johan van Heerden created the topic: Beautiful Mozambique5 years 11 months ago
Friday, the 1st July 2011 I Ieft Johannesburg for Komatipoort. The song playing as I saw the smoke and pollution of Gauteng getting smaller in my rearview mirror was “Beautiful Mozambiue” by Jack Hammer . Our destination, Komatipoort River Chalets, where we were going to overnight. Our group consisted out of 3 vehicles towing offroad trailers and a doublecab 4x4 with rooftop tents. All the vehicles this time round was Toyota’s. Normally, the last 5 Years, I would have been the odd one out, but it was 6 month ago that I sold my Landrover Defender. Our group consisted out of 3 South African families, the van Heerden’s, the Olivier’s and the du Toit’s. The other family, the Danielson’s,from Denmark were about to start their first camping or long distance touring trip. Our first night, next to the Komati river, had all the promises off a trouble free drive all the way to Mossuril. This is our 2nd attempt with destination Ilha de Mozambique. Last year we had to abandon our journey because of being short tyres, after losing two tyres, as well as the rims, on the way to Lichinga from Cuambo. We ended up watching soccer on the tame side of Lake Niassa, in other words the Malawian side. The lesson learned always carry two spare wheels , but here we were again, each vehicle with only one spare wheel except for the rented doublecab driven by the Danes.
Saturday, 6am, the 2nd July2011 found us at the back off a queue, 2km long, waiting for the gates to open at the Komatipoort/Rosanna Garcia borderpost. Three hours later and each family about R400 poorer we were on our way to Maputo. We wasted another nearly 2 hours through the outskirts of this city before we hit the EN1 north to Maxixe, where we camped at the campsite in town, with the lights of Inhambane trying their best to wipe out the memories of the chaos at the borderpost and the traffic in Maputo.
Sunday, the 3rd of July 2011 found us again on the road before 7am. Our objective CuaCau lodge, Caia just across the new bridge over the Zambezi. A drive of over 900km! A little bit crazy but we were pressed for time as on this trip for the first time I had an expiry date; had to be back in Johannesburg by the 16th of July 2011 and we also had a plane to catch in Beira on the 12th of July 2011. All through the day we rolled up the EN1, Massinga, past Vilanculos and Inhassorro, the bridge over the Save river, Inchope, Gorongosa Town and at 5pm we arrived at CuaCau lodge campsite. With the sun disappearing fast we started to set up camp for the night. Everbody was just about to settle down when disaster struck. Visti Danielson, thousands of kilometres from safe and tranquil Denmark, misplaced his one foot on the second step of the ladder off one of the rooftop tents, and came tumbling down, and in the process dislocated his artificial hip. Visti was squirming with pain in the dust on the ground and we knew that we were in big trouble. It took quite an effort to get him into the backseat of my Toyota Prado where we laid him down and then I drove to Caia to look for a doctor. We found doctor George at the tented Unicef clinic or bush hospital. Doctor George could speak the language of the Queen of England and after a thorough examination he gave Visti a shot of morphine in the bum and told me I have 5 hours to get him to Quelimane, 200km north from Caia. By this time it was already 9pm. I and his wife Mette left right away and it was 11.30pm when I stopped at Quelimane hospital. Here another problem popped up, everybody speaks Portuguese and English is of no help. So much for my school teacher in Zeerust telling me many years ago that English is a world language. Luckily Dr George wrote a letter in Portuguese. Somebody straight away went to call an orthopaedic surgeon and in walk Dr North Korean. Dr Korean send Visti to the x-ray section which confirmed the dislocated hip. After sign language, a little bit of English, Afrikaans and Portuguese, I was told that in the morning at 8am Dr North Korean will reset the head of the femur into the socket, apparently a very easy procedure. Visti had to stay and I made sure that he was given a bed with clean sheets. All over the hospital there were people sleeping on the floor and in the passages waiting for medical attention. It was 1.30am when I left the hospital. Mette stayed behind with her husband to make sure that Dr North Korean didn’t perform any surgery with a knife. When I left, there was a very thick mist with barely any visibility all the way back to Caia. It was quite an eerie drive back and it was 5.30 am when I arrived back at our campsite.
