We left the Kruger Park and stocked up with the necessary @Nelspruit's Pick n Pay and Outdoor warehouse where we bought snorkels and goggles, a step for the Cruiser (waste of money) and a backpack with a water bladder we hit the road. It was scorching hot. At Komati we exchanged the most expensive money 3,0:1 and 2,6:1
The border crossing went surprisingly smooth, probably because of the heat an except for Rui signing on the Boss's place on the import form and needed to complete another one, once the mistake was rectified we went through within minutes.
Took a drive around Maputo past the new airport then headed north. It was getting late and we started looking around for camping, Rogers Tourismo Camp came up, except for the pool the camping facilities did not look too inviting and the distance you would be able to set up camp purely depended on the length of your lead as the electricity point was right at the pool pump. The pool party was pumping as the party was in full swing, we decided to move on.
Just before sunset we saw a signpost Marracuene, checked the map and took the turnoff, we drove right through what seemed to be a little market but headed as per Gps. After 28km's of thick sand we arrived at the campsite on the banks of the Komati. At 19h00 the temperatures were still in the low 30s and we went down for a drink at the pub. On the way back to the car we could not resist the swimming pool and had a swim and a shower, no soap (varkiedag). The following morning we headed to Maputo through the back roads. Kenneth Kaunda Avenue took us right to Costa do Sol! We drove through various farms and small little plantations, after 29 Km's of potholes and a road unbeknowngly to us to our surprise there was Costa do Sol on our right!! We got a MCell data card at the new centre and sat down for cakes, coffee and toast. Bought cheese @ Shoprite (well stocked) and went to Game for a new kettle, Shoprite wanted to charge us more for a small kettle than a big one. We had a” Prato do dia”(meal of the day) Chicken Bryani / Fish and Rice, the last being the worst choice but I could not gather the guts for the Breyani,
We left Maputo and headed for Bilene. Never disappointing and still a favorite we were just in time to watch the magnificent African sunset from the lukewarm waters of the lake.
Palmeiras campsite was still fairly full of South Africans on quad bikes driving up and down and quite noisy. We went to the restaurant for some snacks and were fortunate to view a naked photo shoot of some honeymoon couple we had seen earlier the afternoon in the lake. I don’t think they realized all on the restaurant’s veranda could see their stunts.
We headed out north the next morning and drove past stalls selling anything you can imagine. The little towns all seemed to have padarias (bakeries), hospitals, and fruit stalls . Xai Xai being a beehive of activity we filled up and set the sails for Inhambane. Loads of SA cars coming from the north this gave us peace of mind that we would surely find a camping spot. We travelled past stalls selling building materials, plastic ware, clay pots, perfumes, fruit (big pineapples, mangos, and coconuts), bread, timber, wooden sculptures, tires, and even Bush meat. We then crossed the Limpopo and entered the Lake District. The most amazing view of huge masses of ultra blue water even big enough to have mock beaches and waves.
Thousands of palm trees led us into the province of Inhambane. With great expectations we entered the town and even went to an info centre which just happened to make photocopies and Internet with no info.
Consulted the map and Gps and headed to Barra.
The sun was setting and we were looking for a camping spot amongst ultra luxurious developments and lodges. Some built on stilts where you leave your vehicle at a central spot and you get transported to the lodge by golf carts. Needless to say they did not even see us, at least all the bread consumed up till now (pao) made us invisible and not fat so we left to look for a camping spot further on. Through deep sand we reached Arria Branca a lovely campsite with electricity and a shade hut close to the pool, with no pool party. The ablutions were clean and rates reasonable and we unpacked. After taking a stroll to watch the fishermen bringing in the nets I no longer felt so bad about the golf cart establishment as they were high and dry up in the air with no water nearby at low tide and all the yachts beached, but must admit they had the better view of the flamingos the next morning.
The morning was spent on the lovely white beach and Luke warm waves, after swimming the wanderlust kicked in and we set of to explore the trading post of Inhambane.
