The Road to Malawi

 Posted by Elizabeth at 2:16 pm
Jun 102011
 

The road from Macomia to NanoaFor the last week or so we have been trying to decide which route to take to make the long journey across the entire width of Mozambique to Malawi. We knew we were in for a coupe of days of long travelling, but weren’t sure what the roads were like.

Option 1 – Head back south to Nampula and take the road west through Cuamba to the border at Mandimba. This meant retracing our steps for quite some distance, although we knew the road to Nampula at least was pretty good. General opinion from the locals was that the road west wasn’t too good, although probably better than the west road further north.

Option 2 – Head back to Pemba then take the road west through Montepuez and Lichinga and then head south to the border at Mandimba. The local opinion was that this road was dreadful and we should not take it. We spoke to a Dutch couple who had travelled the road about 3 weeks earlier and a group of South Africans with 4 cars and trailers who had done the road about a week ago. They all said it was doable, but slow and all of them got stuck at one point. We only had to retrace our steps back to Pemba, so the route would be new, but we were not sure where we could overnight along the way.

Option 3 – Head even further south, past Nampula to Mocuba and then take the road west to the Milange border. This meant retracing our steps even further and having to endure the hour of really bad road north of Mocuba again. Local opinion was that this was the easiest option.

The road from Montepuez to MarrupaWe went for option 2 – nothing like an adventure! We left Pangane at 6.15am and headed for the tar road, not looking forward to the muddy section again, although this time it would be downhill at least. We were pleasantly surprised to find that a day of sunshine had managed to dry the road out almost completely and there was no sign of any slipperiness. The road all the way to Montepuez is excellent tar, but it then stops in the middle of town and turns to dirt. The road to Marrupa is then a mixture of ok, bad and really bad dirt. At times the road almost The road from Montepuez to Marrupadisappears, particularly around villages and you definitely need a 4wd. It took us nearly 6 hours to do just over 200km from Montepuez to Marrupa. It was slow going, but it was quite a pleasant drive with changing scenery, passing through very rural villages where everyone was friendly, waving to us whilst staring for us long as they could see us. We passed through some small water crossings, one large water crossing, over bridges made from tree trunks laid over the river, one of which was only just wide enough for our car, around sections of road that were washed away, over, up and down gullies, through sand and a little bit of mud, all without getting stuck! Yay! (We could see though a number of places where people had been stuck, the mud had been thick and where the road had been built up with branches and rocks. Things had obviously dried out quite a lot in the last week, which we were very thankful for).

The road from Macomia to NanoaWe were getting closer to Marrupa but were not sure we would make it before dark as we didn’t know how much longer the really bad road would last. It gets dark really quickly here at the moment and by 5.30pm it is dark and driving in the dark is not something you want to do. Even if we did make we weren’t entirely sure where we were going to stay anyway. We finally managed to get through to another South African couple we met in Pemba who had done the road a couple of days earlier and found out where they stayed. At 5.15pm we pulled into Quinta Manlia about 4km south of Marrupa (nothing like cutting it fine) to be met by George the owner where we could camp for a total of 200Mtc for 2 (about $6.50). George is setting up a basic, but quite nice place and he proudly showed us the 2 chalets he has, both of which were clean and fine, the new chalets still being built, his restaurant and bar and even that he had beer in the fridge. Again the toilet is a just the bowl flushed with water scooped from a container, but it was clean and the shower is cold water from a bucket. It was a perfectly adequate and secure place to stop for the night just in the right location for people travelling the northern route across the country.

We were up early again today as we had another long day’s drive and were hoping to make it across the border to Malawi and then to Liwonde National Park. The worst of the road was definitely over. The road from Marrupa to Lichinga is narrow tar, but in good condition so we covered the distance in a reasonably short time. The road south from Lichinga to the border at Mandimba was dirt that was in OK condition.

