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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #220 on: November 25, 2018, 06:43:12 pm »
Exiting Malawi was simple enough. Once stamped out for both passports and Carnet, we were sent to the health centre, where they checked our yellow fever certificate.

It was a bit strange that they checked it at exit but not when we came in! Mine was done on 2004 and I was told, back in the UK, that it was valid for 20 years or for life, I can’t remember!

The health worker at the Malawi border told me he did not care but that I could have problems on entry to Mozambique, as it should be less than 10 years! With that in mind, and the added stress, we left Malawi.

After changing our remaining Malawi Kwachas into Mozambique Meticals, (we had about 12 dollars equivalent in cash left) without much hassle at all, we rode to the Mozambique border post.

At the consulate, they told us that the visa was $75 at the border or 115$ at the consulate. But immigration at the border asked us for $50 each, only. First for 2 months but then they changed their mind and said it was for 30 days only! It took a good 2 hours to get all done.

It was not busy at all at the border, inside the offices, although there was quite a crowd of people, hanging on or waiting outside. Inside, many border officials were sitting around not doing much, faffing with their mobile phone, staring at some empty space or using a sheet of paper to slowly fan their face.

 Meanwhile few locals annoyed the official in charge of stamping passports as he had to do some work instead of playing with his mobile phone.   

We handed over our passports to be processed to that same official. He called various people as he did not know what to do with us. He did not appear too happy but his boss took our passports and told us to wait. 


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #221 on: November 25, 2018, 06:45:07 pm »
So we moved to the Customs office, next to the passport window, where I spent a while, explaining in my rusty Portuguese (we lived in Brazil for a while and have not used it since we left in 2012) to the custom officer, how to fill and stamps our Carnets! They obviously did not see many of those! But the guy signed and stamped the talon as I asked him to, and that was what was important to me.

Then we sat on a bench and ate some peanuts, and stared back at the glaring locals queuing to get their IDs stamped. No way to rush anything!

Meanwhile an older white couple came through and got their passport stamped without any problem. I guess they were South African as there was no faff around their entry or visas.

However, Customs refused them entry for their vehicle. I am not sure what was the problem, some issue with a document that was not the original. Maybe they rented the car? They spent time on their phone but it was Afrikaans (or German?) so I could not understand. Not that I am nosy  :angel12:, but there was not much in term of entertainment and it was not easy to avoid ear dropping! Then, an officer took Alistair into a small dark room! Alone! For a very long time!  :confused2:


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #222 on: November 25, 2018, 06:46:19 pm »
I remained on my wooden bench, worried he was given the fearsome American style full body intimate search (latex gloves and all!) but they were just trying to work out how to take his fingerprints and photo! Not sure they use those machines often!

I think most people who need a visa get it in advance or use the main border toward Tete. Eventually he came out alive and not wobbling!

It was faster with me! By then the guy in uniform had figured out how to use the machines!

Then we were sent to a small office outside the main building, where a nice young lady was the health care officer. She took details of Alistair’s yellow fever vaccine batch number, by then I was rather nervous and worried I could be refused entry!

She took a look at mine, wrote some numbers in a big book and asked us if she could take our temperature, as she mentioned something about Ebola!

Apparently there was Ebola in DRC, but we went not near it. We both were judged fit and healthy enough to be allowed into Mozambique.

Then it was time to buy insurance for our bikes. We were quoted 880 Metical per bike ( about 14$) or, we could pay in US dollars and it would be 10$ each! Go figure!


A good 2 hours later, we were let into Mozambique.  :)

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #223 on: November 25, 2018, 06:47:04 pm »
I want to say a few words about the luggage at border crossing. Lots of people worry that if they have soft luggage, things may get stolen while doing the paper work.

Our bikes at that particular border were out of sight for a long time. You have seen from photos what we carry. Valuables are usually in my tank bag and backpack. The iPad is at the bottom of the tank bag and rather concealed. I never really bothered to take it with me in my backpack. I would remove the phone and pocket camera from the tank bag and nothing from the panniers or roll bags.

We never had anything stolen. Not in and out of Russia, not across central Asia and not in Africa.   The panniers would take a million year for someone to figure out how to remove the 2 sets of very tight Rok straps, one set horizontally and one set vertically.  It would not be fast or discreet or even easy to cut the straps. Then opening and unrolling the panniers would add to time. It takes time even to us!

