Day 2 on the Wild Coast

This was the first morning we didn’t have breakfast as it wasn’t included in our hotel stay. But, Reese did buy me a Cadbury’s Lunch Bar for breakfast so we filled our Camelbaks with bottled water and headed off a little earlier than usual this morning. We knew we had a hard day ahead as we wanted to go all the way to Port Elizabeth (PE for short) and we knew the roads would not be that great.

For a second day we drove through winding country 2 lane roads with livestock wandering back and forth across the roadway. In a car it might be a little scary, but on a motorcycle it is really hairy! More than once we had to wait for a cow to cross the road right in front of us in a 100km per hour zone. Luckily, the drivers coming the other way would flash their lights at us to warn us of the impending danger, so we slowed down just in case. And that brings up another interesting fact about South African drivers being polite:  even though the roads are mostly 2 lane, they do have uphill truck passing lanes on occasion, but if you are not lucky enough to be near one of those, cars and trucks are actually known to pull off on the shoulder to let you go by. It is then polite to put on your flashers for an instant to thank them, and they then flash their brights at you to let you know they got the compliment. However, when driving on those passing lanes the signs read “Stay left except to pass.” You see, a solid white or yellow line doesn’t mean much here, so the center lane is used as a passing lane for cars headed either direction. That’s why you can’t just linger in the passing lane or you are likely to have a head on collision. Remarkably, we saw only one wreck during our travels, an overturned semi-trailer truck had overturned and blocked both lanes on a divided highway north of Bloemfontein. How on earth these people survive on a daily basis while driving is a true miracle! And, there is one more reason not to drive at night!

The road sticks pretty much to the tops of hills as it meanders through the mountainous terrain of the Transkei. Today we saw a lot more planted forests than we had previously seen. You can tell them by the uniformity with which they are grown. It really did look a lot like the Pacific Northwest in that regard. We also saw some mountain lodges where people go to spend a cool and relaxing adventure weekend doing bungy jumping, zip lining, hiking, or mountain biking. They were quite nice and large with all the amenities. Overall, the drive was pleasant and we saw some pretty scenery.

It took us about 3 1/2 hours to get to East London due to all the road construction. But, it was a Sunday so we had no long waits like we have had in other places where they can be up to a half hour each. We got to East London just about lunch time and we needed gas, so we stopped at the Hemingway Mall. It was an amazing place with all the latest shops and restaurants. It was at least as cool as Bellevue Square. We made it down to the food court and found a Spur restaurant there. Spur is a South African chain of restaurants that specialize in steaks and seafood. Each one has a different American name and they all have a Western (as in cowboy) motif. We were ready for a burger so we dug in, but I wasn’t enjoying my meal much. As we pulled into East London I realized that I had left the clear plastic container with all my documents (passport, motorcycle ownership papers, etc) behind the pillows on my bed. I tried calling to no avail, so I e-mailed them my plight. It was Sunday, so I did not get a reply until the next day. They had found the document bag and would courier it to my place in Somerset West. Hallelujah!

After lunch we hit it hard, hoping to make it to PE, but the roads only improved in the area just before and just after East London and then we were back on the old two lane road with lots of road construction. It should normally take about 4 hours, but today it was much harder, complicated by the fact that we were battling BRUTAL winds that whipped us around like a toy. The bike with all the gear is a good 1,000 pounds of weight, but it almost blew us over on more than one occasion. That was complicated by the fact that we were heading in a westerly direction during the last bit, so we were facing a setting sun that was very bright and hard to see. Night time starts between 5:30 pm and 6 depending on how clear the sky is and whether or not there is a full moon, and by the time we hit Grahamstown it was already getting dark. I did not want to drive in the dark with these treacherous winds, so we exited at the city and began using the GPS to find a hotel room for the night.

