A Travellerspoint blog

Mozambique

Day 128 – Police, police, police

28th January 2012

sunny

“Can you feel that?” said Somers, speeding up my slow rise out of slumber. “What?” “The car is rocking.” I unzipped the tent and looked outside. Urchin #1 was cleaning the car. Blinking ‘eck. “Oi. Nada washee the Redvers. Nada washee the car.” He shrugged at me and I got back inside. The rocking became gentler.

This signalled that the time had come for us to rise and shine. I hadn’t gotten down the ladder before I was being accosted by money changers. “I’m busy.” How had they gotten into our fortress? Through the open gate no doubt. With that they decided to stand and wait for me to finish.

We changed the last of our Mozambican money into Malawian Kwacha. Then we headed to the immigration office. Getting our passports stamped was easy. But it turned out that the customs’ official was still asleep. But we were told where he lived and we were told to go wake him up. We did just that and followed him around to his office where he stamped Redvers out of the country. We managed to swap some dollars for Kwacha with the same guy, 250 kwacha to the dollar. The bank rate is 160 to the dollar. The dollar is king, and we’re in a country whose financial system is inflating. The last thing we had to pass was the military gate where our details were recorded, Redvers was checked, and finally the boom was raised and we were free. A few kilometres of no-man’s land led us to Malawi, the land of the lake. Once more immigration was easy, and once more the customs official was nowhere to be seen. As it turned out, he was asleep too. We hung around for an hour or two intermittently pestering the other officials asking for someone to do something that resembled helping the tourists.

Whilst waiting we chowed a fresh pineapple we’d bought in Mozambique. I opened the drawer to find something had chewed a hole in our bag of milk powder. He’d crossed at least one border now.

The officials weren’t helping. Laura spoke to the guy who appeared in charge and he spoke with eyes on the board game in front of him. “Excuse me, its polite to look at the person who is talking to you.” “I’m listening,” he argued. “You’re not being very helpful. We’re visitors in your country, you have signs telling you your aims and how you should act towards us and you’re achieving none of them. It’s your job to help us.” With that, one guy stood and disappeared into the village. “He’s gone to find your officer,” said the other guy reluctantly.

Twenty minutes more passed before our customs official appeared. Twenty minutes after that we were through. The only issue was that we had no insurance. The guy seemed to think we’d be fine on the 100 kilometre stretch between here and the first town with an insurance sales office. We weren’t so sure but there wasn’t really anything else we could do. Another high five, another country entered. But there were still 350 kilometres to Lilongwe and sanctuary. The noise was worse than ever; something was grinding and we could only assume it was the brake drum.

And then we hit Police Engagement #17; a road block. Carnet and driver’s licence, but alas, no insurance papers. Our officer wanted specifically to see the insurance papers, he was right, we should have possessed them but how the hell could we get insurance if no one sold it at the border? He said he’d have to fine us, we said the guy at the border said we’d be OK to get to Balaka. He said there were two more road blocks before Balaka. We said we’d try our luck. He said he’d let us off this once. After we’d all said our part, we said thank you for his lenience and drove on. After 100 kilometres and two sets of sleeping police road blocks, we found Balaka; one of the several homes of Prime Insurance Ltd. Several laps of the bus depot, (a wrong turn, repeated), and seven thousand Kwacha later, we had one months’ vehicle insurance and were back on the road to Lilongwe.

But that damned noise was here to stay. One UJ was going so we decided to try and get the thing off, one less problem and all that, and besides, we could drive in two wheel drive. And so, once more we found ourselves beside the road undoing prop shafts, providing engrossing entertainment for all nearby.

All was going well. We hadn’t yet knocked over any of the thousands of people who were walking in the road. We hit Police Engagement #’s 18 and 19 which were inconvenient but straight forward. Number 19 involved my doing 56kmh in a 50kmh zone. I was justifiably told off and allowed to continue, can’t say fairer than that. Police Engagement #20 however was a bloody peach. A rotten, maggoty, foetid peach consisting of two young pricks who saw dollars in the paintwork of Redvers. We were rolling to a stop as the police let the five vehicles ahead of us through the barrier without hesitation. Redvers however was something else. The white be-gloved hand of slim officer number one rose and requested we stop. Papers, carnet and insurance weren’t enough. He wanted to see what we had in the back. “Drive off the road please,” he pointed to the dirt at the side.

By this stage in our journey, the drivers’ door was closed on a semi-permanent basis as the roof rack was wearing a hole in the door frame. So, Laura jumped out of the passenger seat and opened the back door, to reveal four eighty litres drums in front of an eighty kilo hippo and surrounded by mud covered recovery equipment that had been needed the day before. “What is this?” he pointed at the diesel. “It’s diesel, you have a fuel crisis, customs cleared it to come in.” “No, we have fuel,” he gestured at a petrol station over the road that did seem to have something in its pumps, “this fuel will have to stay with us.” “No, it’s ours, you can’t,” protested Somers. At this point I was scrabbling over the centre console to the passenger door to get out and speak to this utter (four letter word beginning with the letter after ‘B’ removed to avoid offence.) “What’s this?” he said looking at Joseph. “A wooden hippo,” we’re getting used to stating the obvious were Joe’s concerned. “Where are his papers?” I’d have smiled if he wasn’t serious. “What the ffff- “ I tailed off restoring a quantum of composure. Somers resumed, ”It’s our hippo. Zambia didn’t mind him, Zimbabwe didn’t mind him, Mozambique didn’t mind him and your customs official said he was ok to come in.” “Well this is not OK. We will have to confiscate him. Bring your car over to the office.”

We were tired, tired like you wouldn’t believe; too many kilometres with too little sleep; too many road blocks with too little integrity; too many noises with too few solutions. I actually wanted to cry; I’m sure Laura was thinking about it too. There was only one thing we could do: Find the boss; and plead for sanity.

I locked the car and asked for our papers back. Slim number one liked his power, he wasn’t giving them back yet. “Where’s your boss? Who’s the guy in charge, we want to deal with him, not you.” Our man pointed out into the road, “He’s over there. But I will go and speak to him, wait here.” He started dawdling out before hesitating. Somers and I walked past him and introduced ourselves. We walked the boss back to the car and explained our predicament. The fuel was ours, that was undisputed, but now he wanted to know about Joseph’s papers. Three individuals, a lady and two gentlemen, that had been stood nearby approached and asked us what was going on. After explaining they told us that if there is only one of an item and if it is destined for our homes in England then we need no papers and we are free to transport it. With this we looked at the cops. “Wait here,” said the boss as he took the two youngsters and our papers into the office for a conference. The tide felt like it was turning. We’d gained a foothold on a slippery slope and suddenly the slope was levelling out. The trio reassured us and after five minutes the cops reappeared. They wanted to know if there was anything in Joseph. Out came the recovery ropes, the hi-lift, the four drums and the tarpaulin. Off came Joseph’s rug and in went the officer to feel up a wooden, non-Trojan, hippopotamus. Finally they were satisfied; the boss told us that we could leave. We took the papers we gave thanks and thanks and thanks to the trio and we left, just eight kilometres from our destination, Mubayo Backpackers, Lilongwe.

We crawled into the backpackers, metal scraping metal somewhere inside Redvers. We walked straight into the bar and asked for beer. Then we proceeded to tell anyone who would listen about our last sixty hours.

As I opened the door to show Joseph to a new friend I also opened our drawer. A brown shadow, eight centimetres in length with the same again in tail, leapt out, ran down my leg and off into the bushes. He’d come at least 1500 kilometres and looked a little underweight. Worse still for him, he’s going to have to learn English. The mouse had to be an omen. We were vanquishing the pestilence from our existence. Life could only get better from here. I turned with a smile on my face to see a man slightly bemused at the fact we had mice and hippos in our car.

Posted by ibeamish 00:39 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 127 – Black Hawk Down

27th January 2012

all seasons in one day

We rose like champions at four o’clock, before the crack of dawn; we had a slow motion rally to drive in order to get to the border.

We watched the sun rise between the vertical columns of granite that rose from the ground as we cruised across Mozambique. We were flying. Flying with a squeak; at that rate we’d have been at the border by three, at that rate we’d have been dining in Malawi; sleeping in an Anglophone country with full bellies.

“STOP, STOP, THE HAND– ... SMOKING... STOP THE CAR!” An alarmed Somers wasn’t happy.

I was driving and hadn’t yet noticed the black smoke seeping from the handbrake and into the driver’s foot well. Somers had, hence the outcry.

We pulled over and I got under the car. The handbrake drum was warm but not hot. The smoke had come from the handle itself; logically our search had to start there. With the cover off we could see that the handbrake cable had melted. That was convenient given our proximity to nowhere of any use. We disengaged the cable and decided to drive a bit more and see what happened. Two kilometres down the road we stopped to have another look. The brake drum was hot enough to fry an egg on. The handbrake shoes must have been stuck to the drum. Super. The toolbox came out and then the tarpaulin was spread beneath the hulk of Redvers, the t-shirt came off, (they are all becoming oil stained,) and I got underneath, Somers remained above as tool assistant and chief of security. The back prop came off before we started a protracted fight trying to remove the hand brake drum whilst the brakes were still holding it in place. Sweat and swearing, grunting and harrumphing, all whilst lying on my back and thinking of England. Eventually, finally, after two hours, the drum was off, the shoes came off but I was unable to remove the handbrake cable, and so the snips came out and I removed it on a more permanent basis.

By this point the school that we’d happened to park outside had been on lunch break for over an hour. We had developed a crowd of fifty or sixty kids looking on and laughing and playing. The occasional motorbike would pass breaking the steady flow of cyclists and pedestrians. Somers entertained the crowds with a combination of photography and questions all whilst passing tools galore beneath the car.

