We were sad to say goodbye to Lucy,
Gordon and Harrison. We had so enjoyed spending time with old
friends and had been treated to a lovely bedroom, great food and a
washing machine! Bliss.
The border crossing into Mozambique was
no big deal and then we were back into Portuguese-speaking Africa.
Fortunately there seems to be a lot more evidence of English in
Mozambique than there was in Angola so we shouldn't be so
tongue-tied. It was hard not to make comparisons with the last time
we crossed a Portuguese speaking border and had five days to do
2,000 km. This time it was a relief to have no deadline and to see
that there was tarmac on the road, which is more than we can say
for the north of Angola.
The scenery on this first stretch of road was beautiful. Huge
rocks, some mountainous, rose out of the bush and there were layers
of mountains far in the distance. The road was good, with markedly
fewer people and bikes than in Malawi, so we made good progress to
To get to the centre of Tete you have cross an impressive
suspension bridge across the Zambezi River. One very interesting
aspect to our trip since Angola has been following the routes of
major water sources and seeing how rain in one country can
seriously affect the lives of many people in adjacent countries. We
certainly saw the effects of the heavy rain and swamps that we
experienced in Angola and northern Namibia. In Botswana, we took a
boat into the Okavango Delta, which had a huge flood plain and we
camped on the banks of the swollen Chobe River. In Zambia, we saw
the extra high volume of water pouring over the Vic Falls and the
flooded Lake Kariba. And here in Mozambique, we were once again
crossing the Zambezi, which was very high and fast flowing.
Tete had a European colonial feel, not unlike Lubango in Angola.
We were amused to see a smart looking , bright red P13 bus in the
town. That's the bus we used to catch to get to Peckham from
We managed to find a car park of a hotel to camp in and watched
the next Bafana game in a local bar. Their glory, it seems, was
It was more overcast and grey this
morning than we had seen in a very long time – probably since
We continued on our journey to Chimoio where we were
staying with some more friends, Sarah and Aaron and their boys
Joseph and Callum. We are being spoilt on this stretch of the trip!
We did see one more glossy red bus, but otherwise all the sights
depicted typical rural Africa: donkey carts, stray goats, herds of
cows, village after village with the occasional pile of burning
Sarah and Aaron have set up a technical training college where
their students learn metalwork, woodwork, blacksmithing and
mechanics, as well as attending lectures which ultimately gives
them a professional qualification over two years. It is an
impressive set up and they are doing a fantastic job.
We arrived with them just in time to help Sarah celebrate her
birthday with carrot cake – what impeccable timing on our behalf –
and then we spent the evening with them and their friends at a
We have been very inspired by the
people we have met and stayed with who give their hearts and souls
for their cause wherever they are in Africa. Sarah and Aaron have
worked so hard to build up their college from scratch and it is now
serving a very valuable purpose in the community.
Sarah also took me to visit the baby clinic down the road, which
is run by a friend of hers. The clinic is currently the only one in
the area and supporting 600 babies and their families. At the
clinic a young boy was being treated for extremely deep and painful
burns down his leg. He didn't so much as whimper or flinch. I was
told that at this time of year many babies and children suffer from
burns because they have to keep so close to the fire to keep warm
I also got involved with a children's 'outreach' program in the
afternoon. It ran for two hours, predominantly focusing on fun and
games with a Christian message at the end. Around 130 children
regularly attend, including a good few girls who bring their baby
brothers or sisters on their backs. I was struck by the maturity of
these children who play mother to their siblings. I watched one
girl, no more than 8 or 9 years old herself, feeding, rocking and
walking her sister around to get her to sleep instead of playing
with the rest of her peers.
After a long driving day towards the
coast we were excited to get our first glimpse of the Indian Ocean
at Vilanculos. We have reached the East Coast at last.
expecting big things from Vilanculos and to be honest we were
slightly disappointed. It was a very long, empty stretch of beach
but the tide was so far out that the sea looked like it was miles
away. Perhaps we over-romanticised images of the Indian Ocean in
our heads. I'm sure the white sand and palms are somewhere to be
found but we didn't fancy hanging around on this decidedly chilly
beach so agreed to keep heading south tomorrow.
