Safari wagon   Cape 2013   Cape 2006   Sani Pass   Mkhambathi
Libby's page

A Trip to Mozambique 2004
We left home (Greytown, KZN) on Thursday 16th September 2004 at midday and our final destination was the beach resort of Paindane on the Mozambique coast, about 508 kilometres north of Maputo.

It was a lousy day, hot and dry with a strong north wind and temperature in the high thirties. Near Seven Oaks a plantation fire was raging on one of Mondi's estates as yellow water bombers buzzed round the pall of smoke like angry hornets. The hot conditions were a far cry from the headlines of the Natal Mercury that warned of an "Icy weekend for the Midlands".   We were thankful for the air conditioner in our Toyota Hilux.

Midway between Greytown and Stanger we noticed a heavy bank of cloud on the southern horizon, a sure sign of the predicted cold front. Shortly before turning off on a short cut towards the Mandini Pulp mill the south wind arrived with the velocity of a run-away train. It hit us with a frightening force almost buffeting us off the road. Within minutes the overall visibility had dropped to a few kilometres; the sky was grey with dust and debris from the cane fields. We passed a farm to see a corrugated iron roof been peeled off a shed. A branch from a gum tree narrowly missed us. Besides the gale force wind the temperature had dropped dramatically, case of aircon off, heater on.
Just before Empangeni we moved from the cold front coming back into the hot winds from the north, the temperature soared; heater off, aircon on!

Weird weather!

It was the end of winter and the country was still timber dry. In places the sugar cane seemed dead, streams had no flow and dams were empty or almost empty. The bright green of spring was still a long way off.
We arrived at Matubatuba and were thankful that we did not live there. Although it was hot at home it seemed doubly so at Matubatuba, especially with the sticky humidity.
Our son lives in Mtumzini and we stayed with him that evening. We had supper at an local restaurant and sat at a table on their verandah as it was cooler than the stifling heat inside. Just after the meal was served the south wind arrived with a flurry upsetting bottles of condiments and taking the taking the seviettes with it. We grabbed hold of our plates and ran for cover inside the building.

Next day had grey skies and a tad cooler then the day before with the odd spit of rain. We had all day to get to Manzini so we lounged about, visited a Tilapia fish farm then set off for Swaziland, crossing the border at Lavumisa.

Border crossings in Africa can be an extrememy frustrating and annoying experience, emotional and temperamental outbursts will only increase the delay leading to more agitation and the risk of a Coranary Thrombosis. So, my Man, hang loose breath deeply, become aware of your environment; take time to count how many notices are not straight; see if you can guess who will be the next person to jump the queue. Check how long it takes to process each person, this way you can calculate how many hours it will be before you can get to a toilet.
But don't let me put you off. The Lavumisa border crossing is by no means the worst - in fact it is pretty good in comparison to many others, being a Sunday did help as there not many vehicles, or people, at the border.

Swaziland was depressing, over populated, dirty and grossly overgrazed, the mangy cattle who were not averse to eating plastic bags or cardboard boxes. About the only good thing I can say about Swaziland is that their roads are good, although their drivers have a death wish and the pedestrians suicidal; come to think of it - no change, just like South Africa.

We were all to meet on the farm, 'EI Ranch' of the Grant Nilsen, a friend of Struan's, about 18 kilometres from Manzini.
The group was going to consist of 11 people: The old folks were Libby, Clive, and I. Then there were the young set, Struan, Clive's son, who arranged and organised the trip; his friends Steve, Mike, Grant and girlfriend Amaree; then the south coast boys, Craig, Gavin and Richard. Besides my Toyota, Struan had a new Landrover TDI 5 short wheelbase and towing a large boat. Grant had a Toyota Double cab and the south coast mob in rusty 'ol Toyota Hi-Lux single cab also towing a boat and enough booze to start a wholesale outlet in Maputo.

That evening the youngsters began celebrating the sea, sun and fishing that awaited them in Mozabique. Libby remarked, "Just think of the party if they catch a little guppie!"

We were all up very early next morning and shortly after sunrise we left the ranch and headed for Namaache on the Mozambique border. The others took off at break neck speed while Libby and I took it quietly. After all, why the rush? We only had about 130 kilometres to go and the border only opened at 7. By now the sky was like a corridor in the Department of Home Affairs, dirty grey and dreary with the occasional spatter of rain, that only required an occasional flick of the windscreen wipers.

We met up with the others at a service station close to the border. They were not only filling their vehicles but also jerry cans and boat tanks. The price of fuel in Swaziland is cheaper than South Africa; R3-60 compared to R3-88 and considerably cheaper than Mozambique where it was equivalent to R5-50. (Those were the days!) I filled up as well and was the first to leave arriving at the border 10 minutes before the others.

