Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for Mozambique

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England

2nd January 2004 Mozambique
Our journey to Vilanculos
Trying to celebrate New Year in Tete - Click to enlargeWe crossed the border from Malawi to Mozambique on 30th December at Zobué, hoping to get to the Indian Ocean coast for New Year. From the border post we took a bus to Tete, and there we stayed! We had changed the Malawian money we had left at the border, giving us enough for a night's accommodation in a grotty hotel, and a dinner of spaghetti and lumps of meat. But there was no money left to buy bus tickets onwards, and the only bus to Vilanculos left at 4.00am the next day. We resigned ourselves to the disappointing reality of being stuck in Tete for New Year.

On New Year's Eve we got a cash advance on the Visa card at a bank in Tete; enough for two weeks in Mozambique. Later we were very glad we had taken out so much (even though the man in the bank had raised his eyebrows when I asked for 25 million meticais!) We found a nicer hotel, the Zambeze, with a view of the Zambeze river and (luxury of luxuries) air conditioned rooms. It was incredibly hot there. Even in the shade it was too hot to move, and the sun beat down all day.

We had a nice meal in the restaurant there to see out 2003, but were in bed by ten, with the alarm set for 3.00am!

Of course, there were a fair few people still out on the streets at that time on New Year's Day, and we are generally wary of walking about at night in African towns, but nobody gave us any hassle. At the bus station there was a crowd of people waiting to board a bus for Beira, but nobody for the Maputo bus (the one we needed to catch for Vilanculos). When we eventually found someone who spoke English he told us that there was no bus to Maputo that day! We were determined that we were going somewhere, so we squeezed onto the Beira bus. Miraculously we even managed to get three seats, though not together.

The journey took nine hours in blazing, sticky heat. (Even at 4am it was baking hot and we were pouring with sweat.) The New Years Day sunrise was bright crimson red and flamingo pink. We watched it over a landscape of palm trees, African villages and distant wooded hills. It was rather a shame to have it framed by the windows of the crowded bus, and that we couldn't share it with each other, and that we were travelling to Beira instead of Vilanculos but, despite all that, it was beautiful.

I got chatting to the man sitting next to me, Basil. He told me about some of the problems with the government in Mozambique, and the resulting lack of infrastructure. The roads are in a terrible state of repair, and sometimes the bus diverted completely from the road to use an unsurfaced track alongside it. It was not a comfortable ride! The governing party in Mozambique today is the same party which came to power when the country gained independence in 1975. Then there was the civil war, which lasted 17 years and, as well as claiming many lives, crippled the country economically. Although there is an opposing party and the country is supposed to be democratic, the level of corruption is such that vote-rigging swings election results every time in their favour. Any alternative party lacks the finances, and therefore the power, to present a viable case for election. Basil told me that the roads were funded to be repaired, by the World Bank and other organisations, but the money has disappeared. The same problem occurs with education, hospitals, policing etc. Basil sounded very frustrated and angry at the way his life and the lives of his family are affected by this. I was interested by what he told me and sypathised with him, although I had a strange awkward feeling, coming as I do from a world where these types of problems are never issues for consideration.

Several times along the way we stopped in places where people tried to sell us things through the windows. at one of these stops, Nick took his eyes off his bag for just long enough for someone to reach inside and steal his moneybelt. It contained about 50 pounds worth of meticais and Nick's Switch and Visa cards. Nick was gutted, and I couldn't do much to make things better from my position about six rows behind him with Esther on my lap. We had a conversation about it, over many heads which were between us, by the end of which the whole bus knew what had happened. They tried to be helpful, and even stopped the bus at a police station. A policeman got on, made some fairly ineffective noises, looked into a couple of bags, and went away again. there was never any real hope of finding it. Later, when I phoned the bank, they wanted to know the police reference number and the name of the officer! Things aren't really like that here!

Beira was not a nice place. We nicknamed it 'Beirut'! We decided to book ahead for the next day's bus to Vilanculos. It was rather confusing. There were at least three buses bound for Maputo, all leaving at 4 or 5am. Estimates of journey time varied widely, although prices were fairly consistent between buses. Eventually though, I agreed a price with one of the conductors, who then took us off to find a room for the night. First we went to a place where a woman, Yvette told us not to stay there as there had been robberies and knife attacks there recently. Nice! Yvette took us to the Savoy, which was not a posh place, but had several security guards. The bus guy, David, said he'd arrange for some guards to walk with us to the bus depot at 3.45am, as the town is not safe. We felt vulnerable and insecure, especially as we were carrying quite a lot of cash (almost a years' wages to a poor person from Mozambique - two weeks' money for us!), and, having cancelled the Visa cards (a joint account), had no other way to access money. (Travellers' cheques are not widely accepted in Mozambique, and where banks will change them, they charge around 20% for the privilege).