The brake drum was replaced and the prop shaft reinstalled and we clambered back in and started him up. Onwards Christian soldiers! Onwards you squeaky soldiers, the brake drum squeak was gone, but there were still two other squeaks. The UJ bird was back, without the bird. That accounted for one noise, but what of the other? Brake drum? Gears? Transfer box? Wheel bearings? We’re not mechanics, we didn’t know and that was the most frustrating part of it all. We had to carry on driving but we had no idea what, if any, damage we were doing. Redvers must be protected at all costs. We were graunching him into a premature scrap yard. Bollocks to Land Rovers. Always sick but never dead. Always sick.

We were three hours behind schedule. Our hard driving for the past 48 hours had given us time though. We could still make the border before six, its closing time, and get through. We had a plan, we had maps, we had daylight and we had lunch on the move. Peanut butter sandwiches again. This had become an evacuation. We needed out of Mozambique and we needed a city, we needed the refuge of Lilongwe, its access to car parts, its access to a backpackers where we could park for a few days and get Redvers ship shape again.

The sun was setting as we motored along; this was going to be tight. If we were late, we’d have to strike camp in the dark at Entre Lagos, defending a perimeter, fending off money changers and the ne’er-do-wells of the border. The timing was a matter of minutes when Laura noticed that I’d missed the turning, the main road had carried straight on, the sat nav had requested a right turn. We spun around and went back. The suggested turn led to a road whose condition didn’t look great, the border was twenty kilometres along it. The alternative route was forty kilometres, a route that almost certainly meant no border crossing that evening.

We stopped; local intelligence was required. Our man on the ground, (a random guy at a stall,) spoke no English. But in hindsight the conversation probably sounded like this,

“Does that road lead to the border crossing?”

“Yes but it’s full of water and precariously muddy, I wouldn’t use it, you’ll either become entrenched in its rutted and pot holed surface or you’ll lose traction and your coefficient of friction will drop sufficiently to allow you to slide to a somewhat premature conclusion,” he gestured pointing first down the watery way and secondly down the good road. “I’d far rather recommend that you make use of that thoroughfare instead.”

At this point, the one word we’d heard was ‘Agua.’ A word that isn’t difficult to translate, a word we’d used repeatedly over the last three weeks, an unmistakable word. Unmistakable, as long as you haven’t been driving for three days straight, the culmination of which is a foolishly urgent desire to make the border today and complete a mission objective created days ago. Like the pull of a magnet, the pull of that bloody border felt stronger the closer to it we got. All day, I’d been repeating mental calculations: average speed, ground covered, ground to cover; an extra twenty minutes simply didn’t fit into the plans. That is probably why I decided that ‘agua’ sounded like ‘aga’ or ‘aka’ or anything that wasn’t water. I told Somers that it must mean ‘either.’ He had pointed at both roads when he’d spoken after all and I’d heard exactly what I wanted to. ‘What do you reckon?’ I asked Somers. ‘Yeah,’ came the reply. We’d lost five minutes but now we were back on the move with new intelligence. Intelligence that when interpreted in a certain light, (rose tints,) suggested we could still make it to the border.

And then, less than fifty metres down the road, disaster struck. We weren’t moving very quickly but all of a sudden we were losing grip, edging crab-like towards the edge of the road. We couldn’t correct out of it, we’d lose grip, we couldn’t correct into it else we we’d compound the situation. We were doomed. Braking wouldn’t stop us in time. We were going down. Twenty kilometres from mission accomplished and we were going down. The slippery mud slid Redvers to his right, slowly, steadily; the mud tyres did not help, the sheer bulk of a three tonne Redvers under gravity’s pull and frictions’ near absence guided us down and into the swamp that ran alongside us. Fuck it.

We had gone down in hostile territory. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Already, locals were running over to see the once mighty motor, stranded in the swamp. Having covered one thousand kilometres we were inches from sanctuary, immobilised and being closed down. We had an hour of daylight left. If we didn’t get out of this bog we’d have to spend the night guarding the car. A car at an angle that precluded a good nights sleep. The car was our everything, the car contained all that was important, the car was our escape route. That route was now closed.

Into low ratio, into diff lock, reverse, twelve inches backwards and then spinning. Into first, twelve inches forward and spinning. And sinking. Reverse. Spinning. And sinking. Stop, get out, make a plan. Think. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’ There are a dozen people surrounding us and we could see more running behind them. Redvers is leaning, precariously; and still slowly sinking. His left hand side is in a foot of brown water and at least six inches more of gloopy mud. What’s around us, what have we got, what can we use? Make a plan. Stay calm. Work it out. More people are arriving. They’re a crowd now. A laughing, ‘Mazungu’-ing, claustrophobia-inducing crowd. There are thirty of them at least. They are all so close. Their breath and their eyes are all over us. More have stopped on the railway line twenty metres away. And they’re laughing and shouting too. And still they’re pouring towards us from the town.

Two tow ropes, one recovery rope (elasticated), four d-shackles and a high lift jack. How can I slow my mind down? Shit. Concentrate. Portuguese is being fired at us. ‘Five thousand and we’ll get you out,’ says one slick rick. I’d have administered a ‘fuck off’ to him if I hadn’t been in a state of urgent semi panic. And scared. There were more than sixty people surrounding us, laughing. I looked around, there was a tree. I could use the ropes to get around it, I could use the jack as a winch and stretch the recovery rope, four feet at a time; maybe it would give us that pull we needed, maybe the sand mats would give us that grip we needed. I began stringing the ropes out, one guy joined in holding the ropes whilst I forced my way through the crowd, unwilling to budge, unwilling to give up their imposing front row positions. One guy out of what was now near a hundred people. One helper. For fuck’s sake, why are you all watching, laughing, not helping. My eyes pleaded. Their eyes were indifferent.

Bollocks, how do I make the jack work like a winch again? I’ve forgotten. And still the crowds, and still the laughing, and still the ‘Mazungu’s.’ Every time the car door opens it’s a battle to keep their eyes out. Somers is on guard duty again. Unlock, open, search through curtain to find manual, search for recovery options. Shit, shit shit. How did I put the car in the water? There it is. Shoe to car, end to anchor. That’s it, that’ll work. The rope is around the car, the hi-lift is attached to the rope and another rope comes from the hi-lift to the tree but the d-shackle won’t fit around the end of the hi-lift. The shackle is too wide. The hole’s too small. Make a plan. Shit. Make a plan. ‘Five thousand and we’ll get you out.’ Will. You. Just. Fuck. Off. Stay calm, ignore him. Nuts and bolts. They’re in the back, they’ll help. The back door unlocks, it’s more difficult to lift as, with the angle of the car, it’s now as much of a hatch as it is a door. Laura’s wash bag spills out and everything inside it finds a spot on the floor. Deodorants, pill-packs, toothbrush and creams, floating in the muddy water. Someone shouts “condoms” and the place erupts. Now people start to help to try and pick the pieces up, but we don’t want that sort of help, not for these bits. We’re trying to pick it all up but the door is heavy and folding down on us and there are people everywhere. There are eighty litres of diesel lying at a forty five degree angle in the back of the car. Extra weight that shouldn’t be in the car for this, but we can hardly unload our vehicle here; two pairs of eyes watching one hundred pairs of hands whilst trying to free the car. A potential catch twenty two that plays on our deepest insecurities. People are everywhere; close, all around and everywhere.

Nuts and bolts in my nuts and bolts box. I find one that’ll fit, but its only eight millimetres in diameter. Will that hold three tonnes? Probably not but I hope so. And the force will be more than three tonnes. It almost certainly won’t hold, but what else can we do? There are enough people to lift the bloody car out by hand but when we suggest that they laugh, no fala bloody portuguesa, no fala. I perform charades for pushing Redvers. Poor Redvers. Charades equals laughter. The ropes are attached, the set is rigged. But the hi-lift has seized, my rig is useless. Oh-dear-fucking-God.

Visions of a dazed me with a concussed and bruised head flash through my mind. Muddied and holding my skull as blood trickles down my face and, through the disappearing light of dusk, I watch people unloading Redvers and walking off with our stuff into the dark. That’s the movies. That’s not here, not now. We’ll get out; make another plan. I start trying to fix the jack, but it’s seized properly. And then one guy steps forward and he’s ‘charading’ something and saying ‘tabla.’ Table, under wheel, driving. “Show me.” I say. Maybe he is the key; maybe we’ll get out of this intact. My solution isn’t solving the problem. Another five minutes of fiddling with the hi-lift and our potential saviour returns with a huge round wooden table top. He’s going to use it as a sand track for grip under the submersed right rear wheel.

He is the key. We’ve reached a turning point. His enthusiasm to help solve the problem is infectious. He rolls his trousers up and steps into the quagmire. His smart, padded, yellow shooting jacket with its sleeves now rolled up seems improper attire for this situation. But that doesn’t matter. The laughter from the crowd subdued as he stepped into the mud and now young men are stepping forward. Bravado has become the flavour of the evening. One guy steps in to the mud and holding onto the bull bars he starts to lift Redvers, he has no chance but he’s not actually trying to move it alone, he’s showing it can be done. The crowd splits into those that want to help and those who don’t or won’t or can’t be arsed. Those who do are in the water and there must be around sixty of them. And I’m in the driver’s seat, and Somers is at the end of the road; waiting to try and flag down a 4x4 that might be able to pull us out. The guy in the yellow coat is in charge he’s instructing the crowd. There are hands all over Redvers, I start him up and try and explain that we need to move forward and backwards repeatedly to get enough momentum to jump onto the table. The crowd doesn’t understand my charades but when I enact them they soon learn.

