Heine's Ramblings and Rumblings

2004/12 Mozambique and Malawi

Hello faithful reader

Below is the first result of Michele’s new position : Trip Scribe and Reporter . Hope you enjoy it .

Cheers Heine

Mozambique / Malawi Trip December 2004

DAY 1: Saturday 11 December
By 05h20 the fumes from 2 diesel landies and the engine roar from our 110 had stirred up a couple of dogs in the neighbourhood. In the one 90 was Guy and Catherine and the other Sello and Mikah (Catherine’s friend from Germany). Our first stop was breakfast at Kranskop One Stop, just outside Potgietersrus. The next stop was Louis Trichardt, where in peak Saturday shopping traffic, we needed to find an auto/car shop because Sello forgot to get red triangles and these are a requirement for traveling in Mozambique. Catherine and Mikah ventured off to the local KFC whilst the guys looked for triangles and returned all weary eyed. The KFC experience for Mikah was rather different in this very busy “plaas” town, as she flew in from Germany just the previous day to join us on our overland Landy experience. Our next destination is the Kruger National Park, where we meet up with Neville and Gerlinde, also in a 90, only it’s red. Neville is Guy’s dad who has come up from Cape Town, also to join us on the trip. We made the Pafuri border control with only half an hour to spare at 15h30, hoping it gave us enough time to get through on the Mozambique side as well. All went very smoothly on both side. Six cerveja’s (beers) to the border control guys, purchased all the Meticais they had, which was not nearly enough, and we were officially in Mozambique. Dirt roads ahead we headed for the Limpopo River, hoping to make a crossing. All excited to see the river,

we jumped out to go and do the gumboot test. On closer inspection we noticed how the river was pushing up at a remarkable rate of approximately 10cm every 5 minutes. We ummed and aawed and then noticed a couple of locals heading our way from across the river. They got up to chest height in water and the decision was made not to go across. We then decide to head for Mapae before nightfall as we were worried that the river would be un crossable by the next morning. As it turned out the road to Mapae was not the average 80km’s/hour kind of road and the sun was already very low so we quickly found a bush camp spot for our first night. After 9 hours and 640km’s, aching knees and stiff joints were soon forgotten once the beers started flowing. A braai and left-over padkos was on the menu followed by the early sounds of zipping tents.

DAY 2: Sunday 12 December
Back on the dirt road by 08h15 we headed north for Chimoio. After a couple hours of driving, a family gathering  was called upon, where it was decided that we would rather head east, as none of us had enough local currency or enough gasolina/gasoleo (petrol/diesel) to turn back should we not able to cross the Save River. This turned out to be the right decision as we found out later that the crossing at Mapae had now become impossible, thus the Save River would probably have been the same . We had only traveled 260km’s for the day and tried to “put foot” as Sello would say, to make up some time, but the terrain was not permitting and the sun was setting quickly. We found a bush camp spot ,

coffee table included (a sawn off tree stump) and geared up the shower as tonight was shower night. Feeling refreshed and smelling good again we enjoyed a braai with our fellow travelers. Irritated by the local clan of flying what-nots and beezle bubs, we fled to the safety of our tents. Perhaps it was the “smelling good” that attracted them. Later, whilst brushing his teeth, Heine nearly performed solo open skull surgery against one of the newly attached sand ladders. Fortunately his skull resisted and other than a few choice words so ended day two.

DAY 3: Monday 13 December
Destination: Vilankulo. We stopped just outside of town to fuel up, which turned out to be a great decision as there was no fuel available in Vilankulo. Heading for the nearest bank, Banco Austral, as we still needed to get Meticais, we were informed by the bank’s security guard that we had just missed the closing time which was 15h30. Tomorrow’s another day. Around the corner from the bank we took a left along a steep dirt road and gasped at the magnificent deep blue horizon in front of us. Palm trees galore to our left and the flat blue ocean to our right we found a semi-decent unpopulated campsite  with an ocean view at R75 pp/night. Guy and Sello headed for the nearest fresh seafood merchant and returned with a shopping bag full of prawns and langoustine and a vary large fish called a red snapper. I opted to clean the prawns which turned out to be an hours task. Mikah’s fascination with seeing and touching and later helping to clean the prawns was in turn fascinating for me. She was only familiar with shrimps which was seen as a delicatessen in Germany. We served rice, which was hardly touched, alongside the fish and prawns. Heine had pork sausages (shame) due to his involuntary internal resistance to shell fish – more for me! We literally ate ourselves stupid, with loads of “how to eat a prawn” suggestions passed onto Mikah. Later the JD (Jack Daniels) came out and so did Sello’s version of “How to run a country” which sent me to go and bond with dirty dishes and peacefully ending the evening with a novel.

