My co-driver, Kendrew, Tella (one of my students for July) and I, left Mossel Bay at 4.30 a.m. We were three excited travellers- revelling in the unexpected. It was dark and cold but as we hit the N2 the excitement mounted, despite the hour. Over the gorgeous garden route the sun rose and dawn bathed the rolling hills around St Francis Bay in a golden light, cows munching sleepily at thick green grass. I fell asleep. Not at the wheel thank goodness, as Kendrew, ably took the reins. Little did he know that he was going to hold those reins for the rest of the 16-hour drive to Pietermaritzburg.
We drove through the brown Eastern Cape with its deeply etched scars and wandering cattle; goats and dogs. We finally reached Kwa-Zulu Natal in the middle of the night, Kendrew literally seeing stars after having driven for 14 of the 16-hour leg. We were all weary but happy to have made it safely over the first leg and a massive step closer to Mozambique.
After dollops of strawberry ice cream for breakfast we drove on with renewed vigour. The kilometres fell away relentlessly as we drove up the fever tree clad N2 to Swaziland. Border crossings are never pleasant but ours was surprisingly streamlined as we avoided the longest queue ever by the skin of our teeth by pipping a couple of busses to the post. There was one person on duty as the South African side of the Swazi border- yes one. A lone woman with a string of 500 plus people spilling out of the doors and way back into the parking lot as we drove over to Swaziland with a collective sigh of relief.
We paid a R40 bribe to a nameless soldier at Lomahasha – the alternative was to sit for 3 hours counting out piles and piles of underwater camera gear onto the pavement.. This was a fate too horrible to consider and so I coughed up! He was honest at least- telling us he wanted the money to go and drink with. We all felt a little sheepish about the bribe as you can see from Kendrew’s face.
There we were- over three border crossings without having to unpack one thing. I really started to feel like I would finally make it to Guinjata Bay without a hitch. We drove into the outskirts of Maputo along the EN4- taking in the Mozambiquan culture and falling prey to some street beggars who came back to ask me for another R15 claiming that the third member of their trio had boxed them and run away with the three R5 coins I had dished out. I could see the blamed bugger (sorry, beggar !) peeking his little head out from behind a pillar. He just wasn’t able to stop looking to see if his buddies were managing to pull the wool over my eyes. Poor little thing!
We passed through the market; hustling and bustling in the balmy tropical air- even though it was a Sunday night. Driving in Moz at night is not for the faint hearted and I heard felt the anguish in my fellow passengers as I swerved for more than one set of headlights coming straight for us. I made a decision that it was not worth driving like that for another six hours and we found a place for a hot meal and a bed. Arising at 4 am we drove through coconut plantations and mango trees to Guinjata Dive Centre at Guinjata Bay near Inhambane Mozambique. We finally arrived at our destination on Monday morning at 9 am just in time for a wonderfully warming cup of steaming coffee and a freshly baked pao (the local bread- much like a much tastier baguette and with no preservatives so you have to eat it immediately- there is no choice- you just have to !) with eggs.
There we were! in paradise. I snapped off a couple of photos on my iphone just so that the folks at home knew I was OK and rushed down the beach – 100 meters away- for a languishing swim in the warm ; blue Indian ocean. More of that later.