Riding around Southern Africa on an XT250 and CRF250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by maria41, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    The place was busy with the zillions of Aid workers we have seen since Zambia, driving around in sparkly new giant Toyotas and other SUVs, with air-con and all the trimmings, staying in the best hotels and eating at the best places.

    Hotel Flamingo, where we decided to stay 2 nights, was full of them, going around with ipads and expensive looking Apple laptops, looking important with their iPhones, logos and conferences and meetings held by the poolside and next to the bar! No wonder most of them were so fat!

    I hope that a tiny bit of those billions in Aid actually reach the people who truly need it!

    Maybe I am a bit cynical here but many of those guys are just concerned about advancing their career and very little about sorting any problem. Sort the problem and their job is over.

    I am particularly cynical when it comes to big NGOs and Charities, paying their CEO and board members a fortune. Take David Milliband, a big Labour Party (socialist) figure in the UK.

    When he failed to become leader of the Labour Party (being stabbed in the back by his own brother!) he landed himself a cushy job with some American NGO on refugees and moved to NY. Nice right? The aura of Sainthood. You can almost smell it! Helping the poor and destitute! Right? Did I mentioned he is paid about $550,000 a year? Misery is big business. I am just waiting now for his Knighthood for his “charity work”. :fight

    And that is only one example among many! Anyway, moving on.

    After sorting out the accommodation, we ran to the nearest cash point to get some local currency before dark. We had to pay the hotel in cash.
    Then we finally got a shower and went down to the bar by the swimming pool (with all the Aids workers! :norton) for a beer and some dinner!
  2. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 66 – Mozambique, Quelimane, Hotel Flamingo – Thursday 2d August 2018


    We decided to stay for an extra day in Quelimane so we could plan and get ready for the long ride south.

    We found the local supermarket, with few things we could buy. Each aisle had a member of staff to ensure that all clients were watched and none could steal anything! We got water and some more cash from the bank.

    Later on we went for a short walk, everyone was staring at us (even on the ride to town, no one waved us, only stared). Few people came to us asking for money… The town was dilapidated and the buildings blackened from mould and dirt. The only nice and clean building was the massive new mosque in the town centre.

    We saw few Chinese and middle eastern/Asian looking guys walking around town, but the local beggars ignored them.

    Throughout our ride since Namibia we saw plenty of evidence of Chinese influence, factories, land, processing plants… maybe all these are part of the Belt and Road initiative and access natural resources. This has been the same in Central Asia where many new roads have been built by the Chinese.

    The climate was more tropical with a lot of humidity. For the 1st time in this trip, we had air-con in the room and we made full use of it.
  3. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 67 – Mozambique, near Gorongosa – Kapulana Hotel – Friday 3rd August – 450kms


    From my research online I knew there would be hardly any accommodation on the only road taking us south.

    So, making the most of the Flamingo Hotel Wi-Fi, I found a hotel midway to the touristic regions of Mozambique, and I booked a room by email with Kapulana hotel, located near the Gorongosa region (or Gorgonzola, as Alistair quickly renamed it!)

    As it was rather far, a food 450kms, we decided to leave very early.

    We were packed and riding soon before 8am. With plenty of time to get there we stopped for fuel. We had few snacks and lots of water.

    As we left the hotel, my bike started to play and was stalling repeatedly when stuck in the traffic of Quelimane. Everyone will know what I mean by ‘bike breakdown paranoia’! Every noise the bike made I was thinking ‘this is not right!”. My paranoia was over the roof. Eventually as we did not have to stop and go, once we pulled away from town, the bike behaved. But I was concerned!

    What we had not prepared for was the absolutely awful state of the road.

    The first 200kms were fine, then soon before Caia and crossing one of the very few bridges over the mighty Zambezi river, it all went from bad to worse!

    It started with few potholes, then many, then the size of craters, some big enough to swallow the entire bike!

    [​IMG]


    This section was actually pretty good but it gives you an idea. Imagine craters sometimes 1 or even 1,5 meters deep, everywhere, trying to ride on the edge between two of them, with nowhere else to avoid them, or riding inside and then out. The bikes took quite a battering:

    [​IMG]



    We had few short sections of good road where we could speed up, but mainly, it was bad to the extreme. I had never seen anything like that. Not in South America, not in Russia or central Asia, not in Mongolia, not even anywhere else we went around southern Africa. It was that bad.
  4. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    As the day progressed we did not progress too much, but we kept going.

    By 3pm, our shadows were getting longer.

    By 4pm, we were hoping to be closer. As we bumped, swerved and fell into those giants craters I started getting more and more worried.