There are now people pushing people who are pushing Redvers. And then on the fourth time of forwards-backwards, Redvers gets a wheel onto the table, we move back four feet across and off the table. The process continues with the deep tread of our tyres trying desperately to find purchase on the muddy, greasy banks. “Una, dos, tres, urgggghhh,” the final noise drowned out by Redvers’ grunt. As we finally summit our two foot peak the crowd roars. I roar back out of the window. “Woooooooooooo!” They roar back even louder. Fear has morphed into relief. Adrenaline fuelled, heart pumping, exasperated and energetic relief. I feel like I could run a hundred metres in eight seconds if the ground wasn’t so bloody slippery. I reverse to a safe spot, all the while battling the mud and gravity. And then we stop.

In my hysteria I empty our fridge of cokes to try and say thank you. I don’t realise what I’m doing. Like a modern Jesus I’m trying to hand out six cokes to a hundred people. But I am definitely not Jesus and they start fighting for them. One coke is held by seven or eight hands. Hands that are coming from in front, between the car and the door frame, through the window and through the gap of the door itself. The people that didn’t help are snatching and fighting too. The one guy I actually want to reward can’t be seen; the guy in the yellow jacket. I want to give him money, I want to reinforce that helping people is good, but the crowd have their hands out and they’re getting raucous to the point of boiling over. This is dangerous. The situation has flipped back again and we no longer feel safe.

“Somers!” I scream. “Get here. Quickly. It’s time to go. Guard the car. I’m getting the ropes.” I hand her the keys and turn to find a man presenting all our equipment to me. This is bitter sweet. I thank him profusely but no one wants sentiment; they want something palpable, edible, valuable. We bundle everything into the back and slam the door and lock it. We’re forcing our way through people just to get back to the front doors. People are shouting, people are trying to stretch out their hands through the self imposed crowd. We don’t stop saying thank you but our eyes are panicked and our minds concentrated, it is definitely time to get out. We’re in the car and locking the doors as we close them. The engine rumbles and the car starts making its own way through the crowd. We were frighteningly close to something, and this end was anything but entirely satisfactory. But it was time to fly. We still weren’t breathing deeply as we drove out of town. Holy-mother-of-all-that-is-fucked up. What the hell had just happened?

It was nearly seven. Somers had been told that the border closed at ten. She had almost been run over attempting to stop a Hilux that accelerated when she made to try and stop it in order to ask for help. We had forty kilometres to go; an hour and a half if the roads weren’t too shabby. Maybe, just maybe...

In the dark, we pulled into the ghost town of Entre Lagos. The Mozambican border post with Malawi. It was dark, only the street lights lit the buildings. The border was closed; though we couldn’t actually see it. We found some street urchin types who showed us the customs’ office. We met a customs’ official who first told us that the office was closed and then asked us for some money. And then the urchins told us about a place we could stay for ten dollars each. A pensao.

We arrived and drove through the large corrugated iron gates into a courtyard that was to be our fortress. We were shown to our room, despite having drawn pictures of our car with a tent on its roof and us sleeping. The ‘suite’ on offer had a living area; concrete walls and floor, cobweb rafters and dirt with three wooden chairs lined in the middle of the room to face a bare wall. The bedroom had an old double bed with clean sheets on a filthy mattress. A mosquito net with big holes in it was suspended from the ceiling and an old rug looked to have been hugging the concrete floor for most of its long lived existence. The bathroom was dark and smelt of stale piss and shit, in reverse order. Somers noticed a cockroach on the floor but didn’t realise there were six more on the wall behind her. There was a bucket and a scoop for showering that doubled as the method of flushing the toilet. The place was foul.

Ten minutes later we’d ‘spoken’ charades to explain we’d be sleeping in our tent and agreed a price of six dollars for the privilege. The big urchin wanted to wash the car. We told him no. The dirtier Redvers looked the less valuable he looked and the less attention we’d get. Each of the three urchins received the equivalent of a pound. That was a lot of money, but they’d been a big help and we quite wanted them to sod off.

The tent was erected as the onlookers videoed it on their phones. We washed with the ‘roaches and clambered into our tent. We were at the border. Our day had been incredible. We’d cross tomorrow morning.

Posted by ibeamish 23:54 Archived in Mozambique Comments (1)

Day 126 – Crowded Boats and Broken Tempers

26th January 2012

sunny

Our eyes opened as the stars disappeared into the first grey of morning light. We rose with forced energy driven by the fear of missing our boat.

Down at the harbour they were still readying the boat, the sun was rising and there were seven of us waiting to board, Laura and I, and old guy with a smile as long as the ocean and two women (fitted with compulsory child attachment slung at their side.) By the time we left an hour later there were thirty four of us on the small dhow (children excluded) plus four crew making thirty eight in total. The water had risen, the boat had sunk, so that there were only six inches of wood protruding out of the salt. A little old lady, as old as time, had nestled herself comfortably between Laura’s now spread-eagled legs and was grappling at the heavy tarpaulin with her arthritic fingers. We tucked her in as the boats engine spluttered to life and groaned to push us out into water.

Forty five minutes later I was wading through the shallows back to a Redvers that had several rub marks in the dust of his windows; someone had been trying to have a sneaky look. Whilst this was going on Somers had been waiting, amidst howls of laughter interspersed with ‘Mazungu,’ for the tender to arrive to transport her in her dry condition, back to land.

The shouts of ‘Mazungu’ and cries of laughter didn’t stop, and as Laura disembarked from the tender the child decided that of everyone on board, Laura had to pay for the service. A stern ‘Nada’ followed which appeared to sufficiently dampen the child’s hopes and she returned to find me inside Redvers re-organising once more.

Whilst I was inside, sweating it out like a marine in an intelligence test, I heard Laura talking to someone and telling them ‘no’ and that she didn’t owe them anything. With fire in my vision and rage in my soul I hastily beat a furrow through the back end of Redvers to find the same kid accompanied by a grown man, now both pestering Laura, bullying her for money. I delivered the trips’ first full frontal, “FUCK OFF... NOW,” as I threw my hand to point over the guy’s shoulder. I repeated myself in case he didn’t understand English. The rage subsided into a simmer as the duo retreated and we continued our business. There is definitely a breaking point for the pestering, bullying and downright deception of these guys and I’d found it. The pressure release had been coming and it had arrived not without a fair degree of exhilaration as it was unleashed on this prize pair of pillocks.

Back into ‘Sherlock’ mode we discovered something on the passenger seat that definitely hadn’t been there when we left; a small dried pellet of poo; a mouse poo. It was time to accept reality, the evidence was indefatigable; we were transporting livestock without a permit. The mouse would have to go. We’d just have to find him first.

It was five to eight and we had a long drive, Police Engagement #’s 14 and 15 heralded the start of our latest beautifully disrespectful game of ‘Officer Idiot,’ that had first been conceived on entering Pemba. We forgot all about the game at the first stop because I was too busy listening to the thrill of guilt banging inside my chest as I assumed I’d been speeding. Our papers were presented and away we went. At the next stop however, we were loaded and ready for them; the fat boy got it first, in the same way that a dog doesn’t know what you’re saying, only your tone of voice, our officer had no idea what the noise was between hello and how are you because it came through a smile! “Bon dia, Officer Idiot, como estas?” Passports (photocopies,) driving license and car papers were displayed and, as a good bye, officer number two received the same.

Our plan was to drive as far as daylight and road surface would allow and in the direction of Malawi some 1000 kilometres away. We passed the 300,000 kilometre mark, a definitive milestone in the ‘Life and Times of General Sir Redvers Buller, Landrover 110 (RSA assembled).’ It was as if he knew, he’d been squeaking about it all morning. We could only hope it was the excitement...

We managed to cover just shy of 600 kilometres in twelve hours driving; pulling two hour shifts and stopping only for pee breaks, driver swaps and police. Police Engagement #16 happened after dark. “What nationality are you?” “We’re British,” we chorused. “Uh? Na-shon-al-itee?” “We’re British, English, from the United Kingdom.” “No. Nationality.” “We’re South African.” “Oh, OK, where you go?” “Cuamba” “OK, bye.” The fact it was pitch black and Cuamba was 300 kilometres of crap dirt road away hadn’t vexed him, it was clearly something that South Africans do.

The road worsened and so did our squeak, we could only go at 25 kilometres an hour and the ruts were more difficult to see. We continued to look for a suitable spot to camp, but nowhere was ideal. Eventually we bit the bullet and pulled in front of a bulldozer that had been clearing a new road. We cut the engine, turned out the lights and waited. We waited in the dark with our windows down and our ears pricked, listening for anything that might go ‘bump in the night.’ A fancy bulldozer like the one we were parked next to had to be guarded, it wouldn’t be long before someone turned up. On cue, a light appeared amongst the trees in the distance, the bumbling stop-start light of a guy finding his way through the bush to where the lights had gone out and the hum of the engine quelled. As he closed in we shouted “Bon noite,” this wasn’t an ambush after all. We asked could we camp there, and he said ‘problem.’ Five minutes after we’d told him we’d be gone by five, he’d changed his mind and he watched in awe as we unfolded our ‘home’ on top if our car.

Posted by ibeamish 23:53 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 125 – Lounging in theLodge

25th January 2012

sunny

We walked past the $300 per night Ibo Island Lodge on the way back to our camp site. We were goaded by the clear water of the infinity pool, the warm wood of the surrounding decking and its pleasant smell, the luxurious sun loungers and the well kept garden. Glimpses through open doors revealed antique furniture and high ceilings. The scent of linseed oil drifted out from the freshly treated doors; we were acutely aware that we were in paradise but sleeping in the cheap seats.

For Laura the sight of the pool was too much. Our aching shoulders and tired legs needed more than the hard ground of the camp site and the heat of the midday sun. Laura had a plan and with the dust kicking up at her feet she disappeared around the corner. Five minutes later she had returned and had arranged the use of the pool in exchange for drinking at the bar. To be precise it was six dollars each for the pool or, a twenty dollar spend at the bar.