What we found was a very nice little town with a rich history and grand old architecture. It is a university town as Rhodes University is located there. The hotel we chose was the Victorian Hotel, or Vic for short. It was built in the 1840s and is on the international register of historical buildings. However, the rooms were clean and modern looking for the most part, and they had a great Italian restaurant upstairs. It has been known for over a century as a student hang out and tonight was no exception. Not only that, but the hotel had free wifi and it was high speed! Wahoo!!!!

We had a leisurely dinner of Margarita pizza and Greek Salad.The pizza was for Reese and the salad for me, but we shared. There were a lot of students socializing at adjacent tables and the more they drank the more social they became. Sound familiar to those of you who are college students or are the parents of college students? It was an overall pleasant experience and we were glad we stopped there.

Traveling by motorcycle is always a bit tricky, especially in the developing world. People are known to steal anything off the bike if not the bikes themselves. There was not much parking available for us except street parking, and we all know how that went in Maputo. But, the receptionist (son of the owners) managed to talk Mom into letting me park in the restaurant. There is a wide passage way with steel bars on it, and the bike just barely fit with the saddle bags (also known as panniers). That was great and we really felt like the bike and its possessions were safe for the night. People here are so nice and polite!!!!! I would recommend the Vic to anyone, and I wish we had more time to explore the city. There were a lot of very large old fashioned buildings dating back more than a century and a half and it would have been fun to explore had we the time.

After dinner it was time for more TV and off to dreamland. I have to tell you that riding in unfamiliar circumstances is very stressful and exhausting, so every night I was ready to “hit the sack.” However, we were both feeling a bit under the weather as the ride had been cold as well. We were afraid that we were coming down with colds or something, so a good night’s sleep was just the ticket. Unfortunately, in the dark loneliness of fitful sleep my mind kept returning to those documents I had left in the Savoy Hotel in Mthatha. I awoke at 4 and stayed awake until almost 6:30 am before I fell asleep for another hour and a half. I needed my sleep as we were planning on riding the remaining 900 kms (560 miles) the next day back to Somerset West and the comfort of the Squirrel’s Peep. By this juncture we are closing in over 5,000 kms and two weeks on the road. I needed to get back to finish my work!!!

Along the Wild Coast

The drive south of Durban was through rolling hills filled with sugar cane fields and the road was a 1st World interstate highway. We made good time while the road was good, but soon enough the N2 turned inland and went back to a 2 lane road… not what one would expect for a major national highway. During Apartheid the area we were traveling was known as the Siskei and the Transkei, homelands to specific tribes of people. During those days the Afrikaaner government established what Americans know as “reservations” for indigenous peoples and made them citizens of those “homelands.” That is how they kept the country a white run democracy as the vast majority of land was owned by the 7-10 million whites. In order to work and travel, the citizens of the “homelands” had to have a pass or ID giving them permission to travel in other areas outside their homeland. The area we were traveling through this day was formerly known as two of these homelands, the Siskei and the Transkei. The latter is the “homeland” of Nelson Mandela, and its capital was Mtata (also spelled Mthatha). That was our objective for the day as the road was winding through mountains and very populated with people and farm animals along the roadway, which made the going slow. There was a huge amount of road work going on as well, so it took us all day to find our way to Mthatha… and was very stressful for the rider, not to mention the pillion (passenger in moto-speak) as they had no control over the situation.

We had several close calls with cattle, goats, dogs, monkeys and baboons during the day, but none was as scary as the lady that pulled out right in front of us in a very slow and deliberate manner. Thank God and BMW for the ABS brakes on the bike! Whew! They literally saved our lives today!

The scenery was beautiful at times and boring at others. The place had pretty much been deforested for firewood used for cooking and heating to this day. It is obvious how the Sahara desert developed in a similar fashion as first comes the denuding of trees and then comes erosion from wind and rain, then a desert. We really have to find a better way for these folks to exist without burning firewood all the time. In addition, the farmers use a technique of farming that requires them to burn off their fields periodically, so the smell of wood-smoke permeates the air all the time in winter. Talk about a huge source of CO2 in the atmosphere!!!!!

