In May, I explored the northern part of Mozambique before crossing the notorious border to Tanzania. In this post, I’ll explain how was the Rovuma River border crossing and what else happened to me last month.
Countries Visited: Mozambique, Tanzania = 2
Cities / Towns visited: Mozambique: Vilanculos, Chimoio, Nampula, Mozambique Island, Pemba, Palma; Tanzania: Mtwara, Kilwa Masoko, Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo
New Countries: 0
Country Count: 79/197
Modes of Transportation Taken: Minibus (chapa or dala dala), bus, boat, truck (hitchhiking), car, in the back of a pickup truck
Places I’ve Slept in: Hostels, hotels, Airbnb, friend’s apartment
Exploring Mozambique Island
It took me three days of traveling without hardly any sleep or food, but I made it to Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique in Portuguese). It was worth the journey! This place is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever visited!
Enjoying Life in Dar
Even though the only reason I stayed almost a month in Dar, was that I had to wait for my Burundi visa, I really enjoyed my time there. It was my second time visiting this city, and I was happy to see that everything was just like it used to be. This time around, I spent a lot of time hanging out with expats, stayed at many different neighborhoods, (anything from very expensive Masaki to more local and cheap Kisutu). Dar is a very multicultural city, and there are lots of things to do if you stay here a bit longer (like free movie nights, Indian bingo, day trips you can do). I had first planned to go to Zanzibar again, but because of the rainy season, Ramadan, and the cost, I decided to skip it and just enjoy being in Dar es Salaam.
Rainy Season and Crossing the Border
In Pemba, I met this motorcycle guy who scared the hell out of me and told me that I shouldn’t cross the border from Mozambique to Tanzania. He had just done the border crossing himself and told me that it’s very dangerous and I should change my plans. I had already traveled so far, and there was no turning back. I’m glad that I didn’t listen to him because the border crossing wasn’t so bad after all. It was just a bit uncomfortable because of the rain – but definitely not dangerous. I would say an adventure! My first car got stuck in the mud and then broke down, so I had to hitch another car driving to the border. My travel companion in this car wasn’t the best because no one really spoke English and for some reason, the driver hated me. The road was very bad, and at some point, there was no road at all – just water. But we made it to the border! However, we had to walk the last part (about 1 km) to the boat, and it was pouring rain, and my shoes were just covered in mud.
You have to cross the border by taking a boat to the other side of the river, and this was the most exciting part of the border crossing! The boats are old wooden boats, and you have to know what time to cross the river because if it’s a low tide, the boat can get stuck. The motorcycle guy had gotten stuck in the middle of the river for three hours! We only got a little bit stuck, and at one point everyone had to get off the boat and walk to the other side of some kind of a sand island where the boat came again to pick us up. I also saw lots of hippos and crocodiles in the water which of course is not something you would like to see when you’re in a boat like that. But hey – a free safari!
Before I even got to the boat, I had to wait for several hours. All the people (or should I men – there were no women around) were standing under a shade because it was raining and I tried to ask people when is the boat leaving, how much I have to pay, etc. but they just laughed at me. I didn’t feel welcomed at all and as I said I was the only woman there. Then maybe an hour later, some new guys arrived. One of the guys smiled at me and asked me if I wanted to have some food. Everyone else has been eating around me but no one had offered me food, and I felt uncomfortable talking with anyone anymore because they had made clear that they didn’t want to talk with me.
This guy turned out to be my lifesaver. He helped me so much with everything: getting the boat, taking a bus to the Tanzanian border and then to Mtwara (the nearest town), making sure that I didn’t have to pay mzungu prices, buying SIM card, finding cheap accommodation, etc. Good people exist everywhere!
Getting a Visa for Burundi
Yes, my challenge of the month was patience. It took me three weeks, several embassy visits and phone calls before I finally received my visa for Burundi (and it was actually already June when I got it). I felt kind of frustrated to be stuck in Dar because I had no idea how long it was going to take. Every time they told me to call tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, etc. And every time I had high hopes that today is the day when I’m going to get my visa.
Mozambique Island reminds me a little bit of Zanzibar but without any tourists. It used to be the capital of colonial Portuguese East Africa, but now it just seems lost in time and space as the old colonial buildings have been left there. In some places, it looks even like a war zone because of the ruins and inhabited buildings. With its rich history and sandy beaches, I’m sure this place will be a huge tourist destination someday. But now, I felt like I was the only traveler there – and I loved it!
My first destination in Tanzania (after the border town Mtwara). From here, you can explore the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is not the ideal destination during the rainy season though because most of the hotels are closed, roads are in bad condition and it’s raining a lot. I enjoyed it anyway and found the tour to the ruins very interesting.
Because I spent almost the whole month in Dar es Salaam, I at least decided to make a small day trip to Bagamoyo which was the original capital of German East Africa. There’s not much to do, but you can walk around and see some old colonial buildings, and enjoy the delicious food at Firefly Lodge
Palma Residences, Palma:
This was one of the best hotels I stayed in Mozambique, and it’s so funny because this place is located in the middle of nowhere. Just a few years ago there was nothing in Palma, but then the gas industry boomed, and many hotels were built. Most of the guests at Palma Residences are there for business, but if anyone is planning to cross the border to Tanzania, this is the best place to stay before that.
Mwangaza Hideaway, Kilwa Masoko:
This is the place where I stayed in Kilwa Masoko. Even though the weather wasn’t the best, this place was absolutely beautiful. I had my own room with a sea view, and if it hadn’t been cloudy, I could have watched the sunset from my room. There’s also a swimming pool and a restaurant where they serve delicious local food (also great vegan options!). Here you can also organize a tour to the ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani.
The Slow Leopard, Dar es Salaam:
When I visited Dar three years ago, there were definitely no hostels at all. You could find cheap accommodation in the city center, but of course, you would miss the atmosphere and meeting other backpackers. I was excited to hear that there was now a new hostel in Masaki area and I stayed there for the first few nights. Breakfast is included in the price, and there’s also a popular burger restaurant downstairs.
Shark Diving in Umkomaas, South Africa
Tugela Falls – World’s Second Highest Waterfall
Chamarel Waterfall, Mauritius
Coming up in June 2017
By the time I’m writing this, I finally got my visa for Burundi. It took me another three days to figure out how to leave Dar es Salaam because the train is not running and everything seemed to be fully booked. But I’m still hoping to get to Burundi this week! Other countries I’m hoping to visit this month are Rwanda, DR Congo, and Uganda. Wish me luck!