Driving Mozambique: the western road

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In the second chapter of his epic road trip, Niel Crafford continues north to Magoe National Park, then briefly into Malawi to Liwonde National Park, before returning to Mozambique, taking in Metangula and Mbuna Bay on Lake Niassa

IMG_4903 Luis dos Santos Namanha, Park Warden of the recently proclaimed Magoe National Park, south of the Cahora Bassa lake, is a likeable man. Many years in tourism, most of them in the Tete province, has made him the ideal candidate to appoint to this prestigious position. We had a wonderful few hours together at Villa Hapsburg [www.villahapsburg.com], discussing development needs in his park. Monica von Hapsburg, owner of this delightful guesthouse on the banks of the Zambezi river (about 500m downstream of the old bridge to Tete) provided us with much-needed cold water as temperatures regularly soar over the forties in this mining frontier town.

After two restful days, with Nelson doing our washing and cooking, we left for Malawi. The Warm Heart of Africa does have a lot of friendly people, all offering their services as soon as you cross the line. Not by choice, we ended up with a whole team – insurance broker, banker, team leader and tourist guide. We parted ways with 30,000 Kwachas (US$60) for 3rd Party Insurance and a further 10,000 Kwachas for our TIP (Temporary Import Permit), all forms completed by hand in triplicate. If we weren’t the only people at the border, this exercise could take hours – definitely serious competition for the notoriously slow Beit Bridge crossing into Zimbabwe.

That night we camped at the Liwonde Safari Camp, on the outskirts of this famous park. Although we did not venture into the park itself, we had some wonderful bird sightings in our campsite, sheltered under a huge baobab tree. The place was quite busy, with visitors from all over. On purpose, we did not spend time in Malawi preferring to keep it for a later trip, maybe combined with Zambia…

To the uninitiated, getting back into Mozambique at the Chiponde border post would be a nightmare. We zoomed into our Tracks4Africa map on the GPS and still almost missed the road, blocked by a boom and many, many people, bicycles, trucks and animals. Beyond the boom there was absolutely no indication of any ‘border buildings’, so we followed our T4A map to the actual border, a kilometre or three away. No buildings there either, except for those flying the Moz flag – backtracking to the boom, we did manage to clear immigration and hand back our expensive TIP.

Having left early, we were able to leapfrog Lichinga and get to Metangula on Lake Niassa. Initially disappointed, we settled into our campsite overlooking the lake. The owner of Cetuka, Ananias Katawala, returned home in February this year to take over the management of his father’s facilities after many years in Denmark. He hopes to grow the humble beginnings into a fully-fledged lodge which will draw visitors from Lichinga and, over time, other countries. This very rural environment still needs to understand and embrace tourism as an alternative source of income.

The next day we drove south to Mbuna Bay. Here a Swiss lady has developed quite an upmarket lodge with 13 interesting chalets, overlooking the lake. They offer snorkelling safaris to outlying reefs, as well as hikes into the surrounding areas. Their staff – with the capable help of Marina, a young Swiss lady who manages the lodge – kindly pointed us to a huge mango tree on their land close by where we set up camp and had a restful afternoon watching birds in the open veld next to our campsite.

Back in Lichinga, I spent a fair amount of time in the Movitel offices, getting my local SIM card to work and updating my old Vodacom modem to accept my newly-acquired data card. Thank you Alex – without this local lad, trained in ICT in Malawi, I would have been without the ability to send future blogs, as wi-fi will become increasingly scarce in the days to come…

Next blog… We are now in for at least a week of wild camping as we head for the Reserva Nacional da Niassa – one of the last true wildernesses left in Africa.

 

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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