We finally arrived into Mthatha around 5 pm or so after a full and stressful day’s drive. The city was large and had all the amenities one could want. In fact, it is a pretty affluent city when you look at it. There are a lot of luxury cars on the road here, which was so out of context with the surrounding countryside. They had all the major national chains here as well as a McDonalds and several KFCs. Our gps indicated a hotel just up ahead past the McDonalds so we headed to the Savoy Hotel. It was actually very much like an American motel, a two story motel like a Holiday Inn Express type of thing, and the room was only R595 per night. Not bad! And, it was adjacent to a small strip shopping center with several restaurants, a supermarket and gas station. We opted for this place that resembled a Red Robin type of restaurant, very trendy and modern. The food wasn’t bad either as we were pretty famished. We have taken to eating breakfast, then for lunch having a Cadbury’s Lunch Bar in order to keep on traveling and make as good a time as possible, but around 6 or 6:30 we better find some food! I had a chicken schnitzel with a salad bar, which was pretty good. They tend to put mushroom or pepper sauce on this type of thing, which I could have done without. Pretty soon we were back in the room watching movies on TV until falling asleep. Reese tries to fall asleep before me so he doesn’t have to listen to my chainsaw buzzing at night, but I am so exhausted by the end of the day I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat!

During the day we met a man at a petrol station (gas station) that was intrigued by our accent and wanted to know if we were English. Pretty funny that, as we are pure Gringos. All the gas station attendants are really amused by both the bike and by our outfits, so they always gather around asking questions. For example, instead of the gas tank being in the traditional location in front of the rider, it is under the seat. So, there is always confusion as to where to put the nozzle. Then, we have packed all our stuff on the bike like the Beverly Hillbillys so it is pretty loaded down. Finally, the GoPro 3 camera is mounted on top of Reese’s helmet in a waterproof/dustproof clear case, so that raises a lot of questions in itself. Reese is filming our trip so that you can see our adventure as if you were riding along with us in a couple of months after we finish editing it. He has a remote control on his waistband that he clicks on when he sees something worth filming. Stay tuned for that!

Another Day “On the Rocks”

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Umhlanga Rocks, that is. Another description would be “Another Day in Paradise.” We were both pretty worn out and not feeling up to snuff, so another day here in the lovely Cathy’s Place B&B was just what the doctor ordered. Yesterday while Reese was out enjoying the beach I went to Umhlanga Rocks BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle portion of the car dealer there. I knew the sales manager, Shaheen Bayat, and thought it would be a good chance to renew old friendships and check out the installation of the new rear tube, tighten the drive chain and do a good “once over” to make sure things were up to snuff. Other than an electrical snafu on the first full day that grounded us for a few hours and the blown inner tube in Maputo, the bike held up remarkably well. I love my bike and she loves me back enough to get everywhere we needed to go on the trip with no real hassles!

The bike checked out okay with no real problems and was washed and ready to go by the time I finished my chat with Shaheen. He and his wife had been in a dreadful auto accident back at the first of the year and his leg was broken in 4 places, so he is still recovering from his injuries. His wife went through the windshield (windscreen) and cut her face up pretty badly so she has had 5 surgeries to repair the damage… with more to come. Please pray for their well-being as they have suffered a lot. Shaheen is Muslim, as are many in the Durban area, and needs our prayers for full recovery.

Upon my return from the dealership I noticed that Reese was still out, so I sauntered down to the main village just a couple of blocks away for some lunch. They have so many great restaurants in the area, but I spied one last night on our way to dinner at the Indian restaurant that I wanted to try:  Hooters! Yes, the American chain of stores had a restaurant right there in Umhlanga Rocks and I was game to try it. My wife does not allow me to go to such places as she feels that they objectify women, but to me it is all about the food. I had a great spicy buffalo chicken salad that was just what my stomach craved. And, of course, the scenery was quite nice as well, so I lingered on and did some catching up on e-mails as I ate on that beautiful warm and sunny afternoon.

