Up the Mozambican coast

Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
Trip End Nov 11, 2011

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Flag of Mozambique  , Inhambane,
Friday, June 24, 2011

We left the bustling city of Maputo behind us going towards Xai-Xai, which is about 200km north of the capital. The suburbs are never ending and there is roadblock after roadblock. After the tenth roadblock, without being stopped once, we felt that this must be our lucky day. The sun was shining and the road was great. So, we sang along to the music pumping from the loud- speakers and just felt good. Until...

Until Toro lets out a weird noise and just stops. Fantastic, cause now we were finally far from any small towns on the way. There was nothing anywhere close and no cars passing by. Two minutes later, while we were putting up the triangles and opening the hood, we however saw a
South African Land Rover coming from the opposite direction, slowing down by us and turning around. Yes! Three South African guys get out of the car, take one look and know exactly what the problem is. The bolt holding the belt tensioner has snapped. Uhm, alright. Without hesitation they suggest that they tow us to the nearest town, and on top of that not in the direction they were going, but in our direction. Sweet! So they towed us for a good 30 km and then arranged
a mechanic, as one of the guys spoke fluent Portuguese being brought up in Mozambique. To our big surprise the same guy also spoke some Finnish. What are the odds of that? Anyways, they drop us of at the mechanics in the town of Macia and they wouldn’t even take a few cold beers for a thank you. We were really grateful of their helpfulness. The mechanic seemed alright even though he kept on drinking beer and crying a bit while telling us the story of his Zimbabwean wife and kids not being able to be with him in Mozambique due to the fact that he hasn't been able to pay the lebola to her family. Until he shows up with a cow and a few goats the wife stays with her family. As we did agree that it is tragic as one easily thinks that it would be better for the family to be together than apart we patiently listen him weep. The crying mechanic didn't have a new bolt but would be able to kind of recondition one and weld it together. Alright alright, we didn't have much choice anyways. The worked seemed fine so a few hours later we could get back on the road. We decided that it would be too far to Xai-Xai as it was already getting dark so we went to nearby Bilene. It turned out to be a great overnight stop with a cheap cute camping just by a lagoon.

The next day we finally arrived in Xai-Xai, found the camping and had a stroll. The camping turned out to be a real rat-hole. The location is absolutely beautiful but the facilities haven't been pimped up for the last 20 years and the security was non existent. Apparently there is a beautiful camping by a lodge further down the beach. Then the rain started. Just a little afternoon drizzle, we thought, until it started to lash down. We found refuge up in the tent and thought it was quite cozy until the lightening started. It was like being in a nightclub, lightening striking down everywhere around us while the thunder exploding just a a second later. The sound was so loud and so close by that I got a real fright at some point. We also realized
that we had our fridge, that is in the car, plugged into a electricity plug that was on a huge tree just next to the car. So what if the lightening hits the tree and then travels through the cord into the fridge that starts to burn and we lay there right on top of it? Great news. As it was raining so heavily we decided to chance it, but were nevertheless quite nervous. After a dreadful night we decided to hit the road again. This time toward the little village of Zavora, before the tourist hot spot Tofo.

Zavora had an amazing beach and a beautiful camping overlooking the sand-dunes. After about three or four days of relaxing, swimming, diving and reading we were ready to hit busy Tofo. Before going there we had quite mixed feelings about it. Some people say it is awesome while
others say it used to be nice but is overcrowded these days, and expensive on top of that. So we were not really expecting much. We had met a English guy, Dave, in Stellenbosh three months before that said we should get in touch if we make it to Tofo as he lives there. As we couldn't get hold of him we did a tour of the sleeping options and were not too excited. Even the cheapest was more expensive than in Maputo. Then we got a hint of Turtle Cove which turned out be a nice friendly place just 15 min walk from the main area. We camped there for the night and while having breakfast the next morning Dave called so we moved in with him. Sweet! The best thing with staying with Dave was the chance to see how the people that live there live, in contrast to the backpacker scene, and to meet his friends. It was quite an eye opener to see that one could live in tourist Tofo but still have your own little place away from all this and live a simple life with your friends doing the same thing. Everyone we met that works there lives in Tofinho which is the village next door. We spent a good 6 days in Tofo; Faycal diving and I talking walks on the beach, learning Portugese at the market, reading and baking in the sun. I have to say that the beach in Tofo is absolutely stunning. We realized that we don't have a single picture from Tofo so we can't show you, but it was stunning. Leaving Tofo we still had mixed feelings about it. We had seen the other side of Tofo, the being able to live there laid back style, which indeed seemed quite nice. The lovely town of Inhambane is also just 20 km away with hospital, supermarkets, university and whatever one would need. But there is still the other side to Tofo, which is that it is very very touristic and in season it is supposedly horrific, and everything is more expensive than elsewhere in Mozambique. I don't mind paying a bit more for tomatoes on the market if it goes straight to the market ladies pocket, but paying more for less, that goes straight to one of the many wealthy South African investors I rather avoid. We did have a good time in Tofo, especially in Tofinho and thank you Dave for everything.

