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A pleasant surprise: Mozambique by motorcycle!

I recently returned from a beautiful journey through Namibia and Botswana. Traveling by car is undoubtedly more comfortable than traveling on two wheels, besides the possibility of carrying more accessories, which makes the journey more convenient. However, it's on two wheels that I always feel the freedom of the wind on my face, the ambient temperature, and the deep connection I have with myself. It's on the motorcycle that I connect 100% and during the long hours of riding, I reflect on all the experiences I've had.

Just like the journey through South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland, I also started this one in Johannesburg. My visa was about to expire, and I still needed to prepare the motorcycle with the accessories that I missed during the previous trip. Experience is indeed what we gain when we cannot achieve what we wanted.

In JHB setting up the motorcycle.

This time, I chose to acquire "soft bags" from a well-known South African brand called Tuskana. I was introduced to the brand a few days before at the largest agribusiness fair in the southern hemisphere, where I participated representing Hero, of course, with the presence of my lovely Lucile.

In addition to the new luggage system, which allowed me to carry more camping equipment, I also decided to invest in a riser to make the riding more comfortable and to avoid the back pains I used to experience.

Both tires were replaced since I didn't feel confident about finding suitable ones in Mozambique due to the local infrastructure. I also took the opportunity to change the oil in advance, based on the same reasoning.

The distance from Johannesburg to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is 544 km. It's easily achievable in a four-wheeled vehicle, but it would be quite a tiring journey on a motorcycle. I decided to make a stop in the beautiful city of Nelspruit, 340 km away, and cross the border the next morning.

It was May, and the colder weather was already present in Johannesburg. However, as I crossed the border into Mozambique, the winds from the Indian Ocean indicated that I would have more pleasant temperatures in the following days. Despite the bad reputation of the police in Mozambique, I encountered no problems and crossed the border quickly, allowing me to arrive in Maputo by morning.

Maputo positively impressed me. As the country's capital and financial center, it is also Mozambique's most populous city. I stayed near the central area and found all the comforts one would expect from a capital city. I spent a few days exploring the city,

including crossing the famous Maputo-Katembe Bridge, which was initially planned with Portuguese financing, but due to the crisis Portugal was facing, the bridge was built and financed with Chinese capital. The city also boasts a vibrant nightlife, with bars and restaurants along the waterfront, and a cuisine that impressed me compared to other African countries.

City of Maputo - The capital of Mozambique

As usual, I avoid big cities and seek to explore more of the rural areas, where I can experience the local culture more intensely. Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony, so I had the privilege of speaking the same language. Although Portuguese is widely spoken in the country, the local population, which is divided into various tribes, maintains their local dialects and communicates with each other using them. The civil war that lasted for more than 15 years after independence devastated the country and resulted in one of the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) levels on the planet.

Women working in oyster collection.

This reality, which is less visible in Maputo, becomes evident when we venture out of the financial center and come face to face with extreme poverty, deprivation, and the lack of access to basic services for the population, such as housing, food, healthcare, education, and security.

Paradoxically, as mentioned earlier, in 2010, Mozambique discovered gas reserves in the north of the country, which became the largest in the continent and the fourth-largest in the world. These natural resources, if well managed, could have been a game-changer and transformed the country's reality. However, unfortunately, events took a different turn, and the country faced various armed conflicts, including the presence of terrorist groups.

Back in Maputo, I planned my next steps towards the north as I had intentions to cross Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe before returning to South Africa. Mozambique has a long coastline, stretching nearly 3,000 km, bordered to the north by Tanzania and to the south by South Africa.

It was time to begin the journey towards the beautiful beaches, but also to genuinely experience the reality of the country. My next destination was to the north of Xai-Xai, in a region known as Chidenguele, approximately 278 km away.

A seller in a local market

The route followed the N1, a road that runs along the coast until Vilankulos before heading into the interior of the country. It is a one-way highway with frequent speed limit changes, which attracts the attention of police officers present everywhere with speed cameras. In Mozambique, it takes quite some time to cover relatively short distances, but as I appreciate the journey more than the destination itself, this detail does not become an obstacle for me.

Chidenguele is a small village located in the province of Gaza, known for its beautiful beaches that can only be accessed by 4x4 vehicles due to the sand dunes, or in my case, by a lightweight motorcycle that allows for easy lifting in case of a fall (which happens frequently).

Bungalow that.i slept for few days.

I stayed in a beautiful bungalow facing Inhampavala lagoon, just a few meters from the beach. I was fortunate to be the only traveler in the area, allowing me to fully enjoy the peace and tranquility that usually accompany me.

I took a few days to explore the region, riding my motorcycle along the fun sandy roads, and, of course, enjoying the beautiful local beach. I also discovered a local restaurant owned by Mario. He had lived many years working in South Africa and had recently returned to his home country, settling down and putting down roots in that village. I frequented his restaurant for several days, always accompanied by good conversations and information about the history of Mozambique.

Mario's restaurant

I continued my journey towards a very popular region known as Inhambane, specifically Tofo Beach. This area is mainly frequented by Europeans and Americans who visit Mozambique. Foreigners are drawn to the beautiful beaches, whale-watching during the migration season, and the famous diving spots, where they can encounter large marine animals such as whale sharks, rays, and sharks, among others.

Inhambane is also known as the "land of good people" due to the friendly, kind, and laid-back nature of its local population.

Getting my hair done in.a local place

Just strolling through the small village is enough for the locals to approach and strike up conversations. In the region, there are also good restaurants and accommodations.

