03-30-2009, 07:48 AM
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Today we want to get back to the lake. Maps of the Mozambican side of the lake shows almost no roads, so we expect the place to be sparsely populated.
Our route for the day;
Everybody ready, bikes warming up and there goes my clutch cable. The one I personally inspected before the trip. And it breaks inside the housing, no end sticking out.
Itís Sunday morning. Luckily the informal sector doesnít respect business hours.
The owner of the lodge pitches up and and after having stripped the cable out, he takes us around Lichinga to find a mechanic.
Hennie has a spare length of cable that we can slide into the housing, we just need to fit the ends which we donít have. The knob on the KTM cable is made of plastic, so we cannot re-use it. So we make one up and braise it onto the cable.
Meanwhile the locals show off their skills.
Iím again amused at what holds vehicles together over here, check out the leaf spring fix and the tie rod end.
Anyway, the short version is that when you heat up a cable like that it goes brittle. Twice we go back to fit and twice it snaps before we can even get out of town.
So finally with local help we trace a used cable that came off some abandoned jalopy. This one has the lead knob on one end and when we fit it, it seems to work.
Our guide that took us to a variety of backyard mechanics.
With all this commotion we get away a little late. I am really keen to get to the lake again. Over here it is called lake Niassa. A little silly seeing as niassa means lake. So we are en route lake Lake. Iíve never visited the Moz side of the lake and there are not many tourists that do.
Niassa province has always been known as the forgotten province. Its over here.
To reach it from within Moz you have to brave some pretty bad unpaved roads for several days. There really is just one arterial road connecting Lichinga to Pemba. In the rainy season, it becomes unusable, even to 4 wheel drive vehicles. This effectively cuts Lichinga off from the rest of Mozambique until the rivers go down again.
Ironically, this remoteness is the very reason that the civil war had less impact than in the rest of the country. Many people fled to live in the bush here and even the animal population survived the war.
The previous night we ate dinner in town and met one of the locals who told us some interesting things.
Unlike the USA, in Africa you do not criticise your country's leader lightly (or loudly). The previous leader, Samora Machel, had a habit of sending a truck to criticís houses at night to pick up the whole family, who then were unceremoniously driven up to Niassa and dumped in the bush. The understanding was that this was very accommodating of the President and if the unwanted person was so foolhardy as to make his way back down to Maputo to reclaim his house or business, he should not expect to live very much longer.
We hit the road on the way to Metangula, a settlement on the lakeside. It turns out to be a very entertaining road as Lichinga is situated on the highlands and the road winds down with many twists and turns. What makes it even more entertaining is that the asphalt is covered with a thin layer of river sand, maybe to make it last longer, who knows?
When we get to Metangula we are met with not much more than some huts and this ancient tree.
We see a road split off to the north skirting the lake edge, this is not indicated on any maps we have, but we decide to follow it as far as it will take us. If we are lucky, it will take us right up to Cobue, our target for the day.
It turns out to be a lovely road that quickly turns into a lovely track that quickly turns into a lovely voetpaadjie. We also find that contrary to expectation, there are many people staying here and we pass through village after village, scaring the poop out of chickens and some people.
We notice that the houses here are prettier than in Malawi, check these out.
Interesting titbit; the roof lasts about 6 months before having to be re-thatched. The thatch is not personally collected, you buy it from grass cutters, whose only job is cutting thatch and selling it.
Our late start have us running out of daylight pretty quickly though and we start looking for a place to camp. Some locals direct us to a wide beach and we pull in.
Very quickly the local chief pitches up and there are all kinds of discussions re permission to stay over, what mission we are on, where are the others etc. The fact that we are just four guys riding for pleasure is a concept that turns out to be almost impossible to grasp here.
This beach is one of the places that the Ilala Ferry stops. This is the lake's ancient and only ferry that keeps a loose scedule. This beach therefor has a lighthouse, and taking pictures apparently is a no-no. Iím sure it is still some suspicion left over from the war. This area is clearly not visited much by strangers. After writing down all our details we are welcome to make ourselves at home.
That night we are backlit by a huge brush fire. We finish off the warm beers that we brought and unknowingly set a trend for the next two weeks. This would be the first of too many too warm beers.
Finally I am where I wanted to be, the western shore of Lake Malawi. I sleep well.