We’ve spent the last few days at a couple of ‘resorts’ on the coast a couple of hundred kms from Maputo, the capital of Mozambiqe. The first one, Montego Resort at Xai Xai, was … okay and a very welcome break after the long dusty drive down from Pafuri border. The campsites were all deep sand up a steep hill, with power but no water. Washing up sinks and taps were located a fair way up the hill, and there was one tap the gardener used down the hill. The shared ablutions were fine, the beach across the track was okay at low tide and we had a nice meal at the restaurant.
We paid $40 per night which seemed on the expensive side, but then, on our last trip we paid USD$100/night for a site at Third Bridge campground in Botswana. A week or so ago, we paid AUD$70 to camp at Kubu Island in Bots. Our free wild camps help to dollar-cost average it all.
Now we’re just a bit further up the coast at the Sunset Beach Resort at Chidenguele and it’s lovely. I do laugh at the choice of name, though. The sun will never, ever set on this beach! Our campsite is grassy sand and each site is powered, has its own shelter that has a washing up sink with hot and cold water, and a bathroom with a really good shower (plus toilet and handbasin). There’s a lovely pool, the beach is good and the restaurant is excellent. We ate there last night – Greg had ‘line caught fish’, I had grilled crayfish. The fish was less than $10, the crayfish was $17 and our site is $20/night. We’ve already extended our stay here by an extra night. Might be hard to leave!
We’re planning on going to Inhambane, which is about 200kms further north along the coast, and that’s as far north as we’ll go on this trip. Then we’ll head south to the border at Komatipoort and re-enter South Africa. We have to be back in Joburg in a couple of weeks.
I bet at least 50% of you now have that Willie Nelson song ticking over in your brain. Sorry about that!
We headed out of Jo’burg yesterday morning. Finally. We really enjoyed spending 10 days at Airport En Route. It’s the longest we’ve spent anywhere apart from home in … forever. We settled into a nice little routine of Greg working on stuff on Clancy – new roof box, diesel-powered heater for our living space that we can also use to heat our outdoor shower tent, water heater for our showers. When he needed things from the hardware, or we needed something from the supermarket, Greg would ride his bike to the shops. I cooked, read a lot and did my best to maintain the campers’ kitchen to the high standard the owners keep it. There’s something about a very clean kitchen that seems to make us want to keep it that way, and our hostess Marion thanked me for keeping it so clean, but she still liked to splash plenty of Ajax around.
Most of the time, we were the only people there, but a couple of nights before we left there was a family from French Guiana who stayed overnight. And where is French Guinana? Just north of Brazil, and east of Surinam. If you have read ‘Papillon’, you’d recognise it. It was a former French penal colony and our host David took great delight in pointing out that all their campers were from former penal colonies – ie, us and the French Guianans.
We’re on our way to the SA/Bots border crossing at McCarthy’s Rest, north-west of Jo’burg. We drove through the centre of Jo’burg yesterday, we hadn’t meant to, but we got to revisit some of the places we got to know quite well when we stayed in an Airbnb in Maboneng on our first trip to Sth Africa. We were driving along and all of a sudden I realised we were in that trendy area. It looks better at night when all the pretty lights are on and there are plenty of people out and about, but it still looked good.
Last night we stayed at a campground just off the N14, at Barberspan Lake, 300kms west of Jo’burg.We had a lakeside campsite, and were the only ones there! There were only 6 campsites, but loads of A-frame chalets which were also all empty. I guess it gets busy during school holidays, at least I hope it does, for the sake of the owners and their staff.
Tonight we’re staying at the Red Sands Country Lodge, just a bit west of Kuruman. It’s an impressive set-up … lots of rondeval-style cabins, campsites with private facilities plus campsites without their own bathrooms, restaurant, bar, pool etc etc. We’re just staying in an ordinary campsite and using the shared bathroom, but we do have our own sink, braai and bench with power points and light. It’s very nice and at the lower end of what we pay for a campsite – R240, around $25.
We’re planning on crossing into Botswana tomorrow and have read various reports of what food we can and can’t take across. We know we can’t take fresh meat, and why would we when Botswana beef is so good and so cheap? But then we’ve read of people having UHT milk confiscated, no idea why, and fish and all kinds of other fresh food. Seems like it depends on whether the customs officer is hungry or not! When we crossed from Namibia to Bots earlier this year, we had apples and potatoes taken, despite a notice in the office with information on maximum allowed quantities, and what we had was nowhere near the limit.
