Africa trips

Mozambique 2003 - Harold Churchill

Overlanding Trips

The rest of the group arrives and I see that the first guy who I dealt with is busy exchanging currency with them. He looks smug and I later asks, “What arte did you get?" No wonder he looked so smug he got a rate of 2500.

Once across the border you can feel things are different and this heightened the feeling of excitement; - A new country, a new adventure.
The difference was immediately noticeable in that now all signs, posters, etc are in Portuguese. Another immediate impression, once leaving the border town, was the cleanliness of the country. There was hardly any litter and compared to Swaziland Mozambique looked pristine, especially north of Maputo. The same, however, cannot be said for Maputo.

Not far from the border I saw signs saying, “Mine clearing area” and the tell tale notice with a red skull and cross bones signifying land mines. Throughout our visit we saw a numbers of people on crutches with limbs missing, a chilling reminder that the country bled for 20 years in a bloody civil war and that even today the threat of land mines still remains.

Once more Libby and I were on our own as the others had on streaked ahead. Having heard of the frequency of speed traps and the heavy fines levied I stuck to the speed limit, in fact at a speed slightly less than what was allowed. I must admit I never saw a speed trap on our entire trip.

We reached Maputo and our road north skirted the city and from the little we saw it looks like the pits. Dirty, drab and snarling with traffic. On the northern edge of the city the road was flanked by open-air vendors, and crudely constructed wooden shelters that served as shops. The gutters were filthy, chocked with rubbish, and thin mangy dogs snuffled for something edible. Traffic crawled along at a snails pace.

Ahead was a police roadblock and we were signalled to pull over and I made the mistake of releasing my seat belt. The policeman, a young black man, indicated that I did not have my seat belt on. He no doubt did not see me wearing it as I had on a black leather jacket identical in colour to the seat belt. This I tried to explain with much gesticulating. He finally, but reluctantly, accepted my explanation but was now determined to find something wrong. He walked round to the back of the truck.

The rack on top of my truck extends about 400mm over the back and he indicated to me that this was not allowed; it had to be flush with the back. Before leaving, and following the advise of others, I had fitted a red triangle onto my rack at the back. I immediately pointed to the triangle and said to him, “Tring, tring.” Before he had a chance to respond I grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously saying, “Mozambique, number one. Sharp. Sharp.” Then I put my arms around him and gave him a hug; “Abrigado” I said and jumped back into the drivers seat, started the motor and drove off. Well I wish you could have seen the look on his face, nothing in his training had ever prepared him for a hug from a grey bearded tourist.
He was ‘gob-smacked’.

Not far beyond we pass the cemetery. There were crowds of people and they seemed to be having a very busy day. Hordes of pavement traders and funeral processions, yet in spite of this the scene had a carnival atmosphere.

As we travelled north the countryside become more scenic. There was many a small village we drove through. Most of the buildings were old, dreary and dilapidated and probably not had a coat of paint since the country gained independence 20 years ago. The only buildings that looked well maintained were the odd government building. Some of the buildings were empty and in the few remaining rusty gutters weeds grew. Street vendors where everywhere and open air markets the order of the day selling everything and anything from chickens to bicycles.



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