I imagine that this will be my final update for the trip as we only have a couple of days left and our connectivity has been somewhat limited so far! I’m sitting under a massive mosquito net on a mattress on the floor at Zombie Cucumber Backpackers in Vilankulos which has been lovely. We spent what should have been a beach day fixing Frau who seemed to be firing only on 3 cylinders for some reason. Luckily the owner here recommended a fantastic Zimbabwean Guy to help us get her right so we managed to fix her before making the long journey home via Inhambane and Maputo.
We’ve had an adventurous couple of days let me tell you! From the Malawian Checkpoint we had to make our way down to the Mozambiquan border. On the upside, the ‘Almost Full moon party’ held at Senga bay was awesome! It was right on the edge of Lake Malawi and everyone had neon bits stuck to their outfits which lit up in the moonlight. We opted to stay at a very nice backpackers called Cool Runnings instead of camping (yes, you really can have enough of the great outdoors!). On the downside, we had to drive for 13 hours to Chimoio in Mozam the next day. Again, on crossing the border the difference between Mozambique and Malawi was apparent. Long gone were all the smiles and friendly banter. Instead the officials here had a slightly hostile edge to them. It seems that mostly trucks make use of the border post here and so they aren’t really comfortable/ familiar with tourists coming through from this side. One thing I must mention –at whichever border posts one goes through with the exception of the SA-Namibia one, one is accosted by guys offering local currency on the black market – they literally swarm your car (in Zamibia they are actually supported and in cahoots with the officials). Mozambique really took the cake with this though. There are all sorts of ‘agents’ wanting to help you through the border and charging exorbitant amounts for doing so. We told them to politely shove off and made our way through on our own.
I’ve read about Northern Mozambique being a ‘fuel-less wasteland’ (it’s true) and nothing showed this better than Tete. This place makes Umtata look like an oasis. It’s one of the hottest places in Southern Africa with temperatures reaching more than 42 degrees in summer. Let me just say, it wasn’t much bloody better in winter. We passed through in the late afternoon and it was baking. Moreover, there was no food to be found at any of the places we stopped at. There was also no electricity, water or toilets and the people were rude…very nice (although if I lived there I would also be pretty rude I think, either that or very drunk all the time). I think my low point of the trip occurred when we eventually had to end up eating crisps on rock hard, dry rolls while sitting on the kerb of the only Engen garage we could find.. We eventually arrived at the Pink Papaya in Chimoio which was heaven after the long ride in the car. Of all the places we’ve been, Mozambique is a bit of a mystery to me. It seems as if both the Zamibans and possibly even the Malawians are poorer than them, but there seems to be an air of decay about the place. Gone are all the crazy goats off the side of the road, as a matter of fact, the only wild animals we have seen are dead ones, and there are a LOT of dead ones. They seem to follow the philosophy of ‘if it moves, eat it.’ We’ve seen guys selling all sorts of bush meat on the side of the road, buck, guinea fowl, spatchcocked mongoose and a whole bunch of other things – we actually passed this one guy who made the dead monkey he was holding dance for us, as if that would increase its desirability (because why eat a dead monkey when you could eat a delicious dancing dead monkey?!?). There are loads of abandoned old buildings and everything seems to run extra slow here.
The long days on the car have been a bit hectic on all of us and I think we’re ready not to be a car for a while. We were having a chat tonight at dinner and all of us seem to agree that although we have had an amazing time together and seen some truly fantastic things – the rally as a whole is not really what we were expecting. It’s funny – I was really expecting a similar kind of vibe to the Camino (possibly an error on my side), but the feeling I get is more the one where we were sitting at the Madrid Airport when we met that South African couple who told us that New York was their favourite country and that they could never possibly go to a country where Spanish was spoken…Nevertheless, we have had a really great time and seen amazing things. It’s also made us realise how truly epic South Africa is! To end on a positive note, I think that there will be a lot of spin off’s from this event – lots of teams have been chatting about starting up similar initiatives and getting involved with Africa and it’s people. So even if that’s all that comes from this, then that will be worth it.