Chimoio to Vilankulos and finally on to Maputo

Posted by Circling The South on 21 June 2010

I had a blog entry prepared by the time we were in Tofo, covering about two weeks of our journey. I was about to send it off the next morning…and that night my laptop got stolen. Fortunately we had made backups of all our photos, but unfortunately my whole blog entry was lost. I suppose worse things could have happened, but it is still very frustrating and annoying to lose a lot of information in this way!

Needless to say, it will be impossible to recall everything that was written in the lost entry, but what follows is a brief overview of what happened in the past three weeks or so.

From Chimoio we took the road towards Vilankulos. It was a trek of about four days through an area where not much happens and there were also not a lot in the way of campsites or guesthouses along the way. Every night we just camped in villages. The people living in these rural areas in the interior of Mozambique are lovely, yet untouched by the scramble for every tourist’s money that usually follows when a relatively poor community starts benefiting from tourism. When we reached these villages just before sunset we would ask for the chief of the village, explain to him that we want to pitch our tents and they would always agree with a big smile and try to make us as comfortable as possible. They would bring us firewood and water and whatever else we asked for. It is humbling to see how much these people care and how much they want to do for complete strangers, despite their limited means. We always paid them a small amount in return and the best part is that they never expected this, but at the same time were always very grateful.

After four long days on the road we finally reached the Indian Ocean at Vilankulos, more than 90 days after leaving the Atlantic Ocean at Strandfontein. It was a great feeling to finally see the clear blue ocean on this side of the continent after such a long trek through the interior. We spent a few days in Vilankulos, spoiling ourselves to the vast array of fresh seafood on offer, my friends went diving at the famous Bazaruto Island and I took a snorkeling trip to one of the adjacent islands on an old dhow sailing boat. As one would expect, the marine life to be seen here is incredible.

Leaving Vilankulos it took us two days to cycle to Maxixe from where we got the ferry boat over to Inhambane where we spent the night at a pleasant backpackers. In the morning we went to the bustling local market to get some supplies and also to look for some South African flags to get into the World Cup spirit. This second chore turned out to be more difficult than we expected and after a few hours of crossing the whole town, we managed to lay our hands on a single little flag at an extortionate price. From there we made our way to the resort town of Tofo and we made it just in time to see the opening game of the World Cup. We watched it at a local sports bar on the beach, the crowd consisting of backpackers from around the globe and a large South African contingent. Everybody was behind Bafana and the bar erupted when we scored the first goal, only to be silenced minutes later when Mexico scored that dreaded equalizer.

We spent some days lazing around Tofo, enjoying the Mozambican coast and all that goes with it. I was loving life in Tofo until my laptop got stolen and from then it turned into a bit of a nightmare. For two days I tried in vain to get any proper assistance from the local police. The officer who was supposed to take my statement was much more interested in when I would buy him a Coke than in the case. On the afternoon of the second day I finally convinced him to take my statement so that I could at least get a case number for insurance purposes. He sat down behind his desk sighing, as if the world was on his shoulders and I was expecting way too much of him. Just before he started writing down the details he once more said “but my friend, what about the cold drink you were going to buy me…?” That was about the time I totally lost my cool with this so-called officer of the law. I said a few things to him that I cannot repeat here and stormed out of the police station. I was livid. As I walked back to the campsite where we were staying I was wondering if this was the right thing to do, what about my case-number? But it turned out that this was just what was needed. That evening the officer came looking for me. He looked a bit sheepish when he called me over and finally presented me with a case number. So I finally got what I needed and at least had the small consolation of not having paid the little bribe he required to do his job.

When the time came to leave Tofo I was rather relieved, happy to get away from the frustrations of the past few days. We planned to reach Maputo in four days, but in the end it took us five days to get there. En route we stayed in the towns of Xai Xai and Manhia amongst others and in these two towns we were fortunate to find good guesthouses and very nice Portuguese restaurants.

On Saturday 19 June we finally reached the capital. I thought cycling through Lusaka was something, but cycling into Maputo is a different ballgame altogether. The traffic is horrendous and we had to swerve past busses and trucks, hoping for the best in this mad game of Russian roulette. In the end we survived and as we were making our way out of the worst traffic we were stopped by two local reporters, the one asking questions and the other one snapping away frantically. We found all this quite amusing, but watch the Mozambican press for details!

In Maputo we were very generously hosted by Richard Fair and his family. They are also cyclists and we met them in Springbok about a week into our journey when they were on their way to the Argus. We stayed with them for two nights and on Sunday we explored Maputo with its beautiful beach front and old buildings.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Mozambique if all goes well, we now head to Swaziland for a couple of days before we finally get back to South Africa again.

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