March 19, 2010


No issues again at the Swaziland/South Africa border – the officials were more interested in my motorbike than in checking any of the paperwork. One border official even asked if I could take him into town to buy some bread – unfortunately I had to turn him down because I was ‘late for a meeting in Maputo’.

Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, is one of the strangest cities I have ever been to! The main road through the city doubles as the local market with informal markets and stalls packed along the street. The main street is shared between cars, bakkies (utes), lorries (trucks), taxi’s, buses , donkey carts, pedestrians, animals and basically anything that wants to be there. There seems to be no order in traffic flow and traffic laws are a thing of the past. It took me about two hours to get through Maputo with my finger constantly on the hooter. Frustrating, but that is Africa I suppose.

After lunch at Manhica I headed to Bilene, my first stopover in Mozambique. The road to Bilene was great and I managed to make Bilene in good time.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bilene. The town is really scenic and clean. BiIene is situated around a lagoon and is a great fishing spot. The beach is lined with palm tree’s and the sea is really calm, clean and warm. I am surprised that this place isn’t frequented more by the South African tourists. I spent my first three nights camping at the Palmeira Campsite with the Coconut Bar/Restaurant as my main port of call. The barman of Coconuts was a huge James Blunt fan and on one count he managed to play “Goodbye my lover” an amazing seven times in a row before I spoilt his fun and asked him to change the CD.

(My tent is a lot smaller than I thought it would be – maybe I should have checked it out before I bought it. But I must admit it is really strong, sturdy and waterproof which I found out during a rainstorm on the last night)

On 14/3 I woke up early, packed up the campsite and began my trek north to Tofo. It started raining just after I got on the bike and didn’t stop for about two hours. I was soaked! Just after Xai Xai the roads started to deteriorate. (I remember driving this route about ten years ago and the road was a good condition (paved) road all the way to Tofo! I am surprised how quickly it has deteriorated). Soon after Xai Xai the road became non-existent. The track that was left was just thick sand that had been churned into mud by the big trucks that were intent on maintaining the speed they would have done if there was a paved road. Quite scary. The motorbike with its heavy load is very unstable in the thick sand – so I think I am going to have to do some serious load shedding before I hit the really bad roads in northern Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. I eventually got to Tofo at about 16h00 – 400km in 8 hours! By the time I got to Tofo I was absolutely stuffed!!!
Tofo has long been legendary on the holiday-makers circuits with its azure waters, fascinating reefs, sweeping white beaches, rolling breakers, and a perpetual party-time atmosphere.
I had been recommended to stay at Aquatica Lodge, but for some reason the guard would not let me in the front gate – he couldn’t understand English and I can’t understand Portuguese so we ended up just shouting at each other. I wasn’t in the mood for his nonsense so continued on to the lodge next door called Bamboozi ( (I still have no idea why he would not let me in – maybe the lodge was full? Who knows.)

Bamboozi ended up being a ‘blessing in the skies’ (Dad :-). Bamboozi is a backpacker place with a great dive school and bar/restaurant. The bar/restaurant is high up in the dunes and has an absolutely amazing view over the sea. I stayed in a two sleeper cabin for 4 nights at $AU 12.00 per night!! Spent the evening on the restaurant deck eating a seafood dinner ($AUD 4.00) of calamari, prawns, crab and lobster and watching the sun go down over a couple of beers. It didn’t take me long to forget about the hectic days ride!

The next three days I spent fishing off the beach and relaxing in the Mozambican sun. I also met up with Big Paul, Paul the Pom, Matty Matt, Jay, Freda and Pierre who work at the dive school and I managed to do four dives with them. They are a great bunch of guys and dive these reefs for a living – what a cool job!! They are really passionate about what they do which is so great to see. Over the three days we dived ‘Salon’, ‘Manta Reef’,’ Marble Arch’ and ‘Giants Castle ‘. Spectacular diving – something I will never forget. Thanks guys!

Tofo is one of the top dive sites in the world and is by far one of the best sites I have dived in. I am amazed by the underwater beauty of this region – we have seen four HUGE manta rays, devil rays, moray eels, potato bass and loads of different coral fish. Whale sharks, great white sharks, dolphins and turtles also often patrol these waters.

On Wednesdays at Bamboozi is the ‘all you can eat pizza’ evening which turns into a huge party session. Matt, Nancy and I ended up at Fatima’s Nest drinking shooters and far too many beers. Some gay guy and a prostitute were having a fight over Matt. Ha ha dodgy place! Matt's you legend.

Woke up early on Thursday 18/3 to head up to Vilanculos. All I can say is that it is not fun riding a motorbike in the hot sun with a hangover. Along the way I crossed the Tropic Of Capricorn which is a bit of a milestone. Got to Vilaculos at about 15h00 and booked into the Zombie Cucumber Backpackers. Great spot. Had dinner with Tim and Stef, an English couple who I met up with at the backpackers. They have spent the last 18 months touring New Zealand, Australia, Asia, India and Africa. They have some great stories to share - Clucky the chicken – what a laugh. We ended up playing drinking games with some other poms back at the backpackers. Time for some serious detox.