So for the occasional “grab and run” thief at a border, this is not good as it wastes time and would get them noticed. The camping gear in the big roll bag is in a Packsafe. The most vulnerable is probably the tank bag and I remove most valuables. To get to the iPad, if you don’t know it is wedged there in a dark padded sleeve, you will think it is the bottom of the bag. Anything else is tightly packed there and is not valuable: big bottle of water, peanuts, fat Lonely Planet, various knickknacks.

Back to Mozambique now! The road was mainly roadwork and slow going for about 20kms, but then it was in very good condition.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #224 on: November 25, 2018, 06:48:17 pm »
All along the road, there were constant villages and houses, as well as many people walking and we passed many markets along villages, but in general we maintained good speed. For once, we saw no farm animals roaming free!

The locals stared at us as if we were aliens from another planet. Unlike Malawi or Zambia, no one waved or smiled, not even the kids!

We stopped at a small town where supposedly there is an ATM machine to get cash. We just stopped at the fuel station and emptied the 5 litres jerry can on my bike. We had enough local currency to buy some more, so we put 6 litres on Alistair’s bike. With that done, we had enough to make it to our destination for the night. So we did not bother looking for the bank.


We were very keen to get to Quelimane (or Calamari as Alistair quickly renamed it!) before dark. I did not fancy getting cash from a street ATM machine after dark in town! Nightfall was very early as we were still in the same time zone than Cape Town and Namibia. In Namibia, daylight was about 8am, on the east coast it was 5am. It was starting to get dark soon after 5pm. With few stops on the road, we got to Quelimane soon after 4pm.

The town is by a delta river in the edge of the Indian Ocean. It was very hot.

Without Internet access for several days, we relied solely on the very unreliable Lonely Planet to find accommodation.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #225 on: November 25, 2018, 06:51:49 pm »
The first budget hotel listed there, with its bucket showers and dilapidated description, did not appeal much. We selected the hotel slightly more expensive at about 50$ a night including breakfast. It was a good choice. Probably the best in town!

The place was busy with the zillions of Aid workers we have seen since Zambia, driving around in sparkly new giant Toyotas and other SUV, with air-con and all the trimmings, staying in the best hotels and eating at the best places.

Hotel Flamingo, where we decided to stay 2 nights, was full of them, going around with ipads and expensive looking Apple laptops, looking important with their iPhones, logos and conferences and meetings held by the poolside and next to the bar! No wonder most of them were so fat!

I hope that a tiny bit of those billions in Aid actually reach the people who truly need it!

Maybe I am a bit cynical here but many of those guys are just concerned about advancing their career and very little about sorting any problem. Sort the problem and their job is over.

I am particularly cynical when it comes to big NGOs and Charities, paying their CEO and board members a fortune. Take David Milliband, a big Labour Party (socialist) figure in the UK.
When he failed to become leader of the Labour Party (being stabbed in the back by his own brother!) he landed himself a cushy job with some American NGO helping refugees and moved to NY. Nice right? The aura of Sainthood. You can almost smell it!

Helping the poor and destitute!

Right?

Did I mentioned he is paid about $550,000 a year? Misery is big business. I am just waiting now for his Knighthood for his “charity work”.
And that is only one example among many! 

Anyway, moving on.

After sorting out the accommodation, we ran to the nearest cash point to get some local currency. We had to pay the hotel in cash.

Then we finally got a shower and went down to the bar and restaurant, by the swimming pool, joining all the aid workers, for a beer and some dinner!
 
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Offline Sardine

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #226 on: November 25, 2018, 07:55:37 pm »
I remained on my wooden bench, worried he was given the fearsome American style full body intimate search (latex gloves and all!) but they were just trying to work out how to take his fingerprints and photo! Not sure they use those machines often!

I think most people who need a visa get it in advance or use the main border toward Tete. Eventually he came out alive and not wobbling!

It was faster with me! By then the guy in uniform had figured out how to use the machines!

Then we were sent to a small office outside the main building, where a nice young lady was the health care officer. She took details of Alistair’s yellow fever vaccine batch number, by then I was rather nervous and worried I could be refused entry!

She took a look at mine, wrote some numbers in a big book and asked us if she could take our temperature, as she mentioned something about Ebola!

Apparently there was Ebola in DRC, but we went not near it. We both were judged fit and healthy enough to be allowed into Mozambique.

Then it was time to buy insurance for our bikes. We were quoted 880 Metical per bike ( about 14$) or, we could pay in US dollars and it would be 10$ each! Go figure!


