Missing Moz already

After 3 nights at Areia Branca Lodge, we started heading south towards Maputo. On our last afternoon, we had a long visit from the Lodge owners’ 7 year old son Eric. He had a lovely time playing with the remote controls for the LED lights in our living area, changing the lights’ colours and making them flash, and arranging all the stuff on our carpet-lined walls. He told us that he’d had malaria and so had his mum, dad and brothers. The next morning he showed me his fish tank which had 2 newly-caught prawns, 4 puffer fish, a sand fish and some other fish.

We spent another night at our favourite Moz ‘resort’, Sunset Beach and yes, I had another crayfish dinner. Then last night we stayed at Esperanca do Mar, a coastal ‘resort’ about 30kms north of Maputo. Our GPS took us down a very sandy track to the back entrance of the place – we missed the sign pointing us down a much better, more direct road but we used it this morning to leave. We were shown to a campsite with a private bathroom, but Clancy couldn’t get past a low-hanging branch, and a longer, alternate route was completely blocked by thorny branches. I told the caretaker that we really just wanted a place to park for the night, cos we’re completely self-sufficient. She agree to let us camp outside a 2-bedroom cabin and use its bathroom for R200 AUD$20, which was a vast improvement on the R520 AUD$52 that she wanted to charge us for the campsite with the private bathroom. That’s a ridiculous price for a campsite! We wouldn’t have paid it, would have gone elsewhere. I’d misinterpreted the pricing, thinking she was quoting in Moz metacais, and there are 4 MZN to the Rand. I should have realised that the pricing in MZN was too cheap, but it just confuses me when prices aren’t quoted in local currency.

We drove through the outskirts of Maputo this morning and headed west to the Moz/SA border at Ressano Garcia/Lebombo. There’s a well-known scam on the Ring Road just out of Maputo – the road isn’t finished yet and there’s a bit of a detour through a few side streets. Local teenage boys try to earn money by ‘showing you the way’, and we had several offers including one on my side who tried to hang on to Clancy for a while. With 2 GPS and a few vehicles in front of us, we didn’t need any help.

The border crossing was fairly smooth, although there was some confusion about the stamp in my entry visa. I think the Immigration officer thought it should have been embossed rather than just stamped, but as we’d come in through a very small border post with no fancy stuff at all, he finally accepted that the stamp was legit and I hadn’t just done it myself. Ha! As if!

Just outside Immigration and Customs on the Moz side, a table was set up with 2 workers offering free malaria testing. We’ll do that, thanks very much. Drop of blood on a slide, mixed with 3 drops of solution, wait a few minutes, read the results. Both negative, thankfully, but we do have antimalarial treatment medication if we need it.

The South African side was fine until we tried to get a TIP Temporary Import Permit for Clancy. We’d read that it can be a bit like extracting teeth, getting one at Lebombo, so we were prepared for a degree of difficulty.

Up until now we have used a Carnet, sort of like a passport for the car, but it expires in November and we have to return it to the AAA Australian Automobile Association. We want to leave Clancy in SA until early next year, so need to switch to using TIPs instead, which allows us to bring Clancy into South Africa for up to 6 months at a time. The first Customs officer wasn’t sure about any of it, so she called her colleague, who informed us that we must use the Carnet, and then go to Pretoria to get it sorted out. Um, no, we’re not doing that. First woman called her supervisor, who was incredibly helpful and understood exactly what we wanted after it was (again) explained. He also took the time to explain it all to the first Customs officer, so hopefully she is now better informed about the process. From then, it was easy, we got our TIP and were on our way.

And hey, we got through a whole country with no flat tyres. Hurrah!

We called into a shopping centre in Nelspruit and went grocery shopping at Checkers. Wow, there was so much choice and so many things and stuff we hadn’t seen in a while. We’re staying just out of Nelspruit tonight at the Hippo Waterfront Lodge. We’ve heard hippos but haven’t seen any.

