Week six - Swaziland to Kruger then Mozambique

Trip Start Aug 26, 2003
Trip End Aug 24, 2004

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Day 36 - Tuesday 30 September

Up at 6.45 to catch lift with owners daughter who was getting a lift to school. Dropped off back at Pigg's Peak which was going back on ourselves but we hoped it would be easier to catch minibus to the border with South Africa. Got on 1st minibus of the day. Bunged as usual. Friendly local struck up conversation based on headline in his paper stating that a local politician had called for the return of a white parliament. He said that it would be sad to not run their own country but that the existing set up was too corrupt. At the border I went to pay for our trip. I didnt have enough change so proferred a 100 rand note. Much discussion took place amongst the locals before the paper guy paid for our trip to save us getting change in Swaziland currency (which is not recognised in SA). We promised to square him up once we got into SA. The customs officer in Swazi was surprised that we were crossing on foot. By the time we had cleared customs (long walk across no man's land), the man had already gone but this was typical of the friendliness of the Swazi population. Another two minibuses took us to Nelspruit. Total traveling time was three and half hours. Cost approx. four pounds each. Went straight to Mozambiquan
visa place and applied for four weeks visa (cost 7.50 GBP each). Had to leave passports to be processed. Rang Kruger backpackers who had said that they would pick us up for free if we were doing a trip (safari). One hour later an old fellow arrived to take us the 70ks to Hazyview. Hadnt realised it was that far. Driver obsessed with trees. Pointed out Lightning Trees. Trees which had been struck by lightning and are left standing and that do not burn. It seemed that about one percent of the total number of trees fall into this catagory. I thought of a new business oportunity of buying these trees cheap and then making wooden spoons, firemens axe handles and Lightning Baseball bats but Nicola poo pooed the idea. The place we eventually arrived at involved crossing a rickety wooden causeway. The place seemed a bit run down and weird. It turned out that it had recently been taken over by Kruger Backpackers and there were only us and a couple of German girls staying there. No internet and booked into tent (en siute) rather than promised rondavel. To give it its dues, there was a pool (see photo) besdie the bar with 8 hippos in it. The hippos grunted us to sleep at night and we got very close to them during the day. A hippo cannot climb even the smallest step so if you are ever chased by one just dander up a couple, turn and give fingers. The bar was dark and staffed by a weird guy with a black eye and bruising to the face. The patrons were a mixture of unfriendly Boars and friendly dogs. However to make the best of a bad job we booked and paid for the Panoramic Tour of Gods Window, Braid River Valley etc. for the next day. Full days tour inc meals costing about 100 pounds for us both. Dinner was BBQd snags and chewy steak. Bed for 8. Earliest yet.

Day 37 Wednesday 1 October

Peter awoke with fierce dose of the runs. Nicola went to inform Peter (site manager) that we would have to cancel trip. Peter gave her some Imodium. Peter spends next 24 hours in bed or on pot. Nicola gets lift into Hazyview for quick shopping. Learns that one of the German girls has been sick as well. At 6 pm Peter went to see Peter about the bill as we are getting lift back to Nelspruit in the morning. Peter says that we can get credit but no money back. We said that this wasnt good enough. He says he will speak to owner before morning. Peter has made some chicken noodle soup to help with runs. Very kind of him.

Day 38 Thursday 2 October

Up for 8 oclock lift. Peter says that we cannot get refund so we ask driver to take us to Kruger Backpackers to see owner. Nick, the owner, is in shower, then in toilet. We knock on his door and he eventually comes to see us. Backs down and says that although he has no money there that he will get it and bring to Neilspruit. Old driver takes us back, all the while pointing out the lightning trees. Check into Nelspruit Backpackers where there is a chap called Bill who owns a minibus which he is driving to Tofo Beach in Mozambique tomorrow. This is too good an opportunity to miss so we book our places with three other passengers. We decide to do Kruger and Braid River Canyon once we come back out of Mozambique.Our little group goes to get Mozambiquan Meticash. 3100 to the rand. Get a cool six mill. Call to an Irish bar to get acquainted with our new gang. Bill, the owner driver, is from Ipswich, had been publican in and around London and was now hoping to set up business driving from Neilspruit into Moz. Andy,26, Yorkshireman, was going to Tofo to do his Dive Master ticket to meet girls. Juanita, 32, originally from Limerick but living in NYC, just going for the diving. Ben, currently living in Tofo with his wife and in the process of doing his Dive Masters and ourselves. With Bill and Ben, the front seat men. Back at the fairly grotty Nelspruit Backpackers we commit ourselves to a four day Open Water (PADI) Course.

