Sunrise Caught: Hitting the beach in Mozambique

Sealed highway of varying conditions finally delivered us to Mozambique’s amazing sandy beaches in the early afternoon. This was it, the Indian Ocean. Our goal. We started in Namibia at the Atlantic Ocean and chased sunrise right across Southern Africa to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

We detoured a short way off the highway to get our first look at the small laid back town of Vilankulos. The gateway to Bazaruto Archipelago (Mozambique’s only underwater national park). Vilankulos is picture perfect. Coconut palms line the long sandy beach while the water is so shallow the sea is broken up with bands of sand.

For the first time in a long time we found a proper cafe. We got coffee and cake to take-out by way of celebration, and sat on the wall overlooking the beach soaking it in. It was a big trip, we were in slight disbelief that we’d actually made it.

We had originally hoped to have been able to spend the night here but time pressures meant needed to get farther south. So we made do with a small explore of the town as we left. While reluctant to leave we knew this was just the start. There were plenty more beautiful beaches to come.

We got another 2 hours farther south before finding somewhere to camp for the night. 20 minutes down a shallow red sand road that was pocketed with waving school children as they walked home we reached the campsite. Reception had already closed for the day so the security guard registered our details and told us where to go. A large campsite nestled in the trees and coconut palms alongside the beach, there was hardly anyone else there. It was pure paradise. The long white sandy beach, the perfect sea, and we couldn’t be camped any closer. We were lulled to sleep by the sea and lay in the next morning looking through the palm trees to the beach.

It had great facilities too. We’d got our camp set up before it went dark but with a nice big fire pit we finally got to out to use some of the wood we’d been carrying. We also did a food stock take, made breakfast and lunch, did our last round of laundry and had blissful hot showers before bed.

When we finally peeled ourselves out of the tent we packed down and got the 4WD prepped for another long day of driving then we went for a good walk/paddle on the beach. The water was warm, the air was a perfect temperature and it was deserted. Just us, sand, sea and palm trees. Bliss.

Another day of driving. This time at a more leisurely pace. We stopped often and had a long lunch break by what we thought was the sea but the map showed was actually a huge lagoon.

Emma also got our first and only fine of the trip. She overtook a vehicle just before a police speed camera trap. Apparently she was doing 83 in a 60 (we were pretty sure we’d gone through an end of the 60 zone sign…) and had overtaken on double solid lines (which with low afternoon sun if the lines were actually there then you couldn’t see them). She got told off. We’d expected worse. She grovelled appropriately as he said if she had a Mozambique licence it would be gone for 2 years and she would be in jail. There was suggestion of us going to the police station to pay the fines (1 for each offence) we didn’t really have time for that and we didn’t have the cash in local currency to pay the 7,000 Meticals he said they totaled. In the end he accepted all the local currency we had, which was 4,800 Meticals or approx NZ$120. He rejected Emma’s offer of a few extra coins. We looked it up on google after and we’d ended up paying not much more than the fines really should have been, assuming she really did commit both offences. Marie was not impressed our perfect record had been broken.

We wanted a camp near the beach again. Some googling led us on a detour through a humongous sugar cane plantation. We had to go through it’s security checkpoint and past its factory buildings. Thankfully the camp was well signed at every junction. We drove through it in the dusk. Eventually it led to the coast and through a village.

The last part of the road was 4WD only. Deep sand and a single lane track. Unlike previous sand driving we had no animals to worry about and it being a quiet area and dark so we didn’t have to worry about anything oncoming. We were also close enough to the finish line that a vehicle issue wouldn’t be the end of the world. Marie had a blast, she smashed through the sand and slid around the corners at speed whilst crying ‘woohoo’.

The camp managers weren’t expecting anyone to turn up in the dark but were very welcoming. It probably had a good dozen other campers too, so was the busiest place we’d stayed at for a long time. We got camp set up and then went to pay. The managers were a South African and a Namibian couple (they’d met through competing in 4WD competitions). We swapped stories for a long time. They’d done some travelling, particularly in Botswana. It’s also always interesting to learn from other people things such as how they handle police checkpoints and the border crossings, and we learnt how you should sleep with a fire extinguisher in areas where there are lions (you hit them with it, as punching a lion doesn’t do anything) and how not to accidentally attract hyenas. It was one of those situations where we could easily have talked all night if we didn’t drag ourselves away.

Before leaving we took an early morning walk up the big sand dunes next to the camp and down onto the beach. The tide was in so there wasn’t a lot of beach but it ran as far as the eye could see and there were just 2 men out fishing from it. Stunning and remote.

We’d stayed only 30km north of the Maputo, the capital city. In our mind Maputo was the journey’s end. The turn inland to Johannesburg airport via Eswatini (Swaziland) was to us just a practicality.

The traffic was surprisingly good and Maputo was a much more spacious and modern city than we’d been braced for and quite easy to drive and navigate. It didn’t take us long to make our way to the waterfront. We found a beach side carpark.

Our journey was complete. Over 8,000km through 5 countries (plus a foot trip into Zimbabwe). Now we really had made it.

Click on any photo to enlarge and scroll through

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