Monday, May 13, 2013

MOZA PT. 1: Back in the Saddle Again!

Soo it has been quite some time since I have posted anything, but in my defense there has been a lot going on! Plus I promised myself I would not feel obligated to keep a regular posting schedule, just do it when I can. Lucky for you, I've got a little down time to catch up on the past month's events.

1. The Mozambique Vacation pt. 1 (this blog)
2. The Mozambique Vacation pt. 2
3. Back to Ameeeerica! - Lindsey's Wedding Festivities and family time!!

The Mozambique Vacation Pt. 1

Destination: Paradise Lodge, Pomene, Mozambique  .... in a roundabout way
Duration: 8 days, 1,400 kilometers
Transportation: Africa Twin 750cc motorcycle

The Plan:

Cuan and his fellow bike activist and best friend, Steve Bristow, have been looking forward to this trip since the middle of last year's trip to Mozambique. And its pretty much all Cuan has talked about since I came back in the mix. So I couldn't help but to get excited about it as well!
For those who don't know, a Mozambique holiday is a beach vacay, they are known for some of the most pristine and untouched beaches as well as incredible ocean life and scuba diving opportunities. That in and of itself would be enough for me. But not for these boys. They are the embodiment of the ultra cliche (although very true) phrase "its not about the destination, its about the road you take to get there" or however it goes. Anyway the point is, we weren't just going to hope in a car and drive the 800km drive over straight to the beach.. We are taking the bikes, girlfriends and tents in tow, on a road trip through other parts of Mozambique before we get to our final destination. That is what its all about. Well that and the fishing, but that's another story for another blog..

Motorcycle trips aren't an entirely novel idea for Cuan and me. Aside from learning to ride myself, the two of us took a pretty massive bike trip across ole U.S. of A. in 2010. (see posts of that trip on my sister Lindsey's blog A Focused Linz here: LA --> AK overview). She is the one who has inspired me to start this blog and keep it up, so thank you Linds! I also did a little slide show: Louisiana to Alaska to recap the adventure.
In addition, Cuan has done an insane amount of traveling on motorcycles all over the world, so just consider us pros. I was really looking forward to getting "back in the saddle again." It makes for an entirely different vacation experience. Just being out in the elements you notice so much more about your surroundings. And this trip was going to take us through some incredible landscapes I had never seen before. 

Now we weren't the only ones going on this trip. With us on their own bike were Steve and Sarah. One of the coolest couples I know. And although some more would have liked to join us on the motorcycle adventure, trucks and boats were also necessary for the rest of the holiday. They planned to join us later.
So we set out 3 days before our scheduled meet up with the rest of the crew...

I'm all about visuals so here's a map of the route we took to give you an idea of the areas we saw.

April 21st: The 4 man team headed out bright and early that morning for our first destination -- "Catouda 9" (sp?). This hunting concession and lodge is owned and operated  by good friends Neil and Shayle Duckworth, and they very generously offered us a place to stay for the night. But first, we had to get across the border...
Suited up and read to go!

The road out of Zim took us through some amazing scenery. Just before crossing the border we passed through an incredible range of massive granite structures. These mountains, if that's even what you're supposed to call them, towered over us so high it made me feel as small as an ant. That was also the moment that I remembered why I love taking trips on motorcycles.
We got to the border safely and had all the proper documents ready to go. But that doesn't mean that the border post employees are going to act like we need to get anywhere in the next CENTURY. They must really hate their jobs because they had the worst attitude! But eventually we made it through immigration, and after a slight detour to the "hospital"** (thanks Steve...) we made it into Mozambique!
      **Our well-traveled friend Stevie-boy went to Tanzania a few years back and didn't have the document stating that he had already received his Yellow Fever vaccine (who keeps a tiny little piece of paper that long??!) Anyway, our cheery boarder post buddies weren't very impressed and escorted us to the clinic where we had to wait for the doctor. Who was in church. For an hour. I guess that's what you get for traveling on a Sunday?? Eventually all was taken care of and and any threat of yellow fever contamination was put to rest.

We were back on track and managed to make it to our first stop without any more hiccups.
The hunting concession we stayed at for the night was beautiful and the evening was spent with some great company around the fire. I must mention however that there were sightings of a small pride of lion right in front of our tents, just a few days before our arrival. Now when I say "tents" I don't mean pull out the poles, where are the stakes kind of tent. These things are top of the line real deal tents (see pic below). So there isn't really a worry about any lions crawling inside, but there is always the possibility! At least in my mind. Needless to say our walk back from the main house to our abodes for the night wasn't without its racing heart-beats and white knuckles. But all was good. Although the roars in the middle of the night made me jump out of my skin for a minute. I was assured that they were coming from about a kilometer away. And I would KNOW when the lions were close by. But they kept their distance and I managed to get a little bit of shut-eye. Although I can't say the same for my dear friend Sarah, I don't think her mind stopped wondering at the mention of "lion".