So, a few thoughts about our time in Moz. When we first arrived, I asked Greg what he wanted to do while we were there. He wanted to spend time at the beach. I wanted to eat seafood and spend time at the beach. I’d say we achieved what we set out to do. Even though Moz is a much poorer country than Angola, we saw far fewer beggars. Having noted that though, both countries have a large percentage of their populations living at subsistence level.

As we were driving south from Pafuri, I really couldn’t work out what the locals ate apart from beef and goat – they weren’t growing any crops. When we got to the coast, we saw a lot of agriculture, mostly small plots being grown for the household’s consumption. Lots of cassava, which we also saw in parts of Angola. Here’s an interesting article about how to prepare it safely to avoid cyanide poisoning. I saw it for sale at the market I visited in Inhambane with Johnny, but didn’t buy any.

There’s a general election next month and the ruling party, Frelimo, has plastered the country with posters, flags and banners. I predict that after the election, the majority of those flags and banners will become shawls, skirts, sarongs and home furnishings. We’ve already seen one woman wearing one as a skirt and another using one as a shawl. You read it here first, folks.

One of my abiding memories of Moz will be the red and white colours of a lot of the shops in towns and villages. 3 brands have used bars, food shops, restaurants, cafes and mobile phone shops to advertise their products. Vodacom, Mac Mahon beer and Coca Cola have all plastered their advertising over buildings everywhere. We drank 2M ‘dos m’ beers a few times and  enjoyed them.

Just one of the many groups of sellers that line the main road in many towns
Crossing the Limpopo River
Toll both before the Limpopo bridge at Xai-Xai

 

Cashew sellers with many bags of cashews for sale
Cashew sellers with many bags of cashews for sale
Bus stopped before the toll at the Limpopo River bridge surrounded by sellers

 

the beach at Sunset at Sunset Beach Lodge
A very hand made fence of branches from African thorn bushes. This fence was about 100m long in total
Locals use these boats to fish out from the coast of Mozambique
Camped at Esperanca do Mar
the beach near Esperanca do Mar Mozambique
Two kids running towards us as soon as they saw us, to hound us into taking their “directions” to get off the half-built ring road around Maputo (for money, we had been warned before). We had two GPS’s with the route, we did not need help.
The still under construction Maputo Ring road (its been about 6 years)

 

Camped at Hippo waterfront

could not see any Hippos but we heard them later

 

Our first few days in Mozambique

After our long, involved border crossing into Angola earlier this year, we weren’t sure what to expect when we got to the SA/Moz border at Pafuri. Greg organised our vehicle insurance online, thankfully, as it would not have been possible to do on the spot. We deliberately chose places to stay close to the border on each side, in case it took us a long time, but it all went very smoothly.

To get to the Pafuri border, one has to drive through the very northern part of Kruger National Park, so we had to pay the entry fee of R774 AUD$77. We were in the park for about an hour, but we did get to see part of the park we hadn’t seen before and some wildlife – a couple of elephants, a couple of water buffalo, a couple of blue wildebeest, some warthogs and some monkeys.

We’d been assured that we didn’t need a ‘fixer’ to ‘help’ us get through Immigration and Customs on the Moz side, and in fact there was no one around apart from officials and only a few people entering and leaving Moz. A very quiet border post. We knew we had to pay for a visa and had brought enough USD with us. At first the Immigration official would only accept Rand, but we didn’t have enough. So he said he’d accept Rand for one visa and USD for the other. Still not enough, so he finally agreed to accept USD for both visas, but only notes that had been printed after 2009 …. <eyeroll> He ended up making USD 10 out of us because we couldn’t come up with a hundred bucks in post-2009 notes. Whatever. We’d thought the visas cost USD $80 each, so we felt like we were ahead.

