As we leave the Maputo region, heading along the Xai Xai highway (EN1), we stop at a garage for fuel (where our own currency, Rand, is happily accepted) , a quiet picnic – packed at home, and a widdle. Okay, we recognise one another again in monochrome – leaving behind the technicolour chaos of Maputo thankfully.
For the entire journey the terrain was flat……… as far as the eye could see. Much of Mozambique is below sea level and in these areas there are small rivers, puddles, dams and some beautiful lakes.
There are 2 seasons – dry April to September and wet October to March.
The wet seasons carry two major dangers – 1. Mosquitoes & 2. Floods :-
- Mosquitoes – In 2018 x 1,114 people died of malaria of the 9 Million cases recorded. It is estimated that Mozambique needs $100m to fight the plight (the female Anopheles Mosquito transmit this deadly parasite. These Mozzies can be found just about anywhere in the world with the exception of Antarctica)
- Floods – In 2000 & 2019 the city of Beira was hit by a huge cyclone causing major flooding, havoc and tragedy (which also hit Zimbabwe very badly). In Beira the population is approximately 436,240 and an average population density of 1,880 people per square mile. It is very flat so you can imagine how the water can spread and how many people were affected.
- On 1 March 2000, Rosita was born in a tree where the mother climbed to escape the floods that ripped through Southern Mozambique. Her mother-in-law caught the baby in a capulana (long sarong) to prevent it from falling into the crocodile infested waters below. A helicopter then saved them. Rosita is famous but is now 19 and thankful the fame is receding.
- She is not the only baby born during floods in a tree, another baby girl, Sara, came into the world this year the same way. Miracles of life.
There have been a few major floods over the years at the coast – most are catastrophic and rescue is a difficult task. Inaccessibility being the main reason due to the flood plains covering extensive areas.
En route we are treated to awesome trees, which we have never seen before, beautiful lush green trees, one tall tree had huge huge leaves and fairy-like branches at the end dangling seeds off the tips. Palm trees scatter throughout the country bearing copious coconut fruit (they were calling my name and I tried to buy some at the Lodge a few days later but it was an unsuccessful endeavour). When I was little it was fascinating watching local men & boys shimmy up the palms to knock down coconuts for us tourists to buy. They had no ropes or ladders – just fitness & strength to climb.
Not a kilometre was barren as we drove the last 150 km towards our seaside destination – round thatched houses, macro farms and macro villages scattered everywhere – but not overcrowded. A feeling of peace and contentment oozed from the inhabitants . There are many small towns between Maputo and Xai Xai and due to the endless small towns between Maputo and Xai Xai, enforced speed limits – 100, 80, 60 (occasionally 40), and rickety road surfaces, driving was tiring.
Uniformed Traffic Police (we were warned by DriveMoz to only stop for the officials wearing white shirts with blue trousers – rather nice for a hot country) hovered around every corner and under shady trees. Do not be tempted to speed!
In Africa do not be tempted to speed, spot fines are issued, arrests made and bribes extorted – depending on the speed and the official. To foreigners this can be alarming and off putting.
This is Africa and one is to be cautious and go with the flow. The scary thing is that on the sidelines there were always men dressed in brown army uniform – armed, sitting guarding the Traffic Police Mmmm.
We were pulled off the busy road (the Ring Road around Maputo) when we supposedly had run a red traffic light (robot). NOT! We were threatened with a fine and having to go to the nearest Police Station to pay (which they well know tourists do not want to do due to inconvenience). When we explained how it was not possible for us to jump the red traffic signal the Official asked us in a nasty tone of voice “do I understand that you are arguing with me Sir”. He proceeded to shake hands with Chris and suggested that we part with some currency to “make the situation go away” and asked how much we had.
This was rather amusing – Chris opened his wallet ( smoke was nearly pouring out of his nose & ears with fury and I could almost feel his heart pumping)……………… the ONLY CASH IN HIS WALLET ……….. was 20 NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS. 😊 How on earth did that get there?????
“Ah well then you will have to go to the nearest Police Station to pay the fine – or maybe you can ask your wife if she has money”. Anyway, we hear that this was a gentle “run in” – some situations turn sinister.
Manica Train Station was on my list of things to see – as we used to disembark from our train from Rhodesia to Xai Xai there in the middle of steamy hot nights. Train Journeys were a terrific fun & quite luxurious . We met old friends, made new ones, played board games etc.
. First toilet story : Mum would instruct us not to lean out of the train windows (they were huge and we could open the entire window – at table height) and to ENSURE we didn’t endanger our lives doing this ………….. she informed us that “people empty their Potties out of their windows”.
. Second toilet story was only funny for me (not them). The potty was for use during the night only – and for pee only! Mmm, you guessed right. What do you do when you are 6 and forbidden to leave the carriage at midnight – not for anything???? Well …. In the morning my sister stepped in “it” 😊☹
. Toilets at the Stations were revolting – so my Mother instructed us to “fly” – hover over the bowl standing up. This is something I still do in filthy places and always send a smile heavenward. Mozzies everywhere – sounding like an aerodrome not a train station.
Mom & Dad slathered our skin with Mylol ( strong Citronella oil) to prevent us being devoured by these toxic blood sucking insects. Thank the Lord there are new Mosquito Repellents on the market these days.
We made our way through wide red sea sand roads, with tall pavement lights…… in the middle of the roads. I recognised the station immediately and paused to photograph it through the car window. OH MY WORD !!!!!!!!! Mozambicans dislike being photographed – INTENSELY – we were not aware of this ……….. and there were 3 people seated on a bench outside the Station, in my camera lens. Hastily we retreated leaving screams, cries and waving behind us…………….
Joyfully, finally – after an 8 hour drive , we trundled down a loooong narrow sea-sandy road. Over cow pats, past people on foot and on bicycles – all waving hello, and past a small natural water lilied lake. Suddenly a white sand dunes, clothed in thatched buildings, painted blue and white appeared.
The warm welcome from the receptionist / barman / waiter was awesome. Later we met the owner who is an Afrikaans South African lady who had been there for 15 years – since she was 35. Looking fresh, tanned & relaxed.
As much as I loved the country as a kid and appreciate the awesome beaches, rockpools, cashew nuts and gentle people, I just couldn’t tolerate the street traders, panic traffic, isolation, lack of medical facilities, cobra snakes and mozzies.
The clear, unpolluted, twinkling warm waters, once teeming with marine life – remain etched in my memory . Is there somewhere so special tucked into your memory bank?
The ever changing tides push and pull the water a long way twice a day. Tossing waves both big enough to boogie board at high tide and small enough to give body massages at low tide.
Its uniqueness is the reef along Mozambique’s entire shoreline, which spans a distance of some 1430 miles (2300 km). The coastline of the Indian Ocean is the longest stretch in Africa and arguably the most unspoiled beach front.
More next time 😊