Trip report subtitle:Mozambique isn't for sissies.

Old Sep 24th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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Trip report subtitle:Mozambique isn't for sissies.

DF (64 yo) and I (48 yesterday) have returned from our long awaited visit to her DD (25 yo Peace Corps worker). It was an exhausting and challenging trip, both mentally and physically for DF, but exhilerating.

We were gone for 22 days as follows:

Cape Town 5 days 4 nights

Mozambique 10 days 9 nights

Johannesburg 1 night

Krueger Park 4 days 3 nights

Johannesburg 1 day 1 night

plus travel days to and from Los Angeles.

Cape Town: Stayed at the Mandela Rhodes Place, this worked out well for us as it was a 2 bedroom suite and we met DD and her site partner (DDF) there. They were thrilled with the bedding and the breakfast which will become apparent as I describe their living conditions later in the report.

We did all the usual sites in Cape Town, got lucky with the weather as the storms stopped for the days we were there. Met Bobbieharv on the Robben Island tour. Robben Island was anticlimactic for all of us. Big waves made 2 of us seasick, all other tours for the day were cancelled, we were really rushed around quickly.

Highlight: Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, Penguins.

Meals: No real focus on eating here, wonderful night spent at Mama Africa drinking (alot) of S. Africa wine, eating and dancing. Ordered in at the hotel other nights due to exhaustion. Great wine bar in the hotel.

Just to stay on the S. Africa part of our trip, we stayed at the Dove's Nest for 2 nights and really liked it. They picked us up at the airport the night we flew in from Moz and drove us over to the rendez-vous to meet the safari the next morning. We ate at their dining room and dinner was terrific. Total for 1 night, 2 persons, 4 glasses of wine, 2 dinners was 640R. Downside was you had to eat the meal they were serving, but we did not care. That night they served lasagne, salad, squash, rolls and dessert (not sure what it was, didn't have it). The return night was sauteed chicken breast, salad, butternut squash, broccoli and something else. Again really good.

Safari booked thru Pierre at go2africa.com. Everything was as represented and we were pleased with Bundu Safari Company. Saw lots of amazing animals including a mom Cheetah with 3 cubs, saw a croc eat a babboon (yuck) and were on hand for a big rhino smackdown. The leopard, however, eluded us. We stayed at their lodge, Thornhill Safari Lodge, for 3 nights. It is located 1 hour from the Orpen Gate in a game conservancy. First night, big 5 game drive on the conservancy. Second day was all day at Kruger Park, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Third day, morning bush walk, afternoon game drive at the conservancy. Fourth day, morning bush walk depart for Joburg via the popular mountain range, the name escapes me. By this point in our trip DF was exhausted and missed several of the events, but she needed rest. Very pleased with accomodations, food, etc. Drinks were extra, and we drank alot, plus had lots and lots of bottled water, total bill upon departure 242R.

I need to start my day, so will return later with all of the interesting, wacky, wonderful, strange details of Mozambique.

Lynnie
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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DF?

DD?
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 01:44 PM
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DF= Dear Friend
DD= Darling daughter (in this case DF's DD)
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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Interesting, wacky, and wonderful is good. Welcome back.
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Old Sep 24th, 2008, 05:12 PM
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I bet it's not for sissies. I'm looking forward to your report; I only hope I can keep up with the acronyms.

Please continue soon, Lynnie!
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 03:24 AM
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The plane ride from Cape Town to Maputo was the start of our excitement. On the first leg, Cape Town to JoBurg the plane lost altitude and we all wore the drop down oxygen masks for a while. New experience for all.

DF and I were to get our visa's upon arrival. It took 2 hours due to a plane of Portugese travellers who arrived before us and needed visa's. I would imagine it usually is alot quicker.

Taxi ride to Hotel Africa II where rooms were $25 USD per night double occupancy. This was my first experience with a shared bath, but since we were the only ones on the floor, no problem. The hotel was dated and very very basic, but not so bad. We taxi's down to the beach for lunch/dinner at a local beachfront restaurant and it was very good.

