Our Final Fling In Mezmerising Mozambique

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Our Final Fling In Mezmerising Mozambique

After our week of running around being tourists on Ilha de Mozambique, we were exhausted and needed to chillax on a quiet beach, just the two of us, before setting off on the long road to Malawi through Nampula Province.

Our friend, Pai Diesel, being the gentleman he is, wouldn’t let us go without ensuring we were settled somewhere safe before leaving us to our own devices. He suggested a remote beach north of Ilha, near the Coral Lodge, situated on the beach of Mossuril Bay, where we’d had lunch the week before.

This time our journey was not an eight-kilometre Dhow trip from Mozambique island  but a fifty-one-kilometer road trip through busy villages and salt farming. Bags of salt are sold along the side of the road and distributed all over East Africa. 

Nampula is believed to be home to the oldest surviving Portuguese buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, the Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in the village of Cabaceira. But that rendezvous would have to wait for later.


Our destination would be the beaches of Chocas Mar, at the far end of the spit of Mossuril Bay, which is a popular Mozambican holiday destination.

Homes are mostly built of local materials such as mud and stone with grass, palm fond or thatch roofs and are always significantly impacted by Tropical Cyclones. It is estimated that around 1600 houses were destroyed by cyclone Gombe a few years ago. Colourful brick and mortar homes are being built as people's wealth and circumstances improve.

First impressions often last, and we should’ve listened to our inner voice when we stopped at the first lodge. The arty and bohemian Carrusca Mar & Sol, where the cool, dread-locked manager greeted us with all the hip of a hippie.  

He  assured us we were welcome to camp. The campsite was in a sorry state. Hidden behind a dune, in a clump of reeds, weeds and grass with no view and the scorching sun beating down on us. We were thoroughly unimpressed and said so. After thinking about this state of affairs, he relented and showed us to a different spot adjacent to a casita. Much better. He traipsed off unenthusiastically to fetch a key to the cottage’s ablutions while we said goodbye to Diesel, who would catch a ferry home.

Half an hour later, Butch went in search of the key. What transpired, I’ll never know. The long and the short of it. We were evicted. The owner, who was MIA, said she had guests booking in for three days and needed the cottage.

The search was on for alternate campgrounds. There weren’t any. Just before sunset, we spotted a tiny makeshift reed hut on a large plot of unoccupied land. We decided to scout the area and found ourselves comfortably camped on the seaside of the dune with a magnificent view of the setting sun and the azure seas.

A short distance from us,  fishermen were casting their nets, mending their boats and preparing for the night’s fishing. It didn’t take long for the “manager” of the plot to come over and negotiate a very reasonable fee for our three-night stay. 

He returned a while later and squatting on his haunches a few inches from our fire pit, he eyed us cautiously but friendly.  For a few hours while we set up our campsite, made our fire and prepared dinner we answered questions about the truck, showed him where we'd come from and where we'd been. He couldn't get his head around the "this is our home" part of the story. We were delighted to share our supper, which pleased him and set us on an amicable footing for our stay.

After supper, he disappeared, and we only saw him when a stranger vied for our attention or a camping fee. We assured him he was our main man, which pleased him, and he settled down out of sight.

Our days were sublime. We walked, read, slept, ate and did little else but soak up the sun. Occasionally, I’d dip my toes into the warm waters or go beach combing. Shells were in plentiful supply, brought on the tides every evening and deposited on the white sands  every morning.  As handfulls of sand ran through my fingers the thought that these tiny particles will outlast me by a thousand years always make me realise how insignificantly small my existence is. 

Alas, I could only enjoy my stash of shells there and returned them to their rightful place just before we set off. The tides will wash them this way and that in the ebb and flow until they’re smooth or just grains of sand on the beaches.

We only saw one couple at one of the verandas where we'd been unceremoniously dismissed from. I think we ended up with the better deal.

On one occasion, we decided to trek way down on the beach to another lodge for lunch. Luck and language were not on our side once again. This time the waiter got it all wrong. While all the other diners enjoyed their lunches, we were ignored. Our glasses were left empty, and the menus whipped off from under our noses after he took our order.

