Boy was I glad to see the village. I asked around if there were any sleeping establishments in town/village. They all waved their finger in the same direction. So off I went on my bicycle. What a greeting I got. They showed me a room with a foam double bed mattress and mosquito net with side table and an extra room to put my bicycle. All the above for R 100 for the night.
Then there was this old man that had never seen such a nice bicycle in his life. He asked to clean it for me for nothing. It was a good thing as it was covered in mud from the sand road in the rain. I watched him clean it. He cleaned it with such love and amazement to see such a machine.
Then there was a lady that volunteered to clean my cycling shoes for no fee. Then another ran off and put a bucket of water for me to bath out of, in the special place only where the staff is allowed to go. It was a small room with a hole in the floor where the water ran down. This was a good thing as I was covered in mud and sand from top to toe.
All cleaned up and feeling better. Off I went to the club come dance hall or was it a third world restaurant which was joined to the lager formation of rooms, I was staying in. I ordered half chicken and sadsa (Maize meal-pap). This made me feel a lot better after getting some food in the stomach. Thinking of it now this was the first proper meal since eating at Mavingo two days before. I do not think two minute noodles are real food.
Back in the room and did some equipment checks and looked at maps to get ready for the next day. As the sun fell there was a big electrical storm promising a good down pour of rain. It was dry and dusty. It looked like rain had not fallen in this village for a very long time. Off to the dance hall I went where the boom boxes were doing their thing. Every now and then there was a power failer and they started the generator out back.
Much to my surprise the transport driver and another man were trying to make conversation with me. However the noise from the boom box was so loud that I could not make out what they were saying. So they invited me to join them on the veranda up front where the noise was not so bad. I will leave out the transport drivers name as he may get problems if somebody reads this. He made sure I got his cell number so that if I need help he could help. Then he pushes for my cell number eventually let him have it. Little did I know he would keep contacting me to see if I was alright on the road. Then after returning home he also has kept contact with me. Seems there was a second agenda to do business deals.
I asked him about how he copes with petrol shortages in his transport business. Why does he not have offshore Dollar bank account as he is working in Dollars. Then there arrives an off duty police man he quickly changed the conversation. Seems to me they have to walk carefully or they will be said to be going against the government.
That night I had a really good sleep that made up for the night before. I was up by 5 am next morning as the boarder opened at 6 am. Had a photo shoot with those at the sleeping establishment before leaving. They were a really friendly bunch.
Out here there are not many luxuries. There are a few shallow wells where water is raised by bucket. That is why they set a bucket out for me to clean up in, the day before. No water on tap in the town.
All the toilets in town are pit toilets. This must help to save water. Behind the sleeping establishment was a chicken egg layer unit of about 200 chickens. This looked like it was to supply the town with fresh eggs.
At the border crossing, I just leaned the bicycle against the gate and walked into the immigration office without locking the bicycle. Handed over passport and they put a stamp in it. Then I asked about customs as I had to declare my bicycle at Beitbridge. They said next door, so I went into the office next door. A man in plain clothes behind a desk asked me to take a seat across the deck from him. Told him about the bicycle and he said no problem, that I can go. I said shouldn’t he put a stamp on my document to prove that I entered Mozambique with it. Just in case somebody stops me at the next boarder. Then I can prove that I came into the country with it. He says no problem, puts a stamp on my document. He was very nice and made some small talk with me.
Walked out, got on my bicycle and flashed my passport at the pedestrian gate. Off I cycled into no man’s land to cross the river bed. There was a vehicle gate but it had a lock that looked like it had rusted closed. Fortunately the rain was not too heavy during the night. The rain had left a few puddles in the river bed. The river bed was very sandy so had to get off and pushed the bicycle across. There were a lot of locals walking across. Looks like they move backwards and forwards between the towns on both sides of the river or should I call it a dry river bed..
Came to the boom gate on the Mozambique side and all of a sudden it is Portuguese and nobody understands me. Wow, it was only about 300 m from been understood to been uneducated and having to use sign language.
Had to go into the first door at the gate then cross the road to immigration office. Again I sat across a desk from the official, with a big book on his desk. Lucky this official could speak a little English. He wrote down in the book and put a stamp in my passport. When I came out of the office there were a few locals gathered to look at my nice bicycle, which was not locked. Was hard to tell where official buildings end and village begins. About 400 m from the boarder there was a sign that said N1. In South Africa that is the route number for the main route from north to south.
The N1 is a sand road that would need a 4X4 if wet. I passed two donkey cars, one motor bike and a two wheel drive pick up in the next 35 km. Stopped to make breakfast at about 10 am. Nice bushveld most of the way. There were farm lands cut out of the bush. Looks like a no till farming method using a hoe. All fields have a small thatched shelter next to it so they can get out of the midday sun. Looks like they also keep an eye out for elephants coming to damage their crops, from this shelter.
