Amonth in Mozambique
Mozambique is probably one of the most exquisitely lively places I have ever visited. Granted, our time there was divided into many different destinations throughout the south of the country, and we made it a point to get to know and see as much of this area as we could. This, I believe, has added a depth and dimension to our experience, and unlike many other places, we found that the locals added an element of help and friendliness that has made us fall in love with this east African land.
A little history…
Mozambique is, in many ways, a lost paradise. What once was a popular elite beach and hunting destination for tourists from all over the world including the likes of Ernest Hemingway and European royalty later became a dangerous war ridden land nobody wanted to touch. With troubles in the north and a national situation that seemed to extend way past when the peace treaty was signed, nobody wanted to take part in the dangers the country now presented.
Needless to say the infrastructure suffered greatly, and it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that efforts were truly implemented to raise the once developed beautiful beach resorts and bustling coastal towns that once served as trading ports between Asia and the rest of the world. The country also implemented a visa on arrival policy earlier this decade, which facilitated travel for visitors from countries that did not have a Mozambican embassy, opening with this its doors for the global community to come and feast upon this country’s rich culture and beauty. Since then, efforts have been made to restore the previous glory tourist days, but the efforts have seen a slow improvement, though I am sure it will be a very different story 10 years from now.
Let me start from the beginning.
We booked an Intercape bus from Johannesburg to Maputo because we needed “proof” that we meant to leave South Africa sometime within our allowed 3 months visa free entry. We never planned on overstaying, but unfortunately the airport staff doesn’t know us, and if we had just said this, I’m afraid we would not have been allowed to board. So we booked the cheapest, least complicated onward travel : a bus ticket departing from Johannesburg to Maputo (the capital of Mozambique) on the 30th of January. This would allow us a solid month and a half in Joburg, in case we wanted to indeed partake on this trip.
After talking to a few people, looking at pictures and meeting the super talented and funny DJVOODOO (if you haven’t heard his music, the link takes you to some of his music, he’s very good!!) we decided Moz (how it’s lovingly referred to in SA) was a MUST. Tales of endless beaches surrounded by palm trees, tranquility, friendly locals and fresh seafood were enough to convince us.
We were going to Mozambique!
Now that we knew we were going, the quest was to find where we would spent our very limited 1 month allowed entry time. U.S.A. passport holders can receive a 1 month visa upon entry in Mozambique for $50 USD ( better to have USD with you or you will be charged whatever conversion rate the guards at the borders decide). One month might seem long in a country, but we like slow travel and we had decided that we could not miss a month of crazy on land adventures on public land transport. (our mind was definitely changed about this….)
Mozambique is a really long country, with about 2450kms of coastline and this meant that we could only visit the south. We knew we did not want to travel fast, as we had never been to this part of the world, and with a country so rich in culture, we wanted to take our time. There are 11 official languages spoken in Mozambique, so let that sink in before you start imagining the depth of their cultural diversity and intricacy. We wanted to live it all!!! With this in mind, we settled for a future trip where we would come south from Tanzania to explore the north.
With the south in mind, and following closely the advice of many other travelers and locals alike we decided on this itinerary:
Maputo- Tofo- Vilankulos back to Xai Xai area and then back to Maputo for a few days before heading back to Johannesburg. (we considered Ponta Do Ouro, but since it is so touristy and well discovered, it was not as enticing especially after almost a month in the country).
We are water loving people, so staying on the coast, and exploring the seas sounded phenomenal to us. Besides, all these coastal towns offer completely different attractions. We went north first and then south so we could stagger our travel days to no more than 8 hours per travel day. I had read blogs of travelers taking 2 days for a trip that was supposed to take only 6-8 hours.
We wanted no part in mishaps, but should they arrive, keeping our travel distances short would ensure we would be able to reach our destinations in a timely manner. Additionally, we wanted at least 4-5 days per place, just in case anything went wrong, we could make sure we still got a chance to enjoy, discover and be able to document the places with accuracy.
Luckily for us, most of our travel went very smoothly, but we did encounter food poisoning, exhaustion, and busses leaving us at the border. So it was a good thing we planned accordingly.
Overall, traveling around Mozambique is simple. The locals are always willing to help with information or their own rides. And unlike other countries, where it feels like they might stiff you, lie, get you lost or worst, we never once felt unsafe in Mozambique. As a matter of fact, we encountered so much willingness to help, kindness and goodness from the locals, at one point we preferred hitchhiking over the bus transport.
Have you ever had a misconception about a place and had that opinion turned completely around within a day? Tell me below!
The next few posts will be about Moz, and I will go into detail regarding the bus, chapas, travel costs, times etc…. let me know bellow if there is anything you’d like to know in particular.