Day 64: Across the Zambezi, to Hospital... Qulimane!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Tue 18 Jun 2013 04:37

17:57.49S 36:53.04E




Another restless night in my Inhaminge cocoon, but I knew come hell or high water I was leaving today…..! I’d had enough of being couped up, my ankle did seem like it had stopped ballooning out and my mind felt ‘virtually’ ready to take on the roughly 60km of ‘that road’ I still had to do to get to Caia. On the ankle In thinking about the road ahead, my mind started going to the edge of exploring what would happen if I fell exactly the same again, and did a double ‘job’ ? This was not time to encourage exploring of that edge, and I quickly moved back to trying to connect to the super confident, won’t fall off persona that I’d need from the very moment I left Inhaminge. There had been only a little rain overnight, it certainly looked like it was trying to clear, but the rain factor was not off the table, and I tried to not think about being 10km out and then facing heavy rain….


By 9am there was what seemed like a good gap in the weather and I said my goodbyes to my wonderful guest house friends, who almost seemed sad I was leaving… They had no guests again!


There To my amazement there was a road sign, probably te first one since Beira, and the sign said 95km to Caia. This was a bit of a shock and different to my road atlas, and set me back a bit. I didn’t know it yet, but there was good news ahead though! Gee, the unknown plays havoc on ones mental state hey!


The first few kilometres felt very awkward as I realised my right leg was of no use in either braking or stabilizing, as it was very sore at the sign of any weight or compression. I was focused, rode slowly but with purpose, and almost without warning after just over an hour and a half, I saw tar surface ahead and the junction with the national road that goes the western side of Gorongoza. Gee, this felt good the relief in my whole demeanor was obvious…. This had been very stressful for me! The sign at the ‘T’ junction pointed left to Gorongoza, and I had this flash thought that maybe I should go back and see the Gorongoza I’d missed. It was some 100km back, and with my leg feeling like it was I did drop the thought, take the right turn and was then on the main road to Caia, with a crossing of the mighty Zambesi not too far away after the town. (Last time I’d encountered the Zambesi was at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe….quite a few river kilomertres upstream. I was looking forward to seeing the big river again, but was unsure of the crossing as my road atlas indicated a ferry, and I wasn’t sure how frequently it ran?  It didn’t concern me, as this was a main route and somehow the ferry would need to have the capacity to deal with the traffic I saw….. So, it was with a renewed spirit and context, that I headed off from the intersection. I remember this huge baobab on the left hand side of the road, it seemed to stand for aloneness and yet strength, and permanence, and so with my rising spirits and its contributing inspiration I stopped for a moment to photograph the memorable scene. This open vegetation with baobabs, quite different from the closed, dense forest I’d been in on the dirt road.






Caia came up and I turned off to fill up with petrol and then check out the place…. Nothing of any grand significance, just another rural town, with markets, crowded streets, dilapidated buildings, and one decent ‘restauarant’. Great I needed a coffee and a few top up calories for the still quite far, ride ahead to Qulimane, and this seemed like as perfect as spot as my now trained, low expectations, could expect. It felt pretty good to park the bike and sit down at a cafe table, and get served. The only issue was that the waiter, a late teenager was the shyest, most timid waiter I have ever had serve me!  The picture below shos what I finaaly got, a wholesome coffee and snack but getting it took a monumental effort, with the guy seemingly never having served coffee before, and him needing an interpretor for what I thought was my pretty good Portuguese.  This is standard coffee presentation in many African cafe’s , except that the hot water flask was the biggest ever, and there was barely enough milk for a single cup of the best ‘ricory mix’, coffee you can buy!




I was soon on my way again, and eager to solve the mystery of the ferry ahead. Well to my total surprise the road widened, and then a toll bridge warning sign, and there in front of me was a wonderful new bridge, spanning the Zambesi,  complete with toll booths, and a world class road. This was amazing, and I wasn’t sure whether I was happy about the ease of crossing it offered, or I felt cheated that development had precluded me from having one of the great African river crossing experiences?  The next surprise was that the toll both indicated motorcycles were for free, but as I pulled up, I saw the attendant looking up and down at me and my bike, and seemingly thinking it’s not this type of bike that’s for free, it’s the local’s 125 cc village to village bikes, that this was meant for….  She tried to ask for money, but I ppointed to the sign, and quickly her colleague butted in and said it was for free, and I could carry on….


