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Offline shanti

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #80 on: April 14, 2016, 08:30:27 am »
Excellent as always - enjoying your RR

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #81 on: April 14, 2016, 10:50:37 am »
Thanks for the comments.

Offline adamktm

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #82 on: April 14, 2016, 08:21:56 pm »
Really glad it's back! That single track looked awesome!
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #83 on: April 14, 2016, 10:09:03 pm »
Day 13
Second attempt on Espungabera. I started early at about 7:00 to give myself fighting chance. To save time I planned to gun it back to Jofane on the main dirt road I found yesterday during my dash back.
The plan lasted about 15 minutes –  about 3 km after I hit the dirt the rear brake pedal went limp. Now I knew that the spring has broken already somewhere around Bilene (just another one of the known little 690 idiosyncrasies KTM engineers didn’t manage to fix in 8 years of production – little cable tie sorts the situation out I found out later), so I was already used to the brake failing on occasion after a bit of hard riding, but this was different. The whole rear brake pedal was hanging lose down. The root cause turned out to be trivial – lose bolt holding the pedal, but not so trivial to fix for this mechanically challenged bimbo.
I turned off the road into the shade of a nearby tree – it was already properly hot – and took off the luggage to be able to get to the bolt. The bolt is a bitch to get to (unless you loosen the master brake cylinder, which I’ve learned only after few failed attempts) but eventually I managed to pull the bolt out as I wanted to put Loctite on it. That wasn’t particularly smart as it was even more difficult to put it back, aligning the holes in brake pedal and all. When I finally got it in and screwed it in little bit with my fingers, I couldn’t get there properly and tighten it with my spanners coming to a conclusion that the Austrian illuminati used a 9mm bolt there –of course I didn’t have 9 mm spanner as it is generally not used on the bikes I use. So I just stood by the road to see if somebody with 9mm spanner may not come by. Eventually South African farmer with his family in a bakkie pulling another 4x4 came by and stopped – they didn’t have 9mm (at least in terms of spanners), but said they have one on their farm few km up the road. I didn’t want to hold their errand up as I still had to pack the whole bike, so I thanked them and they went their own way.


I have packed the bike and turned back to tar and a village in the search of 9mm.  I stopped at the first shack resembling some kind of workshop and asked for 9mm. They didn’t have any, but sent somebody out into the bush to look for one. We waited about 20 minutes during which I took the bolt off again. One of the more perceptive mechanics sensing my Sandton credentials asked to have a look and yes – as you guessed by now – it turned out to be 10 mm. Well, no points dwelling on it I used their spanner to tighten it up after a dollop of Loctite.
By the time I was done with the farce it was about 11:30 and really hot. Little hurt brat in me demanded a day off on the beach to compensate for all the suffering, but after a minute or two I snapped out of it, jumped on the bike and headed back to the bush. I’ve got lost once or twice, but eventually made it without any other glitch to that Jofane junction by about 1:00pm.
After short break when I poured the petrol from the bladder o the tank, I set-off towards Zinave NP. The track was sandy double track with occasional mud-hole from yesterday’s rain. I was making a good progress, but somehow not ridding few km north of the track indicated on my GPS. I came upon a cutline heading west with seriously deep sand, and rather followed the double track that headed more south – towards the track on my GPS.

Somehow I missed the track (or googlemaps got it wrong), so I just followed the double track winding through the proper African bush in the south-western direction. I didn’t mind – I was having way too much fun. The sand was nicely compacted after heavy rain prior night and I was sliding through corner’s like nobody’s business. I didn’t care where I’m going anymore, as long as the going was that good. After about 100 km from Jofane junction the track brought me to the eastern border of ZInave NP (according to GPS – there was no sign) and I may have ridden about 5 km into the park, before I turned back not wanting to test vigilance of the park rangers or anti-poaching unit (if there is such a thing there).  I had a great time, except for one thing – again I couldn’t help but notice that while I was riding in the absolute archetypal African bush  with no settlements at all for the last 100 km, there was no game at all. No warthogs, no baboons, no impalas, nothing. Sadly, this place seemed to have been truly eaten out by the locals. Some people I met next day told me that there is tons of animals, but I quite frankly I just didn’t believe them. What a shame.