After being a bit disappointed by
Vilanculos, Inhambane, our nest stop on the coast, was a wonderful
It is a town on a piece of land which protrudes
slightly from the mainland and so is surrounded by sea. It is the
most remarkably preserved remnant of colonialism that we have seen
so far on our trip. The main street is well kept with grand old
buildings and some European-style cafes. I had my first cappuccino
in a very long time and we felt like we could have been in Portugal
itself, especially as many of Portugal's more rural towns have
exactly the same endearingly dilapidated look about them.
The Portuguese, like all colonizing forces, treated Mozambique
and Mozambicans despicably, denying them an education and the right
to enter towns and cities without a permit. To see all this
colonial architecture reminds you of those days and so cannot be
detached from feelings of sadness and regret. However, today, its
real charm is the combination of the old facades and the life and
soul of the Mozambican people, which now fills once prohibited
We found our camp site further along the road on a beautiful
wide open stretch of beach and enjoyed a Portuguese-Mozambiquan
style meal while watching the football in a local bar.
We dropped in at an olde worlde
Pharmacy before leaving Inhambane. The wooden counter was long and
wide and the medicines were arranged neatly on huge shelves made
from the same dark, polished wood, stretching right up to the
ceiling. Despite its aura of austere organisation, there was a
distinctly African flavour to the queuing system, so I had quite a
while to admire the décor.
We enjoyed our journey down to Xai Xai,
making various stops to buy local produce on the side of the road.
We were slightly bemused by the trees that were covered with empty
white plastic bags, blowing in the wind. Then we realised that it
was a marketing strategy. You would pass two or three trees covered
in bags which were warning for the final tree which would be
covered in bags of cashew nuts. It was effective advertising but
slightly unnecessary as, when you finally reached the seller, you
really couldn't miss him. He stands in the middle of the main road
waving his bags at you until the very last minute when he would
dart to the side off the road.
We also stopped to buy some local piri piri sauce. Now that
stuff is lethal.
Maputo is probably the busiest city we
have driven into since Luanda but we loved it immediately. The
outskirts are the typical African street that require at least four
eyes to avoid disaster. However once we reached the centre it
became much calmer and took on a distinctly Europen feel with wide
streets, tall blocks and touches of dilapidated colonial
We are staying with Leen and Ingeborg, who we met on the Delta
in Botswana. They are both Dutch and work here for NGOs in the area
of pharmaceutical supply chain management. They kindly invited us
to come and stay with them. They live in a lovely house near the
sea and the centre of town so it is a great treat to be able to
crash with them and see some of the sights.
We had a wonderful afternoon drinking coffee whilst soaking up
the view over the sea. It is a perfect climate at this time of the
year, reaching up to about 25 in the day but with a distinct chill
in the air in the mornings and the evenings.
We had a fun evening with Leen and Inge, were fed some great
food and given yet another real bed. We'll get soft at this rate!
Our positive impressions of Maputo
were confirmed today as we spent a few hours exploring the city on
foot. It is a great mixture of African markets and street sellers
and fascinating architecture along with delicious street food and
lots of places to have coffee and cake. Add in warm sunshine and
views over the Indian Ocean and I think we have found our favourite
The train station in Maputo was designed by Gustave
Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and it is a work of art, which has
been very well looked after. The same cannot be said of the actual
railway line outside the station meaning that the station is now
busier as a restaurant than a working station. There is also a
beautiful white Cathedral as well as some interesting shells of
buildings which hold a certain mysterious charm about them.
We went all out with our haggling today as it may be our last
chance for a while and had a lot of fun in the process.
In Africa, no seller will ever tell you that he is out of stock.
This concept doesn't really exist because 'stock' extends to any
other seller within 15 minutes running distance. We had guys
running all over the place, disappearing for half an hour and then
coming back with the right size, from goodness knows where. And it
is still a mystery to us how they work out the money between
No size is ever wrong either. Neil was told he looked great in
an M and an XXL and I tried on a belt which almost went round me
twice but the seller (once he had personally tucked it into all my
belt loops) was convinced it was perfect. Anyway we came away with
everything we were looking for and, once the intense haggling was
over, everyone was happy smiles, laughter and handshakes. We will
definitely miss the spirit of these markets and the determination
of these guys who work so hard to eek out a living.
We were treated to a delicious culinary experience with Leen and
Inge tonight: clams and shrimps straight from the fish market.
Laced with lots of wine and garlic, amongst other things, it was a
fantastic meal and we felt very spoilt – thanks guys!