Diving of the Coast of Tofo, Mozambique
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Malawi Trip Journal from January 23 to 23, 2008

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Country: Malawi
Duration: Jan. 23 to 26, 2008.
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 900km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
We arrived in Malawi in the rainy season, and due to an unusual wet January we were unable to enjoy and explore the country the way we would have liked.  Lake Malawi has beautiful beaches and would be the perfect place to relax for a few days of sun, beach, snorkeling and kayaking.  Here we also found some of the best teak wood carvings. We will have to return on day in the dry season to fully appreciate Malawi.
Our Favourite:
- Lake Malawi
Fuel Cost: 200MK/litre ($1.40CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Camped 3 days for between $8.00 to $10.00US/night.
Exchange Rate: 140 Malawi Kwacha (MK) = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs: Visa = free for Canadians; Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage

Jan. 23, 2008.  We entered Malawi from Tanzania at the Songwe Border Post.  There was no Visa fee for Canadians or any other fee for the motorcycles.  The border formalities were quick and easy.  The touts that exchange money at the border were the most aggressive from any border crossing.  We had a bit of Tanzanian Shilling left and did not want to be stuck with it.  Unfortunately we were not sure of the exchange rate.  Therefore, I was actually taken by one of the touts who changes money. I ended up loosing $50CDN in the transaction.  This of course did not make me a happy camper.  We reached the Chitimba Campsite run by two (2) Dutch couples mid afternoon.  The campsite is located at the base to the road to Livingstonia and close to the town of Chitimba.  Luckily they took US Dollars as payment, as we did not find a bank until Mzuzu.  We were fortunate to enjoy a couple of hours of sun shine and see Lake Malawi from Chitimba Campsites' great beach. The owner of the campground is very involved in the community and we had some interesting chats. 

Jan. 24, 2008. We left the campsite at 10am, after the rain stopped and head further south. Livingstonia was soaked in and the visibility was poor.  We decided to skip the famous switchback road and instead continue southwards.  After Chitimba the road climbs via switchbacks to the upper plateau, allowing for some great views of Lake Malawi.   We stopped in Mzuzu to use the ATM machine in pouring rain.  At three (3) different banks the ATM machines were either out of service or did not accept my credit cards or Debit card.  The not so funny part is that the Visa statement indicated actual withdrawals from the ATM machines even though I did not receive any money.  This will be another battle with Visa.  We had to pull out our Euro and change the cash into Malawi Kwacha. From Mzuzu we turn toward Nkhata Bay.  At the cross road we wandered into a wooden shack to check out the teak wood carvings by the locals.  It is superb work and we are able to watch the craftsmen work away.  Most of these beautiful carvings are very cheap and we wish we had a large container to take it all back with us.  The lake shore road follows Lake Malawi and passes through Chintheche, Dwangwa, Nkhotakota and finally turns at Salima to Senga Bay. Our destination for the day was the Cool Runnings Campground in Senga Bay.  We did not have the GPS coordinates for this campground, but the Lonely Planet indicated good signage.  Senga Bay lies directly on Lake Malawi and the campground is beach front property.  Smiley faces directed us to its location as we followed a dirt road through the small village.  The recent rain had created large grooves in the dirt and it seemed weird.  After many turns, and beside an orphanage, we found a gate leading into the nicely shaded and grassed Cool Runnings Campground.  The only other people staying at the Campground are three (3) other motorcyclists.  We meet up again with Carmen on her BMW 650, who we had not seen since Nairobi, as we headed west to Uganda and she ventured east to the coast.  The other two (2) motorcyclists were Rauche and Charley on two (2) Honda XR250 all the way from London down the east coast of Africa.

Jan. 25, 2008.  We continued to stay at Cool Runnings hoping for the rain to disappear. Breakfast turned into Brunch as we talked the morning away with the usual motorcycle stories.  In the afternoon Mike changed the oil and filters in the motorcycles.  No synthetic oil available, but we got the next best thing.

Jan. 26, 2008. The original plan was to head toward Monkey Bay or Cape Maclear for some relaxing and kayaking, but the weather was not cooperating.  The owner of Cool Runnings told us that they had received more rain in January then they normally receive all year.  Instead of sitting in the rain we decided to ride in the rain out of Malawi to Zambia, we had finally caught up with the rainy season, at least the roads were all tar.  From Senga Bay we headed through the Capital of Malawi, Lilongwe and to the Zambia Border Post Michinji. Checking out of Malawi was as easy as checking in.

Mozambique Trip Journal from February 06 to 13, 2008

Country: Mozambique
Duration: Feb. 06 to 13, 2008
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 1200km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
Mozambique is one of those countries, which has not yet been discovered by the average tourist.  Its coastline is doted with unbelievably beautiful sandy beaches.  The Indian Ocean is perfect for recreation.  In short, the best beaches, warmest water and no crowds.
Our Favourite:
- Snorkeling with the Whale Sharks
Fuel Cost: 36 Mtc/litre ($1.56CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Camped (7) nights for 300Mtc/night ($13.00CCDN/night).  
Exchange Rate: 23 Metical (Mtc) = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs: Mozambique Visa = 120 Rand/person ($16.00CDN/person)
Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage.

