Driving in the southernmost section of Mozambique is an adventure – the roads between South Africa’s Kosi Bay border and Maputo are virtually non-existent, small tracks of deep sand meander through overgrown foliage and in the places where you do see tar you wish you were back on the sand track because the bathtub-sized potholes are killer.
But this wasn’t stopping us. We had made it to Ponta do Ouro no problem, up the lesser travelled path to White Pearl Resorts on the beach at Ponta Mamoli and now were embarking on the biggest road trip adventure of all – driving through the Maputo Special Reserve to Machangulo Beach Lodge on the point of the mainland opposite Inhaca Island.
The sand in the reserve was worse – deeper, less travelled and we didn’t see any other cars around in case we got stuck – not even the ranger we met at the gate had a vehicle (the sad result of a lack of funding in a war-torn area).
Luckily we made it through and were about 4km from our destination when we got lost. After driving around the tiny town of Santa Maria about three times my fiancé decided he wanted to go right, I opted for left, we shouted, we screamed, we stopped – we got stuck.
Luckily a local villager saw us and after pushing and digging yielding no results, he waved down a tractor towing a trailer with four woman and all their wares. These kind people hitched up their tractor, pulled from the front and pulled from the back and eventually we were free and back on our way – after getting some directions (and yes I have to admit that turning right was correct).
After three glorious days at Machangulo Beach Lodge we were dreading the drive back through the reserve but short of abandoning our car we had no choice. All was going great until in front of us loomed a bright orange truck. We knew that the worst sand section was still to come and that we would need momentum to conquer it if we weren’t to get stuck. So we found the hardest patch of sand we could and we waited, giving the slow orange truck time to get ahead. And all was going good again until we came round one particularly slow corner to be faced with the shiny bum of the bright orange truck. The truck slid, we slowed, the truck stuttered, we slowed, the truck virtually stopped, we did stop, the truck miraculously kept going – we did not. The truck driver did not turn back and my faith in humanity waned.
A call to the reserve ranger and he was on it trying to find someone in Maputo to pull us out as the one vehicle we did see wasn’t working. So we waited, and we dug and we put branches down, and we pushed and we revved and we let down the tyres some more – all while watching our car sink deeper and deeper into the sand. And we went for help and came across a giant snake and so we went back to the car and waited, resigned to our fate.
After two hours a villager and his son came walking down the road (there are communities of people living within the reserve). He spoke no English and kept making a sign with his hands that looked like a ‘W’ but we had no idea what he was trying to say. We made a sign that our car was stuck and so he pushed, his son pushed, my fiancé pushed and I drove as our new friend shook his head at the idea of a woman driving.
Then he left. So we sat back down and waited, keeping an eye out for snakes of course. Then we heard a noise – a vehicle! Our friend arrived in a bakkie (halleluiah!) and so started the long battle to get us unstuck. A simple pull didn’t work so multiple jacks appeared from the back of the bakkie and the car was jacked up, twigs were placed under the wheels before the back of the car was given the same treatment as the son went off muttering something about “cow”, “cow”.
The son came back trailing a huge herd of cattle, carrying a tiny calf in his arms. Our friend showed us the ‘W’ sign and pointed to his chest. We finally understood – the ‘W’ was a pair of horns he was showing and these were his pride and joy.
Eventually we all got back in our cars and after one final push and pull, we were finally free! Our friend towed us on to see his cattle herd which had stopped at a nearby waterhole to drink, and beaming with pride he waved us on, restoring our faith in humanity.