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Backpacking in Mozambique

Travelling Mozambique can be a painful experience..

Getting around in 3rd world countries like Mozambique is a wicked experience, but sometimes hard and painstakingly slow. Using guided tours/travel often is the easiest way to go, but most of the time less memorable since you travel amongst other tourists with western habits, language and attitude. Travelling by public transport gives a traveller the best feeling for a country, the culture and its people. That is the way I like to travel, however on some of those days you get more than you bargained for..

Having experienced the beauty of the Bazaruto archipelago we were up for the next destination of our trip: Zavora. Therefore we packed our bags in Vilankoulos and prepared for our travel south.We set set out on our journey at 10:00 a.m. walking with our double backpacks through the 25 degrees celcius heat and soft sand to the busstation. After a 20 minutes walk through the heat we had both lost about a liter of sweat, but we were at the busstation. When we took up our seats in one of the chapas (local minivans) in the busstation of Vilankoulos we chose to keep our camera bags on our laps. They simply contained too much value to take a risk like putting it on the rooftop. After 45 minutes the chapa left the station with us already experiencing sore bottoms, not knowing where to put the bags... (note: my camera bag alone weighs about 14kg, hence the shocked faces of check-in desk personell each time I meet them ;-) )

The 12-seater chapa contained about 12 people, but it quickly filled up to 20 people and more... I believe the highest score was at least 26 people (including two crying babies) insight; maybe there were more passengers hanging on the van as well. Add on top buckets filled with merchandise, like fish, coconuts and two screaming goats and the mayhem was complete. Periods of relief, when changing seats and lifting bottoms were overshadowed by long periods of horrendous pain; not knowing how to sit, because our butts were so unbelievably painful. We could scream it out, which we didn't, we only mumbled swearing words between the two of us.

The journey from Vilankoulos to Maxixe could have taken us about 3,5 hours, but we did the whole stretch in about 6 hours. I think I would not exaggarate if I'd say the driver stopped every 5 minutes to drop people off or pick people up.. Apart from that the smell of fish, people and gas fumes made that this journey is one to be remembered in the least ;-)

It must be said that initially I wanted to travel more often by public transport than we eventually did (Sandy objected ;-) ), but I am so happy that we chose to schedule some flights for some destinations. After we got out of the minivan and recovered from our sore bottoms and stiff legs we directly headed for the ferry to Inhambane. A small advice when travelling to Inhambane: Don't believe the locals in Maxixe saying that the ferry is not going. They only want you to get into their chapa and drive around the bay instead of crossing it by ferry. By the way this scam is one I have heard in many places in the world. The problem is that sometimes it turns out to be true... We decided to head for the ferry directly, by which it took us only 20 minutes to cross the bay; we would not have survived sitting in another van anyway..

The next day we were more fortunate because we could claim the front row seats in the chapa from Maxixe to Zavora. Of course it was a rip-off since the driver told us he would bring us to Zavora beach, which he didn't, but at least it saved us an enormous amount of physical pain. After 5 minutes waiting at the junction however a friendly toothless driver named Mike with a jeep picked us up and we travelled the last kilometers amongst some locals in the back of his Mitsubishi ute.

In total the travel from Vilankoulos to Zavora had cost us 1,5 days, lots of pain, sweat and tears, but we were there (It had costed us less than 15 euro's) We had high hopes of seeing some amazing marine wildlife because Zavora is a place where the biggest, like the humpbacks are complemented by the smallest nudibranchs. The weather was good, the sun was shining and we even got the bungalow on the dune looking out over sea!

joostvanuffelen's picture
About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...

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