Unfortunately, due to unfavorable weather conditions with strong gusts of wind, I couldn't dive and snorkel with the whale sharks in Tofo. So, I decided to continue my journey north.

Following the recommendations of the local residents, I drove to Morrungulo, which is also part of the Inhambane province. It's a 160 km distance and took over 4 hours to cover due to frequent speed reductions, checkpoints, and the sandy road in the final stretches. The region is mainly dominated by resorts with exorbitant prices, but I managed to find an excellent camping area in front of a deserted beach.

Morrangulo Beach

On the first day, I had Dutch neighbors who were traveling in a 4x4, but on the second night, I was the only inhabitant of the place. The beach truly deserves to be visited, with its turquoise blue color, pleasant temperature, and coconut trees all around. It's an impressive place in terms of beauty, and as a bonus, it's practically unknown to foreign tourists due to its lack of promotion.

I was excited to reach my next destination: Vilankulos. Located north of Morrungulo, it's also where the N1, the road mentioned earlier, veers away from the coastline and goes inland. It's in this region that things start to become a little more challenging due to the infrastructure.

Facing Mozambique roads

The distance of 180 km between the two cities takes hours to cover, as I mentioned earlier, due to the reasons previously stated. Vilankulos has a good infrastructure with supermarkets, gas stations, and even a local mechanic available for basic maintenance.

Vilankulos Beach

Exploring the islands of the archipelago, especially Bazaruto Island, was one of the main attractions in Vilankulos. I stayed in a traditional beachfront hut, built based on knowledge passed down through generations. Little did I know that I would end up staying there for so many days.

An unfortunate incident almost took me out of action. While going to the bathroom, I didn't notice that the door frame was too low, and I ended up hitting my head. I didn't lose consciousness, but the impact left me quite dizzy. Since there was a lot of blood, I decided to quickly go to the public hospital, which was just a few meters away from where I was staying. It was at that moment that I witnessed the lack of public investment in healthcare. With a shortage of basic materials for treatment, such as dressings, antiseptics, thread, and needle for the necessary stitches, I couldn't receive the care I needed.

Getting assistance in the private-clinic

Fortunately, I found a private clinic a few kilometers away from the city, and despite the high cost, I received the appropriate treatment. The result? I had to rest for 8 days, unable to move, swim, or engage in any activities.

This period of forced rest allowed me to create connections with the local residents, explore the city in more detail, and, at the end of the rest days, join the beach soccer team that played at sunset during low tide.

I also visited a local school north of Vilankulos. Unfortunately, education, like in many countries, is a challenge to be overcome in Mozambique. Due to the lack of infrastructure, students sit on tree trunks or in the sand to attend classes.

Local school

With my energy restored, it was time to continue the journey. My next destination was Chimoio, a city located in the interior of the country and a base for travelers heading to or coming from Malawi and Zimbabwe. This road was also one of the most challenging due to its lack of maintenance. It was full of potholes, unpaved, and with the presence of trucks and buses traveling the route, making it quite dangerous. There were ongoing construction works, some financed by China and others by the World Bank. It is likely that the road's poor conditions will be improved in the future.

I had already covered more than 250 km of the nearly 500 km that separate the two cities when I decided to take a break to stretch my legs. As I looked at the back of the motorcycle, I noticed that the license plate was missing. I probably lost it during the journey due to excessive vibrations.

The challenging way to Chimoio

At that moment, I had to make a decision: continue the journey, risking potential problems at the border, and if my entry was denied, I would have to travel over 1500 km back to Maputo in just a few days, considering that my visa was about to expire. Alternatively, I could return to Vilankulos and re-plan my route.

I opted for the second option and made the entire way back to Vilankulos, hoping to find the fallen license plate on the ground. This incident cost me more than 10 hours of riding, and I arrived completely exhausted without the plate.

Since getting a new license plate in time was not possible, the next day, I began the journey back to Maputo. From Vilankulos, I headed straight to Tofo (over 300 km). During my short stay in Tofo, I took the opportunity to do an activity I couldn't do on my last visit due to weather conditions: diving with whale sharks.

Just like on a safari, there is no guarantee of an encounter, which makes the experience even more intense. We set out on a boat in the morning in search of whale sharks, and in less than an hour, we spotted one not too far from the coast. Despite being named "shark," which unfortunately wrongly associates them with dangerous animals, whale sharks mainly feed on plankton and occasionally on small fish. They are extremely curious creatures, which makes the encounters with them truly special.

Whale Shark

Diving near such a majestic animal only reinforces the importance of preservation and highlights that, despite being 8 billion people in the world, we need to learn to share this planet with more responsibility and consciousness.

In Tofo, I began to feel that my body was not in the best condition. Frequent fatigue, muscle aches, and a sinusitis crisis became more prominent. Considering that Mozambique has one of the highest rates of malaria on the continent, I decided to visit a local hospital to get tested. Fortunately, the result was negative.

From Tofo, I headed directly to Maputo, in an exhausting journey due to the long distance involved (over 500 km). I spent the day on the road and entered the capital during rush hour. Usually, I avoid covering long distances in a single day, but the circumstances I was in led me to make that decision.

Already a bit weakened by the previous days and the effort of the previous day, the days that followed in Maputo were filled with some visits to the hospital, plenty of rest, and hours spent in bed. An acute sinusitis crisis had set in, and rest was the necessary remedy to overcome this challenge.

With my visa about to expire, I hit the road again towards the Eswatini border. I chose the Namaacha border post due to its proximity to a very special place: the Hlane National Park.

But that's a story for another time.

Sending you a warm embrace,

Gabriel Turano

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