Mozambique: Deforestation, Reunions, Beautiful Beaches and Bloodsuckers.

Mozambique! An epic journey, reunions, and close encounters with Vampires!

We left Zimbabwe and entered Mozambique through the seldom-used border post at Espungabera, a dusty border town with cheap accommodation and beer. The town was a strategic point during the Mozambican Frelimo-Renamo civil war from the late 70’s to the early 90’s for the FPLM due to its access to Zimbabwe.

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After a long day of very dusty riding behind multiple massive trucks carrying hundreds of tons of illegally logged hardwoods like Chante, Ebony, Leadwood, Panga Panga and Pou Preto. We arrived at a small trucker town at an intersection on the main highway through the country (EN 1) and found accommodation in some reed huts (above photograph).

Deforestation was a theme that was constantly present during our travels in Mozambique. The Chinese have approached many of the rural communities and given them chainsaws for the purpose of cutting down trees, for which they pay the locals between R60 and R100 per felled tree. According to an article written for the Mail and Guardian, the average farmer turned tree feller cuts down about 40 of these slow-growing hardwood trees each day.

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As soon as we hit the highway we made our way toward the beach paradise of Vilankulos. A town that has grown significantly in the past 10 years due to its spectacular beaches, crystal clear water and its position as the gateway to Bazaruto Archipelago, which Mike and Tom were lucky enough to visit.

While Tom and Mike were busy catching boat rides to Archipelagos I travelled south to meet Istene with her new mode of transport, a Suzuki Samurai, which had taken the place of her Yamaha XT 250 motorbike since her crash and subsequent partial recovery. We met at the lovely touristy town of Inhambane, which is one of the oldest settlements on the Mozambican coast with evidence as early as the 11th century where Muslim and Persian traders were the first outsiders to arrive and commence trade with this portion of Africa. In order to make it to Istene, I had to cross the Tropic of Capricorn for the 5th time on this trip.

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It had been two months since Istene departed from us in Maun Botswana, returned to South Africa for her recovery and now rejoined the trip on the white sandy beaches of Mozambique.

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Meeting the tiny Suzuki Samurai for the first time! Istenes new mode of transport for the remainder of the trip.

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Istene and I travelled back to Vilanculos to meet with Tom and Mike. With beautiful scenes like the one above you couldn’t blame us for taking a day or two at the lovely secluded Baobab Backpackers.

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From the picturesque Vilankulos, we made our way North to the Save River Bridge where we spent the night at a little place named Nyama Star, a little bar and stopover where the beer is cheap the R&R’s cheaper and the company monumental. We highly recommend stopping here for a beer or accommodation, good vibes and smiles all round.

With hazy cloudy eyes, we made our way toward the coastal town of Beira, the third largest city in Mozambique with a significant port to the central portion of the country as well as the landlocked countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The port at Beira is also where all the illegally deforested trees from the interior of the country come to get put in cargo ships and sent to China, where they are sold for literally hundreds of times more than the purchase price from the local Mozambicans. The local government officials are all being paid off by Chinese businessmen to turn a blind eye to this complete decimation of the natural resources.

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Beira is not the most incredible place to visit but a hidden dirt road in town leads to a little-known paradise about 50 km up the coast. Rio Savanne! On route there you still see bicycles over-loaded with charcoal making their way to the town to get better prices for their exploits.

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When we arrived we found small fishing villages dotting the coast, beautiful beaches and friendly people.

In order to get our vehicles to the campsite at Rio Savanne, we had to travel to a small village to the north and then travel south along the beach. The beach was riddled with litter, Tom got right on the job and proceeded to fill up about five bags worth of rubbish.

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After collecting rubbish we battled our way through extremely thick sand to get our vehicles to the beach,  it was our first time riding our motorcycles on the beach, which came with its own learning curves. Mike managed to get his bike nicely stuck just in front of an old shipwreck, luckily we managed to pull him out without too much difficulty.

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After leaving the beach paradise of Rio Savanne we travelled back to Beira where we made our way on treacherous but lovely dirt roads to Caia which is the town before the longest road bridge to span the mighty Zambezi River. This was our first time crossing the Zambezi River after we met it for the first time three months previously.

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About 40 km after we crossed the Zambezi River we turned off toward Morrumbala with the intention of taking dirt roads along the Zambezi to Tete where we would meet up with my old supervisor Dr Tim Forssman. Tim had managed to bring up a much-needed compressor for the team. Unfortunately, the barge at the Shire River was decommissioned the week prior to our arrival so any access to that side of the country was placed effectively out of our reach.

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This decommissioned barge had thrown a large spanner in the works, we had to backtrack and find an alternative route. It was no longer feasible to make our way to Tete, thus, the decision was made that we would make our way straight to Malawi. A strange phenomenon began occurring in the rural towns of this rural northern portion of Mozambique, we began noticing that people would be wary of us and run away if we stopped for directions. However, when we stopped in towns they would gather in large crowds very quickly. Apparently, this was due to rumours of Bloodsuckers in the area. Bloodsuckers are apparently powerful people who disable a target using some sort of electrical charge or chemical substance, after which they remove 5 litres of blood from the victim then making their escape by taking the form of a cat or a dog. I can assure you we have none of the above experience or abilities.

We found out more information about this phenomenon later so when we were accused of being bloodsuckers we laughed it off. We were warned to sleep at or very near to any police stations, a warning which we nonchalantly dismissed. There is very little reason to be surprised of being accused of this due to Toms chosen helmet decorations.

It was only once we crossed the border and raced through Mulanje toward Blantyre in Malawi that the rumours about bloodsuckers spiralled out of control, resulting in the deaths of nine people in the area. Six people including a tourist and a village headman were burned alive by angry mobs for being accused of being bloodsuckers. The UN  evacuated all their non-permanent staff and volunteers from the southern portions of Malawi near the Mozambican border due to this unfortunate superstitious resurgence.

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Luckily we got through these areas and safely into Blantyre Malawi. The route through Mozambique was long and rough. The country is vast and wild and the impact of the civil war has left it far behind its surrounding countries in terms of infrastructure and roadwork. This kind of adds to Mozambique’s rough charm between incredible beaches.

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In the next blog, we will show the lovely Lake Malawi and all the lovely places to visit, from the remote to the executive.

Cheers

Trent Seiler &

The Nitty Gritty Nomads

Author: The nitty gritty nomads

4 motorcycles, zig zagging through Africa… set out on discovering the continents wondrous archaeology, local cooking secrets as well as educating and engaging with local communities. We will be travelling through 14 countries, including South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rowanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and then back through Madagascar.

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