Ten minutes later we were dumping our bags in the secure room of the hotel whilst we nipped back out for a bit of silver bartering at the fort. Two beautiful and unbelievably fine necklaces, crafted on Ibo from South African silver, later we were lounging by the pool straight out of the brochure, looking out as the clear water seemingly overflowed into the Indian Ocean. It was a million miles away from next door where we had been sweating out our four dollar nights. (You could spend three months in our camp site for one night in the lodge.) Laura quickly slipped into a bikini and I hid my filthy, exquisitely disgustingly filthy, swim shorts under my towel.

The beers were served on a silver tray held in the air on the finger tips of our waiter’s right hand. The palm trees fluttered over head as we wondered what cocktails we could sup as the sun set. That was living.

On the roof top bar we drank rum and lime as the sun went down and then we went back to the local cafe for prawns.

There had been no sign of Amici all afternoon though we had strayed from our meeting point so we couldn’t be sure if he’d tried. At the restaurant we saw Soof who told us that the public dhow, our way back to the mainland, would be leaving at 5am the next morning. Since we were determined not to be done out of our two dollars we asked to be taken into the village to find Amici. That decision was how we found ourselves walking down pitch black alleyways, following a guy who couldn’t be sure where Amici was. It was 98% dark, crabs were accidentally kicked, stones were stumbled upon and shadows dodged the bumbling tourists trying desperately to keep up with the guide whilst keeping their adrenaline levels down.

Eventually we found Amici languishing around the back of a house that owned all three of a television, a generator and a satellite decoder. He looked rough, we thanked him for his services and asked for our money, he apologised for not finding us and handed over the dosh; we were square.

One more cocktail on the rough terrace and we retired to our ‘luxury tented camp beneath the stars.’ (It was Laura’s turn on the ‘(un)holy mattress.)

Posted by ibeamish 23:52 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 124 - The Three Trials to Quirimba

24th January 2012

sunny

Amici arrived as planned at 8am and served as a translator as we spoke to the guys running the camp. The final statement on their part was ‘Maybe a dog ran off with it.’ Deary me.

With our kit packed and on our backs we began the trek to Quirimba. The walk took around two hours, and came in three trials. The first was the trial of the mangrove maze. Channels had been cut through the mangroves to allow people to traverse islands. The only problem is that there are lots of channels, intersecting at acute angles; forks in the road. Each day footprints are washed away and despite the low tide much of the path remains under water regardless and so following the path is difficult at best. A path would lead into a clearing that is under two feet of salt water, at first view there are no exits from the clearing but as one walks across the multitude of escape routes became evident. The key is that under close inspection, there was a white sand path under foot below the surface. The path had been cleared from the dark layer of algae and mud that lined the base of the clearing. Since we had a guide the first trial was conquered, we waded for an hour flanked by mangrove and watched over by the sky.

The second trial was soon upon us. Mounting the bank of the channel down which we had been wading we found that the mangroves live in mud; thick, slimy, slippery and incredibly stinky mud. Life became about maintaining our status as Homo sapiens nee erectus, as frequently we were reduced to great apes, clinging onto trees for balance, holding on to the ground as we slipped, sank and squelched our way along.

Finally, the mud gave way to the sand. A lot of it, kilometres of hard rippled sand bank forming the final trial. As the terrain made this final change we met a fisherman on his way to Ibo to sell his mornings catch. Amongst his fish was a lobster and that was to be our dinner, it cost just over one pound.

Arriving at the island we went straight to Amici’s sisters’ house where we would be camping. We dropped our bags and went on a mini tour that was essentially a roundabout way of finding Amici’s ‘girlfriend’ and his six month old baby. The use of apostrophes is required as Amici was no longer dating the mother of his child, naturally it had been unplanned. On further questioning about marriage he suggested that he would marry the mother of his second child, at least we think that’s what he said, the translation may actually have been that he wanted to marry the mother that gave him two children.

We ate breakfast at a local cafe and then played a game of ludo outside. The game is played with fervent rapidity and in one flowing move the die is scooped from the ground, shaken ‘in-flight’ and slammed down against the ground. The next guy has already shaken as you move your pieces. With the speed and our lack of knowledge of the rules we were a little slow, but Amici helped along. He just moved our pieces so that Laura and I attacked each other and avoided attacking him. It was no great surprise when he won by a considerable margin.

From this point forward it would turn out that we had essentially accompanied Amici on his child visiting trip. He left us to wander the beach, where we sat in a mangrov e tree and read as the ocean swept in. When we returned we found Amici and Laura ensured that he would be taking us on a tour of the island. We drank papaya wine in the local shebeen (local ale house), bought some dried cassava which tastes like chalk, and Laura had a rejuvenating ‘local’ face mask on our way back, much to the delight of the locals.

Our dinner came late as Amici had disappeared again and we had been waiting in the dark for his promised return. Eventually we asked could we eat and despite being berated for not speaking Portuguese we were shown to our lobster and pap supper.

The next morning we scolded Amici twice for his shenanigans but he only heard what he wanted. After all he was only nineteen and it seemed he’d beautifully combined child support payments with guiding. And so, when he asked for the rest of his fee I decided that it was so he could give his ‘girlfriend’ some money. He had already been advanced 60 mets of his 600 for pain killers for him and batteries for his sisters LED lantern and we’d paid his siter 100 each for the camping. With child support on my mind the heart strings are tugged and I hand over a five hundred note before he has finished our trip. My five hundred note received 100 change, he owed us sixty. Off he went again.

Three hours later he returned, we were itching to leave, we had three trials to conquer before we could sit on Ibo again. We made it back across to Ibo and Amici told us he was going to the hospital as headache had worsened. He could meet us at our camp site with our change. As an afterthought he asks if it would be OK to buy a big bottle of water to get change. I told him he could buy whatever he liked as long as we got our sixty meticais by the end of the day.

This was tight of us as we were talking about two dollars. But we hadn’t really bonded with Amici from the beginning. He was a useless guide who spent as little time as he could with us and we had to bully him into actually guiding us. Normally a guide would be getting a healthy tip by this point, especially after we had met his family and at least one defenceless dependant. But he left us frustrated, we didn’t want to give him a cent more than we had bound ourselves to.

Posted by ibeamish 23:50 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 122 -123 – Looking for the Lighthouse

22nd – 23rd January 2012

all seasons in one day

We woke up on an island in the Indian Ocean that we hadn’t actually seen yet. In our camp was a lone South African called Johan who was packing to leave. He was half-chatting-half-repelling a youth who appeared on familiar terms with him. The youth was called Soof. And once he’d been paid he was coming for us.

Soof was a seventeen year old kid first and an island guide second; just trying to make a dollar. He could ‘arrange’ most things including dhow trips to the sand bar, guiding around Ibo and walks through the mangroves at low tide to the neighboring island of Quirimba. First of all we needed to find our feet; we garnered what we could from him and told him we’d be in touch.

The islands’ fortress, much smaller than that of Ihla De Mozambique but of the same period, is now home to a collective of Silversmiths. Originally taught by the Arabs, who were both vendors of the silver coins and purchasers of the worked silver, the guys now import their silver from South Africa at $1.05 a gram and smelt it before crafting jewellery to sell to the tourists. The cheeky buggers had a half hearted attempt at charging us to get in, but since he couldn’t look us in the eye whilst he asked and three of his colleagues giggled when he did talk we took him to be trying it on. After wandering around the fort, and taking photos of the electricians that we’d met on the boat as they posed (Fifty Cent again) we left and entry fees weren’t mentioned again. We also found a local eatery where we booked dinner for two for a whole lot cheaper than the previous evening; and without fizzy cabbage.

Our plan had been to arrange a boat to a neighboring island of Matemo and it’s perfect white beaches, clear water, amazing snorkeling and campsite. But of all the things Soof could arrange, a cheap Dhow to Matemo was not one. There was a northerly wind that hadn’t stopped since we’d arrived and that meant a dhow wasn’t going to attempt sailing into it. If we wanted Matemo that badly, we’d need to hire a motor boat and a skipper for the privilege.

Later on we had a lead after speaking to Jorg in Miti Miwiri. Occasionally locals go to and from Matemo using a dhow at around 100 meticais per person. (A motor boat would be 2000 each way.) Two of Jorg’s workers were on the lookout for such a boat and had gone off to find one that day. We bided our time; we’d have an answer before the day was done.

That answer was sadly a negative one. The wind, the wind. At once, it was both a light breeze and a caging restriction. Our Matemo prospects were bleak. Over dinner we came up with plan B. We could walk to the light house the next day and then get Soof to take us to Quirimba the day after; we’d get our beaches there.

Another night time walk through the island’s streets and then: heat, humidity, inflating mattress, sweat, inflating mattress, sleep, inflating mattress, sweat, rolling uncomfortably, sunlight.

The walk to the lighthouse the following day was made interesting by the torrential rain storm that besieged us half way there. To keep our clothes dry we stripped down to swim shorts and bikini (Somers in the bikini and shorts, me in shorts!), and huddled over our bag and under a solitary mangrove tree in the middle of the beach. The air became opaque with warm water that came as if from an almighty upturned bucket whilst the cooling wind drove that water into glass shards against our backs. It couldn’t and didn’t last forever. Afterwards, we found some coconuts, plucked from their tree by a be-shouldered Somers-Beamish combination and set about finding a rock sharp enough to cut through the husk to the milky goodness of their centre. The coconuts were young, the milk sweet and the meat still soft; a delicacy.

We never actually made it to the lighthouse. After crossing lots of starfish filled streams and attempting to resuscitate an eel we were only 200 metres away but in front of us lay thick mangrove swamps. We tried, in vane, to traverse the mosquito ridden mangrove swamp but to no avail. We gave up, turned tail and began the march home. We hung our things out to dry and spent the afternoon reading down by the water.