MAP OF SOUTHERN MOZAMBIQUE

With kind permission of Getaway Magazine
Refer Getaway - October 1998;  'The long road to Inhambane'

Within seconds of arriving a black man appears at my window. He furtively looks around then asks me, "You want meticals?"
"Yes," I reply, "what's the exchange rate?"     Now the camel trading starts.
"250 to the Rand."
"No deal", I tell him, "I want 350".
He looks horrified, rolls his eyes and says in disbelief, "350? I'll give you 280." We haggle for a while then I finally wind up my window to indicate that negotiations are over. As he leaves another arrives and we begin the same procedure. We finally settle on a rate of 300 and I exchange R500.

The rest of the group arrives and I see that the first guy who I dealt with is busy exchanging currency with them while at least a dozen others are trying to horn in.
We were through the border in a flash. I was surprised, especially not one of the veihcles were searched. The South Coast boys would have been in the clink for years for the amount of booze they had on board. Only afterwards I was told that one of the guys had greased procedure with a fist-full of dollars. I do not agree with bridery, it sticks in my craw. Only once have I resorted to a bribe and that was to prevent me spending a weekend in the Umzinkulu jail for have an expired vehicle licence.

Once across the border you can feel things are different and this heightened the feeling of excitement; - A new country, A new adventure.
The difference was immediately noticeable as all signs, posters, etc are in Portuguese. Another impression, once leaving the border town, was the cleanliness of the country. There was hardly any litter and compared to Swaziland Mozambique looked pristine, especially north of Maputo. The same, however, cannot be said for Maputo and its surrounds.

Not far from the border I saw signs saying, "Mine clearing area" and the tell tale notice with a red skull and cross bones signifying-  LAND MINES. Throughout our visit we saw a number of people on crutches with limbs missing, a chilling reminder that the country bled for 20 years in a bloody civil war and the ever present threat of land mines.

Once more Libby and I were on our own as the others had on sped on ahead. Having heard of the frequency of speed traps and the heavy fines levied I stuck to the speed limit, however we never saw a speed trap; maybe they were well hidden.

Fortunately we did not need to go through Maputo as the road north looped around the city. On the northern side of Maputo the road was flanked by open-air vendors with crudely constructed wooden shelters that served as shops. The gutters were filthy, choked with rubbish and thin starving dogs sniffing for something edible. Traffic crawled along at a snails pace.

Ahead was a police roadblock and we were signalled to pull over and I made the mistake of releasing my seat belt. The policeman, with the expression of an executioner, indicated that I did not have my seat belt on. He no doubt did not see me wearing it as I drove in as I had on a black leather jacket identical in colour to the seat belt. He could not speak English and my knowledge of Portuguese was less than zero, however with a broad smile, a friendly tone and wildly gesticulating I tired to explain my innocence. He finally, but reluctantly, accepted my explanation but was now determined to find something wrong. He walked round to the back of the truck.

The rack on top of my truck extends about 400mm over the back and he indicated to me that this was not allowed; it had to be flush with the back. Before leaving I had fitted a red triangle onto this protrusion. I immediately pointed to the triangle and said to him, "Tring, tring. Tring, tring!" (Tring = triangle?)
Before he had a chance to respond I grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously saying, "Mozambique, number one. Sharp. Sharp." I then grabbed him, gave him a good hug, saying "Abrigado" (good bye). I wish you could have seen his face, his eyes were wide with astonishment. I jumped into the Hilux and drove off. He made no effort to stop me, I'm sure it was for fear of another embrace; his combrades were already laughing and chirping - no doubt about his sexual orintation.

Not far beyond the road block we pass the cemetery. The place was humming with activity, traffic was fierce and pavement vendors were every where, coffin bearers and ice cream sellers jostling in a surging crowd. Like most of Southern Africa aids is rampant in Mozambique - death is big business.

As we travelled north the views become more scenic. There was many a small villages we drove through. Most of the buildings were old, dreary, dilapidated with weeds growing in the sagging gutters, all in urgent need of paint that was probably last done 20 years ago. The only buildings that looked well maintained were the odd government building.

The countryside between the villages is well wooded, but for how long, as there there were many roadside vendors selling bundles of cut firewood.  The tragedy of Africa! Once upon a time, long, long ago, the coastal belt must have been a rich tropical forest with a myriad of birds and animals. Now all that remains are cocanut and cashew nut trees amidst fields of cassava. with scratch patch farming between the trees.
We come to a small nameless settlement and see the bleeding body of a pedestrian lying on the side of the road. A short distance further on a car stands with the front end crumpled and windscreen broken. A crowd has to gathered; they seemed more interested in the car then the corpse. A policeman waves us on.
On our trip we passed a number of accident scenes that had, fortunately, occured some time before. Road safety in Mozambique seems pretty dismal so I advise any visiter motoring in the country to drive with extreme caution.

