Dumped but not Trashed in Beautiful Mozambique
Magnificent Mozambique – Ponta Malongane
Dumped in Parque De Malongane (like a piece of trash?)
June 2002 was the first time I ventured into Mozambique. At the turn of the century, after the civil war ended in 1992, tourism took off again and was an easy way to provide some income for the Mozambicans. Being a neighbouring country, it was easy for South Africans to explore Mozambique and before the civil war it was extremely popular. After a destructive and devastating war it was still in the early stages of recovery but South Africans were enjoying the freedom to explore it again.
We decided to try Ponta Malongane’s resort that has campsites, bungalows and chalets. The only problem was we didn’t have a 4X4. They had basic bungalows or chalets which suited us, as our camping gear was limited. The last 15 kilometres was a soft sand road and not easy to drive in our average sedan which clearance was too low and didn’t have the power to get out of a difficult situation in the soft sand. Sometimes if you were lucky and the sand was compacted due to rain, you would manage. There are a few hills though, and you could easily get stuck. The problem was soon solved, because you could park your vehicle at the border in a secure parking area for a small fee. You would be able to get a border transfer, organised by Parque De Malongane.
All good! Set for a week of venturing into Mozambique.
We packed our clothes and some food in one cooler box. Regulations for the border transfer was limited luggage and we’d arranged with the resort to pick us up at the border at 1pm. We were well ahead of time just before 12 noon and were cleared through the border within 5 minutes. We chatted to another family who were also waiting for the border transfer. We waited and looked around for anything remotely like a vehicle that would be our transport but there was nothing. Heard of the saying TIA? It’s regularly used by anyone who travels in Africa. This Is Africa. After waiting a bit longer, we were concerned we would be stranded at the border. We asked one of the staff working at the border if they knew about the border transfer. Yes, they said. It had already been for the day, but not at the allocated time. They couldn’t see anyone needing a transfer, they returned to the resort. A gentleman who worked near Ponta Malongane overheard us. He said he would contact the park to send the vehicle back to collect us. Cell phones of course were just about non-existent in Mozambique at that stage.
Unusual Border Transfer
We waited for about half an hour and on the horizon a large Bedford truck bumped its way across the soft sand towards us. That was apparently our 'border transfer'! No comfy seats to sit on, in fact, no seats at all - just hard corrugated metal! Jump on board, the driver said, (at least, that’s what we think he said, because his English wasn’t that good) and we could head back. With no steps or ladder to climb on, it was quite a struggle for us ladies to hoist ourselves onto the truck. With assistance from our men, we succeeded. We used the rather huge wheels as a ladder and hopped onto the back. There was plenty of space, so we grumbled that we could have brought far more than we did. We bunny hopped along the sand road, bouncing on our bums, wind destroying any chance of looking respectable. Fortunately it was quite warm and we were grateful to be heading to the resort. A few days later we found out that one of the purposes of the Bedford truck was to transport refuse to the rubbish dump. We were dumped like a piece of trash at our chalet! Wish I took a photo of the truck.
The chalets were indeed basic. We dumped our belongings and hot footed it to the beach. You might know by now that we are expert beach bums, and living inland, we get withdrawal symptoms when we’re away from the sea. It was a pleasure to be at the sea again. Although humid, the days were pleasant. The sea breeze was fresh, because it was the middle of winter, but pleasant, so we couldn’t complain.
Dinner at the resort restaurant
Because of our limited supplies, we ate dinner at the resort restaurant every night. The menu consisted of about five items only. Naturally we tried every single item on the menu throughout the entire week. Our new travel companions were in the same predicament. We joined up and ate together each night.
Each evening our waiter, the same one, served us. Each evening we asked him what the catch of the day was. Each evening he gave us a beaming smile and gave us the same answer; barracuda. Eventually after a good few nights, one of us said “The same barracuda as last night?” Without hesitation and another cheerful smile, he said “Yes, same as last night.” This had us in hysterics. We could see the same rejected, limp piece of fish, lying on the plate with no takers, looking forlorn, shrivelled and past it's sell by date, never to be eaten. It was probably the copious amounts of wine and 2M beer we had, but we hosed ourselves. Having said that, we did have barracuda, at some stage and it was quite delicious, with no nasty side effects!
Taking a long walk on the beach
Later in the week, the resort’s supply of wine dwindled at the bar. I think they only had about 3 bottles to start off with. Delivery was erratic and the earliest we could expect a fresh supply was at the end of the week. None of the local shops near the resort and within walking distance sold wine, only local beer and cold drinks. What to do? One of us, that is one of the two families, came up with the bright idea of going shopping in Ponta do Ouro - on foot! The shortest and easiest route to walk was on the beach, about 5 kilometres. It was flat compared to the road, which snaked up and down hills. The sand was also deep and hot.
Cash in our pockets, we strode down the beach. At Ponta Do Ouro we had a well-earned break and ate lunch at one of the few restaurants. It was a slightly different menu, but not by much. Afterwards we went shopping at the only shop in Ponta. It was a tiny general grocery store. We found some wine and one or two other things and hit the road…er…beach again, loaded with our shopping. Along the way we complained a bit about the weight of the wine, but it would be appreciated all the more over the next few evenings. Fortunately someone had the foresight to bring a rucksack or two, which made it slightly easier to carry.
Ponta Malongane is a great diving destination and the rest of the family dived. I couldn’t, because I was still recovering from bronchitis. Another family at the camp took us to Ponta Mamoli for the day, which was about fifteen kilometres further north. This was a good opportunity to see more of the area.
It’s funny how things are interlinked in life. These new friends also asked us to join them on another adventure a year later to the Red Sea.
This experience in Mozambique was enough to spur us on to buy a suitable vehicle for the sand, a Subaru Forester. Since then we’ve enjoyed many more holidays at Ponta Malongane. But that’s another blog.