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20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

Malawi,Zim,Moz and South Africa!

September 15th, 2010

Hello from South Africa!


After waiting all morning at the Moz embassy in the Malawian capital Lilongwe, cooking noodles in the road outside and watching films on the laptop, we finally received our multiple entry visas.

After the third ‘toilet visit’ to the embassy, the woman behind the counter gave in and came out brandishing our passports – a full 1 ½ hours earlier than they had stipulated, as well as being 15 days faster than the standard waiting time!

We got moving after a quick stop to confirm with the Zimbo embassy that they would issue two devilishly dandy Britishers with visas at the border and began trucking towards the border.

We left Malawi behind having enjoyed our few days by the lake. It was a relaxing country, the main tourist sites being characterized by sitting on the beaches along the lake and by eating lots of huge, freshly caught fish.

We headed straight for the Moz border and had slowed down at a bridge, when we realised that an approaching overland truck belonged to a couple of Dutch friends, Frank and Nicole, who we had first met in Aswan in Egypt and then again in Khartoum and Gondar!

After a quick catch up at the side of the road, it was straight to the Moz border and over the bridge which spans the Zambezi in Tete (amazingly pronounced Tit), our first glance at this wide mama of a river. Uniquely, the roadworks being carried out on the bridge were not staffed by Chinese companies!

At the Zim border a few hours later, we completed our paperwork, avoided the police chiefs request for Fanta and then made tracks to Carl’s friend Heaths’ parents house, just outside of Harare.


We were welcomed by Mike and Elidah, who instantly made us feel at home. We had a whole roster of questions for the pair of them, as both are born and bred in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was called during the days of Ian Smiths reign.

We were both keen to learn and hear stories from days gone by. And what stories they were. We could only imagine the sense of loneliness and despair that one must feel when people turn up at your house in order to take it over and it becomes agonisingly apparent that the very people you want to turn to, the police, are the ones trying to relive you of your property.

Whist in Zimbabwe, we only really experienced life in the white society, who undoubtedly live very different lives to their black counterparts. All of the houses we saw were large detached affairs constructed in a similar fashion to UK standards, but all were inside compounds, with high gates, electric fences and noticeable security.

Almost all of the families we met had domestic help; normally a local family who lived on site in the purpose built ‘domestic quarters’. All had multiple dogs of varying shapes and sizes but possessed with uniform levels of enthusiasm.

Chicken and even cattle commonly wandered the gardens and each household grew some vegetables. This self sustaining lifestyle meant that many of these people still had something to eat during the food shortages only a couple of years ago, when inflation had reached 1000’s of percent and cholera was rife in the centre of Harare.

The stories we heard from Elidah and Mike, as well as their neighbours, were incredible. What many of the aggressors appeared to forget was that these ‘whites’ were actually 2nd or 3rd generation Zimbabweans, thus they didn’t have another country to move to. People we met had gone through the most horrific experiences of intimidation and violence, as they were forced to flee their properties, taking only what they could carry.

Coincidently, just as we arrived Elidah had just taken delivery of the first batch of her book she has just had published. Detailing hers and her families stories over the last 30 years in this terribly mixed up country, we’d strongly recommend looking up ‘Let’s make a plan’, available now on Amazon by Elidah Craster, our lovely host and friend Heath’s mum.

                In the evenings, on the balcony we could watch much of the surrounding countryside burn. This month was the driest time of the year so bush fires were very common. However since the land invasions and many local farms had changed hands, the new ‘owners’ hadn’t kept up the existing fire breaks, so when a fire got going it tended to decimate a huge area.

We went for a spin around Harare and saw many large, smart looking buildings. It seemed a fairly non descript city, certainly in comparison to the character-filled cities we’ve come through such as Cairo, Addis and Dar Es Salaam. Zim appeared a country more developed than many African nations, but whilst the technology may be there, serious elementary problems exist. For example, power was only available a few days a week, water was intermittent, fuel supply irregular and mobile phones were unreliable at best. A good example of this was how many banks and ATMs were around (though none were in Christon Bank!), all very nice shiny and modern but none would accept our visa cards or change a travellers cheque! So eventually we had to experiment with Western Union to get some cash, a very convenient but expensive option.

                Eager to show their guests the real Zim and not just the unfortunate side which we regularly hear about on the BBC, Mike and Elidah organised for us all to go on a game drive at a local farm free of charge! Here we helped the very friendly keeper to feed various animals and toured around all perched in the back of a Land Rover pickup. We were just a few feet from sable, kudu, rhino, giraffes, zebras and in true Zimbo style beers we coming out of a trusty Coleman coolbox by 9.30am. The real treat was last though as a rhino was fed just centimetres from the back of the car so we all got to touch a wild rhino!


