“You want to go WHERE in your 1400??!!…!!” – This rather explosive retort at our proposal of heading up to Pemba in Northern Mozambique, was certainly not encouraging, especially as half of the Grinniker Group 5 camp fell about guffawing hysterically. I mean, they are the road builders, they should know! Undaunted, however (ignorance is bliss!), we convinced them to replenish our petrol (being diesel country to boot!) and headed North with adventure in our hearts.
Big sky, open road and oceans of trees – what more could a girl ask for? Crossing the Zambezi on a ferry at Caia, Lynn did some creative problem solving and pointed to our solution, a sturdy 4X4 we would be catching a lift with. True to her word (& my shattered nerves), we soon found ourselves in the backseat of a Nissan Hardbody & our own little bakkie, Lotti, was safely nestled beneath some trees at a friendly guesthouse in Quelimane. Despite the road west of Gorongoza Park presently being under construction, the quality of driving is surprisingly good - parts of the road is graded, other parts tarred, and a few odd detours add spice to life (only as long as it doesn’t rain!). From Quelimane, the road calibre varies, with potholed gravel surfaces, as well as traces of old tarred roads. Progress is fairly slow, as one has to drive cautiously, but an average of about 80 kms an hour can be maintained. The countryside is a sea of red-green cashew trees, a remnant of a bygone era, and strangely-shaped silver-grey granite domes. The verges are a cluttered kaleidoscope of pedestrians both on bicycle and on foot – sustaining a daily pilgrimage from early morning till late at night to goodness knows where?
Nampula is apparently the third biggest city in Mozambique, as well as the fastest developing. It has a charming cathedral and many beautiful olde-world houses. It seems fresher and less run down than both Maputo and Beira and seems to defy the rather odd government decree of applying to have ones building painted & then having to pay per square meter to do so! At Pemba (we made it!), the Praia de Wimbe offers a superb, if not clichéd view, of white sands & an aqua blue sea that stretches on for miles. It seems to be a paradise not yet quite discovered by the masses of SA tourists down South (the poor roads do have their advantages!). Here is the perfect venue to dabble in the odd snorkel, walk on the beach (minding the many human landmines!) and to search for the meaning of life! Não faz mal-shmal! – Our lift grew weary of us & we were unceremoniously booted off to the campsite to slum it with the rest of the backpacking fraternity.
Undeterred, however, we found a new lift South & were kindly delivered to the Ilha de Mozambique – a place we were desperate to see! It must have been written in the stars! The Ihla smacks of Zanzibar, with colourful buildings bordering narrow streets, people buzzing about as evening draws near, and food vendors pedalling their exotic wares. The island has been declared a world heritage site and boasts a number of interesting architectural features such as the the Fortress of São Sebastião (the construction thereof started in 1508, its purpose being to guard the sea route from Lisbon to Asia), St Paul’s Palace, the Hindu Temple and the Principal Mosque. The island is joined by a 3.5 km-long bridge to the mainland, and we were very pleased to be able to cover this distance on our bikes (Yes, they were worth schlepping up!). Suddenly our time & money were up, we felt rather panic-struck – Mozambique is an expensive place when you are funding yourself! Petrol is R6 a Litre and camping about R50 a head, and that is not including the Dois M beers! We reluctantly headed back South, through to Mutare and Vumba. Here we hired out an entire luxury lodge for R50 and were quite unsure of what to do with all the space. Zimbabwe is truly in a sorry state! Other than feeling like millionaires on our meagre teachers’ salaries (we were getting $50/60 for R1), it was very depressing seeing so many despondent & desperate people, locals and farmers alike. Mozambique was overflowing with wild-eyed farmers seeking alternate means to sustain a living.
MDC supporters are being blatantly beaten & intimidation is rife. Someone PLEASE HELP! Mozambique truly has a song to it and once you aquire a taste for it, it is hard to give it up. It has an exotic African-island appeal and vigorously assaults all your senses. The spoken Portugese is a rich and wonderfully expressive language. Something we could never quite get enough of, was asking for the bill at the end of a meal, “Garcon, ‘die konts wil sweets hê’”, you’d say, trying your utmost to keep a straight face. “Si senhora”, and without fail, they’d present us with the requested item. You’ve got to go to try it out! Heidi Klingenberg