Monday, 8am, the 4th of July we were on our way to Quelimane. I had about an hour sleep. Amelia Olivier was behind the steering wheel of the double cab, with co driver, my wife Susan. It was 11am when we reached the hospital where we found a crying Mette telling us that her husband was still not attended to and that she just wanted to get him out of there, but because of his condition he was going nowhere fast. We had already started the process of asking SOS International Medical Travel Insurance for assistance to evacuate the patient back to South Africa. Netcare was also contacted and they had a plane ready to come and collect Visti as soon as SOS International gave the go ahead. To make a long story short, SOS International after apparently talking via a Danish doctor to Dr North Korean, asked me that what can they do for him in South Africa that they cannot do for him in Mozambique. We were truly stuck once it hit us that SOS International abandoned us in the middle of Mozambique, and we realised that it is going to be Visti and Dr North Korean with the assistance of Dr Winfred the anaesthetist from Havana Cuba. After a lot of discussions amongst ourselves and with the doctors, that cannot speak English, Afrikaans or Danish, we agreed with the consent of Visti that we’ll have to trust them to reset his hip. That settled for 8am the following day, with a lot of trepidation we set off to find a place to sleep that night. All the hotels in Quelimane had been booked for the whole week because of some forestry conference. The only other place was Zalala Beach about 30 km out of town. The campsite was not an option as there is no ablutions whatsoever. We managed to arrange to camp in the grounds of a newly still being renovated conference come discotheque venue right on the beach with toilet facilities for 100 meticas per vehicle. Right behind this building is a lovely open air restaurant and for the time that we were gonna be in Zalala this became our dining venue. The food was the only highlight whilst we were in Quelimane, fresh fish, prawns, calamari and free range chicken served with rice, patatas and fresh salad. Obviously we had to wash it down with 2M, Laurentina, Manica, vino blanco and vino tinto. Every cloud has got a silver lining.
Tuesday, 6am, the 5th of July 2011, Braam, Mette and I left Zalala for the hospital as Visti had just sms’ed us that they were busy preparing him for theatre. We managed to get there in about 40 minutes, my own personal best but still no match for the locals. You must be extremely careful on this road not to hit a pedestrian or cyclist as there are thousands of them travelling up and down, between Zalala and Quelimane. Local drivers use their hooters and tooters with abundance to get the people that walk and cycle off the road. On arrival at the hospital we rushed to the Bloco Operatorio where we found Visti. The doctors involved told us not to worry, I think that was what they were trying to tell us, but I was very worried because a male theatre nurse told me in some sort of English, that the orthopaedic surgeon, Dr North Korean, will decide as to the procedure, cut or reset Visti’s hip. Anyway it was only round about 11am that they took him to theatre. Half an hour later the doctor from Havana came out and gave us the thumbs up that everything went well and that Visti is in the recovery room. Braam and I also needed to recover and we dashed across to the Hotel Flamingo where we calmed our nerves with a quick one or two Laurentinas. On our return to the hospital we were just in time to see our Danish friend coming out of the Bloco Operatorio, but something was seriously wrong with him. He was smiling and telling us that there was no more pain, but from the middle of his body, and the hip, and leg concerned he was wrapped in plaster, the kind of plaster that you use when somebody breaks a leg. He couldn’t move; and he couldn’t hide the family jewels with a piece of cloth called pants. I stormed into the Bloco Operatorio and with the male theatre nurse who could speak a little bit of English, I confronted Dr North Korean. With a big smile he showed me the x-ray with the successful returning of the head of the femur into the socket. I congratulated the big bone doctor of Quelimane with his success and then asked him how am I going to transport my friend out of Quelimane; strapped down on my roofrack?; and that is when he told me that dear Visti will have to stay wrapped up in plaster of paris in the hospital for 30 days. A lot of shouting then commenced between me and the male nurse and between Dr North and the male nurse. Eventually it was agreed that I can remove the patient the following day on one condition that the plaster stay on, as it was necessary for support for at least 15 days. We realised that Visti, Mette and their son Benjamin will not be able to continue with us and that we had to get them back to Denmark. Flights were arranged on the commercial airlines from Quelimane all the way to Copenhagen.