Vilanculos is an amazing little town. It is the doorway to the Bazaruto Archipelago which is renowned for spectacular diving and fishing. The main industry here is obviously fishing and every morning the fishing dhows head out to sea. Quite spectacular. The whole town seems to gather every evening when the fishing boats return. They seem to have a great laugh at the "puffer fish" that turn themselves into the size of soccer balls from fright.

I stayed in Vilunculos (Zombie Cucumber) for three days and I spent most of the time relaxing, walking around the markets and taking walks down the beach with Tim and Stef. Tim and I have developed a knack of finding pubs ha ha. We also met up with Olly, Huon (the thinnest guy in the world!!) and Jonny a great bunch of guys who have just finished school in the UK and are heading up to Kenya. Also met Melody, a great lady from Toronto (Canada) who is also heading up to Egypt. I am sure that I will meet up with them all again along the way. It wasn’t long before the drinking games came out and some late evenings were enjoyed playing “Never have I ever”, “Fives” and “Circle of Fire”. Great fun.
We also had the privilege of meeting up with appropriately named T-Dog (Tick Dog) who decided to become our tour-guide / security guard whilst in Vilunculos. He walked with us everywhere and seemed to know the area like the back of his paw. He even walked with us to Bazaruto Dive Centre – some 5km’s away. We took a taxi back to town and he wasn’t allowed in the taxi – so I hope he is okay? Knowing T-dog, I am sure he made it back to the backpackers okay. We are not convinced he even has an owner – nobody seemed to know who he belonged to – anyway he looked fairly healthy so I think he manages okay by himself.

Decided to start the big push up to Malawi on 21/3. There has been some heavy rains recently in northern Mozambique, so I am changing my route slightly and cutting inland to Chimoio and then up to Tete and into Malawi. My first stop-over was a place called Silvia’s just outside Chimoio. Sylvia’s has a great swimming pool with a huge slide going into it. This must be the local attraction because there were about 50 kids swimming in the pool, on the Sunday afternoon, when I got there. Mozambique’s version of Disneyland? I was given a room right next to the pool L what a noise!! Nothing like screaming kids when you are trying to relax and get some sleep. The lodge’s were great – clean, comfy and hot water!
Woke up early on 22/3 with the aim of getting up to Tete which is about a 400km distance. I have heard some horror stories of this road so I decided to set off early. The road turned out to be a really great road – I assume that all the road works have recently finished because the road was in fairly good condition i.e. fewer potholes.
The road to Tete was great – it travels along the foothills of the Nyanga Mountain Range which is really beautiful. There are some huge granite mountains which seem really out of place here – they stick out of the ground and are hundreds of metres high – as if “the Gods” were throwing huge stones at the earth. The largest of these is Mount Gorongoza which is absolutely massive. The photo just does not do it justice – unfortunately the clouds had come in and covered it so I couldn’t really get any good camera shots.

My first petrol stop and the only one before Tete was at a town called Catandica. Unfortunately, when I got there, the petrol station had run out of petrol L. There was no chance I would get to Tete without getting some petrol. I managed to find a guy who sold me some petrol from a dodgy can at a ridiculous price of $AUD 17.00 for 10 litres. I had no idea of the quality of the petrol, but had no option but to risk it. As it turns out the petrol was fine. To top it off, the guy managed to spill petrol all over the bike while he was trying to pour it from his 25 litre drum into my tank. I was not happy!

Along the way I crossed the Pungue River and saw the remnants of the old Pungue River bridge. This bridge has quite a history to it as it was blown up by the Rhodesian Army in the 1970’s during the Rhodesian bush war. They had received intelligence that the “terrorists ” were using the bridge to get down to the Rhodesian border and cross into Rhodesia – so it was blown up and caused a huge uproar from the Mozambican government that were supporting Robert Mugabe.

I also crossed the Cahorra Bassa overhead line, which may interest some of the electrical engineers. The shape of the pilon is very strange, and for good reason. This particular line is one of the longest DC power lines in the world and connects the Cahorra Bassa hydroelectric power station to somewhere just east of Johannesburg. It then gets converted to AC and distributed across Africa. Quite an electrical phenomenon.

At about 12hoo I crossed the Zambezi River and headed into Tete. The Zambezi River is absolutely massive! There is a huge bridge crossing the river in Tete and I will not be surprised if the bridge collapses soon – you can hear the bridge taking strain every time a big truck goes over it and there are some huge cracks between the separate concrete sections on the bridge. I was relieved to get off the bridge!!

As I had made good time, I decided to refuel in Tete, get some lunch, and head up to Blantyre (Malawi), which was about 260 km away. The road was fairly good and I got to the Mozambique / Malawi border post in good time. Again, I had no problems at the border post, although I did have to show the border official how to fill out the “Carne de Passage” for the motorbike. Again, the motorbike was crowded by people wanting to have a look, wanting to sell me something or wanting to exchange money. It is really disconcerting having to leave all my belongings on the motorbike while I go into the customs office to fill out all the paperwork. Anyway, I did manage to exchange all my leftover Mozambican metcais for Malawi kwatcha at a really good rate.
Jaag maar aan.

