Driving Mozambique: Greetings, Nampula!

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In the fifth blog entry recounting his road trip around Mozambique, Niel Crafford leaves the beautiful Cabo Delgado province behind him

IMG_7020All good things have to come to an end. We left Ibo with a heavy heart; after all, it was the first time that Elize felt that she was “on a holiday”. The first four weeks of our trip had been anything but a holiday – long days of driving, hot, dry weather, very few amenities…but very interesting.

So, south to Pemba, only a few hours away. Having an address and people you know in a strange place is a bonus. This time, we were staying with Fernando Moreira and his wife Annabelle, who manage Umaca Nanhimbe www.umacananhimbe.com, a delightful guesthouse on the eastern shores of Pemba. For two days we relaxed here, had our washing done and enjoyed a ‘family evening’ with their guests. Fernando is, among other things, a skilled graphic designer and a partner in a successful printing business in Pemba. He accompanied me to the offices of INATUR, the National Institute for Tourism, where we met Ana Maria Tamele, the Regional Delegate, and Reinaldo Nangualale, who kindly showed me around the Pemba peninsula. One of the projects we hope to get involved with is a Feasibility Study to investigate the opportunities identified in the Arco Norte Tourism Masterplan, funded by USAID and completed in 2010. This outlined potential in the three northern provinces of Mozambique: Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Nampula. We visited the proposed sites in Lichinga and along Lake Niassa earlier on our trip.

Although we wanted to follow the Lurio River’s course south of Pemba, we opted once again for the tar road. Turning off at a small village called Alua, we embarked on surely the most interesting drive of our trip to date: a winding, sandy road, leading us to Nuarro Lodge, close to Baixo Pinda. The rainy season had started in all earnest; there were thunderstorms all around us, with lowering skies painting the incredible volcanic landscape ever-changing hues of grey. Cashew nut trees, blown over by a recent storm, shed their leaves in windy gusts and people hurriedly carried valuables into their rondavels. Dramatic Africa at its very best!

Isabel and Yannick, managers of Nuarro www.nuarro.com, kindly allowed us to camp in the lodge’s parking area, and we hurriedly put up the awning at the back of the Cruiser as it was drizzling. We thanked them the next morning after a light breakfast and made a mental note to put their ecolodge on our list of future destinations.

Johan Boerekamp, a Dutch engineer who has been living and working in Mozambique for twenty-odd years, had provided me with a great deal of useful information on places, people and roads before we had left Pretoria. One of his recommendations was to spend time at Chocas, previously the holiday destination in Mozambique. This small town boasts lovely little houses painted in different shades of blues, greens and reds. We camped at Carrusca Mar e Sol for two nights. We also met with Stefan and Karine Dupon, a Belgian couple who has been living in close-by Mossuril village for twelve years and keep themselves busy in the boating industry (Stef imports outboard motors and hires out boats to Ilha de Moçambique). Karine manufactures aloe skincare products; needless to say, Elize bought a few products. Find out more here: www.belmoz.com.

While Ibo’s isolation and unspoilt nature makes it special, Ilha de Moçambique, the country’s old capital previous capital has a completely different vibe: it is tiny; one can walk around it easily in an hour or two. The buildings are in better condition; a lot more restoration has happened here, as it is the country’ only World Heritage Site. And its people are noticeably relaxed; children walk up to you and ask, “Photo?”, and are delighted if you pose with them, expecting nothing in return. Everyone greets you in a friendly manner; you immediately get the feeling that you are accepted as a visitor and not viewed as an intruder. After all, Ilha has been welcoming visitors for many years, being much more accessible than its’ northern neighbour. This may confirm my long-held belief that a tourist destination needs to ‘mature’; the ‘benefits’ of tourism need to prove themselves and that does not happen overnight or by itself. People such as Abacar Abdul Sofar Naimo, the island’s Director of Tourism who kindly spent the morning showing me around Lumbo and Sangulo – the Arco Norte Tourism Masterplan sites on the mainland – work hard to grow the tourism industry.

Three relaxed days on the island was hardly enough to prepare us for what lay ahead. We embarked on the route that connects Ilha to Quelimane and Beira: long, difficult gravel or sand roads (some badly eroded), numerous river crossings and unknown destinations with no facilities whatsoever. The next chapter almost got the better of us and our equipment…

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If you are interested in following Elize and Niel’s progress, click on this link which will take you to the Tracks4Africa vehicle tracking site.

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