Archive for the ‘Mozambique’ Category

an island paradise all to ourselves…

Monday, February 18th, 2008

island paradise in Bazaruto Archipelago It turns out we were one of the few guests at the island resort, as it is the low season. That was fine for Mike and I as the weather was terrific, the water was crystal clear, we had an amazing chalet complete with outdoor shower, we had the entire beach, and restaurant to ourselves! And even more importantly(for Mike), we had high speed internet.
taking a break from diving in BazarutoBesides swimming in the salt water endless pool, we also went diving, again. The diving here was reported to be just as good, or better than Tofo. We dove at 2 mile reef, and unfortunately the visibility was about 1-2 meters, and the swell underwater was pretty strong. But that didn’t stop us from seeing lots of marine life, and excitingly, hawksbill turtles.
(photo: a stop over at Pansy Island between dives)

flying high!

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Mike co-piloting our 15 minute flightAfter sorting out the car, we made our way to Vilanculo, where we caught a flight to Bazaruto Archipelago, the ‘quintessential tropical paradise’ for some R&R. We took a 15 minute flight on a 20 seat Cessna over to the island. As it turned out we were the only two passengers on the flight, and Mike got to sit in the front and co-pilot the plane.

fuel crisis

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

2268213677_13b3b517aa_m.jpgFrom Tofo we drove north to Vilanculos before heading to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a tropical island get away. It should have been a pretty straight forward drive along the coastline, but it turned into an adventure…

We were in a small town, where the ´dot´ on the map is barely visible, and likewise the town had nothing much going for it besides two gas stations. We stopped for gas, and ended up with fuel pouring out of the bottom of the truck. The locals speak Portuguese and their indigenous language, and most do not speak English. So we asked the gas attendant for a mechanic, and he says no. I was in a panic, we just filled up our 40 gallon tank, there was already a pool of gas under the truck, and I was imagining someone striking a match. So, we head to the other gas station, and ask for a mechanic, and we are told to follow these kids who will take us to the mechanic.

Rather than a service station, we find ourselves in someoneś front yard. And in order to drive into the yard, we had to engage our 4×4. You see, whether or not a family has a brick house or a wood rondavel, the yard mostly consists of a few trees, maybe a few crops (corn or sugar cane) and sand. There is no grass or lawn, just sand. We park the car in front of two steel poles that they use as sort of a ´crane´ to lift up the back end of the car.

So, already itś a strange scene, but when we figure out the mechanic is 15 years old and his five assistants range from the ages of 8-17years old, it gets even more strange. The ´mechanics´ have to drain the fuel from the tank in order to remove the fuel tank from the truck, and they do this by collecting every plastic bucket around the house. They discover the problem is with the ´seal,´ which was poorly sealed when we got the new fuel tank at Komatipoort before leaving South Africa. The mechanic creates a new seal by using a piece of old cardboard box and using a screwdriver to cut out a circle, and putting silicone glue between the two sides before putting the lid back on and screwing it back into place.

Meanwhile, the family (3 women, one grandmother, 3 children and one uncle) invited us to eat lunch with them. We said yes, but thought this would probably mean we will get sick. Lunch was similar to Indian saag (a kind of creamed, chopped spinach, but without any spices, and some sand grits) and rice. After lunch, the two girls played hopscotch in the dirt yard, and the little boy played ´cars´ with an old plastic tub of margarine and an old lightbulb box in the sand.

After about 3 hours, the gas tank is reassembled and back under the truck, and the fuel back in the tank. Now, it was a matter of whether the car would start or not. It didn´t. They go back under the car, and switch two tubes. Then it starts! If you saw this auto-shop in the states, you wouldn´t even stop if your car were on fire. But these kids fixed the problem. We paid them, and also gave the mechanic a boogie board. They were so happy with the boogie board, they picked the mechanic up over their heads, like a hero!

diving in Tofo

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

a-frame chalets in Tofo, Mozambique Depending on where you are in Mozambique, the road quality can vary greatly. Some of the tar roads are in excellent condition, then all of a sudden, there might be a 30mile stretch where the potholes are big enough to swallow your tire and crack your axle. Fortunately the roads are not busy, so itś feasible to zig zag between both lanes to avoid the potholes, or even drive off the side of the road. And during some stretches, kids will fill in the potholes with dirt, and ask for money for their service.

Getting to Tofo required us to take a few poorly maintained roads, but we got there all the same. We stayed in a nice A-frame chalet, only meters from the beach, and spent two days diving. Crayfish bought from local guys at Tofo, Mozambique The diving was fantastic, with high visibility, and great sea life. We dove the manta reef, which as itś name suggests, there were manta rays. The mantas we saw were 18 feet or so, but they can grow up to 25feet and can weigh as much as 5000lbs. Watching them puts you in awe. They are so graceful and such beautiful creatures of the sea.

During the day, the locals walk up and down the beach selling fresh fish– prawns (tiger shrimp), baracuda (spanish mackarel), and crayfish (lobster). We bought a few crayfish and had a delicious braii (bbq).

“I want MON-NEY”

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Other travellers’ who had been to Mozambique warned us that we would likely be pulled over by the police at some point during our stay in Mozambique. We barely made it passed border control and the first toll plaza, and we were pulled over…

We hand over our South African license, and the policeman says what we have is not a license. And that we are driving illegally. And it is” Big, Big trouble, my friend…” “up to six months in prison…” “We will need to go to Maputo to the jail…” “it will cost you very much…”

Now, while we were in South Africa we’d been pulled over a few times at random check points and never had a problem showing them our South African license. Usually after a friendly chat, we were free to go.

For some reason, the police in Mozambique would not accept our South African license. Six other officers were standing around, out of earshot from us pretending nothing out of the ordinary was happening… Actually, nothing unusual was happening. They know what their fellow officer is doing. They are just waiting for their turn to “shake down” another tourist in order to make some extra cash.

We politely asked him what we could do to make the problem go away. The Moz officer said he wanted “something”. Then he actually walked around our truck to look into the back to see if there was something in the back he might want. We pretended we didn’t know what he wanted… Maybe he was hungry. I have lots of snacks.

But then he said ” I want mon-ney”. Pretty specific. Wish I had a tape recorder. He also specified how much, which ranged from 200 to 1000 rand($26-$130).

The ordeal went on for quite some time, and he held onto our documents, so we couldn’t go anywhere. He actually called another officer over, and she also confirmed there was a problem. Finally we said we had the number to the US Embassy, and we were dialing. He finally started to panic, we gave him 200Rand and got our passport and license back.

I guess this is what people mean when they say, once you leave South Africa, you’ll see “the real Africa.”