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By this Author: bumble_bee

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Posted by bumble_bee 03:49 Comments (0)

Crossing the border to Tanzania and home

A minibus to the main road leaves at 5am. From there we take a bus up to Mocimboa de Praia. Here we have lunch and then take a flatbed truck to the border town of Palma. We find a guesthouse that has several expats working. A huge natural gas field has been found off shore, and the preliminary drilling is about to commence. We hear that the population will swell by 5000 within a year.
From here we wait for a life to the border, eventually opting for motor bike taxi which loads us aboard and heads along the dirt road to the Immigration. From here we must cross the river, and negotiate a guide and boat. As forewarned, the guide wishes to renegotiate as we reach the first sandbar. C using her Spanish and basic Portuguese sticks to her guns and beats them down. We have to go up a tny bit, but basically they have met their match here! We walk across the sand banks and take a small boat the final way and reach Tanzania. We manage to get a ride in a pickup to the Immigration, and only then realise the we have been sitting next to the Immigration officer! We buy transit visas for 30 USD each, and then carry on with the pickup to Mtwara. We have a big late lunch of squid and chips, and then take a dalla-dalla to the small town of Mikindani. We stay at a lodge called 10 degrees south, and happily relax for the next couple of days after our arduous travels across the border.
The little town is explored and we are invited to share tea and cakes with the locals on a sunday morning in the sun.
We leave the next morning on the bus to Dar Es Salam, and spend our final days readying ourselves for our return to Europe, and the next leg of our journey.....

Posted by bumble_bee 07:18 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Mozambique Island and Ibo in the Querimbas Archipelago

We take a minivan next morning to Mozambique island. The roads are substantially better, and the driver keeps to the speed limit!! After 3 and a half hours of comfy driving (we again have secured the front seats) we arrive on the island. A long single lane concrete bridge spans the shallows between the mainland and the island. On the island we pass through the local town of houses that are fill the low ground either side of the high street, and on to Stone Town where we are staying at Casa Yasmin. The stunning architecture is old Portuguese. We wander round the market and find an out of the way restaurant where we eat a whole grilled squid with chips. The local beer, is also the best we have had in Africa.
At Casa Yasmin we meet a young Austrian couple Micheal and Maria. They have made the same crossing from Malawi that we have just a couple of days before us. We stay a couple more days , visiting the old Portuguese fort, and museums, and using the internet, finally! We then move hotel to Casa Luis where Micheal and Maria are staying, as we have arranged for the owner Luis to drive the 4 of us north to Quasanga, and the nearby port of Tandanhangue which is the departure point to the islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago. We depart Mozambique island at 2am, and are at the port at 10am. The journey is simple, compared to what we would have needed to do if we had taken buses. We arrange a boat and wander out through the mangroves to the waiting dhow. Aboard we wait for the tide to rise and within 30 minutes we are sailing out. Another 30 minutes and we are insight of Ibo, the largest of the islands. We land at the beach and make our way to the nearest cafe and E and Michael wait with the bags, while C and Maria check out the accommodation options.
The girls return and we make our way to the chosen destination called Karibuni, but along the way we see Baobibo lodge. Here if we stay for 5 nights we get half price. We go to Karibuni and have a beer while we decide where to stay. Micheal and Maria have a tent, and so will camp at Karibuni. E & C decide to take the bungalow at Baobibo, which is new and of very comfy modern design, and views of the sunset over the water.
The lodge is run by a Swiss woman Lucie, and there are island safaris available with her French boyfriend Erwan. We decide to take a 3 day safari with Micheal and Maria and depart a couple of days later. Ibo is a beautiful island, and there is a feeling that it is very untouched and unspoilt by tourism.
We take a guide and walk at low tide to Querimba island, through the mangroves and across the wide beach. There are so many amazing seashells littering the beach. We lunch on crab. The return journey is taken by dhow and we must punt through the now flooded mangroves.

The island safari is undertaken in a dhow sailing boat, that also has an outboard engine. We visit a sandbar that disappears at high tide, and the islands of Matemo and Rolas, where we snorkel on a stunning reef of corals and fish. The waters are paradise colours of blues and greens, and we spot whales, turtles and dolphins. We stay 2 nights on Matemo island in wooden huts on the beach. In the evening we have a delicious meal of Octopus curry. The octopus is so very tender that it melts in the mouth.

On our last day we snorkel on an old Russian ship wreck, and the amounts of colourful fish is breathtaking. Returning to Ibo, we have a final meal with Micheal and Maria at a lodge called Cinco Portas, and dine on lobster. The next day they depart for the mainland and their journey home to Austria.
We stay on Ibo a few more days waiting for the southerly wind to return. When it does, we take a private dhow north passed the islands to Pangani. We share the ride with Kevin, from USA, and spend a couple of days at the beach. Kevin returns with the boat to Ibo, while we begin our trip to the Tanzanian border.