When I got back Reese still was not there, but arrived shortly after from his walk along the beach. We rested for a while and then headed out around 6 pm for dinner along the main strip where all the sidewalk cafés were located. I had a hankering for a good paella, but Reese wanted Thai, so we opted for that. The sosatis and chicken phad thai were fabulous, as was the people watching. As I said earlier, the nightlife in Umhlanga is quite active and we enjoyed the warmth of the evening outside people watching and eating. The walk back to the hotel was short and satellite TV offered a lot of options until exhaustion overtook us.

The next morning was another stellar breakfast of eggs, back-bacon (Canadian bacon to Americans), with sauteed mushrooms and tomato. The coffee in South Africa leaves much to be desired as the only good cup I’ve ever had was at Donford Motorrad, the BMW motorcycle dealer in Stellenbosch. My friend, Don Corleone, makes the best coffee in the country, but all others fall short of my Seattle trained taste buds. So, after breakfast we were off on our journey once more, better rested and on a clean and newly serviced/washed bike.

Out by the Indian Ocean

The next morning we had a hot breakfast in the large dining hall and hit the road again. Within 40 clicks we hit the border, and with little trouble made it through to South Africa. The drive was warm and beautiful. Sugarcane persisted, along with large farm plots, and the charm of KwaZulu Natal. There were tree farms, Zulu shields, fruit stands, and undulating roads. Soon we could see the Indian Ocean in the far distance and by 4pm we pulled into Umhlanga. I asked my dad why we weren’t pushing into Durban to which he responded that Umhlanga Rocks was quaint and much cheaper. After a few loops around town we found a small B&B which was rather nice once we got the chance to look around. Later that night we had some Indian food, dining on Tikka and Chana masala. The place was hosting an Indian wedding but we managed to squeeze into the small adjacent room and heard American English nearby. After dinner we gorged ourselves on free wifi and TV before catching up on some z’s.

This morning during breakfast we decided that an extra day sounded mighty tempting. My father had good news on the dissertation ordeal so that facilitated our extended stay. We spent our afternoons separately. He took the bike by the BMW dealership and enjoyed a light lunch downtown while I took a long, leisurely walk on the beach. It was absolutely phenomenal! People of all colors and creeds were out by the water fishing or swimming, building sand castles with the family or simply lounging under the sun. Some jogged along the walkway dividing high end hotels and the beach, some perused crafts or relished a cool ice cream, and some–like myself–were enjoying the fine pastime of people watching. I later reconvened with my father and enjoyed a mid-afternoon lounge session. Dinner consisted of delectable Thai food under a marquee, and here we are living out a near daily deja vu experience: chilling in our stay for the night and catching up on the events of the day.

Somewhere between the Sugarcane Fields and the Night Sky

While our flat tire adventure was exciting and ultimately cheap, it was time-consuming. My father was being cryptic as usual and I had no idea where we were bound until I saw us traveling in a new direction altogether. On we rode through townships and backroads until there was nothing but nature in all directions and tar in front of us. The roads were somewhat confusing but we made it through the border into Swaziland. Rolling into the Kingdom felt like a return to organized life. The roads were, as my father said, in better shape than those in Mozambique. The border crossing actually took us through a nature reserve, but not for long. Soon we were out and back into civilization.

The Kingdom of Swaziland, also known as Ngwane or Swatini, is a small land-locked country. It is only 120 miles from north to south, but boasts the rich cultural heritage of the Swazi people. Most know this land for two things, one good and one bad. The first is sugarcane, which seems to grow in every nook and cranny of the country; the other is HIV. Over 25% of its residents are infected with HIV, which has cut the nation’s life expectancy to a poor 49 years old.

The tires were looking good on the tar roads and I was enjoying the sweet smell of sugarcane in the air. The sun as out and with the occasional game reserve along the roads, we were able to spot ostriches, giraffe and other animals about. We continued to ride on into the afternoon and hit the city of Manzini. Somewhere along the road after that my dad realized that something was amiss since the GPS was telling us to go in a strange direction. As we pulled a U-turn back into Manzini I took a gander at the paper map. My dad said we should be pretty close to the southern border but I couldn’t find the major town anywhere near. Then I saw it: we had taken a wrong turn and were some 50kms off-course, dead center in the country.

