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Trip Report Mozambique 1 - 13 June 2013.

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Notes on Mozambique: 1 – 13 May 2013
1. Currency
a. Do exchange at the Sasol garage in Komatipoort, where we got exchange rate of Ms3.3: R1. We also traded back Mets to Rands when we got back at a reasonable rate.

2. Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border
After all the hype we heard and read, we got through rather unscathed. Of course we were approached on the SA side, but to a lesser extent than on the Moz side. There we were approached by an ‘official’ wearing a tag. He insisted on escorting us. I used him to find out where to get the import docs and then got rid of him firmly, but in a nice way. Did not pay a cent there to anybody. We also got offered very good rates to exchange our SA money, but did not do so on advice of various forums and friends. You will get ripped off by them.

Returning to South Africa was a breeze. Did not take us 15 minutes to do both sides. Again some approaches to exchange our Ms back to Rands but we did not do so.

Maybe we were lucky, but we were never searched. Maybe it was because the 1st of May was a public holiday, and we returned on a Sunday afternoon.

3. Maputo!
If you can avoid driving through it, do so; it is a nightmare! All went well until just after we took the turnoff from the EN4 onto the EN1 (the Xai Xai turnoff). The next 20 kilometres must have taken us close to two hours to do. There seems to be no real road rules and the only people that we could see stopped amid all the chaos by the police, were visitors.

4. Roads in Moz.
We only went up to the Inhambane area. The EN4 into Maputo is in great, hence the speed limit of 120 kph. The EN1 has some potholes over the first 150 km or so, but after that the road is great. The dirt roads around Inhambane and Barra are reasonably okay, but you can’t really drive much faster than 60 kph on them.

We were warned about the speed limits and we adhered to it religiously. The EN1 has a maximum speed of 100 kph, but is frequently brought down to 80 kph and then 60kph. We made very sure to be at the prescribed speeds the moment we passed the signs. Believe me when i say that there are police with radar devices in every little village where the speed is low. From about Quissico going up, they seem to have thinned out a bit.

5. Where did we stay?
Stayed at no 11, Chongoene Lodge in Xai Xai the first night. Nice accommodation with four bedrooms and two bathrooms high up above the beach. Had prawns and fish at their seafront restaurant that evening, which all enjoyed.

Our main lodging for the next 10 days, was at no 14 Light House Reef Resort at Paindane Beach, which is about 30 km south from Inhambane. Three bedrooms (two double beds downstairs and two singles in the loft) and two bathrooms (one en-suite with an outside shower). All beds were fitted with mosquito nets. Also had a splash pool, which we used quite frequently. Nice views over the ocean, but not the best views in the complex. Had a fully equipped kitchen with a permanent assistant who cleaned daily and helped us with information.

There was a Taurus shop about five km from the resort (right next to Jeff’s), which sold basic items such as coffee, sugar, bread, beer (!), cold drinks etc. Although a bit on the expensive side, it was a comfort to have this close to our accommodation and we visited almost daily.

The resort (and Esperanza Lodge next to it) is managed by a South African couple and it seemed like they are doing a great job. We also frequented Esperanza’s restaurant, which is right on the beach front, frequently and had numerous R&Rs and 2M beers there. We also had our last night’s supper there, which was quite nice, though it took some time to prepare. Well, we had nowhere to go ....

6. Moamba Road
We did not take the Moamba road going there, because we thought we took the wrong turnoff. It turned out to be the correct one. Coming back, we did take the dirt road (turnoff to Xinovane, with a big blue Standard Bank advert at the turnoff). Narrow tarred road up to Magude and the first five or so kilometres of the dirt road was good. They must have had quite a lot of rain, because from there to Moamba (about 125 km) was full of mud puddles and the road was not good. Did not see a sign board for the town (or village) of Sabie, so we must have done the eastern route. Took us about 2 ½ hours to do this stretch. It seems to be a bit shorter than the Maputo route, but it may still have been a better route even with the road in the condition it was.

Going into Moamba, we could actually see the split in the road, with Sabie being well signposted across the Komatie river bridge, so next time will be easier.

7. Food
We only took meat for three days, and we ensured it to be properly vacuum packed since it is a requirement. The rest of the times we either ate at a restaurant or bought fish, prawns or crayfish from the locals. It worked out very well, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meals. We were warned to take along one of those portable scales to make sure that we received the correct amount of weighed food, but we did not, so I think we got ripped off with the prawns specifically.

