Sunday 26 May – 5 days to go. Another scenic drive, stopping at curio stalls along the way. Alex bought 40Kg of local rice from the side of the road as some of his previous guests who had enjoyed it on their trip had asked him to get it for them. We tried it that evening – it was quite tasty but sticky, rather like sushi rice.
Spent the night at Steps campsite at Salima on Senga Bay. This was a disaster. The campsite seemed OK, grassed and on the beach but as it was a public site it had been taken over by a crowd of about 50 people who were celebrating someone’s birthday. They had hired a DJ and were drinking copiously from the local bar and the music was deafening. We tried to brave it out but at 10pm Mark, who is one of the partners who would rather have been on a cruise, stormed off to the local hotel to seek accommodation. Sadly he returned saying the price was so exorbitant we were just going to have to bite the bullet. Fortunately, after Mark’s wife, Penni, had plucked up the courage to speak to the party-goers, they did finally turn the music down so we could get some sleep. Due to the fact that the ablutions had been used by the party-goers as well as the campers, I don’t want to tell you what they looked like and also with no hot water. I decided to skip trying to wash at all and keep my fingers crossed that the next campsite would be better, little did I know!
Monday 27 May – After a hasty breakfast and pack-away due to many marauding baboons just waiting for the pickings, we set off for a very long day’s drive to our next camp site. Alex told us along the way that Malawi is actually the poorest country in Africa and survives on 60% donations, a little uranium, rubber and tea. The roads were really bad again and I began to imagine just how much the service on our car was going to cost when we finally returned home. Fortunately Toyotas are renowned for being the best 4x4s in Africa so we were fairly confident ours wouldn’t let us down.
We then crossed over the border into Mozambique. This border crossing was quite difficult as they insisted all British passport holders pay $86 each for a visa. When we questioned it we were told that as the British charge them for visas when they visit the UK, they were “returning the favour”. The paperwork was endless but we were eventually on our way and crossed over a beautiful bridge spanning the Zambezi River at Tete.
It was here that Alex gently broke the news to us that we were really going to experience the bush that night by staying in a “Bush Camp” under a baobab tree with absolutely no ablution facilities at all. Funnily enough, we took the news quite well as we envisioned a deserted glade in a baobab forest which sounded quite romantic. Hm.
Because of the length of our drive that day along the most dreadful rutted roads with large trucks bearing down upon us, we arrived at the “campsite” late afternoon and couldn’t believe our eyes. The site was actually the sandy football pitch of an African school just metres from the main road. The noise of the trucks rattling past through the copious holes in the road was deafening.
We were instructed to form a laager under the baobab tree and were soon surrounded by hundreds of wide-eyed little black faces peering through the openings between the cars. John was all for baling out but having calmed him down and pointed out that there was nowhere else for us to go; we eventually all set up camp much to the amusement of the young spectators.
Their interest was heightened when Mark decided to get out his radio-controlled little helicopter with a camera attached to the underneath which he had wanted to use to get aerial pics of the migration, but as he had never really mastered how it worked he was too nervous to do this for fear of losing the thing altogether.
The children thought this was definitely from outer space and scattered in all directions when it eventually came down to land. We were then visited by the teacher in charge of the school and Penni handed her a big parcel with notebooks and pens for the children for which they was extremely grateful. Alex had organised a couple of askaris (security guards) to watch over us that night so we went to bed feeling that all our belongings would have a good chance of still being there in the morning.
It was here that my husband actually apologised to me for everything he had put me through and I took the opportunity of extricating a promise from him that our next bucket list trip would be with the compliments of the Cunard Line!
Tuesday 28 May – Another long day’s drive but at least the roads were getting better, especially on the EN102. Temperature also cooling down the further south we went. Stopped at Shoprite Checkers in Chimoio for supplies and petrol. Took 20 minutes to process my credit card in the shop so was late back to the cars for lunch which I nearly missed altogether. Arrived at Seta campsite at Inhassoro at 5pm www.inhassoro.org. This was by the sea and had quite nice ablution blocks but, yet again, no hot water but after several days of no showers I just had to grin and bear it. The campsite did have cottages but they were very expensive so we didn’t upgrade. As the “finish line” was now in sight we could put up with anything.
Wednesday 29 May – The campsite was right on the sea and as always we were up very early. The sunrises were something to behold – they were almost like a religious experience. It was usually the women who were up taking pics of these as the men were still sleeping off the effects of any alcoholic intake from the night before.
I was now into panic mode that I hadn’t bought any gifts for the grandchildren so purchased a rather cute handmade wooden 4×4 with trailer for Zac and a little sarong for Zuri. Drove via Vilankulo to visit the Baobab Beach Resort where Penni’s son worked for a while. Seemed quite a hippy village but not really my cup of tea.
Then on to Inhambane to stay at Quinta Santo Antonio Lodge which is listed on Facebook.
Again upgraded to a room with en-suite and even an electric kettle. Almost forgot how to use it! Nearly back to civilisation! The owner made us a lovely seafood supper, I think Alex was really tired of cooking now, and introduced us to her pet goat that was curled up in the dining room! Sadly there were no huge Mozambique prawns on offer but it was still very tasty.
Next up – Stuck in the sand, crayfish lunch and at last, South Africa