Ponta Do Ouro
The border crossing was a pleasure! We were done with formalities in moments, no searches or restrictions at all, so Solveig didn’t need to have gone to so much trouble hiding her cartons of cigarettes in strange places all over the car!! We were in Mozambique! The new tar road welcomed us but the lack of signage and the GPS confused, we were left to our instincts. We followed the tar northwards for a few kilometers until we reached a tarred turnoff to the right and took that. After another few kilometers we came across roadworks which confirmed we were on the correct road to the sea.
Soon we were driving down a street lined with vendors selling everything imaginable. We stopped to purchase a data sim and beers as we’d been advised not to bring in any from home. We met Jan from Palm Tree Lodge who had brought in a number of backpackers and clients who’d left their vehicles at Palm Tree lodge. I made the purchases (all in SA Rand) while Solveig checked out the stalls. Carrying on down the main road we reached the campsite at the beach. We’d figured on spending a night in Ponta before moving on. The campsite was undergoing an attempt at painting the ablutions in the quiet season which put them out of service. There was more paint on the floor than the walls and we were asked to use the facilities at the cottages. But it didn’t spoil our stay at all and we could easily see why the resort is so popular. The sites close to the beach ( sandy) were R380 per night while the site we chose on grass 20 meters away was only R190 per night. The easy access via the new tar road will make it even more so.
Campsite at Ponta do Ouro. Grassed with shade on beachside
Luckily it was full moon and spring tide receded enough to expose a stunning reef. The weather was wonderful, but the sea not as warm as expected. We explored the reef and beach for shells.
View of the campsite from the beach at Ponta do Ouro
Besides birds there were a number of colourful lizards all over the campsite.
Solveig showed great patience photographing these lizards
The next day we moved to Parque de Malongane at Ponta Malongane, a few kilometres further north on a 4×4 track with deep sand. The shaded campsite was very sheltered from the afternoon sea-breeze, but sandy. We struggled to get Twiga positioned between the trees with enough space for our Penthouse. R200 per night.
Campsite 40a at Ponta Malongane
We awoke to a miserable day as the bad weather we’d experienced along the coast finally caught up to us. We spent the day tidying up our photos and travel notes. The long white beach must be a wonderful sight in summer to holiday makers from inland.
A Stormy day at Ponta Malogane
The following day we decided to move north of Maputo as the weather report indicated the cold front had moved out to sea there.
We returned to the new tar road and headed north rapidly covering the distance to the outskirts of Maputo which could have taken virtually all day before. When we reached Boane we found a Shoprite and stocked up with items we’d not brought with us in case they were confiscated at the border. We needed a coffee and something to nibble on and visited a bakery in the centre where we found they had Natas, a Portuguese egg custard tart to die for!
As it was a Sunday with very little traffic we took the EN1 to Marrcuene north of Maputo.
The villages along our route had stalls selling clothing, vegatables and curios. We were back in Africa!
Praia Da Macanela
We had chosen to stay at Tan ‘n Biki at Praia Da Macanela, run by ex South Africans for R340 per night. Practically on the beach, the sites were secluded in coastal scrub on the dunes.
The beach at Tan ‘n Biki
There were also chalets and a pub/restaurant.
For the campers unisex ablutions made a change, yahoo! a shower for two……. The place was well cared for and had nicely layed out gardens.
Tan ‘n Biki was a lovely place, but tanning not possible as the weather was not doing its part, so we chose to move on. Before leaving I topped up on data, surprised that ours was already depleted, and also surprised at what we’d paid for our data in Ponta do Ouro!! It was so much cheaper here.
We have many friends to thank for all the tips we’d received regarding places to visit and stay, especially Meryl who supplied us with typed notes, and Andre and Estelle, of course. We also read well written articles in the excellent and informative travel and outdoor magazines available to us in South Africa. DriveMoz, an online Facebook Group is also a must for visitors to Mozambique.
The next few days were spent at Complexo Palmeiras in Bilene.
