Oh Mozambique with your white beaches, green inland and colourful people.
Our first impression as we look outside the bus window, crossing the border is that Mozambique is very similar to South Africa. Same nature, same traffic signs.
But we were so wrong, there are so little similarities, once you travel further into Mozambique you'll discover, this is definitely not South Africa!
Driving through the southern part we see a flat landscape, palmtrees and primitive Robinson-style huts, the landscape is very monotone but it doesn't bore in any way. Amazing white beaches with cute villages and great locals.
The distances are huge and the roads around Maputo are reasonable. Heading north you'll experience a change, more diversity in the landscape... the nature changes, mountains are rising from the ground and the infrastructure gets more and more neclected.
Mozambique is divided in two, the political situation is troubling. The sitting party and the opposition bring a lot of commotion. There is a war going on and there is only one victim, the people.
While traveling this short period through Mozambique we've seen burned out busses and cars with bullitholes by the side of the road. Many many roadblocks and police officers who will only let you go if you pay.
These 8 days where very impressive, but also very complicated. We've seen the beauty and the beast and we loved it.
Bem vindo a Mozambique!
We've only stayed one night in Maputo, and a short one too! After taking the bus from Malelane, SA we arrived three hours late.
We took a taxi to our hotel for € 2.30, it looked like it had died... 20 years ago. But we arrived in one piece!
It's 21:30 when we arrive in Maputo, so not much to see. We've heard this is a very nice town but we need to get up at 4:00 for the bus to Tofo Beach.
After checking in we had to book the bus for the following morning to Tofo. The bus is chartered by Fatima's backpacker hostel which fortunately was close to our hotel. The bus tickets were 900 M, that is about € 12.50, and the bus leaves at 5:00 from the hostel. Sooooo... early in the sack this evening! But first we drink our first Mozambican beer. Mmm, tastes good!
In Maputo it's ok to walk the streets at night but because we're white (and everybody knows white people are always incredibly rich) they advised us to take a taxi. We only needed to be one kilometre away, but decided to take a taxi.
Early morning we get up and when the bus finally leaves the bus station it's a quarter past six. The bus is packed with people, luggage and other stuff.
We stop at every corner to load more people and groceries. No animals... yet...
It's about 500 kilometres from Maputo to Tofo and we're only halfway there. The ride is fairly comfortable and we have picked quite a good spot as we were the first to get into the bus, but it's one big bad-trip, loud music, people shouting and many MANY police blocks. 23 to be exact.
At each small town we stop to see if maybe we can fit more people in and while doing that, the locals try selling, veggies, cookies and all kinds of useless stuff. They stick their arms full of products through the window hoping to make a living.
A small town with a lot of charisma. The wide beach with matching blue sea gives you an instant chill vibe. You'll find amazing singing sand on the beach, when you walk through the sand you'll hear a squeaking sound like walking in snow. Really weird.
There is not a lot to do in town for it's very very VERY low season. The number of tourists can be counted on both hands. There are some great tours you can book at one of the many dive shops, like a snorkel trip and swimming with whalesharks. They cost about € 40.00 pp for a whole day including lunch and when you book for two persons you get a little discount.
The weather was not up to any good so unfortunately we couldn't book a boattrip.
We stayed at Casa Barry in a nice straw casita with an enormous bed, a bathroom and a patio. The place looks good and unfortunately we were the only guests so it was slightly boring. It's a place with potential, there is an overpriced restaurant which was not that great and a big deck that could use some decoration. The sea view is amazing and the restaurant staff is very kind. The thing we didn't like is that the new owner and the manager ignored our presence completely. Not even a hello... they were too busy enjoying their own life instead of noticing our birthday garland by the casita and me telling them it was Jos his birthday. Missed opportunity I'd say, I would have given us an upgrade to at least fill up one of the other cabins ;-)
No, it's not (yet) good enough for us to recommend this accommodation.
We've also found an internetcafe which was closed at the time, we couldn't find a time shedule. It looked windows 95-ish... but good to know, right?
In town you'll find a few nice restaurants, but only one of them is always full: Branco's is a great place where you stonegrill fresh tuna or shrimps on your table. Amazing! They also have great pizza by the way.
Mojo's next door is good too. Fresh fish and a nice ambiance.
On friday and saturday nights there is live music is one of the hotels in town, just follow the sound.
There are some small outside bars too, just order a drink and mix with the locals, they are so interested and really won't kill you ;-)
So all in all we loved this town, but three nights was more than enough.
As soon as you cross the Tropic of Capricorn you'll see beautiful baobab trees... makes you feel like you're in a whole other country. The nature changes along the way and so do the roads, getting worse and worse.
