Leaving Motswari Private Game Reserve, Timbavati, South Africa at 11am, it took us over ten hours (five hundred and ninety-two kilometres) to reach Naara Eco Lodge & Spa in Chidenguele, Mozambique. Something I wouldn’t recommend doing: driving anywhere in Mozambique in the dark or even dawn or dusk. Unless you had a death wish.
NEVER TRUST GOOGLE MAPS
When it comes to border posts between South Africa and Mozambique! Last year we experienced the same issue when Google showed a border post that did not exist. This time the same occurred; however, instead of driving all the way to the post as we had done last time to find it didn’t exist, we asked a staff member at Motswari when checking out. No, Gaza border is not open. You have to drive to Lebombo Border Post (also called the Komatipoort Border).
TIME IS (NOT) ON MY SIDE
Damn! That added another four hours onto our travel time, provided all went smoothly. Life or death! We had a decision to make. Do we spend the night at Komatipoort and then leave first thing in the morning? Or do we take a chance, hope the border isn’t too busy, take a short cut through bush and rugged terrain and hopefully make our final destination soon after sunset?
Let’s drive straight. It’s already, 11am; no, rather stay at the border, and be safe. That’s probably best, but… Eventually, we agreed to ‘hope for the best’… and motor to the border as fast (and as safely) as possible so as not to miss a night at Naara Eco Lodge & Spa in Chidenguele, Mozambique.
COME SOUTH OF THE BORDER WITH ME
Not for the gutless, crossing any border in South Africa needed a checklist. And check that list thoroughly every time because memories can never be that full proof, even when there are two of you. Komatipoort Border Survival Guide does it best so I can skip this part… Also, the first two images below express the rest. Oh, and add on at least two hours to your journey over the festive break.
DODGE THE POTHOLES & LIVESTOCK
After recovering from the ordeal at the border post crossing, and minding the potholes along the dual carriageways not wide enough for sedans and trucks to pass each other. One sometimes two vehicles had to move into the emergency or verge to pass and it was never the trucks getting out of the way. Gratitude for the robust beast of a machine, the Toyota Land Cruiser 79 we’d hired, free flowed after every spin of the wheels. Fortunately, we skidded onto the beaten track, able to relax until the livestock greeted us from every homestead corner, forcing us to deaccelerate from seventy to twenty kilometres in a heartbeat.
Twilight lasted around thirty-five minutes, and then darkness descended. We still had another two hours to reach Naara Eco Lodge & Spa and not yet travelling along the main road. A thunderstorm hit next, puddles of dirty water splashed onto the car, blinding us. We had no choice but to slow down. Once we’d reached the N1, only one out of ten vehicles had their headlights on or only one out of two was working. Vehicles pulled out of stores, restaurants, fuel stations etc. without looking, did U-turns in front of us. Maniacs on the loose in every direction. You needed eyes in the back of your head to survive.
At Chidenguele, we exited the N1 and followed signs for eleven kilometres to the lodge on a 4×4 only track, slow and snaking. Three kilometres along the sand we screeched to a halt. A truck had overturned in the middle of the track. We couldn’t find another route around, enveloped by dense bush. What choice did we have but to assist? Unfortunately, they didn’t understand much English and didn’t pull up the handbrake. As soon as our jack overturned the truck back onto its wheels, it rolled down the hill towards our vehicle. With the keys in my hand, I bolted to the driver’s seat and reversed just in time. Deep breath in and out.
By the time we reached the lodge after the manager had called to check our whereabouts a couple of times, the restaurant had long closed. If we had phoned ahead they could have prepared something for us and then brought it to our safari tent nestled in 2 hectares of indigenous African bush. For three nights and two days, we relaxed, explored and indulged in all Naara Eco Lodge & Spa’s luxuries on offer. Packed lunch and drinks on ice that was ready for us before heading out to the private beach. Unspoilt dunes hugging the Indian Ocean with wild waves for the brave surfers. I could have stayed another few nights, but also couldn’t wait to get to Tofo Beach.
Please Note: For copyright purposes, I have considerably reduced the resolution of each image below.