Feb. 06, 2008.  We entered Mozambique from South Africa at the Moamba Border Crossing. The immigration and customs took longer then we expected, mostly because the visa has to be typed and then stuck into the passport.  After an hour we are back on the road toward the Capital of Mozambique, Maputo.  As we pass through Maputo we see the evidence of the riots of the previous day.  A huge clean up process is underway.  There are burned out vehicles and large trucks in the middle of the road.  Some fires are still burning and we are able to pass through most of the area without a problem.  It looks like a war zone.  Military vehicles are out in full force. We are glad that we entered Mozambique today and not yesterday.  It would have been scary experience to be passing through the riots.  The riots were a demonstration by locals to protest the resent hike in bus fares, food and gasoline.  The result was that the government lowered the fares again. The 591km to our destination is paved and only an 85km stretch is covered by large potholes, but nothing we can not handle.  There are numerous check stops along the way and it seemed we got stopped by each of them.  Mostly because the officers were curious about our motorcycles and gear.  Due to that and the delay at the border crossing we arrived at the turn off to Inhambane at sun set.  The last 50km we rode in the total darkness, cars without headlights would occasionally scare the living Jesus out of us; and to top it all off the 2km to the campsite from Tofo was deep sand.  We were exhausted.  Walking up to the Bamboozi Bar/Restaurant, we register and order some dinner. Supper consists of Chicken Schnitzel, a dish very common in Mozambique and South Africa.  For desert we munched down Cashews, which we had picked up on the side of the road for very cheap. A 2kg pack was 200Mtc (less than $10.00CDN).

Feb. 07. 2008.  As we had put in serious long hours of riding the previous day, we took it easy by visiting the incredible huge sandy beach and booking our next day scuba dive.  The Bamboozi Campsite has chalets, huts with beds, huts without beds, a bar/restaurant overlooking the ocean, tiny swimming pool and mostly cold water showers.  We opted for the hut without beds and placed our tent inside to provide some much needed shade.  The camping was 300Mtc/night ($13.00/night).  A dive shop is conveniently located on the premises. In the evening we walked along the beach toward the village of Tofo and ate at Gino’s Restaurant.  The Pizza is quite good, but the prices to eat out in Mozambique are high for the amount of food provided.  The portions of food often left us hungry.

Feb. 08, 2008. The scuba dive we had signed up for was called Chamber of Secrets. A shallow dive up to 18m in depth.  We showed up at 7:30am to gear up and refresh my memory of assembling the scuba equipment.  Dark black clouds loomed in the horizon over the Indian Ocean and the sea started to get rough.  There was five (5) of us diving, plus Brigitte our dive master.  A large Zodiac is used to get past the breakers, out to the ocean.  The swell of the ocean is massive and the Zodiac gets huge air.  After half an hour we reach the dive spot.  Its starts to rain, we gear up and just before the buddy check, one of the guys accidentally falls overboard.  By the time we fish him out of the water, we have been bobbing up and down the waves for 30 minutes.  Mike starts to throw up and I do not feel much better.  Finally in the water I feel worse and do not feel like going down.  Brigitte stays with me and talks me through it and we descend.  At the bottom she asks me to perform basic skills, like buddy breathing (out of air), breathing apparatus recovery and mask clearing.  Then we are off exploring.  The area is rich in marine life.  We see a guitar fish, lion fish, crocodile fish, moray eel and a large school of beautiful yellow colored fish.  The 45 minute dive was over quick and back at the surface, the large waves made me throw up.  Lets just say we were both glad to be on solid ground.  The dive shop informs us of a large storm moving in for the next three (3) days and that diving will be impossible with these conditions.  In the evening we met Andre (German) and Doris (Swiss) backpacking through Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa for six (6) weeks.  It seemed we had a lot of things in common, as they both were avid travelers.  We decided to have dinner together.

Feb. 09 to 11, 2008. The storm moved in.  It mostly resulted in a very rough sea and the occasional rain shower.  The temperatures were still in the mid twenties.  We did not mind as we had to catch up on pictures, journal and preparing the website for uploading.  Internet of course was not available. On Feb. 10, 2008 we have our last dinner with Andre and Doris, as they are heading toward Maputo. Andre had the SD card with him of their two (2) month India trip.  It gave us more inspiration for the next big adventure in 2010.

Feb. 12, 2008.  The skies cleared and sea finally calmed down enough for us to go snorkeling with the Whale Sharks.  This was one of Mike’s life goals.  We set out at 10:30am in the Zodiac.  It took us almost one (1) hour to spot the Whale Shark.  The Zodiac is positioned ahead of the Whale Shark.  We jump into the water and there he is.  This one is 8m in length the whale shark is the largest fish on earth.  His mouth is less than a meter away from us as he swims directly towards us.  Whale Sharks are plankton eaters and therefore we are quite safe.  We are able to swim along side the Whale Shark for half an hour.  We are both exhausted, though the fish does seem to just glide along, he is actually is moving at a good pace.  Out of breath, we are pulled back into the Zodiac.  We both wear the biggest smiles ever.  What an experience.  The total cost for the previous day diving and snorkeling was only $200.00CDN.

Feb. 13, 2008.  It was time to get back into the saddle and head toward South Africa. We retraced our route from Tofo to Maputo and then continued to the Swaziland Border for a total of 587km.  The Namaache Border Post took only minutes, as our carnet and passports were exit stamped and we entered Swaziland.

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