Then on to getting the Temporary Import Permit TIP for the car, which was a very straightforward (and free!) process. I like asking people where their family home is, and they like to tell us, and I think that helps us make a connection and ease us through the bureaucratic stuff. And then to Customs, whose ‘office’ was a desk and 2 chairs under a large shelter. They wrote us up in their big book, checked our paperwork and had a look at Clancy. They were mainly interested in whether we had brought any alcohol with us, not because we weren’t allowed to, but to see what they could get out of us. We’d hidden our booze because last time we entered Kruger we weren’t allowed to bring any in with us. This time no one checked. When we were in Louis Trichardt, Greg had bought the supermarket’s entire stock of 2L Pepsi Max bottles and before we crossed the border, I said to him ‘I bet we end up bringing n – 1 bottles into Moz with us. And that’s exactly what happened. The customs guy asked us what we had brought for them, Greg offered them a bottle of Pepsi Max (locally known as a refresco, small bribe. In Angola it was a gasosa) and we were good to go.

We planned to stay at the Dumela campground about 7kms from the border. They had posters up at the Kruger entrance office and at the Moz immigration office, but finding the actual campground was not easy. Partly due to poor signage, but also because iOverlander has the wrong coordinates entered in its information section. Or rather, it has the location of the reception/office rather than the actual campground. The  office is at the top of a very steep, windy, 4WD only dirt track that makes Greg’s driveway at Willunga look like a straight, level piece of road (hint: it’s neither of those things!). So we got to the reception and the receptionist told us we were in the wrong place and that the campsite was down the hill. She didn’t mention anything about paying camping fees and at that stage we just thought we were in the wrong place. We flailed about in the bush for a while, trying to find the campsite and ended up back on the main track (definitely not a ‘road’) and finally found a sign to the campground with instructions to go and pay at Reception first. Um, nope, not going back up that track again, we’ll pay at the campsite.  It was okay and we were the only ones there.

Next day, Wednesday, we were up, packed and on the road before 7am. Incredible. Our final destination was Praia Xai Xai, almost 500kms away. We knew it would take us a couple of days, but didn’t know much about the condition of the road, and as the first part was nothing more than a single dirt track, we wanted as much daylight as possible to drive in as we were only averaging around 25 – 30kms/hr. The road did improve when we got to Mapai, and for a while it was a really good sealed road, but parts of it were terrible – just a very thin layer of tar painted over sand. Other parts were very potholed and some bits were rutted sand/dirt. We found a quarry about 300kms south and camped there on Wednesday night.

Just vefore we decided to finish for the day, we drove through our first police checkpoint in Moz. A policeman checked Greg’s drivers licence and Clancy’s paperwork while a soldier checked our passports. I had to get the passports out of the places we hide them in our living area and while I was doing that, the soldier came around and said ‘Oh, this is your little house!’ Maybe he thought it was a delivery truck or something. Apparently all our paperwork was in order as we were waved off. We’ve driven through a few more checkpoints but haven’t been stopped at any more yet. In contrast, by the time we’d been in Angola for a few days, we’d been stopped at quite a few already.

Now we’re at the beach just south-east of Xai Xai, spending a couple of days at the Montego Resort. We’d really like to spend up to a week somewhere, but the beach here isn’t all that good for swimming, so we’ll head further up the coast tomorrow to see what we can find. Weather’s great, it’s off-season so we shouldn’t have any problems finding somewhere to stay.

Fever trees next to the Limpopo river, just inside the border past Pafuri gate
Abandoned brick kiln near the Limpopo River
more abandoned buildings. The Limpopo River flooded in 2000, and got to be 5km wide, so this town near the Limpopo is mostly abandoned

 

