Rovuma River Expedition

Paul C gets the landy shipshape   Jo on the Lugenda river bridge   John & Paul   Tea time   Granite Domes in Northern Mocambique   lugenda river

We've returned from our Rovuma River trip in Northern Moçambique on the border with Tanzania, just off Lake Malawi. This trip was an EPIC of all epics! Rafting accidents were about the only thing not on the agenda! It took us 7 solid days driving; 7 days paddling like crazy; and 7 days slogging back slowly with a smashed and renovated radiator.

 The getting there was obviously more fun. The landy was a bit slow (top speeds were 60 -80), but the later landscapes in Northern Mocambique were unique and completely wild (there were masses of pointy, oblong granite domes in a sea of African bush). The roads were fairly good, except for a stretch from Malawi and then from Marupa, where they disintegrated completely (we did 140 km in two days to Mecula, which is the headquarters for Niassa Park).


On arrival, however, we didn't receive the help we had expected. Mike had managed to piss off the guy in charge with his preceding E-mails, and the Park seemed to have other political agendas, and encouraging tourism was not one of them (apparently a Norwegian has bought a concession for 10 years, and seems to want it for his own private playground). Consequently, we didn't get flown around for the drive around (as intimated) and a lot of NB info on the state of the roads was withheld. Sufficient time was becoming a real problem, but 4 of us set off in the landy to the river. The first 100 km of road were unused, but OK, but the last 60 were non-existant and consisted of foot tracks, elephant grass and dongas. After crossing a river, we were forced to build a road for about 3 hrs (leveling a sand dune + carrying logs to make a passable 'bridge'. The car kept overheating (grass seeds were constantly clogging the radiator) and it took us the whole day to do those 60. It became fairly obvious that the Pajero would struggle to make it and we were continually stressed. Infuriatingly, it turned out there was a really good road just a bit further down river. After 3 days + lots more epicing, we met up with the rest of the party down-stream. Mike was now going to drive the landy to the end and then walk upriver to meet us as quickly as possible. I again felt disappointed, this trip was not turning out as hoped and the pending coming of the 'Gorge' was looming over us.


Initially the river reminds one of the Zambezi flat, though it is not nearly as wide and one sees very little wildlife due to the skittishness of the game caused by poaching (we heard a fair amount at night). We camped mainly on wide sandbanks and islands. The river also braided at times, where the stream split + split again until the river became unavigable. We had 2 portages as a result. There were also hectic rapids, grade 2 - 6, some were definitely runable, but it seems many of us have lost our nerve + we ended up portaging many more. Truly, I was petrified! The going was hard, we were up at sunrise and off after 7. We paddled about 30 km a day (to make up for lost time) and yes, that upstream wind appeared regularly. There were not many half days to relax + walk around, so we were generally quite trashed in the evenings.


Well, come day 3 and our worst nightmare is realised - an enormous crocodile erupts out the water while we're drifting and tries to grab Paul. Some 6th sense made him leap forward, but the crocodile made two more attempts and punctured our boat in the process. It all happened so fast, we were running around like headless chickens, slapping the water with our paddles, until Paul screamed for us to "PADDLE!” We pulled over to the side in an absolute state of shock. Loads of locals from a village on the opposite side paddled over to see what the commotion was. People were shaking as they smoked + I was truly tempted to start. We patched for about 2 hrs, but the boat still seems to leak. Nothing like a motivation to paddle! The river was never quite the same, I'm not sure how some of us got back into that boat!


4 Days later of epicing, fear and looking for Mike, we gathered from the locals that no white man or vehicle was in Gomba, our end-point.

Where the HELL was Mike!!!!

Enter epic 37

- The landy is 30km out from us(and 600 km from any where else) and the radiator has been completely trashed ! Morale is rock bottom at this point and mass panic ensues, "We've got to cassavac out of here!” Paul + Paul left for the landy to see what they could salvage and the rest of us lay exhausted under a tree, while the entire village sat around us and ogled (the chief, Savimbi, sat on a bench + ogled).


Luck looked our way fleetingly, and our katunda + smelly bodies were loaded onto a doctor's cruiser (chickens, beds and all!). He was here on an annual inoculation visit and we were there on that day! He got us out of this wilderness! 60 km took us 2 days because of all the stopping for inoculations, but who can complain at this rate?


Paul + Paul removed most of the radiator, taped it together, drove for 3km and rested for an hour, allowing the engine to cool down. They even had to dig in dry river beds for water ! Reunited in Mecula,' Paul-Mac-Giver-Inc', converted a truck radiator into the landy. The bonnet is off to aid cooling and the windscreen view is half obliterated by this steaming monster.


We limped home in stages, constantly stopping to cool down + refill the water. John started getting feverish, so the Paj zoomed off ahead (only to pleased to have an excuse). The rest of us suckers continued doing running repairs and dreamt of abandoning all and flying home. Paul C's dream came true when his passport + bag were stolen in Cuamba, he flew home in glee. Mike, Paul + I cursed our bad luck and pushed on. We found a 2nd hand landy radiator near Nyamapanda and boy our speed got to 80km/h - WAY TO GO !!!!

But wait, in Harare, our tyres were slashed at an intersection and Paul's stuff was stolen - "HAuggggh !" "I want my MOom ...!!!"

 Heidi getting us going

Well, we got home Sunday late (8 days later) and things have not been quite the same. Just don’t mention the word Landy“




Friday, July 2, 1999 (All day) to Sunday, July 25, 1999 (All day)




Paul Marais
Mike Slater
Paul Courtnage
John Whiteman
Craig Tunbridge
Heidi Klingenberg
Jo Monson


Rovuma River