Good, Better, Mozambique
It’s a long and winding road getting to Lua No Mar, a cottage on the beach in Tofo, a pinprick on the map of Mozambique in the Province of Inhambane. This is the place of long white beaches, mosquitoes, sand flees, balmy days, and the friendliest most accommodating people in Africa. Vasco da Gama, the scoundrel who landed there in about 1498 called it “The place of the gentle people”.
To while away the 2400km and approx 24 hours strapped into a vehicle we enjoyed the company of Stephen Fry's "The Fry Chronicles", narrated by Stephen Fry, also a delightful book titled "Runaway" by Peter May and "The History of the Rain" Niall Williams. All excellent choices, well read and most enjoyable. We know you so well Stephen we're expecting an invitation to the forthcoming wedding! Roadtrips are shortened by www.audible.co.uk also available from www.amazon.co.uk I have a subscription which entitles me to one download per month which are wirelessly downloaded onto my iPod (but on any Smart phone I'm sure).
For us it was a race against time as we had an important deadline to meet, our children were arriving from Canada and we had to meet them at the airport. On day one we hit the road at 1H00 and arrived in Pongola at 15H00 right on schedule.
We entered Swaziland at the very convenient and efficient “Onverwacht” boarder control near Pongola. Official business was quickly seen to and we set off driving through the lush green sugar cane estates, sometimes dodging herds of Ngunis, goats, cyclists, overloaded vehicles and potholes.
Rumours had been flying around concerning traffic officialdom in Mozambique, bribing, unnecessary fining and general unpleasantness; so before we left we made sure we had all our ducks in a row and we were prepared for any eventuality. Just as well as we'd hardly set foot in the country when we spotted the hand, we immediately put on our hazards (this was a reason for one motorists’ fine) and came to a slow and gentle halt. The officer approached our vehicle, greeted us, enquired about our destination and waved us along wishing us a pleasant stay and journey in Mozambique! Our jaws dropped. That was the first of many, many stops and each one was treated in the same courteous, friendly non aggressive way! Hat’s off to the Mozambique Traffic Authority. It was great to be back in Mozambique with its roadside mayhem, potholes, bikes, beasts, colourful stalls and cheerful citizens.
The Honeypot was our first port of call, a campsite with self-catering one bedroomed wooden chalets with communal ablutions and a restaurant. Situated on the EN1 near Xai-Xai. I was delighted to spend the night there, our accommodations suited us perfectly, although the room was small it was neat as a pin, very affordable and clean. Our meal in the restaurant was good, our first Laurentina and 2M was ice cold and just what a weary traveller needed. We were ravenous and thoroughly enjoyed the Portuguese Piri-piri chicken, salad and chips, which was particularly good with a good glug of “All Gold”. I slept like a log and didn’t fret about our vehicle or the precious surfboard strapped onto the roof rack, the security was that good. Oh! and the showers get the “thumbs up” from me!
On day 2 we had a deadline to meet so it was up at 3H30 and off we went as the sun came up just after 4H00. The EN1 is the jugular vein of Mozambique. Villages are situated along the way; most of the local trade and industry takes place along the route. It’s colourful, vibrant, exciting and frenetic. My knitting was packed away as soon as we hit the road as I love the sights and sounds of life along this busy artery. I’m always astounded by the pace, the improvements to living conditions, the rise in the economy and the good state of the road! Gone are the potholes, diversions, broken down or abandoned vehicles. The speed regulations are something else and often quite confusing, but to be taken seriously. Traffic officers on duty can be expected in almost every village, even at 4h00! We got the impression that there was a definite change of policy regarding “foreign visitors” which did make a pleasant change.
We rolled into Inhambane at 8h30, the lump in my throat caught as we drove past the cemetery where two years ago a delightful young man with a lust for life and endless energy was laid to rest, a keen scuba diver who suffered a shallow water black-out just off the reef in Tofo. An ancient gardener was shuffling about tending the wild flowers on a clear, blue sky endless summer’s day.
There was time for breakfast so we stopped at the Inhambane harbour and to our delight saw that the Peixe Bistro was still in operation. Our first impression was that business was still booming and early morning customers were already enjoying their first or second espressos. The shy waitress is still there and her English has improved considerably. We ordered breakfast and waited... and waited and.... waited, for almost an hour, my nerves were shot by the time we were served. Two later arrivals were served quite promptly. I’m certain someone had to hot-foot it to the Market for supplies, so typical Mozambique, one forgives quickly. I believe the management has changed, which shows. A pity. Such a good location, with so much potential I hope it’s still around next time we visit. I know the old rusting fishing vessels with the tide gently lapping their hulls will be there and the Dhows will still be sailing to Maxixe.
It took us 45 minutes to reach Tofo, unpack our over-burdened Land Cruiser, we hugged and kissed our Amelia and gave quick instructions on how to prepare the bedrooms, unpack the crates, fill the ice trays and how to get everyting spic and span for our guests who were up in the air. Poor Precious had to put his foot down to get us to the airport on time and we just made it with a few minutes to spare, the LAM flight was just touching down as we screeched to a halt in a cloud of dust.
Much to my horror I couldn’t contain myself any longer and burst into great big heaving sobs as my boy and his lovey disembarked, with shaking shoulders and a heaving chest I managed to click a few for the memory bank. My boy was back on African soil, I couldn't be happier.
Estrade National, Xai-Xai, Mozambique
(+27) Tel: 013 751 2220 booking offices for Honeypot