Bet You Didn’t Know This About Rats

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Blog 32 by Tan: Bet You Didn’t Know This About Rats

After being swiftly stamped out of Zimbabwe, we moved on to the Chiqualaquala side of the border in Mozambique. Despite having no other people there (only 8 people crossed there that day, including us) it took a fair while to clear as the immigration boss man had gone home for a mid afternoon chillax. In fact, ‘chillaxed’ describes the entire border post quite well, the only action going on was the 90’s era B-grade action flick playing on a laptop to a bevy of cheering border guards. While they entertained themselves we had a much delayed lunch of half stale supermarket cake and waited patiently for the immigration boss man to be roused. Eventually said boss man returned and informed us that the visas cost US$77, making it the priciest visa thus far and much more than what we were expecting. For some reason Mick had it in his head that the visa was $30 and had budgeted for this, and now we were struggling to get enough cash together. Its one significant problem of being pretty casual travellers: sometimes ‘casual’ degrades to ‘disorganised’ pretty rapidly.

But we were grateful we were easily getting the visa, as while its common to get a visa on arrival, officially you are supposed to get it beforehand. This has long been the rule but is seldom enforced… except when it is enforced in which case they have no qualms telling people at the border to get lost. Fortunately these campaigns tend to be rare and short lived.

So we were in luck… but low on cash. The one drawback about our strategy of using the remote border posts is that they are, well, remote, and there is bugger all in the way of services, like banks. We were informed the next ATM was 325km down the road in Chokwe. With the visas costing much more than we expected we were in a bit of a bind, however we were able to scrounge together enough Euros and USD. Mick sorted the visas and had a bit of an ‘oh shit, this isn’t good’ moment as a 100 Euro and a 50 USD note disappeared into a immigration official’s pocket as quick as lightning, and 15 minutes later there was no talk of change, let alone any sight of it. However, they were surprising trusting of us to set the Euro exchange rate as they had no idea what it was, and the desperately needed change duly arrived. Between us we were left with US$36 and 600 Mozambique Meticals (about US$7 worth). Not all that much to cover the cost of a place to stay, food and fuel to make it 325km to Chokwe, especially considering that last time we fueled the bikes was 300kms back in Masvingo. Thankfully they didn’t ask us to pay any road taxes or insurance otherwise we would have had to get real creative.

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Our humble abode for the evening. ‘Ponto de Encontro’ means meeting point in Portuguese. It was simple, clean and had a mosquito net. What more do you need?

After maybe 2 hours clearing the border we covered about 85km of easy tar before the sun started getting low on the horizon. Despite our money predicament and the wide open spaces along the road we resisted the temptation to save cash by wild camping. We generally like to first take some time to get a feel for the place and talk to some locals before wild camping. We’d just crossed the border into a new country and had no idea of the lay of the land was so we opted for the first decent looking town with secure guesthouse.

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And it had a safe place to park the bikes.

I was excited and nervous to see if I could still function in Portuguese, a language I love but seldom get to speak. It seemed that I could as I managed to find someone that would accept USD at a decent rate, provide us with a room for the night and a sizable feast of peri-peri chicken and chips without hassle. The next day we got all our money together, checking every bag and pocket we had. If we had a sofa we would have looked under the cushions. After settling the bill we had 1USD and 600MZM, about 8 bucks worth. At a pinch we had a 100 Euro note we could maybe exchange, but we knew we wouldn’t get a great rate for it, in fact it we might even struggle to find someone with that much meticals.

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Buying as much fuel as we could afford. “How much can I get for 600MZM, a couple old receipts, some Dorrito crumbs, a blown fuse and a stripped 6mm bolt?”

With 625kms between fuel stops, about 150kms of gravel already done and 200kms of gravel and sand still to come, Mick worked out we should make it with the 5l reserve in my secondary tank split between the two bikes, but it would be touch and go. So to be safe, we spent our 600MZM on an additional 5L of black market fuel, which left 5l in my rear tank as reserve, and us with a single dollar and a few pesky metical coins to spare.

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One of the better sections of road.

Since I acquired my shoulder injury in Namibia we made the boring decision to avoid ‘unnecessary’ off-road riding while my shoulder heals. Yet despite our plans to avoid technical riding it seems to come looking for us. This was the case that day when the tar quickly ended and was replaced with semi-constructed, dirt and sand road for nearly 200km. With cash exhausted and fuel low we resorted to riding as efficiently as possible by maintaining an even speed in 5th gear. Fine on the tar but interesting on unmaintained, sandy dirt roads with hidden obstacles. It made for a few unexpected airborne moments all in the interests of saving fuel. The track was at times eroded, sandy with a bunch of near invisible bumps that led to me getting some air as I struggled to spot them in time. Landing the overloaded flying pig of a DR in these conditions was doing my shoulder no good so I sent Mick out in front to warn me of the obstacles ahead of time. It was a tiring few hours to say the least.

