty impressive place in its time, but unfortunately now it is very run down with buildings in need of restoration. We spoke to a young guide for some time who lives on the island which was interesting, bought some bread rolls at the market and decided to head north to Nacala.

Ilha da MocambiqueIlha da MocambiqueIlha da Mocambique

Nacala Bay

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:37 pm
Jun 042011

Libelula, NacalaIt was only a couple of hours from the Ilha da Mocambique to Nacala and the roads were in good condition. We stayed 2 nights at Libelula Rustic Camp. The camp is located on an escarpment above a pretty, small beach where the water was warm and clear. It is a little bit of climb back up from the beach, but not too bad. The amenities are adequate, but the camping area is pretty restricted for rooftop tents, with only a very small level area with enough clearance to open the tent up. For ground tents they had a few level places under some thatch huts. The first night there was one other group camping with 2 cars, who very kindly moved one of their cars over so we could fit on the level piece of ground with them. We had a great night chatting to them, even if the mosquitoes were really bad there!

We took a drive down to the point where there is a fish market. There was heaps of fresh tuna to be bought but they were so large they would have lasted us a month, so we decided not to get any.

Libelula, Nacala BayLibelula, Nacala BayLibelula, Nacala Bay

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