Mozambique


The next day we set out to return to Zim via one of the more remote border posts, near Espungabera / Mt Selinda. I was a bit unsure of this route to say the least. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t sure if the border post was actually operational, it lies about 200km off the tarred road that we had driven down. Having seen the state of the EN1, which is the main artery down the length of the country with its section of 60km of bumpy dirt, one is not filled with confidence in any of the less important roads. We decided to play it by ear and see what it looked like at the turn off. So, a couple of hours later we arrived at a dirt road that we hoped would get us to the border. We stopped there for a while for some ummming and aahhing, trying to work out how adventurous we were feeling. It wasn’t long before a truck came down the road which we waved down. We managed to poke some broken words out of him to the effect that yes it would take us to the border, so we decided to give it a go.
The road turned out to be ok for most of the way and took us through some really beautiful bush. I was very happy to be on the adventurous route rather than the boring tar road. It was dotted with more tiny villages and towns. At one point I was very excited to see marula fruits scattered on the road, so I stopped to collect a few. They have a really nice sour, tangy taste. The GPS seemed to know where it was taking us, the road the wasn’t too bad and we were going along happily. Just then we came round a bend to see a big river with what looked at first glace to be half a bridge on it. My heart fell. On second glance though I realised that it was some kind of ferry contraption, with a barge and cables with a winch. There were african kids jumping off it and swimming, women washing their clothes and people in dugout canoes rowing past, but noone seemed to be in charge of the contraption. So we edged closer and after a brief look we drove up onto it and I got out to try and work out how to activate the thing. It was all very exciting to come to such an interesting means to continue our journey. Soon a bunch of guys appeared, apparently amused by my close investigation of the winch handle. Chatting in Portuguese they climbed onto the barge and with one hand each they took hold of the handle and started winding it. The barge slowly moved across the river. One of them gave me a ticket and asked for 10mets (30c). We eventually reached the other side and were able to drive on.
Later on the terrain became more hilly and road began to get a bit more rocky and a bit more windy. With only a few km to go I started hearing a noise from the car. We got out to see that one of our tires was absolutely shredded. With the smell of cooked rubber in our noses Soph and I got to work changing the tire while Annie made us some tea. It wasn’t long before we were off again, praying that we wouldn’t get another flat. We didn’t fortunately, despite sliding off the road and into a rather deep gulley at one stage.
At about 5pm we were standing nervously at the customs desk. “Where is yoa freeeege?” the chubby officer asks. Oh No. In Morrungulo we had swapped vehicles and documents with my dad. He had brought down a bar fridge to keep our drinks cold. We hadn’t thought it worthwhile to cart 100kg of fridge all over the country to keep our drinks cold so it had gone back with my dad, but now we had a customs form boldly declaring a bar fridge. He shrugs his shoulders, “You must go back and fetch it…”. “Is there anything else we can do?”. Silence. He points to the declared value. So begins the tedious process of negotiating how big a “fine” we have to pay. “No sorry, we don’t $200 with us”. In the end we grudgingly cough up $50 and move through. In Mozambique its hard not to feel as if everyone is out to get you with the police and their ridiculous fines, officials wanting bribes and scammers on the streets all wanting a piece. So it is with relief that we step into Zimbabwe again. The officials are friendly and helpful and speak english. We even try our luck and ask if they have any cold cokes and to our amazement they have some cold fantas to sell us! Happily we drive on the last few km to Mt Selinda as the late afternoon light lights up the picturesque hilly countryside.

The next day we set out with the intention of returning to Zim via one of the more remote border posts, near Espungabera / Mt Selinda. I was a bit unsure of this route to say the least. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t sure if the border post was actually operational, it lies about 200km off the main tarred road that we had driven down on. Having seen the state of that road, which is the main artery down the length of the country, with its section of 60km of bumpy dirt, I was ┬ánot filled with confidence in the state of the less important roads. We decided to play it by ear and see what it looked like at the turn off.

