Africa trips

Mozambique 2003 - Harold Churchill

Overlanding Trips

Next morning it has stopped raining and although cloudy the weather looks promising. So we set off for an exploratory walk in Inhambane.
It is an old town, established by the Portuguese as far back as 1534 when it was then called “Terra de Boa Gente” (land of the friendly people). The friendliness could not have lasted long as the Portuguese quickly established a lucrative slave trade. Before the independence of Mozambique from the Portuguese it must have been a beautiful town set in a tropical paradise. But after years of civil war it is but a spectre of its former glory. Struan visited the town six years previously and said that most of the buildings were then deserted. Some buildings are still empty and fig trees grow on the outside walls, their roots penetrating into the brick and mortar. Broken shutters hung dangerously over the pavement. We wander through narrow streets and gaze at crumbling buildings trying to imagine what it must have been like.

It is Sunday and the town seemed empty and even at 7.00 in the morning there were few people or vehicles about and we begin to walk back to the ‘Backpackers’, which is on the esplanade overlooking the bay and close to a quayside that juts out from the esplanade. Littered alongside the quay are some skeletal rusty remains of boats plus a few old fishing boats. I think it would be safer to play Russian roulette than to go out in on of those fishing boats.

Across the bay is a little town called Maxixe and already a few locals carrying goods on their heads are gathering to catch the ferry across the bay. We see a decrepit old hulk of a boat with someone tinkering with a single outboard motor at the back. He finally gets it started with much coughing and spluttering and soon to discover that this is the ferry. I think it would be safer to swim across to Maxixe.

The only building, which shone with new restoration, was the catholic Cathedral built over 200 years ago. Close by was a freshly painted building, which I soon discovered, was a military building. I wanted to get a photograph of the church from a different angle when a sentry appeared from nowhere indicating I may not take photographs. I finally got him to agree when I pointed out it was the church I wanted a picture of.

Back at ‘Backpackers’ we find Struan again on his cell phone. The plan is now for Landrover technicians from Maputo to come through on Monday or Tuesday. If they cannot get the Landrover going then they would have to take it back to Maputo.

By prior arrangements Grant arrives at 10 and Struan and Clive leave for Paindane leaving the Landover parked at the backpackers. Libby and I decide to do a tour and head off for “Praia do Torfo” a few kilometres further north up the coast. We arrive there and find a small beach resort called ‘Casa Barry’’. So named after Barry Dowson who lived in Greytown some years before leaving to start a new life in Mozambique. Unfortunately he was in South Africa and only due to return some days later.

This part of the coast is well developed with many small resorts nestling under lofty coconut trees. Most of the buildings were constructed of plaited palm leaves others of more conventional brick and iron. On the beach a few black children are netting small fish using a piece of green shade cloth.

By now the weather had darkened so we decide to leave and return to Inhambane.
One the way we see a collection of huts and some men tying reeds together. We stop to see what they are doing and I take out my video camera. At first they are reluctant but then I invite the apparent headman to come and have a look at the picture on the LCD screen of the camera. He though this was great and soon I had a crowd of men, women and children crowding round to see the pictures. Some though it hilariously funny and staggered around in fits of laughter. I took a photograph of the headman and his family and he wrote out his address for me on scarp of paper so that I could post him a copy of the photograph.

About few kilometres out of Inhambane is the turn off to Paindane. There is a large sign saying ‘Guinjata Bay’, the sign to Paindane is much smaller and difficult to see.

The rain has started once again. It starts softly and steadily gains in intensity.

For the first time since leaving home we are now on a dirt road. It had been topped with red earth and was very muddy and slippery so I stopped and locked my hubs for 4-wheel drive, should it be required. After 5 kilometres the red-road stopped and we were now on a sandy track that wound through the palm trees. We pass a few resorts along the way with the main one being ‘Guinjata Bay’ about halfway to ‘Paindane’.

Although sandy and with my tyre at normal pressure I only once had to change to 4-wheel drive when I had to go off the track for an approaching vehicle while going up a slope. No doubt the heavy rain and wet sand resulted in easier going. The worst sand was at Paindane itself and this is where I got stuck. Most embarrassing!

Just before ‘Paindane’ there is a steep slope. Halfway up is a turn to the left saying ‘reception’, as I was turning Libby said, “No, the chalets are straight ahead.”
I stopped and reversed back; but instead of making a wide turn back I did a short turn and before I could say, “A Toyota never gets stuck”, - I was. I had turned too sharply and ended up in very soft sand on the edge of the track. I stopped and in the pouring rain let my tyres down to almost zero. Tried again but was well and truly stuck.

Leaving Libby I set off up the slope to find the others to come and give me a hand. A few hundred metres further on I find them all in the bar. They were getting wetter inside than out.

We all jump on Grants double cab and in two shakes of a wet ducks tail I’m unstuck. They drive off and head back for the pub. I begin to drive then hear I have a flat tyre.
I had deflated my tyres too much and the one rear tyre broke its seal and completely deflated. Back out into the rain and change a tyre. By now I wetter than water.

