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Old 04-08-2007, 09:19 AM   #1
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Mozmalzambots, Southern African Loop

In 2002 I joined an unofficial Africa Safari trip from South Africa through Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana back to South Africa. It was a pretty interesting experience (7 starters and 3 finishers) and it introduced me to lake Malawi. I was much impressed and had been wanting to take Mrs Jockey there since.

Well, the universe finally aligned, and the two of us were able to embark on an unassisted trip in September 2006.

The planned route:

We left Johannesburg with joy and fear in our hearts respectively. I can never get away from that place fast enough.

We thought we might as well check out the Mozambique beaches while we're at it. I have a religious objection to toll roads and with the Komatipoort route infested as it is, we therefor headed for Swaziland en route to Maputo, the Mozambique capital.

Karma being inherently vindictive, we still had to deal with three toll booths on this day.

The only thing worth mentioning on the run to Ermelo is that i saw a roadsign warning of owls. I thought it pretty strange, but not less than two km's on I saw an owl sitting on a fence. Go figure.

In Ermelo we stopped at the Wimpy for a brekky and a view of the locals. Strange folk that emerge on Sundays dressed up for the Wimpy lunch. One well-meaning leech regaled us with unsolicited stories of how horrible the road was that we were to take from the Swazi border to Maputo. Just sand and holes and how he heroically made it to the border after hours of getting stuck in his 4x4. (I knew from research that the road in question should be tarred.) He then declared that in Maputo the roads are fine but 15km north the tar stops and its just sand tracks. WTF? The tar continues another 600km. He certainly does not own a 4x4, he has probably not been further than the Wimpy in the last 15 years, and he feels happy to lie through his teeth with his powdery wife sitting right there. I never cease to be amazed.

Moral of the story, always take advice from strangers as to road conditions with a healthy spade of sceptisism.

Anyway, so we hit the Swazi border and I am delighted to experience the quickest border crossing ever. Less than 10 min and we've cleared both sides. Helluva friendly people and regretfully we didn't have small change to buy a raffle ticket to support the local school. The prize.. a pig.

It's my first time in Swaziland and my impression is that it isn't the prettiest place I've ever seen. Granted, we made a beeline to get to the other side and may have missed some gems but I won't go out of my way to visit again. The people are very friendly and curtious though.

I crest a hill and get pulled over for speeding. Damn, this trip isn't even a day old and I get caught.

69km/h in a 60 zone. Very friendly cop fines me R20. Yes, that's right, twenty rand, equals about $2.70. I almost tip him. We part on friendly terms.

We ride through a game park and I see this interesting sign. (apologies for the quality)

Good to know the authorities care about the wellbeing of pedestrians.

We get to the second border post and things take a great deal longer on the Mozambique side. The official language is portuguese. We make it through to Maputo unscathed and book into a backpackers for the night, only dorm accomodation available. In the yard is parked a 4x4 under a tarpaulin. The rear is riddled with bullet holes. I didn't ask.

Maybe I must point out here that Moz had been consumed in a brutal civil war that lasted 18 years and only came to an end in 1994.

We go out for dinner and get one massive bill.

Back at the backpackers we've been upgraded to a room. Excellent. Not so excellent is that this establishment does not list hot water as one of their benefits. The double bed is an unexpected pleasure though.

Day two to follow.
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Old 04-08-2007, 09:27 AM   #2
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Interesting so far...and awaiting more...

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Old 04-08-2007, 09:36 AM   #3
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More please.

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Old 04-08-2007, 09:53 AM   #4
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Ok I'm back. Impressions of Maputo..

Many, many blocks of flats in bad condition. Slum type thing but 20, 25 stories high. In some buildings the first floor tenant put up burglar proofing to enclose his balcony. The crims then must have used his burglar proofing as a ladder and forced the second floor tenant to also enclose his balcony, and so on and so forth. I saw some where this burglar proofing growth have reached the 8th floor already.

The majority of the buildings have some architectural merit, when they were built someone clearly did give a damn.