We had booked the same local eatery again and taking our washing down Laura wondered if it would be OK to leave her travel towel out to dry for a bit longer. ‘Who’s gonna bother nicking it?’ was my response.

Someone was.

We arrived at dinner to be accosted by Amici, a 19 year old tour guide claiming to be ‘official’ and inferring dominance over Soof. We didn’t care who guided us, but we’d agreed Soof would take us, we told Amici if he wanted to guide us then he and Soof had to work it out between them. We discussed prices, and then told Amici to leave when he was still sat watching us as our dinner arrived. After dinner, Amici returns with Soof and we barter 600 meticais for two days including camping and someone to cook for us whilst over there. We also made sure Amici guaranteed he good get us food for under 100 mets. Amici finishes the conversation by asking for an advance on his wage. We tell him it’s not something we do.

Back at the camp we find that our towel had been nicked. A torchlight search seemed to confirm it and talking to the camp manager, ‘it must have been blown away in the wind.’

Posted by ibeamish 07:47 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 121 – Here we go to Ibo

21st January 2011

semi-overcast

Somers had suggested we rise at sparrows and journey our way to the little village of Tandenhangue from where we could get a dhow (Arabian style wind powered boat) to Ihla d’Ibo. I suggested that every time we suggest such a thing, (waking early), we wake at the allotted ‘early’ hour before sighing half-consciously and rolling over to go back to sleep. Laura scoffed at my idea, but in her head the plan had changed.

We woke up at around seven thirty and got on our way, a ‘short while later’ we pulled up at the harbour. A basic affair, the mangroves had been cleared to create a tidal channel in which small boats could navigate, while the harbour buildings consisted of a few mud huts with palm leaved roofs. A modern motor boat stood out from the crowd amongst the bathtubs and dhows that lay in the shallows. We spoke fluent English to a man fluent in several languages other than English and found that we couldn’t be sure what was going on. Then we saw a white guy talking to a couple of local guys and he had the appearance of man that knew what was going on. We had a feeling he might be the ‘James’ we’d been told about by another James back at Russell’s place. In short it was a tenuous link but more than enough for an easy introduction. Formalities over, he had two options for us; charter a boat now for 2000 meticais (fifty quid) or wait until the following day and get the local ferry dhow for 50 meticais each. That wasn’t really a choice; but mid-thought James had an idea and left us to have a quick word with another guy who’d just appeared; we followed over to chat. It turns out that Ibo was about to receive an electricity supply for the first time in its existence. And we were now speaking to the guy who was in charge of the whole affair.

We’d been quite excited about Ibo. Our research had told us it was an island in the same vein as Ihla De Mozambique. A trading post for the Arabs then a fortified island for the Portuguese, rich in architecture, isolated enough to have retained its character; and without electricity. Ever the romantics, we had envisaged wandering starlit streets under a full moon, admiring the crumbling architecture, smelling the island, listening to its breath as its people lived.

The guy we were now talking to was the general manager who was overseeing the installation that would ‘switch on’ the island on the 1st February. We weren’t sure if switching the island on was a good or bad idea, but we had little time to think about it. Our new friend said the motor boat was his and it was, sadly, full. But he had an idea. The boat would be back in a couple of hours to collect some workmen and we could catch a ride then; for free. Getting up super-early had been a bad idea after all.

Our next worry was Redvers. There was a guy at the harbour who could look after him for the princely sum of three dollars fifty per day. Throughout our preparations, there was an annoying little boy who was desperate to see inside the car, touch anything he could and generally be a little too close, and ‘hands on,’ for comfort; his eyes telling of rewards rather than intrigue. At this point I thought I’d found a mouse poo on the driver’s seat. As I went to pick it up for a closer examination I dropped it. If we really did have another individual on board they would have to make themselves comfortable, we were leaving for a few days.

The boat ride was a wet one and forty five minutes later we’d seen a stunning sunset over the mainland and would have been just as wet if we had swum the ten kilometres ourselves. As we set foot on Ibo it was dark, very dark, and only the singing of a distant generator told of life in the buildings that lay before us.

After a short ‘map-drawn-in-sand-by-torchlight’ set of instructions from our skipper we set off on our marc h for the campsite. The island was eerie. Crabs scuttled around the streets like rustling leaves and nipping at your toes if you got too close. There were clearly a few generators on the island as the two main hotels had power but otherwise open doors revealed either shadows around the mysterious blue light of LED lanterns, or only voices in the dark. Occasionally a shadow would sweep past you and mutter ‘Bon Noite’ as you tried to pretend that you weren’t jumping out of your skin with fright. Some shadows passed silently, only the crunching of sand underfoot giving them away. The clattering of loose roof irons , flapping windows and rustling litter all had our hearts taught and our eyes wide with pupils straining to be wider, greedy for just a few more photons.

We pitched our tent in the light of a paraffin lantern that had seen years of (ab-) use, and decided that dinner and drinks were in order. The tourism on the island seemed to exist under the gravitational field of a hotel and restaurant called Miti Miwiri (Two Trees) and in there we met our boat owner and another chap called Jorg who ran the place. We ordered two meals; there was no menu, a beer for me and a gin and tonic for the lady. The food arrived in three courses, which hadn’t been anticipated, and consisted of a fish pate in pancakes for starter, a white fish with unintentionally fizzy cabbage for the main and chocolate brownie and custard for desert. At $20 each it was drastically over budget, made worse when we discovered that Laura’s double Gordon’s and tonic had cost $12. Eeeshhh.

We got back to camp to spend a sticky and sweltering, hot and humid evening in our Namibian bought tent, during which I discovered that my mattress had a hole in it. Double ‘Eeeessh.’

Posted by ibeamish 07:45 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 119 - 120 – Pemba

19th -20th January 2011

overcast 25 °C

There really isn’t much to do in Pemba. It has a beach which, though we’re told is ‘normally beautiful and spotlessly clean,’ was, at the time of writing, covered in litter ‘from the storm.’ I’ve heard of frogs, locusts, first born son’s and four other bible based plagues none of which included that of raining empty packets of ‘Omo’ washing powder. No, that’ll be the locals then.

We took a leisurely four-kilometre-each-way stroll down the beach which as you’ve probably fathomed meant that we were only half way to town at our closest point. We did make it into town in Redvers to buy some bits and pieces but unless you’re list of hobbies includes any of the following it wasn’t all it was set up to be:
1. Telling each market trader that you’ll need to use your scales as his are rigged
2. Paying two quid for a can of sweet corn
3. Paying four quid for a can of Lynx Africa (surely it’s made here...)
4. Wondering how the Bengalese masterminded the world wide control of the corner shop

However, whilst dodging potholes and people, some good purchases were made, and they were four twenty-litre drums that once contained cooking oil, bought for just two dollars a piece. Five quid for four drums that will hold sixty quid’s worth of fuel when we enter Malawi, or as the Malawians would call it, one hundred and twenty quid’s worth. That last little fact is why we’ll be a rolling Molotov Cocktail as we pass through Malawian customs. Two hundred and sixty litres of diesel giving us a total range of over two thousand kilometres; we’ll be an Abrhams’ tank without the guns.

Back at Pemba Magic we met Hendy and Noa again who were still hunting for work but had moved their hunt northwards. Our roof tent cover had leaked and the rain had wormed its way in; our mattress was wet again, but, at least this time it was sunny enough to air dry. After all the excitement of Pemba, including paying twenty three dollars for a little bottle of Nivea suncream, we needed some down time. What we needed was an idyllic Indian Ocean based island with turquoise waters on which we could relax ourselves silly.

Posted by ibeamish 21:54 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 118 – Pemba ‘Magic’

18th January 2011

rain

Laura had a little moment while we were at Libelula and left the tent door open in a tropical thunderstorm. We slept the other way around so that only our feet were cooled by the damp and the next morning Laura borrowed Hayley’s hairdryer. After a slow morning of blow drying bedding and generally dossing, we finally got our act together around twelve.

The road to Pemba wasn’t a particularly long one by our standards but neither was it nipping around the corner. It was a six hour jaunt and five hours and thirty seven minutes into it, Police Engagement #13 sealed our contempt for the Mozambiquan constabulary. Not content with our prompt display of papers in the dark thick air of a Pemba evening that was brewing another storm, the officer wanted me to get out and show him what was in the back of Redvers. Carefully stepping around the foetid puddles of another minging town street I opened Redvers to reveal not much. I wasn’t about to show our persecutor the light and so he was forced to examine everything via the red light of the baton he’d used to wave us down. He tapped Joseph on the head, (we’ve turned him around,) “Hippo,” I responded using one syllable more than I’d have liked. He opened the pasta and seemed unsurprised when he found it half full (or empty) with dried tubes of cannelloni. He tapped the gas cylinder, its ding warranted no response from me and then he saw Laura’s wash bag and insisted I open it. I did, now starting to lose my patience. “Deodorant,” it was time to be patronising, you needn’t understand the language to know the meaning, “soap, toothpaste, it’s a bloody wash bag.” His mate came over and tapped Joseph, I looked him deep in the eyes and like a twelve year old in a huff gave him my best ‘bored’ face. “OK then,” I half-stated-half-questioned as I edged the door closed, he took a step back, he’d taken my lead, the door closed, “Thank you officer.” The passenger door closed and we set off again.

It was the aftermath of this encounter, during the unavoidable period of annoyed excitement that arises after a run in with the law, with us chattering about ‘Bloody police this... next time I’ll that... if they ever... what we should have...’ well, it was during this that we invented the game of ‘Officer Idiot.’ We haven’t found a catchy enough moniker yet but for now that’ll do and besides, it’s probably not a game we should; a.) Encourage or promote b.) Play in any country where they may potentially understand you or c. )Actually take part in, ever. To be fair it’s a game of the moment, you should always respect the law, even if they only needed one year of GCSEs to acquire their elevated and ‘much respected’ place in society, and I refer you back to point b, it’s not for England if you’re English. Unless you can speak French in which case you’re virtually guaranteed that they won’t understand a word.