DAY 4: Tuesday 14 December
A slow and easy start to the day with only a visit to the bank on the agenda. Hot and humid, I declined the walk to the bank and spent some quality time with “me” doing washing and cleaning some of the fine red dust off the landy’s dashboard and interior. Heine and team later returned sweating and bothered yet multi-millionaires after exchanging R6000 into almost 20 million Meticais. We bought two ethnic looking oil paintings for R600 from a local artist whilst having lunch at the campsite’s restaurant. Negotiating on prices for goods with the locals became a persistant-never-give-up task, as one local adjusted his price of a hand-made wire bicycle three times during the day, ending at R100, and still then, Heine didn’t buy it. Afternoon rain interfered with wash day but it was most welcome as temperatures were in the mid 30’s and humidity levels very high. Sello, Mikah, Guy and Catherine went out to the local waterhole to go and have some Manika (a local beer). Returning joyously with not much zest to make dinner, they disappeared off to bed very early. Dinner for us turned out to be curry and rice as the weather became wet and miserable. We packed most of the things back into the landy to ease the amount of packing in the morning. Heine mixed some Pratley steel for me to put around the kettle’s handle. Due to being thrown around in the back of the landy, on some pot-holed road, it had started leaking at the base of the handle.

DAY 5: Wednesday 15 December
08h45 all packed up and we headed for the Aeroporto in Vilankulo to get temporary import papers for the vehicles, which cost is 125 000 Meticais (about R40). We were unable to get third party insurance from the airport, but were told that DHL could help us. Off to DHL, but they no longer handled third party insurance. By 09.30 we headed for Chimoio, tar roads ahead. Tar roads ahead had a whole new meaning when we saw the size of the potholes we had to travel through. Roller coaster ala 4 x 4 a whole new experience. Mozambique being the country it is, fully held up its poverty stricken reputation when we passed a bus  that was probably piled higher than the dilapidated thing was wide. From beds, bicycles to twenty litre water containers ,it was all up there. The thing that freaked us the most was the angle of the pile. The bus with all its passengers was leaning at an estimated guess of about 30 degrees. One large pothole would send it tipping. We had a lot of rain during the day with some patches of extreme cloud bursts, causing water to stream in through the top of the doors and puddling at our feet. Great fun – tar roads with an off-road experience and some torrential rains. After a family gathering at the Shell Gasolina, where we fueled up, it was decided to go and find out what the campsite at The Chicamba Dam  would be like. With a restaurant and bar overlooking the dam (more like a lake) there was no debate. Gerlinde treated us all to dinner at the restaurant, where the brave ordered “Fish from the Dam” (as per the menu), which was bass, and the not so brave, ordered “Fish from the Sea” or steak. Dinner was great except for the lack of ice-cream on the dessert menu. I was experiencing ice-cream deficiency, it’s been more than a week. Withdrawal symptoms came into play as well.

DAY 6: Thursday 16 December
08h00 with tar roads ahead we were heading for Tete. Part of the roads were pretty much the same as the day before, some perfectly smooth whilst others potholed like a disease. We were passing through some unnamed village where Sello was caught speeding at 61km/h in 60km/h zone and was fined one million Meticais (about R330). Mozambique has an abundance of fruit. Bananas, mangos, pineapples and coconuts are very cheap and available alongside most roads. We decided to continue past Tete  as we still had three hours of daylight left and headed for the border control at Zobue. Passing through on the Mozambique side was quick and easy but once on the Malawi side we got slightly held up. Gerlinde, having an EU Austrian passport , didn’t know that she needed to apply for a Malawian visa before hand. We spent nearly two hours at the border control waiting for them to issue Gerlinde with a 24 hour visa. We left the border at 19h30 and were desperately looking through all the guide books for a place to stay. Traveling in the dark is never a good idea, especially in a foreign country, but we had little choice. We traveled in close convoy and found a place to stay in at Blantyre called Doogles. Doogles turned out to be extremely popular and over populated. It was the backpackers’ haven and the locals’ watering hole. The car park was not to be frowned upon, as security seemed to be an issue in Malawi. We managed to squeeze three landies alongside a huge camper and Sello’s landy just ahead of our queue and basically we spent the night in Doogles’ car park

