Eyebrows were raised when travel writer Mike Slater decided to tackle the Pafuri route to Mozambique and return via the Giriyondo route in a crossover vehicle, better known as a “soft-roader”. This is part two of his journey
About two hours north of Vilanculo is Nova Mambone. Distances are not a good guide in a country where even the main road is narrower than South Africa’s country roads and potholed enough, on stretches, to reduce average speeds to 50 km/h.
This quiet and friendly little town is actually the prawn capital of Mozambique, and a friend had promised us mountains of prawns on arrival. I had booked us into Jaime’s Place, which turned out to be a very comfortable “motel” in the middle of town. Supper was at Complexo Zimaima, the town’s most popular restaurant, but bad weather had prevented prawns from being caught, so we had to settle for line-fish that was still wriggling when it was brought into the kitchen.
A ski-boat had been arranged to take us into the vast mangrove delta of the Rio Save and the following morning we headed into the maze of channels which are the home to hippo, fish eagles, flamingos, various species of heron, kingfishers and many other water and sea birds. The delta has many mouths and at most of them there are perfect little beaches where one feels as if no one else has ever stepped ashore. At high tide many of these patches of silky sand disappear, so unless you want to sleep in the mangroves with crabs chewing your toes, it’s best not to get too comfortable. After hot showers at Jaime’s and an afternoon snooze we were ready to walk to the home of one of my friend’s relatives, who had prepared a local speciality called Matapa. This is made from kale (or spinach) leaves, coconut, ground peanuts and prawns served on coconut rice. There’s no better way to get small boys to eat their greens. Nova Mambone is still the charming “old” Mozambique that first captivated me 14 years ago, and young women and children are still able to wander around well after dark without having to worry about being attacked.
Inhassoro is another of my favourite little towns, and on our way back down the coast we turned in for a look. I was pleased to see that one of the old resorts had been renovated and reopened as the Inhassoro Beach Resort. The old structure, built in the art-deco style of the fifties, had survived decades of neglect and the new owners are doing a great job of preserving that special ambience lost in most other parts of southern Mozambique.
The farther south one travels in Mozambique the busier and more developed it becomes, and after having to veer off the tarmac to avoid yet another “crabbing” bus or truck, I started to miss the less-travelled trails of the interior.
The Honda CR-V diesel in so quiet that it’s easy to get to 140 km/h on a good road without feeling uncomfortable. I had to concentrate to keep to a sensible and safer 100 km/h — this is the general speed limit anyway — and 60 km/h in the numerous little towns the EN 1 passes through.
Morrungulo (Nelson’s Bay) is probably the only coastal resort in Mozambique that first opened during the Portuguese days and has survived the tumultuous civil war to become an excellent example of all that a family beach resort should be. Nearby Massinga town has one of the best municipal markets in Mozambique. We loaded up with fresh fruit, both tropical and deciduous, veggies and coconuts.
A few kilometres before Morrungulo there is a little open-air bakery that’s been there as long as the resort, and while the original baker died a couple of years ago, his sons and grandsons are continuing the tradition producing hot “pao” that are well worth the daily walk to buy.
Morrungulo’s huge beachfront chalets were full, so we settled into one of the double-storey “casitas” that have two bedrooms, a huge bathroom, well-equipped kitchen, airy dining area and outside braai. The management does not tolerate the rowdy behaviour of casual visitors that has ruined many places farther south, and so the loudest noise heard at Morrungulo was the breaking of waves and children playing. We bought fresh rock-cod on the beach, froze some of it and cooked the rest on a braai overlooking the dam at Massingir a few days later.
It’s not easy to say goodbye to a place like Morrungulo, but after three days we had to pack away the spades and sunscreen, and point the Honda in the direction of the Parque Nacional do Limpopo via Chibuto, Macarretane and Massingir.
After Chidenguele, where you turn off the main road and head inland to Mandjakaze (a good option as the road from here to Xai-Xai has some of the worst stretches of potholes I’ve ever seen), you leave behind the crazy drivers, parasitic police and overloaded trucks and hum along what is almost all excellent tar except for the first and last 40km or so.
Massingir town reminds me of Ruacana in far northern Namibia — remote, dusty and at the end of a road to nowhere in particular. The route to the park crosses the newly renovated 5km-long wall of the Massingir Dam, and we made it through the gate just before the 17h00 winter closing time.
