6th - 7th January 2009 - Nampula/Mocuba
After over-nighting in Nampula again we had a long drive along a schitzophrenic road (one minute pristine tarmac, the next littered with pot-holes). Mocuba is your typical Mozambique town, dusty, loud and with pot-holes bigger than most cars as a result of the heavy truck traffic.
The next day we set out for Malawi along a rough dirt road. We were just wondering about the lack of traffic on what was supposed to be a major trade route into Malawi when we found it - a convoy of six huge trucks grinding over the rough road at about 25km/h with no room to pass. We crossed the border at Milange and headed for the mountain resort of Mulanje.
3rd - 5th January 2009 - Ille do Mocambique
Ille, as the locals call it, is the old capital of Mozambique and has had a long and colourful history as a trading port going back several centuries.
Today it is accessed from the mainland via a 1.5km causeway. The island is a hugely atmospheric place, full of crumbling colonial buildings which are now occupied by the local islanders. We wandered about in the early morning or late afternoon (it's blisteringly hot at midday) and soaked up the atmosphere.
We stayed in a house lovingly restored by an Italian architect where we could watch the dhows unloading their catches from the roof terrace and listen to the calls to prayer from the mosque next door (we could have done without the 3am one though..).
One of the main historical sites on the island, the fort was closed for renovations but we had a great guided tour of the old palace which is fully furnished and has a very eclectic kitchen (everything from maize grinding stones to a 1950's Magimix!).
26th December 2008 - 2nd January 2009 - Nacala
After spending the last couple of weeks not sure we'd get a bed for the night (as it's peak holiday season for the South Africans) we felt the need for some R & R and headed north via Nampula to an idyllic spot, Fim do Mundo, in the bay of Nacala. We treated ourselves to a chalet with a sea view (shared with one of the local cats and her new-born kittens). The food was fantastic and there was great diving any time we fancied straight off the beach.
24th - 25th December 2008 - Quelimane
We set out early driving rather mournfully past the gates to Gorongoza. It was a beautiful day and the scenery en route was lovely. We reached Caia at about 1pm where we needed to catch the ferry across the Zambezi. There is a bridge being built but it is still a work in progress.
Unfortunately our arrival coincided with the ferry operator's lunch break so we spent an hour or so inside the car in sweltering heat waiting to get on the boat. I had to go on as a foot passenger which meant joining the scrum of people who scrambled onto the boat and squeezed around the vehicles. When I turned up at the passenger door on the other side Jerry was suprised to see I'd made it onto the boat at all.
As we sat in the sea and watched the sun set for the last time on 2008 there was a cloud inversion (apparently this happens when the sun is below the clouds and the rays of light shine up through them creating a rainbow effect). It was a beautiful sight.
Later we celebrated new year on the beach with the other six guests. We had the traditional bubbly followed by a not so traditional swim/wade in the sea which was teeming with phosphorescence. Definitely a new year to remember.
Christmas day!! We breakfasted on an unconventional egg and chips. It is blistering hot outside and the locals are celebrating with a bottle of whiskey in the hotel pool. And it's only 9am!!
En route to Nampula we came across a chapa (local taxi) stuck axel deep in mud alongside the road. Full of Christmas spirit (and mindful it might be us next time!) we stopped (much to his suprise) to tow it out.
22nd - 23rd December 2008 - Chimoio
We really wanted to visit Gorongoza National Park. In fact we were hoping to spend Jerry's birthday and Christmas there. Gorongoza was once one of the most famous safari destinations in southern African (it was apparently frequented by Hollywood stars in the 50's) but the game was poached into non-existence during the civil war. The park is now recovering with the help of US funding and is reputed to be a great credit to everyone involved in it's ressurection. However, unfortunately the rains meant it had closed a couple of days before...
Instead we stayed in Chimoio in a pleasant but rather sterile hotel and Jerry celebrated his birthday in the local pizzeria.
21st December 2008 - Rio Save Game Reserve
Now heading north again we stopped off at the Rio Save Game Reserve. This was more for the campsite than the game as it's apparently heavily poached. It rained heavily all night and since the track had been pretty waterlogged on the way in we decided to leave the next morning. This turned out to be a good move. On the way back the track was largely under 2 feet of water and we ploughed though it occasionally losing the track altogether. Jerry also had to hack the branches off a tree that had fallen across the track overnight.
18th - 20th December 2008 - Vilanculos
We could see the Bazaruto Archipelago from the coast and realised that having once considered paying a small fortune to come on a diving holiday here it would be foolish to pass up on the opportunity to do some diving. This meant back tracking to Vilanculos, which we hadn't heard great things about - touristy, lots of crime, unfriendly etc.
"Vilanchaos" pretty much lived up to expectations but we found a good campsite, Blue Waters, about 8km out of town and arranged to dive with the Archipelago resort next door. The diving is expensive (c $250 for both of us for a two tank dive) largely because of the cost of fuel to get out to the islands but the people are great and the diving is very nice. Though unfortunately we didn't see any dugong (these islands are apparently home to the last viable population in Africa) the reef was teeming with fishlife.
16th - 17th December 2008 - Inhassoro
I think we have found Mozambique's equivalent of Fawlty Towers (which I won't name!). We had a 4- bedroomed 4 bathroomed air con chalet to ourselves but things went downhill from there. The gas stove caught fire (flames 2 feet high), two small rivers appeared in the living room after a night's rain, frequent powercuts and a clump of plaster-like debris (which turned out to be a wasps nest) fell from the double height reed ceiling smack onto the laptop keyboard. Other than that it was fine.....
13th - 15th December 2008 - Coconut Bay
The Mozambique coastline is picture postcard stuff - long white sandy beaches and blue skies (in between the downpours). We travelled up the coast to Coconut Bay near Inhambane where we set up camp for a few days and did some diving. Despite the dive site being called Manta Reef there were no mantas sadly but the diving was good with lots of reef fish and some of the biggest Potato Bass we've ever seen.
Camping you really start to feel the heat. The tent (we're using the Oz tent rather than the rooftent here) was under a purpose built shade but the first rays of the sun in the morning come directly under this and into the tent forcing you out by about 6.30am.
12th December 2008 - Xai Xai
We weren't that enamoured of Maputo so decided to push onto the coast the next morning. We made it as far as Xai Xai - a favourite resort for holidaying South Africans. We camped just above the beach.
11th December 2008 - Maputo
Crossing the border was chaotic to say the least - in no small part due to our lack of Portugese. We eventually negotiated getting visas, a temporary import permit and completing the carnet for the car, as well as getting some compulsory third party insurance and changing meticals. Unfortunately when we came to try and claim back the VAT on our South African purchases we found a huge queue of Mozambicans all clutching handfuls of receipts. It would have meant a wait of several hours and we wanted to hit Maputo before dark so we headed off rather poorer than we'd hoped we'd be.
In the end we didn't quite make it to Maputo in daylight and ended up navigating the back streets reading the map by the light of a head torch (not recommended).