Being Friday noon most people were on their way to the mosque and we on our way to the kiosk to buy tickets to Maxixi. We boarded a fully packed ferry and sat far apart from each other all squashed in amongst the locals who were either sitting asleep or listening to loud music on their cell phones. The fans mounted on the roof hardly made a difference to the smell of sweaty bodies in the air. The 9 minutes waiting to set sail felt like an eternity and the trip started. We literally rubbed shoulders to and through, after 20 minutes we arrived at Maxixi. The hustle and bustle of Maxixi was clearly felt in the air, we wandered around the vendors and markets and sweated until we smelt like locals. Real bargains came up as an Echo trailers electrical box for R1000 and even solar panels with Telkom branding on them. We took photos of the locals, and them of us. Everybody seemed to have cell phones and music was pumping out of them. We went to STOP Restaurant at the harbor for a cold drink, some crab and here Rui could not resist the cheese on the menu! After a long wait the cheese platter arrived! One slice of wrapped processed cheddar cheese (should have taken a photo of his face as he was so surprised the waiter even asked if she should take it back). We watched the activity at the peer with locals arriving and leaving endlessly, and could even spot our car on the other side of the lake. The ferry came and went and water taxis were crossing heavily loaded. No sign of the dhows and dhow trading we had read about on Lonely Planet maybe all dhows had gone back their respective Arab countries. Time to return to our beloved Cruiser at the ferry terminal we were told we would have to wait a long time for the ferry to come but for the same price of 10 mt we could hop on a water taxi. Mistake! We were pushed onboard and had to climb through to fill up from the back .We had to climb on the benches and over the other seated passengers to get open seats at least we sat together this time. As soon as we sat down we started planning an escape route in case of sinking. The taxi was packed with sweating locals this included us as by this time we were sweating just as much as them, the life jackets were all tied up to the sides to double up as side walls and we could feel the water up to our ankles, but it was so dark inside you could not see where it was coming from. The top was covered with patched sails and sacks and the 2 rescue Tubes were securely tied to the roof. We started the journey, the wind was blowing, the water choppy and the passengers very nervous. The sound of the mighty engines did not sound any better than a very sick lawnmower on its last leg, "don't pay the ferryman until you get to the other side" kept refraining in our heads. Water kept on spilling over the side and we were sopping wet and moving very slowly against the wind heavily overloaded with passengers and luggage just short of live stock. Arriving back at Inhambane a Haleluja rose from our fellow passengers.
By far rated the most fearsome boat trip ever done.
The following morning we packed up and left the white dunes and palm trees to anther destination not yet sure of.
We saw the road to Paindane and made the decision, not to be disappointed. After a sandy road we arrived at Paindane campsite where we had to go and have a look at the sites and the Casitas before we could pay (only place they haven’t tried to rip us off as they immediately offered off season rates). The outside temperature was 33deg and the sand probably 83deg so with blisters on our feet hopping, running and jumping from shade to shade we chose the first site and amused the workers by shade hopping back to the office. Once paid we changed our minds and moved on to another Casita. We unpacked and tumbled down the dune to the sea to cool off. Down at the beach all were set up with gazebos and awnings on their vehicles. The following morning Tiny and our awning put them to shame with the easy opening system and our camping chairs. We snorkeled Lighthouse Reef “flenters” and enjoyed ourselves. Back at camp we appreciated the Casitas shower and bathroom facility and lingered around in the hammock and shade until we took the Sunday afternoon drive to Tofo. The beach was crowded with locals and foreigners and the market buzzing. Street vendors were doing a roaring trade with anything you could wish for. We sat down for half a dose of chicken and chips and icy cold drinks, once again I forgot about the calorie count and went for a Santal Litchi juice (The best). There was mayhem at the beach and fortunately what we thought to be a drowning turned out not to be. Driving back through Inhambane one could sense the lazy Sunday afternoon as we drove through the sleepy town. Everybody was either bathing in the lagoon or sitting under the shade of a tree.
Once again the next morning the snorkeling did not disappoint and we packed up to move on with a bit of reluctance due to the good times we had. By now there were very few South Africans left.