We arrived at the chalets and Clive was waiting to show us which one we were in. The sand at the chalets is the worst on the entire trip and 4-wheel drive is a must. We were in chalet number eight and sharing it with Clive. The youngsters had taken up Chalet number 9 & 10.

The chalets are large and spacious and constructed mainly of palms leaves. There are two bedrooms. The beds are concrete bases on which are a foam mattresses. Two singles in one bedroom and a double in the other. The main room also has three bases along the walls to serve as either a bed or seat. In the centre of this room is a rough wooden table with benches on either side. There is an open plan kitchen with work surface.
Off the main room is a veranda, but you must provide your own chairs.
There are large windows but no glass. Instead each window has a drop shutter made off plaited palm leaves which are held open by lifting and propping open with a stick, or whatever else you can lay your hands on. Each window is covered with netting, no doubt to make you feel safer against mosquitoes. However there are large gaps between roof and wall, and everywhere else so the netting is actually a waste of time and serves no purpose, other than lessen the intensity of the wind.

During our entire trip we never saw a mosquito and were very happy about that, especially as the sister of a friend of ours had died of malaria two weeks before which she got whilst on a visit to the Kruger Park in mid September. There is much controversy about malaria and the taking of prophylaxis. Some say that you should not take anything as it masks the symptoms. The doctors I have spoken have said, “You must take a prophylaxis”. As we had used ‘larium’ before we again put ourselves on a course of ‘larium’.

All that is provided are basic kitchen utensils, a three-ring gas cooker and chest deep freezer.
The bathroom has a shower, basin and loo. We had to provide gas for the stove and bathroom, all linen, food etc. There is electricity but that only operated from 7am to 11am and then from 5pm to 10pm.

The chalets are on the top of the coastal dunes overlooking the sea, however coastal bush and scrub obscure most of the view and only chalet number 7 has a reasonable view.

So … our overall opinion of the chalets. WONDERFUL – truly delightful…. Except!!!
Except our chalet was leaking like a sieve. I mean who cares about a few leaks … but ours gave you a better wash than the shower.

Shortly after we had moved in the camp manager arrived in his Landcruiser to see check how we were. Fine we said expect for the leaks. “No problem,” he says, “move to one that is OK.” So we check out no: 7. It is not quite as bad, at least it is not leaking on the beds and the view was great. So we quickly carry our meagre belongings across and move in.

I’m still wet through and Libby and Clive are also rather damp around the edges. It is still pouring with rain, so we decide we will not worry about a thing and walk up to the bar to see how the youngsters are.

Away we stroll, as Noah’s floods loom ever closer. The young ‘uns in the bar are on a roll. Besides our party there are other visitors, mainly young folk who are there to dive off the corral reefs that make this place one of the best diving havens in the world.

Two of the young lasses were diving instructors, an Australian and New Zealander lass who made young men’s hearts beat faster and older men hyperventilate. She was a WOW and I so wished I was a great white shark when she went diving.

Our group, out numbering the other patrons, had taken over the place and “hi-jacked’ the two pretty diving instructors. Struan was flying like a Boeing out of control. After all the hassles he had with his Landrover, I didn’t blame him. For the first time in 24 hours he looked relaxed and enjoying himself.

Then the lights go out but the bar staff quickly has paraffin lamps going and the party really got going. Libby said she would go and make supper and advised Clive and I not to stay to long. We stayed for a while then quietly left. We could have left with an explosion and nobody would have noticed. Libby had taken the torch so we set off in the blackness and got lost.
We were barefoot and stubbed and crushed our toes against every obstacle there was. Where was the sand, the bloody place was full of rocks. We swear and curse. Finally we see a glimmer of light and find our chalet and Libby and a hot meal. Outside the wind howls and eerily whistles through the walls and windows. If it was not for the warm spirits within us we could have felt our spirits flagging, especially as by now the chalet was leaking so badly it became impossible to avoid the drips. Just pour a tot and hold out your glass for water.

That night we thought we were going to blow away. If not blown away certainly drowned.
The wind howled and the rain bucketed down. Was this the start of another flood in Mozambique?

Next morning the sky was still leaden but the rain had let up and the wind was no longer a full-blown hurricane. Together with Clive we set off down to the beach for a brisk walk.
By the time we returned it was raining again and the wind had picked up.

Struan and his friends gazed miserably out over the sea that heaved with mountainous waves and wind driven globs of foam. Not much chance to do any fishing, best thing is head for the pub, which they duly did. Libby, Clive and I just mooched around bored stiff.
The wind and rain continued unabated. So Monday passed. At his rate the bar would soon run out of booze.

By now we have realised that awake or asleep we were going to be wet – it was a fact of life, there was nothing we could do about it. Thankfully it was not cold.

Tuesday – the same as Monday. No further comments necessary.
The Landover technicians from Maputo are due to arrive at midday and Struan and Grant leave for Inhambane. Grant returned by late afternoon with the news that they were trucking the Landover back to Maputo.


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