I thought I'd left the poor roads behind in Mocambique, but that was wishful thinking. As a result I suffered my first puncture since leaving South Africa. At least they are busy building a new coastal road in Southern Tanzania, which has already been completed in sections. I stayed over in Mtwara for a few days to recover from some ailments, and got to enjoy the local lifestyle. There are few tourists in that part of the country, and the locals eat and drink at the many pavement café's. I also tend to buy most of my food from the local markets. The place I enjoyed the most was Lindi, where I could walk to the beach in the morning and buy fresh seafood live from the nets (including king-sized prawns). This bustling town is situated on the shore of a large lagoon. Kilwa Masoko was another place where I stayed over for more than one night. In most of these places I've rented a room, which I've found to be cheaper than camping. A room is also more secure, as I can lock the bike and all my equipment inside. Now I'm in the capital, Dar Es Salaam. I'm staying in the central part of the city, where the streets run at odd angles and the buildings all look the same. In the day that I've been here I've already been lost about 5 times. Amazingly, every time I just kept walking around and soon enough I've found myself at the hotel. Distances since Mtwara have been:- Lindi 112 km; Kilwani 122 km; Kilwa Matoro 81 km; Somanga 83 km; Kibiti 106 km; and Dar Es Salaam 139 km.
Friday, 10 August 2007
Arriving in Mocimbao at dusk a few days ago, I was exhausted after a long day and booked into the 1st shabby overpriced room I could find. The bed collapsed during the night, but fortunately there was a spare. I wanted to get Mocambique behind me, and left early the following morning for Palma and the border. After asking directions I was surprised to find that the road was tarred, and assumed it was a recent development as I'd been (reliably) informed otherwise. Twice more I was told that I was indeed on my way to Palma, until after 25 k's I realised that this was the same road I'd used the previous evening. The following day I made it to Palma, and asking for a room or camp site I was pointed down a track which disappeared amongst the palm trees. Enquiring if the place was further than a km, I was told that it was indeed 26 km's, but the road was good (via bon! - thumbs up) and the facilities were of the best. I was a bit apprehensive realizing that he was probably talking about Quionga and I'd been (reliably) informed that the road was terrible. However, it was still early in the day and I had to go that way to reach the border. Two k's later I was sliding down donga's and dragging my bike across sand dunes, but I didn't have the time or energy to concern myself any forther with the misinformation. Three and a half hours (and 22 k's later) I dragged old Saartjie by her ears into a village and, unsure if I had the strength to continue, enquired about the distance left to Quionga. I was informed that I had indeed reached Quionga, and my spirits sank as I couldn't see any nice hotel or camp site (where was that shower and cold drink I'd been looking forward to?). Some of the locals helped me plough through the sand to the far end of the village where a log cabin stood apart on a sprawling plot. There I met Andre and his wife who run a mission station. They were rather amused to hear that they were operating a hotel and camp site, as they'd allowed passing travellers to camp on their grounds from time to time. As it turned out I did camp there and even had a shower (the fresh bread for breakfast was an added bonus). I needed the energy from that bread, because there was another 25 k's of the soft and rough stuff before crossing the river by motorboat into Tanzania. Talking about directions, I think Malawians have been the most inventive so far. A favourite distance there is 9 km (which turned out to be anything from 2 k's to 37 k's). Weather predictions are just a tricky. In Blantyre I pointed out the overcast sky and asked the locals if it meant rain. The response of "no" was still echoeing in the passages when someone shouted from outside to remove washing from the line (it rained for the next 3 days). One day in Mocambique I looked at the heavy sky and asked the guy cycling alongside whether it meant rain (of course he said no). Five minutes later we were sheltering from the heavy downpour under the thatched roof of a roadside market. I did my laundry this am, and when I hung it out the locals predicted no rain. This is already my second day in Mtwara, and hopefully I don't have to stay a third. Distances since Pemba have been:- Sunate 85 km; Macomia 122 km; Mocimbao 149 km; Mocimbao Bay 54 km; Quionga 109 km; and Mtwara 65 km.
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
After joking in previous reports about the misfortunes of others, it was bound to backfire on me. The 4 days on back roads since Nacala have been fairly tricky (just because the map indicates a road it doesn't mean it still exists). Bridges are missing, and I even had to cross the Lurio River Estuary by dugout canoe. Heading down one of the many steep hills the other day, a bump in my path sent me into a pile of loose gravel. After one or 2 big fishtails old Saartjie decided to flip. After that it was me and Saartjie, Saartjie and me, and when we eventually came to rest in the bush the bike was on top. Fortunately neither of us sutained any serious damage. I was surprised that the accident didn't attract spectators, as in those isolated regions I was drawing record sized crowds. Camping in a fairly large village the other night I estimated at least 200 people surrounding me so close that I was having trouble pitching the tent (and none of them could speak a word of English). A translator was summoned (obviously from the bar), and upon arrival he fell on the tent - breaking one of the poles. So, in fading light and in front of 200 + expectant people, I had to do some quick improvisation (no pressure!). It didn't get any better from there, because besides his drunken state the translator knew only about 3 words of English (mostly used in a begging context). At one point I got the impression that the crowd was lining up to put their requests to me via the imposter (I suppose old Saartjie was also up for grabs). Unfortunately I must have been a major disappointment for many people that night. Now I'm in Pemba, at a comfortable camp site next to the beach. I have another 9 days to get to Tanzania without extending my visa. Distances since Nacala were:- Memba 92 km; Mosua 67 km; Natuko 87 km; and Pemba 65 km.