Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lowveld of Limpopo Province

Introduction

When I was still finishing my Divemaster in December in Tofo, I met these two ladies whom I now live with for a few weeks. They were in holidays in Tofo and Nelri, the daughter did her Open Water course and Deep Adventure dive. Her mother already was a diver, but was not so confident underwater. They went to Manta Reef (one of the world's most popular reefs) where there is usually close to no current. That day though, the current was quite strong and it didn't help Katryn's confidence to rise. So when she wanted to join Nelri for another deep dive on Giant's Castle, which is a drift dive, Katryn hesitated before she did. I offered her to come along on the dive so I could take care of only her. There was still enough space on the boat for me to do so, and this she accepted gladly. Afterwards she offered me to visit them in Hoedspruit, which is in the middle of Big 5 game country. Kruger Park itself is less than 40km away.

When I had to go to Nelspruit for my Mozambican visa, I saw that the countryside looked quite amazing, so I decided I had to visit the area a bit more. Once back in Mozambique, I sent Katryn an e-mail stating my intention to accept her invitation. She replied positively and even asked me if I was interested to participate in a Field Guide course which Nelri was going to start shortly. It happened that we're finally all following the course.

studying grasses and other subjects
Katryn asked me if I wanted to be picked up in Nelspruit, and I said it was OK for me to come by minibus taxi, as Nelspruit is about 160km away from Hoedspruit. But when I got nearer to Nelspruit she organized a lift and I was glad of it. It's not really a prospect that I look forward to, to take a series of minibus taxis with all my luggage. It's quite bulky and it would be a hassle to take it out every time I would need to change taxi, as they usually only go short distances, or rarely where you want to go. I spent a night in Nelspruit in the Old Vic Travellers Inn whose owners are awesome and of which you already saw the pictures. It's a little paradise in the otherwise boring Nelspruit.

The drive and the home

I was picked up at a mall's MacDonald's in the early afternoon by two nice ladies. Wendy being the mother of Sheena, who was pregnant (Sheena, not Wendy). We drove from the Highveld down to the Lowveld through trust country. The road was quite nice and the view awesome as you will see from some pictures. The pictures are not from this trip itself though. The country just goes from mountains to flat hills, which is the lowveld. Trust country means that it is people from all over Africa who tried their luck in South Africa instead of staying in their country where they didn't have any opportunity to get somewhere in life. It is a huge area of small houses and it lies right next to Kruger National Park. Most of these people don't have a job, and some fall back to rhino poaching which, if they get the rhino's horns without getting caught, is a really lucrative business. Rhino horn sells about 55'000 USD per kilogram.

Nyala in front of my door in TB
We went to their farm with view on the Blyde River Canyon, where Nelri and Katryn where already expecting our arrival. After a short hello and goodbye and view from the house (of the canyon and the river) we drove to Katryn and Nelri's place. They are living on a property which is a game farm. Its actual owner doesn't want to live here (I think the one who lived here passed away) so he entrusted the farm management to Katryn, and in exchange she can live in one of the houses with her daughter who is currently here. The house has cold water and electricity, but not everywhere. It's an old farm house probably built in the 1950's.

The property's perimeter is about 10km long and is delimited by two fences and a bend in the Blyde River. There are giraffes, zebras, impalas, wildebeests (gnus), Pumbas (warthogs) and a leopard which I've not seen yet.

Nelri has a gap year in her studies, which she is filling out with this field guide course and her divemaster she is going to start afterwards. She wanted to do it at Tofo Scuba, but unfortunately nobody replied to her e-mails which she sent in January and February when John and Nikki were away touring SA.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Maputo to Nelspruit

After seeing my luggage all together, I once again decided it was really too big, and that I should probably loose some objects. I don't seem to have that many things when it's out of the bags, but once packed it just seems that the seams of the bags will let go.

I took the Intercape bus with 2 isreali girls who came in to Base Backpackers yesterday evening and Sean, the American from San Fransisco. The isreali girls were doing some diving in Tofo with us, and it was funny to see them again in Maputo. We then met Miguel, a guy from Portugal travelling in Southern Africa.

With Sean and Miguel we ended up in Old Vic Travellers Inn, which is a little paradise located in the outskirts of Nelspruit. The drive down here was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that we almost left late. Our bus has been used to replace the broken down coach from Johannesburg, which broke down in Matola, close to Maputo. So we were lucky, instead of the hour or so late which was predicted, we were only about 30 minutes late on the departure. Arriving in Nelspruit, Sean told us he wanted to check out the tours Old Vic Travellers Inn. So Sean, Miguel and me took a cab there.

We got here and Dave the owner just came out of his car and welcomed us in his guesthouse. We enjoyed the pool and drank a few beers. After which I took a few pictures of the place. Dave welcomed my idea of giving him the pictures, so I took some more and he payed me back with a beer.

Tomorrow I will have a lift to Hoedspruit in the early afternoon. From there I'll be taken over by Nelri and her mom Katryn. Nelri did the Open Water course with us at Tofo Scuba in December. Katryn joined Nelri for a few dives. I was assisting Willem who was teaching the group, and so got offered an invitation to come and visit the ladies on their farm close to Hoedspruit.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Maputo

Saturday craft market
Maputo is a city where you pinch your nose while walking its streets. It stinks, there's trash and filth everywhere and it's hot. I heard that back in the day, before the Portuguese left, it was nice and clean. Now there's a huge contrast between old half-collapsing and very modern buildings. Big companies like Vodacom, mcel, and Galp and all the banks have shiny new buildings and offices. But most of everything else is left to the ravages of the weather.
One nice thing is that there is a lot of trees and quite a few parks in the city.
Otherwise I found quarters in the friendly Base Backpackers close to the city center. Its staff members are nice and cool and very helpful if need be.

More pictures here.

Friday, 15 February 2013

On the road again

So here I am, on the road again. Today I travelled from Tofo, Inhambane to Maputo. I kind couple of germans who were staying next to Tofo, and half of whom was diving with us, agreed to take me down here in there rental car. They dropped me off at the Base Backpackers, which is apparently better than Fatima's Backpackers here in Maputo. I definitely don't hear much good from Fatima's customers.

All is well, and I'm moving again ! Yay!

See you on my next adventures to South Africa.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Mission Visa - Conclusion

2000 km of minibus taxi travelling
5½ border crossings (4½ of them including Swaziland)
3'700 mts in transport fares in Mozambique
439 Rand in transport fares in South Africa and Swaziland
1'250 Rand for 3 hotel nights
1 new beer picture
countless hours in minibus taxis
countless other spendings
Mozambican visa:
stamp out: 10'000 mts
bribe out: 50 €
new visa: 600 Rand
It was a quite expensive trip, but it was interesting and exciting as well. I met a lot of people, some of whom I might meet again.
Swaziland countryside
the new visa
Swaziland's Sibebe beer
Swaziland countryside