Northern Mozambique trip report

Charlotte writes:

I have just returned from a phenomenal holiday exploring the remoter areas of Mozambique, and following your guide book with great interest. I thought you would like to have the following updates:
Pemba
p310 (map) Osman Yacob’s supermarket is no longer there; the best is the “Supermarket” listed next to GALP for all western luxuries imported from SA.
p316 Pemba Dive & Bush Camp has closed down and the area has been bought, I believe, by the harbour to develop – this is not clear from the sign board on the side of the road.

Montepuez
p321 it states at the bottom of the page that there is no bank between Lichinga and Montepuez; there is now a brand new ATM accepting VISA in Marrupa.

Palma
p327 Unfortunately this bucolic little fishing “village” is going the way of Pemba and has been taken over by construction companies. As a result there are hotels and guest houses popping up everywhere along the main road, plus there is a fuel station and an ATM with VISA.

Lichinga
p351 There is an english speaking SA man who runs the TOTAL garage on the right hand side about 1.5km from the roundabout you reach as you come into town from Mandimba or Marrupa. He is a good point of contact regarding road conditions, status of the guest houses up the coast of Lake Malawi, and has a reliable mechanic for any car issues.
At the above mentioned roundabout is a fuel station which sells, amongst other things, milk, cheese and yoghurt.
P351 “By Road” section.  The road between Lichinga and Mandimba is dreadful; the 145km took us (travelling in a Toyota Hilux) four hours.  It is very eroded/pot-holed and full of trucks. It cannot be travelled in a saloon car! There is no “surface” left.
P351 “Where to stay”: Girassol Lichinga was closed when we went through in January 2015.
Pensao Ponte Final is now very expensive for what you get: $52 for a double and has very frequent (and long) power cuts.
p352 (Map): Socin Supermarket is no longer there. The TOTAL garage at the crossroads of Trabalho and Julius Nyere is no longer there. The bakery opposite no. 9 (Gordo’s has shut down.
There is a supermarket opposite the Water Tower.
P. 353 Broa de Mel – it only sells coffee when there is power…and there are very frequent power cuts.
Girassol Lichinga restaurant was closed down when we went through in January 2015
Boka Xeia was also closed when we went through (we spent four days in total in Lichinga mid-week).

Metangula
p358 “By car”: this road is no longer doable in 90 minutes (unless you have no consideration for the vehicle you are driving) it took us 120 minutes.
p359 Centro Turistico Cetuka has burnt down.

Cobue
p 360 the road has now been graded from Metangula to Cobue (more or less) as the chinese are laying electricity pylons along the road to reach the mine at the end. As a result the road is regularly maintained. The only tricky section, and the one that requires that you come in a 4×4, is the last steep section descending down or climbing up the escarpment. Particularly after the rains.

Niassa Reserve
Niassa Reserve is now jointly managed by Wildlife Conservation Society (a USA organisation) and the Mozambican government.  The park is in the midst of a serious upgrade – in terms of roads, bridges and campsites etc. It is currently managed by a French hunter conservationist with a PhD in Buffaloes (Thomas) (employed by WCS) and he is really doing a fantastic job to build this park up and get the poaching under control.
P367 Mussomo Community Campsite is badly named. It is actually arranged through the Park HQ in Maputo Camp (about 50km from the park gate over the Lugenda River – but also through radio contact from the gate) and is accessible only in the dry season and for self-drivers fully equipped. It is a small site, 15km west of the Lugenda Bridge on the north bank of the river
Additional information:
Niassa Park HQ is based at Maputo Camp, about 30km west from the main road that bisects the park.  It is set amongst inselbergs, is pleasant, and offers unfenced camping on site (sharing the site currently with the researchers and guys running the park). It’s a fantastic spot but offers no view.  It is possible to do guided hikes into the surrounding area, which is well worth doing to get an impression of the immense size of the park from the top of one of the inselbergs.  Cave paintings had just been discovered about 5km walk from the camp when we visited and are definitely worth the effort required to get there to see them.
Allow two hours from the park gate to reach Maputo camp in the rainy season and be aware that some rivers flashflood and may be impassable for a couple of days following heavy rain.
English, French, Portuguese and Kiswahili are spoken here.
It’s not currently geared up for tourists, but is well worth the effort required to reach here, if only for the pure, untrammeled wilderness and beauty of the vast expanse of woodland and inselbergs. We had a lion kill at camp the night we arrived so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Roads & ferries
The road has now been tarred (beautifully) all the way from Pemba to the little outpost of Quionga.
For those crossing north into Tanzania, whilst the Unity Bridge is fine, the access route in the rainy season is sometimes impassable – so ask locally for an update.

Ferry to Tanzania

We crossed via the Ferry (as the road was impassable) and had a very good experience. We spent the night at a mission, run by south africans, about 15km before the border in Quionga – the campsite is set back from the road (but visible from the road), with toilets and bucket showers, fire wood provided and there is a guard. We paid $5 per person.  It’s on the edge of the escarpment looking down and out towards the Ruvuma River and is a very pleasant place to camp.
Contact: Andre Thiart (+258 866842675) or thiartaa@gmail.com

The ferry leaves (at low water level) at high tide only and takes about 30 minutes.  In the rainy season it can make a few crossings a day.  It costs 25,000TSH per vehicle (but can only take 6 vehicles so make sure you are there in good time but be prepared to wait!). The border actually only opens sometime after 7am (despite what they say!)  and the ferry leaves from different banks depending on conditions – the locals will advise. The ferry is a good 6-8km from the border.
A number for the ferry captain, in case of delay or mechanical fault and simply for a status update is: +255 787 428 100

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