Wednesday, 8am, the 6th of July again found me at the hospital but this time it was to get Visti out of hospital and on a plane. Dr North was there as well to check on our friend and to give written permission that Visti can leave, and that he can get on to a commercial plane with his one leg plaster of paris pants with his pleasure stick hanging out for the whole world to admire. All of us know that no airline will let you fly like that, not even LAM.. It was again time to think out of the box. I told Visti to walk out of hospital with a blanket draped round his lower body, down the main road, his own short walk to freedom, to the hotel Flamingo, where we managed to book a room for 3 hours. In this hotel room we had to do our own little bit of surgical cutting with a leatherman to remove the gypsum plaster pants. From here we drove our Danish friends to the airport and said our goodbyes. What stands out for me about this whole episode is that since entering the hospital and his short walk to freedom, not a document was filled in and no payment was asked for anything. Life is a strange journey. We come across different types of people. Sometimes they are good or bad to us, however it does not mean that we must stop trusting people, or stop, or refuse help, when we, or other people, need help. Kindness is not a simple word, the meaning of the word can’t be taught to anybody, it can only be practiced. In a way the doctor from North Korea and the doctor from Havana taught me a little bit of kindness and being unselfish.
Thursday, the 7th of July 2011 found us again on the road going north, but Mossuril and Ilha de Mozambique were no longer our objective. There simply wasn’t enough time. We decided to go and see the town of Pebane about 300km by road from Quelimane. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at Pebane Heights where we were welcomed by Mike Hansen and his wife. Arriving with us in Pebane was the rain, perhaps also a good thing because the next two days were spent eating and drinking and sleeping. We needed that after all the lessons about life in Quelimane.
Saturday, the 9th of July 2011 and we were travelling south down to Gorongosa National Park. That night we stayed again at Cuacau lodge where our trouble started a couple of days ago. This time we decided not to camp and booked some really nice rooms. That night the manager from the lodge told us a story about a bunch of South African Boere that got high on Klippies and Coke a couple of nights ago and that one of the guys fell out of his rooftop tent and broke his leg. Funny how stories get tails, sometimes for the better and other times for the worse.
Sunday, the 10th and Monday the 11th July 2011 were set aside for exploring Gorongosa National Park. It hasn’t changed a lot since my last visit in July 2008. Chitengo has got a new restaurant. And it was raining this time. Animals are still not back in their thousands on the floodplain but this is definitely a nature and wildlife reserve with a future. Braam Olivier didn’t see the floodplains as he had to go and fetch his daughter at Beira airport. Will I return? Perhaps just as a stopover on the way to Northern Mozambique............
Tuesday the 12th of July 2011 it was time to pack up and to get on the road again going south. We were on our way to Pomene more or less 600km of hard driving. I think everything in Mozambique is about 600km away. Again the rain was with us going south. When we arrived at Pomene it was pouring with rain and it was already dark. Pitching camp in pouring rain put a lot of strain on a relationship between a man and a woman. I think my wife walked out on me about 5 times because according to her any other husband won’t arrange buckets of rain coming down whilst you are trying to put up camp. That night somebody only closed the hosepipe roundabout 3am.
Wednesday the 13th of July 2011 and Thursday the 14th July 2011 the sun woke us up every day. Strangely I didn’t get the credit for that. These two wonderful days were just spent swimming in the sea, walking on the beach feeling the soft sand under your bare feet and letting the wind play with your hair. It was nice just to be alive.
Friday the 15th of July 2011 we left Pomene, for me one of the most beautiful places where the ocean meets the sand. The road took us past Morrungulo, Massinga, Maxixe, all the way down past Xai-Xai, and on to Bilene where we stayed our last night at the Palmeiras Complex. About 16 years ago I came here for the first time and it look completely different, we stayed 5 days and we came to fish, but didn’t, as it rained nonstop. This time it was only for one night that we stayed and the wind was blowing............?
