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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Mozambique to Rwanda

Whew, where to even begin. A lot has happened since our last post, so I’ll try and condense it as best as possible.

From southern Mozambique we drove up the coast to Vilankulo, headed inland through Gorongosa NP before heading back out to Quilimane on Mozambique’s central coast. Northern Mozambique was fantastic. There are very few tourists - as a result of a long and ongoing civil war - but cornerstones have been laid for future development, slating Mozambique as one of Africa’s fastest rising stars. At this point the northern part of the country remains relatively unspoiled and wild. From Quilimane we drove to Ilha de Mozambique, the Portuguese capital of East Africa, an island abandoned when Mozambique gained Independence June 25, 1975. Today the Ilha has crumbled into ruins, but beautifully so.  The old mansions are inhabited by locals, squatting amidst the rubble and splendor of a bygone era; modern day poverty juxtaposed over colonial era excess, a spectacular sight to see. Aside from the occasional renovation here and there, the island town has been left to decay naturally over time. I cannot ever remember seeing such beautiful architecture crumbling into the sea, water frontage in ruins.

From there we drove to Nacala and spent 4 days getting our Open Water Dive Certification. We LOVED it.

Our next stop was Pemba, where life on the road took a turn for the better…and we didn’t even know what we had been missing. Enter Mark and Steve, two Aussie travelers doing more or less the same route that we are. It was love at first sight, or shall I say love at first laugh; and we’ve been more or less laughing ever since.
Traveling in convoy with another ‘couple’ is so nice. The guys brought radios, the perfect transmitter for the ensuing hypotheticals: For a million dollars would you…Or better yet, the would-you-rathers; the kind of fodder that would make a trucker blush. The constant laughter and camaraderie certainly punctuates the intervals between destinations. And let me tell you, there were some loooong ones.

After a bit of sketchy negotiating without the benefit of a common language, we took a late night dhow to Ibo Island in the Quirimbas Archepeligo; a remote island in northern Mozambique nestled among the mangroves and crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean. We arrived on Ibo hungry tired and without a booking. Guided by nothing but moonlight we headed down what appeared to be a dark, but prominent path leading away from the harbor toward the town center and lumbered into Miti Miwiri, a tropical paradise amidst the rubble and dust. Walking through the beautifully redesigned guesthouse out into a verdant tropical courtyard was such an unexpected treat, as was our dinner of stuffed crab, matapa and the most delicious butternut squash soup I have ever eaten. Elder, I must have that recipe.

From Ibo we drove west across northern Mozambique crossing over the Rovuma River into Tanzania. The first three border crossings inland from the coast were by dugout canoe only. So we drove east in search of a bridge. Our sights were set on Katavi NP and from what we had heard from other travelers the road would be long and slow. Six days later the slog was over; we were beaten down, grumpy, hot, dirty and tired. But a couple nights in Katavi NP was so worth the effort.

Katavi is in the most remote, untouristed part of Tanzania (hence the 6 day drive on rutted and crumbling roads), so we pretty much had the park to ourselves. Within hours of entering the park every bump and jump seemed completely worth it. Right off the bat Glenn and I were charged by a HUMOUNGUS crocodile that actually got up to planning speed crossing the water toward us (fortunately there was a steep bank between us and crockie). If you’ve ever wondered if you could outrun a full grown crocodile, the answer is no.

Side note: I got a photo lesson from Mark in Katavi. He taught me how to use my super fancy camera. No more auto from here on out. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mark. I feel like I’ve been taught how to fish! I can’t wait to practice.

From Katavi we headed north to Kagoma on Lake Tanganika. GP and Steve negotiated a water taxi to take us (and 100 other passengers) north on lake Tanganika eventually depositing us on the banks of Gombe Stream NP; the nature reserve where Jane Goodall conducted her breakthrough research into the behavior of our closest living animal relatives, the chimpanzee.

Gombe was fantastic. Now Glenn and I have been exceptionally charmed nearly every single mile of our adventure, but being the first tourists to see (and photograph) a baby chimpanzee that had been born just hours earlier, was over-the-top. Sharing the shade of a mango tree with Fifi’s descendents was an incredible experience for all of us.

While in Katavi we found out that we could get a 3-day transit visa through Burundi and into Rwanda, taking a day or so off of our drive. We buzzed through Burundi, a tiny landlocked mountainous country bordering Lake Tanganika and the DRC to the west, Tanzania and Rwanda to the south and north. The roads through Burundi were good for Africa standards.

I am writing this post from Kamembe Rwanda, a fantastically beautiful small town perched high above the shores of Lake Kivu. I am awestruck by the beauty of Rwanda but at the same time, I can’t stop thinking of the war that ensued in the small tropical paradise 16 years ago. In two days time Glenn and I will visit the Genocide Memorial; I am bracing myself for that one.

Big love and kisses from the road,

To check our other photos of Mozambique and western Tanzania go to:
Going to gombe:
And the chimps of Gombe Stream:


  1. Love the post guys! Pictures are looking super! Really wish I could have had a wesside photo up like Steve does. Next time! I'm sure everyone is itching to know what the hypotheticals were though?

  2. WHAT!?! Mark, that photo of you is gorgeous. I love it. Yes, they may wonder but will never know.

    We had a blast with you two and look forward to the next adventure. Are your lungs ready for Kili?