I backtracked about 30 km to a junction where I’ve seen another track heading in the general direction of the north / south dirt road between Mabote and Jofane I came on yesterday. On the way I got caught out by short torrential downpour which I waited out under a big tree (first checking carefully if I’m not trespassing on some cricket’s backyard and with my bear spray safety off – just because I didn’t see animals doesn’t mean a lion or leopard may not have survived the locals’ feeding frenzy).

The east heading track eventually brought me to about 1 km from the Mabote road. The sun was setting down and with Mabote still at least 70 km away, I decided to camp, turned into the bush and found quickly nice camp spot about 100 meters from the track. I’m not keen camper (too much work – I prefer to sleep out, but no, not here, some hyena may still wander in), but did enjoy this spot. With the tent up I got a fire going and after delicious dinner of Bully beef and Salticrax I hit the sleeping bag, contemplating how after two day’s of hard riding I made it about 100 km closer to Espungabera (and 1 km away from where I was yesterday in the afternoon), still at least 250 km away. I wasn’t too bothered though – I’ve accrued too much joy riding that heavenly double track along the outskirts of Zinave NP.

« Last Edit: April 14, 2016, 10:49:49 pm by Xpat »

Offline popipants

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #84 on: April 15, 2016, 07:34:24 am »
Bush camping in Botz!!! Lekkkkerrrr. Just watch out for land mines!
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Offline exkdx

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #85 on: April 15, 2016, 08:57:59 am »
Awesome campsite!
Stunning pictures!
Epic ride report (as usual from Xpat)
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #86 on: April 15, 2016, 11:22:02 am »
Thank you.

@popipants: Hmm the landmines didn't cross my mind - probably should have. Not sure why you mention Botz though - do you mean Botswana (I'm still in Moz) or is it some abbreviation for bush I'm not aware of?

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #87 on: April 18, 2016, 06:22:35 pm »
Day 14
In the morning I had to decide which way to Espungabera. I was about half way between Jofane in the north and Mabote south and had two options – back to Jofane for a third time and try to find the northern route I have missed day before, or circumventing Zinave NP from the south on what the map indicated like main dirt roads through Mabote and Machaila, reconnecting to the original route at Massangena on the western side of Zinave. The northern route was significantly shorter, but I have already failed to find the track once and on top of it there was no guarantee I will find petrol in Massangena – I have already spent the extra 7 litres fooling around on the wrong track the day before. Going south, there was petrol station indicated in Mabote about 70 km away – of course there was also no guarantee that it is actually there, but if not I could still ride out 100 km back to the main tar and get petrol there for the third attempt. Also, the southern route seemed all good dirt on the map giving me better chance making  it finally to Espungabera after two day’s of getting lost and tired. South it was then.
With that settled, I broke down the camp, hit the dirt road south and cruised 70 km to Mabote. The place turned out to be a charming little colonial town with colourful main street and most importantly - proper petrol station. I could even pay for petrol with credit card. Nice!

With the full tank, I headed back to the main street to buy water and food. I stopped at one of the shops run by local Indians. Interestingly for Indians they didn’t speak English, only Portuguese. But again I could and did pay with credit card - I was really impressed, considering this was a remote outpost in the Moz bush - their telecom must be doing something right. I have eaten my breakfast on the porch of the shop, watching and being watched by the locals mingling around.

