Jen: So we’ve made it to Maputo the capital of Mozambique and have completed over 200 days on the road. Ben is getting even better at playing me up but we’re doing well. As another overlander Marcello put it – “We have nothing left to say to each other but we are still talking!”
Following from our last blog entry, we left a rather dreary Nkata Bay and had a very short drive down to Chitenche and a lovely lodge called Mkuzi, recommended by nearly every overlander we met coming the other way. We arrived in the rain and were really chuffed to see another Overland wagon and roof tent with British plates – it could only be Brits braving the weather with sheets of rain coming down. We soon got talking to Keith and Laura who were travelling north, huddled under the only bit of shelter – the back of the tent. Fortunately the weather brightened up and we got to appreciate just how beautiful our little camping spot was. The following day we had mixed weather but managed to squeeze in a small kayaking trip out to a nearby island and also try out a bit of snorkelling.
Just below Makuzi is Kande Beach where there is a nearby horse stables. We were greeted by a very friendly brummie guy Johnny who owned the business and also convinced us to treat ourselves and stay in his beautiful guest room for the night. Our afternoon was spent on a lovely horse ride walking through the local village and attempting to trot. Trotting proved a little challenging for me as my horse Clover was a girl after my own heart and liked her food. Just as I was trying to lean forward and steer her she’d come to a very abrupt stop, her head would go down in order to eat as much grass and leaves as possible which meant I’d lurch forwards and just about hold on. Ben did a little better and managed some cantering. The afternoon ended in taking the horses into the lake for a swim just as the sun was beginning to go down – amazing! thanks to Ant and S for this top recommendation.
Stopping by Cape McClear we ran into Karen and Marcello an English & South Afrcian couple who were also heading South but unfortunately not exactly in our direction. We happened to catch up with them on Karen’s birthday so we had a lovely glass of bubbly to celebrate, on the shores of Lake Malawi as the sun was going down and a good brai (bbq) with a few too many glasses of wine. Before leaving Malawi we spent a day up on the Zomba Plateau, a beautiful forested area with waterfalls and view points looking down on the plains below.
It was then time to head into Mozambique. The roads from Malawi to the main coast roads in Mozambique vary in quality but are generally dirt roads and can become quite bad in the rainy season. We’re currently in the rainy season and there have been recent flood warnings for the South of Mozambique. We therefore did a lot of asking around and checking but were told the road we wanted to take towards Ilha de Mozambique should be ok. After crossing the border we had most of the day on a very dull, straight dirt road which was slow in places but generally ok. The afternoon more than made up for this as the scenery changed with green countryside and the most enormous granite mountains springing up out of nowhere, as Ben said it looked like they’d just been dropped out of space. It made me realise how fantastic a journey like this is, we would never have just chanced upon this amazing landscape on a normal holiday.
Mozambique has a Portuguese history and we’d been expecting it to feel quite different to other African countries. After a stop in our first Mozambique city – Nampula we felt very much like we could be in Cuba or the Mediterranean. The buildings and architecture were different with a lot of tree lined avenues. There were even some Socialist/ Cuban type of murals on the walls. Some of the music also has a much more Hispanic feel.
We had a day or so exploring Ilha de Mozambique which was a little different to what we were expecting. There were some very dilapidated colonial buildings on the north side of the tiny island which had a feeling a tiny bit like Zanzibar. The highlight was the Palace Museum, the former home of the Portuguese Governor which has been totally restored, full of old paintings and antique furniture. We also ran into an Italian guy who’d lived on the island for 13 years who is keen to do his own overland trip in the near future. He invited us back to his for lunch and we had the most delicious food whilst we talked about potential routes and places to see. We also got see his beautiful home and hear a little about his work on the island as an architect.
We then had a little detour North to not the most obvious of places – Nacala is quite an industrial town and port. However just north of Nacala is a bay with a protected area good for snorkelling so we headed to Libelula and camped up in a spot overlooking the sea. Libelula was officially closed for renovations but we were ok to camp. We really enjoyed a day sat on the beach but under the shade of the trees reading and drawing. We spent the afternoon snorkelling off the beach before taking our mini bbq down to the beach to have dinner and wine as the sun was setting.
We took another little detour visiting a more mountainous area with tea plantations – Gurue which was stunning. The we had a couple of big drive days South. Mozambique has come as a bit of a shock to the system, we’re suddenly in a really large country with big distances between the major towns and not many accommodation options. The long driving days were made totally worthwhile when we arrived in Vilanculos. We stayed with Marcel, Marga, Fleur and Tom (the family we’d met in Ethiopia who were moving to Mozambique). They have bought a lovely property right next to the white sands and turquoise waters that stretch out to the Bazaruto Archipelago. They have some amazing plans to open a small guest house and bakery. We had a great couple of days enjoying the local surroundings, talking about travelling and their plans. Fleur who is 9 made us cookies or cakes each day and Ben finally got his lego fix, extending Toms lego kingdom with a boat jetty.
We left Vilanculos and headed towards Inhambane and the nearby peninsula which is renowned for it’s beautiful beaches and diving. We headed up towards the Barra peninsula and made our way towards the Lighthouse campsite. It all seemed a little strange as there was suddenly lodge after lodge, we were definitely in South African holiday territory. On travelling to our camp-spot we found the recent rains had caused some of the sandy tracks to flood. Rather than being beaten by a bit of water I decided to get the flip flops out and check out the depth and muddiness of the puddle before taking the disco through. Ben and a local guy were thoroughly amused as I tentatively made my way round the puddle, at one point the water going from my ankles to above my knees in one step. After my research mission Ben decided it was fine and ploughed on through. Everything was totally worth the effort when we arrived up at the Lighthouse campsite. An absolutely stunning spot looking down at a few kilometres of beach below and with quite a lot of surf breaking on the shore. We met the owner Dennis who soon won us around to having a fantastic meal of fish, calamari with some coconut and peanut sauce – an absolutely delicious feast.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to go snorkelling (for various reasons) we have made our way down to Maputo and we will try again as we drive south down the coast to Durban in South Africa. In the meantime we’re hoping to find some good music venues around the city to experience a little of the Portuguese influenced night life.
Ben – It has been great in Mozambique because it has felt quite different to the other parts of Africa we have come through. We were both keen to come to here right from the initial plans for our trip, not because of any special sites, but because everything we read about it sounded quite vibrant and reminded us of Cuba (which we loved).
The food has been great, not only the obvious fish, calamari & octopus either (Mozambique has something like 2500km of coastline). When we got to the first big town, Nampula, we bought some great fresh bread (not easy to find further north), and some delicious creamy & tasty local cheese. When we met the Gabriel (Italian architect on Ilha de Mozambique), he introduced us to the local Mango and Lemon Pickle (quite like the lime pickle you get with your popadoms in India), and I have become addicted to it. It is all very home made and gets sold on little stalls outside peoples huts along the main road, the first jar we bought erupted like a volcano when I opened it, fizzing over the jar sides for a couple of minutes. It hasn’t killed us though, and a cheese sandwich for lunch has become luxury. Not sure what I will do when it runs out
Peoples attitudes to us travelling though are quite different here too. You tend to get ignored rather than hassled, which is quite nice !!
Maputo seems a great city, relaxed but plenty going on. Tonight we hope to find some live music in a bar we visited yesterday, we may well be up after midnight!! That will be a shock to the system cos the sun seems to rise so early here our day tends to start at 5.30, and end embarrassingly early!
Anyway, until next time I will stop waffling on, Ben