Mozambique’s Parks revisited: Days 1 – 3
On the N4 near Lydenberg the road took a new turn, swinging left where I had always swept right but going through pleasant scenery and getting us to Nelspruit safely anyway. Our vehicle, a Landrover TD5 130 (that’s the long bakkie with a double cab) had been humming along very nicely and the paintwork was still pristine in its virgin whiteness. Our rugged but very pleasant looking canvas canopy, provided by Pretoria based FAKAWI was also still shining after all those “k’s” we rolled over to get to the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border. This ‘just out of the box’ appearance did nothing perhaps for the rugged ‘Landrover Experience’ image that we were trying (expected?) to propagate, but I knew that this lack of ‘houding’ (wear-and-tear) would soon be remedied by the hidden hurdles along the indistinct trails which meander through the grasping grasslands, thorny thickets, enfolding forests and sucking swamps of the Maputo Elephant Reserve (Reserva Especial de Maputo).
During 1993, for six weeks whilst researching my first Guide to Mozambique, I had stayed at the ‘Campismo Municipal’ (Camping Grounds) which are nicely located amongst the sea-breezes just over the road from the beach, but which was then in serious need of running water and security. Still, the motley array of characterful residents, many who appeared to be fleeing the then soon-to-be ‘New South Africa’, provided nary a tedious moment and no-one had asked for payment.
Accordingly, as I had noticed on a previous trip that ‘Campismo’ had been renovated, we stayed there, taking our dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Maputo called ‘O Coqueiro’ (The coconut tree) in the ‘Feira Popular’ down by the Catembe ferry quay. The owner of Coqueiro is from Zambézia Province in central Mozambique where some of the world’s largest coconut plantations are to be found and where the populace use this ‘tree of paradise’ for everything from food and furniture to roofing and wrapping.
Campismo was, we found, safe with excellent ablutions. However, being so close to one of the city’s more busy roads, a little noisy. It also appeared to be occupied by folk who had to start their big diesel trucks very early in the morning. This area is due to be developed into a beachside complex and so in six months to a year, Campismo will be no more.
The ferry over the ‘Baia do Espirito Santo’ (Also called Maputo Bay) to Catembe was our first stop (obstacle?) next morning and after that the Maputo Elephant Reserve, commonly referred to hereabouts as just ‘Reserva’. However, as we feared that it’s presence would reduce our ‘departure angle’ too much, turning us into something of a plough, first we had to remove the tow-bar. Anyway, I did not want to tow a boat through marshland if we could pick it up later.
The friendliness of its people is one of Mozambique’s most attractive characteristics and no one embodies this more than the manager of the Hotel Polana for the past 10 years, the ever-helpful David Ankers. He allowed us to leave the humble vessel in his car park amongst the limos and other luxury sedans, and no one in the hotel even turned up their noses when we wandered through the lobby to clean our greasy hands. The tow-bar was left with Fernando, the beaming porter who even cleaned it for us.
The ferry ride set us back around R50 and Catembe was just 10 minutes away. Although just a coconut shy away from one of the world’s fastest growing cities (Maputo), Catembe has been left behind in the development stakes and most houses are quietly rotting away. If the proposed bridge over the ‘Baia’ is built, this is going to suddenly become prime real estate.
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