The next morning, in attempt to "ease us into" Moz's transportation, the girls arranged for us to take the backpackers bus to our next destination, Barra. The bus picked us up at 5:30 a.m. and the 4 of us sat in the back row. We stopped at backpackers lodges and picked up more people until the van was cram jammed. I popped a Xanax within 5 minutes of being on the bus. The good news about the back row was you could barracade yourself in, the bad was that there were no windows to open and you had to depend on those in front of you for air. I felt sorry for the last people aboard as they had jump seats and the backrest was only ablyt 6 inches up the back. 8 1/2 hours later we arrived at our destination, walking from where the bus dropped us about 3k to the lodge.

Most people going to the Inhambane area go to Tofo for the party life but the girls prefer Barra. We stayed at a wonderful little lodge called Anda Ca Lodge which is managed by a friend of the girls. We stayed in a 2 story thatched roof cabin with the girls on the bottom floor and DF and I enjoying a fabulous view of the Indian Ocean. Wonderful sleeping weather with the sea breeze flapping the mosquito nets.

NOte on Malaria: All places we stayed in Moz were in a malaria zone. We took Malarone, used OFF when necessary, and slept under nets. As it turns out we rarely saw a mossie. The heat was chasing us and we had cooler, windy days that bugs must not like.

We ate all of our meals at the Anda Ca and did lots of drinking. They specialize in fresh prawns and calamari, so that's what we ate. THere was a tv in the restaurant where we tried to watch CNN but the power goes out alot so we sat in candlelight and ate. Our 2 nights at Anda Ca were relaxing and wonderful. Not sure of the cost, but I think the rooms are around $40.00 per night double.

The Indian Ocean is so beautiful there. A favorite spot for windsurfers and divers, too.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 03:36 AM
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Leaving Barra was a tragedy. We so loved the manager Jaco that it was hard to move on. Also, the girls had warned us that today would be a difficult travel day. Xanax is in my pocket.

We called a taxi to get us to Inhambane, where we needed to take a ferry across to Maxixe (where the chapa station is). The taxi was a toyota corolla into which the 4 of us, a friend of Jenny's and the driver crammed, plus all of our luggage. THere was 1 shared door knob and window knob for the car, which you passed around as needed to roll windows up and down, or open the door from the inside.

The "ferry" was a very rickety outboard about 20 ft.. They put as many people as possible on it and we were the last to board. I thought we were lucky to be in the open, in front, but 2 minutes later, when I was soaked to the skin, I began to wish I was inside the tarp.

We exited the ferry and hightailed it over to the chapa area. Chapa's are about a 15 passanger vehicle to which jumpseats are added. Unlike the backpackers bus, where they put no more than 4 in a row, chapas cram as many people as they can into each row. We got on in a hurry and took the last row and barracaded ourselves in. At this point, we also had our luggage on our laps. We were truely packed in. Before we left, someone came with a huge amount of 10k sacks of something, so we went to get a small trailer, then we went to get the lights on the trailer repaired, then we went back to the chapa area to get thesacks. This took about 1 1/2 hours, but it also meant that we could pass our bags out the window and put them in the trailer. This benefited us in a big way. Because I had gotten on the hot, sweaty chapa soaking wet I now had room to strip and spent the next 7 1/2 hours travelling in my bra. I would have taken my pants off too if I had had room to get out of them.