Another shady site
We’d found a place we could relax at and the weather was great! In fact, it was very hot! We took long walks on the beach in both directions.
The local community were wonderful and friendly, going about their lives without hastling us.
We took a walk into the town and stopped at a roadside pub. I had a 2M local beer and Solveig an R&R – a local rum with Sparletta Marango (Sparberry).
Street Pub in Bilene
Along the way we passed many stalls filled with craft
Fruit and Veg too!
The weather was ideal to fly the drone but like a computer, every time you wish to use it, it wants to do an update first! Difficult with a limited internet, only 2G most of the time.
We were doing so little, except lots of walking, and although we weren’t used to it we actually enjoyed it! Getting up late and going to bed early and really relaxing in between with a few more 2M’s and R&R’s!
We could buy fresh prawns on the beach
After 3 days of this we felt guilty and decided we had to move on northwards again! A couple we’d met at Bilene were celebrating their honeymoon. They weren’t taking any chances, they only got married after their children had left home! They suggested we should stay at White Sands Lodge when in the Inhambane area. But that was still a long way off at the pace we were travelling.
There were a number of lodges that also offered camping too. We found a place near Xai-Xai beach.
Montego was a lovely creative campsite.
Located on the dunes a few meters from the beach on the northern side of Xai Xai beach. The friendly owners gave us lots of advice regarding where else to stay and other travel tips. Besides the deck with sea views, there was a beach side pub.
Once again, we were the only campers!
The beach was stunning with a reef which was exposed at low tide.
We enjoyed our long walks each day, the excellent weather and beautiful beaches made it especially enjoyable.
After two nights we moved on to Zavora Lodge. It was difficult to find because of incorrect information on our T4A GPS map!! Fortunately, I’d seen a sign to Zavora about 10 kilometers before, so we turned back. When we arrived we were met by a flustered manager who pointed out the location of campsites on the dunes and asked us to make ourselves comfortable and handle the formalities later as there were police at the reception. The campsites are at two locations. A few on the dunes alongside the chalets, and others behind the dunes next to a lake filled with reeds.
The campsite on the dunes at Zavora with individual kitchens under thatch
The following day we found out that a diver had been lost the previous day which explained our troubled host on arrival. A tourist from Italy in her thirties was deep diving on Heliox about two kilometers from shore with a party of divers. Her husband had been her buddy when she went missing! Search parties and a helicopter were out all day searching for any signs of the missing tourist.
Sunrise over the Indian ocean
We were very lucky with our weather while SA was experiencing a harsh cold front with plenty of snow everywhere. More lazy walks along the beach and time spent exploring the exposed reefs….
By the time we left the diver had not yet been found. It was Zavora Lodge’s first accident of this nature in the 10 years they’d been operating a dive resort.
On our arrival we first explored the town of Inhambane before visiting the resort of Tofo where Estelle and Andre share a cottage with a few others.
The Zoutendyk Cottage at Tofo
Tofo is a busy tourist town and we were thankful we were staying at White Sands nearby. There were traders trying hard to make a sale and we were continually being hassled. We preferred quieter venues!
One of the restaurant owners and concerned residents of Tofo had organised a beach cleanup and the result of that was this turtle made from bottles they’d picked up!
As Solveig doesn’t eat fish we’d avoided visiting a seafood restaurant before, but I was very keen to have some prawns and as we were in Tofo I just had to try. What a disaster!! Firstly they didn’t have any! We should have left but were already busy with our drinks, so I ordered Lulas and Solveig ordered a Prego.
The worst calamari I’ve ever had!
The chips were OK but Solveig didn’t enjoy her Prego either!
We then headed to White Sands where we’d stay for the next few days.
Entrance to White Sands at high tide. We were cut off for two and a half hours!
We arrived just in time to avoid being cut off by the high spring tide. We were basically on an island. The following day the tide had receded by hundreds of meters.
Fish traps, in the other direction, with our campsite in the distance behind the palms at low tide.
Our island campsite at White Sands.