A good 2 hours later, we were let into Mozambique.  :)

When I flew in to Kasane I would often get a pie from the little kiosk in the airport. The tourists always went for the Magnum ice-creams. If you paid in Pula, it was P25 (R33), but if they didn't have Pula the US$ price was $5! P53 or R70.
Though I have a feeling the Dollar rate varied depending on how the sales person felt that day.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #227 on: November 26, 2018, 06:26:51 pm »

When I flew in to Kasane I would often get a pie from the little kiosk in the airport. The tourists always went for the Magnum ice-creams. If you paid in Pula, it was P25 (R33), but if they didn't have Pula the US$ price was $5! P53 or R70.
Though I have a feeling the Dollar rate varied depending on how the sales person felt that day.

Yes these things seem to be quite random sometimes!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #228 on: November 26, 2018, 06:27:26 pm »
Day 66 – Mozambique, Quelimane, Hotel Flamingo – Thursday 2d August 2018

We decided to stay for an extra day in Quelimane so we could plan and get ready for the long ride south.

We found the local supermarket, with few things we could buy. Each aisle had a member of staff to ensure that all clients were watched and none could steal anything! We got water and some more cash from the bank.

Later on we went for a short walk, everyone was staring at us (even on the ride to town, no one waved us, only stared). Few people came to us asking for money… The town was dilapidated and the buildings blackened from mould and dirt. The only nice and clean building was the massive new mosque in the town centre.

We saw few Chinese and middle eastern/Asian looking guys walking around town, but the local beggars ignored them.

Throughout our ride since Namibia we saw plenty of evidence of Chinese influence, factories, land, processing plants… maybe all these are part of the Belt and Road initiative and access natural resources. This has been the same in Central Asia where many new roads have been built by the Chinese.

The climate was more tropical with a lot of humidity. For the 1st time in this trip, we had air-con in the room and we made full use of it.

 

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #229 on: November 26, 2018, 06:28:24 pm »
Day 67 – Mozambique, near Gorongosa – Kapulana Hotel – Friday 3rd August – 450kms


From my research online I knew there would be hardly any accommodation on the only road taking us south.

So, making the most of the Flamingo Hotel Wi-Fi, I found a hotel midway to the touristic regions of Mozambique, and I booked a room by email with Kapulana hotel, located near the Gorongosa region (or Gorgonzola, as Alistair quickly renamed it!)

As it was rather far, a food 450kms, we decided to leave very early.

We were packed and riding soon before 8am. With plenty of time to get there we stopped for fuel. We had few snacks and lots of water.

As we left the hotel, my bike started to play and was stalling repeatedly when stuck in the traffic of Quelimane. Everyone will know what I mean by ‘bike breakdown  paranoia’! Every noise the bike made I was thinking ‘this is not right!”. My paranoia was over the roof. Eventually as we did not have to stop and go, once we pulled away from town, the bike behaved. But I was concerned! 

What we had not prepared for was the absolutely awful state of the road.

The first 200kms were fine, then soon before Caia and crossing one of the very few bridges over the mighty Zambezi river, it all went from bad to worse!

It started with few potholes, then many, then the size of craters, some big enough to swallow the entire bike!



This section is actually pretty good:


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #230 on: November 26, 2018, 06:32:08 pm »

We had few short sections of good road where we could speed up, but mainly, it was bad to the extreme.  I had never seen anything like that. Not in South America, not in Russia or central Asia, not in Mongolia, not even anywhere else we went around southern Africa. It was that bad.

As the day progressed we did not progress too much, but we kept going.

By 3pm, our shadows were getting longer.

By 4pm, we were hoping to be closer. As we bumped, swerved and fell into those giants craters I started getting more and more worried.

The road was covered in sand, with the very long shadows from the trees and the sun very low in the horizon, it was very hard to actually see the holes and judge the depth of the potholes until we were nearly inside.

 If we had to press on after dark, it would be near impossible with our pathetic lights on the bikes! It was no safe to stop anywhere and camp. Eventually, as it got dark, I saw the sign for the hotel. We just about made it before night by the skin of our teeth, covered in dust and sand and exhausted. It had been a very long difficult ride.


Through this section we saw true poverty, women and children walking bare feet. We saw no sign of schools, churches, or even mosques (which usually were in every village since Zambia), giving the impression that even the Gods had turned their faces away from these incredibly poor people.

People were living in mud or even wood huts, a small kid that I glanced at as I passed, had a very distended stomach, a clear sign of malnutrition… the region seemed forgotten by everyone including God (or I least its minions and churches/temples/mosques…) .

