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Saturday, 27 April 2013

More RSA, Mozambique & Swaziland

RSA continuing…

Day 17 to Day 21 – 11/4/13 to 14/4/13

We spend a few days in Pretoria and enjoyed being with family and doing some minor chores.
We picked up the vehicle from the local Toyota dealership and found that much of the work had not been done. We will need to get it done when we return. This is one of the few times a Toyota garage has let us down.

Day 18 – 15/4/13
After returning (twice) to Toyota, we were finally on the road again. We drove through to Nelspruit. The road along the Highvelt was flat and unimpressive, but the hills dropping into the Lowvelt and Nelspruit were scenic and offered some great views. Looking at the signs, it must be a big trout fishing area. As you would expect in RSA the road was a very high standard, but with many tolls booths!!
In Nelspruit we caught up with Ben & Jen, fellow overlanders we had met a few times down the East Coast. It was great to share a meal and chat about our experiences along the way. We also got hints on where to stay in Mozambique.
They introduced us to Marcel and his family who are starting a business in Mozambique. They informed us that you could cross from RSA into Mozambique from Kruger National Park.
Whilst in Nelspruit we decided to check in with the Mozambique and enquire about visa requirements for tourists. They strongly recommended that we obtain a visa there and not at the border. They issue visas on the same day.
We camped at the well appointed Natures Gate, ~ 7 km west of Nelspruit.

Avril  driving; 336 km; S 250 26’ 51.0’’ E 0300 53’ 08.2’’

Day 19 – 16/4/13
We were the first in line at the consulate, but discovered we needed ‘Proof of Accommodation’ in Mozambique. Thanks to Beverley in Pretoria, this was quickly arranged and the Consul accepted an email version of the confirmation. The visas were issued promptly at 14:00 as promised.
While waiting for the visa we caught up with Jen. Ben, as is normal for Landrover folks, was at the garage!
Following Marcels advice, we decided to drive via KNP. We checked into Berg en Dal and went for a game drive. We were very fortunate to have 3 different and close sightings of Rhinoceros. First a mother and baby, then, very much in the open, a lone Rhino and finally on the way back to camp 4 Rhino walking along single file. There has been a lot in the press about poaching in KNP since the fence between KNP and the Great Limpopo NP was taken down. So, we were very lucky. We also managed to see impala (of course), some buffalo and a Kudu.

Avril  driving; S 250 25’ 36.1’’ E 0310 26’ 46.1’’

Day 20 – 17/4/13
For game viewers, we had a relatively slow start ~ 07:30. We drove via various loops and roads to Letaba camp.
Along the way we managed to see: warthog, waterbuck, elephant, tree squirrel, giraffe, impala, zebra, (distant) rhino, buffalo, hippo and wildebeest.
We also went on a night drive and were lucky enough to see a civet plus Spring Hares, Rabbits (unlike Oz, not considered a pest), 2 dens of Hyena (with baby cubs), hippo grazing out of water and Elephants.
Whilst there was some variety in what we saw, we thought that there was not a lot of game and at times we travelled a large distance without seeing anything. Given KNPs reputation, this was a bit disappointing.

Avril  driving; S 230 51’ 18.1’’ E 0310 34’ 45.9’’

Day 21 – 18/4/13
No rest for the wicked and we were on the road by 6:45 so as to arrive at the border crossing by 08:00. Along the way we saw some elephant, Impala, waterbuck, buffalo and Tsessebe.
The RSA formalities were quickly and efficiently completed.

Day 1 – 18/4/13
The entrance formalities were completed efficiently, but it took a little time as everything was done via paper not computer.
As expected the Great Limpopo NP did not have a lot of game. We saw a few Impala and a lone elephant. The southern part of the park seems to have been taken over entirely by pastoralists.
The initial gravel road was in OK condition. This was followed by a tar road was initially in OK condition, but then deteriorated and was badly potholes until we reached the main N1.
The road verges have been badly eroded and at one point a truck swerved to miss a crack at the edge and in the process knocked and smashed our driver’s side mirror. Avril got some minor cuts in the process. Of course the other driver did not stop.

We drove on to the Sunset Beach lodge, which has camping. Marcel and family were also camped there. They have travelled extensively in Africa and so we had a nice time chatting about places and events.

Avril  driving; 462 km; 9 hrs; S 240 57’ 25.3’’ E 0340 11’ 21.0’’

Day 2 – 19/4/13
We decided to be lazy and had breakfast at the lodge and then drove through to Tofo beach. Similar to Tanzania, the speed limits are closely monitored and we had to slow to the speed limit, immediately at the speed sign in all of the numerous towns and villages (no matter how small they are!). The drive was quite pleasant, there was not too much traffic and generally the road was lined with tropical vegetation, palm trees and such.
On the way we stopped off at Inhambane. The guide book rates this as one of the top attractions in Mozambique, supposedly for its Mediterranean appearance and feel and for the clean streets and non dilapidated buildings. The guide book was printed in 2011, so we can only assume that the author had very different standards to us and maybe had never been to the Mediterranean so gathered his information on Mediterranean appearance and feel from books or such!
We camped at Bamboozi on the beach. The beach is very nice, golden sand and smooth, warm water. However, we both commented on how lucky Australia was to have our magnificent beaches. In the afternoon we went for a walk along the beach.