Vendors, with plastic bags of cashew nuts, are a common sight as they wave and tempt you to stop and buy. As you stop they arrive like blow flies round a carcass trying to push the bags into the window all shouting their price. Finding the situation intolerable we drove off. We finally find three vendors, not a mob, and proceed to negotiate a price. I had no idea what the weight of the bag was, at least a kilogram or two. They start with 200000 meticals (approximately R66), I offer 50000 and finally struck a deal at 10000. The vendors are quite happy to sell in South Africa Rands.
Words of advice: Check the nuts carefully before you buy to ensure that are properly shelled and cleaned and that they are not over-roasted.
It is obviously an agrarian society as there are no fences with small cultivated fields of maize and cassava that stretch out on either side of the road. We saw a few animals such as cattle, goats, pigs. When we did they were tethered. Only once we saw a herd of cattle and they were well supervised by half a dozen herders.

About 250 kilometres north of Maputo the coconut palm becomes the dominant feature of the landscape, together with cashew nut trees. The huts are no longer constructed with grass and thatch but with reeds and palm leaves.
The soil is sandy, rocks and stones a rarity. In fact all building aggregate north of Maputo, as far as Inhambane, is trucked in from a huge quarry just south of the capital.

Although the road is tarred it had become narrow as the verges were breaking away and there were many bone-jarring potholes. In fact some of the potholes resembled an open cast mine and made our potholes back home look like a dimple on a babies bum. It was 300 kilometres since we crossed the border and the day had progressively become darker with a gale force wind and heavy rain. The potholes were now great dams of water. It would not have surprised me to see the guys launching their boat to fish in some of the potholes.

As we approach Xai-Xai I spot the others a short way in front of us. We follow them across the Limpopo River into a garage to top up with fuel. Here we are told of an accident that Struan had shortly before. He was driving through a village when a pick-up suddenly braked in front of his Landrover. Although he hit the brakes the weight of the boat behind skidded the Landy into the back of the pick-up causing a few dents to the rear end. Struan said there were already so many dents that a few more hardly mattered. The Landrover, having a fearsome bull-bar, was OK. The pick-up had a South Africa registration and the driver was from Johannesburg. After much discussion and negotiations a roadside settlement was reached and Struan paid him R600 for damages. Case closed and all went on their merry way.
By now it has begun to rain; not a drizzle or a gentle shower - but serious rain; the kind of rain that would have got Noah to close the doors of the Arch and reach for the oars. Once more we set off with the others speeding ahead into the rain.

We meet up with the others at the village of Quissico, they had stopped at a tatty looking garage as Struan wanted to fill up the Landrover with diesel. Then the Landy would not start, not a cough or a splutter. We then decide on a pull-start so I drag him around the block in an ettempt to get it going. No luck - the Landrover remains stubbornly inactive. Struan, lips tight with anger, got on his cell phone to the LR-Agents who has recently sold him the vehicle.
The problem appears to be electrical and linked to the immobiliser system. The technician suggests that the driver's seat be removed then check all the fuses and relays fitted under the seat. He feels that the wet conditions could have something to do with the problem. (New Landrovers do not like wet conditions - someone please tell the British army) However Struan has no spanners, or any other tools with him. Just as well I have a toolbox together with a can of water repellent spray. He checks and sprays but the Landrover refuses to start. Then Struan gets directions as to how to reprogram the alarm system.
No joy - "the Landrover she is going nowhere".

Note the recovery vehicle on the right of the photo, nicknamed "THE BEAST" by the rest of the crew. That's me!!

Meanwhile Libby has produced a cold chicken, as the others had nothing to eat they ripped it to shreds like starving hyenas. A loaf of bread and a packet of rusks suffered the same fate. Meanwhile the rain poured down, driven almost horizontally in the ferocious wind. Being soaking wet was fast becoming a way of life.

Finally it is decided that the others will carry onto Paindane, I would stay with Struan. If he cannot get the Landy started within a short while then I'd tow him to Inhambane. Grant takes over the boat Struan was towing and they leave.

As we still had 132 kilometres to go Inhambane, two hours plus, we decide to proceed with the tow, hopefully to get there before dark. Before we left I had said to Struan, "Remember the secret of a smooth tow is that I am the engine and you are the brake. On a downhill you change to 4th gear so that I still have to pull else you could catch up to me. On an uphill you go to neutral. If we are too slow down I'll signal and you do the slowing and braking. I should not have to touch my brakes - that is your job."   So with Landrover in tow we set off. I must say Struan learnt fast and proved to be the best I have ever had to tow.

We had gone about 20 kilometres when I see the rest of the group in the two Toyotas parked off the road. What now??     Disaster!

