Living in Johannesburg has made more self conscious and aware of the fact that I don’t regard myself as the adventurous type – at least not as much as I used to when I was in the Free State. Of late, I am content with just my remote, unlimited access to Netflix and I am ready to chill. Make sure there’s plenty of beer in the fridge before you leave me to my paradise.
That all changed recently when myself and fellow content creators, Lelo Boyana of Chica.co.za and George Matsheke, marvin.co.za decided to venture on an unrestricted weekend long road-trip to Maputo, Mozambique. The reason for the trip? It was to mark the beginning of great things, exciting things, the birth of #SAfricansTravelToo an idea that came to life when the three of us met an event and decided to explore with a cause.
Let me explain my excitement — road trips are one of the truly lovable, completely pure thing about Southern Africas culture. Whatever else makes us gross and bad, our landscapes are beautiful, and our kitsch is the best in the world, and you can’t fault anyone for wanting to see as much of it as possible. But no one has time to go on 12 road-trips a year.
The day we’ve been excitedly waiting for has finally arrived, I managed to take delivery of our courtesy X1 from BMW South Africa and take note of our border papers (you need these in order for the car to cross the border). The car is great, we need the ground clearance as I am told Mozambique’s road can be quite bad, a lot like ours. It must be comfortable too, seeing that we’d be spending much of this road trip in it, it needed to tick all the right boxes. The BMW X1 did. My phone and a small battery pack are ready for action at 100%. I’ve cleared all the space we could ever need to shoot a mini-series on my GoPro, and so I spend the next half-hour doing the aero equivalent of wardriving — on my way to fetch George at his offices in Randburg. En route the buzzy Friday traffic I manage to sort out our trip route on the on-board nav system, it throws a 7-hour drive at me, but that’s okay! Exotic Mozambique awaits.
When we pick up Lelo at the Total service station on Atlas Road in Boksburg and start our trip in earnest, my hopes are realized with the thought of this actually being a reality. Here we meet with the team from Total SA too. We manage to fit in a few light snacks and refreshments right there. Their hearty welcome and well wishes with the trip are just what we needed. This is great, I think. Things cannot possibly go wrong on this adventure.
We opted to take the N12 via Boksburg going through to Emalahleni which joins the N4 – where we managed to stop for refreshments at Total Alzu – until we reached Nelspruit. This was followed by another, final refreshment stop and driver change at the Total Melalane before we reached the border. The stop at Melalane comes handy; its perfect should you wish to pick up some essentials such as bottled water and snacks until you reach the capital Maputo. It was now my turn to drive us through the border and get us safely to our home for next two days.
Staying in Mozambique
It takes just about an hour to cross the Lebombo Border to Maputo, and just under two hours to drive to Maputo. Because its a world away from the skyscraping modernity of Johannesburg, we were greeted by flooded roads and unusual traffic just before 11pm. We were headed to its southern coast, here a resort and hotel zone has been created and houses Radisson Blu Maputo – of the Carl Rezidor Hotel Group – which is the first tall building you notice as you head for the coast and which played homage to us for the duration of our stay.
Truth be told, I had the wrong idea about Radisson Blu; I imaged it catered for the sophisticated American and European holidaymakers, young couples and intimidatingly rich, beautiful people dripping swagoo – as one Beyonce would call it. It’s still all that, but the group is putting more focus on giving travel savvy, modern individuals – and their families – that genuine, inviting ambiance and 360° hospitality experience. The rooms are gigantic, in a good way, with very high callings. Giving you enough space to move about as you wish.
Once dawn, we could see how this particular residence was simply stunning, looking out over perfect lawns and palm trees to a picturesque view of the ocean with the smell of fresh coffee.
What to do
The Radisson Blu Maputo hotel and its residence has been perfectly placed a few meters away from the buzzling city center. One could walk from the hotel to the FAIS craft market, but attractions such as the Maputo Train Station, Steel House and Historical monuments require driving around. One could get around in a taxi, which the hotel front desk was happy to arrange, but no need as we’d drive ourselves around to explore. First on our list was to find an ATM and withdraw local currency, followed by a visit to the Maputo Train Station, FEIMA (craft) Market, the Samora Machel Statue and Steel House.
At last, we drove to Macanetta Island, further north of the city for fine seafood and of course, the beach. Once there, only George had the courage to walk another kilometer to find white sand and dip his toes in the warm water. Could an island beach be any better? He uttered on his return. Well, maybe, with all the fresh seafood presented to us.
Our lunch times were reserved for where the locals eat, with the first being at Mcanetta Island, and second at the infamous Fish Market. A modern building which stands on the shore with views of the coast on each side. There were live fish and assorted crustaceans in saltwater buckets, just waiting to be selected and put out of their misery and onto a plate. The three of us settled for one of the vendors outside and her raved prawns, fish and chips platter.
The drive back to the Hotel was not as daunting as the drive to the island, we were back at the hotel just before 5pm, with enough time for sun-downers. For dinner, we reserved ourselves for the Radisson’s Azul Restaurant at one of their newly built residence properties. Its a fine dine establishment, with food that is to die for.
Should you go
South Africans wanting to head this way, definitely should! Its best you visit between June and October when its still dry season (plenty of sun, clear skies and almost no rain) with not a lot of tourist traffic around. That way, you get a great blend of sight seeing and gentle white sands between your toes. Best you drive yourself to the coastal city, and get lost if you have to, but be wary of their law enforcement and always have a few Metical (or Meti-cash as locals call it) to spare 🙂
#SAfricansTravelToo Mozambique was hosted by Radisson Blu Maputo, BMW South Africa and fueled by Total SA.
In this fast-paced world where the thought of a weekend away or city break seems near possible, we have come together in efforts to show ordinary South Africans, like ourselves, that it is possible. #SAfricansTravelToo is aimed at creating an ultimate experience giving the people of Southern Africa an opportunity to become a savvy traveler, by affording them a chance to explore their home turf – and the rest of Africa. Essentially we are aiming at doing away with the stereotype that travel is expensive, and seen as a luxury for most. We want to instill the mindset that it is possible to travel, it is affordable and something that is well within ones reach, within the fraction of one’s budget.