The chapa ride was interesting. They let people get off, more get on, chickens and dead goats are welcome to ride, there are no rest stops so you'd better moniter your liquid intake. There is 1 road in Moz and it runs north to south. THere are offshoots of this road to get you where you need to go. The potholes on this road are as big as baby elephants and driving seems alot like playing dodgeball. Parts of this main and only road are paved, parts are not. It is slow going. When we finally got off the chapa, 9 hours after we'd gotten on, I wanted to kiss the ground.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 04:59 AM
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I am loving your trip report....and I particularly like this line: "now had room to strip and spent the next 7 1/2 hours travelling in my bra". That has got to be a Fodor's first!
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 06:32 AM
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Believe me, it was a first for me too.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 06:45 AM
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Finally after what seemed like 9 hours in hell, we were in Inhassoro. The chapa dropped us off and we hiked for a while with our backpacks until we came to the Hotel Seta. They had room for us and we took 2 roooms on the beach, in white thatched roof huts. Nice and clean and the grounds were beautifully maintained. At this point the plan was to stay 1 night here.

We walked back into town to try to find out if there was a direct chapa to our next location (no such luck) and along the way a man stopped who knew the girls thru a Peace Corp worker who lives in Inhassoro. He said he would meet us for dinner at our hotel restaurant, which is the only place to eat in Inhassoro as far as I can tell.

Dinner at the restaurant was again, great prawns and calamari, great S. African wine and great company. We were joined not only by the first man, but by a young fellow the girls had met prior. Fun filled night and we decided not to leave for another day, great news not to have to get on various modes of transport the next morning!!

The first man we met was the nicest man. He insisted we stay at his home the next night, picked us up at the hotel in the am so we didn't have to haul our bags 5k down the beach. We stayed at his magnificent ocean front home, full rein of food and drinks, his staff did our laundry, and he threw a big bbq for us that night with all of his local friends there. What a night!! What a gracious host. We never wanted to leave, but alas, the girls needed to get home the next day to work. THE BEST NEWS EVER!! One of his employees would give us a ride to Machanga!!

THis ride saved us a whole day. We spent the morning lolling on his deck overlooking the ocean, and when it started to rain, retired to his big leather sofas and watched tv or read. The driver picked us up and the ride took 3 hours instead of 7. We were inside the cab of a truck instead of the back!!! Happy days.

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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 07:34 AM
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Machanga: This is the site where the girls have lived for 2 years. It is a small village with reed huts with thatched roofs, an open market area, a hospital (cooking is done outdoors over an open fire) and a few other things. There is a "bar" attached to a little shop that stocks beer and whiskey. The girls are regulars as there is nothing else to do but drink at night.

The school itself where they teach is run by the Catholic Church. The teachers are all Mozambiquans other than the girls. Portugese is the national language and is taught there, as well as English. One of the girls teaches English, the other one teaches Chem/Bio. They learned Portugese upon arrival in Moz. The students speak their native lang. when they arrive, and must learn portugese also.

The students mainly live there in dorms. A few are local villagers and go home at night. There are far more boys than girls. The girls get pregnant and have to leave school often. This is not frowned upon in the culture, but the school isn't really happy about it. The girls decided to dance for us one night, and one played the drum while the others danced, about 50 girls took part, all taking turns. They run a good partnership among themselves. They are self-supervising and ther is one older student whom is the in-charge person. They prepare their own meals, do all kp, keep their dorms tidy and take care of their own clothing. They also bring their own water from the well. I saw no adult supervisors in the living areas at all. Parents pay $12.00 per year for the child to live and attend school and the World Food PRogram supplies food.

Housing: The teachers live in cement huts. I imagine they are about 400 sq feet. Our girls share a hut with an "embragado", a student who lives with them, sleeping on a mat on the living room floor, and takes care of their water, laundry and cleaning. He is also supposed to cook but the girls prefer to do that theirselves. Alex has the best position of all the embragados. DF brought 4 outfits and a pair of white converse sneakers for him and he was very proud of his new clothes. The girls say he washes those shoes every day to keep them white.

There is no water or plumbing in the hut. Electricity comes on from 6pm til 9 pm almost every day via the school generator. They have a bathroom with an indoor squatty potty and a drain for a bucket bath. They managed to get a propane cooktop and when they are not out of propane they heat water for the bucket bath. Otherwise Alex heats it for them at the community kitchen, which is an outdoor fire pit. I pumped water at the community well and carried it on my head to the hut. 10 gallon bucket, I filled it 1/2 way up only. Photo op. The locals had a great laugh at me.

