Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

Sahara created the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

  • Posts: 15

Hi Mike,
I am planning this trip (Massingir - Mabalane - Mapai - Machaila - Mabote to Vilanculos) in December; staying off the EN1 which we will join at Mapinhane. We are booked at Covane Lodge at Massingir Dam on our 1st night in Moz and I am looking for somewhere to stay on the 2nd night (hopefully near Mapai, Machaila or in Banhine National Park). I know about Machaila Community Camp, the reformed church in Mapai and camping at Lake Banamana but I do not want to bring camping equipment for just one night unless I have to. The PNL put us in touch with the Banhine Park Warden (Joao Ventura This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Cell: 00258 847065812) but he has not responded to my email - I will try an sms to Mr Ventura but I think the AWF are running the camp in Banhine (or are there two camps?) From what I can gather, if there is loads of rain, it may be a good idea to stay out of Banhine - I am towing a trailer and want to avoid getting stuck


I was wondering if you have any new suggestions for accommodation.
Am I correct that there is usually fuel at Massinger, Mabalane, Combomune, Mapai & Mabote?
How do you think the 208 road, straight up to Mapai Station via Mabalane & Combomune, compares to the other choice of road (the 412 that goes to
via Saute to Machaila)? I assume that to get to the camp/s in Banhine the 412 is a more direct route as it looks like the camps in Banhine are near Chai Village.


Thanks in advance
Sara

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mozman replied the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

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Hi Sara

apologies for the delay in replying. The short answer is that during a normal rainy season it is a very good idea to stick to the main tarred roads in the whole of southern Mozambique. Most of this area is really just one huge floodplain - the word "Banhine" in Tsonga means pans. Even though southern Africa is in the middle of a serious drought, the Banhine and access roads quickly flood with relatively small amount of rain, and that hard grey clay / cotton soil becomes a sticky mess best negotiated by helicopter. From Mabalane to Mapai the road should have been tarmac by now, but the money was diverted to someone's back pocket so with rain you may not even make it to Mapai.

Nevertheless, I usually don't even follow my own advice so should you be similarly cursed I do know that somewhere "near Banhine" there is a Buffalo breeding reserve called Búfalo Moçambique: www.facebook.com/BufaloLodge which is also (not very active) on Twitter: twitter.com/banhinebuffalo

So I suggest that you try to contact them. I have stayed three times in Banhine - twice at the old Fish eagle camp next to the HQ, but that is now derelict unless renovations have been done.

Regarding rain, refer to the the "long-term forecast" at: www.yr.no/place/Mozambique/Gaza/Banhine_National_Park/long.html and you see around 10mm of rain, or more predicted at any time during your trip, keep out.

Go well and it would be much appreciated if you could let us all know what you unearth and experience.

Mike

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Sahara replied the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

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Hi Mike

Many thanks for the advice and the useful link for weather reports - looks like some big rain may be arriving in many parts of southern Moz around 14 Dec. We will continue with our plan ("camping" at Machaila) but will divert to Macia from Massingir if it looks like heavy rain. We will not go into Banhine NP and leave that for another (winter) trip.

I contacted Búfalo Moçambique via their fb page and they gave the same advice (avoid the area in the wet season) and said that last Dec a vehicle was badly damaged in the seasonal river/stream (I think Rio Goluzo/Guluzo) just to the west of the northern entrance to Banhine on the Mapai - Machaila road. I found some excellent online reading about the area and apparently much of the water that drains into the Banhine comes from further north - so I am keeping an eye on the rain around Gonarezhou & Zinave as well!

Búfalo say they may have accommodation by 2017 and the AWF have been asking for partners to regenerate the camp in Banhine NP for tourism so hopefully there may be more accommodation in the area soon.

I will definitely post a trip report on our return and will hopefully have details on any progress (or not) on the Mabalane road - 2015 Google earth images show a lot of earth works and stockpiles of sand on the side of the road and many incomplete bridges over streams. Thanks for the good wishes & advice - my children will not be happy with me if they spend their Christmas on a hill surrounded by water or at the Chicualacuala railway station hotel!

Best wishes

Sara

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Sahara replied the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

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Hi Mike,

We did the trip with no problems and enjoyed it. Many thanks for your advice and encouragement.