So, a couple of hours later we arrived at a dirt road that we hoped would get us to the border. We stopped there for a while for some ummming and aahhing, trying to work out how adventurous we were feeling. It wasn’t long before a truck came down the road so we waved it down and managed to prod some broken words out of the driver to the effect that yes it would take us to the border, so we decided to give it a go.

The road turned out to be fine for most of the way and took us through some really beautiful bush. I was very happy to be on the adventurous route rather than the boring tar road. It was dotted with more tiny villages and towns. At one point I was very excited to see marula fruits scattered on the road, so I stopped to collect a few. They have a really nice sour, tangy taste.

With the GPS seeming to know where it was taking us and the road not too bad we were going along happily. Just then we came round a bend to see a big river with what looked at first glace to be half a bridge on it. My heart fell. On second glance though I realised that it was some kind of ferry contraption, with a barge and cables with a winch. There were african kids jumping off it and swimming, women washing their clothes and people in dugout canoes rowing past, but noone seemed to be in charge of the contraption. So we edged closer and after a brief look we drove up onto it and I got out to try and work out how to activate the thing. It was all very exciting to come to such an interesting means to continue our journey. Soon a bunch of guys appeared, apparently amused by my close investigation of the winch handle. Chatting in Portuguese they climbed onto the barge and with one hand each they took hold of the handle and started winding it. The barge slowly moved across the river. One of them gave me a ticket and asked for 10mets (30c). We eventually reached the other side and continued on our way.

Later on the terrain became more hilly and road began to get a bit more rocky and a bit more windy. With only a few km to go I started hearing a noise from the car. We got out to see that one of our tires was absolutely shredded. With the smell of cooked rubber in our noses Soph and I got to work changing the tire while Annie made us some tea. It wasn’t long before we were off again, praying that we wouldn’t get another flat. We didn’t fortunately, despite sliding off the road and into a rather deep gulley at one stage.

At about 5pm we were standing nervously at the customs desk. “Where is yoa freeeege?” the chubby officer asks. Oh No. In Morrungulo we had swapped vehicles and documents with my dad. He had brought down a bar fridge to keep our drinks cold. We hadn’t thought it worthwhile to cart 100kg of fridge all over the country to keep our drinks cold so it had gone back with my dad, but now we had a customs form boldly declaring a bar fridge. He shrugs his shoulders, slouching even further back into his chair, “You must go back and fetch it…”. “Thats impossible, is there anything else we can do?”. Silence. He points to the declared value. So begins the tedious process of negotiating how big a “fine” we have to pay. “No sorry, we don’t have $200 with us”. In the end we grudgingly cough up $50 and move through. In Mozambique its hard not to feel as if everyone is out to get you with the police and their ridiculous fines, officials wanting bribes and scammers on the streets all wanting a pieve of our hard earned cash. So, believe it or not, it is with relief that we step back into Zimbabwe. The officials are friendly and helpful and speak English. We even jokingly ask if they have any cold cokes and to our amazement they she brings out some cold Fantas to sell us! Happily we drive on the last few km to Mt Selinda as the late afternoon light lights up the picturesque hilly countryside.

Vilanculos is the biggest Mozambican town we saw, with a fair bit of infrastructure in the town centre, just about all of it Portuguese. It even has a bit of a sprawl of suburbs, but again the houses are mostly simple huts in yards fenced with grass or palm fronds. Not knowing where we wanted to stay we drove around for a bit and eventually ended up on the beach. At this point the tide was out, with sandbanks stretching for miles out into the shallow, turqoise water. There we found a quaint little backpackers called Zombie Cucumber and, not too keen to have to set up camp again, decided to stay there. It turned out to be a pleasant stay with the exception of the unfriendly manager.

