The Pafuri Route. 3 days, 2 nights.
(Kruger National Park to Inhambane and Vilankulo on the Mozambican Coast . Via my own special route).
A proper 4x4 vehicle with 600km fuel range is required.
Trip departs Pafuri Border: 22 September, 2019.
Trip arrives Inhambane or Vilankulo: 24 September, 2019.
1) WITH YOUR OWN 4X4 VEHICLE, OWN CAMPING EQUIPMENT AND FOOD (Me in my Prado as guide and support):
R2500 PER VEHICLE. (Minimum 2 vehicles, maximum 5 vehicles.)
2) WITH YOUR OWN 4X4, BUT WITH MY CAMPING EQUIPMENT, FOOD PROVIDED (Me in my Prado as back-up):
R1500 per person (minimum 4 people).
3) I TAKE YOU IN MY 4X4 PRADO: Fully self-sufficient. All meals, drinks and camping equipment provided. You need only your clothes and passport. We will depart Johannesburg a day prior to the above dates, and I can drop you at Vilanculos, Inhambane or Maputo, or you can return with me to Johannesburg. Itinerary is flexible with this option.
R3000 per adult R1500 per child (minimum 2 people, maximum 4 adults + 2 children.)
NOTE: If you choose option 3, I can collect you in Johannesburg on the day before the above departure dates. This means the trip will effectively be 4 days, 3 nights. At an additional cost, you may also return to Johannesburg with me, or be dropped off en-route in Vilanculos, Inhambane or Maputo.
IMPORTANT! Requirements for those travelling with minor (under 18) children.
Note that unabridged birth certificates and other paperwork are essential if travelling with your own or other people’s minor (under 18) children. It is ESSENTIAL that you prepare according to these regulations: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/statements-speeches/621-advisory-new-requirements-for-children-travelling-through-south-african-ports-of-entry-effective-1-june-2015
VISAS: Citizens of South Africa and other SADC countries do not require a visa. For all other nationalities border visas (visto de fronteira) are routinely issued at Pafuri border for US$50 CASH (cards not accepted). No photos or other paperwork required.
YOUR OWN VEHICLE PAPERWORK:
- Original or certified and stamped copy of Vehicle registration document. NOTE COPIES MUST BE STAMPED AS ORIGINAL BY THE BANK OR COMMISSIONEF OF OATHS.
- Bank "cross-border" letter if financed.
- Vehicle 3rd party insurance. NOT AVAILABLE AT PAFURI BORDER. Purchase online before departure via www.hollard.co.mz/insurance/third-party-car-insurance
Detailed Itinerary: NOTE: Click on underlined blue text to open a link.
Day 1: On 22 September, 2019.
We meet on the South African side of the Pafuri Border Post no later than 14:00. This a very remote route and so it should take us around an hour to clear both sides of the border. We will then drive to Dumela Wilderness Safaris just 7km from the border. Here we will set up camp and enjoy a leisurely lunch and perhaps a nice afternoon nap before exploring the wide Limpopo floodplain and fever tree forest on foot. In the evening we will enjoy a braai (barbeque) overlooking the oxbow-lake. Note that if you are self-catering then meals are not provided, but if I am providing camping gear then catering is included. A walk alongside the river and a peaceful evening chatting around the fire and listening to night sounds ends the day.
Day 2: On 23 September, 2019.
Up before dawn we will eat breakfast and pack and then drive alongside the Limpopo River on a track that is away from the usual route, but passes through magnificent riverine forest, to Mapai. From Mapai we will continue on my own preferred, but less-known route into the Banhine National Park and stop for lunch overlooking one of the pans. We will then continue on to Fish Eagle Camp at the Park HQ near Chai village where (if space available) you may prefer (at own expense) to stay in one of the reasonably priced fixed tents (bathroom en suite) rather than in my large dome tents with stretchers and mattrasses, or setting up your own tents. After settling in, we will take a drive around the nearby wetland for bird-watching and site-seeing. Our evening meal will be taken around the campfire.
Day 3: On 24 September, 2019.
Again on my own route, we will either head to Vilankulo via Lake Banamana or to Inhambane via Funhalouro. We will stop at my own special spots to enjoy lunch. From there will continue to the Mozambique coast either ending at Vilanculos or at Inhambane (Tofo).
I recently returned from central Mozambique where I viewed the solar eclipse from the remote 4km-long Dona Anna Bridge that spans the Zambezi between Sena and Mutarara. This spot is so remote that most maps don't even show the tracks which lead up to it. I had expected that my little group in our trusty Nissan 4x4 Double-Cab would be the only 'tourists' for miles around, but as the due time for this coincidence of celestial proportions approached, so too did about a dozen of us 'umbraphiles' who were soon gazing intently skywards through 'Darth-Vader' eye-wear.
Having never before experienced a total eclipse of the sun (never mind one of the heart...), oddly enough the opportunity to remedy this glaring gap on my little list of meaningful things to do in life, came along not while I was chasing the proverbial (and actual) moon-shadow, but during a search for chunks of carved rock, preferably arranged in neat piles. I had read in Malyn Newitt's fascinating 'A History of Mozambique' (Witwatersrand University Press) that 'Great Zimbabwe'-style citadels had been built by the Karanga people at various places in Mozambique, and Nissan South Africa had supported me in my humble quest to place some of these on the tourist trail.