Vilanculos is a lot bigger then Tofo, a real African looking town but it hasn't got the same vibe as Tofo. There are a few restaurants but the only one we ended up eating at was at Baobab Beach Backpackers, where we also stayed. We liked this hostel a lot, great vibe and right on the beach. It's got a bar/restaurant and a pool!
Our first two days in Vilanculos it rained like the sea was upside down. Our cottage flooded and the power went out so it was very cozy under the roof of the open restaurant with all the other guests.
Next day should have been as wet as the others but no, we woke up under a bright blue sky! So we walked into the village looking for a supermarket, nope. Nothing. There was a guy who told us where the supermarket was but because it's sunday it would be closed. Ok, we'll try again tomorrow.
We walked back to our hostel over the beach, meeting different locals. They don't speak English so there is no conversation possible other than hands and feet. A young boy follows us from a distance and when I take his picture he smiles at us. It takes some time before he understands our question, but then he says his name is Encinio. We walk along the beach together with the boy. It's low tide and the beach is huge, so we look at the stranded boats and take pictures. When we show Encinio a picture of himself, he laughs.
In the afternoon Jos relaxed at the cottage while I went back to the beach to stroll around. A local guy called Serge wants to show me how to find clams, he will teach me he says. We find a big bag full and talk about different subjects, his English is alright so most of the time I understand what he's actually saying. We also find some oysters and a very big crab who was just about to have my toe for dinner.
Back at the cottage we prepare the clams and have them for dinner. They taste amazing with beer and some garlicbread. What an amazing day was this!
Mozambican people are really friendly, a chat with the taxi driver or the receptionist will get you a lot of information and a big smile, as long as they speak English...
There is poverty everywhere, no slums, just huts and cottages all through the country. Because of the political situation there is not enough focus on the right subjects, like this poverty and health care for example. Wearing a torn and worn out t-shirt is nothing new here and shoes are luxury. Mozambique gets a lot of second hand clothes from Europe, but this doesn't always reach the needy. Many of these clothes get smuggled into Zimbabwe to be sold there.
As a foreigner you'll stand out right away, whatever you do. The colour of your skin, your clothes, nice shoes, a camera... that means money... fortunately not everyone wants a piece of that wealth but there's no reason to flash your expensive camera around all the time.
In some areas it's not safe to go out at night, take a taxi or a tuktuk. You'll stimulate the local economy ánd get home safely.
The language in Mozambique is Portuguese, for this was a Portuguese colony until the mid seventies.
There are not many people who speak English so communicating can be a bit hard sometimes, but they are willing to try. Young people are taught English in school and love to let you know they are still learning.
We met a 19 year old boy on the beach in Tofo, he was selling bracelets. At first we were annoyed with him being the 14th seller in ten minutes but when we tried to make a conversation he told us about school and him wanting to go to university next year in Maputo. His ambition is to become an English teacher and return to his town to teach English to the older people and teach them how to write. Such amazing dreams!
We were in Mozambique from april 25 until may 3th, it is autumn and very low season. We were almost alone in every accommodation, which was pretty cool but not much fun either.
The temperatures were between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. We've had some hot and sunny days, the sea temperature was just perfect and the fresh breeze made everything complete. After a few days the weather changed to cloudy and more windy and then came the rain. And it never stopped... No it did, but that just sounded so dramatic ;-)
We've have two days of rain. And not some rain, it was like the sea was falling down on us. A LOT. Our cottage flooded and the electricity went down, but we survived.
It was pretty cool because we got to meet so many different people while waiting for the rain to stop. They expected it to rain for five days, so for the locals it was a disappointment because of the drought, but for us... phew, back to the beach!
Crossing the border was easier than we thought, get out of the bus, walk to the immigration office to stamp out of South Africa, walk to the next office to get your visa checked and stamped, and you're in.
We've heard it is an advantage to travel by bus, because your in a group and for some reason they are not interested in picking you out of the line.
The taxis in Maputo are ok, the regular tariff is 200 Methical in the city, which is about € 2.90 but agree on the price before you leave.
Don't worry about the technical state of the vehicle, as long as you arrive at your destination it's okay ;-)
You can also find tuktuks in al lot of towns. We paid about € 1.50 for a ten minute trip in Vilanculos, which I'm sure was too much by the smile on the drivers face when he dropped us off at our hostel.
Malelane to Maputo
We entered Mozambique with an InterCape bus, from Malelane, SA to Maputo.
We waited at the Engen petrolstation in Malelane for the InterCape bus to Maputo.
Our bus should have left here at 13:20 to arrive in Maputo round 16:30. After I call InterCape they tell me it's still an hour away. The bus had a small accident, they had to wait for the police to arrive and you know drama drama... Oh well, more waiting, welcome to Africa.