The trailer carrying the large boat had a blow out and they cannot get the bottle jack underneath the trailer chassis to jack it up. Off comes my hi-lift jack, out come my spanners and the job is in progress. But wait a moment - something is not right, in fact something is very wrong. The axle of the boat trailer had moved sideways resulting in the tyre rubbing against the trailer chassis, - hence the blowout. I remain convinced that speed and potholes were a contributory factor to the problem.

To remedy the matter we now had to remove the boat from the trailer and then try to repostion the axle. It is still pouring with rain and it is beginning to get dark.

Anybody have a torch?
    Oops, sorry no!

Lucky I have a decent torch.
At last we get the boat off and manage to move the axle, but loose one of the U-bolts in the sand. Lucky I have a spare bolt with a lock nut. Repairs made we now had to get the boat back onto the trailer. After much swearing, cursing, pushing and shoving the boat is firmly back in place and secured.

I left first with the Landrover in tow, the rest follow timidly behind. It was pitch dark and the rain is coming down in buckets. It was nerve wracking and the road seemed to be endless. Visibility was poor and I had a Landrover with 'giant slaying bull-bar' not three-and-a-half meters off my tail. If I suddenly had to hit the brakes, for whatever reason, there is no way that Struan could stop in time.

For Struan it must have been a nightmare. As Struan later said, "It was a mind altering experience been towed by the 'beast' in torrential rain with no wind screen wipers". Besides the rain, whenever we hit a pothole or puddle, which was all the time, the Landrover was drenched in sheets of water. For Struan it must have been like piloting a submarine. Also with the height of my canopy and roof top tent he could not see past me. He had limited vision by driving off centre and trying to see past my right hand side. As hand signals were now out I had told him I'd signal him to slow by activating my hazard lights.

A few kilometres before Inhambane the others turn off to Paindane, the resort we were going to stay at, while we proceeded onto the town of Inhambane. So for all their speed during the day compared to my sluggish ol' Hilux we arrive at Inhambane with me in first place. Admittedly the Landrover was a close second, being about 3,5 meters behind, on the end of a tow-rope!!!

"Wat se mens?" "Skilpad wen weer!"   (What can one say, Tortoise wins again)

We stopped at a noisy disco to ask for directions to the 'Backpackers lodge'. One of the blacks at the bar can speak English and with exaggerated eloquence explains to us how to get there, along the same road about a kilometre further on.
The lady that runs the establishment takes us through the lounge up some stairs to show us our rooms. In the lounge were a few good looking girls. Now Struan and Clive are big men in overall stature. I'm not exactly small myself but small fry compared to Struan and Clive. As we walk through the lounge I hear the one girls say in awe, "My god - they're huge." On hearing this I fluff out my chest and try to look as fierce as possible.

By this time we are famished and we set about making supper in a small kitchenette out the back of the building. Again from the magical interior of my canopy we produce a tin of ham, a packet of pasta, a packet of 'Mushroom-a-la-crème sauce', a tin of peas, a packet of olives and all the necessary condiments. We also have cold beer in my camp freezer, a bottle of whisky and a bottle of wine. Suddenly life looks good. It is still raining - but who cares?

We finally set off for a well deserved sleep while Struan decided to make his acquintances with the young ladies. Next day he told us they were US Peace-core workers. He had a smug look like a cat that had just eaten a whole cage full of cannaries.

Next morning it has stopped raining but the clouds were still low and dark with no hint of clearing, but decide to set off for an exploratory walk in Inhambane. It is an old town on the shore of the bay of Inhambane, 'Baia de Imhambane', established by the Portuguese as far back as 1534 when it was then called "Terra de Boa Gente" (land of the friendly people). The friendliness could not have lasted long as the Portuguese quickly established a lucrative slave trade. Before the independence of Mozambique from the Portuguese it must have been a beautiful town set in a tropical paradise. But after years of civil war it is spectre of its former glory. Struan visited the town 6 years previously and said that most of the buildings were then deserted. Some buildings were still empty and fig trees grow on the outside walls, their roots penetrating into the brick and mortar. Broken shutters hung dangerously over the pavement. We wandered through narrow streets and gazed at crumbling buildings trying to imagine what it must have been like.
As is Sunday morning there are few people or vehicles to be seen on the streets. We turn to walk back to the 'Backpackers', which is on the esplanade and close to a quayside that juts out into the bay. Littered alongside the quay are some skeletal rusty remains of boats plus a few old fishing boats. I think it would be safer to play Russian roulette than to go out in on of those fishing boats.
Across the bay is a little town called Maxixe and already a few locals, carrying goods on their heads, were gathering at the quay side to catch the ferry across the bay. We saw a decrepit old hulk of a boat with someone tinkering with a single outboard motor at the back. He finally got it started with much coughing, spluttering and belching oily black smoke he steers himself to the quayside - Yep, that was the ferry. It reckoned it would be safer to swim across to Maxixe than use the ferry, not only safer but also a lot faster.

