Journey to Mozambique Island (Mozambique)

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.

Rachel up coconut tree Rachel with coconut

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!

Ferry into Mozambique

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.

Mozambique welcome roads

Our Hilux handled the conditions pretty well, although not quite as well as Jannie and Roetje’s Land Rover with its full diff-lock.

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!

Camping on the mainland by the bridge to Mozambique Island

Jannie, Roetje and us seen here enjoying a beer after a long day’s drive.  The bridge to Mozambique Island is in the background.

Passing bay on the bridge to Mozambique Island

A passing bay on the (single lane) 3km bridge to Mozambique Island.

Fort of San Sebastian

A view of Fort São Sebastião, built by the Portuguese starting in 1558, the oldest complete fort in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Fort walls

The fort withstood two Dutch attacks.  It wasn’t Jannie and/or Roetje, as they occurred in 1607 and 1608.

Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte

The Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, just outside the fort’s walls, was built by the Portuguese in 1522 and is probably the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cannon emplacements

Bonus cannon.

Jannie and Roetje and friends

Bonus Jannie and Roetje and friends outside the fort.

Rachel and friends sheltering from another torrential downpour

Bonus Rachel and friends sheltering from another torrential downpour.

One Reply to “Journey to Mozambique Island (Mozambique)”

  1. Brilliant timing as we have Marouschka Hartman staying with us for 5 nights, she leaves tomorrow, bound for Wellington in her small Nissan station wagon. Marouschka is actually a Russian name but she is Dutch, from very near Rotterdam, her home with her mother. She is studying to be a lawyer, specialising in Family Law, but taking 3 months out to travel around New Zealand. I’m going to share this latest Travel Blog with her, when she gets back from helping teach a dance class at Rochelle Spence Dance Studio. Oh yes, she is 23 yrs old and her main passion is Dance, especially the ballet! Marouschka was referred to our home by Anne Felix, a 26 yr old full-time Dance teacher from Rotterdam, who has visited & stayed with us twice already. We very definitely MUST travel to Rotterdam, 5th largest Port City in the world, one day!

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