Paid about Ms 200 per kilo for both the prawns and fish, which we found to be a bit overpriced, but the fish specifically was caught that morning and was a fresh as can be. The crayfish we paid per ‘body’ and was about Ms 200 per. Advice I got for checking if fish is fresh: clear eyes (not smoky); red and not grey, gills; flesh must be firm and it should smell like the sea and like fish (sounds corny, but you will understand once you try).

We also took some tinned food along, most of it we brought back.

8. Do I need a 4x4?
This depends on where you go. Of you go to places in Barra, Tofu or Tofinho, the answer is no. If you go to places such as where we stayed, the answer is yes. You probably will read that on the websites. It also works to deflate your tyres to about 1 bar, since it makes driving on sand a breeze.

9. Drawing money
I could draw money at the FNB ATM close to the Mercado Centrale in with my VISA card, but my family could not with their Mastercards. They did get it right at the Barclays ATM on the main street to Barra – it seems like the keyboard numbers are in a different sequence than is South Africa, so be careful! There is a another ATM very close to Barclays next to the hotel, but I have forgotten the name of it (BIM, I think).

We did inform our various banks before leaving that we will be out of country, so we did not have any problems drawing money.

10. Fuel
Filled up at the Sasol Garage just outside Komatipoort. From then on, we filled up at the Petromocs in Xai Xai, Inhambane and the one about 55 km north of Xai Xai on our way back. It seems (and I may be totally wrong) that the Petromocs have clean toilets whilst some of the others do not; which is why we used them. But there are quite a few filling stations of other companies around, so the pick is yours. Some of them charge a small fee for using the WC, but that we paid with pleasure.

Fuel prices do go up drastically the further north you go, and I noticed the price in Inhambane to be Ms 46, compared to Xai Xai, where it was Ms 39.

11. Tips.
a. Make sure you have two reflective jackets – we draped it over our front seats.
b. Also make sure you have two red warning triangles easily available.
c. Everybody must wear seatbelts at all times.
d. Make sure your vehicle documentation is in order. If your vehicle is financed by a Bank, ensure you have a consent letter from them as well as a stamped copy of the NaTIS document. The only time we were stopped by an official, he wanted to extort money from us because our NaTIS had not been stamped. Fortunately it was, and we were reluctantly let go.
e. Border passes on both sides must have two stamps on them.
f. Make sure you obtain an import form on the Mozambique side when you enter, that you fill in and take back to be stamped. This was also checked by our friend that stopped us and ours was correct.
g. Again: do not exchange money on the Mozambique side: you will be ripped off!
h. Keep to the speed limits. Sometimes you do not see when the 60 kph is cancelled, because the signs have been removed. What I did, was to check the opposite side to see where the sign showed 80 kph, and used that as an indication that we could drive faster. This is by no means 100% correct, but it worked for us!
i. Inform your Bank that you are out of the country, so you don’t have problems when you need money and can’t draw. Cash seems to be king and we could not find many places where Credit cards could be used.
j. Enjoy the beaches and try to keep them clean. They were fabulous.
k. Everywhere we went, the people were friendly and we enjoyed them immensely. They are proud of their country, and you will see that in how clean their towns and countryside is. Again, we tried to keep with this spirit and never threw anything out of a car window.
l. Drink 2M beers, they are good!
m. It seems as though South Africans have a tradition of drinking R&Rs when in Moz, which is basically Tipo Tinto rum mixed with a Raspberry (Morango) cold drink. We duly obliged (on several occasions!) and it was nice.
n. We found the food to be good and reasonably priced at most restaurants. Do not be in a hurry to get the food, though. It takes some time.
o. If you buy a cell phone package (we used Vodacom), make sure that it is activated. We took two days to realize it.
p. Be careful of adding international roaming to your personal cell, it is extremely expensive. We found that out when we came back.
q. Take coral boots along for going swimming or snorkelling where there are rocks to minimize cuts etc.
r. Don’t forget the suntan lotion!
s. Take along a basic medical kit with things like headache pills and pain killers, creams etc, as there are not too many medical stations around.
t. The Mozambique coast is malaria area, so take along sprays, coils etc. Be sure to consult your doctor before you go to find out whether prophylactics are necessary.
u. Do one of the activities available. We only did snorkelling and pub crawling (is that an activity?), but there are dhow rides, ocean safaris, deep sea fishing, scuba diving etc.
v. Eat fresh 'paos' (buns) every day, they are great!

As always this is my experience and may differ from somebody else'e.

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