Now almost all the buildings show cracks and fungal growth and has clearly not been painted in the last 10 years. I am told it's because you are not allowed to paint your house/shop/building unless you have permission from the local governor! Keep in mind that the Government was socialist and supported by the Russians. Here's a picture taken in 2002 showing the National Emblem.

There is also a rich suburb where all the properties are appr 2000 - 4000sqm with extensive gardens and mansions on them. Still unpainted. All these have 24hr guards at the gate or on the premises.

There are some no-go areas as in any city.

The condition of the roads are not good. Not good. And the traffic is heavy, every man for himself. One thing that caught me out more than once is that where we have a traffic light on each corner, they only have one. On the left closest corner. If you are lucky enough to see the damn thing, you also cannot stop next to it because then you won't see it change again.

I'm not sure whether helmets are required by law. About 60% of bikers don't wear it.

Maputo is like Havana, same climate but rougher people. When planning the trip I had visions of hanging out in discos frequented by young, sultry, sweaty, dark-eyed, world wise, wild haired, wild tempered, voracious portuguese beauties. Unfortunately we spent half the night riding around looking for a place to get some grub.
Next time I'm scheduling more days in Maputo to get to know the place better. I did get to ride around town late at night with a helmetless wild haired beauty on the back and felt like quite the man. Got her into my bed too, but she wasn't into faking a portuguese accent.

Last note on Maputo; we left town on the EN1 to the north. Fourty minutes later we were still leaving town on the EN1. It's a big place and the traffic was horrendous. We left in a light drizzle, the last rain we would see on the trip.

Oh, I almost forgot, let me gooi some pics.

Our target for the day is Tofo beach near Inhambane. We don't make it. The 10hrs of the previous day has taken it's toll on on our asses and the veritable herd of traffic cops we have to pass through forces us to keep to the speed limit. Breaks your spirit it does. We get some good scenery in though. I think this is at Cuissico.

So as we sit and drink a beer at one of the roadside stalls, Mrs Jockey decrees that we stop at the next resort we see. I strongly support that notion and we take a sandy stretch in to Chidenguele Paradise something or other. The road skirts an inland lake where there are other places offering camping. Might be worth checking out.

It's Mrs Jockey's first trip on the 1200 and it is really too heavy a bike for her. However on this track I twice see the bike buck and twice she rides it out on the throttle. I'm proud as punch but there's no-one else to see. We make it safely to the lodge and get a very nice room with an excellent view. A little on the expensive side but having fresh sheets makes it feel justified.

The next morning we are at it early and negotiate the sandy track easily. Mrs Jockey is full of confidence and I don't want to break her high by pointing out that sand is tightly packed in the cool early hours.

We stop here and buy a can of chilli sardines for lunch.

The language barrier is a bitch, but the shop owner brings us plates and cutlery when she sees us sitting down to eat.
There's a turkey with a peacock complex chasing the ladies around.

That's the thing with turkeys and Maltese poodles. Why is it that the ugliest bird in the world and the most useless excuse for a rat always see themselves as peacocks and rottweilers respectively?

I can't help myself and take another pic of the bikes. Notice how the ground has been swept clean. We find this in every country we pass through. When we were stopped at the beer stall the previous day, the lady in charge was cleaning out the bar area from the previous evenings excesses. To our surprise she walked about 3 meters away and just chucked everything straight onto the ground. Then proceeded to sweep her immediate surrounds. Very strange.

On the road I notice that things have changed in the four years since I've been here.

In 2002 the one thing that struck me was that there was never any roadkill left on the road by the time we got going an hour or so after sunrise. That was a level of poverty I hadn't encountered before then. Now I'm glad to see that roadkill is making it's proud return.

The second thing that has changed is the amount of people, it's like the whole of Mozambique is gathering along the EN1. Seriously, for over 500km there was never a space of 100m without people walking, riding bicycles, standing sitting and so on. On our way up we must have passed a million pedestrians. And if there is one thing I'm afraid of it's knocking over a child in black Africa. I know two people who had the misfortune, and they had serious trouble.

We pass through Inhambane, turn right at Bar Babalaza and get to Tofo beach. We want to stay at Bamboozi. Bamboozi is right at the end of a sand track that winds through palm trees. It's deep sand and in 2002 one of our party had a less than pleasant get off on this road. We stop before the sand begins and I tell Mrs Jockey to not be ashamed to go first gear and paddle when it gets too difficult. This is what it looks like on the easier stretches.

