Mapping Maputo And Bilene – Our Travels Into Mozambique

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Mapping Maputo And Bilene – Our Travels Into Mozambique

Bom Dia como está? One of my favourite countries to visit is Mozambique. Its flavour, vibe and people are distinctive and have a characteristic rhythm not found anywhere in South Africa.  With Serulian skies my Mozambique is everything a weary traveller yearns for. Once again we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn this time we won't be back for a while.

The journey through the Kruger National Park was relaxed and exciting, and we took pleasure in the nights we spent there before crossing the border at the Giryondo border post. Diverting away from the Komatipoort border post with the hundreds of coal delivery trucks lined up waiting to enter Mozambique was a relief. We would recommend alternate routes and not Ressano Garcia Border Post if you can avoid it—no matter your destination. (Our coal is being shipped to China by the thousand trucks a day.) The pictures below are a series of photos of the trucks lined up. One continuous line-up taken mid morning.

Fortunately, the sullen customs official on the South African side lightened up after his faux pas with our exit stamp. He kept us waiting, claiming he was delayed due to load shedding and couldn’t fire up his computer to go online. He need not have bothered as the SA police opened the gate an hour late. In the park, anything could’ve held them up. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. As it was we'd encountered two Cheetah on the hunt earlier and stopped to watch them stalk their prey.

In contrast, the officials in Mozambique were friendly, efficient and quick. They were willing to check with their “boss” about an extended visit and the “duplo", which means multiple entries. Once we’d established, to everyone’s satisfaction, that Saffa’s only get a 30-day stamp, there were no delays and no further ado. Carl Person, we hope you met your distinguished guests from Maputo! We were on our merry way to Bilene and then Maputo.

The landscape changed once again. Not as lush as Kruger Park and not as abundantly stocked with wildlife, we trundled on, navigating weathered dirt roads, potholes and later community villages. We encountered the aftermath of recent storms here and there. The trip was laboriously slow, notwithstanding the 50kmph speed limit in reserves. I can't recall any vehicles approaching us from the Mozambiquan side. We were the only travellers.


The road to Bilene had been slightly upgraded over the  years, but we suspected the cyclone and summer rains had recently taken their toll on them. We try to make a point of supporting local businesses and stopped for a cold drink along the way. The shop was sparcely stocked but the Cokes were ice cold. That would do.

The azure sky and shimmering aquamarine waters of Bilene were beckoning us forward. Pedestrians in colourful traditional skirts and some ladies with a basket balanced on their heads like models in training were herding children in school uniforms from school. Roadside stalls displayed sarongs, shells,  wood carvings and coconuts, enticing weary holidaymakers to contribute to the local economy. 

Our destination was a highly-rated Laguna Lodge and campsite set on a dune just above the lake. We would see the sunset along the shore on our evening walk.

Fishermen pushing their wooden boats out rewarded us with our first “boa noite”. We were back. In the quiet, as the sun set rose gold, they twirled and lassoed their nets deftly out onto the still waters, only a soft plop and splash audible. As they gently floated further away, the only sounds were their singsong voices fading softly into the dusk. Now only the occasional slip-slap plop as the nets hit the water. I filled my lungs with the gentle briny zephyr that crossed our path. That night our forty winks would be deep and peaceful. I was sure of that.


The owner's wife, Fatima, offered grilled chicken piri-piri with that distinctive Mozambiquan lemony and slightly charred flavour for supper. Served on the tray later we could smell the wood smoke aroma and spicy crispy golden skin. The fresh, hand-cut potato chips were perfect and served with All Gold Tomato sauce. Heaven on your tongue. The chicken met our expectations—spicy, slightly charred, crispy, tender, fall-off-the-bone traditional frango grelhado. Butch downed two 2M’s, and I had bubbles stinging my nose from the frosty Coke in an old-fashioned glass bottle I tipped down my throat. This was pleasure.

Our large campsite, was cool under large umbrella trees. Our private ablutions, scullery area was spotless. In the subtropical heat I forgave the guarda for not lighting the gas geyser and really enjoyed the tepid shower. He missed out on his quarter chicken and chips. When I returned from my shower and realised the Vervet monkeys had got to his wrapped parcel robbing him of his dinner. In the morning after coffee we packed up said our fond farewells to the charming Fatima and her lovely daughter, we were off negotiating sandy tracks around the lake and back onto the EN1 to Maputo. Our tyre system has proved itself time and again, easy to use, Butch inflates or deflates our tyres regularly when the conditions of the roads change, also giving me the opportunity to make coffee for the onward stretch without unnecessary delays. 


Much of informal Maputo is built on low-lying swampy marshland, and seeing many properties flooded was disheartening. In true Mozambiquan fashion, the residents of these areas soldiered on and continued with their lives unabated. The people’s resilience is extraordinary, and there’s no time to wallow in grief.

Our first impressions were that Maputo had cleaned itself up. Sidewalks were litter free. New buildings had replaced many abandoned structures, and the changes were mindboggling along the seafront Marginal. Shopping malls, restaurants, office blocks and residential buildings had mushroomed. The USA’s consular buildings were new, under the strictest security and in a prime location.

It is our tradition that one of our meals will be at the iconic Costa do Sol restaurant, as children we often dined there in the 1960s. It was early afternoon when we spotted our landmark and couldn’t resist stopping for lunch. Even though the Costa do Sol has been slightly upgraded with a new veranda and a splash of paint, the menu’s untouched, and the friendly serving staff never disappoint. We had our favourite Clams in white wine for a starter and grilled LM Prawns with lashings of piri piri for mains. The beach was crowded, the sun shone, and we were having prawns in Maputo. What more could I ask for?