Saturday the 16th of July 2011 we crossed the border at Rosanna Garcia/ Komatipoort Borderpost into South Africa.
Mozambique for me is a great travel destination. To travel is to search. The search for peace, truth, discovery and identity – that is travel physical and mentally. Every human being is going somewhere every moment of his life. You discover something about yourself because you were there. You take something from the place where you travelled with you as you continue on your journey, but everywhere where you’ve been you also leave something about yourself.
mozman replied the topic: Re: Beautiful Mozambique5 years 11 months ago
Beautiful Mozambique and a beautiful trip report! Sheesh all the drama of various soapies and hopefully (for the patient) with a happy ending.
Lessons I learned from your story:
1) Rooftop tents can be dangerous (even for the fully-abled).
2) Make sure you and your medical evacuation insurance understand each other. My TIC insurance assures me that rather than using any local medical assistance, first priority is to send in their medic on a charter.
3) Aim to arrive at camp no later than 1600 or things start to go wrong.
4) Don't arrive at Lebombo/Ressano Garcia when they open, rather leave Joburg (or wherever) at a time that allows you to get to the border around 10PM so you miss the queues and buses and also Maputo rush hour.
It's cua cua lodge caia.
So tell us more about Pebane Heights?
Many thanks en baia dankie
johan van Heerden replied the topic: Re: Beautiful Mozambique5 years 7 months ago
Mike Hansen and his wife Sanet will look after you at Pebane Heights and they are very good hosts.
Getting in to Pebane when you turn off from the main road will take you anything from 4 - 6 hours, the same goes when you are leaving.
Finding Mike and Sanet is quite difficult when you can't speak Portugese so I suggest to let them know when you are coming.
Google has got a lot of info on Pebane
In two weeks time I am again going north of the Zambezi, destination Sunset Boulevard Hotel Mossuril. Will be going via Francistown, Plumtree, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, on to Inchope and then north over the Zambezi. End of the month and you won't see me ever again at Komatipoort or Beitbridge.
mozman replied the topic: Re: Beautiful Mozambique5 years 6 months ago
Thanks again Johan
I see that www.hotelsunsetboulevard.com/ is a project of www.teranfoundation.org/ Looks fascinating - certainly not just another "secluded" and sterile lodge doing its best to insulate tourists from the wonderful people of Mozambique.
Of course we await another evocative trip report.
johan van Heerden replied the topic: Re: Beautiful Mozambique5 years 6 months ago
Correct Sunset Boulevard is a project ot the Teran Foundation run by Lisa De Teran and volunteers. Lisa a a very good author and she wrote a book called " Mozambique Mysteries".
I hope that this will be a trouble free journey as this will be the third time that I am trying to get to Sunset Boulevard.
We are leaving this coming Saturday 30 June 2012 for Francistown. I am really not up to Komatipoort or Beitbridge especially month end.
Will enter Zim 1 July at Matsiloje border post south east of Francistown as I am also not prepared for Plumtree border post, and from here we'll go to Plumtree and then on to Bulawayo,Masvingo and hopefully we'll reach Mutare when to sun go to sleep.
The next day we'll enter Moz and then on to Inchope where we'll turn left to Caia where we plan to camp the night.
From Caia we'll drive to Nampula where we'll camp at Montes Nairuca about 10 km on the Cuamba road.
Wednesday the 4th of July I if all goes well we'll be at Sunset in Mossuril.
We'll stay for 5 nights and explore and eat and drink what we can.
Monday 9 July we start our homeward bound trip with objective for the day, not to far, Nampula again
Tuesday 10 July Nampula to Caia.
Wednesday 11 July Caia to Inhassorro. Fell in love with that place a couple of years ago.
Thursday 12 July we'll be going nowhere fast, staying at Inhassorro.
Friday 13 July from Inhassorro to Xai - Xai.
Saturday 14 July Xai - Xai via Giriyondo border post to Tsenze bush camp in Kruger Nat Park.
Sunday back home in Johannesburg