Mandimba border is the most laid back, simple border we have encountered – no gate passes, no queues, no hassle. After driving down a dirt track we came across a barrier that blocked the road with a building to one side. We went inside and a pleasant, chatty official took our Temporary Import Permit and that was customs done. We filled in the immigration forms and the other guy stamped our passports. Too easy! We alo managed to change the rest of our Meticas into Malawi Kwatcha at a fair rate, although the money changers need to get their hundreds and thousands sorted out. The only way to work out the exchange rate was to physically show them some Meticas and then they showed you the equivalent in Kwatcha.

We then drove the dirt track from the Mozambique border, through a village and to the Malawi border. The Malawi border was just as easy. We filled in our immigration forms, passport stamped and then customs filled in the Carnet for our car for the first time, and they even knew how to do it which was a bonus. We filled in the details of the car in another book and then went outside to purchase insurance. All the buildings were empty, but someone phoned one of the insurance agents who then turned up a few minutes later. 6000 kwatcha later and we were sorted.  I was dying to go to the loo, so I asked one of the customs guys if there was one. No problem, just come around the side through the door, into the “restricted” customs area, through their office and use the staff toilets. Just like in Australia – not!

So we are now in Malawi and on our way to Liwonde National Park.

Pangane

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:05 pm
Jun 082011
 

The road to PanganeWe had read good things about Pangane, so decided we would make the trip further north to check it out. Reviva, Peter and Ed, who we had first met at Nacala and then again at Pemba, also decided they would head that way. Our original plan was to take the coast road north, but everyone told us the road would be dreadful as it hadn’t been graded yet after the rains, so we took the easy option and travelled the inland tar road north. The road up until Macomia where we turned right towards the coast was in good condition most of the way as we passed through villages. There are definitely less people the further north The road to Panganeyou head which makes driving a little easier. The road to the coast started as sandy dirt which was hard and fine. About halfway the road became very slippery, although still firm. Then we came across some trucks, carrying the usual packed load of people in the back, having difficulty climbing a hill that was very, very slippery and sloshy mud. We waited at the bottom of the hill to see whether the trucks made it and so we would not have to stop on the hill halfway. The first truck kept sliding sideways and getting stuck, but no one got out of the back of the truck to help or lighten the load! Some guys in the back of the second truck got out and pushed the first truck back on the right track and to help get it out of the mud. They both eventually made it to the top so it was our turn. With fingers Panganecrossed we started, really hoping we would make it as I definitely did not want to have to get out in the thick mud! We crawled up the hill, not sliding but at times we were barely going forward and at one point I thought we were stuck, but slowly we made it to the top and firm ground again. Thank goodness! The track then was firm sandy dirt again until about 10 km from Pangane when it became softer sand, but was quite manageable. We drove through coastal villages, weaving our way through the palm trees with the ocean just beside us. It was really quite a scenic drive.

Hashim's Camp, PanganeOur destination was Hashim’s Camp which is at the very end of a small peninsula that juts out into the ocean, at the end of a quite large village. It was basic to say the least, but Hashim was very pleasant and helpful. We parked our car on the sand in the middle of the palm trees about 50m from the water. Not a bad location if you ask me. The toilet was merely a toilet bowl in the sand, flushed with water scooped from a larger container and with a reed wall around it. The shower was a dribble from a drum overhead or water scooped using coconut ladles from a container. It didn’t matter that the water was cold as it was pretty warm, even though it is winter. Hashim also organised our meals for us both nights we stayed. We had a feast of crayfish, different types of fish, octopus and local Pangane coconut rice for the huge cost of about $6 each, definitely a bargain!

PanganePanganePangane

The weather had started to become overcast as we made our way towards the coast, not the perfect tropical beach weather. When we arrived it was still overcast and a slight wind had started, and it looked like rain. We took a stroll along the beach to check out all the fishing boats and see what the locals were up to. The men were mending an absolutely huge fishing net on the beach, whilst others were working on the boats. One man was caulking the joints between the planks in the hull of a boat by jamming wads of cotton into the gaps. Everyone we met was really friendly and happy.

