010 withbothhandswaving

All would-be travellers to Mozambique are advised to read Justin Fox's book "With Both Hands Waving" (Kwela books 2002). Apart from many useful observations about how, and how not, to travel in Mozambique, the book includes copious historical notes. At the time that journey was done the smart tar road running west of Gorongoza crater had not been completed and Fox & Co travelled the muddy Dondo road to Caia.

Driving is on the left (except when dodging potholes).

R1,00 = MTN3,75. The standard note is MTN100 = R27 (about). Most tourist prices are quoted in US dollars ($1,00=MTN30), to which the metacal is linked.

THE MAPUTO ROUTE: On our first visit in 2003 we decided to avoid border posts and travel from Johannesburg through Komatipoort and Maputo and then the long 2500 kilometer potholed road North. 4-wheel drive is quite unnecessary, but the potholes smashed our front shock absorbers. The road is still not too good, but at least the terrible 100 kilometers between Rio Save and Nchope has been fixed.

Zimbabwe routeTHE ZIMBABWE ROUTE: The best and shortest road is the 600 kilometer run through Zimbabwe via Masvinga to Forbes Post at Mutare; then down the Beira corridor through Chimoio, turn left at Nchope on to the new 300 km Gorongosa tar road to the Zambesi bridge at Caia (opened June 2009). With the new dollar/rand financing fuel is now generally available. Transit visitors to Zimbabwe may, however, carry extra fuel which no longer needs to be declared. In 2009 we experienced numerous road blocks in Zimbabwe (13 on our last run) and there is usually a speed trap South of Masvinga.

Zambesi bridge at Caia
050 Zambesi ferry 5THE ZAMBESI BRIDGE: Since June 2009 the new road bridge across the Zambesi at Caiai has been open to traffic. The tales of sunken ferries and days of waiting to cross are now history. Once across the river there is 300 kms of good tar to Mocuba. From there to just past Alto Malocue be prepared for about 150 kms of bad detours and potholed tar. The rest of the road through Nampula and onward to Pemba is passable accasionally potholed tar.
ACCOMMODATION: Alto Molocue HotelFor accommodation there is a good bush camp 30 kms South of Caia (+258-82-3016436/ 3027804) and the more expensive Cuanca Lodge on the North bank adjacent to the bridge (+258-82-3120528). Nampula is an easy one-day run. However, Nampula accommodation is expensive and the crime risk is high, so we usually keep on driving until we get to Pemba. Before entering Zimbabwe it is a good strategy to stay overnight near Mussina (we can recommend the Elephant Inn and its restaurant some 10 kms South of Mussina), make a very early start through Beit Bridge (open 24hrs) and then do the 1000kms to Caia and the bridge in one day. If you are doing the Maputo road stay overnight at Komatipoort. Get through the border posts early in the day and expect a slow run through the traffic around Maputo. Then head the slow narrow road north-east. There is a good campsite with cabanas and a restaurant at Mexixe overlooking the bay towards Inhambane. A very early start the next day from Mexixe will enable you to cover the 1000kms to Caia in one day.

Fresh chicken (frango) for dinnerCarry plenty of food. There are no grocery stores like Spar and Pick n Pay. The local white bread is excellent and cheap. Mocuba pineapples are the very best and cost MTN30 at the roadside (2009). Bananas come in 3 sizes (MTN10 a bunch): little yellows (the best), big yellows (OK); and big greens which never go yellow and are for frying to taste just like potato chips; chicken at MTN50 is bought alive trussed upside down by the legs ("frango" for dinner means cutting a throat and plucking the feathers). The other surprise for those accustomed to Western travel facilities, is that there are no public camping sites like in South Africa. A spade and a bamboo mat screen make toileting a bit easier (there is always an audience). For a bed the Mozambiquans roll out a reed mat under the truck and sleep right there next to the road. In high risk areas (like big towns and the Beira and Nacala corridors) one just sleeps in the vehicle sitting upright. After one night of renting an expensive room with blocked toilets, bed bugs, and no water in the shower, a night in the vehicle can start to look like the lesser evil. But there can be some pleasant surprises: when we were stuck overnight at the Zobue border post on our way out of Malawi a beer shopping excursion to the local shebeen produced platters of fresh fried trout with savory rice (yum!).

LEGALITIES: You need your third party insurance papers, your TIP (temporary import permit), the vehicle and trailer's original ownership papers (or a sworn copy thereof), and your driver's licence. Most traffic officials have a smattering of English, are polite and helpful, and offended at any suggestion of "greasing a palm". Never ever get angry with them. These guys are just doing their job as best they can. Insist on a receipt for any fine you are told to pay; the legitimate ones, usually speed traps, will have a well-used receipt book. If you are towing a trailer you will need a red plastic triangle mounted at the front, and at the back of your vehicle. Strictly speaking it should be a reflective yellow triangle on a blue background, but these are difficult to come by in South Africa. Our red triangles found approval with all traffic inspections (and do not obstruct the cooling of the radiator). Mozambiquans generally do not have red triangles. When broken down at the side of the road the unwritten rule is to strew foliated branches for 100 meters uproad (This same practice is also used to mark potholes, but we found this more a hindrance than a help because it prevented accurate pothole dodging).

Every little village has its 80kms sign followed by a 60kms sign. Occasionally speeds as low as 40kms are specified. These speed limits should be meticulously observed. Signs of "children crossing" should be similarly respected.

The border post at Komatipoort leaves a lot to be desired: the Mozambique side is plagued by harassing opportunists who, for a fee, will "assist" you to jump the passport queue, get quick customs clearance, or 3rd party cover. They will also, quite illegally, try to charge "duty" on goods in your vehicle. They were only cooled in their aggression by a demand to see their boss. The Mozambique TIP (temporary import permit) authorises the duty free importation of a large variety of goods provided these are removed from Mozambique within 30 days. On good cause shown, the TIP can be renewed for two further periods of 30 days each. Duty on importing a vehicle is 67% (including 17% IVA, the Mozambique equivalent of VAT). In terms of the Southern Africa customs agreement this rate is due to reduce to 47% by 2010.

Diesel bowser MocubaYellow fuel cansCARRY EXTRA FUEL: Unleaded petrol is only available in the large centres such as Maputo, Beira, Quelimane and Nampula, so carry extra for the long streteches inbetween. Diesel (gasoleo) is widely available. Even in remote villages good clean diesel can be obtained from informal vendors in the ubiquitous 20 liter yellow cans. Best to buy a few yellow 20 liter cans for yourself (MTN100 each). Plan on nil fuel between Vilanculos and Chimoio (but "yellow can" fuel is usually available at Nchope and a long-overdue Petroport was under construction November 2009). Fuel is now available at Caia and then Nicodala near Quelimane, apart from possible "yellow cans" at Gorongoza village. Remember that even if you find a fuel pump, the tanks may be empty. Fuel costs about MTN30 per liter and is cheapest near the ports of Beira and Nacala. Petrol is "gasolina". "Petroleo" (dispensed from a petrol bowser) is paraffin (my dictionary says "querosene"?). Whatever it is, avoid it. Every English-speaking traveller to Mozambique should stick a label to this effect on his dashboard. And get yourself lots of small change (MTN10 coins and MTN20 notes). Fuel attendants ubiquitously have trouble with finding change. "Fache chaia (fash chay)" means "fill up".

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