We turned south and the next stop was Zavora Bay. We had 2 choices of camping but opted for the sites on top of the dunes rather than the "lovely greenery" down by the reeds and mosquitoes as per the all knowing German with his 1954 bathing costume. We pre-ordered dinner as it takes 60 minutes to prepare a meal at the restaurant , we sat on the top of the dune and watched the first full moon of 2012 rise with its reflection in the waves. Supper was well served and the R&R (Strawberry Sparlette & Tipo Tinto Rum) ordered tasted like strawberry , but the damage was soon to be felt. Wow what a potent drink. I stumbled all the way to the car and the next morning in super strong sunlight took a beach walk to the reef for some snorkelling. The coral reef was beautifully, and I snorkelled in my pyjama pants due to too much sun on the back of my legs” Flenters gesnorkel”.
We headed further south and landed up at Praia do Sol. Lovely lodge with grassed campsites and ablutions on your site. Rui played photographer at the lodge and we listened to Greek tale from Phalaborwa that didn't make sense and enjoyed supper at the Lodge with its beautiful view of the ocean and all the decks and pool.
We were once again stunned by driving through the lake province and could not help to be awed by the view of the blue lakes and the white sand and sea as backdrop.
On the way back south you could sense the trading period was something of the past ,as we left the landscape of an estimated 2 000 000 palm trees behind the sense of trading and the buzzing markets slowed down, the stalls at the roadside were either abandoned or not manned any longer. The locals were back to their normal day to day activities of making “blocos” (bricks), making and transporting bags of charcoal by cutting and burning their trees or parts thereof. Youngsters were preparing for the new school year and life was once again back to normal, we only realized how normal as we ordered from the menu in Xai Xai and nothing was available, lodge owners were to be awoken up from the reception areas to book accommodation, and the state of campsites left a lot to be desired. We went past the once famous Hotel de Chongoene with what we counted 250 rooms and an Olympic size pool once again we wished we could have been around in the time of its prime trading. 2nd time around the city of Xai Xai once again disappointed with the status of the facilities available and we moved on to Bilene.
This time around the Shoprite at Macia was not so crowded, in fact we were almost the only people and we had time to inspect all the merchandise and check out the frozen meats before moving on. Back to Palmeiras, but only because we still wanted to go back to a specific restaurant. Nothing has changed to the better here, bathrooms still neglected and almost all “braaiers” were broken or without grids, to top it all they started timbering the roof on the garages and chopping and sawing with an electric saw just after sunrise without any consideration to their guests. The lakes water was crystal clear in contrast with the dirty beaches which were still blamed on the festive season (hallo it is a fortnight later). Credit to the busy bodies at Palmeiras for having their beach cleaned. Supper time we set off to Complexion Aquarius, with their comprehensive menu and professional service. The crab curry being my choice, the waiter advised in typical Portuguese manner that is not a dish to be eaten at night as should it not go down well you would have a bad night. The choice being a seafood bean stew. Wow, highly recommendable, topped with great desserts and super service we rolled back to camp well satisfied as once said by my Portuguese brother in law. Time running out and we needed to do the last culinary purchases in Maputo being the coffee shop and a grilled chicken from the beachfront street vendors. The traffic on a Friday afternoon into Maputo was hectic, but we seem to be lucky and got a parking spot right in front of Christal Pastelaria . Without any hesitation the driver pulled into the parking bay and we enter little Portugal, cakes, pastries, cheese toasters and whatever your heart’s desire with juices, espresso’s or teas! We make the usual pigs of ourselves and eventually our table is such a mess we have to move to another one.
We took a walk through the Maputo shopping centre and were amazed by the exorbitant prices of branded electronics goods. A drive along the beachfront to Cost do Sol and we could smell the flavours of the grilled chickens and for 280mt we kept a watchfully eye on our chickens preparations and the chips being cooked on a fire nearby while the "kitchen" was buzzing with orders, potato peelers, charcoal carriers with spades full of fresh fire and new orders streaming in. This time we got caught by the typical Mocambiquen trick and as with the Piri piri we never bought along the roadside because of the exact same thing the 280mt turned out to be 290mt, expensive for a chicken, if you take a rotisserie chicken at Pick n Pay cost you R35, but definitely a worthwhile purchase.
Definitely not the first and not the last of our great holidays on board Tiny our trusty Landcruiser, " ate a proxima Mozambique".