A method of building construction we had never seen before. This one is deteriorated but essentially its a frame of timber but in-filled with rocks.
This is a better example of a timber framed rock in-filled building
Overtaking one of many trucks transporting charcoal
A train we passed we guessed pulling fuel wagons headed to Zimbabwe
train headed to Zimbabwe
Driving through Mabalane, about half way on our Journey from Pafuri crossing to Xai-Xai
The main street of Mabalane
A cop stop outside Mabalane
The “main road” N221 from Mapai to Chokwe. It could be could tar or rutted sand
Camped for the night in a sand quarry south of Mabalane
Crossing the Limpopo River at a weir at Chinhacanine
An avenue of Eucalyptus trees we drove through
Market town
We continually dodged wandering cattle
The toll gate before the toll bridge. We paid R100 to cross the bridge over the Limpopo River, except there was no bridge, it had been washed away years ago.
crossing the dry Limpopo River
Crossing the Limpopo River, this is the ferry on the dried out river. I don’t think we would fit on it.
A small market running in a little village south of Pafuri gate
Once we got further south it was potholes after potholes
If you don’t have a jack, get a pole and a few guys….
Kids pushing hand made toy cars
We finally reach the ocean after 2 days of heading south
Camped at Montego Resort

Bots to Moz

We’ve been offline for a short while as we crossed back from Botswana to Sth Africa last Saturday, then made our way across the north-east of SA to Kruger National Park and crossed into Mozambique via Pafuri Gate on Tuesday.

On our last night in Botswana, we wild-camped north of Serowe on a disused road we found when we were there in March. We used the Martin’s Drift/Groblersbrug border crossing from Bots to SA for the 4th time. Martin’s Drift on the Botswana side was, as usual, quick, easy and predictable. Groblersbrug was the usual confusion of not knowing where to go because the Immigration section had been moved again, although being Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t as busy as we’ve seen it. There was a huge line of trucks waiting to cross into Bots, though – at least 3kms long.

We stayed at the Big Fig Inn near Tom Burke, just a few kms from the border. Lovely campground with grassy sites. The first grass we’ve seen in quite a while.  On Sunday we headed east towards Louis Trichardt. We’d driven along a really terrible stretch of road from Tom Burke to Alldays on our first trip here, so we wanted to avoid that this time. Google Maps offered an alternative, but neglected to mention that parts of it were dirt! Blrgh. Anyway, we reached our second campsite, Zvakanaka, just north of Louis Trichard and it was a lovely set-up too. We had a site with our own shelter, power, water, braai. Ablutions including a front-loading washing machine were nearby. Great views over the Soutpansberg mountain range. 

On Monday we did some stuff in Louis Trichard – groceries, tyre & inner tubes, hardware, more groceries, then continued east to our third campsite, Nthakeni, at Nkotswi. On the way, we stopped and fuelled up at Masisi, the last fuel source for us in Sth Africa, and in the part of Moz we were heading to, fuel supplies are unreliable. On our first trip to Sth Africa, we were heading to Pafuri Gate and were stopped by a roadblock at Masisi – the bridge over the river had been washed away, so we had to head south to another gate.

Nthakeni Bush and River Camp was an absolute gem. Located on the  Mutale River, it offers a range of accommodation and provides employment for local villagers. Our campsite had its own outdoor shower, (indoor) toilet and the best camp kitchen I’ve seen. Well-equipped, nicely laid out, it was excellent!

It would have been great to spend more time at any or all of the 3 South African campgrounds we visited, but …. places to go, borders to cross, a new country to explore …

Last camp in Botswana, unused road on ioverlander
Camped at Zvakanaka
Zvakanaka
the lizard ladder at Zvakanaka
Night-time and washing at Zvakanaka
Soutpansberg mountain range
Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
the river near Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
Nthakeni Bush and River Camp
Judy cooking in the kitchen at Nthakeni Bush and River Camp

An aggressive looking Cape Buffalo in Kruger National Park
Elephants in the distance Kruger National Park
Monkeys and Warthogs Kruger National Park

Back in Botswana

It seems hard to believe now, that the first time we visited this beautiful country the only thing I wanted to do was go to Gaborone. It’s not far from the SA/Bots border and I’d read so much about it in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I just wanted to see it for myself, and maybe catch a glimpse of the Tiny White Van.