It was obvious that very few tourists ever ventured around here, as everyone stared at us as if were aliens from another planet.




Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #231 on: November 26, 2018, 06:32:44 pm »
The Portuguese wrestled control of Mozambique coast from the Arabs between 1500 and 1700. Many trouble and wars for control followed. By the early 20th century, Portugal had shifted administration of Mozambique to large private companies.

Between 1964 and 1975 communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread across Africa, leading to a war of independence in Mozambique. In 1975, it became independent. The Portuguese left overnight I was told.

FRELIMO, a communist inspired government took control. An anti-communist national resistance movement, RENAMO was formed. It was initially funded by the Rhodesian intelligence service  (now Zimbabwe) and the apartheid South African government, to stop the spread of communism (helped by the CIA?) .

The civil war that ensued ended allegedly in 1994 but right until last year, 2017, RENAMO was still active in the country and attacks were frequent.  The region we crossed was until recently a stronghold of RENAMO and very unsafe. Travellers had to join military convoys for protection.

This was over when we rode there, but the insecurity was still plain to see.

When we stopped at rare fuel stations, they would often have 2 armed guards.

On one instance, the guard came to speak to us, all relaxed and happy. Then an SUV arrived, full of men at the back, and his attitude changed completely. I could see he was nervous and checking the truck and the passengers, clutching his riffle, ready for action, while looking for any sign of danger.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #232 on: November 26, 2018, 06:34:05 pm »
One thing struck me few weeks later, when remembering this section. In that entire region, we never saw any farm animals, any donkeys, goats, and lambs, chickens, not even birds. Wild birds! We did not hear any bird either during our stops. It was usually a forested zone, so where had all the wild birds gone? Were the locals so desperately poor that they had eaten all the wildlife including the tiniest of birds? It was a depressing thought.

So we made it safely to Hotel Kapulana. The hotel was new, with great rooms, secured parking for our bikes, in beautiful gardens and we even managed to get a descent meal.

Considering the state of the road we had to revise our original plan. Our destination, Vilanculo, was a good 500km further south. With the road in such a horrendous state, we could not make it in one day. Scouring the Internet we found 2 places on the way. One was about 80US$ for a room, the other one was slightly cheaper and was midway… and more…exotic!


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #233 on: November 26, 2018, 06:35:14 pm »

Day 68 – Mozambique, Muxungue, Hotel Canindica, Saturday 4th August – 240kms


We left around 9am. The road was still horrid for a good 75kms. It took us 2 hours to ride that distance.

Then we got to the good road at last. We made finally good progress and got to our stop for the night early afternoon.


The region seemed less poor, with many schools and neat villages, still some mud huts and wood huts, but more brick buildings, markets, villages and people wearing shoes, many moped and bicycles around, churches, mosques, and all that is in between.

Africa, or at last the part we covered, seem to be a very big hunting ground for all religions, as I never saw so many religious buildings everywhere (churches etc…) anywhere else in the world!

The hotel was adequate and fairly cheap. It was behind a big gate with big grounds. We parked the bikes in front of our room. They even had a restaurant where some locals were having very late lunch (or early dinner?).  So we had our evening meal there.


 
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Offline evansv

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #234 on: November 27, 2018, 10:16:07 am »
I worked near Vilankulos shortly after the civil war ended & it was very rare to see animals, even birds!
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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #235 on: November 27, 2018, 06:11:26 pm »


Day 69 – Mozambique, Vilanculo, - 260kms - Sunday 5th of August

Despite what we were told by the staff at the hotel, the road was actually not too bad. Some sections were damaged and turned into a dirt track, but it was easy to maintain speed.

We arrived at our destination sooner  than expected, early afternoon. The first place we had in mind, the Baobab Beach Camp, was full.




We then rode to the Beach Village Backpackers Camp, few hundreds meters down the same lane. It was empty. Not a single guest. That is never a good sign. However, the place looked very nice, so we took a hut with en-suite bathroom, as rustic as you can expect, although the price tag was not, at 45$. But then, it is a popular town with holidaymakers, with prices to match.

The hut was missing bed sheets, towels and even toilet paper. The floor was dirty and covered with dirt and dead flies.

I asked the guy at reception to remedy this and a woman came who could really not be bothered! The dead flies remained but at least we had bed sheets and towels as they were supposed to be provided! I washed some of my clothes in the sink while Alistair went into town to find a shop, as we needed drinking water at least. The tap water in Mozambique was not drinkable.

