Day 210 - 212 Mozambique : Tete - Songo (Cahora Bassa)

Day 210 Mozambique

Trip Distance 180km (112 m) Total Distance 23276 km (14466 m)
Road Condition 100% tar    
Time to travel 2.5 hrs    
Cost of diesel M28.26 (£0.63)    
Ugezi Tiger Lodge S15 36.869 E32 42.086 M1580 (US$63) - Self-catering room & shared, open air kitchen with large fridge & oven.  All electricity incl Sully hook up. Rooms old but clean with en suite bathroom and fully serviced.  Great restaurant & bar.

With an easy drive ahead of us, we really should have slept in but we had been waking up at 5am in the game park so it seemed not unreasonable to wake up at the same time.  We lay in bed trying in vain to get back to sleep but couldn't so we eventually got up at 6:30am.  After a shower and change, we went downstairs to take check out and take all our stuff to Sully.  The reception ran after us showing us notes and saying "Change, change.".  We thought he wanted us to pay for the night but as we had already paid the night receptionist we got out our Portuguese phrase book and in very slow, tortuous language told him we had already paid.  He walked out of the building and we went out to Sully thinking that that was the end of it, when suddenly he appeared again, friend in tow.

"Look mate, we told you that we had paid last night," we said.

"No, no," his friend replied in great English, "you don't understand.  There is a refund of M150 for early check out and the receptionist doesn't have the right change.  If you give him a M50 he will give you a M200."

We were stumped.  And Amazed.  And our estimation of Mozambique and it's people rose even higher.

We set off down the road to find the coffee and pastry shop that we had stopped at last night to pick up some breakfast.  Whilst we were waiting for our fresh mango juice, toasted sandwich, omelette and galao (latte) to arrive, we bought a wifi internet coupon and logged on to download emails.  By 9am we were ready to set off.

During the drive we noticed that Sully had developed a major speed wobble but put it down to the fact that we had probably thrown a piece of lead, so thought nothing more about it.  This was to raise it's head again on our next trip.  The drive, thankfully was a short one, so it didn't bother us too much.

We arrived in Songa and it was really quite a schizophrenic experience.  We had been driving through Mozambique with it's hills, trees and vegetation all suffering from lack of rain (rainy season starts in December), dry and dusty and with temperatures of around 40degC.  Here we were in Songa with dual carriageways, green grass on either side and down the middle, luscious trees heavy with leaves and flowers hanging over the pavements and, despite the heat, a feel of calm and cool.  We drew money at the Barclays and BCI ATMs, filled up with diesel (we haven't had any problems with fuel availability at all but wanting to make sure we can get in South Africa, we are topping up at every opportunity) and set off down the hill to Ugezi Tiger Lodge.

We drove the last 500m on a dirt road which opened out into a welcoming view of thatched chalets and cottages sheltering from the incredible heat under massive baobabs towering over everything.  We met the manager Mick who told us the bad news - they were fully booked!  Nooooooooo! With the furnace-like temperatures, camping really wasn't an option even in all the shade.  Wait a minute though - Mick said he had some self-catering rooms that still needed upgrading as they are on a big drive to improve the lodge.  If we didn't mind the basic conditions (even though they were clean and serviceable) we could rent a room from him (including en suite bathroom and air conditioning, an full kitchen with oven and fridge) for M1580.  What we are discovering is that accommodation in Mozambique is expensive, so having set our sights a little higher (on the dollar front!!!) we had a look a the room.  Indeed it was in need of improvement but everything worked, the air conditioner blew freezing cold and the shower water was boiling hot - we took it.

We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, watching some videos in the cool of the room (we have now doubled our videos watched - to 4 in the whole trip!) and eventually at around 7pm dragged ourselves outside to the restaurant for some supper.  Peri-peri chicken and lamb chops were ordered and 20 minutes later we had a delicious supper in front of us with lashing of peri-peri and a bottle of cold white wine encased in a bucket of cold ice.

We fell into bed soon afterwards and woke the following morning in time to have a leisurely breakfast on the wooden deck attached to the outside kitchen and overlooking the Zambezi River.  At 08:30am we set off to the lodge reception to find Stephen our skipper who would be taking us on the river and up to the dam wall for a look-see.  Turns out that we couldn't get to visit the dam itself as all visits had ceased about 4 months ago!!!  I was desperately disappointed but Mick said the pontoon would be able to take us quite close to the wall.

We met Stephen, stocked the pontoon with a cooler box filled with ice and cold sodas, Stephen topped up the fuel and we were off.

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Trevor on the pontoon Stephen, our skipper A view as we sailed the Zambezi towards the dam
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Upstream of the Cahora Bassa dam wall The dam wall A crocodile sunning itself on the banks of the Zambezi

3 hours later we got back having seen the dam wall on the upstream side.  I can only imagine from the size of the mountains all around the Zambezi how magnificent the view of the dam wall must be on the downstream side....  Another time maybe.

It was incredible - during our 3 hour motor to the wall and back we passed by villages on the edge of the Zambezi with people washing clothes, catching fish, washing themselves and swimming and not 200m away a big, fat crocodile.  We asked if anyone ever got taken by the crocs but Stephen just laughed and said that there was plenty of fish for the croc so why would they bother with people?  I dunno, but it would surely worry me!!!!

Back at camp we ordered in some prego rolls for lunch and ate the delectable steak sandwiches with egg and peri-peri in the cool of our room, had a sleep, worked on the website, updated bird records and generally lazed about out of the intense heat of the day.

As we had taken out T-bones steak from the freezer that we had bought in Lilongwe at Foodworths (did I say that it was a great store!), we prepared those for supper with fresh garlic butter, baked potatoes with crispy brown and nutty skins and a crisp green salad.  With the dying coals we lit up the sheesha, broke open our bottle of whiskey (given to us so long ago in Kenya as a thank you present from Iain) and with cold ice tinkling in our glasses whiled away another couple of hours chatting and relaxing on the deck.

By the third morning you'd have thought we'd be into sleeping late - not so - we were up again at 5:30am.  At 7am I slipped out to meet with the local fisherman and buy a fresh water bream from him.  At M62.50 for a 2.5kg fish, it was a real steal.  Stephen had helped me with organising the fisherman so he offered to clean the fish and bring it to me later.  Fishie duly arrived at9:00am cleaned and gutted.  We thought it might have a slightly muddy taste that all fresh water fish seem to have (except the Tilapia, funnily enough), so I filleted it - some for lunch and some for supper.  Lunch that day was goujons (little pieces - I'm not sure of the spelling!!) of fresh bream fried in crispy batter and served with a curry sauce made with the fennel that had been in my veggie pack from The Old Farmhouse, using the Zanzibarian curry spices and the fresh coriander (6 bunches) that I had picked up in a deal with the veggie man at Foodworths in Lilongwe (did I mention that its a fabulous store!!!!) - well, he saw my need and kept 6 bunches back for me in return for a smile.  Great deal!  Lunch was goooooooood.

That afternoon I made a loaf of bread and continued to overcome my writer's block to catch up on the blog.  Trevor spent some time putting on the last rear brake dust cover that needed some extra holes drilling.  Both completely exhausted with all the effort (yeah right!), we decided to leave the rest of the fish and eat in the restaurant.  With supper ordered with 7pm (t-bone and lamb chops with lashings of peri-peri - did I mention it was fantastic!), we packed Sully up, made bacon sandwiches for lunch for the long haul the next day and went up to the restaurant for supper and several ice cold sodas.  We paid our bill, ordered breakfast for 6:30am the next morning and went to bed early.