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Week 23: Mozambique/South Africa: From the coast to Sabie

I’ve been a bit slow in writing this 23rd week’s blog…partly because we’ve engaged with more people in the past 10 days than in the 7months prior to that (the joys of being back in our home country!), and partly because I almost want to savor these last blog posts, before our journey comes to an end ☹ So week 23 was all about our last night in Mozambique, the adventure of the ring road around Maputo, and then the “shock” of driving back into South Africa… But first our travel stats: • Total days travelled through Africa: 156 • Total distance driven from Cape Town through Africa: 22,586km • Total borders crossed: 13 And then the Aardvark stats for Week 23: • Best drink: An amazing bottle of Uvamira Shiraz that Annette pulled out of her “caravan-with-view” on Mariepskop…sipping it whilst overlooking the entire Laeveld under a starry sky, and realizing that this was what wine was supposed to taste like!! • Best food: I’m going to go for our first braai-jaffle! We’ve been talking about making jaffles on the fire for a couple of months now, so the first thing we did when we got to Nelspruit, was go to an Outdoor Warehouse to buy a jaffle pan 😊 And I’m forever converted away from the braaibroodjie to the braai-jaffle! Oh and watch this space for more “Aardvark’s Jaffles” stories to come… • Best view: Sunrise from Mariepskop over the Laeveld cant be beaten…even though the sign at the Komatipoort border stating “Welcome to South Africa” also brought us to tears! Our final night in Mozambique was spent at Roelieze’s Campsite, just a bit north of Maputo. The drive there was quite entertaining, as we had to cross a bit of marshland, with the gravel road going through it, to get there…needless to say it had rained A LOT the previous week, and the road looked more like a system of small lakes than anything else…luckily Aardvark (and us) have come to love the muddy conditions, and after a very dirty drive we ended up at Roelieze’s camp. We initially planned to stay at least two nights, as it was right on the beach again, and we wanted to get our final dose of Mozambiquan seafood and warm water swimming in. Unfortunately due to the rain, the locals hadn’t gone out to fish the previous couple of days, and the water was a deep murky brown due to all the rivers emptying into it – so after we woke to the sound of the security guard sweeping the campsite around 4am (obviously to try and stay awake), and then shortly afterwards the fall of small soft raindrops, we decided to rather pack up and head across the border. And it turned out to be a very timely decision, as that area received around 400mm more rain over the next couple of days, and who knows what that road would’ve looked like then! Anyway, after bidding our goodbyes, we made our way again through the marshland, and then towards the ringroad that allows one to skip the mayhem that’s Maputo, and connect directly to the main highway towards Komatipoort. I unfortunately didn’t read ALL the instructions and directions on the DriveMoz facebook page, and instead of us turning off at the 4th ring/circle, we continued straight ahead (as per Madame our GPS). We were shortly stopped by a couple of youngsters who indicated that the road was closed and that we should turn around – but we’ve read about this beforehand, and thought they were trying to make a quick buck out of us, so we stubbornly continued, following a couple of trucks – our reasoning was if the trucks could drive on the road, so could we! After a bit of a tense standoff at a makeshift boom, where some fairly aggressive youngsters were asking us for money, then food, etc etc, we decided that we are just going to put our African assertiveness (that we rediscovered on this trip) to the test, and continue to push on – the lady operating the makeshift boom quickly realized that we were planning on just driving straight through it if she doesn’t open up, and after yet another standoff between her and the youngsters, the boom opened and we could continue to follow the trucks onto a muddy red road. In our ignorance, we didn’t realise that the last 4km of the ringroad was still under construction, which meant that following the trucks led us to a couple of thigh-deep red mud pools to cross…And yet again Aardvark came through with flying (muddy) colours, making it through the mud whilst crawling in Low1 with both diff locks engaged 😊 We felt it was a fitting end to our Mozambiquan adventure, and promptly pulled over just before the Komatipoort border to celebrate, breathe deeply and buy some more 2M beers with our last local meticals! The border crossing was so quick, that we had to ask one of the local Moz custom officials a couple of times whether we don’t also need a gate pass / vehicle registration checked etc etc…it obviously annoyed him enough to tell us to “JUST GO!” And just like that, we were back in South Africa! Driving underneath the sign welcoming us back to South Africa was truly an emotional moment for both of us – I do not think we’ve realized the lasting impact of our journey yet – how it has enriched us on all levels…but that will most probably be a final blog post all on its own! Anyway, the first things that we noticed after we crossed the border was the stellar conditions of the roads, the speedlimit of 120km/h for the first time in months, and then of course the sign saying “Danger – Crime Hotspot” – also the first time in months!! It must be said that we haven’t felt unsafe once during our entire trip, and even though we took pepperspray and tazers with, never had the need to even take them out! As we entered Nelspruit, we had 3 main objectives: 1.) buy new pillows, as we forgot ours at the chalet at East African Safaris 2 days ago…and a good pillow is a necessity, not a luxury! 2.) Buy a jaffle pan at Outdoor Warehouse 3.) Get some fresh food for dinner at Woolies And on the one hand it was an absolute treat to be able to stop at one small centre, and quickly tick off all three the above items. But on the other hand we both felt a bit shell shocked walking first into Outdoor Warehouse, and next into Woolies…there were just so many choices, lights and noise, that we were entirely overwhelmed! At one stage in Woolies I turned to Irene and told her that I think we need to turn around and go back…there was nothing that we really missed or couldn’t get through our journey, and the level of consumerism that we encountered was frightening! We eventually left with just a packet of mielies, salad and a box of wine – we realized we didn’t need nor wanted anything else, and as for the box wine, well old habits die hard! For the next 3 nights we stayed at the Merry Pebbles Resort in Sabie – what a luxurious camping experience! We set up camp underneath big trees next to the river, and in the morning the mist was hanging thick all around us – a welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat of the previous week. We had ample time over the next couple of days to give Aardvark a thorough cleaning inside, fill up the water tank for the first time since north Malawi, test the jaffle pan, and obviously explore all the waterfalls that the area has to offer…oh and contemplate the past 7 months whilst lying in a hot swimming pool looking at the mountains – life is good 😊 We also bought our first (and only) souvenir of the trip – a rustic baby aardvark welded together out of scrap metal by one of the local Sabi street artists called Colin 😊 Not only was it the first aardvark that we’ve seen, but also such a beautiful memento that we just had to bring it home with us! After what felt like a “3-day caravan park style relaxing aka RITZ” holiday, we hit the road again via Graskop’ gorge lift to visit Annette high up against Mariepskop. A couple of months prior to us starting the trip, Annette gave us some invaluable advise, as she’s done numerous African overlanding trips before. And it felt fitting that the first “kuier-en-storie-uitruil-sessie” was on her plot overlooking the wide expanse of the Lowveld, with the Kruger NP far in the distance. And waking up to the red sunrise over the horison, being sheltered by mountains with just the silence of nature around us, it made us realise yet again that we will most probably never be the same after this trip…and it’s all about the small things in life… We are now slowly making our way home, and aim to be back in Cape Town within the next 2 weeks. The last part of the road will see us stopping over at family along the way, driving through Lesotho and down the Sani Pass, relaxing in the Transkei and lastly meandering along the coast all the way down to Cape Agulhas (the most southern point in Africa), stopping at a couple of wine farms and gin distilleries on the way…it is good to be back! I’m only going to write the next (last?) blog when we’re finally in Cape Town, as a kind of summary of the details of the trip, and to try and put it all into perspective (if possible at all!) Till then J

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