DAY 7: Friday 17 December
We enjoyed breakfast at Doogles while Neville and Gerlinde went into Blantyre CBD to go and collect her visa. By mid-morning we headed out to Zomba which was the capital of Malawi until the mid 1970’s. Zomba somehow encapsulates what Malawi is all about, with the largest market in the country and with the streams, waterfalls and indigenous forests on the plateau,  it’s a must see. We stopped in at the Le Meridien Hotel  for lunch. From seafood cocktails served in pineapple halves to huge wedges of cheese cake, the food was superb. Our next destination was a campsite in Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi called Fat Monkeys. We had quite a distance to travel and the bad roads, pedestrians and cyclists in the dark made the journey to the campsite seem endless. We arrived at 20h30 and managed to squeeze the four landies into an already very full campsite. Instructed to park on yonder side of a huge mango tree we had upset another visitor, because we were apparently ruining his view and cluttering the spot that he had been a regular to for many years. Nasty neighbor and all, we absolutely loved our camp spots. It had been a very long day for all of us and the next morning being a sleep-in morning we decided to drink! Jokes and silliness flowed just as fast as the drinks did and bedtime became staggering, in more ways than one.

DAY 8: Saturday 18 December
What a view! Waking up on the shore of Lake Malawi  must be one of the most awesome experiences. Rippling little waves on a white sandy beach, this was paradise! With humidity and temperature levels being so high, no invitations were needed to try out the lake. It was a general spring clean and washday for all of us, with plenty swims to cool off the day’s chores. A local artist called Herbet Thengo was commissioned by Sello to paint a mural on his other landy door. (The previous year in Malawi, Sello had the driver’s door painted). After a family gathering it was decided that Herbet would paint something similar on all the landies. And baobabs it was. He painted way into the night and would return to complete his assignment in the morning. The sunset over the lake was picturesque, cameras were clicking away to capture the scene. What else but a braai and good company, drinks not omitted, could complete an absolutely perfect day?

DAY 9: Sunday 19 December
Another sleep-in morning but the sun baking down on a roof-top tent did not allow for too much of a sleep-in. Cooling off in the lake took priority and a slow breakfast prior to some more swimming. By 11h00 it was up to 35 degrees and more swimming was required. It was a relaxing day, just appreciating the view. Herbet arrived to complete his contract and everyone was most pleased with their baobab murals. Each one uniquely painted by an artist with very limited materials available, I decided to get a postal address from Herbet and once back at home, I would send him enough materials and paint brushes to last him quite some time. We enjoyed a braai for dinner (again), packed everything back into the landy and went for a last swim in the great lake. We retired fairly early as we had a long stretch ahead of us.

DAY 10: Monday 20 December
Destination: Pemba. It rained a lot during the evening so we were very unsure of what some of the roads would be like. We left Cape Maclear at 08h00 to face some very wet terrain. Going through the border at Chiponde was quick and easy and we were back in Mozambique. Driving through the remote villages was always so fascinating. We stopped in a village, Guy got out a soccer ball  and showed a little boy how to inflate the ball using a foot pump. Children ran from their huts to come and join in the excitement. We also gave away pens, crayons and writing books. Giving sweets and lollipops to the children and seeing their eyes light up and huge smiles all around was awesome. On our long journey heading east towards the Indian Ocean we had a bit of a scary moment. The landy veered slightly left off a very concaved part of the road and as Heine corrected the car to bring it back onto the drivable part of the track we slipped right over onto the opposite side of the road and stopped short from ploughing into some mielie fields. Nothing serious at all, we were just a little shaken up. The roads were very different from all the rain. We found a bush camp spot for the evening and retired early with the soothing sound of dripping rain on the tent. More rain!

