Published: November 25th 2011November 25th 2011
Our chums in Blantyre had recommended staying in Chocas. It wasn't particularly clear why though. The town itself was slightly run down holiday homes - but it clearly wasn’t holiday season. We chugged the L200 through the town - no shops or business - to find a sea front lodge to stay at. The sea front after Chocas town is dominated by a long spit of white sand dunes. It has been designated a nature reserve and split into touristicos of small campsites and lodge cum restaurants. We spotted 3 potential lodges and as it was now dark we were keen to find a base. 2 of them were deserted and locked up while the other bizarrely claimed to by fully booked despite an empty car par. We had 2 options left either hope the Carrusca Mar Sol hotel was open or bankrupt ourselves at the $800per night coral lodge. We plumped for the former and eventually found it tucked at the Northern tip of Chocas. We rolled in to find 4 ridiculously stoney faced staff and no guests. It took 3 hugs each from me before they finally warmed up and found us a couple of doubles with a/c (bliss).
The much needed shower after 2 days on the road was cold. I noticed the shower head had a heat setting but was electrically powered. Having threaded the loose and bare positive and neutral wires into the euro socket I was treated to 2 minutes of excellent hot jets followed by a thumping jolt as 110v was efficiently conducted by the water over my whole body. Dinner was little better as encroute starters turned out to be cheese toasties (from a student toastie machine). I hit the jackpot for mains with a whopping lobster (heavily garliced). Tim and Suzi shared the fish of the day. After much inspection and deliberation on the contents of a large pot it emerged that they had been served fish jawbone stew. It was supplemented with generous helpings of rice and washed down with Laurantina beer.
To be fair the little place wasn’t too bad and we had a good night's kip. We had just come a long way and needed a bigger pay off for our efforts than a 2* resort with no sea view and dodgy RnB tunes piped through a broken PA system. After shabby breakfast we decided to
explore Chocas better in the daylight. The beach itself was beautiful, white sands, black volcanic rock, aquamarine waters and local freedivers scooping up ma-hossive crayfive from the depths beyond the reef. It seemed such a shame that we couldn't get access to some decent digs to properly enjoy the area.
As we headed South along the sandbanks we noticed a sign to Coral Lodge. Thinking it could be a good venue for watching the NZ v Fr rugby world cup final the next day - and splashing out on a posh lunch - we headed up the drive. Met by a dapper security team we shown the whole resort. It was definitely the most picturesque and tranquil hotel I have ever seen. Beautifully appointed - [the photos and link best explain]. As we were leaving we were met by Bart the Dutch entrepreneur and lodge owner. We jokingly asked the price for a 3 day stay - the price was still eye watering for a backpackers budget but being low season, just within reach - the 4 of us formed a huddle and we agreed to go for it.
3 of the best days
I've ever spent and I'm sure the others agree. We snorkelled in the private lagoona with an amazing array of fish (including angel, lion (10 of them) and clown fish). We went on a kayak adventure through the mangroves. We were taken on speed boat to Eela Mozambique the only UNESCO heritage site in the country. The island was the Portuguese colonial capital and one of the last bastions of the African slave trade. The whole island's architecture is 16/17 century Portuguese and in pretty good nick. It's a lot like modern Lisbon (according to Milly) for those who have been there. A couple of good fish restaurants and a pleasant stroll, and that's about your lot really. Towards the southern end of Isla there seemed to be a thriving shanty town. In desperate need of a haircut I popped off to find a barbers. After 10 minutes fruitless searching I approached a local lad to help me out. Speaking no portuguese or Macau I settled for a preposterous mime of hair tugging and forming my fingers into scissors. After humouring my dance for a couple of minutes the young chap asked in excellent english. "What are you trying to
say - oh it’s a haircut you want - well come with me"
His brother happened to run a small barber shack about 15 mins walk away. I was sat down - forth in queue waiting my turn - they had a good time winding me up with the clippers asking which one of the 50 afro styles I wanted from their example poster. One snarling chap who looked like Wesley Snipes grandfather had an american eagle etched into his fro. When it was my turn I grabbed the number 4 clipper guard and demanded a short back and sides. The barber actually did quite a good a job and happily skipped back to meet the others at the boat dock. I was a bit later then planned and a got a ticking off from Suzi who banished me to the naughty corner as we skimmed through the sunset back to coral lodge. The 2 man boat crew thought this was hilarious but also kept a safe distance from Suzi.
We spent our last night as a foursome enjoying a starlight dinner down on the beach. It was a great way to round off a great
trip to visit to the Mozambique coast. Tim and Milly dropped us off at Namialo on 25 October the next morning on which allowed us to catch a bus, then hitchhitch and then finally a truck to cover the 450Km to Pemba in one day.
We spent the next week or so till 1 November at the Pemba dive and bush camp. I had loved travelling to Mozambique but had been aching for a fully fledged week of monging it and PDBC was the perfect venue. Made up of a series of bamboo building built onto the obligatory white sands it was sufficiently far from Pemba town (15km) to warrant moving far. Other than kayaking once a day in the evening cool and one trip in a dow to go snorkling with Suzi I spent the 8 days sleeping, eating BBQ prawns and reading borrowed Jeffrey Archer novels [thank you KQ] in various hammocks. Suzi rested up too but went diving...which was ok with plenty of coral and fish but nothing that big other than a morray eel called Monty (who once bit the dive instructors finger and hence has the dive site Monty's Finger, named after
PDBC was a good lazy stop for a week. Minor gripes - beds had polyester sheets and mozy nets were too small oh and there were bats living in our bamboo hut that shrieked at night like babies being murdered.
