Friday, September 26, 2014

Monster mine machines stalk the desert
Well, we did it again. With Mother in law and friend on board, we pointed the old Cruiser west, into the desert. It is spring in the Southern hemisphere, and with good rains the desert blooms. Guest house prices shoot up, and we arrived at what should have been the peak, only to be told that the best of the season is over.

in a hidden canyon in the Kalahari
there is a healing spring
with magic in the rocks.
On the way we did a detour to  follow rumours of a hot spring, in the desert, and, with good luck, we managed to find the place: Hidden in a canyon, near a settlement of people who were the first nation in this area before being uprooted and dumped elsewhere. Now they have regained their land, and are running the small resort, the waters of which is supposed to have healing powers. Well, I can attest that a dog bite that was long in healing closed up soon afterwards, and Shahnaz stopped complaining of a sprained ankle.
But there was time to take in the atmosphere

Inevitably, just as we were about to leave cell phone coverage, a client called with an urgent translation job .... so Shahnaz spent a romantic afternoon on the banks of the Orange river ... working.

Work, work, work
Driving towards Springbok we saw not a trace of flowers until, all of a sudden, we drove into a riot of  colours. Some were succulents, but many were quick blooming flowers that shoot up if there are spring rains, and vanish as suddenly.  it was strange to see the flowers bloom with gay abandon next to the road, in water courses, just where you look.
And then there were flowers

by the roadside
All sorts of flowers
And then it was time to turn back, and the road was long, hot and weary. But the memory will brighten the mind for a long time.

Even hero's could not resist

And ostriches enjoy them too.

Where you least expect ...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Paper memories
And so we are home. The boxes have been unpacked, the dogs quietened. Cars that had been parked for long have new batteries, and engines are turning again.
Humour on the road

After 6 425 kilometers, just over three weeks, an average speed of 54 km per hour, and 120 hours on the road we have some memories to work through.

Sailing in company
People: We met some nice fellow voyagers, some great hosts, some people who are working hard to make a success of what they are doing, and many people who have great aspirations. Mozambique is going to boom, with the discovery of gas, and the Mozambique we saw will not be there in a few years. And maybe that is a good thing. Maybe sailing accross the bay in a lateen-rigged dhow is not the best way to travel. Maybe selling cashew nuts along the road is not a good occupation for a little boy and his sister.

It's for you!
Maybe Maria Carmen will have a school with computers, television appreciation and loud disco music. Maybe Ian and PJ will host oil executives, and not have to bother with overlanders. Will the friendship, the cameraderie and the smiles we encountered still be there?

Places: Stunning scenery, unspoilt beaches and coral reefs, the haunting magnificence of decay of the old Portuguese empire and the chaotic bustle of modern development.

Will the beaches still be as clean and quiet? Will the game reserves be better stocked, and the game less spooked? Will development bring better parks, a better appreciation for the wealth that is there?

Development must come, but will it be well planned?

Happy campers

 The Mozambique we were privileged to see will not be there a next time.

Morning mist: will this time fade as fast?

And yet ... the memories we have will remain, and will enrich our lives.

The end is nigh! We are almost home!

Gorongosa baboon and Sable antelope

We have had a few long days on the road now, and also some nice surprises. Our night in the Gorongosa park was good, and we might have been tempted to return, but they wanted us to pay R 400 to use our own car and fuel to go watch the game. No.

 The camp site was good, not too expensive, and we did see monkeys, baboons and sable antelope on the way in and out. It is good to see the park being developed, but we were wondering about the economic model.

Should conservation be a money generating activity, or should it be a subsidized activity? Should Hollywood stars be fleeced of $ 4000 per night, and nature become impossibly expensive for the rest of us? We understood that they are trying to create employment and we saw teams of workers laboriously fixing the roads, which could have been done faster and for less money by using a grader. Is employment generation not a separate activity? Would it not be better creating productive jobs on farms or in factories?
Have you ever seen rocks like this?
Then we headed for the border, running long the Beira-Harare railway line. We saw many heavy trucks, and the remains of railway villages, including an imposing station and shunting yards, but not much in the line of trains.