By about 5.30pm the rain had started and the wind had picked up. By 6.30pm it was pitch black, the rain was heavier and the wind was howling. Thankfully there are some “rooms” at Hashim’s that have a covered verandah on them, so all of us huddled under there to eat our dinner and try and stay dry. The roof did leak a little but it wasn’t too bad. After dinner, at the first break in the rain, we all ran for our tents and scrambled inside. The rain eventually stopped, but the wind howled for a large part of the night, although nowhere near as bad as the night we had to endure at Kamieskroon. The tents survived with no leaks and we woke to a beautiful morning with no wind and sunshine. Perfect!

PanganeHashim organised a dhow to take us out on the water for a few hours. The water is perfectly clear and a beautiful turquoise colour and was just too inviting so Ed, Wayne and I decided to jump over the side for a refreshing swim. The water was lovely and warm, and anyone who knows me knows the water and the weather have to be really warm before you will see me in the water! Now the challenge of getting back on the dhow – hmmmm. Wayne managed to get up first without too much trouble. I tried, but there was no way on earth I was strong enough to haul myself up over the side that was quite a long way above the water. Wayne tried to pull me up, no luck. Next plan, Wayne pulled and Ed pushed and eventually I was balanced on my stomach on the edge of the boat. By now everyone, including myself and the dhow captain were in hysterics. I stopped laughing long enough to manage to slide myself on my stomach over the edge and into the bottom of the boat like a beached whale – an extremely glamorous way to get onto a boat! At least I managed to provide some entertainment value for everyone! They rigged up a rope to help Ed get in the boat and he managed without too much problem as well. (Later we all went swimming again, and this time we all used a rope to get back in, but still Reviva and myself did not make a particularly elegant landing back into the dhow!).

I think Pangane is a lovely spot and I’m glad we made the effort to visit. Yes it is primitive, but it is like being shipwrecked on your own tropical island. Yes it is a fishing village and there is some rubbish on the sand, although not a lot. Yes there have been things stolen from previous campers and Hashim is very conscious of security and ensured we locked everything up (none of us had any issues). It was a mini adventure and we had an excellent time and Hashim is great.

Pemba

 Posted by Elizabeth at 1:46 pm
Jun 062011
 

Unfortunately Wayne became ill during the night, spending most of the time throwing up or sitting on the toilet. By morning he had stopped actually being sick and wanted to move on, although he was in no fit state to drive, so I had the pleasure of tackling the roads for a change.

Our original plan was to try and take the coast road from Nacala to Pemba, however it was impossible to get any information on the condition of the road and whether the Lurio River was passable or not, so we opted to travel the 115km back to Namialo and take the tar road north. Once again the road was in pretty good condition, there were slightly less people on the road to dodge and the trip took about 5 hours.

We have spent the last 2 nights and tonight, at Pemba Dive and Bush Camp. It is pleasantly Pemba Dive & Bush Camplocated on a nice bit of beach with a bar and communal area right on the sand. They have free kayaks, snorkelling, volleyball, archery, guided walks and mud baths in the mangroves. There are 5 campsites each with their own large thatch roofed shelter. The amenities are rustic, semi open, reed enclosures, but are large and clean. The showers are cold water, but each has a large tub of hot water to scoop over you which works quite well, especially as the weather is still quite warm even though it is winter. The staff are very helpful, leaving kerosene lanterns in each camp at night, bringing hot water or a large tub of fresh water if needed. The last couple of days have been very relaxing, just reading in the hammocks on the beach and taking it easy.

Pemba Dive & Bush CampPemba Dive & Bush Camp

We also looked at Russel’s Place at Wimbe Beach, but the camping area was very small, located right next to the large bar and restaurant and I think it would get very noisy. If you want to party that is probably the place to go, but if you want to relax Pemba Dive is a much better location.

We met up yesterday with a couple that we had spoken to a few days ago and ended up eating a delicious meal of fresh tuna with them and spending the evening chatting. I doubt we will run into them again as today they are heading to the Tanzania border and then turning south again to be back in Tete by the weekend. There have been very few travellers along the way this far north and those that we have met we tend to meet up with again.

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

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

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