But more about that when we have our first game. For now I will summarise; the police are just an harassment of foreigners and as such they have rapidly lost our respect, they stop you at every opportunity and harass us without reason, bar for the occasion on which we stopped on the bridge, (which was entirely legitimate and as the kids say, ‘Our Bad.’) Our act is slick, we can’t physically break the speed limit on the open road and there are too many kids in towns to risk it there. Our papers are at hand, in order and issued to officers before they can even ask for them (unless we’re being pedantic and ‘I’m sure they’re around here somewhere officer, just wait there a minute...’) The officers of the establishment have bikes and cars with no lights to worry about and still they stop us.

A few more roundabout and bumbling kilometres we arrived at Russ’s place or ‘Pemba Magic’ as it’s also known. They had cold beers, they had electricity more often than they didn’t and they were conveniently located just eight kilometres walking distance from town.

Posted by ibeamish 21:53 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 116 -117 – English Voices

16th-17th January 2011

storm 31 °C

Nacala was another putrefying centre of overpopulated dirt trying desperately to evolve into a city. It might just do that one day but for the next ten years or so I’d recommend giving it a wide berth. Unless that is, you’re heading for Libelula Lodge; a diving lodge run by a British guy, Ian, (great name), and his Dutch-South African wife, PJ.

Here we found not only European company in the form of the owners but also in the form of their best friends, Hayley, a Geordie and her boyfriend Matt and also Ian’s dad. We snorkelled the reefs in front of their lodge, diving down to get closer looks at the hundreds, and at times, tens of thousands of fish that surrounded us. The beach hut looking out over the bay provided Hayley and Matt’s rustic accommodation and also our power shower whilst the sun set through a rainstorm.

Ian also owned a Defender just like ours, but it hasn’t been starting so well, and ever since the local mechanic tried to remove the starter motor with a hammer and chisel, it has been off the road. (How many times have we heard “The great thing about Land Rovers is there’s always someone who can fix them, wherever you are in Africa.”)

At this point we were starting to think we may have a stowaway on board. Laura had found that one of the onions had been gnawed by some sort of rodent, and thinking about it, we realised we’d been brushing bits of sponge and crumbs from under the front seats for a while now. Could it really be true? We couldn’t be sure.

Posted by ibeamish 21:51 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 114 - 115 Palacio de la Governatores

14th -15th January

sunny 33 °C

Women in Africa are baby machines. If you have functioning, sexually mature ovaries, you have either a baby in your arms or in your belly or you have both. In our previous experiences we had seen that mothers had been strapping their children to their backs using a huge sheet that gained purchase on what are stereotypically a large pair of breasts predominantly used for supplying nourishment to the aforementioned back-clingers who lie ‘star-fished’ against the back with one side of his head pressed firmly into the soft flesh. In Mozambique they seem to prefer the side sling, which looks better for the baby but worse for the mothers back. All of this is what Miss Somers had observed and she was quite right. Men bring in the money, drink beer and impregnate the women; women have lots of babies and work the fields and look after the house all whilst having kids at their feet and babies attached, inside or out.

Returning to Ilha however; Gabriel was an interior designer who also happened to own an old Portuguese mansion on the mainland that he was in the process of restoring. We’d talked about staying there and had agreed on a couple of nights. That was where we were heading as we passed the 20,000km mark for distance travelled so far. The house was next door to the Palacio Dos Governatores, the old Governor’s summer palace. As we pulled up in front of the house, a staircase swept away from us towards a veranda where the front door stood. Behind the house another veranda with a stone walled well and palm trees completing the picture. Inside, it was definitely a work in progress, high ceilings and shuttered windows, antique Italian furniture and another huge bathroom, this time without running water. It would be bucket bath time once more as the house man brought buckets of cool fresh water from the well. We had come good again. The first night we rearranged Redvers and read on the balcony.

The following day we explored. One hundred metres in front of the house the mangrove swamps that led into the ocean began; the crystal clear water washing round the boats that had meandered their way through the maze of mangroves. Further along we found a little shelter that Gabriel had built with his own ‘private pool’ in front; a glorious euphemism for the channel of the Indian Ocean before us; about two feet deep and as warm as a freshly run bath. After a sojourn here we restarted our hike in the midday heat and promptly got lost. Fortunately a friendly local saw our lack of impetus and dodgy orienteering and showed us to the beach where white sand met turquoise water and a small restaurant served us samoosas and vegetable stew with fanta and sprite to wash them down. Since Somers was in charge of the purse strings and had only brought six quid (later amended to eight quid) with her, we were somewhat restricted in menu choice. As we left the beach we met a guy who could sell us a lobster as big as my arm for eight dollars. Well then we thought as our bellies rumbled. We told him he was on, we told him where we lived and we told him if he brought it there we could do business. We walked back via the village to get some fresh bread and mangoes for breakfast. An hour later, our man arrived, but shock horror, no lobster, just some poky looking fish and a black plastic bag. Oh, oh me oh my, did that bag not hold joyous quantities of prawns. Prawns that British restaurants die for, prawns so big they give langoustines and small lobster a run for their money; prawns that could bite your thumb off; thick, fat, juicy prawns and lots of them, almost two kilogrammes. But there was a rub. We’d agreed 200 for the lobster, 300 if it was truly massive. Our man wanted 750 for the prawns that lay in front of us. Little did he appreciate that those prawns weren’t leaving the property unless they were cooked and in our bellies. But first we had some commercial details to finalise. “Mate I’m not a rich man, that’s twenty eight US dollars, it’s not possible. No one can afford that. Sorry pal.” After a short explanation that he was the middleman and they’d cost him 500 meticais to buy (a lie) he came down to 600. “Sorry mate, you’ll have to take them back, lobster was what we wanted.” The game was afoot; he was in our territory, it was getting dark and he had only one prospective buyer that evening and he was looking at him. And 500 really was too much. He came down again and offered them at 500 to ‘break even’ and Laura told him that there was only one kilo of them, it was still way too much. He countered that there was 1.5kg; he clearly hadn’t weighed them. Another ten minutes went by as we feigned a few departures, ‘Not to worry, thanks for trying, take care, and sorry we couldn’t do business. We settled finally at 350 meticais and immediately had a closer inspection of our supper. They were bloody massive.

Our house man offered to prepare and cook them and it became a team effort with the three of us preparing a joyous sea feast of shr-impressive proportions. A liitle garlic, oil and lemon and some hot coals. Our guy reckoned there were two kilos and they normally go for 150mets a kilo. We’d done good, only one dollar per kilo above local rates and we had the entire Rolls Royce sea fleet.

In the house bats flitted around clearing the place of unwanted flies and moths and with full tummies we retired to our rather luxurious bed, stuffed to the Adams Apple.

Posted by ibeamish 21:50 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 109 – 113 – Ilha De Mozambique

9th-13th January 2011

sunny 29 °C

Lonely Planet told us that the three and a half kilometre bridge from the mainland to Mozambique Island has a 1.5 tonne limit; since that was just over Joseph’s live weight we would never get over it. Luckily enough for us there was a campsite right next to the aforementioned bridge; we could camp there and walk over.

Unsurprisingly, we arrived at the bridge, campsite to our left, and saw the capital letters that spelt “FIVE TONNOS WEIGHTOS DELIMITOSADADA” (that’s paraphrased pigeon Portuguese.) (Another turd in the cap of an already foul smelling head dress borne by LP.) It was splendid news, but we decided we’d check out the campsite anyway as the island’s accommodation was sure to be pricey.
The campsite initially appeared deserted but after a few minutes wandering we found our man. He looked like a crap Mexican wrestler, without his mask and on his day off. His pubic hair brimmed over his faded and stained light blue swim shorts as his spherical, pert and surprisingly hairless belly formed the mountain above the forest. He had one or perhaps two earrings and mid-neck length curly hair that was greasy and fitted well with the overall image he was sporting. He wanted 200 meticais each to camp (five quid) plus 300 for Redvers. This meant that he was a thief as well as a visual disgrace. We told him we’d look around the island and would be back if there was nothing else. We left him in his empty campsite; we’d be living it up on the island for a few days.

A quick history lesson; Mozambique Island has been a trading station in some form or another for over seven hundred years. The Arabs, Persians, Madagascans and other locales were all using it as a centre of commerce. From the fifteenth century onwards ivory, gold, porcelain, silk and slaves were traded, amongst other things, and the fortress of Sao Sebastiao was built by the Portuguese at the northern end of the island. Huge granite walls and cannons galore provided an adequate turret to see off the unwelcome advances of the Dutch amongst others. The island soon became the capital of Portuguese East Africa until it was relocated at the turn of the 19th Century to Lorenco Marques (now Maputo.) In recent times the island has become a UNESCO world heritage site for its architecture and history (they’re busy gluing roofs back on and sticking information plates to important buildings; the island is a history lesson in itself but is none the less a place that remains very much alive in the twenty first century. Every building has people in it, whether legitimately or squatting. People shit on the white sand beach because it’s what they’ve always done, if you gut your fish the entrails go seawards, if you have rubbish it gets dumped in the street, someone might clear it up. The island would be falling apart if it wasn’t only just held together. Multiple layers of fading paint are evident on the cracked and crumbling walls and some of these aged facades can hide wealthy second and third homes for those who have enough money. It is a place that has seen much wealth, a place where some of the wealthy still choose to have a home and a place that is certainly visited by the wealth from abroad. However it is a place made up mostly of the poor and it is they who live as if they were in medieval England, the island has a smell that never goes away. It’s the smell of the sea and of rotting rubbish; the rise of fancy bars and plush accommodation may signal the beginning of something different but this island is lived in and it is the leftovers and refuse from its inhabitants’ existence that fight with its history and architecture for the most memorable quality of this rock in an azure ocean. Fortunately the latter wins, but it faces stiff and relentless competition from the former.