Time to leave Mozambique and take a peak at Zimbabwe. 2 November - Had to thumb it back down the 11 hours to Nampula to catch the plane. Initially relieved bordom on cramped chappas by showing the locals snippets of the Mighty Boosh on my Iphone. One girl was so distraught that she vomitted her orange juice over half the bus and my bag.
New game was waiting for the street sellers to hawk their grub through the open bus windows. If they ignored either Suzi or I waving them away then I had a green flag to tickle their nose. Jabbed one poor lad in the eye by mistake, poor lamb….instantly gave Suzi and I the upper hand in our cashew bargaining. Pulled into Nampula just before dark and stayed at the Milenio hotel. In the UK it would be an ordinary 3* business hotel, in post conflict Africa it was
pure heaven - we had 7 hot showers between us and set the a/c to artic blast before ordering biryanis and nan bread from the international menu. I really do like east africa - the warm people and amazing scenery - but I'm buggered if I'm ever going to explore by shitty little bus again……..
Ideally we would have flown from Nampula to Harare but there were no direct flights. The best we could manage was a flight south to Beira where we caught more shitty little buses to the eastern border of Zimbabwe. Beira had a seaside charm, assuming you ignored the decrepit colonial building and hundreds of prostitutes roaming the streets at night.
Eastern Zimbabwe - 4 November - crossed over at Mutare - the improvement in infrastructure was immediate - no shacks and all cozy brick built houses, children playing cricket on well kept pitches. We caught another SL bus up to the town of Nyanga - until 10 years ago a thriving tourist centre for the Eastern Highlands. We caught a taxi up to PinnTree Inn in the hills. Built in the 70s by an English half colonel it resembled
an English B&B and smelt like officers' mess. Suzi and I met a Canadian couple (running a Bulawayo gold mine) for dinner, whisky and cigarettes and generally laughing at the chintz.
Next day we caught a lift into Nyanga from the Inn Manager, Guy (ex local choir master - plummiest accent ever) and quizzed the police and tourism officer about local walks. They didn’t have a clue, but Guy thought we could probably walk from Nyanga up to a place called World's View. On closer inspection WV appeared to be at the top of a sheer cliff. I thought I could see a track up - Suz was more cautious having spoken to local who mentioned the scrub was full of aggressively poisonous snakes. We were about to head back when a couple of young cattle herders (Bruce and Nyobo) said they could take us up most of the way. It was an hour's fairly brutal climb but two thirds of the way up the scrub changed to english style pasture and then alpine woods.
The view at the top was breath taking with views over the surrounding mountain ranges. When we finally got back to
Pine Tree Inn Guy was delighted that we had proved the route and was planning to take the Inn team on a similar hike - just as well as we had to do a runner from the area as our dollars had run out.
So we arrived in Harare (via SLB) on 6 November, stayed overnight in a small lodge in Avondale and then headed to the CBD to cash our travellers cheques….utterly worthless in Zimbabwe which meant we had to withdraw 2 weeks cash by from 20 different ATMs. Suzi and I were snapping at each other by this point and to make matters worse we had missed any opportunity of catching a posh bus up to Lake Kariba to catch some game. We spent the rest of 7 November in a series of tiny minibuses wearing our knees for earings…..arrrghh. Eventually arrived at Lake Kariba and checked into the Warthogs lodge where we based ourselves for the next week or so.
The rainy season had yet to start which forces all the game down to the lake and to the river Zambezi. We were hopeful of a few sightings….waking on our first
morning there were 5 elephants living in the lodge site with us. They munched anything green around us. Suzi woke at 3am one morning to find a trunk in our mozy net groping for her iphone. I assumed it was a weird dream caused by beer and the 40deg heat so ignored it and dozed off again.
We took a 4 day Zambezi canoe safari that started on the Zambia/Zim border and headed down to the wildlife area of Mana Pools. We were joined by our 2 Zim guides (Cloud and Yeboh), a brazilian couple, an annoying Zim girl and her Finnish husband. We paddled off in our canadian canoes, complete with all our supplies and camping gear. Each day followed a similar pattern of drifting down the Zambezi and stopping to look at vast pods of hippos, a plethora of birds and the occassional croc. We would camp each night on a island (apparently lion free) inhabited by elephants who would munch grass in the back ground.
We spent the remaining 2 days on Lake Kariba spending some time with the locals including white farmers still coming to terms with losing their family
farms in the land reforms and everyone who had struggled to make ends meet in over the previous 5 years when recession induced starvation had hit this previously productive region of Africa.
16 November - We caught a little Cessna plane to Victoria falls and we treated to 3 fly bys of the falls - pretty stunning. We spent the next day white water rafting on the rapids on the Zambezi (3 hours of thrills, sheer terror/near drowning and spectactular views) before gorging ourselves on high tea (cakes, cakes and more cakes!) at the Vic Falls hotel. A brilliant way for Suzi and I to celebrate our 8 year anniversary. Fortunately, we were able to catch a posh coach back down to Harare.
Back in Harare on 19 November we booked ourselves into the Mount Darwin Marathon race. I lined up with 20 stick thin Africans who belted off at an alarming rate. The (olympian) winner breezed in around the 2.20hr mark. Still decked in my German football kit I trundled around the course at a steady 4hr pace. At the35Km mark my lack of any training and the 30deg heat took its toll
and I clambered onto a passing truck to avoid a heat injury. Suzi had wisely plumped for the 10k race and jogged round with locals in bare feet and flipflops and chatted with a group of Auzzies and Dutch. We lazed around at our Harare backpackers lodge on Sunday 20 November checking emails and watching sport on TV. The next day we said good bye to the third world and hopped on a plane to Joburg.
There are more photos below