One of our friends – hi Grant! – asked what our ‘go-to’ quick dinner is when we are setting up camp late at night. I replied that we always aim to be off the road well before dark, and if we haven’t reached our destination we just find somewhere suitable off the road and camp there. It did get me to thinking that I don’t write much about day-to-day stuff and what we eat. It is all just everyday life to us, but maybe it might be interesting.
We use a single-burner gas stove that takes disposable butane gas cartridges. Those cartridges cost less than AUD$2 at home, here we have paid up to AUD$5 for them. They usually last 2 or 3 days though and we bought enough in South Africa & Namibia to last us for this trip. We haven’t found any here in Angola, although I’ve seen the gas stoves in the local Shoprite supermarkets. I cook with a frypan, pressure cooker and use a small kettle for heating water. I love drinking black coffee and have worked out a good routine where I boil water in the evening, keep it in a thermos overnight and by the time I’m ready to drink my first (and usually only) coffee of the day, it’s the perfect temperature, and I don’t have to fuss about getting the stove out and heating up water in the morning.
I could write a whole blog post about how much I love our camping pressure cooker. Maybe I have in a previous blog, I can’t remember. We use a pressure cooker at home a lot, and prior to a previous camping trip – one of the European trips a couple of years ago I think – I got to thinking about how good it would be to take a pressure cooker with us, to save on gas and cooking times. I would have happily taken the 6L manual one that now sits on a shelf unused because we have a fancy electric one, but Greg found a Korean camping ‘rice cooker’ on Ebay. It’s a lightweight 3L manual pressure cooker and it is perfect for us. I also use it as an ordinary cooking pot occasionally, but a lot of the camp cooking I do now is done under pressure.
We have a hot meal every night. I love cooking while we’re camping, I love the challenge of making something tasty using minimal equipment, limited ingredients and in a short space of time – 30 minutes prep + cooking time. The foods that take the longest to cook are barley & potatoes- 10 minutes each. The stews I cook take about 12 minutes and barley risotto takes about 15 minutes.
Somehow everything tastes better when you’re in the middle of nowhere. As the saying goes – hunger is the best spice.
I started making a list of the meals we’ve eaten recently
Barley with tinned apple or other fruit- Greg
Muesli with home-made yoghurt – me
Usually bread, baguettes or rolls, sometimes wraps, with ham & cheese or jam
Occasionally – frying pan pizzas with wraps, Mrs Ball’s fruit chutney, cheese, pineapple, ham
Barley risotto with garlic, onions, chicken, cauliflower, carrot, broccoli
Cous cous as above
Stews – pork or chicken, lentils, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, carrot or other veg, tomato paste
Pasta – tortellini with cream sauce – garlic, onions, bacon, cream thickened with cornflour
Pasta – dry pasta with canned tomatoes, tuna, feta
Steak, potatoes, frozen peas
Veal steak ( + deglazed pan juices with cider), potatoes
White chili – chicken, cannelini beans, onions, garlic, spices
Sausage & lentils
Pasta with sausage bolognese – take sausage meat out of skins, add onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes
Frittata with leftover cooked vegies
Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday so I made pancakes and as we’re having a ‘rest day’ today and staying here, just north of Bentiaba, for a second night, I mixed up a batch of yeasted dough and made pan-fried not-quite-naan breads
We keep small quantities of onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, apples and bananas but not much other fresh fruit or veg as they don’t travel well. I cook with dried lentils and canned beans. At home I cook with dried beans but they take too much gas to cook when camping. I have a few basics that I add to our meals – onion salt and dehydrated raw vegetable stock powder that I make at home, plus mixed herbs, mild curry powder and ‘chicken spice’ that looks like it’s mainly paprika. I bought little cardboard boxes of the last 3 at Food Lover’s in Cape Town.
And finally, moving away from food and cooking, a confession.
We packed a 24inch TV in Clancy when we shipped him and sometimes watch TV shows at night. We convert Clancy’s dining room into our bedroom, hang to TV on the mounting bracket inside the door and watch an episode of a TV series Greg has downloaded. So far we’ve watched and enjoyed all of Russian Doll, and we’ve just started on Series 3 of True Detective.