|08-09-2007, 11:02 PM||#1|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Southern Africa
The Lure of Zanzibar
Every rider dreams of an epic ride to some distant destination that evokes images of great scenic beauty, challenging roads and exotic experiences that our everyday lives lack.
After having gained some riding experience with local trips of increasing range and difficulty, the one destination name that kept coming up was
After reading reports of a solo effort by a fellow on a BMW K1200 (along the inland tarred route), and then another of a trio of adventure bikes doing the trip up along the Mozambican coast and returning through Malawi, Zambia and Botswana in December 2004, my mind was made up. From the middle of the year the preparations started and gained urgency until, on 10 December 2005, mrs Owl and yours truly were ready to hit the road on a on a freshly serviced motorcycle with a large rucksack and tankbag packed with our mobile household and dry rations for a few days.
I had spent a lot of time trying to get waypoints for the route (I try to get critical ones from two sources, to make sure) and read a number of 4x4 trip reports during the preparation. It quickly became obvious that the coast of
Any route through
Fortunately, none of these ominous facts are very prominent when you live in the most developed part of
Our first overnight stop was booked at the Pafuri Rivercamp, bush “lodge” nestled between the Pafuri gate and the Mutele river at the very northern tip of the
We had arranged to sleep over here and to get transported on the camp’s pickup truck through the park to the Mozambican border post (also called Pafuri) the next morning. You are only allowed in the park inside a closed vehicle because of the risk of attacks by the carnivores that the park is famous for (camps are fenced off). We arrived well after dark and had a fireside drink with Glen, our host. Plenty of bugs on the road at night left their mark on our helmets- guess which one was in front?
After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded the bike and luggage onto the truck and headed for the border 30 km to the east. It was hot.
We stopped on the bridge across the
There is a road from the border post along the
After off-loading at the Pafuri gate, we said our goodbyes to Glen and headed back to Mussina via Tshipise. After some deliberation about which side of the border to sleep, we decided to fill all of our tanks with fuel and plunge into the inevitable queues at
The roadworks on the
A few kilometres out on the Masvinga road (part of our return route) we turned off onto the gravel road to the border post nearly 250 km away- now the trip was on for real.
The meeting point of the Zimbabwean, South African and Mozambican borders is called Crook’s Corner. We turned north near this point, and then east through the Malapati game reserve. We enjoyed a snack and emptied our second jerry-can at the turn-off to the reserve.
Malapati was deserted- no officials at the entrance, no visitors, only a few small villages in the vicinity, very little game. Turds like this are pretty hard to ignore though- elephant country!
We crossed a small bridge over the Nuanetsi river, which was at quite a low level….
…and then exited the park over the Maputo-Harare railway line at Nyala (three houses in the background make up this place). Like the crow flies, it's straight.
A gravel road led to the next obstacle, the Zim border post at Sango. The local constabulary took great care to check all of our vehicle details before stamping the paperwork with great gusto and waving us on to the next hurdle, customs and immigration. The British bureaucracy certainly left their mark in their previous colonies. ‘t was lunchtime and the person responsible for immigration had gone to visit a friend across the border. We brewed some tea while waiting in the deserted immigration hall with the customs man.
An hour or so later the missing official arrived and after more vigorous stamping in our passports we could proceed to the Moz side. Here, a single man in a little hut did the customs work.
I had to take a soldier on the bike to an official in the town who issued us with the mandatory vehicle import permit for a small fee. None of the boulevards are paved, and the past glory of the Portuguese colony is a distant memory. This is the deserted station building (CFM= Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique or Ports and Railways).
We took the first track heading north out of Chiqualaquala, which happened to be the border between
Eventually this road petered out and we headed east to the Massengena road, where we planned to cross the Save river and rejoin the Plan A route. A bit of mud here and there, but much easier to ride until we passed underneath the Cabora Bassa power lines, where a good service road headed due north. We followed it and made good time, passing remnants of the civil war every so often: the Renamo rebels regularly blew up the pylons of the Cabora Bassa power lines in order to deny the Frelimo government access to the electricity supply from the dam’s hydro-electric generators.
But despite our best efforts, we were still 60 km from our destination when darkness overtook us and we erected our tent in a deserted village right next to the power lines. We had hardly stopped when the first spectator appeared, and soon we had an audience of about ten locals who assured us that we could sleep here and that there was a water pump at the next pylon. Mrs Owl duly made supper…
…with a whole lotta flies to keep her company.