When it's finally here they take all the time they need before continuing the journey. Although the bus is luxurious, good seats and a toilet on board the trip is exhausting, roadblocks, police checkpoints and an in the middle of nowhere weighing point take a lot of time. After 3.5 hours we finally arrive at 21:30 in Maputo. This trip cost us € 12.50 pp.
Maputo to Tofo
The bus from Maputo to Tofo we booked at Fatima's hostel. You don't need to stay there, just walk in and book it.
It cost about € 12.50 per person and it's a fairly comfortable 'in between' size bus with a maximum number of passengers. It took us about 10 hours to get to our destination.
We've experienced A LOT of police controlling during this trip. 23 in total...
Tofo to Vilanculos
We took a chapa (minivan) to Inhambane which is 20 minutes, then at the port we took a boat to Maxixe. There are many people trying to sell you boat tickets or tell you to go by bus, but don't do this. Just stand in line, it's really not that long. The boat takes about 20 minutes too. Try to take the 9:30 boat at the latest to make it to Vilanculos before dark.
In Maxixe you go to the ticket office next to the KFC (yes really) which is next to the port. The bus will go at around 12:00, you can buy tickets to Pambarra for about € 4,50 per person at the office or in the bus.
At first the bus might be full, but be patient, if you're lucky you can sit after about an hour. We couldn't...
But anyway, in Pembarra you take an open chapa to Vilanculos and yay you are finally there!
We took the chapa from Tofo at about 8:00 and arrived at 15:00 in Vilanculos. We paid about € 10,- pp for this trip with free amazing view and a lot of locals.
Vilanculos to Chimoio
Now this is a long way...
The N1 between Vilanculos and Chimoio are terrible, they fulfill all your pothole fantasies, therefore it took us 12 hours to get there.
We took a taxi with four people to Pemberra, which is about 20 minutes. We paid about € 3.75 per person. Then we waited for a big bus, but because that didn't come we decided (after two hours) to take a chapa to Inchope. We paid about € 7.50 each. With too much people in a small van zigzagging through pothole-hell we arrived there 10 hours later. Then again a new chapa brought us to Chimoio, which was another one and a half hour. Ugh... we're dead. In total we paid about € 12.00 per person for this exiting day.
Our two friends we shared a taxi with hitchhiked to Inchope and then took a chapa, they arrived at the same hostel 3,5 hours later than us, for the same money. Just saying.
Chimoio to Mutare
We took a chapa at the Chimoio bus station to the border which says Machipanda, the town just before the border. You get out of the bus and walk through the border. Have some US dollars with you for the visa. Ignore everyone without a uniform!
When you've crossed the border you can take a taxi to Mutare centre for 2 dollars per person, of course they'll tell you that is not enough but just act like you've done this trip many times and you know what you're talking about ;-)
Currency: 100 Mozambican Methical = € 1.44
In total we've spend:
Transportation and gasoline: € 93.85
Accommodations: € 314.95
Eating and drinking: € 221.35
Entrance fee: € 0.00
Other: € 130.00 (Visa)
That brings us to a daily budget of: € 95.00 for two persons including everything except international flights.
In these 8 days we have stayed in beachfront or city centre hostels and lodges, we had a private room with private or shared facilities.
We've celebrated Jos' birthday of course. But we were also in places where the food was scarce so everything was quite expensive, which surprised us. The supermarkets in the bigger cities have everything you need, but if you don't have a car it's hard to reach them. There are mini-markets everywhere but they barely have any products, the things they do have are overpriced.
Fortunately you can buy cheap fresh fish the beach and some accommodations have their own vegetable garden where you can shop. Not every accommodation has a self catering facility or even pots and pans, that makes it very difficult to prepare that yummy fresh fish.
We've also collected our own clams from the sea bottom, which was not only only a great way to spend our afternoon but we had a fantastic meal for free!
Just add some garlic bread and beer...
Some examples of products and prices in euro:
4 small sandwiches in mini-market: € 0.50
Pizza in lunchroom: € 7.00
Instant coffee (yuck) in lunchroom: € 2.25
Bottle of wine in a restaurant: € 12.00
Beer in a cafe: € 1.25
Bottle of beer (500 ml) supermarket: € 0.35
Meat in restaurant (300 gr steak): € 10.00
Dinner in restaurant: € 6.00 - € 10.00
Liter gasoline: € 0.90
Simcard with 5 Gb data: € 7.50 (yes really!)
While we were in this country, we've send our homefront a blog of our adventures. If you want to read this, it is in Dutch but readable for everyone with our super luxurious translator at the top
or bottom of the page!