We spent the days exploring the “island” we were on. The local community offered excursions on their dhows to Pansy Island where you could pick up pansy shells if you got lucky. We took our chances here at White Sands without any luck!
Dhows at White Sands
R & R
Estelle had insisted that we stay at Morrungulo although she didn’t have much information other than it was a well kept secret! T4A maps also didn’t know too much about it as it missed the turnoff by about 10kms! Luckily I’d seen a sign to Sylvia Shoal Morrungulo, so we turned back and took that road. There was quite a bit of repair work being done so we were grateful to see another sign closer to the sea. Sylvia Shoal was off to the left of the road we were on and every now and again another sign greeted us. When we thought we’d almost reached our destination the signs stopped. We then took every turn but always landed up on private property. It was getting dark and we started to get anxious. We eventually came across a lodge that was undergoing renovations and asked them for directions. We were instructed to go to the bottom of the hill and turn right over a dune. There we found a boom which Solveig lifted and we went in. Not a soul in sight, it appeared to be deserted. On investigating further it turned out to be the correct place. We chose to wild camp there anyway as it was now almost dark. There was no water nor electricity, but we could cope.
Deserted Campsite at Sylvia Shoal
Early in the morning we were woken by the sound of grass being cut. There was a man there who was looking after the place. It had recently been sold and the new owner was arriving in a week or so! We returned to the lodge on the hill that was being renovated and found a young couple there that were the new managers. It seemed that there were lots of property deals taking place in the area!
The couple introduced themselves as Jessica and Lloyd from J-Bay. Lloyd told us he had been fishing on the chokka boats in J-Bay. I said we’d met a chokka boat fisherman and surfer from J-Bay in Costa Rica at Puerto Veijo de Talamanca named Lookie. What a small world we live in….They were friends!! Lloyd took a photo of us all together and whatsapped it to him! They could not accommodate us but gave us directions to Morrugulo Lodge further down the coast.
We arrived at Morrungulo lodge without any further hassle
The campsite had grassed stands and was practically on the beach.
Thank you Estelle!
We would never have found this place without the effort we’d gone through and would have given up had Estelle not insisted that we stay here.
The garden at the lodge
Solveig looking a little nervous!
There were palms everywhere as well as other campers for a change. Most of them we spoke to were from Zimbabwe taking a break until the post election fun and games settled down. Prices had also escalated there…..over R120 for 500 gram butter and fuel at around R22.00 per liter! One lady suggested it was not a good time for us to be travelling there. We’d have to find a different way home. I posted on DriveMoz for suggestions.
While on the DriveMoz site I read that the missing diver at Zavora had been found by an experienced diving team and no foul play was expected.
But we were here to enjoy ourselves and there was still lots to see before our homeward journey.
The beach was amazing and someone had built a labyrinth right in front of our camp
Another day of long walks on the pristine beach at low tide….
finding beautiful shells and coral in rock pools
Dutch campers soaking up the sunshine
Sunbeams creating patterns in the sky
We had been advised to stay at Baobab Backpackers but wanted to check a few alternatives and do some shopping first. It was already Saturday afternoon and everything was closed until Monday! We still had food so it wasn’t a real problem. We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the beach for coffee and de natas.
Great coffee, Portuguese pastries and lovely friendly lady
View from the coffee shop of the bay
We were happy that we had chosen Baobab Backpackers. It seemed better than the others we’d seen.
Our campsite beneath a giant Baobab
There was plenty to see and do….
Signs advertising restaurants and activities.
The beach front was where it was all happening.Scores of resaurants, pubs and informal traders selling mainly beach clothing and curios. Low tide was the best time for photographs with dozens of channels of water separated by sandbars. across the bay you could see the islands of Bazaruto, Ilha de Benguerra and Ilha de Santa Carolina. There were a number of tour operators running Dhow services to the islands situated along the beachfront. There was everything you could immagine to do or rent. Just walking the beach and interacting with the locals was good enough for us. In the the campsite we also interacted with people young and old from all over.