The next morning we found the promised well, but no water. Broken, like the pylon in the background.
We were down to our last half litre, but not too far from the river and set off at a good pace until we literally ran out of road and got a puncture in the thorny underbrush.
Down with the bike, out with the tyre levers and pretty soon we were mobile again. After some scouting we found a trail leading down to the river.
And soon we were passing through villages and meeting locals transporting impressive loads on their bicycles. We were to see a lot more of this.
There were major roadworks in Massengena. We navigated through the town and got some fuel and drinks before heading for the Save river. It was in flood, and impassable on wheels. Time to look for a boat. After two hours of haggling we managed to agree on an exorbitant fee and loaded the bike on the rickety vessel, the back wheel hanging over the gunwhale.
The boat’s owner followed the edge of the water and then furiously rowed across the river a few hundred meters upstream. His assistants balanced the bike and baled out the water leaking through the bottom, while we wondered whether this dodgy craft would ever make it across.
But we made it, repacked everything on the other side and powered up the embankment to higher ground to look for the road to the next destination, the Maribani forest and Chimoio in a north-westerly direction. Spot the mini hifi on the bucket in the foreground at the "bus stop".
We passed this woman carrying her chickens. I asked for a picture- and got this image:
|08-10-2007, 05:21 AM||#4|
Dances With Drunks
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Off route, recalculating
Fantastic. I was having palpitations just looking at the picture of the AT in that boat!
Pretty soon I knew the tune,
And we sat and sang under the Moon
|08-10-2007, 10:41 AM||#6|
Joined: Aug 2002
Location: Toronto, ON
Lucky man to have such a loving and supportive wife willing to join you on this adventure!! thanks for the great report and pics
|08-10-2007, 11:24 AM||#7|
Joined: Feb 2005
Location: Calgary, AB
That's what I call adventure , and a wife that is a real trooper.
Happy to see your AT made it across the river ....and not the bottom.
The tree pics are awesome.
1999 XRV 750 Africa Twin
1996 XL 600v Transalp
|08-10-2007, 06:12 PM||#9|
Riding the range
Joined: Oct 2003
Location: ABQ, NM
Wow...what a ride! Thanks for sharing.
'15 R1200RT, '05 CRF250X : IBA #21269
-- Golf is for the dead.
|08-10-2007, 10:53 PM||#10|
high side slide ride
Joined: Dec 2005
Location: CDA, ID
WOW! My little adventures in the states seem rather tame compared to yours. Heck, Canada seems rather civilized after contemplating Africa. Good job!
moose hunting with motorcycle
|08-11-2007, 05:41 AM||#12|
one man wolfpack
Joined: Nov 2004
Location: Westby Wisconsin
Five stars all the way!!
This is true adventure riding, the stuff all of us dream of but few could actually do. Thanks for the inspiration.
|08-11-2007, 06:05 AM||#13|
.. if you see the Rozzers
Joined: Dec 2006
Location: Morn. Pen. Melbourne
I used to work in these places.. brings back good memories..
|08-11-2007, 03:33 PM||#14|
Joined: Mar 2006
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Wo hooooo, great shots.
That title caught my eye. To the best i knew, Zanzibar was one of those places which would be spoken about in some treasure hunting adventure movies. Its a place right out of adventure stories. Amazing. Kinda reminds me of the place where the pirates hid all the gold and what not....
Himalayas on a Motorcycle - Photography book by Chanderjeet
Mango Lassi of the bumfucked hillbillies MC
|08-11-2007, 04:37 PM||#15|
Joined: Jun 2007
Location: Southern Africa
Through the Tete Corridor
It may be possible to spot the right route on Google Earth, but at ground zero it’s a different story: foliage restricts the view and the maps don’t always match the footpaths ahead. A GPS can only tell you the distance to the next destination, not necessarily how best to go there. So it was for us: we were trying to get from the Save river at Massangena to Macobere (see map below), but ended up on the track running northeast to Chiboma (spot the pen marks). This is from the “highly detailed” GPS Infomap for
The only road we found actually followed the river in a north-easterly direction and took us to Timbi-Timbi, a village too small to make it onto the ”detailed map”.