We passed a couple of spots to stay, but my father was determined to find the correct road and once we were on it we had no intent to turn around. Yet again we found ourselves riding through rural lands devoid of accommodation or camping grounds and the sun was setting. Undeterred we road into the darkness and for what seemed like forever there was nothing all around us. Eventually we saw a sign for a lodge. Eager to find anywhere we stopped by a B&B, but they refused to house us saying they were full. We didn’t quite buy it but didn’t push our luck, either. We rode on toward the outskirts of a town called Big Bend. Finally we found a gas station with an adjacent motel. Pulling up the gate, I hopped off and looked around. There was no office and very few lights aside from some flickering by a small wall. Talk about creepy. I walked down closer to the petrol pumps and saw a reception sign.

Up the stairs I went and met a very kind, shy girl who was very kind and much to our joy stated there were rooms available. The room was spacious (well vertically anyway, but there was a problem with the lights. Beggars can’t be choosers though and I was getting a great vibe from the casual country hospitality. I waved my dad on in and a young, friendly man helped us take our things inside. He had a great sense of humor and seemed to be the first person genuinely interested in learning about us and our homeland.

We sorted out logistics and just as the electricity seemed to be improving the whole place was engulfed in darkness. There were no lights in our room, the hallway, the entire motel, or even the gas station. Most people abhor blackouts but I was ecstatic. Our cozy little place had just become that much more adventurous in spirit, and when I looked up at the immense sky all I could see was stars. Very few places in my life have had such an exquisite view of the night sky.

My father and I walked into the bar to have some drinks while they were still cold and to order up our dinner. Lucky for us they had a gas grill! We dined on curry in faint candlelight with some locals. For atmosphere the bartender had top hits playing from his cellphone. Eventually we made it back to the room and the lights came back on in full swing. We charged our goodies and went to bed, eager to return to darkness.