    The road was covered in sand, with the very long shadows from the trees and the sun very low in the horizon, it was very hard to actually see the holes and judge the depth of the potholes until we were nearly inside.


    If we had to press on after dark, it would be near impossible with our pathetic lights on the bikes! It was no safe to stop anywhere and camp. Eventually, as it got dark, I saw the sign for the hotel. We just about made it before night by the skin of our teeth, covered in dust and sand and exhausted. It had been a very long difficult ride.



    Through this region we saw true poverty, women and children walking bare feet, no sign of schools, churches, or even mosques (which usually were in every village since Zambia).


    People were living in mud or even wood huts, a small kid that I glanced at as I passed, had a very distended stomach, a clear sign of malnutrition… the region seemed forgotten by everyone including God (or I least its minions and churches/temples/mosques…) .


    It was obvious that very few tourists ever ventured around here, as everyone stared at us as if were aliens.


    [​IMG]
  5. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    The Portuguese wrestled control of Mozambique coast from the Arabs between 1500 and 1700. Many trouble and wars for control followed. By the early 20thcentury, Portugal had shifted administration of Mozambique to large private companies.


    Between 1964 and 1975 communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread across Africa, leading to a war of independence in Mozambique. In 1975, it became independent. The Portuguese left overnight I was told.

    FRELIMO, a communist inspired government took control. An anti-communist national resistance movement, RENAMO was formed. It was initially funded by the Rhodesian intelligence service (now Zimbabwe) and the apartheid South African government, to stop the spread of communism (helped by the CIA?) .

    The civil war that ensued ended allegedly in 1994 but right until last year, 2017, RENAMO was still active in the country and attacks were frequent. The region we crossed was until recently a stronghold of RENAMO and very unsafe. Travellers had to join military convoys for protection.

    This was over when we rode there, but the insecurity was still plain to see.

    When we stopped at rare fuel stations, they would often have 2 armed guards.

    On one instance, the guard came to speak to us, all relaxed and happy. Then an SUV arrived, full of men at the back, and his attitude changed completely. I could see he was nervous and checking the truck, the men, clutching his riffle, ready for action, while looking for any sign of danger.

    One thing struck me few weeks later when remembering this section. In that entire region, we never saw any farm animals, no donkeys, goats, lambs, chicken, not even birds. Wild birds! We did not hear any bird either during our stops. It was usually a forested zone, so where had all the wild birds gone? Had the locals eaten all the wildlife including the tiniest of birds? It was a depressing thought.
  6. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    So we made it safely to Hotel Kapulana. The hotel was new, with great rooms, secured parking for our bikes, in beautiful gardens and we even managed to get a descent meal.


    Considering the state of the road we had to revise our original plan. Our destination, Vilanculo, was a good 500km further south. With the road in such a horrendous state, we could not make it in one day. Scouring the Internet we found 2 places on the way. One was about 80$ for a room, the other one was slightly cheaper and was midway… and more…exotic!
  7. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 68 – Mozambique, Muxungue, Hotel Canindica, Saturday 4th August – 240kms


    We left around 9am. The road was still horrid for a good 75kms. It took us 2 hours to ride that distance.

    Then we got to the good road at last. We made finally good progress and got to our stop for the night early afternoon.

    The region seemed less poor, with many schools and neat villages, still some mud huts and wood huts, but more brick buildings, markets, villages and people wearing shoes, many moped and bicycles around, churches, mosques, and all that is in between.

    Africa, or at last the part we covered, seem to be a very big hunting ground for all religions, as I never saw so many religious buildings everywhere: churches of all nomination, mosques etc…

    The hotel was adequate and fairly cheap. It was behind a big gate with big grounds. We parked the bikes in front of our room. They even had a restaurant where some locals were having very late lunch (or early dinner?). So we had our evening meal there.
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  8. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 69 – Mozambique, Vilanculo, - 260kms - Sunday 5th of August


    Despite what we were told by the staff at the hotel, the road was actually not too bad. Some sections were damaged and turned into a dirt track, but it was easy to maintain speed.


    We arrived at our destination sooner than expected, early afternoon. The first place we had in mind, the Baobab beach camp, was full.


    [​IMG]




    We then rode to the Beach Village Backpackers Camp, few hundreds meters down the same lane. It was empty. Not a single guest. That is never a good sign. However, the place looked very nice, so we took a hut with en-suite bathroom, as rustic as you can expect, although the price tag was not, at 45$. But then, it is a popular town with holidaymakers, with prices to match.



    The hut was missing bed sheets, towels and even toilet paper. The floor was dirty and covered with dirt and dead flies.


