We leave Tanzania behind and Malawi does not welcome us with its best face in our fourth stage of the 2018 Africa Challenge for Malawi and Mozambique.
He welcomes us with a curtain of dense rain that requires us to slow down. The water falls so hard that it forces us to stop under some banana trees, sheltering under them and wringing out our soaked gloves.
Soon the sky opens, the monsoon has passed in a few minutes and some young motorized come to see our Scrambler. They love, as in all of Africa, to touch, photograph and ask about our frames.
We resumed our march between the tea and banana plantations, going up and down hills with our rain gear still on. The border crossing was crowded with trucks that we quickly dodge to be the next in the turn of entering the country.
A booth to one side with a customs sign indicated the location of the offices. Still soaked and eager to get through as soon as possible, I did the entry procedures while my partner was in the care of the Ducati. The three officials didn’t even lift their heads (that feels awful to me), but in the end I managed to get their attention. One hundred and fifty dollars later to pay for the visas, the most expensive so far, and ten more as a road toll, we entered paradise.
Karonga: the interior
The first hundreds of kilometers out of the 3,000 and little we did in this country they went under water. The persistent rain gave us no option for stops, photos and landscapes. A shame that would not last long.
The first city seemed depressing to me. Despite the rain, there were water restrictions even in the best hotelsAll very expensive and a fairly scarce and simple meal based on freshwater fish, fried in abundant oil, and the typical African corn paste.
The journey through the cities in search of the lake did not give me a good thorn. While, browsers and cameras that we were carrying on the motorcycle began to give complaints of so much rain and humidity day after day. The last stop before reaching the lake was in a small town, with a hotel without water and a bar with only two beers. After the excess of beers in Tanzania, this seemed almost laughable to me.
Hara, Mzuzu and Monkey Bay
At last, the lake. We crossed the mountain and looked beyond the other side. Corn, wheat, fruit fields. Tens of stalls on the shoulders of the only paved road that crosses the country, full of baskets of tropical fruit: mangoes, papayas, avocados, some apples …
Things were getting good and the humidity was receding in favor of the altitude. Curves, finally. And beyond the trees and the high hills, the magnificent falls and the monkeys on the road getting dressed, the huge lake Malawi. An almost infinite blue expanse before our eyes.
The days on the lake ended with the arrival at the southern tip, Monkey Bay, a truly paradisiacal place, with crystal clear water, kayaks to walk around, fish of a hundred colors, good food and cold beers (not good, since they only have that which they say is “possibly the best in the world”).
The “Back packers” or hotel for backpackers it was a coincidence and a success to find it. We spent five days exploring small towns, eating fish from the lake and bathing despite the warning that we were infected with the parasite that inhabits these transparent waters. It would be worth it.
Blantire: in search of the south
And one morning we decided: What if we cross into Mozambique where no one does? And if we look for the southern border. And so we did. We set off on what would be a hectic day, but full of adventure.
First we crossed a mountain range, about 220 km of single track, except in some sections, which was complicated with stones or rocks. We go through more than twenty small villages that live on tea and corn. They hallucinated as we passed … and we we worried more and more about gasoline.
With the Scrambler per track, which does not exceed 60 km / h, consumption is very low, since it reaches about 260 km before the reservation, but we had already 200 km and the end of these mountains was not seen. Luckily we found gasoline on the “black market” that is to say, a stand of glass jars that sold gasoline at the price of gold. We fill two more liters and continue.
The descent was spectacular and the roads, increasingly abandoned and broken. By now, around two in the afternoon, we already know that we had gotten into a big mess, but we wanted to get to that border crossing, to the south. The road ended where a small path began, with reeds on the sides that did not give me a good thorn. Behind them, an esplanade full of fine sand with a town next to it.
I followed the path marked by the supposed highway of the navigator until two men, loudly from the other side of the road, caught my attention: this is not possible, it is an old riverbed and the road is broken. Turn right, take that other path and you will come to a shore. That’s how it went, the sandy path led to a shore, of a huge river that served as border with Mozambique.
We almost went to the other country without a passport stamp, which would make it difficult for us to leave. Negotiating with the boatmen in the sun, with 200 km of track behind me and a lot of humidity, was not easy. We had almost no currency left (since I was in a hurry when I change country), but the border was close.