We bought some welcome cold drinks (there are paraffin-powered fridges all over
All too soon the light was fading and it became time to start looking for a camping spot again. We entered a village and when we asked if we could pitch our tent there, we were offered a house! When we declined, a spot under a big cashew tree was quickly swept and cleared of army ants (hence the fire in the background). The headman’s son was sent to fetch water for us, and duly returned with a 25 litre container of clean water. Two chairs appeared from one of the houses and we could wash and make supper, closely watched by the aquarius and his friends.
Captain’s log: 192 km for the fourth day, 1324 km from home. All is well.
This was actually our wedding anniversary, and I presented my wife with an iPod pre-loaded with some of her favourite music to relieve the inevitable boredom such a long trip entails. The pleasure was short-lived; the software hung the next day: I had also ordered an intercom five weeks previously to ensure we could communicate along the way; that arrived a month after our return.
Unknowingly, we had arrived in the middle of the cashew growing region (Manica province), and it was harvest time: all through the night we heard people moving about and singing happily. Signs of a good harvest! Cashew nuts grow on trees, suspended from the bottom of the (pink) fruit.
These get picked, sun-dried and packed in 50 kg bags, which are transported to factories where they are shelled, roasted and sealed in containers to be sold to consumers like you and me.
After watching the action for a while the next morning, we thanked our hosts and went on our way to
But all is well that ends well. After a while we heard the familiar sound of cars and trucks: we had finally reached the EN1 main road between
We promptly pulled in at the nearest shop for some cold agua (not the Knock Out stuff on the counter), and asked where we could get some gasolina (funny how quickly you learn the important words).
Whaddaya mean, there isn’t any here? We were in trouble, and ran out of fuel 10 km further. But luckily we were taken to a nearby road-builder’s camp 2 km up the road, and got 5 litres from the Chinese foreman- they are building roads in return for raw materials!
We reached the Beira Corridor (EN6, connecting
By sunset we approached Casa Msika campsite, named after the surrounding lake.
A sight for sore eyes indeed, complete with a restaurant selling cold beer and bream from the lake. These fish are also fed to the crocodiles raised in pens nearby (they are also on the menu).
We used the camp facilities to wash our smelly kit while trying to digest the bream.
By noon we were both still queasy, but had to get a move on up the 400 km long Tete Corridor heading north to
A filling station is indicated on the map at Catandica 130km further, but they had no fuel. Luckily, we had left with a full tank and by keeping the speed around 100 km/h, rolled into Tete at sunset (again!). Here was fuel (from pumps) and, after some searching, we managed to find the Pensao Alves that a local directed us to. Here is the charming view from our bedroom.
It was cheap and nasty, but we were dog-tired and after a shower in the communal bathroom, fell asleep on top of our beds.
We took a walk around the block the next morning, and were soon breaking a sweat. Time to get moving. Which happens to be across the Zambesi river here, on the downstream side of the Cabora Bassa dam. The elevation at Tete is just over 500 ft AMSL.
On the other side of the suspension bridge live the poorer citizens. Fat people are rare in this country; it’s a hard life with a low life expectancy (see stats later).
We were heading for the border at Dedza, 270 km further down a good road, which was gradually climbing to more than 5000 ft in
The scenery got much more interesting as we entered Malawi and saw more and more people hawking fresh fruit, beans…
…and huge mushrooms along the way.
These fellows were making little rocks out of big rocks, using fire and hammers. What a job.
While this guy was carting a load that would have made an ox sweat!
After a leisurely lunch at
Unfortunately it was a weekend, and pretty soon a schoolbus emptied its human cargo near our tent, shattering the peace. Time to move on south,towards
Pity you can only take the pictures with you on a bike.
Although construction work was underway, this road was pretty corrugated. We took refuge at fat Monkeys, a well known watering-hole in the Cape Maclear Nature Reserve with lots of kids in tow. The beach scenery here is idyllic, and diving around the nearby islands is a popular attraction.
For once we were all settled in behind a fresh pizza during the “blue hour”, as photographers call the time just after sunset, while the local fishermen went about their business.
Crossing from densely populated
… back into
These pole-bridges packed with rocks and mud are a feature of Niassa province in northern
Do it before you die!
Lure of Zanzibar/Mozambique via Vilanculos/Snow in Lesotho?/Great Wall, Iron Curtain/Islands,Falls,Rocks & Blocks/Salt,Silver&Stone/Two Twins Hit Namibia/Caprivi (S)trip
1NiteOwl screwed with this post 08-17-2007 at 10:45 AM Reason: Add title
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