Friday 16th October
Urgh early morning start today, up at 4.30am for the bus at 5am. When I say bus it was a minibus with a trailer on the back for bags and possessions. Already at 5am there was a full-sized fridge freezer, a full height electric fan, a plastic table top and 4 plastic chairs in the trailer, we added our rucksacks and some locals added huge bags of fruit and vegetables on top! We were somewhat concerned by the lack of lid to this trailer as clearly with a full sized fridge freezer any lid wouldn’t have functioned anyway! I had visions of beggars rifling through the trailer when we were stationary, but with the huge bags of fruit and vegetables on top of our bags they would be lucky to get to them!
Anyway we all piled on the minibus and we were relatively surprised by how much room we had, very unusual! We shortly got under way and first stop was the main bus station in Inhambane, well…..we sat in the middle of the bus station for 20 minutes whilst more and more locals piled on, fold down seats appeared and were filled forming a complete row across the minibus with no aisle! There appears to be no common sense or logic applied to this addition of people and one old woman sat right at the front on the first fold down seat and subsequently refused to move for any future passengers piling on, so everyone had to climb over her and the seat to get to the back! I was sitting second from back in the left hand corner and had no hope of getting off the minibus anytime soon!
This made for relatively entertaining viewing especially when hawkers appeared trying to sell food, drinks and an inordinate amount of shite through the windows. The person behind me keep sliding he window open and buying all sorts of crap from crisps to bread to drinks and even a pair of sunglasses! This was a local as well not some hung over traveller!
Eventually the minibus was full to the brim so we got underway and what an entertaining journey it was…not only did more people get on than off but we appeared to stop randomly every 10-15 minutes to drop a parcel, piece of paper, bag of fruit or some other random item off to people waiting on the side of the road or just dumped them at the end of a driveway and the driver gave a blast of the horn! How they know where to stop and what needs to be dropped off where is beyond me!
At one point the electric fan, fridge freezer, table top and chairs got dropped off to a man at the side of the road, god know how he was then gonna move them from there to where they needed to go and what he was gonna do with a table with no legs!
Eventually we made it to Tofo which is a sandy, what I would call, village along the beach. Pretty relaxing and cool place to hang out. We checked into Fatimas Backpackers, watched a whale just off the beach and took in the view. Lunch was….anyone wanna guess….yep veg curry, no one can say I am not getting my five a day!
We had a nap for a couple of hours and then sat outside on a raised deck area listening to the waves and reading. I read a whole book from beginning to end which was excellent news as I had bought 3 at Joburg airport and they were weighing me down!
The evening comprised of half a pizza, a power cut and an early night!
Saturday 17th October
Another early morning, although thankfully not as early as yesterday! We were up at 6am, left at 7am and walked through Tofo to the market where we could apparently get a bus back to Inhambane but to the ferry terminal so we could jump on a boat to Maxixe (pronounced mashishi) and then once across the water we could get another minibus to Vilanculous. Sounded delightfully difficult and was bound to produce some hilarity and entertainment! So off we went…we found the market, just missed a bus and then proceeded to stand around wondering what time the next one came….when we asked at Fatimas we were told they came regularly….who know what the African version of regularly is! Anyway we had been there a while and still no bus but we did end up getting an offer of a lift to Inhambane from 2 dudes in a ropey old car….we discussed whether this was a wise idea but as there were 2 of us, I had a flick knife and Nicole had GPS we decided to roll with it and do as the locals do! So we threw our bags in boot which appeared to contain numerous cans of beer, but fortunately no gun, rope or spade and off we went…we made polite conversation with our driver whose english wasn’t bad and soon we settled into our unintentional hitchhike! It was going quite well until I think I asked the dude if he has been outside of Mozambique to which he replied he had gone on holiday a few months back to Somalia and it was really nice?! Excellent so now we had unintentionally hitchhiked with 2 potential Somali pirates…still, made for an interesting day!
Luckily they either had no plans to be pirates or thought us not worthy of kidnap and dropped us off as planned at the ferry terminal. Our first, and only, successful hitchhike…unintentional I may add!
Right next was to get the ‘ferry’ across to Maxixe, now my use of inverted commas is intentional there as the boat waiting for us at the end of the walkway was in no way a ferry! It was a small rusty fishing boat with a load of wooden pews nicked from a church! Hilarity ensued! TIA…
So we board the fishing boat and chug ridiculously slowly across to Maxixe….all having our lives shortened slightly by the inhalation of black exhaust fumes sweeping through the seating area! It dawned on me that maybe the use of church pews was intentional so that we could all pray for our safe crossing, I was merely, and unchristianly, thinking who would be easy to elbow out-of-the-way so I can climb out the window if we start to sink!
Eventually we chugged into dock the other side and all disembarked with a shorter life span to find minibus touts everywhere, we found a minibus which was almost full so hopped on that bound for Vilanculous.
I got told to sit in the front and Nicole sat at the front of the passenger bit by the door, our bags were apparently placed in the back but who knows…someone in Maxixe could now be the proud owner of some £5 sudanese perfume and a bag full of dirty washing!
The minibus was entertaining….the driver had the music up at eardrum splitting volume, didn’t realise we had got on the party bus! There were loads of guys squeezed in all over the place, I had one sitting on the armrest between me and the driver, one hanging onto the back of my seat, as for Nicole I couldn’t see her for all the people squeezed in around her!
I am not sure what the legal number of passengers is in a minibus but I am pretty sure we had way more than whatever was legal…call it mere common sense or the fact that every time the driver saw a police checkpoint in the distance he told all the guys to lie down on the floor or hide out of sight so we could fly through the checkpoint looking vaguely legal…even though the music volume remained at max as we went screaming through the checkpoint unhindered!
