Matt and Rachel's African travel blog
Following our relaxing holiday from travelling on Zanzibar Island, the next stage of our journey was the beginning of the end… the four thousand-or-so kilometre drive down the coconut palm fringed Indian Ocean coastline to our end point: Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
However, before even entering Mozambique, we still had around 800km left to travel south to the Tanzania/Mozambique border crossing at the Ruvuma River. As you can see below, we took advantage of the trees to get our fix of fresh coconut juice. We definitely didn’t stage these pictures after getting help from the highly skilled local staff.
Of all the parts of our travel so far, this border crossing and the subsequent travel through northern Mozambique was the part we were most uncertain about, because it was not a major tourist (or indeed vehicle!) route, and we had seen some conflicting information about whether it was even possible, especially in the rainy season.
For these reasons, and because they’re cool, we chose to join forces with a Dutch couple (Jannie and Roetje), whom we had previously met in Malawi, and travel this section together in convoy. One example of their coolness was that they had walkie-talkies for communications on the move.
As for the border crossing itself, there was indeed a seaworthy-looking car ferry. This was a reassuring start, given that we’d seen reports that a previous ferry had sunk several years earlier. Because of this incident, there was apparently a period when people would tie their vehicles to a raft made out of dugout canoes with an outboard motor!
The ferry ride itself was, pleasingly, uneventful, but we were welcomed into Mozambique by some fairly interesting road conditions, a torrential downpour, and snappily-dressed border officials.
We had been warned about border crossings in Mozambique, and the potential for bribery requests, but other than a few confusing moments probably related to language difficulties (given that Portuguese-speaking Mozambique was the first country we visited where English is not an official language), there were no difficulties. It was actually quite satisfying watching the two immigration officers, in basically the middle of nowhere, take considerable care in the rather convoluted process – complete with multiple stamps, stickers, seals and receipts, but no computer – of issuing the four of us our visas.
Perhaps the highlight of our first few days in Mozambique was our stay in Pemba, where we encountered the first real supermarket we’d seen since Rwanda! We realise it doesn’t sound like a big deal in our world of near-instant availability, and it’s obviously a bit of a ‘first world problem’, but a decent supermarket makes an enormous difference when trying to organise your food for the coming week or so, when you’re not sure what you’ll be able to find. For example, although we’d been enjoying making our own yoghurt, it was nice to know that we no longer had to!
The next day, 400km and an inpromptu tyre change further south, we arrived at Mozambique Island, known as Ilha de Moçambique in Portuguese, the former capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We won’t go into the long and storied history of Mozambique Island (for example the hotel we treated ourselves to was the site of a former slave market), but we will leave you with a few photos from the island, and firm instructions to visit Karibu restaurant with an empty stomach if you ever find yourself in striking range!