The only building, which shone with new restoration and new paint, was the Catholic Cathedral built over 200 years ago. Close by was a another freshly painted building which turned out to be a military building.
I wanted to get a photograph of the church from a different angle when a sentry appeared from nowhere holding a rusty AK-47 and indicates that I may not take photographs. I finally got him to agree when I pointed out it was the church I wanted a picture of. None-the-less he hung around watching me suspiciously. I wanted to take a photo of him but he would have nothing of that and was beginning to get quite belligerent so we made a hasty retreat.

Back at 'Backpackers' we find Struan again on his cell phone. The plan is now for a Landrover technicians from Maputo to come through on Monday or Tuesday. If they cannot get the Landrover going then they would have to truck it back to Maputo.
By prior arrangements Grant arrives at ten to take Struan and Clive to Paindane leaving the Landover parked at backpackers. Libby and I decide to do a tour and head off for "Praia do Torfo" on the coast a few kilometres east of Inhambane to look for a beach resort called 'Casa Barry', so named after Barry Dowson who had lived in Greytown but left some years ago to start a new life in Mozambique. Unfortunately he was in South Africa and only due to return some days later.
This part of the coast is well developed with many small resorts nestling under lofty coconut trees. Most of the buildings were constructed of plaited palm leaves others of more conventional brick and iron. On the beach a few black children were netting small fish using a piece of green shade cloth.

One the way we see a collection of huts and some men tying reeds together. We stop to see what they are doing and I take out my video camera. At first they are reluctant to be filmed but then I invite the headman to come and have a look at the picture on the LCD screen of the camera. He thought this was great and soon I had a crowd of men, women and children crowding round to see the pictures. Some though it hilariously funny, staggered around in fits of laughter. I took a photograph of the headman and his family and he wrote out his address for me on scarp of paper so that I could post him a copy of the photograph.

It had begun to rain heavily so we decide to head for Paindane. A few kilometres out of Inhambane is the turn off to Paindane. There is a large sign saying 'Guinjata Bay', the sign to Paindane is much smaller and difficult to see. For the first time since leaving home we are now on a dirt road. It had been topped with red earth, very muddy and slippery so I stopped and locked my hubs for 4-wheel drive. After 5 kilometres the red-road stopped, we were now on a sandy track that wound through the palm trees. We pass a few resorts along the way with the main one being 'Guinjata Bay' about halfway to 'Paindane'.

Although sandy the rain had hardened the sand. Only once I had to use 4-wheel drive when I had to go off the track for an approaching vehicle while going up a slope. The worst sand was at Paindane itself and this is where I got stuck.

Most embarrassing!

Just before 'Paindane' there is a steep slope up the coastal dune. Halfway up is a turn to the left saying 'reception', as I was turning Libby said, "No, the chalets are straight ahead." I stopped and reversed back; but instead of making a wide turn back I did a short turn and before I could say, "A Toyota never gets stuck", - I was. I had turned too sharply ending up in soft sand on the edge of the track. I got out to let my tyres down to almost zero and tried again, but was well and truly stuck.
Leaving Libby I set off trugging up the slope in the pouring rain to find the others to come and give me a hand. A few hundred metres further on I find them all in the bar. They were getting wetter inside than it was outside.

We all jumped on Grants double cab and in two shakes of a wet ducks tail I'm unstuck. They drive off and head back for the pub. I begin to drive then realise I have a flat tyre. I had deflated my tyres too much and the one rear tyre broke its seal and lost all its air. Back out into the rain to change the tyre. By then I was wetter than water.

We arrived at the chalets and Clive was waiting to show us which one we were in. Four wheel drive was needed around the chalets as the sand was thick and well churned up. We were to share chalet number with Clive. The youngsters had taken up residence in Chalets number 9 & 10. The chalets are large and spacious constructed mainly of palm leaves. Each has two bedrooms. The beds are concrete bases on which are a foam mattresses. Two singles in one bedroom and a double in the other. The main room also had three bases along the walls to serve as either a bed or seat. In the centre of this room is a rough wooden table with benches on either side. There is an open plan kitchen with work surface.

Off the main room is a veranda, but you must provide your own chairs. There are large windows but no glass. Instead each window has a drop shutter made of plaited palm leaves which are held open by lifting and propping open with a stick, or whatever else you could lay your hands on. Each window is covered with netting, no doubt to make you feel safer against mosquitoes. However there are large gaps between roof and wall, and everywhere else so the netting is actually a waste of time and serves no purpose, other than lessen the intensity of the wind.