Checking out of Mozambique was fast and pleasant, except for the toilets! Crossing into Zim was also quite fast, but the attitude was less pleasant. We were engulfed by people offering their services to make the entry ‘fast-fast’ but we disappointed them, although one guy did offer us the free use of his pen!

White Horse Inn in the Vumba mountains - a real treat!
That night we slept in the White Horse Inn, a lovely old world establishment in the Vumba mountains. It was our first cold night, and we huddled in the lounge next to the fire, eagerly using their WiFi to catch up on our mails.

Then we tackled the road into Harare, and wondered at the many road blocks and check points. We were usually waved through, except at one point where we were told that our temporary vehicle import permit had expired, despite it having been issued the day before! By mid-afternoon we were at Jo and Peter, and settled down to two nights of domestic comfort, good food, relaxation and good company.

Good friends, great hospitality
The Cruiser was treated to a top-up of gearbox oil, a cursory inspection of the spark plugs, and a replacement of the windscreen wiper clips. There is some play in the steering tie-rod arms, another item on our list of jobs to be done.

And then another 700 km run south, with careful adherence to illogical and sometimes difficult to decipher speed controls, until we clocked in at Beit Bridge. Checking out was fast, except for a customs officer with no uniform or identification who told us he was going to have us unpack everything, unless we made it worth his while. We pointed out that after such a long trip we were out of food, out of beer, out of money….

Last campsite: Tshipise
On the South African side we encountered a tide of people trying to enter Zimbabwe, and eventually discovered that we should not go to the Entry hall, but to the unmarked one next to it. All went fast, although there was a real absence of indications as to where we should go and what should be presented when. Then we hit a few shops, and by sundown were setting camp in Tshipise.
Unfortunately the place was rather full, and we chose a site next to the main road, trusting that the traffic would become less at night. Not so!

Voyagers being steamed to perfection!
Lorraine joined us on Saturday for the last nights of our voyage, and we relished the warm waters, although it was a little difficult getting out into the biting wind!

What did we get from the voyage? Many beautiful memories, many nice photos, and some good experiences. I will remember the people we met, from Senhora Chinanha in Ilha Mozambique, who is building a future for herself and her daughter by sheer determination and hard work, fellow travelers who joined in our feast at the Baobab in Vilanculos, PJ and Ian at Libelula in Nacala.

Reinhard felt that the visit to Ilha de Mozambique was the high point of the voyage, Shahnaz felt the diving was her best memory, and Lorraine felt that overcoming her fears to discover snorkeling at Bazaruto was the memory she would cherish.
Oh the road is long!

Tomorrow we pack up, and head home, another 600 km to where the temperatures are said to be around 4 degrees. Maybe we should just turn around and head north again?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Turning south

Ilha Mozambique dreaming in the setting
 sun about past glories 

We have turned south now, and we are almost a thousand kilometers down the road on our way home, dodging potholes in the Zambezi valley while searching for 2G internet connection. The Gorongosa is supposed to be one of the last places where development had not arrived, and roadside vendors do offer freshly skinned antelope, smoked ribs of some unknown animal, and demonstrate road repair activities before requesting a handout.

No, we did not make it to Egypt!
Already we are feeling the ‘end-of-voyage’ blues: a mild regret at what we had not seen, anticipation at the luxuries of warm water and our own beds.

Nacala traffic
We hope to sleep in the Gorongosa park tonight, and we think back already about the long road we had covered. Ilha Mozambique was the high point for me, although the leaf fish in Nacala bay, just after we had seen a container ship enter may also be symbolic. We had singing sessions on the road, with the Cruiser humming along, we had dinners of fresh seafood, and we had pleasant surprises of people trying to make a living in this hard, yet bounteous land.

Libelula dinner
A touch of regret at everything we did not see: We did not stay on Bazaruto longer. If my Microsoft lottery money had come through we could have stayed in a lodge there … We did not see the rock paintings near Nampula, we did not go further north to dive at Pemba… Maybe there will be a next time.

Now we are doing long stretches: 800 kilometers the day before yesterday, 400 yesterday, 350 today. Tomorrow not so far to the Zim border, then the next day

Nacala: Smart coffee shop in the dust and traffic

Do you know this guy?