I do not believe that taking this route (Massingir Dam- Mabalane - Mapai - Machaila - Mabote to Vilanculos) takes much more time than the usual route on the EN1 from Ressano Garcia (or Giriyondo to Macia and then VLK). It takes me a similar amount of time (14hrs) to drive on the EN1 from Ressano Garcia to Vilanculos. It is a bit bumpy and you need to keep your eye open for hazards (sand drifts, wash-aways and a few dips ) but the bonus is that we were only on the EN1 for 30kms (on the last stretch between Mapinhane and Pambarra) and did not see a bus, a tourist or a traffic cop. We were incredibly lucky with the weather. There was no rain but I am sure the conditions of the roads could change quickly if and when there is heavy rain. In fact, on our way home we decided to go and have a look at the Limpopo at Mapai and it was so low (a trickle) that we drove over and went home via Pafuri Border Post & Gate (after spending the night at Nhampfule Campsite).

I will complete a trip report with some photos and a distance chart but in the meantime:

The dirt road from Giriyondo BP to Massingir Gate is now well sign posted and has been upgraded/resurfaced. The vicious traffic calming humps have been removed and there are many new raised culverts that you can drive over without having to reduce your speed to a standstill. We spent the night at Covane Loge which I highly recommend.

The tar road from Massingir down to Chokwe is in great condition

The road (208) from the bridge at Macarretane/ Chirrunduo to Mapai is sadly still 95% untarred (there is tar for a few km's after crossing the Limpopo and then only again at Mapai). Parts of the incomplete road are drivable but there are sections that have piles of sand/material on it which force you to use the service road which runs parallel all the way. Up to Mabalane the service road is being used for vehicles driving north and the incomplete road is being used for vehicles driving south. We spent much time meandering between the two trying to decide which was a better drive. Towards Mapai there are bridges/culverts installed but the road has not yet been filled in so this section still requires a lot of work. A huge amount of cash has already been spent on this road and it is sad to see that nobody can benefit from it yet and it may all wash away before it is completed.

From Mapai west towards Machaila there is a good newly surfaced and well maintained dirt road with culverts at regular intervals.

We were thinking of spending the night at the Machaila Community Campsie but it was only 3pm when we reached Machaila and so we decided to push on to Vilanculos. The only complicated part of this trip was finding the track that goes past the campsite and takes one towards Mabote. But after asking in Machaila village we found it. One drives into the village and instead of following the main road straight (which then goes north and would take you to Massangena) you turn right/south towards Saute and then a few km’s on there is a small sign (nailed to a tree) to the campsite and Vilanculos.

From Machaila until Lake Banamana the winding, two track sand road was slow going, mainly because there are loads of blind corners as there is bush right up to the side of the road. After Banamana the road improves (wide dirt road) and approx. 30 km’s before Mabote you arrive at a crossroads (turn left/north here to Mabote) with a massive dirt road that is being built by Sasol (from Mabote to a well around 40km’s south).

The road from Mabote to Mapinhane/the tar EN1 is a wide hard road but has a lot of deep sand on the sides and, after some recent rain, ruts and corrugations in places. I hear this section is graded regularly.

We took 20l of diesel with us but this proved unnecessary as there were fuel stations at Massingir, Mabalane, Mapai and Mabote and we topped up at all of them.

It took 5 hours to drive from Massingir Dam to Mapai (with one stop for fuel at Mabalane and a stop for breakfast) and 9 hours to do Mapai to Vilanculos. Included in the 9 hours were 3 hours of night driving and a picnic lunch and we also lost some time in Machaila looking for the track to Mabote.