The following morning at, long before dawn, our armed escort arrived, as promised, to walk us to the bus station. I have to say, I think two cops with huge guns may have been slightly over the top. It was not the nicest place, but still!

The journey to Vilanculos was a little more comfortable, although still vwery hot and bumpy. We had no water and, after four hours, were pretty desparate for a drink. I bought two pineapples through the window. They were big and ripe and juicy and, although a messy thing to eat on a bus, had the desired effect. The bus dropped us some 20km from Vilanculos where we caught a pickup truck to take us the rest of the way, joined by Mike, Rosarió and four-year-old Cleo, a family we had met on the bus. They are living in Lusaka, Zambia, where Mike is a teacher of Spanish and French at an American School. Rosarió is from Mexico. They were very nice and friendly, and we ended up staying together for our whole time in Vilanculos.

5th January 2004 Mozambique
Indian Ocean
Tom, Eti and Cleo playing in the sand, Vilanculos - Click to enlargeThis entry was extracted from an email sent by Lindsay and Nick and posted by Lindsay’s parents
we travelled to Mozambique on the 30th Dec, but unfortunately didn't manage to get to the ocean to see the New Year sunrise. Still, we did see the sunrise from a bus window and it was beautiful! The ocean is lovely. We were going to go snorkelling with Whale Sharks (herbivores!) today, but the trip was cancelled because of jelly fish of all things. A bit disappointed, but maybe will get another opportunity to see marine life.
Nick's money belt was stolen from his bag on New Year's Day! It was highly annoying, and inconvenient of course, but we should be able to get additional visa cards shipped to South Africa, and we're OK for cash at the moment.

2nd - 6th January Mozambique
The view on waking at Vilanculos - Click to enlarge

We camped right by the beach at a place called Josef e Tina's, and a few days slipped by very easily. The sea was warm and shallow, and the children played and swam with Cleo. In the evenings we cooked for ourselves, with Mike and Rosarió, over an open fire in an outdoor kitchen. It was great!

Security wasn't great in Vilanculos, and we (especially Nick) were feeling pretty nervous after the theft on the Beira bus. There were a lot of people out to get something out of you if they could; traders, sellers and would-be 'friends'. There were a couple of guys at Josef e Tina's to keep an eye on the place, but people did tend to be able to just wander in and out as they pleased, and, travelling in Africa everyone you meet has at least one horror story to tell (exaggerated or otherwise - they're always the best tales)! Unfortunately being jumpy spoiled our stay there a bit.

We did enjoy our time with Mike and Rosarió though.

6th - 9th January Mozambique
Tofo Beach
Eating our tea at Tofo Beach - Click to enlarge

Tofo Beach was gorgeous! We travelled there by bus, but got off at Maxixe to take the ferry across the bay to Inhambane, cutting the journey time by some two hours. From Inhambane it was easy to get a minibus to the beach.

We stayed at Fatima's Nest, which had been recommended by Mike and Rosarió, and was nice. We opted to camp in the sandy camping area, right on the beach. There were quite a lot of other campers, mainly South Africans on their hols, and the atmosphere was chilled out. Tofo is anyone's idea of a tropical paradise. The beach is a wide sweep of clean soft white sand, backed by sand dunes and coconut palms. The sea there is clear blue-green and sparkling, with huge powerful waves. It was much, much nicer than Vilanculos!

Somehow, though, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we didn't have a brilliant time there. We should have done, but we arrived tired, the tent quickly filled with sand, someone nicked our salt and pepper pouch from the kitchen, and we were all feeling just a tad homesick. To cheer ourselves up we booked an excursion to go snorkeling with whale sharks, but the trip was cancelled due to too many stinging jellyfish being in the area. On that day I went down with, of all things, a cold!

We were ready to move on and, after three days there, pressed on to Maputo.

9th - 13th January Mozambique
Eti and Mateus at Fatima's backpackers - Click to enlargeMaputo was a pleasant city to be in, and felt safer than anywhere else we had visited in Mozambique. It had a strangely European feel, with a distinctly Portuguese look to many of its buildings. There were tree-lined avenues, whitewashed buildings and shops which sold things like fresh bread and pastries. We bought a few new clothes there, and had a very nice meal for very little money in a café-bar at the central market.

We stayed at Fatima's Backpackers' there, and it was a relaxed, easy place to be. We ended up staying a little longer than intended, as my cold developed into some kind of tropical flu, and kept me on my bed for a couple of days. Still, that was a good excuse for us all to rest, and we were refreshed and stronger when finally, on Tuesday 13th January, we boarded the bus to Nelspruit, South Africa.

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