March 11, 2010


Left Johannesburg at last! The first part of the trip is through the coal mining area’s of Witbank and Middelburg. Nothing too exiting. The actual holiday felt like it begun once I started getting into the eastern Transvaal, renowned for the highlands and their spectacular scenery. Green grassy hills flowing into each other, which makes quite a change to the Johannesburg metropolitan area. I stopped for lunch at Millies Trout farm, which is a sort of South African tradition on this route. The food at Millies is awesome – nothing like smoked trout to get the afternoon started.

I got to the Swaziland border post at about 15h00. I forgot that South Africans now need passports to get into Swaziland so I had to dig through all my luggage to try and find my passport which I had packed at the bottom of one of my panniers. Still lots to learn about sensible packing. Managed to get through the border fairly quickly without any major hassles. I had planned to spend the night at the Royal Swazi Hotel, but somehow managed to miss the off-ramp, so I continued on to a small town called Manzini.

On the way to Manzini , I passed the Royal Residence where the King of Swaziland lives with his 28 wives – yes, 28 wives - what a legend! Manzini is a traditional African town in the true sense of the word – dirty, dusty and with cattle walking through the main street?? That night I stayed at the Manzini Lodge which was in a bit of a dodgy area but was clean and secure. I had dinner and some beers at Marco’s Restaurant while a crowd gathered around my motorbike to discuss this ‘new technology’ of two wheeled vehicles with motor’s … something that I will have to get used to I suppose.

Woke up early the next morning and headed to the Swaziland/Mozambique border. Along the way I had to negotiate a few herds of cattle and goats that were intent on crossing the road just as I rode up to them. Dangerous!

Jaag maar aan.

March 10, 2010

South Africa

Sorry about the delay and no, I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth (yet) :-) My bike arrived safely in Johannesburg and the team from U-bag got it easily cleared through customs. Kobles and I managed to put it back together again quite easily. Nothing stolen/scratched/damaged/broken - in fact it all went well - no mess, no fuss. Good start to the trip.

Been a hectic couple of days in Johannesburg doing some last minute organising, whilst awaiting my visa's to come through. I have managed to organise my Egyptian Visa, but not yet got my Sudanese one, which is the one I am a bit concerned about. It apparently takes up to 10 working days to get the Sudanese visa from the embassy in Pretoria - I have heard it is a lot quicker from other Sudanese embassies further up in Africa so I will try and get it from either Nairobi (Kenya) or Addis Ababba (Ethiopia).

Apart from sorting visa's out, I have spent the majority of my time getting the bike ready. I met up with Ray Muller from Cybertech (Tours for Africa) and he has been an endless source of help!! Thanks Ray, Donovan and the rest of the team from Cybertech. The information that you have shared and your immense knowledge of Africa has been a great help. Ray has also helped me get my bike up to "African terrain standards" - I have added on "ultra heavy duty front springs", "ultra heavy duty tubes", jump start connection point, raised handle-bars, rewired the power supply and spot lights, added a master cylinder protection cover, welded/strengthened the panniers, removed the side stand switch etc etc etc ... it cost quite a bit of money (a further R21,000) but I am a lot more confident that the bike will make it! It is me I am more worried about ha ha .. Ayway, lets hope we both last :-)

I spent last weekend with my dad in Klerksdorp which was great! Good to see the old man again. Was great to get out of the hussle and bussle of Johannesburg for a while and to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends in Klerksdorp. Dad is obviously concerned about me doing the trip, but thats what dads are for I suppose.

I saw this sign on the way between Klerksdorp and Johannesburg. The sign is asking people to stay in South Africa and help to build the nation. It is the first sign I have seen of the sort, but I like the enthusiasm. Since 1994 almost 5 million educated people have left South Africa for overseas countries (mainly the UK, Canada and Australia) in an attempt to try and better their lives (me being one of them). To be honest, for an educated person in South Africa there is very little that beats the lifestyle here! Unfortunately South Africa has a very large crime problem (and other problems) that the government is failing to address. Unless there are some drastic improvements in the crime rates in this country, the educated (tax-payers) will continue to leave in droves - simple as that! ... and to be honest, I dont have much faith in the current government.

Well today I am back in the Johannesburg AMEC office in Bryanston. Kathy Bam has organised a "send-off" tea for me, with a few photos with the AMEC staff here in Johannesburg. Everyone in this office (and especially Kathy) have been absolutely great and very supportive. Makes me proud to work for AMEC. Thank you AMEC (Johannesburg)!

Also, thanks to all my family, friends and colleagues in Johannesburg for your guidance and assistance over the past few days. Much appreciated!

I start off tomorrow on my great trek through Africa. First stop is the Kingdom of Swaziland, for a day, before heading into Mozambique. I am not sure when next I will find an internet cafe, but it will hopefully be quite soon. Keep in touch ...

Jaag maar aan