Soph and I spent the afternoon exploring the bustling market which seemed to stretch forever under a low roof made from countless bits of plastic, cloth and tin, all very dodgily held together with wire and rope. The african printed fabrics being sold were really nice and we bought a few. Later we set out to try and find a restaurant as the nasty Zombie lady had forbidden us to cook on the premises. After quite a search we did eventually find a pizza place, although it took us across most of Villanculos via dodgy sand roads through the suburbs.

In the morning we could appreciate area properly. The beach stretched for miles and miles, with clean sand and clear blue water. The camp was fairly remote, the surrounding area being sparcely populated with little shacks built from woven palm fronds and set amongst the coconut palms and mango trees which were the dominant flora. Everywhere were coconuts and mangos. My sister and I invested a fair amount of time learning the difficult art of de-husking a dried coconut. Contrary to what many may believe, they don’t come in a nice hard shell ready to be cracked, but a very tough and thick husk which is devillishly difficult to remove. The mangoes were much easier, they came in a plastic bag, carried by an african dude. Also on offer was any seafood delight you could care to imagine. The fishing boats would come in every morning and guys would wonder around peddling their catch of the day. Over the few days we were there we had barracuda curry, rock cod with crayfish, and plenty of prawns and calamari. It was seafood bliss. This was complimented by the other local produce, cashew nuts, which are sold in big bags all along the road, and Portugeuese bread rolls, called pao, which are made in tiny little ovens in tiny little huts all around the area and can be bought freshly baked for a few cents a roll.

Having seen the huge fish the local spear-fishermen were bringing in, my dad and I were keen to give it a go. We drove to a lovely beach a bit further south and put on our wetsuits and swam out. It was about a km swim before we hit the reef. It was bit scary floating out there and seeing how tiny the car looked on the beach, so I mainly kept my head down. The reef was really beautiful with lots of coral, gulleys and big arches of rock through which the numerous reef fish swam. But we weren’t allowed to shoot reef fish unfortunately and we didn’t see too many game fish. We did see one, which my dad had a shot at, but with his little freshwater speargun, the spear didn’t go through. On one of our outings I swam through a big school of we later decided were barracuda, but by the time I had worked out what I was looking at the school had disappeared. In the end we failed to provide for the family, but we did have a good few hours of good snorkelling, seeing lots of colourful coral, reef fish, sharks and dad even saw a big turtle.
New Years was a fairly quiet one, with the inhabitants of the camp, mostly South Africans, gathering on the beach for a big bonfire. Later the camp did a fireworks display which was quite impressive given the remoteness of the place. Sophie and I slept on the beach, to be woken by the first light of 2010, and we started the year with beautiful early morning swim.
It was all too soon before Morrungulo was at an end and we sadly had to pack up the camp. My family had to leave to get back to work, but we decided to drive up the coast a bit and spend another night. So a couple hours after they had left, we ambled off and headed up the coast to Vilanculos.

In the morning we could appreciate the area properly. The beach stretched for miles and miles, with clean sand and clear blue water. The camp was fairly remote, the surrounding area being sparcely populated with little shacks built from woven palm fronds and set amongst the coconut palms and mango trees which were the dominant flora. Everywhere were coconuts and mangos. My sister and I invested a fair amount of time learning the difficult art of de-husking a dried coconut. Contrary to what many may believe, they don’t come in a nice hard shell ready to be cracked, but a very tough and thick husk which is devillishly difficult to remove. The mangoes were much easier, they came in a plastic bag, carried by an african dude. Also on offer was any seafood delight you could care to imagine. The fishing boats would come in every morning and guys would wonder around peddling their catch of the day. Over the few days we were there we had barracuda curry, rock cod with crayfish, and plenty of prawns and calamari. It was seafood bliss. This was complimented by the other local produce, cashew nuts, which are sold in big bags all along the road, and Portuguese bread rolls, called pao, which are made in tiny little ovens in tiny little huts all around the area and can be bought freshly baked for a few cents a roll.