Dhows at low tide
Children having fun playing on the boats at low tide
We spent lots of time just walking and taking photos
We found an Airush Kite Surfing school and saw a number of Kite surfers. Conditions were near perfect as there was nearly always an onshore wind in the afternoons.
We had made a decision to carry on to Inhassoro for a few days and then turn around and exit Mozambique via the Pafuri border in the north of the KNP. It was a two day trip of approximately 500 kilometers which started about 35 kilometers south of here. DriveMoz had confirmed that crossing the Limpopo would not be a problem as the river was extremely low.
The EN1 road north between Vilanculo and Inhassoro was shocking. Potholes reminesent of the Livingstone/Sesheki road in Zambia.
The first thing we did on arrival was visit a supermarket owned by a South African that stocked all our home favourites. We restocked with the essentials, mainly of the liquid kind. He never had bread as he did not want to compete with the local bakery across the road.
We followed a foreign registered motorhome down a corrugated gravel road for a few kilometers, they also seemed to be heading for Goody Villas Campsite.
Goody Villas Campsite, Inhassoro
When we arrived there were eight other Motorhomes already there! A group of European tourists had shipped their vehicles to Port Elizabeth and were going as far as Kilimanjaro, visiting all the countries on the way, finishing in Namibia on their return south.
Goody’s was one of our favourite campsites and Inhassoro a wonderful destination too. We’re so glad we came this far north as we almost turned inland near Vilanculo. The local community depends largly on trek fishing for their protein intake. The nets are taken out over the reef by row boats and then a large number of the community are involved in pulling in the catch.
Young and old all play a part. The stronger members do the pulling….
while the children roll up the coils of rope.
She’d threaded these on seaweed!
There were those we’d never seen before!
A large variety of seacreatures are caught in the nets, including Turtles which are immediately released.
Even huge Crayfish weighing up to 3kgs are netted!
Solveig loves the connection, especially with the children.
All too soon we were on our way again, but we hoped to be back soon as there is so much more to see. We hadn’t even reached the halfway point!
Gaza province to Pafuri
Unfortunately we had to retrace our steps through the potholes southwards on EN1, back to the turnoff to Mabote at Mapinhane. From there the road was fairly good gravel to Mabote. The countryside became a lot drier as we progress westwards, but still very beautiful. The trip took a day and a half and was over 500 kilometers.
Herder on his way home.
Suddenly after leaving Mabote, while wondering what the fuss about this route was, we came across a small signpost to Pafuri to the right and the road literally disappeared!
It turned onto a two spoor sand track which drifted from the indicated GPS route frequently as it made its way from village to village.
A new telcoms cable was been installed along the route and we followed it confidently. The GPS route re-appeared from time to time which gave us the assurance we were following the correct route on this section of track between Mabote and Machaila. We only met one other vehicle, a young couple from Lesotho, on their way to the coast. Both parties were grateful as it confirmed we were on route!
The road from Machaila to Mapai seem as if it was being prepared for an upgrade. New culverts were being built the entire distance causing huge humps, as if a new raised road would be built between the humps. This section of road longside the Parque Nacional de Banhine becomes flooded during the rainy season, as does the National Park. It was almost nightfall so we started to look for a suitable place to wildcamp for the night. There were no villages and therefore no chiefs to ask if we could stay overnight. The courteous way!
We pulled off the road next to a culvert construction site for the night
After a wonderful supper cooked on gas we experienced a tranquil night with a stunning milkyway to keep us company. There was the occasional bakkie passing by as well. The next morning we found a village nearby to our surprise!
The Mighty Limpopo!
When enquiring as to the route conditions on DriveMoz I was asked whether I had a snorkel!! The river never even wet my rims!
Twiga gives scale to the size of this Baobab
The road between Mapai to Pafuri was stunning. We’d never expected such a varied and beautiful landscape.
Closer to Pafuri we entered this Fever tree forest
And a final few thoughts from Twiga…..
Reach for new Heights
Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out
Preserve wild places
Eat fresh greens
Be head and shoulders above the rest
Keep your chin up!