Ilha de Mozambique rubbed off on us in a big way, and we were sad to leave. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as our next stop was the once-fabled wilds of Gorongosa National Park. Gorongosa is over a thousand kms from Ilha, so we ended up breaking the journey in Mocuba again, where we were reunited with the very same bed bugs in the very same room at the Pensãu Cruzeiro. Judging by the weird rash the next day, they were definitely a lot more enthusiastic about the reunion than we were.
We got going early the next morning and pulled into Gorongosa just after lunch, but only after negotiating the most potholed stretch of road of the entire trip. It doesn’t matter how good you think your dodgem-car skills are, sooner or later you are going to collide with one. It’s a miracle we didn’t have to stop to change a tyre. Just as well too, considering we’re only carrying one spare.
In the sixties and seventies, Gorongosa was one of Africa’s great game reserves. During the civil war, however, it was largely forgotten about by everyone except the hungry guerillas, who apparently had the attitude that there was so much game, it would surely never run out. 20 odd years of severe poaching and general neglect practically destroyed the park forever. But not quite. Gorongosa has been given a lifeline, thanks largely to the efforts of The Greg Carr Foundation, which is plowing millions of Dollars into protecting and rehabilitating the place. As a result, we didn’t arrive there expecting to see much in the way of big game. We did expect to see some nice birds and some incredibly diverse vegetation, and in that respect we weren’t disappointed. We even saw a couple of Narina Trogons, a first for both of us.
Birds and beautiful scenery aside, we couldn’t help feeling that Gorongosa is very over-priced for what you currently get, certainly when you compare it to South Luangwa, Chobe, Moremi and Mana. It’s not a big park, and you could probably see all of it in a few days. We could only afford a couple, but it was enough to get a good feel for the place. We’d love to go back at some point, but we’ll give it a few years. In due time, thanks to the tireless conservation work being put in, Gorongosa will surely reclaim its place as one of Africa’s gems.
Whilst in Gorongosa, Andy started making really weird noises every time we switched him off. It was inevitable that at some stage we’d have a car issue or two. And it seemed like the time had come. Everyone in the campsite had a different opinion as to what might be causing the sound, and I’d like announce – with just a tinge of manly pride – that I was the only one to predict correctly. It’s a minor turbo-charger issue, and the good news is it will be fine until we get home. The bad news is we had to go into Beira to find that out, a place we wanted to avoid if we could. We arrived in Beira on a Saturday morning. With no chance of seeing a mechanic until Monday, we traveled 30 kms up the coast to a place called Rio Savane, which a few people and our guidebook had emphatically recommended if we were ever in the vicinity of Beira. Set at the mouth of a beautiful little estuary, it was a very pleasant place to kill a couple of days. Monday morning found us back in Beira, in the parking lot of Shoprite, where a meeting with a South African ex-Land Rover mechanic confirmed my suspicions and, more importantly, put our minds firmly at ease. Without much further ado, we hightailed it out of Mozambique’s second biggest city.
It was past midday by the time we eventually escaped Beira. This gave us 5 and a half hours to get to Inhassoro before dark. Considering it was about 500 kms, it was always going to be close. Kerryn was sick as anything (another Malaria scare) and we got a speeding fine doing 71 in a supposed 70 zone, although there was no sign to show it. In fact nowhere in Mozambique have we seen a 70 zone. But whatever, it was just one of those days, and we were relieved more than anything else when we eventually rolled into The Seta Campsite in Inhassoro, a good 45 minutes after sunset. Bar its buzzing little market and a few of the local taverns, Inhassoro didn’t really make the biggest impression on us. We spent 2 nights there before driving 30 kms up the beach – quite literally – to the tip of the Barthomlew Diaz Point. It had been ages since either of us had driven on a beach, and we felt like we were on an extravagant Top Gear shoot as we roared over the wet sand towards the beautiful BD Lodge.