What can go wrong next?
Well rested, we set off for Angoche. None of the information sources I tapped before our departure had much information about this part of our journey – no campsites were listed (except in Pebane), no one knew the condition of the roads except that a major storm has washed away parts of them the previous year and that some of the bridges might still be down. It was a long way – 815kms to Quelimane, which turned out to be quite a bit further…
The only point of reference I had in Angoche was the Restaurante O’Pescador. Hoping to find someone in there that can speak English, we got lucky – Matt and Gabriel, both in the shipping industry, were kind enough to give me their contact details and directions to the beach where they were convinced we would be able to camp next to a little beach bar and restaurant. Gabriel acted as our interpreter (over the phone) and arranged a price to pay two youngsters who would be our “gaurdos” for the night. As soon as we started putting up camp, scores of kids showed up who stayed a mere 3 metres away observing our every move until it got dark. Washing up after supper, I realized that we have run out of gas – from now on, everything will have to be cooked on a fire (including boiling water for our morning coffee, which was a real pain).
Elize stated quite clearly the next morning that camping in places where we were not sure of our safety is a no-no, so we decided to carry on past Moma, the next coastal town. The intention was to carry on to the Reserva Nacional de Gile where we will at least be by ourselves. This didn’t happen – the bridge over the Rio Ligonha was down. T4A had two possible points of crossing listed – a pontoon (nowhere to be seen) and a place which stated “river crossing possible”. Well, it most definitely wasn’t possible – the locals showed us that the deepest part of the river is just under their armpits! So we turned back and headed inland to the main tar road – 150kms to the north-west. After crossing the same river at Alto Ligonha, we turned left towards the coast again, supposedly on a gravel road that will take us there via the Gile Reserve.
By this time it was raining quite steadily. At the turnoff, I thought it wise to reverse a short distance and find out from the people in a parked Land Cruiser what the road is like. Not being able to see properly (the camper conversion meant I had to rely on the two side mirrors, streaming with rain) I ended up in a ditch. The vehicle tilted over alarmingly to Elize’s side, so much so that everyone in the vicinity came running up shouting warnings and advice. We were in a bad situation – it seemed that the car was tilting over more by the minute, most probably due to collapsing mud underneath. I tried to tell the onlookers to get up on my running board to prevent the car from toppling over – nao comprehendo!!! Finally, I grabbed one youngster by his shirt and hauled him up – as soon as they understood what I wanted, I had three more in position. Engaging low range first gear and both rear and front diff locks, we sent up a silent prayer and I let out the clutch…it felt at first that we would topple over but turning the steering wheel to the left, the car slowly pulled out and levelled. Everyone was slapping our hands and claiming victory in a joyous way – surely the closest we have been to rolling over in the seven years we have been driving around in the Cruiser!
It soon started getting dark and I convinced Elize that we had to camp next to the road. She finally agreed after a bad skid on the muddy road which almost had us ending up in a ditch. We pulled off into a disused quarry hole with a gravelly bottom. Within 5 minutes the whole village was there, fortunately also the chief. At first we did not believe that the woman claiming to be so was telling the truth, but everyone else confirmed that this was indeed the case. We agreed on a price and that we wanted to be left in peace, and the deal was clinched when Elize handed her one of her garments (we always carry clothing with us while travelling in Africa). As soon as camp was set up, she spoke to the crowd and they left – we were amazed and very thankful, knowing that we would be safe that night.
The next morning we had to turn around and once more head for the tar road, as we were informed that the bridge over the Rio Molecue was also down. Along the way I put another plug into the tyre that started giving us trouble in Niassa and putting the compressor away, managed to leave behind the nozzle. We were now without the ability to re-inflate our tyres, quite a serious handicap in Mozambique where no filling stations were able to pump tyres.
An uneventful stayover in the Gile Reserve (except for hundreds of sand fleas that we disturbed while clearing the undergrowth setting up camp, who must have given Elize at least 80 bites and almost had her in tears because of the itching) we drove into Pebane. The listed beach campsite was getting ready for a big party – after all, it was Old Year’s Eve! We left and were very fortunate to be accommodated at Pebane Heights B&B, away from the crowds, where we could pitch camp under a huge mango tree. Muito obrigado Domingos – a lovely old gentleman who looked after us that night and pulled water from a well for washing the next morning.
From Pebane to Quelimane was 200kms of gravel and 100kms of tar road. 5 kms before we got to the tar road, we had to turn around – Rio Licungo had taken away the bridge and even T4A didn’t know about it! Another 150km detour meant that we pulled into Quelimane quite late – fortunately the kind people at the Zalala Safari Lodge allowed us to camp (out of sight, the place was filled with larney guests) next to the guardos’ house. After supper I got stuck into disaster number three – our fridge has stopped working and I was hoping to find a loose connection I could fix. No such luck – the bad roads has broken off one of the copper gas pipes – so now we were without a fridge/freezer as well.
Fortunately, we managed to buy a 9kg gas bottle in town the next morning and it was tar all the way to Beira – in our final delivery the good news starts!