After the crossing in some scary wooden boats, a sandy track awaited me. My poor skills on sand, the weight of the bike, the sweat… I wasn’t having a good time. And less to discover that at the end of that road there were reeds that warned that the water, again, was close.
Bangula: back to Blantire
We continued the journey along a track that mixed white sand with hard stone. Crossing small towns we got to the southern border. Our joy in a well. That little place, with a ramshackle wooden immigration office, without a flag or anything to announce it. Inside, a man was chatting with a European, the owner of a Doctors Without Borders 4 × 4 that was next door.
I came out with my ears down … they did not let us pass, well, yes, but if we did we could not go back in … and We did not have the Mozambique visa and in that small place and its customs they did not sell it.
Men and donkeys passed from one country to another without looking to the sides, life was absolutely abnormal for a border crossing, but above all for us. We would have to go back. And another seventy kilometers of road, track and sand. My bike climbed the remaining slope and settled on a higher part of the road. I looked into the distance, water. I looked in front of me: mud, a lot of mud to the shore, crushed reeds to overcome the mud, more boats, more money and a lot of thirst.
I started to cry. It was my way of taking iron out of the matter; We have spent more than four hours on the bike crossing mountains and now this… But when I took a breath again and tried to get the bike to shore, under a scorching sun and a lot of humidity, my partner’s Sled stopped.
Through the helmet I hear a blasphemy, the motorcycle won’t start, and the first thing that comes to mind is to think about the cable of the kickstand. I pass it on and, indeed, this was the fault. Now you have to make a bridge and cross your fingers. In the end, everything worked out and, after another long discussion with the boatmen, the bikes were again on the water. The journey lasted more than twenty minutes among crocodiles, water lilies, insects and humidity. The end was near. We would have to go with two of them on motorcycles to get from the village ATM and pay for transportation.
The cashier did not give us the money and we had to stay the night to change a few euros at the bank and leave the next day for the “normal” border. Despite the heat, the lack of gasoline, the boatmen, having no money and having to return, they were one of the most adventurous days of the 2018 Africa Challenge.
A cold beer was waiting for us in the hovel where we slept, which seemed like a good resort. The next day, in less than two hours, we were crossing Mwanza and stepping on Mozambican land.
The friendliest border of the trip, that’s how I would title this entry in Mozambique. We didn’t have to pay anything, they didn’t look at the bikes, they didn’t give us the grill … with our visa (over $ 60 per beard) and with a great smile from the customs officer, they let us pass. And they spoke Portuguese, finally the “portuñol” was going to serve me on a trip outside the Peninsula.
Welcome to the huge zambezi river, that we crossed by one of its four bridges to Tete, the closest city to Malawi. Delicious and cheap food welcome… and overcrowding.
Because Tete was very full of people, working, from here to there, shops, queues at the ATMs (with a pleasant air conditioning inside and a guard who put order in the line before entering), the lack of rain and the promise of finding the best ocean beaches at this latitude.
Chimoio, Vilanculo and Tofo
So are the names of the towns with the best beaches. A lot of road in Mozambique, in good condition depending on where, and some cities with a stale Portuguese style, such as Vilanculo and its white sand, with boats standing for centuries on its coast.
Very cheap frames, fish cooked in a hundred ways and the famous piri-piri (a spicy made from red chilli) they welcomed us to this curious country that lives in the postwar period. Half-ruined buildings next to a gorgeous honeymoon resort, street stalls, and lots of young people.
The effort of reaching Tofo on its white sand road was worth it: the kilometer-long beach and discovering one of the most famous towns for its relaxed life and scarce tourism was the culmination of a journey that was beginning to approach the end: South Africa. A step.
Xaixai, the capital and the border
After a few well-deserved days of rest on the beach, a break that I use to write these lines, select the photos and decide the next routes, lwe go to Maputo, the capital.
Maputo welcomes you modern, with a road that borders the great white beach, the buildings, skyscrapers on one side, the beach bars to eat in summer, on the other. Restaurants, clubs, cafes … suddenly Africa has it all. It is the door to South Africa and the economic influence is noticeable.
In this city rich in culture, the old buildings are beautiful; the great train station, magnificent; the central market, the plaza de los artesanos, the chain restaurants and well-cooked fish. Everything is in Maputo. The whites…
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