The girls were the first PC workers to come there. Their hut was empty except for 2 camp cots when they arrived and they needed to buy furnishings from Beira, about 10 hours away. They then had to talk someone into helping them get the items to Machenga, as it is hard to catch a ride with a loveseat and dresser. For a kitchen table they took a door off a room and have it propped up on 2 old chairs with buckets on them. There are no cupboards so all of their kitchen equipment and food stays out on this table. Bugs are a constant problem.

The other teaches live with their families in the huts. They have nothing, and I mean nothing. The kids chase each other, play with old wine bottles, have fashined a swing from a rope and what looks to be an old seat cushion, and have a very happy life with no worries.

We brought the following items: bubbles (a huge hit. These kids will clean your entire house for bubbles)

3 frisbees which I taught Alex to play, and he in turn gave lessons to his pals.

1 whopee cushion which did not seem to translate very well

Balloons, another huge success.

The kids run around unsupervised from about the age of 2. I asked if anything every happened to them, and yes, a teacher lost his kid when he fell into an open well.

Life expectancy is 38 in Moz. from what I understand. AIDS is rampant, education seems to stay in the school, its just another way to die.

We were amazed at the girls ability to cope and thrive in this environment. They have such a close relationship with the other teachers and the students. Their home is a gathering place, which does get a little intrusive with kids peeking in the windows at all times, but they truely love this place.

There was a huge flood last December which took out all of the reed huts. The residents of Machanga rebuilt and got on with their lives within a couple of weeks. Those in other areas where "aided" by the Red Cross and now, 11 months later, are still living in their issued tents eating WFP food. We wonder how much "help" is helpful.

Their PC stint is over on Dec. 1st and we wonder if their replacements will be as "community" as our girls were. They will be a tough act to follow.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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I love your story of travelling in Mozambique -- Now I know why they recommended that I fly to Pemba instead of taking a bus all the way north from Johannesburg!

I found it enough of a challenge to ride in the back of the camion from village to village in Mozambique (pro is plenty of fresh air, since it is not enclosed, con is that there are no seats).

I also loved your detail about the single window handle that was passed around.

And after reading your description of stripping down to your bra, it occurs to me that it was probably totally acceptable -- we were actually told that in the area we were visitng, it would be more acceptable to show our breasts in public than our knees (good thing you didn't take your pants off!).

I'm really looking forward to hearing the rest of your story.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 08:05 AM
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What an amazing adventure, thanks for sharing. Love your writing style as well, you are very funny and it makes me feel like I am right there with you ! Props to your friends for the wonderful work they have done as well.
Please share your photos as well, it is not often we see Mozambique photos on this board.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 08:21 AM
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Thanks for the kind words. Ann, you are correct. Nobody batted an eye at me, and we saw plenty of topless gals at the beach.

Kellyee I have no clue how to share my photos online. If you explain it to me I will do it. I have some great beach shots.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 08:34 AM
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The morning we were to leave Machanga DF and I attended mass at the school chapel. It was held in Portugese, very well attended by the students. There was singing, dancing, and drumming. Very moving service.

Since we had no ride, we had to travel the native way: first we hiked to the river (rio Save). We were very grateful to have Alex and another embragado escort us as far as the river and carry our backpacks. This took about 1 hour through what the girls have nicknamed Death Vally 1 and 2. When we arrived at the river we had to wait for someone to come from the other side in a canoe. The canoe came and we all hopped in and the canoist took us to the other side. We did our best to ignore the hippo eyes and ears peering up at us.