I spent most of the journey in hysterics to which the driver thought was hilarious also!
At one point we stopped in small town and the 2 guys squashed in next to me leapt out into what can only be described as a combination of halfords and a hardware shop. After a couple of minutes they emerged holding a can of fanta aloft and shouting to the driver before proceeding to disappeared again into the shop. We in the meantime drove down the road 10 seconds and parked up next to a different shop where the guys reappeared with 2 packs of cable ties but no fanta! No clue!!
A short drive later we pulled up at a junction and the driver told me and Nicole to get out and get in another minibus bound for Vilanculous…so we grabbed our bags (still there thankfully!) and jumped out of the party bus and into quieter bus which then toured Vilanculous trying to find our hotel.
Eventually the minibus stopped, kicked us out on a sandy lane and told us we would have walk from there and then attempted to charge us double the cost of the ticket from Maxixe for driving us around looking for our hotel. We eventually stumbled on a hotel which apparently belonged to a friend of our hotel owner so we stopped for a cold drink and to take in the view before we undertook the 0.9km walk in sand to our hotel.
After being suitably refreshed we commenced the sandy plod to the hotel only to have a guy stop in a 4×4 and offer us a lift to the hotel. Our second unintentional hitchhike! He drove us the rest of the way and dropped us of and disappeared back into the sand!
We checked in, had some fish and then spent the remainder of the day reading and swimming around the pool.
Sunday 18th October
Lazy day today as a Sunday should be. We slept, read and lazed round the pool but went for a wander along the beach in the afternoon to marvel at the sheer beauty of it.
Monday 19th October
Up at 2.30am, not even middle of the night…third of the way through the night! Seriously what is it with these Africans and early morning buses! We got a taxi at 3am to the bus station so we could get a coach back to Maxixe. Well the coach was slightly more upmarket than the minibus but had full volume hiphop blasting at us at 3am, very unnecessary!
Anyway being a coach the journey was very uneventful and dropped us back in Maxixe so we could get the ‘ferry’, fishing boat back across to Inhambane. Well we got to the ferry terminal and what was waiting for us at the end the jetty was pretty much a dug out canoe with wooden seats. At the front was a massive pile of bags, fruit, veg and our rucksacks…may have been a sheep or some chickens if you looked hard enough! The boat was so rammed with people I surprised it floated at all! So we squashed on board and inched our way across the water in the canoe…making it back to the other side by some sheer fluke!
We then strolled to the bus station and had every man and his chicken trying to get us on their minibus! By now we were up to speed with how it rolled on African minibuses so we looked for ones that were almost full so we didn’t have to hang around for hours. Most were empty but we located a public bus going to Tofo so for the grand sum of about 9p we hopped on that…a tenth of the price of a minibus and loads more room! Yeah…..
The public bus left and took us on a spectacular tour of Inhambane, picking up people along the way, there may actually have been a chicken somewhere in the back…who knows! We turned off into what can only be described as an abandoned car garage come workshop and after doing a loop around it we pulled back out onto the road and pulled into a petrol station for fuel. 5 minutes later we were on our way again and trundled along to Tofo. We jumped off near to Fatimas and wandered back along the sand track, arriving 9am! Not believing how much had happened that morning already!
Luckily our room was available early so we slept until lunchtime, grabbed some food before heading out for a stroll around Tofo and a venture to an internet cafe and supermarket before dinner and bed.
Tuesday 20th October
Again, up at some stupid time for a 4am bus to Maputo. It was a shitty minibus as well and was hot and full of people and their wares! The normal farcical journey ensued and I stuck my earphones in and took in the scenery and goings on outside. Nicole and I weren’t far off a minibus breakdown at some point and several times had to stop myself from bursting into verbal abuse at people who would dither and not sit down! Near to Maputo our minibus broke down, the engine sounded like it was being lubricated with nails and hot steam was shooting into the minibus from the dashboard! So we pulled over whilst several guys ran off to source as much water as they could to put in the radiator and the driver and a couple of guys stood looking under the bonnet shrugging and chatting!
Just when we were about to lose the will to live the driver decided to just drive on but slightly slower…after 9 hours we made it back to Maputo (should have been 7!) and we checked in, grabbed a cold drink and then headed out for a late lunch. The afternoon consisted of nap, walk to supermarket, shower, wifi time and bed!
Wednesday 21st October
Up at 5.20am, vaguely better than 2.30am! Then left at 6am in a taxi to the greyhound bus station for our coach to Nelspruit in South Africa. We were excited by the prospect of the shiny swish looking double-decker coach in front of us, air con, a toilet on board, refreshments, films! Ah bliss!
Thankfully the journey was uneventful apart from a brief argument with a guard at the border who demanded to see my South Africa visa even though we just get a stamp on arrival. Upon me telling him this he decided to lecture me on how things work when you are a tourist in another country and you must have a visa before arriving. I then pointed out all the other stamps I had got on arrival to which he still wouldn’t have it, so I pulled out the trump card and said ‘you do know I am British and that this is a British passport, you will find I don’t need a visa!’ Not my most refined moment sounding like a Victorian explorer but seemed to work! Don’t mess with the British passport sonny!
We arrived into Nelspruit at 10.30am and grabbed a taxi to our guesthouse, we had a cute little budget studio with views over the mountains.
After sorting ourselves out we went to a large shopping centre for lunch and did some food shopping in Woolworths, which in South African in basically Marks & Spencers but much cheaper, it even had M&S products on the shelf!
We grabbed a taxi back and spent the rest of the day chilling out glad to finally be in South Africa after a long couple of months travelling through East Africa. This was after all our last country on this trip (well apart from quick trips into Swaziland and Lesotho!).