Nao Rio?! (No river)
9 February 2013- Cuamba, Mozambique
What a long day! Today did not turn out as expected, it didn’t look that far on the map!
We had a few days in Gurue camping in the car park of a pensao (local guesthouse). Last night when we went to bed we were planning to go for a walk today and were not sure if we would stay Gurue, the lovely friendly market town another day or move north, towards the border with Malawi. We woke to rain and plenty of mud so decided the walk was off. The rain stopped but it was muddy and the humidity was stifling so we had a walk around the town and decided to leave and head for Malawi. The map showed the road as a fairly main road (that is so relative!) and the GPS said a six hour drive all the way to Lake Malawi, so we figured with road blocks and the border a longish drive for us but fine. Well…. that’s not how things turned out!
We set off from Gurue and after leaving the beautiful area covered in tea plantations we were soon on a muddy wet track banked with shoulder-high grass, maize and lots of people walking and on bicycles. It is truly amazing what people carry on bicycles here! They are absolutely piled high with everything!
We carried on the road for several hours, it was slow going and were surprised to find so few private vehicles in northern Mozambique, we didn’t come across any others, only the open backed trucks that act as buses (packed to overflowing with people) and trucks carrying goods along the slow journey. People here are not as overtly friendly as in Zimbabwe and Zambia, we were met with open mouth staring, people looking either confused or shocked. I guess they don’t get many landys rumbling past them with two white faces looking out. Many of the children ran away into the maize only to peak back out to have a look once they were ‘hidden’. We smiled and waved and were then met by apprehensive but friendly waves through to out and out shouting and kids freaking out, waving, dancing and singing! We were going so slowly we were able to say hi to everyone we passed.
After a few hours we came across a swollen river where water was flowing across the causeway. A quick look at the map showed we were only a few km from what was supposed to be a bigger road! We got out and had a look, I was very apprehensive about crossing, they are always saying in Australia don’t cross a flooded road. Olly walked across to gauge the depth and was convinced it was safe to cross based on the depth, the strength of the flow, and that the bottom was concrete. So we slowly made our way across, me very nervous and Olly concentrating. We made it across with no worries whatsoever, as soon as we started I could tell it was fine, landy was fine crossing it. About an hour up the road we came across a large truck coming towards us, someone waved at us to stop and with Portuguese and hand gestures he informed us that further up the road (about 20 km) the river was massive and most certainly ‘no passage’. We sat ‘talking’ to him for a bit and showed him on the map where we were trying to go (we had now seriously revised where we would likely end up for the night and were happy to just make it to the next town where we knew there was no camping but there would be somewhere to stay). He showed us a way around on an even smaller road, we asked if there was a river on that road or water and he responded ‘Nao rio, nao water’ so we turned around and carried on after giving him a glass of water he asked for.
We backtracked the 30 km (an hour) and found the other road with no trouble and it turned out to be fairly good, a bit less bumpy even. We bumped and rattled along it for several more hours and approached the main east west road in the north of the country which turned out to be a wider road but very bumpy, very muddy and wet and without a doubt a 4×4 was needed with the mud and water crossings. It is obvious driving is not the main way to get around up here! It’s the road we would have taken from the coast if we had gone and we were glad we didn’t it would have taken days and days! Anyway we were about 30 km from our destination when we came over a small rise and my heart sunk! In front of us was heaps of people on both sides of a 100 mt wide flooded section of the road! uggg! A very quick look at the map showed us backtracking would take at least three days! As we approached we both let out an involuntary groan and as we came to a stop we were surrounded by about 40 or so guys, all rushed up to the window and all speaking rapidly in Portuguese gesturing wildly. We got out and they showed us by their wet clothing how deep it was, about waist deep. After awhile we worked out that they were offering to push us through but we didn’t know why (aside from guessing they wanted payment) they seemed so eager for us to cross. A few people were carrying bikes across and a few people had made small makeshift boats out of tyres the rest were right in our face gesturing to us and speaking. ‘Fala English?’ we asked hopefully, nope. Olly walked across and it was up to his waist but the bottom was hard rather than soft and muddy. I knew we had to cross unless it would do any major damage to landy- backtracking was a long long way (and it seemed likely we would come across more water anyway). We have been through deeper water but not for such a length, after Olly put the wading plugs in we decided to go ahead. A 4×4 from the other side was starting across and we realised its engine was not running, and it clicked into place, it was being pushed across by a group of men from the other side, ahhh…. that’s what they were talking about, they wanted to push us through with plastic over the exhaust, and the air filter popped out. The 4×4’s alarm and horn went wild as the electrics starting getting water in them (no problems like that in landy!) as it crossed and they opened the doors to release a torrent of water that had collected in the footwells. Just then someone pulled up behind us and a guy got out speaking English! He is Zimbabwean working in Mozambique and was able to explain to us there is a group on each side that charge 250 Meticais (about $8.00) and share it amongst themselves to push people across (apparently flooded roads happen a lot!). We decided to just go on our own and asked them to follow if we needed them (and offered them 100M) given landy is higher and has a snorkel we knew the depth would be ok, we thought driving would be quicker and less water was likely to seep in under the doors and into our stuff (landy leaks at the best of times never mind sitting in water half way up the door!). So off we went, worked like a treat, we created a bow wave in-front of us which kept some water out and paid the guys on the other side and had a look at the damage, a few inches of water at my feet, less at Olly’s and very little in the back. By this time we were ready to stop for the day but we slid and bumped our way into the small dusty town (with a shocking road as the main road!!) just as it got dark. We asked the first people we came across for a hotel or pensoa and were pointed to one, where we explained our desire to camp in landy- thankfully the guy spoke a bit of english (and a few words I know in spanish about accommodation are similar) he thought we were very strange for wanting to sleep in landy. The place was very basic and we ended up paying for a room (v cheap) to use the toilet (awful!!!) and sleeping in landy anyway- he was happy and we were happy. We had a drink at the tiny place next door and are now ready for bed! Another one of the guests spoke a bit of english too and they have assured us its a two-hour drive to the border tomorrow and we should not hit any water- we will belive that when we see it!
L and O