Mozambique: Bilene – also last week of August

We woke up early, packed up camp in record time, did not shower for fear of catching some disease and hauled ass out of Fatima’s like we stole something. That place will never see me again.

I, innocently enough, mentioned to Clayton that it is a good thing that Bertus did not have a breakdown there because I would hate to spend one more minute in that place. My words were not even cold when Bertus gave its first hiccup, quickly followed by a backfire and another hiccup. That I survived the Look I got from Clayton is a miracle! How dare I say something like that?! As if me saying it could actually break the car. We sputtered through town, losing power just as we would enter an intersection only to get a burst of power just in time to avoid a crazy Mozambican driver crashing into us. The Spar was just around the corner and we made our way to their relative safe parking lot. I got out of the car to go buy some necessities and to avoid Clayton’s wrath while he had a pep talk with Bertus.

I do not know what was said and I was too afraid to ask but when Clayton turned the ignition all seemed well and we drove away with Bertus behaving like a brand new car. Not even once giving a huff or puff. I suspect he also got the Look from Clayton…

At the outskirts of town we stopped at a petrol garage where we coincidentally met the self proclaimed Beetle specialist in all of Mozambique. He did some work on a couple beetles a few years ago and started to reminisce about the good old days. He has not seen one in quite a long time and just wanted to buy Bertus. We kindly declined the offer and made our way out of town.

The magical Drivemoz sticker

We got pulled over by our first roadblock for the day which went better than expected. Before we left South Africa we bought a Drivemoz sticker – Drivemoz is a Facebook community assisting travelers in Mozambique. There is a lot of info on their Facebook page and the people are always ready to answer any questions. They also have a Zello group (app that turns your phone into a two way radio) that you can use when you are in a sticky situation or when you need to report something or someone. The power of Drivemoz however lies within the sticker and what it means to the corrupt traffic cops in Mozambique. We witnessed this magic first hand when we were pulled off the road just outside Maputo. The cop walked over, scanned the car, saw the sticker on the door and waved us off. No questions, no problems. This happened another 4 times. As soon as they spot the sticker, they lose interest and at most they ask where we are headed.  

Bilene – Palmeiras Campsite

Our destination that day was Bilene, approximately 150km north of Maputo. We arrived early in the afternoon at Palmeiras campsite, a spot we found on iOverlander which is fast becoming my new Coast to Coast. We were just finished setting up camp when we heard familiar voices. Marcia and Matt have arrived! We met them in Ballito the day we got Bertus back from Avashen. They were doing the same route as us in the same time frame with an old Syncro VW Combi dubbed Woody. Since Woody also gave them some issues we had loads to talk about and we traded war stories till late into the night (approx 9:30pm which is waaaay past my bedtime!). We were all keen to at least do a section of the trip together and made plans to catch up in St Lucia a few days later (they ASSumed the problem will not take longer than a day max…).

Woody and Bertus – taking on the south of Africa!

As you have gathered by now we did not meet up in St Lucia, nor in Sodwana, Kosi Bay and also not in Swaziland. Woody proved to be a bit more of a problem child than Bertus and the likelihood of us ever crossing paths again dwindled day after day. We, however kept in touch, informing them of our intended destinations. The last time we had contact (first day we got in Mozambique) we said we will be in Bilene in a couple of days time. Fortunately we ended up at the same campsite and Woody and Bertus were reunited!

We went to the local street market to buy some food but found a semi decent restaurant at which we ate at instead. With Mt70 (R17) for a ‘simple burger’ we could not say no to the temptation. The language barrier however made it slightly impossible to determine the origin of the meat and we were not about to start making animal noises in the hope that she would recognise one. We therefore bit the bullet and hoped for the best.

Clayton and Matt checking out Woody’s petrol leak

 What eventually arrived (the service in Mozambique thus far has been slow – very, very slow) was a rather pleasant surprise. A burger with a ‘meat’ patty, egg, lettuce, tomato and sauce. Nothing simple about it, in fact it put South African fast food outlets to shame.

Over a cold one we updated each other on our respective war stories – Woody was winning with the latest issue being broken suspension (fixed by a dodgy guy just outside Swaziland) and petrol leak (not fixed by the dodgy guy and getting worse). It started to sound like they attempted to single-handedly revive South Africa’s economy by spending a small fortune on incompetent mechanics.

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