An hour later, when we realised the chicken piri piri couldn’t still be on the grill, Butch, his throat parched, asked for our order. The waiter, poor sod, had forgotten to place our order. To his detriment, the restaurant owner sat two tables from ours, enjoying his Gatão vinho verde and grilled fish.

That was my opportunity to browse the shell market and take pictures of the beach umbrellas while Butch did his civic duty and reported the incident. By the time we returned to our Honey Badger, we were both hangry, hot and humourless.


All our mishaps, misunderstandings and Butch's recurring collywobbles put paid to our stay, and we decided to pack up and head north.

The Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios situated in the middle of nowhere, was being renovated. I had to do my inspections surreptitiously without the workers spotting me snooping around under their scaffolding. Although beautiful these churches leave me spiritually cold, the communities unchanged and the spiritual leaders nowhere to be seen.

The landscape around Nampula in Northern Mozambique features a number of granite outcrops. Mount Ribáuè, also known as Monte Ribáuè, and is made up off two granite inselbergs, separated by a narrow valley approximately 3km wide. The eastern inselberg is called Mount M’pàluwé.

The lower slopes are mostly cultivated. Dry miombo woodland can be found on the middle slopes, and in the valley between the east and west peaks. The highest peaks are mostly bare granite, with pockets of montane heathland. The mountain has no year-round streams, but several intermittent streams run during the wet, rainy season.


After a long day’s drive on roads off the tourist routes with few camping options, we decided to wild camp off the main road adjacent to a soccer field near a small rural village.

We had just set up camp and looked forward to pouring ourselves a drink when a truck stopped. A burly man approached us, introduced himself and apologised for his intrusion but felt it was necessary to warn us that our site was not a safe option.

He was a civil engineer working just a kilometer away and told us about the opportunists who’d trespassed their secure encampment. He suggested it would be safer for us to find a camping spot in the village. We were grateful that he’d warned us after his busy, exhausting day. In a jiffy we were back on the road again.

We decided to go to the local police station and ask for permission to stop there. We were warmly welcomed and spent the night there. The two ancient night guards were delightful and made themselves comfortable two meters from the truck, keeping each other company and making us feel safe. We slept like babies under police protection at a very peaceful station.

Believe it or not, our only disturbance was the endless shunting of the longest trains. Thinking it could only be a ghost train, we were proved wrong the next day when we stopped at a railway crossing. 


Although very similar to our previous trip to Ilha de Mozambique through Tete Province, the landscape was exciting, varied and the inselbergs were beautiful. We would stop for snacks, fresh fruit, and saladings for supper and always marvelled at the high quality of the products sold along the road.

I have come to enjoy my shopping sprees at the local markets and those along the side of the road, and now I find it difficult and almost traitorous to buy fresh produce in a large supermarket. Supporting local producers and marketers keeps their businesses alive and growing. I must confess I think the produce sold is organic, more flavoursome, and fresh off the vine. It is also good to know the source.  

The light hearted banter and teasing with the stall owners and "assistants" is always fun, and often the only other conversation I have all day. 


Monte Lampala, with an elevation of about 1200m, was the most impressive granite mountain. But the most surprising sight was the Rio Malema in the district of Malema near the town of Malema. The district depends on agricultural production; the primary sources are sorghum, corn, peanuts, and onions. A way-station of the southern network of Mozambique Railways and the EN 13 serves it.

Railway tracks criss-crossed our route numerous times as the dead straight rails divided the province from the  east coast to Malawi and beyond in the west. 

We have since seen many streets named after Nelson Mandela, Azania, and Sisulu, and I must confess it pleases me greatly to see “our” familiars on signposts near rivers, streets and even towns. Nostalgia is a strange emotion.

Once upon a lifetime ago, strangers, upon learning we were from South Africa, would ask, “Do you know Chris Barnard?”  Nowdays heart transplants are a dime a dozen, and that pioneer has faded from memory. Still, Nelson Mandela, like Gandhi, is everyone’s hero and we're often asked about him.


We were determined to spend a few days on the shores of Lake Malawi or, Lake Niassa in Mozambique before our final farewell to Mozambique.

