Published: October 16th 2008October 16th 2008
If you read the comments from the last blog, you will see that we made some omissions and errors. Personally, I think we weren't too far off on the parrot, at least it has a green back. We could have called it a purple-headed dove or something :). Thank you to John and Roger for setting us straight and hopefully they will continue to correct us on our bird mistakes. The biggest omission was the hippo! How could we forget about sitting on the back of a hippo! (Okay, not exactly sitting on it's back, but pretty close!). One of our first stops in Kruger was at a bird hide. The bird hide sits on top of the water and is very close to a group of hippos, and one in particular likes to hang out under the hide and occassionally uses the supporting poles to scratch his back. So while we are watching birds (probably even brown-headed parrots) we could hear the hippo snorting and farting beneath us. It was very cool. We are not likely to be that close to a hippo ever again. Although John did comment that he would try, so I think we will hold him
to that! The other omission was the "calmest lion sighting ever" by Peter (as voted by John and Roger). We were stopped in an animal viewing jam (in Canada we call it a "Bear Jam"). This animal jam seemed to be over a family of warthogs right beside the road. We were stuck here for ages as we couldn't get past. While three of us were looking over at the warthogs on the right, Peter was looking out the left of the vehicle and calmly says, "I think I see an hyena". I almost got whiplash from turning around so fast. Sure enough, there is an hyena wandering across an open plain on the opposite side of the road across the river. We all watched it intently until it disappeared behind some bushes. We were pretty excited about the hyena sighting and were still buzzing about it when we went back to looking at the warthogs, waiting for the traffic to clear. I was making some benign comment about how cute baby warthogs are when Peter quietly says "but what about the lion?". This had us all scrambling for our binoculars trying to spot the lion while Peter is just
Helicopter made out of old weapons on display at the French Cultural Centre in Maputo.
calmly watching this lionness walking in the same open plain that the hyena had just crossed. We joked about Peter calmly saying "but what about the lion?" for the rest of the weekend. I'm sure if it had been me spotting the lion I would have been screeching incoherently. Thanks again to John and Roger for our fabulous Kruger experience!
While we were in Nelspruit, we had met a retired English couple, Janet and Chris, who have been travelling in their own vehicle for the past 15 months. We enjoyed sharing many stories with them over a few beers at the backpackers. They started their journey by travelling to the north of Norway to experience the midnight sun and then continued through to Russia, many of the new 'Stans', into the Middle East and then entered Africa via Egypt. We swapped stories as they have come down the route we were now going to embark on and we had travelled West Africa and that was where they were heading. We really haven't met that many travellers on long trips in Africa, so we really connected with Janet and Chris, and can only hope our paths will cross again in
When we boarded our taxi in Nelspruit for Maputo we met Jacqui, also English, and travelling on public transportation like us. Although we were "Overstayers" in the eyes of the South African Home Affairs Office, we realize that if we had not overstayed, we would not have met Janet and Chris and then Jacqui. Meeting these fabulous fellow travellers, along with our amazing Kruger visit, makes the overstaying fine less painful. Sometimes things are just meant to be.
While Peter and I stayed a couple of days in Maputo, Jacqui left the next morning for the beach resort of Tofo. We planned on seeing her again there. The original plan (ha! I laugh whenever I use that word!) was to obtain a visa for Tanzania in Maputo. In the meantime, over breakfast we met a fellow Canadian, Ken, who has essentially been travelling for 25 years around the world on his bike. He convinced us we could get a visa at the border so we chucked the Tanzania Embassy for sight seeing around Maputo. For a capital, it is a very relaxed city with no hassles and no much hustle or bustle. There is also not
an awful lot to see, but we enjoy walking around and just getting a feel for a city. One of the highlights was to see the "Iron House" built by Eiffel (same man who engineered the Eiffel Tower). No one has ever lived in the Iron House, as they discovered it is not well suited to the hot, humid climate of Maputo (surprise, surprise!). It currently houses the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and I do not envy the employees that must work in this building everyday, even with the addition of the air conditioners it is still very hot and uncomfortable.
