Bedbugs & whales – wildlife in Mozambique

February 4, 2009

20th – 28th January

The first thing we discovered about Mozambique is that it has the most offensive, grasping, odiously smug border officials we’ve encountered to date.  (I can say this now we’re safely out of the country!)  We had a fairly testy half hour or so, but got through without parting with any obvious backhander, although there was a mysterious ‘border tax’.  Hey ho, as usual it feels very good to safely cross into another country without major hold up.

I don’t know for sure where the border tax was going but it clearly wasn’t being spent on the road.  Mozambican potholes are in a class of their own, they cover stretches of road 60km long, some are knee deep and most have nasty sharp edges. 

Still life with potholes and pineapple

Still life with potholes and pineapple

Another feature of the Moz roads are the enterprising children who wait by the side of said potholes and, when they see a car coming, start energetically lobbing handfuls of grass and sand into them, and then run alongside the car demanding money.  I declined to reward their labours, suspecting that if this ploy is successful they will start digging the roads up to guarantee their income. 

Arriving in Tete on our first evening we crossed the massive suspension bridge over the mighty Zambezi which felt like a significant moment.  Our only camping option that night was the ‘Jesus e Bom’ campsite.  He might be bom, but he knows nothing about constructing ablution blocks.  Nuff said.  We sat that night watching the sunset and rain fall over the Zambezi.

Zambezi sunset

Zambezi sunset

Moz is a huge country and driving is slow so we had to overnight in Chimoi on our way to the coast.  Chimoi is a busy little town, but unfortunately has no camping so we had to take a room in a backpacker hostel, and were afflicted by the most atrocious bed bug bites – I mean scores of them.  It was a shame as the owners were very friendly and helpful.   An encounter that evening with a unstoppably loquacious Latvian gave rise to a new acronym for a phenomena that we’ve encountered a lot on this trip.  STOS – Single Traveller on Send. 

Moz has a much lower population density than we’ve seen for a while (decades of civil war will do that for you)  and as we drove through the middle of the country we noticed vast tracts of uncultivated bush, broken only by intermittent very large villages of mud and thatch huts.  It’s clear that the after effects of the war are still profoundly affecting the human geography of the country.  Of course it’s blindingly obvious that this is as a direct result of the landmining of most of the country, but I only worked it out after we’d left. 

A day later we arrived at Inhassoro on the coast and found out what all the fuss is about. 

Inhassoro beach

Inhassoro beach

The beaches are stunning, the sea idyllic…  Over the next few days we made short hops down the coast, staying in a different campsite every night.  The camping in Moz is much more expensive than we’ve been used to, South Africans have bought up huge tracts of the coast to indulge in fishin’, braai’n, drinkin’ and 4×4’n up and down the beaches and apparently it’s heaving over SA school holidays. 

Smug man in pool

Smug man in pool

The perils of life in Africa were brought into sharp relief for us when we arrived at the Blue Water Bay Resort, where Matthew, the young South African Manager, had just had to go and pick up the body of one of his staff who had died of Malaria.  We also met a Zimbabwean couple who had been evicted from their farm, and had travelled South repeatedly trying to find a peaceful place to live and work with their numerous horses. 

We continued South to Tofo, Mozambique’s diving capital, and decided to try snorkelling with Whale Sharks.  The boat part was all a bit hectic, as soon as the outline of the big beastie had been spotted it was ‘Dive! Dive!’ and everyone jumped off the boat and swam hard to locate and keep up with the shark.  There were only 8 of us on the boat, so it could have been a lot worse.  We were wildly lucky, officially we saw 6, Sean reckons he saw 8, and was actually nutted by an inquisitive one and pushed through the water.  By contrast, the BBC were here for 5 weeks recently and didn’t see any at all – so take that Kate Humble!!

Sharking about

Sharking about

In addition to it’s abundant underwater attractions the beach at Tofo is outrageously beautiful, a picture postcard crescent of golden sand, bright blue sea and foamy surf.  Unfortunately it was also covered in some particularly nasty jelly fish so apart from the sharking we stayed out of the water.

Sand, sea, surf and jellyfish

Sand, sea, surf and jellyfish

After that excitement we thought it unfair to expect any more from Mozambique, and headed for the border.  This was still a fairly long slog and involved another two overnight stops, one at Zavora, and the last at Marracuene. These places were notable only for their dilapidation and enormous numbers of mosquitos in that order.  It rained very heavily at Marracuene, and we chatted to the friendly owner of the camp in the bar, before heading back to the Hotel du Van for a soggy night. 

We liked Mozambique, as much for it’s mystique as for the beautiful coastline and ‘unspoilt’ countryside.  The irony of that last statement is not lost on me, we saw many signs denoting the ongoing demining of the country, and there are those that reckon it will never be finished. 

The following morning we crossed the border into South Africa, where we take a 4 night Kruger safari before we go and visit our new friend, Katie on her game reserve. 

Because of time constraints we’re not going to visit Zambia as we had originally planned.  This continent is too big, and 6 months just ain’t long enough.  So another couple of nights in SA then onto Botswana.

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4 Responses to “Bedbugs & whales – wildlife in Mozambique”

  1. Enjoyed your travelogue. Just a little note regarding the ‘border tax’ or ‘taxa fronteira’. It is quite legit and has in fact always been a feature of crossing into Moz. I have always received a receipt without demanding one, but yes the actual amount payed can vary a little – from SA we ZAR17, but if you pay in USD I suppose you are at the mercy of whatever rate the official decides on.

    Mike http://www.mozguide.com

  2. Bill and Anne said

    Just saying hello and sending some love your way! How fabulous is this place? Why on earth do we always go to Cornwall? So many questions so little time.
    Love the idea of been chased by Ellies it happens round here most days. Anne.

  3. Crystal said

    Hi lovelies, loving reading the adventures, missing you now though and looking forward to your safe return. Is there a rough date for your homecoming? I’m not having a housewarming until you’re back!
    Sxx xxxxx xxxxxxxxx (lots of love)

  4. Rod and Mandy said

    Where are you ? Now mid Feb and waiting for your arrival. Are you still staying in Camps Bay ? Do you have ETA ? Enjoy Namib (should be boiling) and say hello to the desert from me.

    XXX
    Rod & Mandy

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