“Lago Niassa in Mozambique is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system, between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

It is the fifth-largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, the ninth-largest lake by area—and the third-largest and second-deepest lake in Africa. Lake Malawi is home to more fish species than any other lake in the world, including at least 700 species of Cichlids. The Mozambique portion of the lake was officially declared a reserve by the Government of Mozambique on June 10, 2011, while in Malawi, a part of the lake is included in Lake Malawi National Park.

Lake Malawi is a meromictic lake whose water layers do not mix. The permanent stratification of Lake Malawi’s water and the oxic-anoxic boundary (relating to oxygen in the water) are maintained by moderately small chemical and thermal gradients.” Wiki.

Imagine my surprise when we rounded a bend in the road, and there far below us lay this massive expanse of water stretching for miles in every direction like a sea. This is no Worcester Dam. I was speechless.

We slithered down the winding road into the village nestled on the shore. The search for a camping spot in this remote area, where tourists seldom venture was on.

Eventually, we found an old, neglected sign for Cetuka Chiwanga Beach Resort. On closer inspection, we assumed the resort had been abandoned, but soon two toddlers came running over with their father Erasto, in hot pursuit.

Erasto informed us that the owner was out of town, but we were welcome to camp. He could arrange an electrical point in one of the cottages.

Cold, bucket showers could be arranged. A large, blue, plastic, chlorine container was filled with water—this supply we could use to scoop water over ourselves for a shower. Thank fully we have the best shower in Africa. 

While Erasto, lept into acton and tidied around us, sweeping leaves and twigs into heaps, we took it as our signal to sneak off to the beach with the twin boys. While they snacked on Baobab pods, we sipped our drinks, enjoying the tangerine sunset over the lake. This was the quiet before the storm.

A long day ended; we were only interested in our steak and bed. While Butch was packing his fire, I prepared our salad and veggies. From the corner of my eye I noticed a slender guy approach us while I set our table. Like Slick Rick, he was togged out in a gleaming, gold, satin shirt, board shorts and Crocs. Saturdays are party nights and the ghetto blaster was thumping away in the distance.

Sauve, could be  his middle name, I thought.  Cool as a cucumber, he introduced himself as Austen, the local pastor.  Slightly taken aback, Butch thought he was a DJ. Pulling up a chair, he informed us that he would facilitate the “negotiations”. Dawdling sheepishly behind him, the camp manager Erasto, followed suit, opening his beach chair. (I would remeber him as Austen Powers.)

The rules of engagement were laid out; Butch listened, arms and legs folded, while the pastor Austen delivered his address. After a long volley, Butch thanked him and cut the petitions short. He informed them that fees had been agreed upon and that we’d be on our way in the morning. He was not interested in any more discussions; his coals were ready he said picking up his braai tongs.

In a true gospel-like fashion, the manager picked up his chair and walked. Pastor Austen, tried to pour oil on troubled waters, but Butch was having none of it. Being a patient man and seeing my eyeball, he relented and gave the man a second chance. It turns out a donation to the mission would’ve sufficed. With that, Butch picked up his ball and unceremoniously left the negotiations.

Lost for words, the wind was sucked out of Austen Power’s sails. He had no choice but to limp off, deflated and defeated. Our electricity connection was unceremoniously switched off and we had to pay 1000 mets for five liters of water as our reward for not falling for a smooth operator.

We got the distinct impression we’d overstayed our welcome in Mozambique. It was time to scoot on. With a bitter taste in our mouths, we settled our bill and headed for the Malawi border to continue our journey along Lake Malawi. It turns out it was a Hidden Blessing!


Our final night in Mozambique would be our best on the road. We’d just survived being pulled over and ticketed for speeding. It sounds ludicrous considering the speeds we were travelling at. The wily traffic officers set up their cameras just after a notice indicating a speed reduction, which signified the beginning of a village or school. Wham, we were caught on camera.

We pulled off at a crossroads filling station and decided that was it. We’d had it and would park ourselves with the truckers. The guard approved, and we paid him a small fee. When we heard the baritone rumble of the big boys starting up the following morning at daybreak, we took that as our cue to get moving.


The following photographs are just a selection of pictures, in no particular order of rural life as I saw it from our journey.