We made it! I am writing this post from the often-forgotten but now oil rich Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado. Tis the most northern one in the country. We packed in a few heavy driving days to get here – complete with roadside camping – and are now blissfully beaching ourselves to recover.
The trip up from Vilankulos was rather mountainous for us – a welcome change from beaches and plains. It began with a thrilling military escort through the opposition party’s territory, where a series of hijackings and threats have made it a dicey passage. The opposition, Renamo, is currently demanding an overhaul of the electoral system and, of course, a cut of oil revenues. It’s a curious form of democracy they are practicing… But, after clearing that strip, trees finally soared above 20 feet, water returned to the soil and the heat became more and more intense. Gone are the days of wearing all my warm clothes to bed. The soil has become delightfully orange, and its contrast against the green forest and picturesque huts reminded me that we really were in Africa.
Anyway. We had a somewhat disastrous trip into the city of Beira that resulted in an early morning eviction by a nasty cleaning lady who hated pups. Thankfully, it led us to a Robinson Crusoe style beach camp just outside town, only accessed by boat, called Rio Savane. We set up in a thatched hut on the beach and Bryce spent days perfecting the art of cooking on coals. Days were spent reading and exploring through muddy mangroves. Evenings we spent inventing new ways of cooking with pasta, tomatoes and onions. Without cell phone signal or electricity, I polished off Snow by Orhan Pamuk (a new favourite book) and Bryce finished Mr. Nice, the biography of Howard Marks (look him up).
From Beira, it was to the Zimbabwe border in order to “refresh” our 6-month visa – an infuriating process involving enormous and painful bribes. From there, we scooted up to the Chimanimani Mountains. 3 years ago, a community owned lodge (Ndzou Camp) opened that specialized in trekking elephants living in the forest. Sounded all right. We followed our guide Jose through the mountains as he pointed at tracks and poo from either hoje or ontem (today or yesterday). We found loads of mud rubbed onto trees from passing elephants on their way for a morning drink. While the elephants were consistently a few literal steps ahead of us, the tracking on foot made it all the more thrilling. Call me a snob but – the driving safari feels disconnected and perhaps tedious relative to this. Jose also happened to be quite the expert on medicinal plants. The campsite at this lodge was so perfect that we stayed on for a few extra days to hike along footpaths connecting huts and crops through the mountains. Oh and a side note – the entire forest smelled of perfume. Such a pleasant place.
We left the Chimanimani Mountains for Monta Gorongosa, a single mountain towering over Gorongosa National Park. This park is undergoing a tremendous restoration in recent years with the help of an American supporter, in hopes of restoring it to its 1960’s celebrity infested glory. The recent threats from the opposition party have led to slight glitches in this project but, will hopefully not derail it entirely. While the pup kept us from actually getting into the park, the mountain itself was spectacular. We climbed up along streams and massive trees to reach a plateau with a handful of scramble-friendly peaks and great views. Josa skillfully navigated us back down a rather tricky path – she has proven to have a real talent and eagerness for the return trip.
They have a small basic campsite conveniently perched on top of a waterfall with a series of little infinity pools. I gather from the sign in book that few people spend the night at this campsite, let alone three. We spent the next day lazing around in the sun and swimming at the top of the falls. My pictures seem to have hardly done this place justice, as this was by far our best camping location yet. Community members coming by to observe us filled the late afternoons. Tourists are always a curious folk to rural people – to say nothing of tourists who bring a friendly pup with them.
Anyway. From Gorongosa it was heavy and fairly uneventful driving days. Mozambique in total is roughly 5000km long and, at an average speed of 60km/hour, it takes a while. Every highway, particularly the Nampula – Pemba one, seems to be under construction by different Asian companies. That road work inevitably leaves you stuck behind transport trucks wondering how they’ve disappeared into a cloud of red dust. I cannot wait for the rain.