Certainly a first class bridge, and built to withstand the biggest flood that could be imagined, and as I got to the other side, I saw the road down to the old ferry ramp, and so decided to go down there and see what it was like in the old days….  This road sort of doubled back and passed a small settlement, before I parked on the old ramp, right at the river bank, with the mighty Zambesi flowing strongly by. (The ramp is just visible in the foreground of the photo below)  Took some photos, the one below, and really enjoyed the significance of the moment, power of the river and the contrasts with the threatening sky and the deep blue river, imagining the ferry crossing.  Suddenly two Army uniform clad guys, complete with AK 47’s slightly angled up came from nowhere and were with me. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, but they looked like they had an issue with me, so I tried to divert the confrontational energy towards the bridge, by commenting how wonderful the bridge was, and asking when it was built etc…? They answered quickly and without reciprocal interest, cutting straight to their goal: “Where is your money, you must have lots of money on you?”  Hmmm, this was the cornered situation I had dreaded, but it was no time to show weakness, and so I responded by saying that I don’t have much money on me, I’m not a wealthy guy, that’s why I travel by m/cycle, sleeping out in the sticks, and eating off the land wherever I can. I then moved the conversation back onto the river, asking them if there where crocodiles and hippo in the river  right where we were?  They disinterestedly said ‘Yes’ and then the one guy, moved closer, AK 47 not quite pointed at me, but clearly aggressively angled, continued on his money mission. I stood fast and repeated my ‘little / no money’ story, with even more confidence and assertiveness, and then again reverting the discussion back to the river. The passive one, then seemed to say to the aggressive one, “Leave him alone”, and they then bade me farewell turned their backs and left.  I wasn’t overly stressed by the interaction, but it did remind me that I am vulnerable on the bike, and I must always be aware of that…..




All the time, I had the constant reminder that my leg was in a bad way, and there was no benefit in trying to deny that, it needed a professional opinion.


Crossing the Zambesi, I had moved from Sofala into Zambesi  province, and the road to Quilimane was typical of the easy riding very pleasant rolling hills, with orderly villages every now and then, lots of bicycles on the road. The presence of a plethora of these charcoal bags, waiting to be collected at each village l, was a constant reminder that the forests are being annihilated in the pursuit of personal income, and from my travelling through perspective, it didn’t seem like this extensive deforestation was being managed on a sustainable basis. As wass now becoming the afternoon norm, clouds built up and there was a quick shower, followed by clear blue sky and a rainbow.  This tree was a one of a kind, that was actually a ‘tourist’ stop off point along the way….




Entering the port city of  Quilimane, the road became a double lane, and suddenly I was in a densely populated, chaotic environment, just hoping I’d eventually hit the waterfront. (The same strategy as Beira, and in some ways, although smaller it felt the same. ) I eventually hit Robert Mugabe Rd, and the western side of the ‘waterfront’, and from there I set out to explore the town centre for a place to stay. This place was another aesthetic disaster, and once again there was evidence of it being a well planned, European styled city, which had much to offer in the colonial days, now it seemed no more than a survival hovel for more people than its infrastructure could handle.  Somehow hotel accommodation was at a premium, and I finally managed to get into Hotel Rosy, which made a vain attempt to live up to its name. It was fine, and I was just happy to have made it through the day, and now hopefully be able to get some medical opinion.  First stop was a pharmacy for resupply of anti-inflamatory tablets. I hobbled around, in quite a bit of pain which constantly reminded me that something serious was wrong, and that this wasn’t a quick fix.  It was too late in the afternoon, but I found out where the hospital was, and planned to hit it first thing in the morning.


Two contrasting scenes from my hobble around Quilimane:




Delicious Grilled Octopus from the restaurant at Flamingo Hotel:





The ankle injury looking quite different now…. the Purple bruising quite clear.





We will se what tomorrow brings. I’m pretty confident there are no fractures, but 100% certainty will be nice to know!,