Butch had explored every avenue in search of a campsite. Maputo has no official campgrounds, our only option, we had to wild camp. Unfortunately, the amiable and gracious manager of Costa do Sol did not have the authority to allow us to overnight in their secure parking area but did recommend a lodge on the Av. Da Marginal near the Raddison Blue Hotel, Kaya Kwango.


Rumour had reached us that “the rooms could be hired by the hour.” We were willing to brave it out and observe some of the shenanigans. The sight of another overlander was a comfort. Two nights would do the trick allowing us to visit favourite haunts and walk along the Marginal to the old colourful market, have morning coffee at the Club Naval, and finally have a night out on the town.

The deal was; we had to reserve a garden room with an en-suite, this would allow us stay over for two nights. The cheapest option was expensive, and I couldn’t think of one redeeming feature of the room and chose to sleep in the Honey Badger. With a flourish, Butch switched on the ancient air conditioner, in a bid to persaude me to stay there too, I think and flopped down onto the hard institutional bed while I crept out to relax in the comfort of my casita with the fan on —our first night apart in six months.

To date, he hasn’t offered an opinion about his experience. I slept like a baby. Unfortunately Kaya Kwango was terribly uninspiring. The only photo I have is a picture of the designer dress shop near the Honey Badger

Our suspicions about the hourly rates were confirmed when a pretty young lady, dressed to the nines, carrying scented essential oils in a tote bag, coolly approached Butch and asked whether he’d ordered a massage. She seemed pretty unphased by his brusque response. I was hot on his heels but did enjoy a good giggle at his discomfort.


Grilled LM prawns served with extra spicy piri-piri and garlic butter are my staple in Maputo. After our vigorous walk to the Maputo Mercado, we exhaustedly hailed a tuc-tuc who delivered us safely to the Fish Market, where I enjoyed a platter of prawns, and Butch succumbed to the whole grilled fish.

Maputos impressive skyline was modern, and in line with any large city in Africa. New shopping malls have mushroomed out of the swamps all along the Marginal. There are two Woolies Food stores, a flip-flop shop, a Vodacom store and a Gelateria.

I stocked up on fresh veggies, our favourite coffee beans, and chicken for the freezer. While Butch got his SIM card sorted, I purchased two pairs of flip flops from the nicest assistant. Truthfully, he did flog me a pair of flip-flops that were a tad small. But he was charming and smooth and assured me it was the unbearable heat doing the swelling of my tootsies. Our gelato was divine and reminded me of Italy.  (Confession time: Woolies was very expensive, but then you pay for imported, quality foodstuffs wherever you are.) My rationing didn't stop us from having all our Easter Speckled eggs, we'll repent at leisure.

I am happy to report that data and airtime are cheap as chips in Mozambique. Connectivity is excellent. We paid approximately R800 for 100G of data, endless messaging, and hundreds of minutes of airtime. Far cheaper than South Africa, Botswana or Namibia. In South Africa our data flowed like the Zambezi to the sea. Fast and furiously. We are being ripped off by Vodacom in South Africa. Furthermore, trustworthy, informal vendors on every street corner sell data and airtime at these reasonable prices enabling users to top up any day of the week. Kudos to Mozambique.

While the swimmers were doing tedious lengths in the crystal pool at the Clube Naval Butch and I sat on the new upscaled deck and enjoyed the best espressos, his black, mine café com leite while enjoying the soothing lapping of waves against the ancient walls.

During the afternoon, we’d siesta, feet up. Following Meditteranean customs, the cool evenings are when the city comes alive. Young and old dress-up girls slip into glittering mini dresses and high heels and enjoy cocktails and Tapas at one of a gazillion bars in the city.
We pulled our glad rags out of our lockers, and I wrapped my hair in a pretty scarf and set off walking. Traffic into and out of the city was bumper to bumper, and we made good time to our first bar overlooking the ocean.


Mozambiquans are passionate about music; no matter how challenging the day or how hard life is, music is turned up a notch when the sun sets. Marrabenta is the best-known form of music and is urban in origin and meant for dancing. Marrabenta is a fusion of imported European music played on improvised musical instruments. 

Once again, while exploring on our walks we'd comment and be bowled over by this once war-torn city’s progress. During Covid, the people of Maputo didn’t go into a decline. They, without government aid, got on with improving their businesses, knowing things will return to normal. They’ve experienced it first-hand, having lived through a twenty-one-year civil war. They are ‘the kind and gentle people”, as Vasco da Gama described the people of Inhambane hundreds of years ago.



Youngsters entering the work place are enthusiastic, creative and hard-working. They were the young children who sold trinkets, pineapples and coconuts on the beach. The daily slog of earning a few Meticals to support their families has taught them resilience and determination. They realise there are educational advantages and insist their siblings attend school. Although most people still live in poverty, everyone is dignified, proud and amazingly joyful.

In Mozambique, people don’t ask, “What will the government do for me, but rather, what can I do to better my circumstances and make things possible.”  Their attitude is refreshing, inspiring and an example of fortitude. There's no "woe is me" in their vocabulary!


Heineken beer is massively invested in Mozambique. They sponsor umbrellas and paint homes and bars in the traditional green, like Vodacom, who have covered villages in red paint. Butch could, on a few occasions stock up on  Heineken 0% for me.


Our short visit to Maputo was the injection of city lights I needed. Recharged and restocked, we were ready to travel north to visit all our favourite stomping grounds where we’d enjoy the sun, surf and seafood.
I had sunblock, sunnies, sarongs and swimsuits ready and couldn’t wait to wrap myself up in a colourful capulana. On our heads, shading our eyes, we already had Bob Marley’s hats.
Adeus até a próxima amigo.  Our next stop was Zavora and then Tofo near Inhambane, where I'd tasted my very first Pasteis De Nata many moons ago.
Laguna Campsite Bilene