I jump on the pegs and make it through to the camp. I wait. I wait some more, she may be slow because of the paddling. It's too long and I go back to look for her. I find them lying down. She didn't paddle. The confidence she found at Chidenguele this morning has led to her hitting a palm tree whilst trying to recover from a wild fishtail. At least she went down on the throttle.
When I get there she is trying to get control over the pain and calm down. Her knee hit the tree. The knee is bruised and left some skin on the inside of the pant leg. The crashbar lost some paint but otherwise the bike is fine. Good thing we scheduled a rest day here. That knee is not going to bend so lekker for a day or two.

Bamboozi is a most excellent spot. Killer pub overlooking the beach.

Huts with beds, bedding and mozzie nets. And mosquito nets are essential, this is prime malaria area.

Open at the top.

Nice patterns.

Also some bigger chalets

We spend a lekker couple of days doing holiday things and just sleeping and reading and drinking and eating and buying sarongs and having hair braided and taking hot showers.
At Tofo there's more lodges and camps and you are welcome to just walk off the beach into any bar and hang out.

But all good things come to an end and we still have three countries and several thousand kilometers to attend to.
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Old 04-08-2007, 10:09 AM   #5
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Just a last pic from Tofo. Good sized fish being brought in by the locals in little row boats. Could be tuna.

Our next stop are to be Inhassoro, north of Vilancoulos. I choose to skip Vilancoulos because on the previous trip the place had a bit of an iffie feel to it security wise. I can't put my finger on it and it was probably just in my mind.

I did get good pics at the time though. I love the feeling that the sight of dhows always elicit. That 'old man and the sea' feeling of sun, salt stains, bleached wood and worn canvas. It's like looking back into the time of Ali Baba.

Early one morning, before sunrise,I sat at the waters edge looking out to the Bazaruto islands. The scene was just plain breathtaking.

Bypassing Vilancoulos turns out to be a mistake. Inhassoro is a decrepit little place with only one resort to stay at. It's a lovely hotel on the beach with chalets, rooms and camping, with a bar and dinner and staff..................and no guests.

Even the trees are trying to make a slow getaway.

We drink a lonely beer in the bar, eat dinner under the trees (served by the most beautiful waitress) and have to turn in early. We didn't want to turn in early.
Because the hotel is too expensive we have to camp. We are the only people there, it is quite far from the hotel, the fence have mostly been stolen and the ablutions do a scary imitation of 19th century insane asylum hose rooms.
Luckily my impressive survival skills ensure that we take a shower while there are still some hot water from the sun baking the rusty pipes. I have a strict rule that I live by; no hot water, no shower. My roommates in the army did an admiral job toughening it out from time to time.

I also have the first opportunity to use my superfast self erecting tent. (come to think of it, now I have two, both come straight up, you just need to pull a wire.)

We try to get a good night's sleep in because tomorrow we turn away from the coast for the first of three long days of riding.
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Old 04-08-2007, 10:11 AM   #6
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Wow!! Fabulous journey, report and pics. I see you've wisely avoided riding through Mugabeland...

Thanks for the detailed report and pics... keep it comin'

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Old 04-08-2007, 10:20 AM   #7
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Nice pics...
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They gave the ultimate sacrifice because they answered the call without question
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Old 04-08-2007, 10:30 AM   #8
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The route for the day takes us inland, but instead of going through the Tete corridor we want to bypass most of Southern Malawi and enter right by the lake just above Mangochi. It will be a three day ride to get there.

Crossing the Save river.

Flour still gets made the old fashioned way here.

The road surface keeps you busy. For an hour we try and keep to 80kph whilst dodging these.

Every so often you hit one that you just couldn't miss. I have to to give it to BMW, they know how to make rims. Not one dent.

There is a shortage of fuel stations on this route though and between today and tomorrow we are going to need three tanks of fuel each. When planning the trip I was aware of this problem and considered taking containers with, but it's a bit impractical to carry an extra 40l on each bike.
Anyway, as long as there are cars and a demand there will be someone supplying.

