We spent some time in Ballito outside Durban with friends who took us around the area – from the nice beaches to a cinema to a game farm so we were quite spoilt! Our next stop was to pick up Petri, the documentary maker who was gonna join us for the last bit of the trip, in Maputo. We had looked at the map while still down in Jeffrey’s bay on the south coast to try estimate how much time we’d need. We didn’t want to wait until last minute to let him know when to fly down, but give him a couple of weeks at least to be able to look at different flight tickets. Three weeks sounded about right since we wanted to squeeze in the rest of the coast, Sani pass, visiting our friends in Ballito and Swaziland before reaching Maputo. But it turned out everything went smoothly – and quicker than we had estimated – and we ended up in Ballito with almost two weeks to kill! So luckily we could stay with friends there and we had a good time.
I even got to do what I had been longing to do the entire southern part of the trip – go on a horseback safari! It was at a smaller game farm outside of Durban and I did see a few animals – including nyala for the first time! – but other than that I was kept busy trying to control the horse… It was a Lesotho cross, which means it’s a smaller horse with LOTS of energy and stamina. He seemed really calm at first and I thought “cool, this will be a nice and easy ride and I will get to just chill and enjoy the scenery”. What scenery? I thought to myself as we returned to the stables, me on shaky legs from all the adrenalin after a few proper sprints where a canter quickly turned into gallop. It was lots of fun, but not quite the relaxed ride I was after. Having told them I’m an experienced rider they obviously gave me one of the horses that requires some experience. Calaco, the palomino colored Lesotho cross, also proved to be a bit of a leader figure and was the happiest to go in front. “They can be a bit competitive” said Unathi, the guide on a dark brown thoroughbred. So I was a bit surprised when he later came up right next to me and Calaco in a canter, which made Calaco switch into higher gear instantly and took off as if it was a matter of life and death. Next time I will tell them I’m an experienced rider but I want a beginner’s horse. That’s probably the only way to really get to relax and enjoy the wildlife!
We went together with our friends up to Swaziland where they had contacts and treated us to a two day stay at a country club. Brian was keen to do some fishing and although there was clear evidence of lots of fish in the dam he only caught one small tiger fish in the hours we spent out there.
We said goodbye and the short trip north towards the Mocambican border was quite an emotional ride. We were now going for our very last border crossing on this long trip. Was this really it? Was it really almost over? It had all gone by far too quickly. The fun and adventurous – but relatively safe and smooth – trip we had had wasn’t quite in proportion to the year and a half of difficulties and hard work it took to make it happen. It felt like it had almost been too easy. Wasn’t it supposed to be more of a life altering challenge? Sure, we’ve been through several situations, but nothing we couldn’t handle. We figured it’s probably because we’ve been very well prepared. We’ve been prepared for any possible situation and we haven’t taken any unnecessary risks.
The border crossing between Swaziland and Mocambique turned out to be the longest and most difficult in a long while, ironically, not to mention the super expensive visas that must be some of the most expensive in Africa. 80 USD per person for a 30 day visit. Sure, we’ve paid around 50 USD to a lot of countries but coming from the last five countries where you don’t even need a visa… Firstly, their web camera didn’t work so having our photos and fingerprints taken for the visas turned into a lengthy process. Then they didn’t have change. It would have been one thing if it was a matter of 4 USD but it was 40, so we didn’t want to just leave without it. After waiting around for a long time without really knowing what was going on – back in a country where people don’t speak English and our level of Portuguese is quite basic – we were finally allowed to pay with a combination of USD and Rand instead. Then we had to get insurance. And all of a sudden you couldn’t pay in USD anymore, only Meticais or Rand. And we were out of any other cash and there was no exchange bureau at the border… But asking a South African family also crossing the border we were lucky, the father had a bit of cash and was willing to change some USD. Phew!