On our way back home we did 8 hours from Vilanculos to Nhampfule Campsite in the PNL, including driving over the Limpopo and paying the “toll” at Rogers’ tollgate (200Mtn). We had an amusing experience at Mapai Gate – the boom was padlocked and the ranger AWOL. After much whistling and shouting we decided to phone the PNL and ask what was going on. The ranger emerged huffing and puffing (I assume he was taking an afternoon nap at his accommodation) and ticked us off for not hooting! After paying 3650Mtn in park fees and for camping (for 3 adults and two children) we were disappointed in the campsite as it was all a bit rundown. The toilets are broken and could only be flushed with a bucket that took ages to fill from the adjoining shower and the 2nd toilet was so flyblown that it was unusable. The ablution building needed a sweep and there were plastic bottles and cool drink cans lying around. Anyway, there was nobody else there and we had a good night’s sleep under the stars. At 6:30 the next morning the ranger was at Mapai Gate (only 40m from the campsite) to let us out and was obviously keen for a tip but we acted oblivious to his hints. He also has a little trick to earn some extra cash. On our entry the previous day, he pretended that he had forgotten to charge us for our trailer. After we had completed all the invoicing for park fees and had returned to our vehicle, he wanted us to just hand the 200Mtn to him but we got out the car and insisted that he fill it in on our receipt AND in his duplicate book. He then proceeded to block the carbon paper with his laminated fee schedule …. we pointed his “error” out to him and made him record our payment in his duplicate book as well.

As an alternative to Nhampfule Campsite we could have slept over at Dumela Wilderness Safaris near the Pafuri BP but unfortunately they were unable to accommodate us as a member of the Jooste family was ill (but I hear recovering). We could have easily reached Dumela by nightfall (from Mapai Gate to Pafuri BP took us 2 and half/ three hours the following day).

Padkos is essential on this route – I saw nothing for sale (I was looking forward to buying some pão). Mabote had obviously had some rain and there were some tall mielie fields along the way here. However, between Machaila and Mapai (and along the Limpopo towards Pafuri) things look very desperate; fields have been prepared for planting but there was not a thing growing and just a few herds of scrawny Nguni cattle. The area is remote and having a breakdown could be a big problem. We towed a small venter trailer which managed well (had it serviced before we left with new wheel bearings) - I am amazed we did not pop a leaf spring! We could possibly have made faster progress if we had not been towing but the trailer kept us at sensible speeds which, given a few potential hazards on the road, was a good thing.

This route could change rapidly in the next few years. Sasol is making improvements to the infrastructure and I read that funding has been made available for a dam at Mapai – one would assume this will include a bridge over the Limpopo.

Thanks again.

Sara

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mozman replied the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

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Hi Sara

wonderful, detailed and very useful trip report. Huge thanks for taking the trouble. Great that all went to so well and I must concur that Nhampfule campsite is really not work using, and that Dumela Wilderness is a currently a really good spot, but I do recommend that folk check in advance if planning to stay there as the situation is quite fluid.

With the drought the Limpopo has remained very low this year, but I always warn anyone venturing into this area that even with the Limpopo low, just one heavy downpour can turn pretty easy tracks into slimy deep mud swamps that are impassable to any vehicles. Tributaries quickly come down in flood blocking progess and retreat. This can happen any time from about mid Dec to June.

Good to hear that Covane Lodge is well-managed, it did go through and iffy period a few years ago.

In general the Parque Nacional do Limpopo is struggling to deal with re-settling the (increasing) resident local population who are reluctant to move as Rhino and other poaching has become very lucrative. Difficult to say how to get out of this conundrum as land and re-settlement is an even bigger issue in Moz than in SA!

Keep well and keep traveling.

Thanks

Mike

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mozman replied the topic: Giriyondo Vilanculos via Mabalane/208 to Mapai

  • Posts: 5097

Hi Sara

wonderful, detailed and very useful trip report. Huge thanks for taking the trouble. Great that all went to so well and I must concur that Nhampfule campsite is really not work using, and that Dumela Wilderness is a currently a really good spot, but I do recommend that folk check in advance if planning to stay there as the situation is quite fluid.

With the drought the Limpopo has remained very low this year, but I always warn anyone venturing into this area that even with the Limpopo low, just one heavy downpour can turn pretty easy tracks into slimy deep mud swamps that are impassable to any vehicles. Tributaries quickly come down in flood blocking progess and retreat. This can happen any time from about mid Dec to June.

Good to hear that Covane Lodge is well-managed, it did go through and iffy period a few years ago.

In general the Parque Nacional do Limpopo is struggling to deal with re-settling the (increasing) resident local population who are reluctant to move as Rhino and other poaching has become very lucrative. Difficult to say how to get out of this conundrum as land and re-settlement is an even bigger issue in Moz than in SA!

Keep well and keep traveling.

Thanks

Mike

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