We’re now visiting Bots for the 4th time and each time we fall a bit more in love with the place, the people, the incredible scenery and the overall ‘vibe’. And we keep on finding more places to see and more reasons to visit.

We crossed the border at McCarthy’s Rest/Tsabong yesterday and almost as soon as we’d arrived in Bots, we relaxed and heaved a sigh of something close to relief that were back here. Our last full day in Sth Africa had been a bit of a trial – the last big town before the border, Kuruman, is a rough place and we were glad to get out of there. Then the first place we tried for a campsite didn’t offer camping any more, despite multiple signs on the road advertising same. And then when we got to the next place, OppiKnoppi, we got our first flat tyre. At least we were able to spend the night there, in a nice cabin that cost us R150pp – around $30 total.

Last night we stayed at the Tsabong Eco-Tourism Camel Park, which is about 10kms out of Tsabong, and 30kms from the border. We have a powered campsite, which has a braai (of course!), huge stack of firewood, outdoor sink and we also have our own bathroom area with toilet, shower and fancy washbasin. And plenty of hot water! We got here early enough yesterday afternoon that we were able to do a load of washing, Greg got some stuff done and I had an afternoon nap. A couple of groups of camels wandered past our campsite, but otherwise we had our space to ourselves. Lovely place, I’d recommend it to everyone visiting this area

We’re heading ‘bush’ and will be off the air for about a week. Going to the eastern part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at Mabuasehube, then west to Kaa, leaving the park and heading to Hukunsti, where we’ll have internet access again hopefully, Kang and then north to Ghanzi. Sadly we’ll miss the Heavy Metal Festival in Ghanzi, but we’ve read about it and it looked like a hoot! Then to the CKGR – Central Kalahari Game Reserve. That’s the plan.
See you in a week!

Tsabong Camel Park
A camel at Tsabon Camel Park
Cooking dinner making Yogurt

 

 

Camped at Tsabong Camel park

Leaving Angola

We did it! 3 weeks in Angola and we didn’t get sick, injured, arrested or robbed. We really enjoyed (most of) our time there, and feel like we got to see a good cross-section of the country and managed to keep away from the capital Luanda which doesn’t seem to have anything much to recommend it. The Scottish oil worker we met at Arco lives there and he told us not to bother.

We’ve spent the last few  days without internet, so let’s have a quick catch-up.

We thought that rather than just head back over the Santa Clara border, we’d see a bit more of the country and cross over further east at Katuitwi / Katwitwi. Greg had saved a trip report of someone’s Angola tag-along tour from a couple of years ago and he gave good information about places they had camped along the way, the condition of the road south to the border and how long it took the group of 15 at each border post. The Angolan post had been recently completed when the author crossed it in 2016, and it had taken the group 8 hours to drive the last 250-ish kms on an unsealed road. So, slow going but we’ve been used to that in Angola.

Blergh, big mistake! The road must have deteriorated since 2016 and it took us a day and a half to do what the tag along group had done in 8 hours. To any overlanders reading this, Don’t Do It! Cross over at Santa Clara or Ruacana.

The author had also very helpfully mentioned a couple of quarries they had camped at along the way, and we stayed at them too, but as we realised the last section would take us more than a day, we had to find somewhere to camp about 60kms north of the border post. In this still-heavily landmined area we couldn’t risk just going off-road and finding something, and there were no convenient tracks for us to just head down, so we ended up on a narrow piece of land between 2 tracks where vehicles had driven to get from one to another. Basically, we camped on a median strip!

The border crossing at both the Angolan and Namibian posts was pretty easy, once we actually found where to go at the spiffy newish mostly unused Angolan post. There were 3 entry booths and an enormous commercial building, a bit like the one at Santa Clara,but it was all sitting empty and overgrown with weeds. No signage, so we just drove until we were stopped by a string across the road, then had to be shown where to find the single immigration desk hidden at the back of a building. It all went smoothly but we were a bit baffled that the customs lady insisted on inspecting nearly all our storage boxes. Um, we’re leaving, what could be in any of those boxes that might be of interest? Anyway, her English was good so I gave her my 2 Women’s Weekly mags. It’s such a quiet post, I thought she might need something to do to keep occupied.