DAY 11: Tuesday 21 December
Destination: Still Pemba. At 07h15 we faced yet again wet and muddy terrain. By now we felt like contestants in Survivor Mozambique. With mud-stained feet and infested with mosquito bites, our spirits were high and we were still having fun. At about 10h00 we had reached the town of Marrupo where Sello went and researched the selling price of a new bicycle, which was about R400. Considering the remoteness of the villages and that people lived off their land, we were curious to know the price an affordability of a bicycle. The curiosity started when we bought a huge pile of firewood from a local (on a bicycle) for only R3 and wondered how long it took for him to have enough money to buy the bicycle. On doing the algebra it meant a lot of wood chopping. Further along some serious diff-locking, low range obstacles  we found ourselves swamped and sucked into a very marshy area. With the help of the sand ladders and Sello’s winch wrapped around a distant tree and the other two not-so-stuck landies, it took nearly two hours to get out of the marsh. It was definitely the highlight of the day and rated highly for the guys as far as adventures went. Us ladies however, lacking in testosterone, were seeking some non-mud terrain. We found a bush camp spot, hopefully the last one until we reached Pemba. Oh come Pemba!

DAY 12: Wednesday 22 December
Banner: WELCOME TO MUDZAMBIQUE.
Destination: Still Pemba. By 07h15 we were ready steady and decamped and back onto the diff-locking terrain we had become accustomed to. Five minutes later, happily following Sello in our landy mobiles, Heine completely misjudged the road and fell beautifully with the right rear tyre into a huge wet muddy hole. Once again Sello was the man. The gumboot, winch assisting recovering man. Not long after the morning’s first recovery, our journey led us to a second recovery. This time it was a 10 ton truck stuck in a similar marsh we were in the day before. The recover vehicle was a Toyota, belonging to a couple that had been touring through Africa for the last 10 months. We drove well past the scene to avoid more marsh and lined the four landies up to help with the recovery. Like a huge piggy-back; 2 x landies + 1 x Toyota we succeeded and pulled the truck out. Passing through villages and their crop fields and waving at the children became monotonous after having done this for two and a half days solid. We could barely wait to to see the sea in Pemba. Once we reached Montepuez we were delighted to see tarred roads. The excitement was short lived due to strict speed enforcement We weren’t going to donate another million Meticais to the cops, as Sello already did on day six. Slowly but surely we paced ourselves to Russell’s campsite in Pemba. It was so nice to see some three star civilization and found the campsite fairly efficient. The “latrinos” with their ash buckets instead of the normal flushy loo types and “showerless” showers using buckets was going to make our stay at Russell’s a very brief one. Dinner was a goat stew buffet, enjoyed only by a few.

DAY 13: Thursday 23 December
Guy and Heine ventured off to the Land Rover agent  in Pemba. Guy need some help with his landy’s brakes and Heine needed a clanking noise resolved. Fortunately for Guy, Land Rover soldered the left rear wheel brake line and he was all sorted. Unfortunately for Heine, he spent the entire day there. During a two hour siesta and mechanics running across the road to a Mitsubishi dealer to use their press, the bushes on a shock absorber and a radius arm were replaced. The damage to the wallet was R1200. Meanwhile back at Russell’s, washing became a difficult chore with no running water available. The only source of water came from a well. So unless you were strong enough to pull a 15 litre water bucket up from a 10 metre drop and able to carry the thing, then only, was washing possible. The washing process was then interrupted by a massive cloud burst, which really helped on cooling down a sweltering day but did little yet again for the washing chore. Heine got us a log cabin  to rent while we had the landy in for noise repair, which turned out very useful to store everyone’s camping items while waiting for the rain to pass. Gerlinde bought four enormous crayfish from a local passerby and we enjoyed those for dinner. The log cabin turned out to be a sauna in it’s fullest glory: How to loose 5kg in your sleep. The heat and humidity were unbearable.