Eventually the local capo turned up - a Chinaman whom one of the locals introduced as ‘one of yours’. He seemed the local version Mr Burns from the Simpsons - a man with power despising locals and being feared and despised in return. He immediately felt strong kinship towards me, assuming we share the same racial worldview. Man, it must have been lonely existence at this remote outpost for him. In the name of racial reconciliation I played it cool and let him bully his local assistant to take picture of us and the bike with his tablet:

With that out of the way, I geared up and set-off, turning on the dirt road heading west to Machaila. The road was good and I could cruise at 100 kmh sitting down and soaking the surrounding bush - welcoming change for my tired self from the Rally Raid of the previous 2 days. With the road like this the odds were good for me finally making it to the by now mythical Espungabera.

About 50 km from Mabote, I came upon a STOP sign at the place where the road crossed a deep sand double track. I smiled at the diligence of the local traffic authorities (surely whoever comes out of the bush should give a way to whoever drives on the main dirt road) and continued on feeling grateful for the good gravel. That is until 5 km later when I noticed on GPS that I’m completely off my track and realized annoyed that I was actually supposed to turn right at the sign onto the double track. The track turned out to me the main road west to Machaila and Pafuri border crossing to South Africa, while what I considered main road wasn’t on my GPS, nor on my map.

I retraced back and took the double track west. Normally I would enjoy taking the route less travelled, but I was tired and wasn’t sure I have what it takes to make it through however far the deep sand lasts. Could very well be all the way to Espungabera still more than 250 - 300 km away. About 5 km later with radiator fan working overtime and myself about to boil over in the body armour - it was properly hot by now - midday, I stopped under a tree to cool down and think over this whole thing. I had at least 80 km of this shit to go to Machaila, where the track crosses another (supposedly) dirt road running north to Massangena. There was a campsite indicated on my map in Machaila, so at least I had somewhere to sleep, but I wasn’t sure I will be able to make it even there. Judging on the first 5 km I was able to ride the sand at 40 - 60 kmh, but was getting tired very quickly and had to stop way too often to catch my breath and cool down.

That main road 5 km back was just too big of a lure. It must be going somewhere, right? Some nice locals came out of bush to check what is going on and after a bit of misunderstanding they  explained that the road goes to Chigubo about 50 km south, where I could see it will hit the road I wanted to connect to in Machaila. It was a detour, and there was no guarantee that that other road isn’t just another sandy double track, but at least initially it seemed to give me much better chance to make it. And worst case scenario I could take another border crossing to Zim - Malvernia on the road running through Gonarezhou National Park. It would bring me into Zim way too far south from Eastern Highlands, but I could figure that one out later.

The southern detour  was clearly the smart option, but once I caught my breath and managed to recuperate some of my resolve, I wasn’t keen to give up yet on Espungabera and taking the road less travelled (though this track is probably the route travelled quite a bit by SA 4x4s taking shortcut to Vilanculos through Pafuri border crossing). So I decided to try the sandy double track for few more km and see if I can get my sand legs back.

And I did manage to get into the swings of the double track much better after and while and was able to ride 15 - 20 km between the stops, which should get me at least to Machaila before sunset. I was eventually able even to ride the sand sitting down (the sand got marginally easier more west I went), which did miracles to energy preservation.

I have made it to Machaila in the late afternoon. I have stopped at the spaza shop to get some cold drink and bread - it was clear by now that I’m not going to make anywhere close to Espungabera and I was up for another night of camping. I considered staying in the campsite in the village, but there was still a daylight for another 1 hour or so of riding, the road to Massangena turned out to be sandy but good dirt road, and the pissed locals starting to ask for shit (which wasn’t common in Moz) were starting to get annoying. I was pretty sure they would try to keep me company even in campsite, what else was  to do there?

So I rather opted for the solitude of the bush, jumped on the bike and set-off heading for Massangena about 100 km away. The road was quite sandy and I had to stay focused as it would catch one out very quickly. But it was a nice ride with the road and bush beautifully illuminated by the setting sun.