At the last available fuel stop we buy beer and canned chicken viennas and stop next to the road for breakfast. I cannot recommend canned chicken viennas.

We stop at the Beira - Chimoyo crossroad to buy a bunch of bananas and to look for fuel. Turns out I'm one hell of a popular guy in these parts.

While I'm waiting for the fuel to be fetched Mrs Jockey takes a walk around and find this place. You'll never guess it, but it's the local cinema.

It also turns out that selling fuel out of containers is illegal. So we ride some way off, chasing our supplier with the container strapped to his bicycle so that we can refuel with less crowding. Note the bananas.

Some roadside scenery.

The road around Ngorongosa National Park is newly built and excellent riding. Also for the first time there are no pedestrians on the roads. The scenery changes to a dry bushveld type thing.

We stop to buy fuel from the roadside again. Now, one has to bear in mind that in order for these guys to supply you with fuel, they need to drive about 300km to get the fuel to where they sell it. So there has to be a mark up. At a filling station 20l will cost about 400 000 MT. The fuel I bought at the crossroad I bartered down to 800 000 MT. Thats double! After much scribbling of figures in the sand these bastards won't take less than 1mil MT. Caia will be the next town where I might get fuel and I'll either just make it or just not make it, so we leave.

As it happens I don't make it, but gets helped with 5l by a friendly South African tour guide at our overnight stop at James White's place. Here's the hut we slept in.

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Old 04-08-2007, 10:43 AM   #9
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We reach the Zambezi river nice and early after having refuelled from containers again in Caia. Here you have to cross with a ferry and like always bikes can move to the front of the queu. Cost us something like R11 to cross. Bargain.

Unlike any other ferry Iv'e been on this one is as orderly as a military parade. Mostly because the biggest Idi Amin on steroids I have ever seen is in charge. One hell of a speciman. I would have taken a picture but I was too scared.
On the ferry you have the trucks first, then the cars, then bikes, then people. No driver is allowed out of his vehicle. Mrs Jockey got of her bike to take this pic and quickly learned that she too aren't allowed to leave her seat.

When the ferry docks the pedestrians wait where they stand untill all the vehicles have disembarked and they are given permission to get off.

There's some large mokoro about.

The one bad thing about a trip like this, where you are doing long distances, is that you can seldom stop and take pictures of the interesting people and things you pass by. And you see some amazing things. Every couple of km you see something that you can ponder on for an hour. But you don't get an hour, you get a couple of minutes or seconds before you see the next thing. It's actually a bit of a sensory overload.

The third time we pass woman washing clothes on the main road we stop to get some pictures though. It's the only flat hard surface in this country of sand.

And in just this short interaction we find that regardless of their circumstances they can still have fun.

We ride for some time and stop in a town to get a bite to eat at a tavern. They only have cheese rolls, so that's what we order, cheese rolls and beer. Unexpectedly the green fungal growth is on the bread, not on the cheese. We swallow it down none the less.

We turn off the main road after Mocubo heading up towards Gurue. The road is good.

We are some way off the tourist route now and start to see rock domes pushing up into the sky.

With the landscape changes so does the soil. Even the people appear more well-off and the towns look like something.

The road starts winding up and down which is just heaven. The scenery improves around every corner. Coming into Gurue we find the valleys covered in lush green tea plantations.

We are to sleep over in Gurue but I have no clue where. Like I said, it's not on the tourist route. After checking out the options the Pensao do Gurue turns out to be the most upmarket establishment. This is it.

We have dinner in the cafe down below.

The main street. It is not paved because Gurue is where the tar stops.

The view from our room.

We don't sleep well, there's a disco under our room and our window frames have come undone to the extent that they cannot close.

We never see a single white person in the town. We feel a bit far away from home. At least tomorrow night we should be at Lake Malawi.
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Old 04-08-2007, 10:54 AM   #10
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Great report. You and your wife are real adventurers.

MetalJockey Question. We of course here about the horribleness of most of Africa with the rape, disease and AIDS epidemic there. How safe do you feel with your wife in midst of the locations you went?

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