We were a little reluctant to leave Zim having had such a lovely time but the schedule meant we had to make tracks to we said goodbyes and got on the road West to Beira. Going to Beira itself was a last minute change of plan following the discovery that our old school friend Sam Litchfield was now working there for one year for a dredging company. Followed tracks 4 Africa to the only marked campsite and ended up at a busy restaurant. After much confusion we were informed that camping was just off to the side of the building in the middle of the beach! The lack of fenced/marked out areas had mislead us.

Further confusion followed as we then attempted to phone Sam to let him know where we were. Knowing the sort of chap he is and that he had had 8 years to learn from us at school, we had wrongfully assumed that he had utterly blended in with the local community and way of life. Thus it stands to reason that, obviously, his phone number must be a Mozambiquen number. After an hour of trying our phone, a local payphone and other mozambiquens phones we were confidently told that the mobile network was down. Fair enough we thought, until a couple of friendly Italian doctors pointed out that we were not phoning a Moz number! We instantly put a UK code before the number and within seconds were talking to Sam. Muppets all round!

Soon enough Sam arrived and we enjoyed a nice meal in this beachside restaurant, before he took us back to his 5* pad and gave us a bed for the night. Unfortunately he was off at 6am the following morning to go and Judge the Dredger’s work, so we had the day to look around Beira. Due to the grey and overcast sky our plan to have a day on the beach never materialised but we all went out for dinner in the evening at the most lovely fish restaurant eating Prawn, Calamari and shrimp all which were along 5inches long! Very generously Sam once again insisted on paying for everything – thanks again mate, very kind and much appreciated.

We left Beira on the road heading South, bush camping along the way and routinely assembling our ‘chastity nets’ which have the added benefit of keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

Maputo City

A couple of days later we arrived in Maputo City late after a rain filled drive in the dark and headed into the city centre to meet Decio, a friend of fellow Landy lover Joel Le Baron who we had travelled with around Lake Turkana. Decio allowed us to camp in his compound for a couple of nights and was an exceptional host/tour guide/drinking partner/translator throughout our time in Maputo. We saw the old fort and huge train station built by same company who built Eiffel tower, the main purpose of which had been to send goods from British colonies in Zim and SA to boats.

After heartfelt thanks to Decio and his lovely family we did not head South but turned East, and headed inland towards the border with SA. After stopping to brim the fuel tank and jerrys with all the cheap diesel we could, we arrived at the border at lunch. Here we were met with organisation, queues and lots of South Africans in Hilux pickups.

Before we knew it we were through, in South Africa for the first time in our lives! For much of the last two years South Africa was some far off land, a place marking halfway which we felt would be a significant achievement in reaching. And yet approximately some 12,000miles and 5 ½ months later here we are, writing to you from Pretoria, our lovely old Landy having taken us every inch of the way bar 3 unavoidable ferry journeys. Bar some fairly major chassis repairs in Nairobi and a handful of oil seals and electric switches the car has been faultless, a testament to Land Rover’s design and the impressive array of third party modified parts available for Landys.

And what more appropriate time to express our thanks once again to all of those who have helped us get here. Time, support, advice and sponsorship has come from all over and without it we simply wouldn’t be here. The generosity that we have experienced at home and on the road has been incredibly humbling and something we both have learned from. Thank you to all of you who have helped us and continue to do so, many of which are listed on the friends page on the right hand side.

Slightly conspicuous by their absence in that section may be the plethora of African border guards and general officialdom that we have shared many an intimate moment with over the last few months. But whilst we curse them, it all adds to the flavour and dammit the challenge that is overland travel in Africa on a tight budget.

Team Tohelandback has another member for the South African leg thanks to Carl’s girlfriend Tash flying out to meet us. The plan is to tour a few of the tourist attractions around Pretoria and try to make some progress regarding an Angolan visa before heading to Durban and then following the coast round to Cape Town and finally the true half-way point Die Hel!

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
  • Land Rover Experience
  • Watling Tyres
  • Draper Tools
  • Brit Part
  • hel
  • Koni
  • aalx designs
  • Bradt Travel Guids
  • Map Vivo
  • Antares - engineering with answers
  • EBC Brakes
  • Sentry Safes
  • Twisted Performance
  • X Eng
  • challenger 4x4
  • Goodwinch
  • K and N
  • Kenlowe
  • Waeco
  • Polybush
  • MM 4x4 Land Rover
  • Keith Gott
  • comma
  • Stigs stainless fastners
  • Tracmat
  • Alli Sport
  • BOSCH - invendted for life
  • Allparts - number 1 in car parts
  • Proppa
  • Goodyear 4x4
  • Aaron Radiator
  • Sign a rama
  • better Prepared
  • Devon 4x4
  • foley specialist vehicles
  • Labcraft LED lighting
  • Mammouth Premium
  • Plastor
  • Exmoor Trim
  • Terrafirma
  • sound reduction systems
  • aquarius
  • Master Lock
  • P and O Ferries
  • Dixon Bate
  • hibiscus
  • Ring Automotive
  • Roverland