The only thing I pre-arranged from home was this 17-days overland tour with “Drifters” You may see a detailed itinerary here: http://drifters.co.za/index.asp?pgid=68, but our adventure was a bit different (Just day 4-7).
Our team consisted of 4 “young” Scandinavians and 5 “elder” Germans/Austrians + our South African guide, Dawid and “I-have-been-off-the-beaten-track-before”- “Nelly” (aka as our 12-seat 4WD truck).
The first couple of days were devoted to wildlife in and around Kruger National Park. By remarkable luck we were able to see all “the big 5” in one day; actually we saw plenty of animals in and around the Kruger Park:
Then Mozambique was on hold, we camped 4 days in the wilderness on route from Kruger Park to Vilanculos , Mozambique. Despite Dawids carefully driving, three windows broke. Maybe because we went by a road “not-that-used” for the better part of it, and because of that the vegetation were significally not adapted to a 4m tall truck. Nevertheless it proved as a “decrease your comfort zone” booster, us sitting there while it was raining leaves, branches and the occasional bug. Well actually it rained a lot of bugs. The most fascinating were the colorful caterpillars, especially the one who shitted a lot on Linda while being removed. Of course there were also spiders raining, all gently or violently removed (according to who removed them and the removers panic-level). At one stage, the tourist lounge of Nelly also got a big dead frog (actually more like a toad) bleeding down our fridge.
Camping in Mozambique was good; there is a special feel of camping 300km from the civilization, while making the food around a fire. There is also a charm in using “bush toilets” (dig your hole in the ground style) while experiencing the tickling feeling of grass and insects you know where. The best part of camping was indeed the stars! As you could imagine the nighttime-sky was AMAZING, really! To experience the African night-sky is an once-in-a-lifetime experience, for that I’m jealous of the Drifters guides that sees the sky from their bed year-around.
Another interesting aspect of Mozambiquan transportation happened day 3 in the wilderness, we came a cross a big river (or a lake?). At least it was too deep for the truck to cross. But by luck there was some guys removing landmines nearby (for the record, the only time we saw guys removing landmines during the whole trip, no need to get anxious), and they had an even bigger truck than ours so they could pull us over, still not without any effortfrom our side. We had to push and pull Nelly ourselves a bit while crossing the lake, making another of those memorable once-in-Africa moments.
Along the coast we didn’t do much else than enjoying the sun, going on dhow-trips or just be on some of the most deserted beaches I’ve ever been to. I also did my share of scuba-diving, and I think that Mozambique at the moment holds my spot at the best place in the world to scuba-dive – It was fantastic!
Further south, Maputo (the capital) got a short stopover before heading in to South Africa again. It was on route out of Maputo our truck experienced our first stop buy a police. I’m the end Dawid (our driver who handled the conversation) got fined 500 Meticas (=15USD) for not knowing Portuguese. Personally I felt the situation resembled “paa flukt” a bit and I was happy to understand that we didn’t have to leave the truck, line up and deliver our passport. Still, these Mozambiquan police-officers don’t earn too much and when some tourists pass, sadly they often see that as a way to add their salary.
Back in South Africa we spent the remaining days (in cabins) close to Hluhluwe National Park. On a game drive we got to see even more animals (crocodiles and Njalas), but the highlights were our close encounters with elephants and rhinos. We could sit 20 minutes just observing a big pack of elephants eating leaves close by. Later on that day we bumped into a young elephant bull, he was obviously not shy of humans and cars and approached us so close that he used his trunk (norw: snabel) to feel the contours of the car. And this was not the big-truck-Nelly but an open-air small car, so the adrenaline started to pump on all of us. It’s when you are that close to an elephant you really understand how big they are! Just 10 minutes later, with pulse still above resting level we found 2 rhinos in the middle of the road. While eating grass they moved closer and closer to us, until we were maybe 5 meters apart. Then I also got to see that Rhinos are big as well, and that their horn in the forehead looks as intimidating as the teeth of the big elephant. But being so close to these animals in their natural habitat really makes you appreciate and respect the nature, and the fact that the world is actually habituated by more than just humans.
All in all, the trip was great! In my opinion we ended up becoming a big family, so thanks to all of my Mozambiquan-Transfrontier-Family-members, and especially thanks to Dawid for guiding us.