Posted by bumble_bee 07:15 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Crossing to Mozambique

Our journey to the border town of Chiponde begins after breakfast on the riverside with a view of the hippos. We bid farewell to Pilar, and take bike taxis to the bus depot. E's driver struggles up the hill under the weight of E plus backpack, C passes by in fits of giggles. E's driver receives much encouragement from roadside folks. We find a minivan and get the front seats. At the town before the border we switch to a car which brings us to the border. Through immigration, we change our Malawi Kwatcha for Mozambiqian Meticals and take bike taxis the 1.5km to the Mozambiqian immigration. We wait for 30 minutes before the man in charge of visas arrives, and we have our photos taken on an icam and the digital image printed onto a Mozambique visa. This costs us 80 USD each. The bike taxis carry us on to the town on the Mozambique side. The drivers try and raise the price that we have agreed on which really tests our patience.
In the town we find a pickup truck going to the town of Cuamba, from where we hope to take the early morning train straight to Nampula. We have board the pickup at 15:30, but it does not leave town until 6pm! In the mean time it drives up and down and around town on various other errands, and to have a headlight fixed. Some of the other passengers run out of patience and abort their journey. We meet James, a local who is planning to also take the morning train to Nampula. He is a wealth of information and we greatfully tap him for as much as we can. Setting off after dark, the road is extremely bumpy and dusty, and we hunker down on the back of the truck shielding ourselves from the wind. We stop several times for maintenance of the headlight. At 11:30pm we reach Cuamba, and we are helped to find accommodation by James and the pickup driver. James advises us to get to the train station at about 3am, to ensure getting second class tickets with sleeper for the train that departs about 5am. The guesthouse we stay in is just 5 minutes walk away. It is cheap and has the worst toilet in Africa. We sleep for 3 hours, and then with the aid of the night watchman at the guesthouse make our way to the back of the station, crossing train tracks as we go. At the station we purchase our tickets – we have to pay a few dollars more to secure the last tickets, and then we are aboard. We sleep as we pull out at 5am.
The journey is great, with amazing views of huge smooth rocky outcrops that litter the land. In our compartment there are 4 other passengers, from different African countries and we have a very pleasant chat. We are offered our first Mozambiqian beer! We arrive in Nampula at 4:30pm and make our way out of the station, through the crowds and into a very newly built city. Our lodgings are at the Residencial Farhana. Nearby are ATMs and a bar/restaurant where we order Chicken, chips and salad. The Chicken already comes with chips, rice and salad, so we realise we have ordered 2 extra plates of chips and 2 extra plates of salad. There is hardly enough room on the table. Nevertheless, we are famished and the chicken meal is one of the best we have had in Africa.

Posted by bumble_bee 07:14 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Mzuzu, Ruware, Nkotakota and south to Zomba

Our plan is to head north and to do this we take a taxi in the morning inland to Mzuzu, and take a flatbed truck for the 4 hour journey through stunning hillsides and valleys to the lakeside town of Usisya. Here we stay at a newly taken over lodge run by Dani, a German woman. Nick from Chizzi island told us about the place, and knows Dani well. We have a bedded tent on the beach. It's another glorious place to stay. At the outdoor seating area we chat with Phil, an Englishman who has lived in Africa for 40 years. He has long white hair in a pony tail and has done all manner of jobs, from spear fishing to bus driving on the hippie trails in the 60s and 70s. Joining us at the table is the local chief and politician who are discussing the position of the newly found oil reserves beneath Lake Malawi, and the impact that this discovery may have on the local population. Several bottles of whisky and gin appear on the table. E & C have a delicious thai meal cooked by Dani, and then take an early night. At 6am we are up for sunrise and the chief and co are still at the table drinking...
Dani's lodge is still under construction, and as yet there are no showers, so washing takes place in the lake. We take a walk up to the high point of the hill that overlooks the lodge.
We depart next day on the afternoon boat north. It is called Jack's boat, and we say a fond farewell to Dani and Phil. The boat ride is enjoyable, and we chat with our fellow passengers. Stops are made for the usual unloading of goods and passengers and we are able to get right into shore. We arrive about 5pm into Ruware and one more stop to the Zulunkhuni River Lodge. We disembark at a tiny beach with a large smooth rock going up stone steps to a grassed area and into a candle lit bar with views down through the folliage to the lake. We rent a bedded tent and set it up before dinner. The moon is up and shimmering on the lake.
We meet Johannes and Lisa from Koln. Johannes is an expert juggler, and is more than happy to give lessons to E who is trying to improve. Decent juggling balls makes all the difference. There are also quite a few Brits volunteering on a project in the village of Ruware staying at the lodge, so it's not as chilled out a place as others we have seen and although we find it a very tranquil surroundings, we are good to leave after 4 days. We share a private boat back to Nkarta Bay and it's beautiful to be leaving before sunrise. The stars are still out, and as we head south, the sun comes up. There is a head wind, and gradually this gets stronger so that the swell increases. It's a bumpy ride then until we reach Nkarta Bay. We then get a lift with one of our fellow passengers who is driving south to Salima, and jump out at Nkotakota some 2 hours later. We then walk the 4kms from the roadside to the Stima Inn. The inn is an interesting building made from parts of old boats. Here we meet Pilar from Spain, who we met on Chizzi island, and we enjoy a delicious chambo fillet.
Next day we visit the Nkotakota pottery workshop that is owned by Chris who ran the lodge where we staying in at Likoma island. We take bicycle taxis from the main road to the workshop. We spend some time selecting some things to be made and shipped back to Europe. From here we hitch a ride south to Salima, before next day making our way to the Zomba plateau.
At the plateau we stay in a log cabin at the Trout Farm lodge. Pilar has travelled with us and we have a full day hiking on the plateau with a local guide we meet called Crispin. The plateau has diverse vegetation with pine forests and dense ferns and vines. The outlook is hazy so we are not able to see too far from the lookouts on the top of the plateau. We cook a spaghetti dinner in the cabin, and need our jackets on at this elevated height.
Returning to Zomba town, we have lunch, try and buy some US dollars for our pending border crossings, but are politely told at all the banks that it is only customers who may buy USD. The Forex also will not sell dollars if you do not have a work permit. And the black market has run out.
Taking a minivan to Liwonde we arrive after sundown and make our way to the Shire Camp, on the river. It is run by Billy, a local Malawian and he regails us with stories about Malawi's history and the surroundings. In the river are plenty of hippos.

Posted by bumble_bee 07:12 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

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