Central Mozambique

Day 65 – Quelimane, Mozambique, Wednesday 1st August – 400kms

We woke up at 6am and left the Mulanje backpackers place soon before 8. We stopped at the petrol station to buy some more fuel, as well as get enough water and snacks for the day. We knew it would be a long day.

Then we rode to the border. We got there at 9am. Exiting Malawi was simple enough. We were also sent to the health centre, where they checked our yellow fever certificate. Strange that they checked it at exit but not when we came in! Mine was done on 2004 and I was told, back in the UK, that it was valid for 20 years or for life, can’t remember! The health worker at the Malawi border told me he did not care but that I could have problems on entry to Mozambique as it should be less than 10years! With that in mind, and the added stress, we left Malawi.

After changing our remaining Malawi Kwachas into Mozambique Meticals, ( about 12 dollars equivalent) without much hassle at all, we rode to the Mozambique border post. At the consulate, they told us that the visa was $75 at the border or 115$ at the consulate. But immigration at the border asked us for $50 only. First for 2 months but then for 30 days only! It took a good 2 hours to get all done.

It was not busy at all at the border, just many officers sitting around not doing much. While we waited for our passports to be processed, I spent a while, explaining in Portuguese to the custom officer, how to fill and stamps our Carnets! They obviously don’t see many of those! That done, we sat and ate some peanuts and stare back at the locals crossing through. No way to rush anything!

Then, an officer took Alistair into a small dark room, alone! For a long time! I got worried he was given the fearsome American style full body intimate search (latex gloves and all!) but they were just trying to work out how to take his finger prints and photo! It was faster with me! Then we went to a small office outside the main building, where a nice young lady was the health care officer. She took details of Alistair’s yellow fever vaccine batch number, by then I was rather nervous! She took a look at mine, wrote some numbers in a big book and asked us if she could take our temperature, as she mentioned something about Ebola! Apparently there was Ebola in DRC, but we went not near it. We both were judged fit and healthy enough to be allowed into Mozambique. Then it was time to buy insurance for our bikes. We were quote 880 Metical per bike ( about 14$) or, we could pay in dollars and it would be 10$ each! Go figure!

A good 2 hours later, we were let into Mozambique. The road was mainly roadworks and slow going for about 20kms, but then it was ok. All along the road, there were constant villages and houses, as well as many people walking and we passed many markets along villages, but in general we maintained good speed. For once, we saw no farm animals roaming free!

The locals stared at us as if we were aliens from another planet. Unlike Malawi or Zambia, no one waved, not even the kids!

We stopped at a town where supposedly there is an ATM machine to get cash. We just stopped at the fuel station and emptied the 5 litres jerrycan on my bike. We had enough local currency to buy some more, so we put 6 litres on Alistair’s bike. With that done, we had enough to make it to our destination, so we did not bother looking for the bank.

We were very keen to get to Quelimane before it got dark. I did not fancy getting cash from a street ATM machine after dark! Night falls very early as we are still in the same time zone that Cape Town and Namibia. In Namibia, day light was at 8am, on the east coast it is 5am. It starts getting dark soon after 5pm. With few stops on the road, we got to Quelimane soon after 4pm.

Without internet access for several days, we relied solely on the very unreliable Lonely Planet to find accommodation. The first budget hotel listed there, with its bucket showers and dilapidated description, did not appeal much. We selected the hotel slightly more expensive at about 50$ a night including breakfast. It was a good choice. Probably the best in town! The place was busy with the zillions of Aid workers we have seen since Zambia, driving around in sparky new giant Toyotas with air-con, staying in the best hotels and eating at the best places. Hotel Flamingo, where we decided to stay 2 nights, was full of them, going around with ipads and laptops, looking important with their iPhones, logos and conferences and meetings held by the pool side and next to the bar! No owner most of them are so fat! I hope that a bit of those billions in Aid actually reach the people who truly need it!

After sorting out the accommodation, we ran to the nearest cash point to get some local currency. We had to pay the hotel in cash. Then we finally got a shower, got went down to the bar by the swimming pool for a beer and some dinner!

Day 66 – Quelimane, Hotel Flamingo – Thursday 2d August 2018

We decided to stay for a day to have a rest and get ready for the long ride south.

