North to South Run Last Few Days.
Nick at the Ponta do Ouro Border Beacon after running 3000km in 84 days, an average of 36km per day.
More details of those last few days.
Maputo City and surrounding areas are now home to approximately 15% of Mozambique’s 23 million people. The same area produces over 50% of the country’s GDP, making roads leading to and from the Nation’s Capital by far the busiest and most congested in the country.
Nick negotiated the crumbling side-walks and pushy street traders of Xai-Xai town on a sweaty Saturday morning, the busiest time for this commercial hub 200km north of Maputo. The roar and fumes from lumbering trucks and belching buses, the elbowing eagerness of shoppers eager to make their purchases before the heat of midday would drive traders indoors for ‘Siesta’, and the anger and frustration of motorists trying to weave their way through the chaos, was in clear contrast to the image of a lone runner on an overgrown, rarely used track, who had departed the mouth of the Rovuma river 10 weeks and 2600km ago.
Just south of Malovane, the turn-off to Nova Mambone.
Greg Pickett, the Challenge’s support man for this last leg, recalls that in Xai-Xai town it became impossible to keep close to Nick as there was nowhere to stop and so he drove through the grid-lock and waited on the town’s south side where a bridge spans the Limpopo River.
Days ago Nick had crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, yet another significant milestone on the journey steadily southwards. As the days lengthened with the coming of spring in the southern hemisphere, so the time left on the road shortened.
As footage of this Concern Challenge had already made its way onto National Television twice, there was some anticipation emerging in Maputo regarding the imminent arrival of a man who was gradually moving towards becoming the first to run the entire length of Mozambique. The Irish Embassy and Concern Staff were preparing a reception, and the streets of Maputo would seem a mad rush of cars, buses, taxis, bicycles and pedestrians compared to the genteel country lanes and quaint folk of northern Mozambique.
Greg decided to take Nick on the little-used ‘back-route’ into Maputo which is off-road vehicle territory and after the peace of this little track, arrival at Maputo’s famous Restaurante Costa do Sol on the ‘Marginal’ or beach promenade, was even more intimidating. The ‘All Africa Games’ are currently taking place in Maputo and so Nick, and Greg in the support vehicle’ had to dodge speeding VIP convoys and official vehicles as they made their way through Matola to Boane.
Approaching Maputo from the Costa do Sol ‘back-route’.
In Maputo Nick ran with Concern and Embassy staffers to the Irish Embassy where he was honoured with a reception hosted by Ambassador Frank Sheridan, and was involved in the ‘peculiar incident of climbing the embassy wall’ due to a misunderstanding of sorts.
Mozambique’s territory south of Maputo is something of an anachronism. Maputo city has been dragged clawing and fuming into the 21st Century, while just across the Rio Maputo the landscape would still be quite familiar to the British invaders who, in 1869, had attempted to annex the land south of Delagoa Bay to the border with the Natal Colony.
The lack of a bridge over the mouth of the Rio Maputo has effectively frozen development until the resort town of Ponta do Ouro is reached. Even the roads have been neglected and snaking sand tracks that diverge at the thickest sections, to rejoin where the going is easier, can make running and navigating more of a challenge. This is 4x4 territory and even the most experienced of adventurers can get lost.
South of Maputo, Mozambique is still as it was decades ago.
Determined to run the entire length of Mozambique uninterrupted, Nick decided to by-pass Maputo Bay and the 40km shorter route involving a ferry ride to Catembe. He used the route via Boane and Porto Henrique to Bela Vista. Interesting to note that Porto Henrique was actually an important harbour for a few years and it is at the point on the Tembe River that is furthest away from the coast while still being tidal.
90km of running and two nights bush-camping and then after Zitundo the track started to resemble a spilled bowl of cooked spaghetti. Trying to bypass the softest sand, drivers in these past have developed an effective but destructive habit of driving on the harder crust next to the road leading to the ‘all roads lead to nowhere’ situation. Add to this an inaccurate map on the GPS navigator and you have a formula for failure.
With a bit of luck and some local advice, Greg directed Nick in the direction of the border beacon, and after probably the hardest day on the road (20km on soft sand after 30km already on the road), Nick ran through the dune forests, over the last dune crest and made it to the Mozambique / South Africa border.
Mandy, of nearby Phambuka Lodge, offered refreshments and comfortable accommodation and once more the hospitality and generosity of the Mozambican people and tourist operators were overwhelming and humbling.
How to summarize 3 months of running (and supporting a runner) in Mozambique?
Nick (in a text message to me from Ponta do Ouro):
“Hi Mike. This is very strange. No 40km run this morning and a rest day today and tomorrow...”
During 90 days slowly meandering through Mozambique we encountered NONE of the following:
Crime, corruption, harassment, land-mines, banditry, protests, tropical cyclones, floods or hostility.
During the same period we encountered LOTS of the following:
Smiles, hospitality, interest, enthusiasm, perfect weather, solitude, support, humanity, dignity, courage, beauty, humility and hope.
The Concern Worldwide Mozambique Challenge Support Team:
Mike and Luke Slater. Hendrik Pott, Filipe Rasai.
Greg Pickett (on right) with Nick North Daniel Slater with Nick North.