Ray driving; 231 km; S 230 50’ 29.7’’ E 0350 32’ 13.8’’

Day 3 – 20/4/13
A day at leisure on the beach. Mozambique is famous for its large Tiger Prawns. For the previous 2 nights we had ordered Tiger Prawns at the lodge restaurants, only to be given some very small shrimps. So, we went for a walk to the local marked and managed to buy some proper Tiger Prawns. There was no negotiation on price: ~ $ 12/kg. Dinner was garlic prawns, with salad (brought from RSA – little is available in Mozambique) and local bread.
The area has a great number of mosquitos, so we decided to move on the following day. There were reports of Remano attacks further north, so we decided to head back south.

Day 4 – 21/4/13
We drove back to Sunset beach in the morning. There had been a large storm in the area the night before, so the beach was very choppy and not the brilliant blue it had been a few days previous. Ray went for a swim anyway.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading etc.

Avril  driving; 714 km; 9 hrs; S 230 04’ 58.2’’ E 0260 49’ 26.1’’

Day 5 – 22/4/13
We drove through to the Mozambique ~ Swaziland border. Along the way we stopped off at Xai Xai to get our mirror repaired. We hhad been told that there was a vendor around the corner from a particular office, but did not appreciate that the “shop” would be a stall on the street. Ray wandered along the street, broken mirror in hand, looking for a shop. A chap came running after him, and with a lot of hand gesturers he informed us he could fix the mirror and it would cost M 250 = $ 7 and would take 20 min. So we left the mirror with him and wandered off looking for brunch. We had already had breakfast!
After 20 min we returned and found that a piece of mirror had been cut to approximately the correct dimensions and fitted into the broken rear view mirror frame.
We taped some gaffer tape around it, just to be sure and set off with at least some visibility on the passenger side.

The border crossing was completed with a minimum of fuss.

Mozambique Summary
From a tourist perspective, Mozambique seems to be mainly about the beaches. They are very nice, but it is a long way to go for a nice beach. Apparently the folks from RSA like to holiday at the beaches because it is safer there than in RSA. This is sort of ironic, as in RSA they blame the immigrants from Mozambique for a lot of the crime.
Apart from the main coastal road, we found the roads to be generally in poor condition.
We found Mozambique to be relatively high cost when compared to its neighbours. 
The 2011 Bradt Guide was already dated with some of the places mentioned closed. As it always the case, you can never get good or services for the prices quoted in the book. 5/10
We used the Riese Know How map. 4/10.


Day 1 – 22/4/13
The crossing into the Kingdom of Swaziland was completed with a small hold up. We completed the immigration and customs/formalities very quickly but were stopped at the final gate. Apparently we needed tp pay a road toll (R 50). But the discussion centered on the need to pay import duty. Ray pointed out that the carnet was already stamped and a carnet meant that we did not need to pay duty. This all took some time to resolve. The gate guard also took our raw meat; apparently this cannot be imported from Mozambique. We did manage to salvage some nice marinated chicken.
We drove through to Hlane national Park and checked in. There had been a lot of rain in the area and a lot of the roads were closed. We went for a pre-dinner game drive and were fortunate to see some Nyala – our 1st ever! We also saw impala, warthog and bushbuck.
We cooked up our illegal chicken for dinner. The night was very clear and we had a good view of the southern cross. After dinner we wandered down to a dam near the camping enclosure and saw some Impala and noted that the fence around this part of the camping area consisted of 2 strands of loose barb wire. On the way back to our vehicle we heard the roar of a lion very close by. He seemed to walk along the fence. We assume that he was mating as we heard the intermittent roar all night.

Avril  driving; 407 km; S 260 15’ 38.9’’ E 0310 52’ 35.7’’

Day 2 – 23/4/13
In the morning we went for another game drive and saw more Nyala, Impala, bushbuck, wildebeest, a Kudu and elephant.
We then drove through some wonderful hills to the Ezulwini Valley – ancestral home of the Swazi kings. For us it was a chance to have a look at some curios. We had been very good on the shopping front to this point. We bought a nice table cloth with an African theme.
We then drove through some great mountain scenery to Piggs Peak. The area reminded us a lot of the mountains in France and Andorra during our trip there. 
We drove to the Malolotji Reserve for our last camp of the trip. The reserve has a herd of Blesbok.
As the Swazi border people had taken our “good” meat, we ate some of our emergency rations for dinner. The night was FREEZING!!! After 3 summers, it will be hard to go back to a winter.

Ray driving; 189 km; S 260 08’ 38.0’’ E 0310 07’ 54.7’’

Day 3 – 24/4/13

As we were freezing, we decided to pack up quickly and get some breakfast on the road. On the way to the border we stopped off at a glass works and brought some curios. We also went into the furnace area to get warm.
Swazi formalities were completed in less than a minute. As there is a customs union between RSA and Swaziland, there were no customs/carnet issues.

Swaziland Summary
Swaziland has had some negative press recently, mainly to do with the king and his many wives and the cost of the entourage. However, we though the country was very well set up. Very little litter, high standard and well maintained roads. No beggars.
The scenery is stunning.
Lonely Planet guide was useful. 7/10.

More RSA
Day 22 – 24/4/13

The entry into RSA was ultra quick. We drove through to Pretoria to prepare the vehicle for shipping.

Avril  driving; 341 km

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