April 22nd: The next day's destination was Gorongosa National Park (Parque Nacional da Gorongosa).
Mozambique was colonized by the Portuguese so that is the national language spoken. There are similarities between Portuguese and Spanish so I was attempting the old "espanol" with some locals, but I can't tell if they understood it, appreciated my effort, or were just offended. I gave it a shot anyway..

The ride to Gorongosa was the most "off-road" of the trip (that is, with everyone on board). So we had a fun time riding through the bush and the sand a few hours that morning. The dirt road spit us out onto the main highway right in front of Gorongosa mountain. That thing was GInormous. It took us a good hour to get around it. Once we made it to the main town outside of the park, we decided to treat ourselves to some authentic Portuguese chicken and an ice cold Manica (the local beer). When we found a nice hole in the wall bar with the "Manica" sign hanging overhead we knew that would be the place. Spent a few hours there laughing, reading maps, configuring GPS's, sipping on the rather large bottles of beer, and tasting some delicious chicken. Cuan even attempted to get an extension for the rack on his bike made, but it didn't end up working out. Our luggage kept pushing forward into my space while we were riding and would end up leaving me with a few inches of room by the end of the day's ride! My tooshie ain't that small... but we managed without the extension. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated we got back on the road for the short drive to Gorongosa NP.

Cuan having fun with the locals while trying to sort out his bike rack..... and yummy Portuguese Chicken!

After waiting for our escort into the park (motorcycles aren't allow on account of you could get chased by a lion, other reasons I'm sure.. but I like that one the best),we took the long drive in and found our campsite. I didn't really know what kind of scenery we would be viewing in the park so I can't say that what I saw was unexpected, just vastly different from what we had been driving through all day. The topography was more like a jungle with tall palms, dense foliage, and vines hanging everywhere. Baboon heaven.
Our plan was to go on a game drive that evening, but it was too late by the time we go into the park. What we did get to see however was beautiful. Too tired to do much of anything, we set up tents and went for a quick buffet dinner in the restaurant near our campsite, then straight to bed. Although this Louisiana girl didn't notice, the rest of the crew was sweltering all night in the humidity.... Amateurs. But we managed to get enough rest for the final day of biking (for the girls) and headed south towards Vilankulos!

The tent that I can lift with my pinky! Yes, it sleeps two people... it's cozy.

April 23rd: Although we had to play the annoying game of avoid the pot holes after we left the park, our trip that day was on decent tar road and we made it to Vilankulos in good time. Steve's cousin Tessa has an adorable condo close to the beach and she was extremely welcoming upon our arrival.
We finally made it to the beach! Although not quite at our final destination, still a big accomplishment for us!

 Had a nice hot shower to freshen up and then hit the hot spots of Vilankulos. The evening was spent at quaint little beach front bars and restaurants, eating FRESH seafood and mingling/dancing with the locals. Tess gave us a great tour of the small but beautiful town she lives in, and it only got us more excited for what was to come at Pomene.

Both bikes made it all the way without too many issues! Cuan demonstrates how to stretch after being riding all day..
Steve, Sare, and our hostess with the mostess Tess!
Night out on the down, had such a fun time!

April 24th: We made it to our final travel day! Woke up bright an early despite a rather long night, ready to get on the road to our lodge. There was a slight delay with the rest of the group coming with the trucks and boats. So once we made it back to the main highway we decided to stop off at a little road-side joint and have another Manica while we waited.

Basically the last 30 some-odd kilometer stretch to the actual resort is extremely sandy and rough.. From past experience the boys decided it would be a better idea to have us girls hop in a vehicle with the everyone else so they could ride at a more steady pace. So it was necessary that we join up with them before carrying on, plus we were eager to see everyone. Sooo inevitably while waiting, one would need to use the restroom.. And in retrospect I would have just waited for a nice little spot on the side of the road, but, nature calls. This was the saddest excuse for a toilet I've ever seen! And as you can see from the photo below, it was one of those situations where you just have to make do. "When in Rome" right?  Anyway, the remainder of the party eventually found us and we were off on our final "hours" of travel. And that was not without its SERIOUS delays, but more on that in Part 2...

Our lovely "toilet" at the roadside bar, and the rest of the party!

Until next time!

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