DAY 14: Friday 24 December
The early morning heat and humidity at Russell’s sent us to our landy mobiles, for a little air-con and some site seeing. We headed south in an attempt to find a place called Mecufi, suggested to us by someone at Russell’s. We had somehow taken the wrong track which eventually ended up on the beach We turned back to try and find another track and stumbled upon a bar/restaurant  right on the beach. We stopped and had lunch, which was a choice of chicken or fish, which was also served in it’s entirety.You had a whole chicken or a whole fish served to you on a platter. A unanimous decision was made to vacate from Russell’s and to move to the new beach spot. Washing lines and camping items were collapsed and thrown into the car and we bid Russell’s farewell. The new spot had an awesome view, plus a breeze and a bar, it was a pity we hadn’t found it sooner. For dinner the chef prepared fresh tuna for us. Guy had arranged this after we saw the tuna being carried in from a local’s fishing boat. The tuna was enjoyed all round. Before we left on our trip it was decided that everyone should buy a unisex gift to the value of R50. Our names were popped into a hat and we all received a gift to celebrate Christmas. With the moon shimmering over the ocean and an enormous log fire lighting up the beach, it was a spectacular Christmas eve setting

DAY 15: Saturday 25 December
Everyone spent a lazy relaxing day on the beach, reading, picking up shells and the occasional swim. The temperature of the sea water was close to having a bath. You relied on the breeze to cool you off rather than the water. Some time during the afternoon a huge commotion occurred, where the security guard landed up chasing a bunch of kids away from our camping area. No one was quite sure what it was all about and with poor language skills, I later noticed that I was minus a pair of tackies, so was Neville and Mikah. The little merda’s! Earlier I felt sorry for them, when I saw them rummaging through a garbage bin for food. I wanted to go and ask the chef to cook them something. Bet our shoes never filled any bellies but they probably needed them more than we did. It was Christmas day after all. We packed up every last item before going to bed just in case they returned.

DAY 16: Sunday 26 December
By 07h00 we headed out of Pemba and back on the tarred EN102 road. By lunch time we crossed over the bridge to Ilha da Mozambique  It was hard to believe that this was once the capital of Mozambique. The central part of the island with its old ruined and abandoned buildings had an eerie kind of feel about them, but yet when photographed they came “alive” and looked beautiful. I was amazed by so many different types of doors and started clicking away at my new photographic collection. I think I nearly replenished the idea! We enjoyed lunch at the Escondidinho Hotel and left the island at about 16h00. Back on the main land, we back tracked a little to a campsite overlooking the sea called Varanda.  It was more like an organized bush camp because there were no facilities, yet well water was available at R6 for 20 litres.

DAY 17: Monday 27 December
We left the Varanda campsite at 08h00 and spent the entire day traveling south. We were getting tired of Mozambique and home was calling. Along the way we passed two accidents, both cases involved petrol tankers that had slid off the road. At the first accident  scene we stopped, got details from the Malawian driver, left him with food and water and promised to call for help as soon as we had cell phone reception. At the second accident scene a crane was busy recovering the tanker. Our destination was Scottie’s Farm. Upon arrival we saw three healthy muddy pigs, lovely well maintained gardens, an old abandoned farm house and no Uncle Scottie. The wasn’t anywhere to set up camp so we went back to a rest camp called Mapari that we passed just before Scotties. The resident guard couldn’t speak any english , and although the ablutions had long ceased to exist – with only the walls remaining , he continued to live there and maintain the site. As we had no idea of what to pay , we left him with some food and beer .We had a quick dinner, consisting of leftovers and retired early as it had started raining quite a lot again.

DAY 18: Tuesday 28 December
We departed from Mapari at 08h00, heading south we passed through the towns of Mocuba and Nicuadala. By noon we reached Caia where we crossed the great Zambezi. The four landies and a couple of other large trucks were driven onto a ferry, which took us across the river. The whole ferry experience was quite exciting for Heine and myself, being our virgin ferry voyage. I was like a kid and mounted myself upon the landy’s roof, comfortably between the jerries and loved the ride. Guy and Catherine had seen the ferry sink on a previous trip when wanting to cross and our poor first-timer safari girl from Germany stayed inside the car and practiced some heavy breathing exercises into what looked like a peak cap. Once on solid ground we headed for Gorongosa National Park and managed to travel just over 600 km’s for the day. The camping fees at the park was R120 per person, which compared to Fat Monkeys at R6 per person (U$1) was rather pricey. The facilities were barely OK. It was already dark and both the German lasses weren’t feeling well so we decided to stay the night. A braai it was and millions of tiny black stink bugs sent us to bed early.