Dalmann forest camp

Fireside memories
on to Harare.

Venus guest house:
 it's not what you think!
The Cruiser feels the need for some loving care, the sparkplugs are a little dirty and she misses when she is idling. A screw had come out on the left light assembly, I managed to replace that today. And as the rain started the windscreen wipers fell off! Beware: Never let night watchmen wash your car! Try to find new ones in the middle of the Gorongosa! I bodged a repair with epoxy putty, if that does not work I have cable ties handy, and I have just designed the ultimate adjustable, never to be worn out windscreen wiper fitting!

So, till next time!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thalassa! The sea!

Rocks near Nampula

We had a weary time of it: more than a thousand kilometers through the uplands of Mozambique, to a dusty, dreary hotel on the outskirts of Nampula, and then down through magnificent rock outcropping and land with magnificent agricultural potential, until we began to see the palm trees and the dunes. Soon we saw the salt marshes, and then the long causeway out to Ilha Mozambique.

Dhows still trade and fish in these waters
This is where the Arab traders had an outpost, only to be pushed off by the Portuguese. Here we saw the oldest Christian Church in the southern hemisphere! You can just wonder at the perseverance of the early mariners who, after a sea journey of months, with bad food and little water, stopped here, built up the fort by hand, traded and bargained, defended the position against English and Dutch, and then sailed on to India. We had it easy!

The island is a World Heritage site, and well it should be. Some magnificent old buildings had been restored, one could imagine the cost, and many are in the process of restoration. Now if the nice Nigerian gentleman transfers my Microsoft lottery money, I might just consider buying a little palazzo here, and doing it up as it must have been in the time of the Portuguese.

And then we are off to Nacala, where a major deep-water port is going up around the oil money, the development corridor going up to Mozambique, but where the leaf fish is still said to frolic in the coastal waters.

This might be a little over the top ...

This church was built in 1522!

What about a fixer-upper like this?

This has potential!

The pull of the road

Working on the road

We left Vilanculos with no clear plan for our trip to Nampula, except that we would not like to drive in the dark. The kilometers up to Inchope seemed to stretch as we approached, and it is known that things expand in the midday heat. The Inchope filling station told of an excellent hostelry just a few kilometers down the road to Zimbabwe, but we thought that this would take us off our track, and Nampula was still far, far away. Gorongosa sounded much more interesting. There is always the hope of something better, just over the next hill!

Travellers share a feast
At the entrance to the Gorongosa park an expensive-looking signboard announced luxury lodgings, but also camping, but that was twenty kilometers and more out of our way. We tried phoning to get prices, but received no reply. Gorongosa town, only another thirty klicks down our road, promised hotels, and there they were. The best we could find had no windows, and a party was brewing up next door, but the price was fixed at 2 000 Mts.

Our map promised lodging and camping at the Mountain inn, and we even had GPS references! But references come and go, and truck drivers bargaining for a few goats had never heard of an inn in that area. The best thing, they advised, was to press on another two hours, but the road was bad.

Night set in, and we grasped at every light we saw, while dodging most of the potholes. At eight we had decided that we would find the next small road turning off, and sleep in the car, because we would have more than six hundred kilometers to do the next day.

Forestry accommodation
And then we saw it: A sign advertising a sawmill with a restaurant and accommodation! Life out of colonial Africa, simple and tasteful.

And we wondered: Do we not always get drawn on and on by hopes of a better future over the next horizon? And, sometimes, that better future is there!

Vilanculos shipbuilding
This remote part of Mozambique has its signs of neglect: potholed roads, small, poor villages next to the road. But there are many smiling, happy people here, people who welcome strangers with no diffidence, just a wide, welcoming smile, an effort to understand our halting Portuguese, and a willingness to help. Even the soldiers stopping us seem embarrassed to ask if we had brought them something.

The people here hope that the discovery of gas will bring them a better future. Maybe the young boy who helped his even younger sister to sell us roasted cashew nuts, and then shyly asked if we had sweets for them, will wear a suit, and be an oil industry accountant. We wish that their hopes will also be answered by more than they expect.

Vilanculos airport: one of us had to go back to slavery!