Day 39 Friday 3 October

All up for 6 am and onto Bills Bus. Comfortable bus which would seat about 9. Peter had thought that Tofo was about 30ks north of Captital, Maputo. Actually total distance was 750ks. Thanks to Bill we didnt have to do it on local transport. Roads north of Maputo badly potholed. Interesting drive through outskirts of Maputo. Roads lined with small businesses of every kind. By this stage the bus exhaust had gotten very noisy and we were pulled in twice by the local cops on the roadside. Each time they said it was for excessive noise or speeding and fined 200 Mets the first time and a million the second. Poor Bill. This meant that one of his fares (only 300 rand each. Thirty quid) had been lost to corrupt police. As Bill said, if he is going to make a business he is going to have to get used to it. Arrived in Tofo beach at dusk. Booked into Fatimas Backpackers right on the unbelievably beautiful beach. Our room however was v v basic. A couple of small beds in a reed hut about 12 x 6. Had a couple of local beers (Manica or Maniac as we came to call it. See photo of Bar) then to bed.

Day 40 Saturday 4 October

Up early and down to postcard beach. Decided to walk 2 ks along to other Backapckers called Bamboozie. Paddled through warm ocean water. Passed the occasional local. Bamboozie everything we could have hoped for and booked into five bed dorm which we got as a double as they hadnt anything else. Back to Fatimas, checked out and carried backpacks back along the beach. The rest of our gang came with us and Bill and Andy decided to check in also. Juanita had been invited to stay in Ben's house where she ended up staying for the duration. Beach volleyball daily in reception area. Lovely shower block. Newly constructed Manta Dive Centre overlooking beach. Nice bar with balcony overlooking beach where dinner was served nightly. Also bfast and lunched available. Bill Peter Andy and Nic went into Tofo and watched Arsenal match. Met up with Juanita, Bill and Andy for dinner (Gazelle Stew) which was to become a daily event. Drank plenty of Maniacs then to bed. Bill and Juanita joined a small group who ended up going with the barmen (Carlos and DC) to the nearest large town, Inhambane where there was a band playing. At about 3am there was a beauty contest followed by an eating competition before the band resumed. On the way back they ran out of petrol and didnt get home until 8am. We were sorry we had missed it.

Day 41 Sunday 5 October

Up for Bamboozie Pancakes (pancakes stuffed with banana and mango) on balcony watching whales breaching in the bay. Went into town where Peter checked e-mails whilst nicola sunbathed. Booked our diving course with Manta Divers (2000 rand, 200 gbp each) which caused a bit of hassle between them and Tofo Divers who had thought we were doing the course with them. Apparently there has been quite a bit of friction between the two for some time. Also Andy decides to do his Dive Masters with Diversity, the other diving school in Tofo. In bed early for our big day tomorrow.

Day 42 Monday 6 October

Meet up with another couple from Holland who are staying in the only hut in Bamboozie with a sea view, The Honeymoon Suite, which we had tried to book but were told that it was booked for 15 days. Mano and Nonja were our usurpers. Manno's brother (Rudy) is one of the Dive Masters at Manta. Our instructer is to be Vernon from SA. The nicest (part) Afrikaaner we met. Firstly we watched a few cheesy American PADI videos, then we drove down to the lagoon at Barra (20 mins away). A quick snorkel before donning our wetsuits and getting the SCUBA gear on. Nicola was particularly ungraceful whilst donning her wetsuit. She had been told that ir was easier in the water. She looked like she was being eaten by a green octopus. The sheer look of fear was a sight to behold. Peter was much better with the wetsuit. Going under water required a huge leap of faith. Neither of us enjoyed the experience but managed to muddle through the required skills. Running out of air a using alt air source etc. Back and completed a few knowledge quizzes then finish for the day. Showered and changed for dinner with Bill and Andy where they were filming a promotional video. Bar all tarted up and free tequila for the stars (us). Good night's craic.
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