After the canoe ride we got on our packs, hiked thru Death Valley #3 into Mambone. From there, we jumped into the back of a pickup truck which was going to the main road (65k up stream). DF got lucky when the front seat passanger offered his seat to her. Very grateful to him as by this point in the trip DF was at the end of her rope travel wise and we would have had to throw her off the moving vehicle instead of listen to her. The girls and I rode in the truck bed (standard Nissan Pickup) with about 20 other people and their goods. People got off and on as we made our way to the main road, I can't believe this truck made it, as the engine had to be started under the hood and several belts were tied toghether rope.

When we got to the main road it was time to hitchhike as there is no other means of getting from a to b. We waited for 55 minutes, not because nobody stopped, but because nobody came by!! THis is the only road in Moz! Finally a Toyoto pickup filled with empty crates of Coke bottles stopped. Again, the front seat passenger gave his seat to DF and climbed in back with us. There was just enough roon for the bottles, our feet (we sat on the side walls) and the spare tire. We travelled about 10 minutes when 2 men came running out from the bush. They had a baby gazelle they wanted to sell, which the truck's driver then bought for 150 countash (about $3.00. We were laughing because it looked like he was going to pass the gazelle to DF, but no, he brought it back to us. So I've now hitched a ride with 500 coke bottles and a baby gazelle. He took us as far as he was going and then it was thumbs out again.

All in all, we caught 6 rides plus the Death Valley hike. Took 7 1/2 hours to travel 230k. I actually enjoyed this day as the weather was beautiful and the back of an openback pickup sure as heck beats a chapa any day.

Next stop: Vilanculos
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 08:57 AM
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Vilanculos:

By the time we arrived in Vilanculos we were starved. We hadn't wanted to eat or drink that day due to bathroom issues on the road, and it was now 4 p.m. We gave some money to the last person we hitched with to take us to a really good pizza/seafood restaurant at the Vilanculos Beach Lodge. We were going to eat first and then deal with lodging. We hoped to stay ther but it was really expensive for our budget. Food tasted so good. In Machanga food is limited to grains, so we were glad to dig into pizza and burgers,

The girls have always stayed with a PC worker there and had no real experience with lodging, but had heard Smugglers was fine, so we put on our packs and hiked over, just about 3k away. Again lucky, they had rooms for us which were 1100 Met. per person for 2 nights, or about $44.00 for both nights. They have a very lively restaurant/bar which we ate/drank at while there.

Vilanculos has beautiful beaches, the tide is amazing. It goes out about a 3 football fields end to end. There is a market where the girls stocked up on peanut butter and olive oil before they returned. Also, DD needed to purchase about 8 gallons of paint for a map project and this was accomplished in Vilanculos.

This was the only place in Moz that people bugged us. It's not safe for foreigners after dusk so we just stayed at Smugglers most of the time we were there. They have a lively expat community of Zimbabweans and South Africans that hang out at the bar, fun was had.

It was here that we said goodbye to the girls. There is a direct chapa from Vilanculos to Mambone and they wanted to be on it. So we loaded up the paint and off they went.


Later that day we called for Junior's taxi (the only one in town) for our trip to the airport. The airport has no security other than a cursory look at your checked baggage, no patdowns, nothing to walk thru, no scanners. We boarded a 19 passanger prop plan (Xanax) and flew smoothly back to JoBurg.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 09:28 AM
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Great read so far. Mozambique has always fascinated me. I wish I'd had more time to get outside of Maputo when I visited earlier this year.

I remember you mentioning your trip before you left. When you mentioned PCVs being in the mix, I knew you'd be in for an adventure!
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 12:08 PM
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Certainly an eye opener! Thanks for taking us along.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Wow, I usually hang out on the Europe and Asia boards, this is a really remarkable first Africa/ME TR for me! Great report, and incredible trip.
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Old Sep 25th, 2008, 04:42 PM
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LynnieD,

I'm really enjoying your report, its good to read about independent travel in Mozambique as there isn't a lot of information for this destination.

Would love to see the photos if you get that far,

Pol.
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