Exactly 26km (they will tell you 24km) from the Massingir entrance to the Limpopo Park there is a great little campsite called Aguia Pesqueira (fish eagle). It is reached via a very rocky detour, so we had to take it easy in the Honda, but the excellent facilities and sunset over the dam make the little deviation worthwhile. We were the only people there and it was quite interesting to sit in solitude and mull over the accidents of history that have brought about the situation where just a few kilometres away — close enough for us to get clear SABC reception -the Kruger Park received 1,7-million visitors in 2006.
Most of the 70km road from Massingir to the Giriyondo border is wide, graded gravel, and we encountered quite a few 4x4s towing huge ski-boats at well above the 40 km/h limit in the opposite direction. This worrying trend continued in Kruger Park, where it seems those just travelling through to Mozambique are in too much of a hurry to respect the regulations.
This impatient attitude was also reflected in the faces of South Africans waiting at the Mozambique side of Giriyondo. I think it’s high time SanParks implemented a policy whereby users of Giriyondo coming from SA should be allowed through only if they can prove they have spent at least one night in the Kruger Park.
On the South African side of Giriyondo a policeman insisted that my wife dump the avocado seedling she had been cradling on her lap for days. And when I remarked to the immigration official (who seemed reluctant to even acknowledge our presence) that this was a very quiet border post, she scowled and said it was very busy. I think that her next posting should be to Beit Bridge, to teach her to be grateful and perhaps how to smile sometimes!
Our first stop in Kruger was at the simple picnic area at Makhadzi, but even here the facilities are vastly superior to anything available on the entire Mozambican side of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Of course, there are more animals too (we had only seen a few cows on the Moz side) and after checking in at the Mopani rest camp we drove slowly to Tsendze rustic camp. Only tents and caravans are allowed here and no generators are permitted — bliss! There was great game-viewing and birding from Tsendze south to Satara rest camp where we turned west and left the park at the Orpen Gate. We wound our way back up to the Highveld via Graskop, Pilgrim’s Rest, Lydenburg and Belfast.
So can I recommend that you take your own “soft-roader” and follow in our tyre treads? Mainly due to the fact that nowhere on this route did the Honda CR-V get anywhere near to needing low-range, my answer is a cautious and qualified yes.
Go soft-roader…But only if:
- You keep the excellent 17” tyres that come standard with the Honda.
- You go in winter (the dry season), from May to September.
- The level of the Limpopo at Chicumbane (Mapai), 90km from the Pafuri border, is no deeper than 20cm.
- You are an experienced off-road driver.
- You don’t tow anything.
- You resign yourself to tolerating the odd bash and many scrapes under neath your vehicle.
- You carry the minimum load (maximum two adults and just your
- clothes) and go in convoy with at least one “real” 4×4 that can carry all the heavy stuff such as water, food, camping gear and extra fuel.
- You understand that in places you will be trundling along at 10 km/h (sometimes at walking pace) to avoid tree-stumps, high sand middelman netjies and occasional rocks where a “real” 4×4 would be comfortable at 50 km/h.
EPE Speedy Tents: Smart Tent in Ferndale Industrial Park, Randburg. They also import the Oztent range of RV tents and other outdoor gear. 011 793-5063;
[email protected]; www.smarttent.co.za
Thule Show Room Store, 20 Waterval Crescent, Woodmead, Sandton.011 804-2215 / 9522; [email protected]; www.thule.co.za
Dhow Trips to the Bazaruto Islands: Sailaway 00 258 293 82385; 00 258 823876350; [email protected]; www.sailaway.co.za
Pafuri River Camp: Waller’s Camps. 082 785-0305; [email protected]; www.pafuri.co.za.
Kruger Park: www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/Zombie Cucumber, Vilankulo: No bookings possible. 00 258 82 8049410; [email protected];
Blue Water Beach Resort: Bruce Turner 078 618 1969; [email protected]; www.vilanculosresorts.com
Nova Mambone: Hotel Jaime: Greg Pickett 011 957-2463. He will also arrange fishing and birding charters.
Morrungulo Lodge: [email protected]; www.morrungulo.co.za
Campismo de Aguia Pesqueira, Parque Nacional do Limpopo: 00 258 21 30-0741; [email protected]
Pafuri: Immigration: 013 735-6882/5777. SAPS: 013 735-5777/9. Ask which vehicles have been passing through and from where they have come — to find out who and what (if anything) is presently crossing the Limpopo. Border hours: 08h00-16h00.
Giriyondo; SAPS 013 735-8930/1.
Immigration 013 735-8919/21. Border times: 1 Aug to 30 April: 08h00 to 16h00. 1 May to 31 July: 08h00 to 15h30.
RSA Border Information Service: Excellent website that includes all contacts and even has expected waiting times: www.rsaborders.co.za
Anything about Mozambique: www.mozguide.com