Having seen the huge fish the local spear-fishermen were bringing in, my dad and I were keen to give it a go. We drove to a lovely beach a bit further south and put on our wetsuits and swam out. It was about a km swim before we hit the reef. It was bit scary floating out there and seeing how tiny the car looked on the beach, so I mainly kept my head down. The reef was really beautiful with lots of coral, gulleys and big arches of rock through which the numerous reef fish swam. But we weren’t allowed to shoot reef fish unfortunately and we didn’t see too many game fish. We did see one, which my dad had a shot at, but with his little freshwater speargun, the spear didn’t go through. On one of our outings I swam through a big school of we later decided were barracuda, but by the time I had worked out what I was looking at the school had disappeared. In the end we failed to provide for the family, but we did have a good few hours of good snorkelling, seeing lots of colourful coral, reef fish, sharks and even saw a big turtle.

New Years was a fairly quiet one, with the inhabitants of the camp, mostly South Africans, gathering on the beach for a big bonfire. Later the camp did a fireworks display which was quite impressive given the remoteness of the place. Sophie and I slept on the beach, to be woken by the first light of 2010, and we started the year with beautiful early morning swim.

It was all too soon before Morrungulo was at an end and we had to pack up the camp. My family had to leave to get back to work, but we decided to drive up the coast a bit and spend another night. So a couple hours after they had left, we ambled off and headed up the coast to Vilanculos.

In the next few days we hurriedly prepared for the next leg of the trip which for us would be about three weeks. First stop would be a camping trip with my parents and sister at Morrungulo, Mozambique. Its a long drive, almost a thousand kilometers from Harare so we set off early with Me, Soph, Annie, my sister Louise in the lead and my parents following on later. There were no problems on the Zim side, customs, immigration so far so good. Then having got our scrap of paper with all the stamps and signatures on it we approach the border gate. “Have you gone through police clearance?”, “No, where do I do that?”. She points across the road where a couple of guys are sitting under a tree. “Yes, those guys”.
I walk over and hand over our documents. He tells us that unfortunately the letter typed up and signed by my dad, authorising me to use his vehicle, requires a police stamp. I tell him nobody told me about any stamp. Ah sorry, you need a stamp. Uncomfortable silence. I offer to wait three hours for my dad who is on his way. Uncomfortable silence. He realises that we are not going to pay a bribe and gives up, “Agggh, you may proceed”.
Somehow the Mozambique side was much more busy, a hectic whorlwind of running back and forth, filling in forms, showing documents and handing out cash. I do not fail to note the sign informing that over the counter visas for any nationality were just US$25 and not the exorbitant US$110 that I had paid at the embassy. They also seemed to take as long as handing over the money and getting a stamp, not the 4 hours wait that the embassy had warned us of. Eventually we cleared the border and were in Mozambique.
The difference between the two countries is immediately obvious. Although the people look much the same, most don’t speak a word of English, speaking only their local language or Portuguese. It is also very obviously less developed than Zimbabwe, even with Zim in its current state. Just about the only modern buildings, and by that I mean buildings more complex than single room huts, are those built by the Portuguese before they were expelled from the country, and are almost always completely derelict. The difference in architecture, old decaying feel of the buildings and the foreign language all combined to make my photographic eye very itchy, however we didn’t have time to stop and take photos as we had another ten hours or so ahead of us.
We had a quick stop at the supermarket to get some goodies, and also changed some money with one of the notoriously shifty money-changers. Despite our vilgilance he managed to bamboozle us and would have gotten away with our bucks had it not been for Sophie’s recount, some shouting and some very quick reversing. Soon we are on the road again, going along at the omg-even-worse-than-Australia speed limit of 100km/h. Unfortunately unlike Zimbabwe with its $20 speeding fine, it seems the Mozambique government’s biggest income is from speeding fines and they are not to be trifed with. Each little town with its picturesque, dilapidated shacks and casas requires a slow down to 60, made even worse by the fact that we didn’t have time to slow down to a complete stop and take photos. There was a lot of drive-by photography on this trip.
Soon the GPS was telling us there was 60km to go. Almost there! It was at this point that the road, which had so far been decent, began to deteriorate. It was not long before the potholes were such that it became easier to drive along the dirt on the sides of the road than the tar itself. This lead to interesting situations where the locals would be walking along the tar, while the traffic drove by them on either side. Eventually at about 9pm we arrived at the campsite, a nice grassy area, shaded by coconut palms and scattered with coconuts. In the middle rose a two story, palm thatched hut or baracca, complete with a powerpoint which provided a few hours of power per day. My parents arrived safely a couple of hours later.