Hazyview to Maputo

Reese and I really enjoyed our time in the Kruger, and were quite lucky in our viewing of animals. We really did see them all! The biggest difference I see from the 70s and 80s is that the animals are much more habituated to human contact (well, to our vehicles) and are not nearly as skittish as they used to be. That made for much more relaxed viewing and their casual approach to the roads and things so that we could see more of them from the main roads… especially those along the river. It is winter here so the weather is mild and they are active all day rather than just at dawn and dusk, so that made viewing easier as well. There are now a lot of concessionaires inside the park and it has become more of a business than a completely natural experience like it used to be, but it is still exhilarating to see these wild animals in their natural habitat! As Reese said, Kruger is the size of Israel with huge populations of all the animals in this primeval looking landscape so you can’t ever really get tired of it. We had been looking forward to Mozambique so we could speak our Portuguese with them. When Reese and I were in Brazil alone for a year (well, alone is relative as we had a maid and driver and lots of friends, but we were without Francie/Mom), we often used to speak Portuguese at the dinner table with just the two of us. So, at the first opportunity of going through the border post we encountered the Africanized Portuguese they spoke. It was more like Paulista Portuguese than Carioca Portuguese, but it was remarkably similar. The fiasco at the border was a portent of things come. Mozambique in this highly traveled causeway was like any backwater playground of people preying on tourists and travelers… everyone with their hand out or a scam to offer. That started things off on a bad note, and as we arrived into Maputo it was getting very dark very fast. Remember the first rule of Africa? DON’T DRIVE AT NIGHT! So, we get into Maputo and know our hotel is somewhere near the water but we don’t know which one. My cell phone had “gone missing” in Plettenberg Bay so we had no way to check the internet. Almost everywhere in Africa charges by the amount of data it takes to load whatever site you visit, and that adds up very quickly, so our hot spot was out of data and we had no way to find out which hotel we were scheduled at. Through a lot of begging and pleading we found a hotel that called the travel agent our friend in Hazyview had suggested and found out we were in the Tivoli Hotel just a couple of blocks away from where we were. It was very run down on the outside, but the rooms were pleasant. The elevator (lift) worked only occasionally (TIA), and the internet never worked even though I paid $15 for it. Come to find out our room was $220 per night, a real rip off! The bad taste was getting stronger in my mouth with Maputo when I got some bad news from some e-mails about my work and my dissertation that caused us to rethink our trip. So, after dinner when we got back to the hotel it was time to make the call and head back to South Africa en route to Somerset West once again. The next morning after a nice breakfast we had to schlep our bags down three flights as the lift wasn’t working. We checked out and set our GPS to go back through Swaziland and down the East Coast of South Africa on the way home to the Squirrel’s Peep. The weather in the high veld was just too darned cold and boring to go home that way, although it would save a day of travel. So, as we are tooling down the EN4 freeway and approaching a toll booth the bike went all wobbly and the rear tire blew. Danged! What to do? It looked like the tire (tyre) had been punctured on the sidewall (remember what Reese said about us having to park the bike on the sidewalk outside the hotel the night before?). I walked over to a worker by the toll booth and asked if he could call for help from a towing company. Well, he went away and never came back! Just as I was getting really frustrated a guy in a white pickup with a crew cab pulls up and asks in English if he could help. God works in mysterious ways, but He certainly sent these two angels at the right time. We loaded the bike and all our gear into the bed and hopped in the back of the crew cab while he drove us around looking for a place to help us. We finally landed at this place that worked on tires and they agreed to help us. We unloaded the bike and I showed them how to take the rear axle off, remove the abs sensor so it doesn’t get damaged, remove the hub and then loosen the chain to get it off. It was actually very easy with the right tools and took just a couple of minutes. They vulcanized the sidewall and showed me where the valve had failed on the inner tube so I pulled out my spare inner tube and they mounted it professionally and got it back on the bike in record time. All told we had lost about 2 hours and it only cost us 100 meticais (the equivalent to less than $5). I tipped the workers 200 meticais and they were thrilled. So, we were off for the Swaziland border. The owner of the tire place was a South African from Johannesburg and he recommended the way back to the border, advising us to take a small border post that was out of the way, which we did and it was a piece of cake going through the border. BUT, on the way we had loaded the bike too quickly and Reese didn’t have enough room so we stopped to rearrange it at a gas station in a very small town. I got a drink and asked the owner which way to the Goba border post in Portuguese and that gave him an entre to start talking to us. When he found out we were Americans he immediately ran into the office and pulled out his Blackberry to show us a picture of himself in front of the White House in DC that he had taken last year. He raved on about how much he loved America and was planning to go back next year. Imagine, a gas station owner in the middle of Southern Mozambique was a world traveler!

As I said, the border post was very smooth and totally unlike our experience the previous day of getting into the country. People were pleasant to deal with and there was no long line of people going through. Reese and I had gotten our Yellow Fever shots so we wouldn’t have a problem moving from country to country, but no one ever asked us from them. I had been turned back from Swaziland in 1979 because I didn’t have one and now they don’t care! Oh well, it was good protection of our health anyway! Once through the border to the Swazi side the roads were much better and it really had the same feel as if we were in South Africa. Everyone accepted South African Rand so we were good to go. More on Swaziland from Reese…..

Big 5 to Maputo

Our second day in Hazyview was teeming with potential. After breakfast we befriended the owners of the hotel, who by no small coincidence happened to be motorcycle enthusiasts. The gentleman gave us some good suggestions about where to see the animals in the Kruger Park and where to possibly find camping. He even phoned some folks who worked at the gates and told us to stop by to see if they could find a campsite. The park is the size of Israel to give you some scale, and we were near the southern chunk. We had gone in the Paul Kruger gate on day one and came out the Malalene as the sun was going down. This time we went in the Phoabene gate, but no amount of wishing could help us; there wasn’t a single site, lodge, or cottage available within a 5 hour range. We pressed on eastward in case any cancellations arose, but even in the off-season our chances were slim.