We also stopped off at the French Cultural Centre on the way and enjoyed a wander through the lovely shaded grounds, art exhibit and displays. One thing that the French Cultural Centre is known for is it's Weapon Art. A Maputo artist has taken old weapons and armaments and has created large sculptures. I hope the photos do the art justice. As we stood looking at these pieces you could pick out the rifles, hand grenades, pistols, bullets, ammunition magazines etc. A very unique way to celebrate the end of the civil war that tore Mozambique apart
for two decades.
We departed on a shuttle from Maputo that would take us directly to the beach resort area of Tofo. The bus was jam packed and we were reminded that we have left the civilization of South Africa that we were getting very used to. We were very lucky to not have to walk 2 km on a sandy track from the bus stop to the beach lodge we were staying at. A supply truck was passing by as we were getting off the bus and the driver flagged them down for us. It would have been a very hot, sweaty and dusty walk. Bamboozi Beach Lodge was our home for the next 6 days. It was hard to tear ourselves away from this beach paradise, but we eventually did. We ran into Jacqui on the beach and met Sarah another English gal. We didn't know it then, but the four us were to become fast friends. While at Bamboozi we also met Joe and Hoai (pronounced 'Why'), an English couple on their honeymoon in Mozambique. It truly was the English Invasion! Luckily, Sarah is a woman after my own heart and she had already scoped out
the best place in Tofo - The Bread Shack. The Bread Shack is a small reed construction bakery that makes the best donuts in Mozambique. It was so funny to be in this tiny town on the coast and be eating huge delicious donuts fresh baked every day! The hardest part was choosing between jelly, chocolate or plain and it was very sad when they ran out.
The highlight of the stay at Bamboozi has to be the snorkling safari. They advertise it as snorkling with Manta Rays, Dolphins, and Whale Sharks. For those of you who are like me and know nothing about Whale Sharks, they are the biggest fish in the oceans. They grow to massive lengths and are harmless as they eat only plankton. Some one can tell you they are harmless, but when one is swimming straight for you, your heart definitely skips several beats! We had a perfect day for the snorkling safari, hot, sunny and relatively calm. I am so proud of Peter for jumping into the ocean swells and snorkling for the very first time. We all thought it was pretty incredible to say the first time he ever snorkled he was
swimming with Whale Sharks!! We did see a couple of Manta Rays, they are huge and so graceful under the water, like watching a large, graceful bird. The Whale Sharks were spectacular. I'm not sure I can even describe it. The photos we have are from a Canadian girls underwater digital camera that she shared. We bought an underwater film camera and took several photos, but we have yet to develop the photos. The digital photos were mostly taken by the safari leader, so he had plenty of experience diving with the Whale Sharks and got some great photos. I'm not sure my amateur photos will show anything at all!
When the first Whale Shark was spotted they tell you which direction it is heading in and to get in the water. I jumped in off the opposite side of the boat and started to swim toward the Whale Shark when I realized it was swimming right toward me! It was an amazing experience to see this massive creature with it's huge head and mouth swimming right toward me. As it passed beneath me, I turned myself around to swim behind it and I got very close to it's
Beach in front of Bamboozi Backpackers.
powerful tail. Wow! Wow! Wow! Both Peter and I got excellent views of the Whale Shark and we count the snorkling safari as a highlight of the trip. The worst part was getting back into the boat. I had to be hauled in each and every time and have the bruises all over my body to prove it. It was still worth it and I would recommed the trip to anyone! We were lucky, the previous two trips didn't see any Whale Sharks and then it was postponed due to windy conditions for a few days. We were very lucky and I promise Jacqui, we are not rubbing it in!
