March - April 2009
16.04.2009 26 °C
Just after Mutare (Zimbabwe) and just before the Mozambique border we stop for lunch in a lay-by on the side of the road. Our much rehearsed routine of setting up, scrubbing hands and chopping salad is interrupted several times in quick succession by locals informing us that bandits operate in this area, appearing from the hills below the road to rob people at gunpoint. Lunch is consurmed in record time and we’re packed away and back on the truck in minutes, fortunately without incident.
Crossing the border is a slow process while we wait for visas to be stuck into our passports and signed by umpteen officials. It gives us a chance to change dollar bills into Mozambique Meticais. It is recommended that we carry around copies of our passports, visa details and small amounts of local currency in case we are stopped by the underpaid authorities in search of bribes.
Mozambique reflects a blend of African, Indian and Portuguese influences. It’s food is more spicier, it’s buildings more European and it’s landscape more tropical. Still recovering from a string of natural disasters and two decades of war, we are careful not to stray too far from the main road for fear of unexploded landmines!
The main mobile phone provider MCEL has bright yellow outlets everywhere including on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, presumably in areas where the reception is non-existent. Our first stop is a small town called Manica just over the border where we camp among the ants on the shores of a large lake. It is quite late by the time we arrive and a storm soon rolls in stranding us in the waterside bar!
On the Bazaruto Archipelago and in a tropical paradise with clear shallow tropical water. We take a traditional wooden sailing dhow to Magaruque, one of 5 islands off 10km or so off shore. It takes approximately 2 hours to sail there and the flat calm water beneath the bow never seems deeper than 30 metres, the bottom clearly visible throughout. We were all served a civilised cup or tea realising the kettle was boiled over a wood fire in the bottom of the wooden boat, just below the fabric sails!
While we spent 2 secluded hours walking and swimming our way round the beautiful deserted tropical island, the same basic fire on the dhow was busily producing the most fantastic lunch of the 3 week trip so far – fresh crab in their shells with avocado salad, followed by barbequed kingfish in a tomato and green pepper sauce on rice and a dessert of fresh mango! After a meal like that and a brief refreshing snorkel in the marine park, the only logical thing to do was snooze the rest of the afternoon away. Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ipswich seem a lifetime away.
A further three days were spent languishing in paradise around the vast stretch of beach down the coast at Morrungulo. In 3 days we saw the owner of the campsite and a local curio seller in a beach shack 30 minutes walk away. We literally had the Mozambique coast all to ourselves.
With no need for any footwear we walked the endless beach barefoot, slept in tents pitched under swaying palm trees, jumped the giant crashing waves, ate fresh coconut, drank, read, played cards, threw Frisbee and built sandcastles by day. By night, we chased crabs on the moonlit beach, watched shooting stars and wiled away hours star gazing under an incredible bright Milky Way. It was very hard to leave.
The capital city, a blend of many different cultures, a distinctly Portuguese feel and home of the famous hot peri-peri sauce. Unfortunately only a brief overnight stop but enough time to wander the old quarter, barter with street side curio sellers and feast on peri-peri chicken. Fatima’s Backpackers hostel is centrally located in the heart of town but guarded by 4 of the most unfriendly and ugliest Shar-pei dogs I have ever seen.