In the next few days we hurriedly prepared for the next leg of the trip which would be about three weeks. First stop would be a camping trip with my parents and sister at Morrungulo, Mozambique. Its a long drive, almost a thousand kilometers from Harare so we set off early with Me, Sophie, Annie, my sister Louise in the lead and my parents following on later. There were no problems on the Zim side with immigration or customs. Then having got our scrap of paper with all the stamps and signatures on it we approached the border gate. “Have you gone through police clearance?”, “No, where do I do that?”. She points across the road where a couple of guys are sitting under a tree. “Yes, those guys”.

I walk over and hand over our documents. He tells us that unfortunately the letter typed up and signed by my dad, authorising me to use his vehicle, requires a police stamp. I tell him nobody told me about any stamp. Ah sorry, you need a stamp. Uncomfortable silence. I offer to wait three hours for my dad who is on his way. Uncomfortable silence. He realises that we are not going to pay a bribe and gives up, “Agggh, you may proceed”.

Somehow the Mozambique side was much more busy, a hectic whorlwind of running back and forth, filling in forms, showing documents and handing out cash. I did not fail to note, with extreme irritation, the sign informing that over the counter visas for any nationality were just US$25 and not the exorbitant US$110 that I had paid at the embassy. They also seemed to take as long as handing over the money and getting a stamp, not the 4 hours wait that the embassy had warned us of. Eventually we cleared the border and were in Mozambique.

The difference between the two countries is immediately obvious. Although the people look much the same, most don’t speak a word of English, speaking only their local language or Portuguese. It is also very obviously less developed than Zimbabwe, even with Zim in its current state. Just about the only modern buildings, and by that I mean buildings more complex than single room huts, are those built by the Portuguese before they were expelled from the country, and are almost always completely derelict. The difference in architecture, old decaying feel of the buildings and the foreign language all combined to make my photographic eye very itchy, however we didn’t have time to stop and take photos as we had another ten hours drive ahead of us.

We had a quick stop at the supermarket to get some goodies, and also changed some money with one of the notoriously shifty money-changers. Despite our vilgilance he managed to bamboozle us and would have gotten away with our bucks had it not been for Sophie’s recount, some shouting and some very quick reversing. Soon after we were on the road again, going along at the omg-even-worse-than-Australia speed limit of 100km/h. Unfortunately unlike Zimbabwe with its $20 speeding fine, it seems the Mozambique government’s biggest income is from speeding fines and they are not to be trifed with. In addition, each little town with its picturesque, dilapidated shacks and casas requires a slow down to 60, made even worse by the fact that we didn’t have time to slow down to a complete stop and take photos. There was a lot of drive-by photography on this trip.

Soon the GPS was telling us there was 60km to go. Almost there! It was at this point that the road, which had so far been decent, began to deteriorate. It was not long before the potholes were such that it became easier to drive along the dirt on the sides of the road than the tar itself. This lead to interesting situations where the locals would be walking along the tar, while the traffic drove by them on either side. Eventually at about 9pm we arrived at the campsite, a nice grassy area, shaded by coconut palms and scattered with coconuts. In the middle rose a two story, palm thatched hut or baracca, complete with a powerpoint which provided a few hours of power per day. My parents arrived safely a couple of hours later.