After Tofo we were ready for some remote village life and as we had heard that Pomene was fantastic we decided to go there, but didn't quite make it so far. About 20 km from Maxixe the same noise appeared and the car stopped. Bloody crying mechanic! Again there were no cars on the road except for buses and trucks, and we would need to be towed. We hoped to once again be saved by someone from the famous Land Rover community, but no one came. After a good hour a Mozambican guy in a pick up stopped. He was going to Maxixe, which we would have to go back to, so he was happy to help. We attached Toro to his car and off we went. He towed us to the municipality camping. Then he of course wanted a high price for helping us. We had of course already decided to give him something for his kindness, but when he said he wanted 1000 Mt (25 Euro) I exploded. 1000 Mt is a lot of money! We can spend a few nights with that and for many Mozambicans that is almost half a month salary, so to ask for 1000 Mt having towed us 20 km in the direction he was going anyways was too much. The role play of good cop-bad cop was put in action. As Faycal is usually the good cop he was pleading to the guy that “noo, it is not nice”, while me, the bad cop started to heat up for an argument. I explained in my very poor Portugese, that listen up Amigo, We problem, u help, very nice,
thank you very much amigo, 1000Mt very much, we live tent, no much money. Then I put a 200 Mt in his hand, gave a good tap on the shoulder and said “Muilto obrigado Amigo”. He looked at good cop Faycal that gave the guy the face that, “Yes, I know, I have a very strict wife” and the deal was sorted. So there we were at the camping with a non functioning car, again. I was all worked up, still being in the role of bad cop, so Faycal let me chill out by the car while he asked around for a mechanic.

Two mechanics showed up at the camping, took a good look at the reconditioned bolt and said “black man's job”. So he looked at it again and said “ I do proper white man's job for you”. They took all the necessary parts and wouldn't weld anything, which had been a bad idea anyways, but would get a new bolt done. After they had left with the promise to return the next morning at 9 we started to enjoy the place where we were. The camping in Maxixe was cheap, good and at
a nice location with dhows sailing by. We had a very tasty dinner in one of the nearby local restaurants, even though there was a big fat rat watching us eat. The next morning the mechanics showed up five past nine, just as promised. They also had a good looking bolt with
them. They worked a few hours and at noon everything was sorted.

With Toro back on track we headed for Pomene. Knowing that it would be a remote place we also had to do some shopping. Buying fresh veggies always takes some time as one has to do the tour of the market, so we were not really on our way as early as we would have hoped for. Well we only had 60 km to do. How long can that take anyways? Well the last bit of the road is quite shitty so the 60 km took us just over 2 hours. Dave in Tofinho had told us to look up the chief of village, Sathane, as he would have some cheap camping options. Pomene Lodge is about 5 km from Pomene village so at least we had a back up plan in case we wouldn’t find him as the sun was already going down behind the trees. We didn't find Sathane, but we did find one of his sons, Joao, that was very friendly and helped us find a little spot. By the time we had taken a look at the village it was pitch dark so we didn't really know where we had set up camp. Joao brought some wood and we enjoyed a nice fire. In the morning we found out that we were right in the middle of the village. Pomene turned out to be just as lovely and Sathane just as great as promised. It was really nice to live in a tiny village for 5 days. The village basically consists of Sathane and his family. We never actually made it to the Lodge, not even for a cup of coffee. Pomene was just so relaxing that one got in this hyper chill mode. One night we did go and check out Sathane's nightclub, which was a tiny wooden shack. The music was pumping and the locals were bursting with friendly laughter at us dancing. We had a great time until the generator died and everyone left. No music, no party!

With a few tasty Pomene breads in the backseat we drove to Vilanculos. The place is famous for the Bazaruto Islands which lay just outside. In Vilanculos there is accommodation in all price classes but out on the island one would have to pay between 250-3000 US dollars a night. It
is also possible to visit the islands for a day, which we did. The beaches are wide, white and sandy while the water is filled with little fish in all colors. Even I who is terrified of fish went snorkeling and enjoyed it!

After a month in Mozambique we are very happy that we have another two months left before our visa expires. There is so much to see, the people are friendly and the food tasty. To our surprise we still haven't been stopped in a single road-block. The only time the police stopped us was when we were walking in Maputo. The police asked for our papers, as one is obliged to always have them on you, and said that they were thirsty. As we wouldn’t buy them a drink and our papers were in order there was nothing more to that. The only reason why I would love to leave Mozambique for a short while is the fact that my brother and one of my best friends are getting married, yes to each other, in 2 weeks and I would love to be there. The budget doesn't however allow a little pop over in Finland so all I can do is to wish them the best of luck and a great party.

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