the Border

At the Revenue Office in Mangochi they had told us that that in Chiponde there was a customs and excise office where all the border formalities could be done and that on the other side we could get visas. That meant that we wouldn't have to go to the embassy in Blantyre and so after visiting the quaint little Malawi Lake Museum we set off for the border.

This border was without doubt the most unpleasant we had experienced thus far. Others had taken longer or were annoying but here we were met with blatent hatred and aggression. Why I don't know. On the Malawian side things went smoothly. The usual immigration and customs procedure. On the other side however we had a long discussion about why we hadn't applied for the visas back home!!! during which one of them was actually pulling faces at us. I was so perplexed and dumbfounded that I almost had to grin. What an Idiot, but he wasn't checked at all by his collegues who instead joined in. They were obviously ridiculing us and calling us names. Of course I couldn't understand any of it, but it certainly wasn't polite. 


We were then led into another room where they made photos and took our fingerprints and where at length the visas were stuck into our passports. Whilst this was being done we were given a lecture about how to apply properly the next time. We were told that they didn't usually issue any visas here and that it would cost us 75 dollars each. I replied that I had read that the price was 50 dollars each. The surcharge was for the extra paperwork !!! I told him that it would be illegal to charge more, at which he asked how much I had with me. I replied °100 dollars" and he said "OK, give me". Very strange. I then held up the carnet. He nodded toward a desk on the other side of the room and spat on the floor. The carnet was then stamped without a word.


Across the room was the customs desk. They stamped the carnet without a word. I was glad to get out of the building. The touts who had assailed us upon arrival were there. No money was exchanged, they only wanted dollars and weren't interested in our Kwachas. We then had to go back to a shack next to the entrance which served as shade for the gate guards and as the insurance brokers office. Our Comesa isn't valid here. The next bout of negotiations began. We paid about 50 Euros, or near twice as much as it should have been. At least we were able to force him into accepting our remaining Kwacha. The touts accompanied us back to the van and advised us to change 100 dollars or "at least maybe 300 because all the banks are brocken untill Nampula". I assured them that we had enough fuel and we hit the road again. With what little of the day that was left we would drive to Mandimba and find somewhere to sleep. 

Mozambique has had a violent past. The war faught between the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) and Portugal (1964 - 1974), and the wars in Angola (1961 - 1974) and Guinea Bissau (1963 - 1974) resulted in the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974, a change of governement and policy, and a year later, Indipendancy.


As with many other proxy conflicts during the cold wars this had also been an idealogical struggle between east and west. Within weeks of its indipendancy most of the portuguese had fled and two years later, in 1977 the country's infrastructure was ruinous and the economy had collapsed. A civil war ensued between the FRELIMO (backed by the USSR and China) and the Resistenĉia Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO), backed by Rhodesia and South Africa. Following both the fall of the Soviet Union and of Apartheid in 1991 peace was finally made in 1992. However since 2013 violent incidents still continue occasionally and make the peace agreement a very tentative one.


The Foreign Office (und das Auswärtige Amt) had issued travel warnings for parts of northern Niassa and Cabo Delgado in general and especially the coast north of Pemba. We therefore chose to drive south from the border at Mandimba to Cuamba, thence to Nampula and beyond that Ilha and the Indian Ocean.