    I asked the guy at reception to remedy this and a woman came who could really not be bothered! The dead flies remained but at least we had bed sheets and towels as they were supposed to be provided! I washed some of my clothes in the sink while Alistair went into town to find a shop, as we needed drinking water at least. The tap water in Mozambique was not drinkable.


    We were not sure if the place would provide dinner or any sort of food. The two women who apparently worked there, were busy sunbathing by the pool, giving me dirty looks because I had dared to disturbed them and asked for towels and bed linen! The guy in charge of the bar and reception was sleeping near the bar. Some places are so welcoming!



    We walked along the beach at 4:30pm to get some sort of dinner at the nearby Baobab beach camp. The place was full, lively, with smiling staff serving drinks and dinner in the well-kept gardens, a receptionist arranging excursions and WiFi working! It was such a contrast with our camp!


    The lady managing the Baobab camp came to talk to us while we ate our dinner, and gave us the WiFi password, although it is supposed to be for paying guests only. She was very welcoming. She knew our accommodation, next door, and felt sorry for us and encouraged us to use the Baobab’s facilities.


    [​IMG]


    We walked back to our camp before nightfall as we were warned at the Baobab that it was not safe to walk around after dark.
  9. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 70 – Mozambique, Vilanculos, Monday 6th August – 0kms


    [​IMG]



    I woke up at 6am. After all, as night falls soon after 5:30 and we could not wander in the village at night, there was not much to do. Our camp was dead, the small bar was closed as there was no staff to be seen anywhere, with no WiFi or anything else to do, we read a bit and slept early.


    I read a bit (I was quite hooked by the Shetland Murder mysteries series and reading my way through the whole 7 books from Anne Cleeves) and by 7am we had a look around to check if there would be some breakfast on offer or some menu. I don’t think they ever serve any food there despite the claims online.


    All was quiet, the grounds completely empty, no staff to be seen around, so we walked, once again via the beach, to the Baobab beach camp. There were people having breakfast, there was a long menu to choose from, free coffee on offer… Paradise! I took an omelette with bacon. It was huge! I could not finish!


    [​IMG]
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  10. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    We used the Baobab Wi-Fi for some planning and finding a place to stay in our next destination.


    We had decided to leave the following day, as our camp was not pleasant with really unfriendly staff that treated us like we were an inconvenience to them and the Baobab was fully booked. It was high season and everything seemed to be so fully booked everywhere, so we decided to secure a place before getting to Tofo, a very popular place for South Africans holidaying in south Mozambique.


    All accommodation there was fairly full too but we booked a B&B more expensive than our usual backpacker places.



    After that we went for a walk into town.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    Traditional huts we have seen everywhere:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    We went back to the Baobab to have a drink and an early dinner before dark. With Alistair we shared a very hot (plenty of chillies ) pizza. As we were finishing, a family (south African tourists I guess) sitting on the table next to ours offered us some grilled fish. They had been off fishing and caught a 1.5m fish weighting a good 38kgs. They could not eat it all! It was delicious!


    After that, completely stuffed, we went back to our depressing camp, before dark, for another early night. This time, with power cuts, there was really not much to do.
  11. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    The way you word things captures the scene completely. Excellent.
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  12. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 71 – Mozambique, Tofinho – Lobster Chalets – Tuesday 7th of August, 320kms


    We woke up at 6 am and started packing.

    As we asked the lad at the bar for the bill, he seemed surprised we would leave earlier than initially planned. What did he expect? It seems the owner of the place lives in Maputo and no one was supervising. It is a wonder how someone can decide to start a business in hospitality and not check the competition and wonder why it is that the Baobab next door is fully booked for months in advance while this place was empty.


    The weather was very foggy but we were ready to go before 8. We stopped in the village for fuel, and then at the local bank to get some cash. The fog slowly lifted as we travelled south.


    As the day progressed, it got very hot. We stopped few times to refuel and to drink water. The road was in good condition so we made good progress. The many police check points did not pay us any attention. We arrived at Tofinho by early afternoon.


    Tofo (and nearby Tofinho) is popular with South Africans for surfing and diving, so it tends to be very busy.


    Finding the guesthouse was another problem. The very steep and damaged track that the GPS wanted to take us through was really too damaged for us. Eventually, after a bit of search and faff around, we arrived at the Lobster Chalets.


    Our chalet was great, big, clean, with a private terrace, which contained a small kitchen sink and fridge. It was very luxurious.


    The bar restaurant was on a roof terrace with a very nice view over the Indian Ocean. The WiFi worked, the bar was an Honesty bar and we were close enough from town to get supplies. Amazing place.