The Namibian side was fine, but Greg had to show the Customs lady there how to fill in our carnet as they don’t get many of them. I noticed on the Immigration officer’s daily log that we were number 4 & 5 to pass through, at about 10.30am. And then when the policeman was checking our paperwork, Greg noticed that ours was the first vehicle for the day. For some reason, even though we had paid our road tax when we entered from South Africa and it was valid for 3 months, we had to pay it again because we were entering from Angola.

And then we were back in Namibia, driving on the left hand side of the road, on a sealed road with line markings and street signs and all that stuff were used to. It was bliss!

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll just add a few general comments about Angola – everyone we met, spoke to and even drove past seems happy and friendly. As a nation the population has a lovely disposition despite, or maybe because of, the incredible hardship of that long civil war and the ongoing poverty amongst the majority.

One of the saddest things we saw were small patches of shredded casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the main sealed road south before it became a rutted nightmare – what the South Africans call the ‘yellow lane’, the safety or breakdown lane. Better-off locals would dry it in flat baskets or on large squares of fabric within their compound. The poorest people just dried it direct on the bitumen and hope that no vehicle drives over it. When the manioc is dried, it is scraped up, pounded to flour and then mixed with water to make a grey porridgey gloopy mass that is consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner with small amounts of spice, meat and vegetables. Maize is treated in a similar way.

We saw so many abandoned or incomplete projects, buildings, roads, bridges, multi-storey hotels. This is not a poor country, thanks to its oil, but mismanagement, waste and probably corruption is on a scale we have never seen before.

Would we recommend Angola as a travel destination? Unless you’re an experienced Overlander and have visited other African countries … no. But if you are an Overlander .. absolutely. We’ll remember those 3 weeks for the rest of our lives.

casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the road
The terrible road to the Namibian border
One of the many abandoned buildings along the road
One of the few vehicles plying this road, a 6 wheel drive truck – broken down
The eroded sandy road to the border
Filling up the tanks with water from the Kubango / Okavango River

 

Getting water from the Kubango / Okavango River
One of the abandoned businesses that failed because the road building never finished
Abandoned construction equipment including a D6 Caterpillar and a abandoned road construction camp
Shower time at the sand quarry where we camped
Charcoal burning
Every cellphone tower had a guard. They usually lived in a grass hut, next to the latest in 21st century technology.
A frog that sheltered under our steps at the quarry campsite
Camped on a median strip, the last night in Angola
Our route in Angola
Camped at Rundu, the first camping ground after 21 days

 

 

Angola

Oh. My. God. We’re in Angola!

It took us 4 hours to get through Immigration and Customs yesterday, I’ll write more about that when our internet access is better, but to be honest, I didn’t even think we’d have internet access here, other than in large towns.

We spent last night camped near a huge baobab tree near Xangongo, about 130kms from the border. It’s reputed to be the largest baobab in Africa. We met a young Frenchman today and spent a couple of hours chatting with him (Hi, Joffrey!) and we’re staying here again tonight because it’s a nice place and we’re all set up and comfortable. We’ve said bom dia good morning and boa tarde good afternoon to visitors and locals. The locals walk near where we’re camped to go and get water to take back to their village. The visitors, including a local policeman who was born near here. come to see the tree.

    1. More later.

      Dealing with some locals selling Sim cards for mobile data
    2. Russian Tank from the civil war by the side of the highway
Thorn bush fences for keeping cattle and goats in. We have seen lots of these in Angola
Greg, Joffrey and Judy at our campsite near the Giant Baobab Tree

Judy fixing our insect screen door