During our entire trip we never saw a mosquito and were very happy about that, especially as the sister of a friend of ours had died of cerebral malaria two weeks before which she got whilst on a visit to the Kruger Park in mid September.
There is much controversy about malaria and the taking of prophylaxis. Some say that you should not take anything as it masks the symptoms. The doctors I have spoken have said, "You must take a prophylaxis". As we had used 'larium' before we had put ourselves on a course of 'larium'. Besides we had enough lotions and potions that would have made "Merlin the Magician" green with envy.

All that is provided are basic kitchen utensils, a three-ring gas cooker and chest deep freezer. The bathroom had a shower, basin and loo. We had to provide gas for the stove and bathroom, as well as linen, food etc. There is electricity but that only operated from 7am to 11am and then from 5pm to 10pm.

The chalets are on the top of the coastal dunes overlooking the sea and our overall opinion of the chalets. WONDERFUL - truly delightful. Except!!!
Except our chalet was leaking like a sieve. I mean who cares about a few leaks but ours gave you a better wash than the shower. Shortly after we had moved in the camp manager arrived in his Landcruiser to see how we had settled in. Fine we said expect for the leaks. "No problem," he says, "you are the only people here till Saturday so move into which ever chalet you wish."
So we inspected no: 7, it was worse than ours. Number 6 seemed OK, at least it was not leaking on the beds and the view was great; if you consider a heaving grey foam flecked sea as a view.
We quickly carried our meagre belongings across and moved in.

I'm was still wet through and Libby and Clive are also rather damp around the edges. Not to be put off by the rain we walked up to the bar to see how the boys were.
The young 'uns in the bar were on a roll. Besides our party there were other visitors from neighbouring resorts, mainly young folk who are there to dive off the corral reefs that make this place one of the best diving havens in the world.

Two of the young lasses were diving instructors, an Australian and a New Zealander who made young men's hearts beat faster, while older men hyper-ventilate. Wish I was a great white shark when they went diving.

Our group had taken over the place and 'hi-jacked' the two pretty diving instructors. Most of the guys were flying like a stunt plane out of control with Struan doing the most of the stunts. After all the hassles he had with his Landrover, I didn't blame him. For the first time in 24 hours he looked relaxed and enjoying himself.

The afternoon passed and night came quickly, blown in by the gale off the sea – not that anyone noticed. It was only when the lights went out that we realised it was night, even then some still did not know. The staff were obviously used to power outages as they soon had paraffin lights lit so that you at least knew whom you were speaking to. Although I’m sure the guys considered this to be a hindrance.

Libby had left earlier, probably while there was still daylight.
I nudged Clive, “I better go see how Libby is getting on.”
Clive thought it would be a good idea saying, “Will also be good for our health”.
We headed for the door, taking the long way round and stepped outside.

Suddenly fear knotted my gut, I had gone blind, I could not see.
“Clive I can’t see!”
“Me too,” he said, “it’s &*%#*% dark out here.”
Boy, I sure was relieved to know I was OK.
In the blackest night I have ever experienced we bumbled and staggered our way to the chalet waving our hands in front of us so that we did not bump into a pole or building.

The driving rain stung my face then I tripped over a half buried tyre that they used to mark the roadway in the camp. I swore loudly.
Clive said, “I think were lost!”
“LOST? How the hell can we get lost in the camp?”
Clive grunted, “OK - then where is the chalet?”

We tried to follow the road then there was a loud bang, Clive began to curse and swear, he had walked into a boat. Shortly there after he said, “Hey, this is Struan’s boat!”
How do you know it's Struan's boat?" Hell, I could see nothing.
"My dear Watson, there are only two boats in the camp, a big boat and a smaller boat; and by the feel of this one I know it's Struan's," Clive said in a facitious tone of voice.
Finally we had an idea where we were. Then a candle glimmered - we were saved, we were home.

That night we thought we were going to blow away. If not blown away certainly drowned. The wind howled and the rain bucketed down and we wondered if this was the start of another mega flood in Mozambique?
By now the chalet roof was saturated and every few minutes a new drip would occur, most of them on our bed which was now saturated. Libby was not amused. That night we had a damp sleep.

Next morning the sky was still leaden but the rain had let up and the wind was no longer a full-blown hurricane. Together with Clive we set off down to the beach for a brisk walk. By the time we returned it was raining again and the wind had picked up.

Struan and his friends gazed miserably out over the sea that heaved with mountainous waves, wind driven globs of dirty foam chased across the beach. Not much chance to do any fishing, so they set off to go pub crawling at some of the other resorts along the coast, Guinjata Bay, Cocanut Grove and a few others.
Meanwhile Libby, Clive and I just mooched around bored stiff.
The wind and rain continued unabated.
"Aah, What the heck, lets have another beer"! So Monday passed.