As we drove onto the island we suddenly became the focus of attention, it felt like we might be the only vehicle there. In hind sight they probably stared because we looked like lost children far from home as we wandered slowly, wondering where to go and where we would stay. (There were several other cars too.) We came across a large green mosque that had opposite it a smart looking establishment with a fancy name. The big letters said ‘Patio Dos Quintalinhos’ the little letters said ‘Casa De Gabriel’ and our now expansive understanding of Portuguese informed us that this house was where Gabriel lived.

Inside we met a lady who spoke Portuguese and told us in sign language that there was no room at the inn. We were back outside; we’d need to make a plan. As we were formulating a plan B, a slender tanned gentleman in his thirties pulled up on board his Chinese 150cc two wheeled import. “Allo, I’ma Gabree-eller, thees ees mai ‘ouse, you’re luke-ing fora somewhere to stay-er?” Oh thank God, he was our Italian saviour who included Portuguese and English in his vocal repertoire. He was fully booked that night but he found us a place around the corner and we could stay at his place the following evening.

Amakhthini (Casa De Luis) wasn’t quite in the same league as Patio Dos Quintalinhos but the lady and her daughter seemed very nice. (We couldn’t work out which of the three men was the ‘Luis’ of the house’s title.) It had a dimly lit room with mosquito net, fan and double bed and it had showers with water. We had only been on the island for an hour and we were still in the’ little lamb’ phase. Outside I nervously poured the diesel from the jerry cans, stored on the roof, into the tank, assuming it would make it less easy to steal. We secured our things in the safe and put the curtains up and locked Redvers down. It’s fair to say we were paranoid. We always are when we first arrive somewhere; most of the time we’re proved wrong, sometimes we’re proved right, (especially after our stay in Mutare when someone had rubbed a hole in the dust on the back window to see what was inside.) The saying is ‘better safe than sorry’, but what better fulfils that white European stereotype than to pull up in an African village, in a car worth ten years salary of the average man, and proceed to look nervously around whilst bolting every last thing to the chassis. Whether we like it or not we’re consumers that live in a materialistic world and our materials included a camera, a computer and a car, the theft of at least one of those would be disastrous. An hour later we’d solidified our image but felt a lot better for it.

Our explorations led us to understand that the island is split into two. Stone town, with its huge fort and once fancy stone buildings, the historical residences of the well heeled; and Macuti Town, the semi-subterranean city which sits two metres below everywhere else because that ground was where the stone came from for the Portuguese fort. The buildings in Macuti were a lot smaller, varying from holey-roofed shacks to sturdy concrete single or double roomed buildings; mostly, they were made of wood with thatched roofs and sandwiched together uncomfortably close to one another. Our house was just on the Macuti side of the invisible border looking past the mosque, over the litter and filth lined shore and onto the channel of Indian Ocean separating us from the mainland. Our first beer came sat at a table and chair on the beach with sand between our toes and the vast Indian Ocean in front of us. We’d crossed southern Africa, Atlantic to Indian, Skeleton Coast to Mozambique Island, 8000 kilometres on land and nearly four hundred by ferry or canoe; not a bad achievement and certainly worthy of a beer.

Pressingly, we were about to learn a valuable lesson; the big bottles of beer were cheaper than the small bottles because big bottles get recycled whereas small bottles were yours to keep. The fact didn’t prevent a moderately heated discussion with the bar-keep over this alarming, (but gradually more pleasant as its true meaning sank in,) idiosyncrasy. We found another bar and as the light faded Somers spotted a couple that she’d seen in Tofo, (in Southern Mozambique,) one year previously when she’d been on holiday there with Emma and Sarah from home. Hendy was a local guy, born on Ilha (the cool-kids abbreviation for Ilha De Mozambique,) who had been working in Tofo where he had met his Israeli girlfriend Noa. Laura had originally spotted Noa’s beach time yoga sessions on the beach down south.

We got talking to Hendy for a while, it was his birthday and he suggested we could meet up later; six hours gone and we knew the locals, Somers was a pro. Our bar was pleasant in the extreme; situated on a street corner with narrow dirt roads running down two sides and glass windows looking across to a church that stood opposite. A few tables and chairs had been placed outside to take advantage of the cooler evening air; the rundown buildings with their ornate window frames and crumbling facades gave it an aged and antique feel. The night air was filled with song rising from the evening church service; the island was alive. It was a very nice place to be drinking a big beer and a mango brandy.

Our bar crawl extended to Flora De Rosa’s, another very smart bar whose major selling point, apart from its a superb Caipiroja’s, was its roof terrace, complete with log fires, that looked out over the old hospital. Whilst Somers got stuck into the cocktails I carried on marvelling that more beer cost less. We stumbled back to our abode a little drunken and a little in love with the island. We’d originally planned two nights but by the end of the first we knew it would never be enough.

The next morning we took a leisurely, onion omelette followed by mango, breakfast before moving over to Casa De Gabriel. Gabriel owned a garage so Redvers would be safe and our minds would rest easy; in fact, they would rest very easily as Gabriel’s place was beautiful. The front door opened onto a small courtyard with a huge palm tree that grew from the floor and out into the sky above. The next room back had a cushion-lined mokoro canoe suspended from the ceiling by ropes so that it could ‘float’ just eight inches from the ground; around the room stood armchairs, clocks and lamps. We continued through the building into a longer courtyard, past the stone steps to the roof terrace, and found an open air swimming pool nestled at the back of the building next to our room. Our bathroom was bigger than our bedroom and the hole in its roof allowed both the sun and the rain through and onto its black and white tiled floor. It was magnificent.

We spent the hottest part of the day in the pool with another couple, Thomas and Linda, Austrian and South African respectively and soon to be living in Tel Aviv. That evening we wandered around the island again, enjoyed a small beer in the exceptionally swanky, but during our visit at least, as quiet as a library, Villa Sands before dining at a local restaurant where we bumped into Hendy and Noa again. Over beers they told us that they were hiring a boat to get across to another island, Isla De Goa where they could camp for a night, and hinted that we might like to join them. The fact he was a local meant that he’d got the boat cheaper than anywhere we’d seen advertised and he was willing to split the costs evenly. We said we’d think about it.

We bumped into them the following morning and made a plan; twelve o’clock the next day we’d sail, aboard a Dhow, to Ilha De Goa. We’d camp for the night and return the day after. It all sounded like a great adventure and whilst we mulled it over, Laura and I visited the museum and were shown around the old fortress.

The great ocean beckoned and the next morning we excitedly packed our bags and got to the museum just in time for an almighty rain storm to arrive. We sat, thoroughly soaked, under the shelter on the steps to the museum as it became apparent that the boat wouldn’t be sailing in the next twelve hours. Plan B was a day trip the following day. We wandered, took photos and swam, before buying some fresh fish on the shore-side market as the boats came in; we bought bread, shima (mealie meal) and coke for our rum. The fish was cooked whole with a little salt, oil and lemon and tasted brilliantly fleshy and fresh. A few rums hit the spot and once more we slept dreaming of Goa.

The fact that Casa De Gabriel was located across from a mosque had not gone unnoticed. As anyone who has stayed near a mosque can attest, their call to prayer can be extremely therapeutic in the early evening as the light goes and the rum gets to work; it can also be an absolutely shocker at four in the morning when the loud hailer whines to life and your man starts screaming for Allah. I knew God was on the side of the just when I awoke with a flourish at around four in the morning to hear the beginnings of the rant only for our man of Islam to burst into a coughing fit half way through and forget to turn off his public address system, “ Allah ma... achh, aggghh, gugh, gggh, grr... Allaggghhhhhh... ag, agkh, agck. ” You could hear the phlegm. Its only saving grace was that it was so early that the affair retained a dreamlike quality and an hour later it was only half remembered. More impressive still were the two or three small children somewhere at the back of our building who would take it in turns to cry in a relay of whinging tears. If I have children they’d better behave themselves or they’re going to an orphanage. The ‘babies’ thing should bring me on to another story about Somers’ observations on African women and children but we’ll save that for a bit later.

Before long we were up, packed, and ready to ship out. We waded out to our dhow and climbed aboard. As we pushed off past the water’s edge, an edge lined with some of the most disgusting debris imaginable, turds, tampons, fish guts and rotten mango skins, our vessel crested into turquoise waters above white sands. Our dhow unfurled its sail and an almost absent wind blew us across the channel. I tacked up the rod and put it to sea, the other guys threw out their lines as the huge sail provided our only retreat from the sun. An hour or so later, we landed on the beach, still fish-less, and a rather green Somers took for a bit of beach life rather than taking a quick spin back out to catch lunch. With my new rod and reel against three other sets of line with a hook at the end, I once more felt like western whopper in Africa. If I didn’t catch I’d look like even more of prat, ‘all the gear...’ etc. Anyway I did catch, and I caught first, which made the me the winner of the unspoken competition, it was about five inches long and should normally have been thrown back in, but today everything was lunch. The guys laughed when I used a huge wooden pole to foreshorten any fishy suffering by splattering its brains on the deck.”Why would you do that?” they asked through Hendy. I likened a fish out of water to a man under the water, and told them that that wasn’t a very nice experience, I’m not sure they really cared. It was another case of weird foreign ways. Hendy caught another tiddler and when he told me it was one one-one I knew that the competition hadn’t only been in my mind. Laura and Noa swam out through the azure crystal water to meets us and we swam back with them. Back on the island we met a spear fisherman that looked like he’d been through the entire cast of ‘Finding Nemo’ and had them to offer us for dinner. This would not be ethical eating, but they were already dead and we had nothing to eat. Two dollars bought us three probably slightly more endangered fish. Garlic, oil, lemon, fire, munchy-munch-munch with rum to wash them down. They didn’t taste endangered.