It’s weird how countries can be so different when they’re right next to each other. From a distance they might seem very similar but taking a closer look you’ll find the little things that differ in culture, language, climate, society, infrastructure and so on. As we started driving into Mocambique I just knew we were back. Everything, the people and the smells and the views, just felt so familiar. And it was good to be back. Then it kind of dawned on me that we had, in fact, driven all the way there. Having been here many times before but always arriving on an airplane reminded me of the journey we had just undertaken to get here.
We went to Maputo where we stayed in a house that belonged to friends of the family for one night, before meeting up with Petri at the airport the next day. He seemed excited to be in southern Africa for the first time. He travelled with a small backpack only so it wasn’t much work to prepare space in the car. We headed out of Maputo and set direction for Chokwe, about 200 km northwest of the capital. We were gonna meet up with some people working together with Swedish Cooperative Centre (Kooperation Utan Gränser), the charity we are supporting. Chokwe was badly affected by the floods in the end of January this year. Still to this day, people haven’t been able to rebuild their houses and can’t grow crops so the needs are great in the area still. It was quite overwhelming to see the miserable conditions under which people were forced to live. You can read all about our visit to Chokwe in another blog post coming up.
Setting off from Chokwe it really felt like we were now on the very last leg of the trip. The sadness that had been the theme for the past few weeks was now quickly replaced with excitement over getting to see the family and everyone in Vilanculos again. We were both so grateful to have all these things to look forward to, which made the end of the trip much easier to handle. Imagine coming to the final destination, having nobody there to greet you, celebrating with a beer at the local pub – and that’s it? Packing up the car to ship it back or try get it sold, booking a flight ticket and just return home. That’s probably the case for most overlanders, but with our background we weren’t just driving through Africa, we had a home to get to. Leaving home, going home.
Our very last camp night was in Maxixe at a nice little campsite right by the sea where Petri kindly treated us to dinner at the restaurant. It felt quite nostalgic crawling into the tent that night, knowing it would be the last time in a very long time.
We woke up to a hot and sunny morning and got ready for the big day. It was about a three hour drive up to Vilanculos and we stopped a few times along the way when Petri wanted to get some specific footage.
Outside Vilanculos we had made a plan with the family for Petri to be picked up so that he could also film our arrival. We met with Brian’s brother in law Kurt in Pambarra, 20 minutes inland from Vilanculos and maybe 10 minutes from where the family lives. Kurt and Petri jumped into the car and told us to wait 30 minutes before leaving. That must have been the longest half an hour of our lives. We just wanted to go! We sat there eating some sandwiches Kurt had brought and listened to some music but eventually we literally started counting the minutes… So we took off and drove the absolute last few kilometers of our long wayawaya trip to Brian’s family’s house. Going in through the gate we saw the family and a few friends waiting in the driveway. I saw Brian’s mom and sister were about to start crying and could feel the tears piling up in my eyes too. But then we got out of the car and everything was just a big blur of hugs and kisses, dogs greeting us, congratulations and champagne being poured all over us… I got this complete blackout and couldn’t for my life understand what all the fuss was about. It seriously felt like I had just pitched up at work on a regular Tuesday morning and all my colleagues were there to celebrate me for no obvious reason…
It was so good to be back, but the emotions were running high and low through us as we also had to come to terms with the fact the our trip was now over. This was it. We were here. With the family in Vilanculos, who had been eagerly (and often nervously) following every kilometer of our trip, just like my family and friends had done back in Sweden. “Congratulations to your first arrival!” my parents wrote in an sms, meaning they will probably only relax fully once we’re back in Sweden again…
We spent that afternoon in the garden with a nice braai and lots of stories from the trip. Slowly we relaxed and after all, it was quite a nice feeling knowing we didn’t have to get up and drive anywhere the next day. Or the day after that… Now we’ve spent a couple of weeks here. Petri has been with us for some time, documenting all the talking about the trip and us emptying the car. It is gonna be so much fun seeing the end result of his filming, but as he has several projects going on it probably won’t happen until much later this year. I’ll try and keep everyone posted about the documentary. Now we will have a good rest and just chill with friends and family here for a bit before it’s back to work in Sweden in a few weeks!