    [​IMG]
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  13. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 72 and 73 – Mozambique, Tofinho, Lobster chalets – weds. 8th and Thursday 9th August, 0kms


    From the breakfast terrace, every morning around 7:30, while working our way through the massive included breakfast, we could see whales playing in the ocean and jumping off the water. It was amusing to see, an hour later, when they were gone, the Zodiac boats, full of tourists, going all over trying to find the whales! We just had to sit early morning to check them out!



    We explored Tofinho, a small and very pleasant village, and had a couple of excellent lunches in a little shack:

    [​IMG]


    We also found a bar, the next day that served Caipirinhas! A real taste of Brazil! We spent 2 years living in Rio de Janeiro, and although some aspects were very difficult (insane bureaucracy) the outdoor lifestyle, the friendliness and easy-going nature of the Cariocas was fantastic.


    We did not do much other than few long walks around the beach and the village. We had a relaxing time. The area was full of tourists, coming to fish, see the whales, dive, surf and party. As a result, it attracted a fairly young crowd.
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  14. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 74 and 75 – Mozambique, near Chidenguele, Sunset Beach Lodge, 240kms – 10thand 11thof August


    Most places I investigated online seemed still fully booked for our dates. I found the Sunset Beach lodge online. They had small self-catering chalets and camping ground at a good price.

    So we left Tofinho after a huge breakfast and rode through few miles of sandy trails, then we picked up the tarmac and the main road south.

    We arrived at the turn off from Chidenguele early afternoon. Then it was 6 kms of sandy track to the lodge.

    Why is it that everywhere we go, we always end up riding few miles of sand to get to camp? I hate sand! Riding sand is hard! This one was usual with sections of deep fluffy sand that sent my front wheel all loose. I managed to keep control and made it to the lodge. The day was incredibly hot and by the time I wrestled my bike through the sand I was drenched!

    The camping area was just deep sand, which was not great. Although our small tent is dome style, and can potentially be used without pegs, using pegs help opening the sides and makes the tent more roomy. The chalets were 2600 Meticals a night (About $40), so we took the comfortable option!

    The place looked deserted but as we took the path down the beach we came across a group of South Africans fishing.


    [​IMG]
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  15. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Back at the lodge, a local family with 2 kids (maybe from Maputo?) were lounging by the pool and then having dinner.

    By dinnertime, half an hour after we ordered dinner, a large group of Italians (10 or 12 of then) turned up. I knew what would happen. Those organised tours usually pre order their food. While the cook prepared their food, we waited. 2 hours after our order went off, we finally had our dish, after the Italians got theirs.

    It was a very long wait for a very disappointed dish or bland undercooked (and raw) chicken and bad rice. I did complain with my (non existent!) diplomatic skills! Not that the staff gave a crap about it. But I like to complain! I am French, I am good at that!

    Big funny looking flower (no clue what it is!):

    [​IMG]
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  16. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    The next morning, as Alistair was not feeling too well, and our confidence on the Lodge’s cooking skills was at an all time low, we decided to self cater, as the chalet had a small kitchen. We had some left over bread from Tofinho and some peanut butter. So that was breakfast with coffee.

    Then Alistair took my bike and rode to the village. From the various little shops, he came to get some onions here, a green pepper there, a can of tuna in another shack, a can of beans and a can of chopped tomatoes. He also found some sort of spicy powder.

    With all those ingredients I cooked a nice and tasty dish for lunch and dinner. The onions and peppers were incredibly sweet and full of taste, in this region.

    I tried to do some planning, but without WiFi, it was difficult, I could only use my paper map. As it was a big bank holiday in South Africa, we suspected that the border point would be very busy and with very long queues on Sunday.

    I had booked a hotel in Nelspruit, South Africa, for Monday night, and we also had ordered tyres from a motorcycle shop, over there. The town was only 100kms from the border point. We though it would be better to cross into South Africa early Monday morning and avoid long queues.

    As usual, the moment you step out the plan changes...
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  17. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

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    Love the RR Maria! When you refer to money[$}, is this in U.S. dollars?
  18. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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    Great report! For camping in sand you really have to dig a hole and bury a large stick or a bag of sand. Then tie off to that. It works great.
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  19. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Hi Joe, thanks :-). It has been such a wonderful trip!

    Yes if I refer to dollars it is usually USD as I use it as a benchmark because the local currencies fluctuate so much. If quote in local currency and usually put the equivalent value in USD.
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  20. Samanjo

    Samanjo Been here awhile

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    The beautiful plant you refer to, is called a Cycad and it grows here where I live as well
    Scientific name: Cycadophyta
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