Tuesday - the same as Monday. No further comments necessary. The Landover technicians from Maputo were due to arrive at midday and Struan and Grant left for Inhambane. Grant returned by late afternoon with the news that they were trucking the Landover back to Maputo.

Wednesday.
I wake early and everything is deathly quiet, no sound of wind or rain. I got up and went outside to find the sea was like glass with only a whisper of a breeze. The horizon glowed with the promise that the sun would now take control of events. It was going to be a great day. Suddenly whoops and howls erupt from chalet 9 and 10 and within seconds there is frantic activity to get fishing tackle, diving gear and the boats ready.
Shortly after sunrise the first boat puts to sea closely followed by the second. Clive and I fished from the beach.
The resort of Paindane lies at the top of high dunes beneath lofty coconut trees. There is a steep road angling down to the beach which had been hardened using coconut husks and in places wooden slats set horizontally across to form a corduroy grid. So taking a boat up and down is not a problem. Set slightly back from the beach is a large thatched Gazebo that once must have been well equipped with bar facilities and everything else. However the beach at Paindane is been eroded away and according to the local staff it used to be 50 meters further out at high tide than what it currently is. The Gazebo teetered on the edge and already most of the front veranda area had been lost to the sea. At high tide the sea is perilously close to the base of the dunes and there was concern that the bottom end of the access road to the beach could be washed away. They were tying to bolster the road edge with logs set into the sand.

This lack of a beach at high tide made launching a boat, or the removal of a boat, very difficult as there is not much room for a vehicle to move in, besides the beach slope was steep and the sand was soft and thick. A dangerous place for a vehicle to be at high tide.


From the shoreline a reef juts out into the sea and curves round to form a sheltered bay ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Although rod and line are permitted in the bay inside the reef no spear fishing or boat fishing is allowed. This only applies to visitors - the locals (blacks) can do as they please. The reef, exposed at high tide, and especially so with spring tides, is stripped clean of all marine life. The ski boats all launch within the bay then go around to fish on the seaward side of the reef.

By mid morning it was bright and hot, almost if the sun, annoyed at having been blocked out for four days, was now beaming down UV rays at full force. I decided to go back to the Chalet and re-hydrate myself with an ice cold 'Mac Mahon', a Mozambique beer.

Libby suggested I try my cell phone to see if there was an SMS from our daughter in England. There was an SMS and I was horrified to read a message from Clive's brother in law, Peter, informing me that Bruce, Clive's brother, had died. Not the kind of news that one wants to convey to someone on holiday. It was not altogether unexpected as Bruce had been very ill, none-the-less chilling news. The message went on to say, "Funeral on Saturday. See you tomorrow evening." Tomorrow been Thursday. We had known that Peter was flying in the next day as he was negotiating to have a house built on a piece of land he had acquired between Guinjata Bay and Paindane.

By late afternoon Struan, and his Landover, returned from Maputo. Clive and Struan (father & son) agonised over the decision of what to do. To return home would mean that they would have to leave very early on Friday to travel the 1174 kilometres back to Greytown. Struan felt he could not abandon his friends. Meanwhile a number of other SMS's were received from family begging Clive to come home. The matter was further complicated by the fact that Clive's wife was in England and she could not get back.

Now let me tell you about what had happened to Struan and his fancy green Landrover TD5. For starters the technicians from Maputo only arrived at three in the afternoon and not at mid-day as promised. After working on the Landover for a few hours they could not get it started so they loaded the Landover onto the truck they came in, and together with Struan, drove through the night back to Maputo. A ten hour trip in the rain. At their workshops the next morning they managed to get things sorted out and the Landover started. Next problem was the question of payment. Landover South Africa has assured Struan that they would pay Landover Mozambique. But the local agents would have nothing of this and said, "Not a damn - they take too long to pay." They wanted payment there and then! All R6800 of it, (= 2,040,000 meticals - a wheelbarrow full of money). Struan had to go to a bank and after a flurry of telephone calls between his bank in SA and the local bank funds were transferred and payment was made.

The Landrover was still not right but they had given Stuan a box full of fuses and explained to him which one to replace if it won't start. Later on the beach, while launching a boat, we had a few anxious moments when the Landrover again would not start - and the tide was coming in. I got my vidoe set up on a tripod so that I could record the event for Struan, (would make a geat movie).
I already had the title, "The Sea-Rover". However Stuan had his box of fuses at hand so my movie of the adventures of a sodden Landrover came to naught.

Struan was not a happy chappy and I have still not heard the final outcome of the matter. I hope Landrover came to the party and reimbursed Struan as it is not the kind of thing one would expect from a Landrover, - but then these things do happen, even to the best.

                            But remember,   "Everything keeps going right - Toyota"

While Struan was having all the hassles the rest of the gang had a great days fishing and besides a number of Bonito they had also caught a 13 kilogram barracuda. Of course the ones that got away were three times as big. No diving was done as they said there were plenty of sharks. They also had an anxious moment when a whale shark, many times bigger than their boat, playfully nudged the boat.
That evening we had a great fish braai with the vcatch of the day.