We found the local supermarket, with few things we could buy. Each aisle had a member of staff to ensure that all clients were watched and none could steal! We got water and some more cash from the bank.

Later on we went for a short walk, everyone was staring at us ( even on the ride to town, no one waved us, only stared). Few people came to us asking for money… The town was dilapidated and the buildings blackened from mould and dirt.

The climate is more tropical with a lot of humidity. For the 1st time in this trip, we had and used the air-con.

Day 67 – near Gorongosa – Kapulana Hotel – Friday 3rd August – 450kms

From my research online I knew there would be very little accommodation on the only road south. So I had booked a room by email with the 1st hotel on the way south. As it was rather far, we decided to leave early. We were packed and riding soon before 8am. With plenty of time to get there we stopped for fuel. We had few snacks and lots of water.

What we had not prepared for was the absolutely awful state of the road. The first 200kms were fine, then soon before Caia and crossing one of the very few bridges over the Zambezi river, it started to go wrong. Some potholes, then many, then the size of craters.

We had few short sections of good road where we could speed up, but mainly, it was bad to the extreme. As the day progressed but we did not too much, but we kept going. By 3pm, our shadows were getting longer. By 4pm, we were hoping to be closer. As we bumped, swerved and fell into those giants craters I started getting more and more worried. The road was covered in sand, with the long shadows from the trees and the sun going very low, it was very hard to actually see the holes and judge the depth until we were nearly inside. If we had to press on after dark, it would be near impossible with our pathetic lights on the bikes! Eventually, as it got dark, I saw the sign for the hotel. We just about made it by the skin of our teeth, covered in dust and sand and exhausted. It had been a very long difficult ride.

Through this region we saw true poverty, women and children walking bare feet, no sign of schools, people living in mud or even wood huts, a small kid that I glanced at as I passed, with a distended stomach, a clear sign of malnutrition… this region seemed forgotten by everyone. It is obvious that very few tourists venture around here, as everyone stared at us as if were aliens.

Considering the state of the road we had to revise our original plan. Our destination, Vilanculo, was a good 500km further south. With the road as it was, we could not make it in one day. Scouring the Internet we found 2 places on the way. One was about 80$ for a room, the other one was slightly cheaper and was midway.

Day 68 – Muxungue, Hotel Canindica, Saturday 4th August – 240kms

We left around 9am. The road was still horrid for a good 75kms. It took us 2 hours to ride that distance.

Then we got to the good road at last. We made finally good progress and got to our stop for the night early afternoon.

The region seemed less poor, with many schools and neat villages, still some mud huts and wood huts, but more brick buildings, markets, villages and people wearing shoes, many moped and bicycles around.

Day 69 – Vilanculo, Sunday 5th of August, 260kms

Despite what we were told by the staff at the hotel, the road was not too bad. Some sections were damaged and turned into a dirt track, but it was easy to maintain speed.

We arrived at our destination early afternoon. The first place we had in mind, the Baobab beach camp, was full.

We then rode to the Beach village backpackers camp. It was empty. Not a single guest. We took a hut with ensuite bathroom, as rustic as you can expect, although the price tag was not, at 45$. But then, it is a popular town with holiday makers with prices to match.

The hut was missing top bedsheet, towels and even toilet paper. The floor was dirty and covered with dirt and dead flies. I asked the guy at reception to remedy this and a woman came who could really not be bothered! The dead flies remained! I did some laundry while Alistair went into town to find a shop, as we needed water at least. Not sure if the place would provide dinner or any sort of food. The two women who worked there were busy sunbathing by the pool, giving me dirty looks because I had dared to ask for towels and bed linen! The guy in charge of the bar and reception was sleeping near the bar. Some places are so welcoming!

We walked along the beach at 4:30 to get some sort of dinner at the Baobab beach camp, few 100s metre down. The place was full, lively, with staff serving drinks and dinner, receptionist arranging excursions and WiFi working! It was such a contrast with our camp!

We walked back to our camp before it got dark. The lady managing the Baobab camp came to talk to s ad gave us the WiFi password, welcoming us. She knew well that our accommodation had terrible reputation, so told us we could use the Baobab facilities.