A shared public transport vehicle in Mozambique is referred to as a chapa. Chapa is a general term and can be anything from a Toyota mini bus to a pick up truck. On this occasion the chapa to Garué was a battered old wagon which had to stop every hour to refill the water tank. Being a Mzungu, you’re in a position to pay a bit extra for the front seat, didn’t fancy getting severely sunburned.
Garué is a mid-altitude town of around 700m asl. There’s a lot of piss heads in the town, and apart from a cinema showing American B movies there’s not a lot to do. The surrounding countryside is the main reason to come here. A short walk from the town there is a river where it seemed like the entire village congregated for laundry day. While the women washed, the kids played and the place reminded me of the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park. Minus teenagers up to no good in the jacuzzi of course.
Garué is Mozambique’s leading tea growing region. A walk past the factory through the Chá Zambezi Estate is very scenic as you pass through the tea plantations and small villages. The problem here was that every single local you passed asked for money. Maybe because it’s very rural and they don’t see many Mzungus so they thought they’d try their luck, it made me feel like a walking ATM. Anyway, how can a woman twice the size of me carrying a hundred bananas on her head claim to be hungry?
One of the main problems with travelling in Mozambique is that long distances sometimes make it impossible to travel from A to B without having to overnight in an anonymous backwater town. On this occasion Caia served as that town, and the quality of the lodgings were much to be desired. The bathroom looked like a scene from horror movie, and it was only intended for small people.
The Catapu Forestry Concession is a 250 square km private concession dedicated to sustainable forestry and indigenous trees. They say that this place is for trees what the Ngorongoro crater is for mammals – which means if you’re a tree lover, it’s absolutely class. I’m not a tree lover but I did love the excellent value lodge there, Mphingwe Camp. The camp has lovely cabins and excellent food all for very reasonable prices, so this was a great place to recharge my batteries after all the traveling recently. I’ll always find something to moan about though, at 40 degrees it was a bit too hot and I didn’t like having to spend two pound a day on bottled water.
Catapu is an excellent birding spot if you can bare the heat. My spots included numerous sun birds, crowned hornbill, green wooed hoopoe and top sighting – the African cookoo hawk, named so because it resembles a common cookoo but is, well, a reptile eating hawk.
Like some kind of miracle, when I left the forest reserve a long distance truck stopped to pick me up that was going all the way to Vilanculos, saving me the horrible journey in a packed chapa and having to overnight in yet another backward Mozambican town. The downside was that I had to spend the entire 14 hour journey sat next to another passenger’s feet, that possibly hadn’t been washed in weeks. I’ve made the joke before that it was Desmond Tutu’s chiropodist that said “dee feet, is not so bad”. I can rest assured that ‘dees feet’ were very, very bad.