About half way to Massangena, I turned right off the road, rode about 150 m into the bush, found a suitable spot and set up a camp. For diner I had Pilchards sardines with bread, and to replenish the energy and fortify myself for another at least a day of bush riding I devoured a can of sweetened condensed milk. Which came to bite me in the ass - literally, as I had to take a dump in the middle of the night, swerving around like a dancing dervish trying to keep an eye with headtorch and another torchlight on the 360 degrees of my surrounding. For improved comical effect I almost electrocuted myself few times, as the torchlight was one of those jobbies that combine a handlight with a taser and the safety switch was somewhat unreliable, causing me to fire the bloody thing few times unexpectedly, for example when trying to grab it in the dark of my tent. Oh well, the joys of adventure riding…

Route for the past two days:

« Last Edit: April 18, 2016, 07:07:57 pm by Xpat »

Offline onderbroek

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #88 on: April 18, 2016, 08:13:54 pm »
hak vrystaat

Offline funacide

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #89 on: April 19, 2016, 07:21:23 am »
Got my morning fix, I am sorted for the day.

This is awesome thanks for sharing!!!

Keep it coming. :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #90 on: April 19, 2016, 08:35:17 pm »
Day 15
Another day, another attempt at Espungabera. I broke the camp and cruised remaining 40 or so km to Massangena. There was a petrol station (man, I could have saved myself hundreds of km and a day or two if I would have believed the map) and again I could pay with credit card. Impressive considering what it took to get to this remote bush outpost. The petrol station doubled as a bus/taxi station and there was quite a crowd of to be passengers. A prime opportunity for the usual party trick, and Katoom dully obliged by smacking to the ground while I was tightening a  strap. Funny how Katoom and I have ridden 100s of km since Tofo - many of them in a sand Amageza would be proud of - without a single wipe out, but give us little audience and we just cannot resist the temptation for a little comedic sketch. Well, they were nice people, didn’t laugh too much and picked the bike for me, so all was good at the end.
I knew I have to cross the river (I think Zinave) in Massangena. Map seemed to indicate a bridge there, but this time it was wrong and I had to go look for a ferry. Which was easy as the owner of the ferry happened to be at the petrol station and led me to it in his Hilux. I have paid the fare – don’t remember how much as I was distracted and frankly worried by the look of the vessel. It  was a normal fishing boat with criss-crossing railings on top allowing theoretically car to came on board. Like so:

Knowing  propensity of the 690 (with sidestand too long for the weight of luggage and petrol) to lay down should a butterfly flap its wings within 2 meters, there was a very distinct possibility it was going to end up at the bottom of the river. Most likely with me underneath as I was to be standing next to it supporting it right at the edge of the boat. The owner was very confident that everything will be OK and I eventually took a deep breath and went for it. To my surprise, we weren’t paddled across (the boat didn’t have an engine), but walked across by two helpers with water never reaching above their knees. There clearly were no crocodiles - I’m sure they used to be, but now were part of the history as any other wildlife in the area. Should I know the river is that shallow I would have just ridden across – especially after the owner (once safely on the boat) pointed out staked out route for cars to take across about 100 meters downstream.

On the other side:

You can see the stakes downriver delineating crossing lane for cars:

On the other side, I stripped down and jumped into the river for a bit of refresher. I haven’t washed for two days of hard sweaty riding as Moz bush doesn’t come with ablutions readily available yet – it supports credit cards though. While busy splashing around, few locals gathered at the boat for a ride to the other side. Some of them couldn’t be bothered to wait for the boat and just walked across in their best clothes, rubbing in humiliation of the wannabe adventure rider.

Refreshed I hit the dirt road at the exit of the beach and rode few km into the next little town, where I stopped for the usual staple of cold Coke, chips (or something else with salt) and water for the road. As on the coast, judging by the number plates this place was also overrun by SA holiday makers – even a Gauteng biker on a little Honda thingy.