It turned out that Jacqui, Sarah, Peter and I would be travelling up the coast on the same day (Peter and I were due to leave a day earlier, but an evening of imbibing in wine and beer meant we were delayed a day due to my fragile state - read: hungover!). The destination: Vilankulos. Joe and Hoai were also heading that way, in a day or two. The day we travelled to Vilankulos, another beach paradise, was miserable. Being with the newly dubbed 'Evil English Girls' (my earlier
mentioned fragile state was all their fault!) has it's advantages as Sarah asked at the Dive Centre if anyone was going into town the day of our departure. As luck would have it, we were able to get a lift all the way into the next town (1/2 hour away) where we needed to get our ferry. No walking on the sandy track and no waiting for a taxi to fill. Just as we arrived at the ferry dock, the rain started. We decided as a group to take the motorized boat across for more money rather than to take the cheaper dhow. It was a good decision because the motorized boat took us straight across, while those in the dhow had to wait in the rain until it was full to sail. We also found a taxi almost straight away and for the higher than usual price we told the driver he had to take us straight to the backpackers in Vilankulos, not just drop us at the taxi stand. We arrived into Vilankulos to a dark, windy and dusty day. We hoped that the weather would not last, because the wind was too strong to enjoy the beach
Bamboozi Backpackers Sign
On the back of the Bamboozi Backpackers Sign - I would have to say we are Living The Dream!
area at all. After much deliberation we ended up staying at a fairly new backpackers called Zombie Cucumber. It is a lovely spot close to the beach and the amenities of town. Well maintained and serves great food too!
We chanced the weather and booked a snorkling day trip for the next day - Sarah's Birthday. We couldn't have asked for better weather! We had a glorious day of snorkling around one of the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago - Magaruque. The ocean was calm, turquoise and warm while the fish were plentiful, colourful and interesting. We saw parrot fish of all sizes, puffer fish, jelly fish, lion fish, angel fish and several other colourful fish we don't know the names of. The day trip included lunch and we were treated to a calamari stew over rice and fresh crab. Definitely a great way to celebrate Sarah's birthday. Peter was so enthralled with the snorkling, we could hardly get him out of the water! I think diving lessons maybe in store for Peter in the future ...
It was hard to leave Jacqui and Sarah, Joe and Hoai as we prepared to leave. The 'family' as Sarah called
Our Hut on the Right
us was breaking up as Jacqui was heading back to South Africa, Sarah was flying to Victoria Falls to join an overland tour, Peter and I were due to continue heading north and Joe and Hoai were staying a few more days before heading back home to resume their normal working lives. It was goodbye the night before as Peter and I had to be at the bus station by 4 am to catch our bus to Beira.
Our trip to Beira was longer than expected due to bus breakdown. We were only just overnighting in Beira, catching the next bus north at 4 am. The hotel manager was very kind to us and helped us sort out our bus tickets by driving us to the station, translating our request into Portuguese and also organizing our taxi for early the next day. It was an early night with an early start again the next day.
The bus travel to Northern Mozambique is brutal. Our final destination is Mozambique Island, and it will take us 3 full days of bus travel to reach. After two 12-hour bus trips, we had to take a break. We are in Quelimane for
two days to sleep and relax before our next long distance trip. This will take us to Nampula, and then it is only 3 or 4 hours to Mozambique Island. Here's hoping that Moz Island is worth the bus journeys!! :)
We will stay on Mozambique Island for a few days, enjoying the sights and the history. We will then depart for Malawi from Nampula, either by train or bus. In the end, we didn't need the Tanzanian visas, as we will travel up Malawi and then into Tanzania.
Thank you to everyone who is still following along! We appreciate your comments, emails and support!
Lots of love to you all,
Laini and Peter
Some acronyms that come to mind while using public transportation in Africa:
T.I.A. = This Is Africa (when everyone pushes ahead of you to get on the bus, off the bus, at the bank, internet cafe, etc.)
J.A.D.I.A. = Just Another Day in Africa (when the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere - again!)
D.I.L.I.S. = Drive It Like It's Stolen (every vehicle in Africa is driven this way)
There are more photos below