Thursday dawns bright and hot. The boys and Clive leave to launch the boats and I go surf fishing. I returned quite early as I felt frazzled out from the sun the previous day. The skin on my face felt thin and tight, and in spite of wearing my Rockies, the tops of my feet were sunburnt. Far better to sit in the shade with a frosty beer and lazily gaze out over the azure sea.

Still more SMS's were coming in concerning the funeral arrangements and appeals for Clive to return.

We got an SMS from Peter to say he had arrived "Guinjata bay" and that he may be able to arrange a flight for them the next day.

Clive is still uncertain of what to do as Struan is reluctant to leave his friends and Clive's options are limited.

Next morning Clive goes out early with the boys and Libby and I go with Grant to Inhambane. Grant needs to buy fuel for the boats and we decide to tag along and visit the local market where we bought a few kilograms of prawns and Portuguese bread rolls. The market is a colourful place and bustling with noisy vendors and buyers in colourful garb. On one side is the fish market with all kinds of fish, octopus, prawns, crayfish and other marine animals. The vendors objected loudly when I wanted to take a photograph. Grant remarked that this was probably because there were 'illegal' fish being sold.

When we return there was another impassioned appeal from Clive's daughter for him to return home as well as one from Peter saying, "Tell Clive I have arranged a flight back - leaving at 12." I went down to the beach and by waving my arms like a Dutch windmill I manage to attract the attention of the boat and they brought Clive and Struan back to the shore. In spite of everything Clive was smiling broadly as he had retuned with a 17 kilogram barracuda.

Peter's message regarding the flight was the catalyst for a decision to be made. Clive would take the flight back and Struan would remain and return with the others on Monday. Clive quickly packed and Grant took him through to the airfild at Inhambane. As I had to be back by Monday, Libby and I decided to leave the next day, Saturday, to arrive home on Sunday.

Meanwhile back at Paindane we were having a fabulous supper of Barracuda and prawns and listening to the adventures of the three man crew of the smaller boat who ran out of petrol on their way back in and had to swim the boat back to shore. Fortunately for them it happend after they had got into the bay sheletered by the reef.

Next morning Libby and I left shortly after sunrise and slowly ambled back. Unlike the trip up, or trip back was without incident except for the fact it was very hot, 42 degrees C.

We crossed the border into Swaziland and headed for a Safari lodge we had seen on our way up, called Nisela, where we would camp the night. It was late afternoon and the sky was black with thunder clouds. Around 'Big Bend' the storm caught us and the rain poured down. So what's new?

By the time we arrived at Nisela the rain had ceased but the storm clouds were still churning like the devil's cauldron and we felt sure that we would soon have more rain.

Nisela is a well laid out camp. It also has a lion breeding facility and the camp is right in the middle of the lion pens. Quite disconcerting having supper with a large male lion watching you through the fence not 10 meters away.

We had just finished cooking our supper when a storm broke. There were great flashes of lighting, wind and rain. Close by was a thatched open sided scullery , we grabed our plates and made a dash for the shelter then huddled on one side, under the sink, to escape the driving rain. I have eaten supper in some strange places but never under a sink.
The storm soon passed but the sky still churned with black clouds that were at war lashing each other with bright thunderous lighting bolts.

We had hardly got into our tent when another storm arrived and our tent canvas lit up with the lighting flashes. We wondered how vunerable we were to lighting in our tent on top of the verhicle? Like all storms they finally pass and move off and restful silence returned. At least we had hoped so, but the lions were like frogs in a pond. One would roar then the others would join in with thunderous roars, growls and grunts. After awhile silence would prevail and I would begin to drift off to sleep when it would start all over again. It was a noisy restless night.

Next day was the final leg home. That evening we sat and reminisced about the past 10 days.
WHAT A TRIP!   Suddenly life seemed so dull and boring and we agreed that given half the chance we would do it all again. It had been a wonderful and eventful trip, just a pity it was so short.

Next time I plan a trip to Mozambique I'd prepare myself by acquiring a Portuguese phrase book and make the effort to learn some of the langauge.

Our next trip?
Well... I think we'll go up through Mozambique to 'Dar Es Salaam', then a week on the Island of Zanzibar before we loop west through Tanzania to the top end of Malawi, then down through Malawi and finally back home; say three or four months?     Anyone want to come along ?

A good traveller has no fixed plans and no intention of arriving.

Safari wagon   Cape 2013   Cape 2006   Sani Pass   Mkhambathi
Libby's page

Copyright © H.Churchill

Your comments/critisism are welcome - e-mail:   umvoti@mweb.co.za