Onward we drove, loosening up and and beginning to enjoy the sights. The sun was out on this beautiful day and soon, so too were the animals. This trek proved even more fruitful than the day before. In just a few hours time we saw kudu, hippos, rhinos, elephants, lions, a leopard, a solitary bull water buffalo,  hyena, crocs, impala innumerable, and many giraffes.

What. A. Day. We found the Lower Sabie campgrounds and though it was full, we had a late lunch and departed on gravel roads into the sunset and Numbi gate. We returned to Hazyview and spent our third and final night at the hotel.

The following day we were graced with even more good advice about the border into Mozambique. We departed just before noon after we had dropped off the rental car and headed to Komatipoort. Construction, like many places along our journey up until this point slowed us down. Just before the border town we stopped to buy motorcycle insurance and some Mozambiquan medicais.

Crossing the border was an odd affair. The South African side was rather simple and orderly, but once we crossed into Mozambique their immigration was a free-for-all. The moment we stopped the bike we were flooded by a small mob of despesantes. The literal term would be dispatchers; they are individuals who, for a series of fees, will cut to the front of the line, bribe an immigration officer and essentially facilitate your entrance into the country. I felt rather uncomfortable handing over cash and my passport to a group of strangers donning less than professional clothing, but a police officer walked by and kicked out the shadiest of folk, which was enough to convince my dad. He had encountered similar situations and decided to go with the biggest guy there. My father’s bold decision ended up paying off, saving us over an hour of wait and we didn’t need to get our hands dirty.

Most say that the line between countries is superficial, and in many senses that is true, but not so in this case. Mozambique did have a nationally funded road project, yielding good roads into Maputo, but that was where the similarities ended. The lands are not dissected into plots of owned land; there is just a rolling African bushland devoid of animal fences. On this side of the border businesses were non-existent aside from the occasional spray-painted script on metal or concrete panels. People sauntered around without any real push to be anywhere and worst of all there was trash everywhere. Strewn across the roadside, caught on bushes, heaped in piles and even some floating with the wind. Last but not least the language is different so signs were now in Portuguese. This was one aspect I had been looking forward to for a while, since I haven’t had a chance to brush up on my Portuguese since I lived in Brazil well over a decade ago.

Hours later we made it to Maputo, the country’s capital, and the sun had almost completely set. The owner of the Numbi Hotel had made reservations for us, but without a phone or internet data we were out of ways to find out in which hotel that reservation had been made. My father bummed off a ritzy hotel’s wifi while I stood outside by the bike, being verbally molested by every passerby trying to sell something. One guy wanted to hawk a Samsung phone and there was a young boy who just kind of stood there, not begging or selling. Soon my father returned and after a barrage of no’s we departed for the hotel. Parking was limited so we had to park the motorcycle right in front of the hotel. In SA and Mozambique there are usually parking guards or security who work for a salary and of course tips. My dad was not too fond of leaving the bike out on the sidewalk where all could come by, but we didn’t have any other choice. We took everything we could into the hotel and sorted out the reservation.

That evening we left the hotel in search of a restaurant. Mozambique is famous for their peri-peri Portuguese chicken so we meandered about until we found a nice amphitheater/courtyard with a few outdoor restaurants. There we dined on some good grub and enjoyed conversation while people watching and occasionally glancing at the motorcycle racing on TV. Utilizing our Portuguese was fun, and we were surprised to hear how similar the dialect was to Brazilian Portuguese.

We tried to get internet to update the blog but it wasn’t working so we relaxed and went to bed. Our biggest mistake, as it turns out, was not asking how much the hotel was per night–we just assumed our friends at the Numbi hotel had taken our budget into consideration when we said mid-range accommodation. It was outrageously expensive as we came to learn and with ill news about my father’s dissertation, we were forced to turn our eyes back earlier than anticipated. The good news was that our route would not repeat itself; we were bound for Swaziland, which I will flesh out in the next entry.