Saturday, July 16

Trail blazing towards Northern Mozambique

Brett: Our route at this point became quite unusual because we were really keen to see Northern Mozambique (we have seen the south before). From Cape Mclear, we headed East for 2 long days, very much off the beaten track. As we crossed the river in Mangochi to the other side of town, we realised that this was a very sparsely travelled route – everyone was staring as if we were from our of space (maybe we should be wearing Space Suits in the Moon Buggy). The road up to the border is tiny and very steep, requiring 2nd gear most of the time.

The Mandimba Border is tiny and actually very easy and quick to cross, but there is a massive market at the gate where you have to leave your car. We were swarmed as we climbed out with people wanting to sell us stuff, but the car actually felt quite safe. The Malawian side was the standard Immigration forms and Carnet being filled in. On the Mozambique side, we realised that we should have brushed up on some basic Portuguese , but we managed to get through with some Pinglish, Eortugese and actionary. We bought 3rd party insurance and TIP (set price – 700 Mtc – about $21) as the COMESA we bought at the Zambia/Malawi border doesn’t cover Mozambique, and the TIP was cheaper than the Carnet (only 100 Mtc out of the 700 total). It was amazing to see how many people here live in “no-mans-land” – there was even a soccer pitch with a game in progress - I wonder what their team name was.

The tar road ended in Malawi – the first 150km to Cuamba is fast dirt road, but badly corrugated which loosened the setting for the idling screw so I had to adjust the hand throttle temporarily to stop it stalling. We probably should have stayed over there, but we decided to push on for Gurue which was the only accommodation listed on T4A on the GPS for miles around, and the area looked interestingly mountainous. We were headed for a spot called “Pensione Gurbe” which we thought from the name might be some peaceful cabins in the woods run by a friendly German. The road was much rougher than expected and eventually caused the clamp for the jerry cans to shear, so we had to drive the last 20km very slowly. This was fine because the scenery turned amazing with bright red sand and bright green tea fields all around us at sunset. The town of Gurue was very different to what we expected and it had just gone dark as we got there, and it looked a little rough.

Mary: We weren’t sure about the Pensione Gurbe as it didn’t look like it had a secure place to park the car, so Mary jumped out to ask some tourists we spotted where they were staying. As it turned out there was a Catholic mission at the top end of town which offers rooms (not listed on our LP or T4A) so we stayed over there with a lovely Italian couple and a Swedish couple. It was a little more expensive than we expected ($40 for the room incl dinner & breakfast), but options are limited when you arrive in a place in the dark. The mission was very interesting and included a massive workshop for furniture manufacturing and truck repairs. We feasted like kings on the local version of that old classic, steak, egg and chips, and then went out to town for a drink at Pensione Gurbe with the Italian & Swedish couples.The town has such a strong Portuguese feel and has a very interesting look with its red muddy roads and steep hills. Despite not getting a mention in our LP it is actually quite a tourist town and not at all as rough as it looked when we arrived.

We were travelling in opposite directions to the Italian & Swedish couples, so swapped stories about the best routes and headed off early the next morning towards Ille de Mozambique via Nampula with it’s promised Shoprite. The last section to the N1 was quite rough, but still quick. The Hilux was very impressive to drive over such long distances of dirt track, but by the end we were very excited to see tar again. The N1 was much better than we expected and we reached Nampula in good time where we found the Shoprite. It was a bit limited in stock and very expensive ($7 for cheese!) but we managed to stock up a bit.

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