Wrong shop:

Correct shop:

Gauteng holidaymakers:

I had another about 120 km to go to Espungabera border. Based on the map I expected the road to be a main dirt road all the way (except for one 30 km shortcut that I have plotted myself on the satellite map to avoid a detour). But as it turned out Mozambique wasn’t done with me yet and the road quickly turned into rarely used one lane track running through a forest.

That is until it turned after 40 km or so into an overgrown single track. Of course I thought I got lost again, but I was slap bang on my GPS track so decided to push on and see what happens. I fully expected the track to  lead to some dead end remote settlement, but it continued for the next 20 km or so through the forest, hitting some rocky higher ground in the second half. It was weird, but also great fun dodging the bushes and trees at close quarter, so I just went with the flow.

The track eventually morphed into a forgotten rarely used double track – the track I have plotted myself. I was gaining an altitude clearly on an approach to the highlands further north-west. The vegetation changed as well into a lush dense green forest. I came only upon one remote settlement where I stopped for a drink, but it wasn’t to be. The place was quite eerie – while there were few locals sitting in the remote corner, there were no swarms of kids running around to check a bike and whitey that they probably never seen before and the locals didn’t pay me much of an attention. I walked to them to check if they have a spaza shop, which they didn’t. They weren’t hostile, but not exactly outgoing either – quite a stark contrast to people I’ve encountered so far in Moz. I had a feeling these people weren’t exactly supported by the government and assumed they may have been Renamo supporters (rebel group in Moz that occasionally has a shoot-out or two with the government forces). But of course I may have been completely off.

Anyway, with not much hospitality at hand, I jumped back on the bike and pushed on to the main dirt road heading to Espungabera, about 15 km away.

To be continued.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2016, 08:37:03 pm by Xpat »

Offline popipants

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #91 on: April 20, 2016, 07:18:55 am »
Thanks for the effort, it's really worth a read!

BTW. what kind of helmet cam are you using?
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Offline Bushtrotter

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #92 on: April 20, 2016, 07:28:58 am »
Brilliant RR. thanx for the effort! I have been following your RR from the start. what a read to start a working day!

Offline schalk vd merwe

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #93 on: April 20, 2016, 10:17:06 am »
Hi Xpat respect my man you can ride, I think I must come for lessons. I still want to read your whole RR the moment I have a chance. My son and I also did the whole length of Mozambique when we came back from the equator in 2010. It was sand from the moment we crossed into Moz. Very nice country. Keep up the RR and the riding and once again respect to you.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #94 on: April 20, 2016, 10:41:54 am »
Thank you for comments guys, appreciate them!

@popipants: I use Drift Ghost S. I like it's form (much better for bike IMO than GoPro that sticks out) and batter life. But I'm sure other cameras would work similarly well.

@schalk: Thank you, but I'm very average rider as I can see whenever I venture to De Wildt.  I have ridden northern Mozambique from Tanzanian border to Isla de Mozambique (still need to get there in my African RR) and it can be quite challenging, especially first 50 km or so. On this trip, the ridding along the coast through the dunes was really tough. But once inland it eased up considerably, though there were still dozens of km of deep sand here and there.

Offline Pavlovski

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #95 on: April 20, 2016, 11:16:54 am »
Fantastic ride port-brilliantly written and stunning photos. I love reading your ride report :thumleft: :ricky:

Keep on riding & enjoy every minute of it
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Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #96 on: April 20, 2016, 09:00:11 pm »
Day 15 – part 2
By the time I reached the main red dirt road between Chtobe and Espungabera it was getting late, so I pushed on to make it finally to Zim. Not without an obligatory stop at a spaza shop in one of the villages along the way though:


And up into the mountains:

As a city pussy, I'm always scared of these:

And it always takes real bad-ass to boss them around, like this one:

Then finally - the mythical Espungabera looking good in the golden hour:

No traffic made the border crossing a pleasant and quick affair. I was a bit worried if I’m going to be let into Zimbabwe – technically I should have arranged the visa upfront. But I have made it in twice getting visa on border (albeit in Kazungula on the way to Victoria Falls, which may have a bit more relaxed attitude to the tourists) and choose to wing it again. And it worked without a glitch – relaxed officialdom is definitely one of the reasons to like Africa. Try getting into Shengen like that (OK unless you just take a boat from Libya, then you may not even need a passport).
On the Zim side I entered the Eastern Highlands proper. Riding the higher ground directly into the setting sun was quite a challenge – the visor on that trial helmet of mine is useless, but provided for nice rich colours for the camera (no colours for me, I was riding blind most of the time). I was disappointed a bit by the fauna though. For some reason I expected rich thick rain forest, while all I got for the most part was an industrial timber. To me – spoiled by European forests, a collection of timber trees is about as close to a real forest as a Sasol refinery.

I have eventually hit tar again at Mount Selinda eagerly looking for a lodge with a Michelin starred restaurant (or any cooked meal, whatever comes first). To no avail. Somebody told me there should be one (without the Michelin bit), but I must have missed it with the sun in my eyes.

Driven by an overpowering need for food after two days of self-inflicted malnutrition, I have gunned it in the last sun rays down the serpentines on one lane tar road 40 km to the closest town - Chipinge. I have heard on the border high praise for a tranquil place called Sunrise (or Sunset) lodge and couldn’t wait to get there and shovel a steak down my throat with my hands.

Chipinge turned out to be a run-down African town - for some reason I have expected alpine like resort town, assuming Eastern Highlands were the main Zim tourist attraction run not so long ago by whites. After getting lost once or twice, locals eventually pointed me in the right direction. When I spotted completely bleached out billboard for the Sunrise lodge, I started to worry. And, as you expect by now – the place was a real disappointment. The standard U shaped building with concrete inner courtyard for parking, it was frequented mostly by minibus drivers on their way to/from SA. I could live with that no problem, but the clincher was that they didn’t have any food and/or drinks. After build-up of the past 2 days, the disappointment was crushing.
Pissed off I jumped on the bike and gunned it back to the town centre, where – while accosted by number of locals looking for an angle to ease up my wallet (the best one was educated polite dude faking interest in bikes and asking for contribution so he can buy his own) – I picked up random collection of junk food to drown my frustration with. With that sorted I tried to look for an alternative accommodation, but eventually ended up back at Sunrise – it really was the best pick in this junkyard of town. After dinner of yoghurt, salami, bread, beans and 1 litre of custard with lady finger biscuits for desert, I passed out on the king size bed taking most of the space in my dingy little room.
Route for the day:

« Last Edit: April 20, 2016, 09:01:47 pm by Xpat »

Offline dirtyXT

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #97 on: April 21, 2016, 07:17:23 am »
well done, tell me did you pay any attention to the RENAMO threat in your planning?
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Offline ROOI

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Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #98 on: April 21, 2016, 09:57:21 am »
It really seems like an awesome trip  :thumleft:  seriously in the sticks

Offline Xpat

Re: Christmas Safari 3 - Mozambique & Zimbabwe
« Reply #99 on: April 21, 2016, 10:41:25 am »
well done, tell me did you pay any attention to the RENAMO threat in your planning?

Nope, didn't pay any attention to Renamo at all. I have thought - wrongly as this thread (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=190641.0) shows  - that Renamo operates only up north, mostly in Tete region.

That said, I didn't feel any threat anywhere whatsoever. Would I go again now knowing about those attacks (the one described in that linked thread happened just to the east of where I was on EN1)? To be honest most probably yes. I know nothing about rebel movements, but I doubt that they will - at this early stage of resistance when they still probably care about external support - target foreigners (which of course could change if the things go pearshaped, which they didn't yet and hopefully will not). Plus I was ridding really deep in the sticks - it would have to be extreme coincidence for me to run into an ambush. I would be actually more worried on EN1.