We were not sure if the place would provide dinner or any sort of food. The two women who apparently worked there, were busy sunbathing by the pool, giving me dirty looks because I had dared to disturbed them and asked for towels and bed linen! The guy in charge of the bar and reception was sleeping near the bar. Some places are so welcoming!


We walked along the beach at 4:30pm to get some sort of dinner at the nearby Baobab beach camp. The place was full, lively, with smiling staff serving drinks and dinner in the well-kept gardens, a receptionist arranging excursions and WiFi working! It was such a contrast with our camp!

The lady managing the Baobab camp came to talk to us while we ate our dinner, and gave us the WiFi password, although it is supposed to be for paying guests only. She was very welcoming. She knew our accommodation, next door, and felt sorry for us and encouraged us to use the Baobab’s facilities.



We walked back to our camp before nightfall as we were warned at the Baobab that it was not safe to walk around after dark.


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #236 on: November 27, 2018, 06:12:59 pm »

Day 70 – Mozambique, Vilanculos, Monday 6th August – 0kms




I woke up at 6am. After all, as night falls soon after 5:30 and we could not wander in the village at night, there was not much to do. Our camp was dead, the small bar was closed as there was no staff to be seen anywhere, with no WiFi or anything else to do, we read a bit and slept early.

I read a bit (I was quite hooked by the Shetland Murder mysteries series and reading my way through the whole 7 books from Anne Cleeves) and by 7am we had a look around to check if there would be some breakfast on offer or some menu. I don’t think they ever serve any food there despite the claims online.

All was quiet, the grounds completely empty, no staff to be seen around, so we walked, once again via the beach, to the Baobab beach camp. There were people having breakfast, there was a long menu to choose from, free coffee on offer… Paradise! I took an omelette with bacon. It was huge! I could not finish!




Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #237 on: November 27, 2018, 06:14:20 pm »


We used the Baobab Wi-Fi for some planning and finding a place to stay in our next destination.

We had decided to leave the following day, as our camp was not pleasant with really unfriendly staff that treated us like we were an inconvenience to them and the Baobab was fully booked. It was high season and everything seemed to be so fully booked everywhere, so we decided to secure a place before getting to Tofo, a very popular place for South Africans holidaying in south Mozambique.

All accommodation there was fairly full too but we booked a B&B more expensive than our usual backpacker places.


After that we went for a walk into town.





Traditional huts we have seen everywhere:








We went back to the Baobab to have a drink and early dinner before dark. We shared a very hot pizza. As we were finishing, a family (south African tourists I guess) sitting on the table next to ours offered us some grilled fish. They had been off fishing and caught a 1.5m fish weighting a good 38kgs. They could not eat it all! It was delicious!

After that, completely stuffed, we went back to our depressing camp, before dark, for another early night. This time, with power cuts, there was really not much to do.


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #238 on: November 27, 2018, 06:16:33 pm »

Day 71 – Mozambique, Tofinho – Lobster Chalets – Tuesday 7th of August, 320kms

We woke up at 6 am and started packing.
As we asked the lad at the bar for the bill, he seemed surprised we would leave earlier than initially planned. Initially we were thinking to spend 3 days there but....What did he expect? It seems the owner of the place lives in Maputo and no one was supervising. It is a wonder how someone can decide to start a business in hospitality and not check the competition and wonder why it is that the Baobab next door is fully booked for months in advance while this place was empty.
 
The weather was very foggy but we were ready to go before 8. We stopped in the village for fuel, and then at the local bank to get some cash. The fog slowly lifted as we travelled south.

As the day progressed, it got very hot.  We stopped few times to refuel and to drink water. The road was in good condition so we made good progress. The many police check points did not pay us any attention. We arrived at Tofinho by early afternoon.

Tofo (and nearby Tofinho) is popular with South Africans for surfing and diving, so it tends to be very busy.

Finding the guesthouse was another problem. The very steep and damaged track that the GPS wanted to take us through was really too damaged for us. Eventually, after a bit of search and faff around, we arrived at the Lobster Chalets.

Our chalet was great, big, clean, with a private terrace, which contained a small kitchen sink and fridge. It was very luxurious.

The bar restaurant was on a roof terrace with a very nice view over the Indian Ocean. The WiFi worked, the bar was an Honesty bar and we were close enough from town to get supplies. Amazing place.



 
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Offline Clockwork Orange

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #239 on: November 28, 2018, 05:09:24 pm »
I am really enjoying this Ride report. Thanks for sharing
When in doubt...grab throttle!!!
 
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