At Magoe some men at a road corner pointed the way to a sleeping establishment. The people at the establishment could not understand me. However I did buy some cold water from the fridge. This I gulped down, almost finishing the bottle sitting on the veranda. What a relief to drink some cold water. Showed a picture of my tent when I camped at Harare. They said there is a place 12 km up the tar road that starts at the edge of town. So I decide to ride for the place as it is in the direction I want to go. Used Metical to purchase the water, which I had from my holiday the year before when we went to a lodge north of Xai Xai.
Well very nice new road that runs east parallel to a mountain. After 12 km there was no turning, 20 km still no turning, after 30 km also no turning. Eventually my water run out as it was very hot. Just when I thought I could go no more, I saw a man on a bicycle. So I knew there was a village coming up. At the village there was a road block and I was just waved through. I stopped to ask directions to Estima. That village had water from a fridge, in this heat it is like gold. Nobody spoke English at this village. Point bicycle and say Harare and Mucumbura. People gathered in amazement and heard Harare echoing through the village.
By the time night came I knew I am not going to get a lodge or camp. I just kept riding into the dark. Eventually I could see on the dam side that there were a few well lit places. However riding with a weak head lamp I could have ridden in between a herd of elephants without knowing it. So I decided to stop at a village. Distance travelled for the day was the most I did on this trip, it was 165 km for the day. At this point I would like to say I was looking for a camp site as I was afraid there may be landmines along the road. This is from the long civil war the country had. Thinking back there was most likely lots of safe places to camp away from villages in the bush. There was also old road builders clearings that would have been safe.
Pulled off the road at a village around 8 pm and cleats would not disengage so I fell down. The first person I saw was an old man. He summoned a young man that could speak English. The old man said he could not give permission to put my tent up and that I must go ask the night guard. We walked to the night guard. This guard keeps the elephants out of village and away from the lands. He says he does not have authority to let me do this. We have to go and get permission from the headman of the village.
After waiting about 15 minutes outside the headman’s house he came from another place in the village. The youngster bowed down to be lower than the senior man. Then explained my position to him. He agreed for me to pitch my tent outside his house. Then he sat down under a tree where a group of men sat and talked. He asked if I had food. I said that I do and will cook some food for myself. After eating I went to sit under the tree in the dark with them. However I did not understand a word. After a short time I excused myself and went to sleep.
At sunrise I packed up camp and had breakfast. The young man that translated for me the night before came and we went to the headman of the village. I thanked him in English and my translator spoke for me. The headman was friendly and bid me fare well in his language. I do not want to make anybody against any future traveller so did my best to respect their way of life. As I rode out of the village, I took a photo but it did not give the right feeling for how the village was.
On the road again I passed a few villages were all the ladies were starting to queue at the wells. So it was actually easy to see where all the places of water were at each village. My water was running low and did not want to push into any of the ques. So I stopped at a roadside stall or shop. It was a half falling down building without a fridge. There I purchased two Coca Colas with the last Metical that I had.
When I got to Estima I found it a dusty little village with an ATM. There was a dry river bed running through the middle of the village where government had send backacters to dig holes in the river bed so locals could get water. Water was green with cattle and people standing next to each other getting water.
I decided that I must be with in 20 km from Songa so decided not to get cash at ATM. I pushed on only to find road start going up and up. The temperature was starting to climb deep into the 30’s. I then saw a water tank and knew that they had a borehole. Stopped and found a man that was looking after animal pens. So much to my disappointment he did not show me a tap. He went into a zinc house and bought me out a cup full of water so not to disappoint him for his charity in this dry rocky landscape. I accepted and drunk it. Also I was getting little dehydrated. I asked him to fill my water bottle and bladder in my pannion. I rode off thankful for the new lease on life but stopped about a kilometer up the road and put purification tablets in the water and made sure I had a good drink to mix purified water with that in my stomach.
Well the biggest hill I have ever tried to ride lay ahead of me. I had to walk a large portion of it. By halfway the water was finished so started to keep my eye out for water. Up a steep pathway came a young boy pushing a bicycle with sixty litre of water. So off down the path I went. About a kilometer from the road I found a cattle kraal (holding pen) and ladies waiting for their turn to get water. I asked for water and out came a dirty cup. I showed them with hand signs that I was looking to full up my bottle and bladder in pannion. They were all laughing and helped me right away.
Down went the bucket into the well. It was only about two meters under the ground. I had about four metical on me so gave it to the one with the bucket that raised me the water out of the well.
Pushed bike up the hill a little way and using my straw of life (filter for water), drank some water.
The pathway was too steep to ride so pushed my bicycle back to tar road. On the way a small child came down the path and ran screaming down to the safety of some people down the slope. I must have looked like a white monster to it. White people are not very common in most of these small villages.
Not far up the road was a busy village. There was a boom gate just on the other side of the village. I tried to get a person’s attention to see if I could go past. The boom looked like a military controlled gate. There was an office with people moving in and out. Finally attracted a person’s attention and he managed to indicate that it would not be a problem if I went through. There was a sign to say the tiger fishing lodge was this way. Much to my joy it was mostly downhill. By now the temperature was over forty degrees Celsius.