Mozambique, before my visit, would have been dominated by three thoughts:
After my visit, only one of the three was still standing.
Start at the bottom with police corruption and you’ll get the reason why I almost didn’t visit. Mozambique has just about the worst reputation for corruption in Eastern Africa, if not the entire continent. Constant traffic stops, police hovering around the entrance of hotels to jump tourists as they leave and ask for their passports, and just outright requests for money or they’ll delay you for hours- this is what awaits you in Moz. Heck, even the tourist board gives out forms you can carry and give to corrupt cops telling them in Portuguese they are committing a crime.
Maybe it does, I wouldn’t know. From start to finish, all my encounters with officials were pleasant and honest. Of all the roads blocks, only one stopped me, and that because I think he just wanted a closer look at the bike. So, while I wouldn’t discount all the stories, I certainly can’t add to them.
As for the landmines, they’ve been mostly cleared and the focus is now more on supporting those affected by them and getting the cleared land back in use.
So, that leaves the beaches. The beautiful, empty, and dramatic beaches…
But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
I crossed into Mozambique on the road heading to Tete. Tete itself doesn’t offer much to the traveler, though the precarious state of the 1km suspension bridge makes for a few minutes of grisly speculation when crossing. What Tete does offer is a fun atmosphere during the May 1st Workers Day. The place was alive with parties and marches (the marches were more parties-on-the-move than anything else) and, despite my political leanings, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The next day I road south down to Chimoio, but quickly turned around and headed for Lake Chicamba, not for the great fishing, but for the fishing tournament that included a cook-off with local dishes. As it turns out, I got there too late for everything and just met trucks towing bass boats going out as I rode in. Ah well, it was a good campsite and I got up the next day ready to move on.
Among road users, Mozambique is known for its terrible roads. It’s not something you know about until the descriptions of knee deep potholes, unmarked trenches through the tarmac, and jury-rigged bridge repairs that pepper any discussion of Moz. start to sink in. The roads are bad- terrible, even for Africa! Well, as with everything in Africa, it’s only true(ish). Between The Buzi river and the wilds of North Western Moz. the roads are wonderful new tarmac with nary a pothole to be seen. As soon as you cross The Buzi, the stories come alive and even 50km/hr. becomes a distant memory. The tarmac stops being a road surface and simply exists to define the edges of the potholes; like a sheet of cookie dough after you’ve stamped out all the cookie shapes. Unpaved shoulders become unofficial lanes and the bike becomes king. With only one narrow front tire to worry about, a bike can dance around the ragged holes and leave even the most determined four wheeler far behind.
The roads continue on like this for a couple of days ride, except for a strange stretch in the middle. It’s as if Disney needed to film a Hawaii scene and decided that it’d be cheaper in Moz. or something.
The scrubby forest turns to palm trees, the road becomes scary perfect, and there is no obvious reason for it. You just enjoy it while not being able to really trust it- the next bend has to hide something terrible, it just has to- this road shouldn’t be here- what am I missing? A couple of hours later it’s over and the road becomes an obstical course once more. No signs, no notice- just another one of those ‘It’s Africa’ things you accept.