Danielle Murdoch - Fuel Station, Mozambique

Mozambique’s Cashews

| Mozambique

Since I’ve started travelling, I’ve discovered that whenever you look forward to a country in particular they generally turn out to be not what you were expecting. Whereas the ones you expect the least of turn out to be amazing. Mozambique didn’t change this tradition. I was really looking forward to Mozambique, the tough sandy roads, the little fishing villages and the Portuguese culture. But from start to finish, Mozambique and I were just out of step.

We arrived at the border, queuing behind several local people at a tiny wooden bench. We watch as a particular scene plays out in front of us. It was obvious that the guy in front of us didn’t have the correct passport. His friend sweet-talks the customs official after which we see him handing over the equivalent of $2.5 in local points and then when that wasn’t enough, doubling it. Mike and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows. “Is that all it costs? Must remember that one.”

We crossed over the barren border, and stood in the queue for a visa. When the official arrived, we were handed the immigration forms and asked to fill them out and as soon as we were finished, he told us it would cost $90 USD for the visa. Flabbergasted, Mike and I went outside to talk about what to do. We could ride back to Lilongwe and wait two days to get a visa for $50 at the embassy before riding back. We decided that in the end it would cost us the same amount of money and was not worth our time. Grudgingly we paid the fee, got a hideous photo taken for our visas and then we were on our way.

Driving into Mozambique, I couldn’t help feeling excited. Every new country draws excitement from within. But this feeling soon faded as the temperatures rose well into the 40’s and my bike also disagrees with the temperature. Later that day we drove past large Rio Tinto coal mines just before we rolled into a town where we would stay that night. We drove all around the town looking for accommodation. Every hotel, guesthouse, and bar (if they had availability) charged a room rate of over $60 USD. Shocked, we kept on driving around until we were truly exhausted, and my bike was extremely hot. Heading back to a hotel complex we decided to ask the owner if we could camp in the yard. He was so kind, he offered to give us a room for $30.

We always headed south, along the long and straight hot roads. My bike was overheating, no matter how fast my bike is travelling. Stopping under a tree, I wait for the bike to cool down. A few kilometres, later my bike is overheating again. I stop under another tree to check the oil level, discovering it was over the high mark. We drink a cold coke while I wait for the bike to cool down as soon as we were finished I put a tube into the oil tank and sucked out the excess oil. After that, I had no problems. It was just me that was overheating!

Petrol stations are few and far between. I just carried on with my container system I set up for Malawi.

By now, I was completely bored of Mozambique. I was hot, the roads were straight, it was expensive and lacked culture. I looked forward to getting to Maputo and then crossing over into South Africa. The only thing I did really like was seeing the entertainers standing in the middle of the road, forming a loose blockade. They held clear plastic bags in their hands. On the side of the road was a tree or a dead stick, with hundreds of plastic bags tied on. As you go past them, you realised they are bags and bags of cashew nuts. Ex-stalls looked like a haunted tree ghost with empty bags fluttering in the wind.

Mikes shock needed re-wrapping with new rubber every second day!

As we arrived into Maputo, we got caught in the traffic and had to wait on the side of the road letting my bike cool down. As soon as it was cool enough, we re-entered the traffic and tried to make way to the guesthouse. It was not long before we were stuck in yet another traffic jam. The traffic lights were ridiculous. They were timed just so, that you were forced to stop at every intersection, causing the traffic to back up and get agitated.

After two intersections, my bikes temperature was back up into the red. Then it just stopped. My clutch got so sticky that I could not do anything. Trying to push my bike off the road with the bike in gear (as it wouldn’t come out of gear) and without the clutch disengaging was really tough, meanwhile I had disgruntled car drivers behind me, showing their lack of patience. An hour slips by before my bike was ready to try again. This time, we make it to the guesthouse without another hiccup.

Our stay in Maputo was short, we took a look at the Railway Station that was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. It was an impressive building, in this strange city, but I felt as if I could not get out of here soon enough and get into South Africa.

The drive to the border was a short 90 kilometres, but the wait in the queue was much longer. Apparently, the power in Mozambique was being cut off this weekend, so everyone decided to go to South Africa! We were forced to wait for hours in the hot sun. By the time we got through, we were out of water and hungry as it was now mid-afternoon. But at least we were in South Africa! We rode on a short distance to a One Stop Petrol City, where I had my first encounter with a South African supermarket. What a glorious place to find, Mike and I found some shade to one side of the petrol station and sat down on the ground to have a picnic of supermarket hot food. It was a sight to see, a tradition that continues on until today.