Getting away from Likoma island to Mozambique proved to be no easy task. The large steamer the M.V Chambo, was currently out of service. So I had to take a small fishing boat across the lake, first to the tiny settlement of Cobué only an hour away to get a visa for Mozambique. This was a bizarre way to enter a new country, I had to practically swim to the beach at Cobué as the boat didn’t anchor close enough, here you’re greeted by a border ‘official’ and taken to the immigration office a ten minute walk through the village and issued a visa for $50, no questions asked and a pretty simple procedure.
I then swam back to the fishing boat where I sat on a bag of dried fish for the next 13 hours. It was relatively fun at first, but once the sun went down, sitting there in total darkness was very lonely, depressing and tedious as the boat chugged along at about 5km per hour, stopping at every settlement along the Mozambican side of the lake to load on or off more people and/or bags of fish. It was a very psychologically demanding trip. The word Malawi means ‘fire flames’ in a local language, evoking the beautiful sunsets over the lake, something that is clearly represented in the national flag, at least I got to see it one last time on the nightmare boat, almost making the journey worth it.
There is not a lot in Metangula on the Mozambique side of the lake, but it’s a friendly town and an ok place to rest after the boat journey. I think the word Metangula might mean ‘dust cloud’, as there were some really strong winds blowing in fine orange dust from the unsealed roads and surrounding hills. It was here I accidentally drank 500ml of water from the lake which resulted in me throwing up my first Mozambican meal. Let me tell you, fish vomit, has to be the worst kind.
Lichinga is the capital of the Niassa province and home to the Muslim Yao people. The Samora circle in town has a statue of Samora Machel in the centre, commander, revolutionist and first president of Mozambique. This was the closest I’d get to a running track over here so took the time to get some training in. The people in Lichinga seem to like posing for photos – “Mr, take my picture holding a dirty piece of cardboard over my head”.
Mozambique’s airline Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique, or LAM, has a very poor safety record. I have no idea why there is an old LAM passenger plane wreck on the outskirts of Lichinga, I’m thinking it might’ve broken down and they couldn’t be arsed to scrap it.
I was required to arrive at the mini bus station at 3am to get to Cuamba. It’s the middle of the night, but that is when all chappas start to collect passengers. The first chappa to Mandimba got a flat tyre half way, because the road is basically a giant pothole, so the 150k took 6 hours. After changing in Mandimba and eating some rather dodgy looking chicken bits, I boarded a second bus to Cuamba, this one got a flatty after about 20km. My patience had ran out at this point so I stuck my arm out and managed to get a lift in the cab of a heavy goods transport truck. Hitchhiking is normal in Mozambique and it’s custom to pay the same fare as a bus, this was a lot quicker as they’re more suitable for the roads and don’t stop as much.
I stayed in Cuamba for one night in local pensão for another 3:30am rise the following day. The Pensão Zambezi was, well, a shit hole. It was here that one of the little kretins who worked there, snuck into my room through the night and stole money from my bag. I made a big mistake of counting it up in a common area, letting them know where it was kept and inviting opportunity. The guesthouse was only £3 but ultimately staying there ended up costing me something like £60. I may as well have checked in to the Cuamba Hilton.
The robbery sucked balls, but if you drank sour milk once would you never drink milk again? I couldn’t let a carton of sour milk spoil my impression of the Mozambican people. Mozambique’s long distance train from Cuamba to Nampula covers a distance of 350km and has been hauling passengers across the country since 1912. After departing at 5am I thought I was in for a nice comfortable ride by Mozambique standards, until, you guessed it, the train broke down.
The train got going again after a three hour standstill. I finally made it to Nampula 14 hours later after spending the whole journey stuck next to a woman with the two worst behaved kids in Mozambique, who cried, kicked, spat and screamed all the way there, not even the deep fried soya pieces that I covered in hot chili sauce and fed them managed to shut them up. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself, but even after all these break downs, nothing is going to break me down. When I spoke to someone a few years back about Mozambique they said “go to Mozambique if you want adventure”, they weren’t wrong there.