Myself and my four companions (who were not quite so convinced as I about the wisdom of beating about the bush in a country reputed to be 'Land-Mine Central') spent our first night in Maputo at contrasting types of accommodation: the five-star Hotel Polana and the friendly 'The Base' backpackers. The Polana has secure parking so, being responsible for the Nissan, I was obliged to lay down my weary head in luxury, however 'The Base', with it's warm welcome, comfortable rooms, dormitory and very clean bathrooms, was a worthy alternative. The staff at the Polana didn't seem to mind that, not only did I eat almost everything on offer at their world-famous buffet breakfast, but took away (as 'padkos' you understand) enough pastries to feed five hungry adults.
According to Newitt's book the dynasty of the paramount chief of the Karanga, or the Mwenu Mutapa (also known as Monomotapa), began in 1506 when he 'was expelled from his stone-built capital (Great Zimbabwe) and took refuge with a kinsman'. Not really an auspicious start for someone whose title still conjures up images of a vast empire built upon the fabulous wealth of the fabled mines of King Solomon. In fact, according to Newitt, even at its height the lands under the Mutapa's control were never extensive and 'There is... no evidence...that there was ever an 'Empire' of Monomotapa.' Not that this bothered me much, I wasn't expecting to come across anything of 'Lost City' proportions, just a pile of rocks in the veld would be exciting enough.
Now, anyone who has visited Mozambique south of the Rio Save, might have noticed that this is one very flat, sandy piece of wild Africa, hence anyone seeking to 'cast the first stone' would initially have to overcome the obstacle of finding one. And, for historians and the likes of me, herein lies one of the mysteries of Mozambique's 'Zimbabwe's' - why build stone citadels where the nearest decent source of building material is hundreds of kilometres distant? Another puzzle perhaps is just how we could expect to actually find any overgrown ruins in an area the size of both Northern Province and Mpumalanga put together. True, the book (A History of Mozambique) does refer to the Karanga capital of Manekweni and reveals several tantalizing clues such as: 'The continuous occupation of the same site...35 miles from the sea on one of the main trade routes from the Vuhoca coast to the interior'. Not much help on it's own, but bearing in mind that this spot must be fairly close to the Save river and that there are only a couple of roads which lead to such an area, our search becomes far less futile.
Armed with 1:250 000 topographical maps of the suspected region (nowhere on which could I find the names Manekweni or Vuhoca) we headed north on the E.N.1 for around 500km to the town of Massinga, from where we had noted that two roads headed westwards into the interior. Experience has taught me that the best people to speak to when trying to find out about roads are transport drivers, and so we pulled in at the 'chapa' (long-distance taxi) stop and asked around. Drivers we consulted were unanimous that the only route west after the heavy rains was from Mapinhane to Mabote which is also the way to the Parque Nacional de Zinave (Zinave National Park) and so we should watch out for the singposted turn-off. Fortunately all of these places were marked on our maps and so it was with a little less skepticism that we stopped over for a meal at Bar-Restaurante Dalilo in Massinga and then continued on for 130km to the neat little village of Mapinhane where we overnighted at the basic but neat and friendly 'Pousada da Motorista' (Drivers' Inn).
Anticipating that our trusty Nissan would soon have it's off-road capabilities tested to the limit midst the mud and mires of Mozambique's endless floodplains, we topped up the tank, filled our Jerry-cans and asked the beaming pump attendant for the road to Zinave. He told us to simply drive past the 'Escola Secundário' (Secondary School) and to turn left at the 'chapa' or signboard marked 'Parque Nacional do Zinave' which, sure enough was right where he said, but was accompanied by another marker which, for us anyway, was of far greater importance. Perhaps the comparison is a little far-fetched, but after all the research I had done, and the trouble I had taken to get hold of the large-scale maps, when I read the neat lettering on the small sign, I did feel a little cheated. It read: 'Arquivos do Património Cultural: Zimbabwe de Manyikeni 30km' which I think needs no translation. Now try to understand my point of view by considering what Livingstone's reaction might have been if on 'discovering' those awesome falls on the mighty Zambezi, he had found a little stall nearby selling postcards and curios.
Watching the odometer closely so as not to miss the turn-off we continued on down the recently graded track to another newly erected marker and turned right down a comfortingly indistinct track which, after around a kilometre terminated at, yes you guessed it, a pile of stones. Manekweni or Manyikeni? I'm not sure whether Newitt or the Mozambican government got it wrong (or right) but there can be no denying that here, not quite as close to the centre of nowhere as expected, was a mini 'Great Zimbabwe' complete with information-boards (in Portuguese), but delightfully devoid of an entrance fee, curio sellers or loud tourists. According to Newitt: 'Peter Garlake, who excavated the site (in the seventies), suggested that the earliest building dates from the twelfth century when newly arrived Karanga chiefs tried to use the local limestone to replicate the stonewalling of the plateau. ' (i.e. Great Zimbabwe).
Close to the ruins there are the foundations of a building which the Secretário (local administrator) informed me was formerly a Museu (museum) which once housed artifacts but had been raised to the ground by the rebel Renamo movement during the past civil war. The setting, amidst monumental baobab trees close to perennial fresh-water pans, is still favoured today and there are little villages seemingly populated by hundreds of small children nearby. Aware that this spot would be plagued by mosquitoes after sunset, and our 'Quest for the Mozambican Zimbabwe' somewhat satiated, we paid our respects to the souls of those who had once lived here and drove on to Vilankulo where 'Baobab Beach Lodge' has campsites with sea-views, and 'Na Sombra' (The Shade) restaurant has excellent food.
And the eclipse? Well, as mentioned above, we did get there, but that, as they say, is another story...
The Base Backpackers Maputo: tel/fax (09 258 1) 30 2723.
Visas: Needed by all Nationalities and can be issued in one day but it is cheaper to apply well in advance. Avoid the frantic crush at the Mozambique Consulate in Joburg by contacting Dean at 082 973 0454