Laura and I went for a wander to see the light house and on our return found that the waves were now crashing on to the beach and our little wind powered dhow couldn’t get into land against the wind. It was a silly situation, had it just been us we could have swam out easily and boarded, but we’re westerners and our camera wasn’t as keen on salty water as we were. After half an hour of trying, the Dhow tacked out to try and make an alternative landing further up the beach. Two hours later they made it. We’d whiled away our time sleeping, swimming and playing on the rocks. The rocks were fun. In places they formed blow holes where the shelf-like construct had a hole in its roof as it were. The waves would crash under creating a huge pressure jet of water that roared through the holes and blasted up towards the sky; creating both a rainbow and an amusing place to put your head.

The return boat journey became melancholically ethereal as the wind suddenly dropped, the sun set and the stars came out. The starlight guided us across the Mozambique Channel and we glided past the fortress and into the harbour.

The long day, the sun, the salt and the endangered lunch had left us hungry. Miss Somers had temporarily lost her taste for fish, shima or anything else remotely African. We had superb pizzas in the same bar that we had visited on the first evening. Later we retired to Gabriel’s for our last night on the island.

Posted by ibeamish 21:49 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 108 – No Fala Portuguesa

8th January 2012

sunny 25 °C

The next morning Somers had a little swim in another fancy pool, the nicest yet. A day of driving was required to get us across the six hundred and fifty kilometres to Nampula; the major town before Ilha De Mozambique.

All was going well, we’d driven superbly along the potted tarmac and covering some good ground, stopping for the most amazing, straight off the tree, pineapples as big as your head, for forty pence each and stopped a boy at the side of the road for a bag of the biggest roasted cashew nuts ever. All was going swimmingly when, amidst a simply stunning sunset on a bridge in the middle of nowhere, I asked Somers to stop so that I could take a picture of this delight for posterity.

It became apparent that we were amidst Police Engagement #12 whilst I was taking photos. Redvers was blocking one lane of a two lane bridge. Of all the places on our half thousand kilometre trek that day, we’d stopped about sixty metres in front of a police car and three cops. Of course we were in the wrong; but that wasn’t the point. It was time to show the officers that we understood no Portuguese. It was a definite case of ‘good cop’, ‘super angry cop’ and ‘can’t really be arsed cop’ as the angry one approached first. He was definitely angry but we pleasantly didn’t know the language. Laura began the sweet talking despite the fact that they spoke as much English as we did Portuguese. License and papers were handed over and then, the long pause. They took our papers and disappeared off behind us somewhere. I wondered if I could sneak back out and get that photo, but common sense got the better of me. Somers was all over the situation telling me how the sun was going down; we just had to politely stand our ground and ask to go to the police station if they persisted, easy peasy. Our accommodation that night was sketchy at best anyway given that the campsite was called Sjebeen Campsite. (A shebeen in Southern Africa is a poor man’s unlicensed ale house.)Maybe if stopping in a public by-way was a big enough offence we’d get some free accommodation for our antics? After ten long, long minutes they returned, the guy who couldn’t really be bothered was trying to tell me off, whilst Mr Nice said something in Portuguese to Laura. Finally, Mr Nice pointed forward; we were free.

We pulled into Nampula at around half eight, it was dark, it stank like a rubbish dump, and the streets were lined with staring eyes. We made our way to the Sjebeen campsite which was at the end of a dark alleyway. We drove past some chaps, who looked very shifty swapping money at the back of a building, and the track opened into a dark courtyard that was at the back of, (as described in the name,) a shebeen. It looked like the kind of courtyard that you could speak to a lethargic policeman in; the day after you had set up your tent in the dark and some nasty men held knives to your throat and stole everything. With that in mind we checked into the Bamboo hotel next door, with massive fences, guards, air conditioning and a monkey in a cage.

We ate dinner like we were in the Mediterranean; chorizo, cheese, black olives and bread, fresh pineapple and mangos for desert; beers throughout. The next morning Redvers was still parked where we’d left him and the only knives we’d seen were with cutting through our sausage.

As we left the following morning we found that our noses had told no lies. Nampula is a full blown, five-star, top of the range, everyone-is-helping-the-cause, [excrement] hole. It smells of disease and decay, its putrid air is breathed by either ignorant or undereducated citizens who cast their rubbish at their feet; whether by the water, in the road or in a bush. The cities inhabitants have no pride for their surroundings; if you’re passing by, change your route.

Posted by ibeamish 21:48 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 107 – Playing the Money Changers

7th January 2012

sunny

We had a long way to go to complete the ‘trans-Africa’ leg of the journey. An hour down the road was Chimoio, a town big enough to provide us with internet, fuel and shopping on a Sunday. The Shoprite supermarket had us salivating over their beautiful, sweet, delicious foods, fruits and delectable’s and we went nuts for it. From chorizo to whole butterflied peri-peri chicken, fresh crusty European style bread, Cadburys chocolate, olives and cheeses, not to mention gin; we had discovered sanctuary and we weren’t leaving without a several pieces of it.

Outside money changers loitered harassing potential victims. We were dollar-rich and metical-poor the money changers could reverse that. As always their exchange rate was promising but we’d need to keep our eyes peeled; firstly because they’d be out to screw us and secondly because money changing was illegal. But with rewards to be gained it was worth a shot. We set ourselves up within the security of Redvers, sat in the middle of the supermarket car park, Somers in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger seat. Laura’s window would be the trading point and I could be the counter. The first guy appeared and after negotiating a rate of thirty meticais per dollar for two hundred dollars (current exchange rate 27.4:1, an improvement of almost ten percent) our tricky little chappie counted out ‘6,000’ meticais from his wad. Our dollars were well hidden, he handed over the dosh and there were only 5,800. He insisted on recounting and had an entirely frustrating method of counting the money; each note was folded slyly back on itself towards his chest. More over his counting was deliberately off, first he intentionally miscounted, his words accelerated briefly past the flicking of the notes, he would reach 6,000 with only 5,800 (but we’d spotted it so remained silent,) then as he counted the last few notes his words slowed as this time his hands over took his words. Someone in the background murmured the word ‘police.’ This quickened our hearts a little as by this point we had a crowd of moneychangers who were hustling and being harassed by the shop security guards who also appeared to be in on the act as they made lots of noise but didn’t actually achieve anything. Our man apologised for the miscount and handed Laura two hundred meticais before handing the wad back to me as another louder shout of ‘quick, police’ was raised.

The returned wad was a lot lighter than two minutes previous. The ruckus stepped up a notch outside the car; inside, I recounted; 4,000 this time. We looked him in the eye and told him firmly to ”[push] off.” The ruckus was worsening, new guys were now pushing past security guards to trade but we were outside of our comfort zone. Once more Redvers rumbled to life and dragged us out of trouble.

We found an internet cafe in town to begin the necessary dissemination of engagement notifications and caught some sodas in a little cafe. On the way back out we still needed money, if we could beat those little monkeys at their own game we could turn a profit on what the banks would charge, it was time for round two. We pulled back into the car park and waited to be approached. The same saga ensued; this time our new man was 400 short to start and moved to a total of 3,200 at the ‘final’ handover as the ‘police’ shouts reached their crescendo. Once more defeated we told him plainly to “[sod] off.” I added a malicious “[Richard-] head” as I looked him in the eye and Laura threw sixteen two hundred metical notes out of the window.

Four hundred kilometres later, in the moonlight, we crossed the Zambezi River once again via a pretty flash new bridge that had replaced the ferry service from three years prior. We had a few beers before retreating to the tent, fearful for the preservation of our Malaria-free status against a mounting army of miniature screaming banshees who wanted only our blood.

Posted by ibeamish 21:46 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Day 105 – 106 – Casa Msika

5th – 6th January 2012

sunny 31 °C

Well, if everyone didn’t suddenly start speaking Portuguese I’d have been damned. One minute communication was sixty percent speech and forty percent body language; the next it was thirty percent speech (English with an ‘o’ at the end of every word and not as effective as first hoped) and seventy percent charades. After the border we’d made a bee line for a place we’d seen advertised on the road and in ‘the book.’ It was called Casa Msika and offered fishing and camping. Set on the shores of a dam whose name I’ve forgotten and you probably don’t need to know anyway the place was a fairly pretty spot. There were mountains in the far distance, blue skies above and mango trees heavy with fruit all around us.

That same evening we bumped into the children of the current owners as they came running to see what Laura had stepped on and subsequently squeaked at. Laura had bent down to wipe the ants from her feet, when a chameleon simultaneously decided that the upturned heel of the flip flop looked like a nice spot to relax. As Laura set off she partially squished him. (No bones were broken you nature lovers.) We’d noticed the girls feeding a rather large juvenile African Hawk Eagle just seconds before the incident and over the next twenty four hours they introduced us to a Spotted Eagle Owl, two duikers, a pig, about fifteen million cats, a duckling, two rabbits and a baby bush baby.

Casa Msika was my chance to break my new rod’s duck and catch a fish. As I marvelled at the snail lined shores of this freshwater lake I wondered how long it would be before Laura and I both get bilharzia. Yet after two days fishing the duck was not broken; I had caught no fish. We got back to the campsite to find an overland truck of Germans and a very recently engaged Irish couple. Sadly for the Irish couple the Germans were complaining that the Irish had organised a private dinner the previous evening and now had their own room to ‘celebrate’ their new status. The Germans believed that Irish bliss was segmenting the group. Everyone else believed the Germans were idiots.

Posted by ibeamish 23:39 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

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