DAY 19: Wednesday 29 December
We left Gorongosa National Park at 10h00, spent the whole day traveling and reached the campsite where we had previously stayed in Vilankulo at 17h00. We covered 530 km’s for the day. We took a 20 minute stroll along the beach to a restaurant called Smugglers. The food was muito bom! (very good). Ideas were thrown around as to where we were going to spend new year’s eve. To book into the Polana Hotel in Maputo was an option or to stay in Xai Xai. The moon had risen by the time we walked back to the campsite, shimmering over the black ocean. The evening was perfect – thanks to the ice cream we had for dessert.

DAY 20: Thursday 30 December
We left Vilankulo at 09h00. We needed to find fuel and nowhere in Vilankulo was there any available. It was probably all those Nissan and Iznoozu vaalies from the campsite that exhausted the petrol stations. Eventually after getting to Massinga on the sniff of an oil rag we filled up 160 litres of BP’s finest. The road along the EN1 was pothole infested, averaging 65 km’s per hour, with the speed limit being 100, this roller coaster ride wasn’t fun anymore! The further south we traveled the heavier the traffic became. Dodging potholes, cyclist, pedestrians and unroadworthy vehicles demanded a lot of skillful driving and attention. At 15h10 a loud noise coming from the back wheels made us suddenly pull over. Heine removed the left rear wheel and pulled the side shaft out, hoping that was the problem, but it wasn’t. He put the side shaft back and tried driving again. The noise and the car shuddering became unbearable so we stopped again. This time the prop shaft was removed and by 16h30 we attempted driving again. At 17h00, with luck really not being on our side, we resorted to being towed by Neville’s red 90. The Little Red Landy Ambulance. It took an hour and a half to travel the remaining 56km’s to Xai-Xai. Luckily the campsite we found in Xai Xai had loads of open areas, so there was enough space to manoeuvre the towing process. Like a two year old at tantrum stage, kicking and performing, Heine managed to get the landy into a level spot under its own power and we settled in for the evening. There’s nothing like a couple of drinks to soften the stress levels of the day. Some of us shared our high and low moments of the trip while some wanted to abandon their landy for being unfaithful. The bad-landy moment passed after a few more tiny heine’s (Heinekens) and we settled for dinner at the restaurant. We decided on a very early start the next morning and retired early.

DAY 21: Friday 31 December
We headed out of Xai Xai at 05h45 staring into the back of Neville’s red 90. This was our last leg home and we were being towed! There were some stressful towing moments; two breaks in the tow rope, stopping in main intersections to tie knots in hectic traffic but we managed to safely get through Maputo. We reached the Komatipoort boarder gate at 11h30 with the temperature at a scorching 43 degrees. We said goodbye to our helpful 90 compatriots at the Engen One Stop in Komatipoort and awaited the arrival of our next savior. By 13h10 we were now staring into the back of Eric’s white 110.  With the most gorgeous tar roads we had ever seen and the rumble of a V8 motor in front of us, we were almost content. Of course the landy gods had to have one last bit of fun with us , and Eric’s car started having fuel starvation problems . After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at finding the problem , we stuck a pipe down the filler cap and connected this to the fuel line . Not perfect , because on some of the steeper hills the pipe wasn’t supplying enough fuel ,but it was good enough . After a long hectic 14 hours we got home at 20h15.

Our appreciation and thanks to Neville and Gerlinde for towing us to SA and to Eric for towing us home. We couldn’t have done it without you!

The trip had one final sting in it;s tail , in that we both came down with malaria a few days after getting home . Heine’s actually progressed into early stage Blackwater Fever 

The Family
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One thought on “2004/12 Mozambique and Malawi

  1. Love it… Want to do this trip so badly…

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