As we travelled along this remote section of the country we were floored by the abject poverty in these parts. It was utterly desolate and life looked incredibly bleak for the people living in the dilapidated mud huts that lined the route. It was one of the poorest looking areas we had been to thus far on the trip. We could only hope that the highway (apparently) under construction helped to improve their lot somewhat. These guys looked beyond poor, the only commercial activity going on was the ubiquitous charcoaling.

I went on to reserve about 55kms from Chokwe and Michael did the same 30km afterwards. In the end we made it to the edge of town when my bike ran completely out of fuel. How’s that for luck… Mick’s maths was pretty spot-on. Mick emptied the fuel from the stove bottle into the tank and we rode the last 800m to the bank and then the servo. We were disappointed to see that fuel in Mozambique was expensive at about US$1.6 per litre. With the knowledge that accommodation in Mozambique is very pricey too meant we were in for an expensive few weeks.

Just before arriving in Mozambique we had been given the contact details of friends of friends, Ken and Marietjie, who are South African but have been living in Maputo for a couple of years. We gave fair warning that we might smell too bad to enter their nice house, yet they were still happy to take us in and gave us some detailed directions through busy Maputo. We were slightly anxious about riding into the capital as we had heard its traffic was nightmarish. Everyone loves to warn us how terrible the traffic is in a particular city but thankfully even fully loaded our bikes are narrow enough (the luggage is only a whisker wider than the bars) to lane split with minimal issue. While it was slightly hectic it was quite manageable even during rush hour at the end of the day.

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Totally spoilt we were

Ken and Marietjie gave us a warm welcome and as they pulled up the garage roller door we were quickly able to understand why they were so open to accepting some strangers off the street at short notice… they were mad bikers themselves. We got on like a house on fire and were blown away by their hospitality. We were put up in the guest bedroom that had an air conditioner. It was incredibly exciting. And there were even towels prepared for us complete with a handmade welcome card. Seriously! How utterly spoilt have we been on this trip!

Marietjie is the most passionate pillion passenger I have ever met and I loved it. She doesn’t ride herself but takes her pillion riding seriously and was boss when it came to buying the great Triumph Tiger 800XCx that they tour on. They were a fantastic source of knowledge on the city, which benefited us to no end. After being informed that our border guys were wrong in telling us we didn’t need insurance, Marietjie drove us to an insurance office to sort it out which was quick and easy as a result.

On the way we got our first proper look at the city (ie out a window and not lane splitting) most people rather glibly described as a ‘total shithole.’ It was another perfect example of how you need to go somewhere yourself and make up your own mind. We absolutely loved Maputo. The place was positively buzzing with energy. It was a complete contrast to the gaping void of economic activity in Zimbabwe. Here in Mozambique there was commerce everywhere you looked. There were people at stoplights selling fruit, nail clippers, phone charges, car exhausts, live crabs on a string, steering wheel covers, dress shirts, shoes and hair brushes. The whole city was a thriving marketplace and while people were obviously still living below the poverty line there was trade going on and an energetic level of motivation that could be felt. The place buzzed. We liked it.

On our trips through the city the thing that stuck out the most was the shear amount of second hand clothing for sale. You couldn’t throw a rock in Maputo and not hit an item of pre-loved clothing from the Western world. The funny thing for us was seeing that huge amount of Australian brands on display as Mozambique’s second hand gear is overwhelmingly sourced from Oz. Turns out the secondhand clothing market is the mainstay of Mozambique informal economy and Maputo is used-clothing HQ. From what we observed the trade had become highly normalised and everyone from cashed up expats to regular professionals and poor slum dwellers sourced their clothes from Australia’s cast-offs. It got me curious about the secondhand clothing industry so we looked into it further. Cue internet searches…

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Cheers to the throw away society – random image from the inter webs

Mountains of cast-off clothing makes its way to Africa every year. In Mozambique the used clothes are referred to as “roupa da calamidade” – clothing of calamity. In Nigeria, another hub for used clothing, they call it “kafa ulaya” – which rather amusingly means ‘the clothes of the dead whites’. Believe it or not, the global secondhand clothing industry is valued at an astounding $US4.35 billion. Most people are unaware that the used clothing they donate to charities in their own countries are seldom distributed domestically and almost never given to poor people for free. Instead they are mostly sold to wholesalers for export.

In Mozambique, a charity is not allowed to merely give the clothes away as it will damage the local textile sector…. the same textile sector which was destroyed during the prolonged civil war and there has been no real efforts to revive. At the moment the used clothing trade provides jobs and affordable high quality clothes satisfying the needs of the people, and also the needs of politicians who prefer to do very little.

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Jeans seller – CNN image

I was really curious of the kind of margins seller were making when you could buy a pair of brand new looking jeans for a few dollars. I managed to find a story on the used-clothing sellers in Zimbabwe. Countries like Zim wanting to raise revenue… oh, I mean revive their textile sector, have resorted to applying taxes of 40% on secondhand clothes. Some countries have banned the trade altogether. This has led to black market smuggling of used clothing involving significant corruption. A woman might travel all the way to Mozambique from Zimbabwe to buy a 50kg bale of used clothes for about $200-250, then set about transporting them back. Along the way she will have to pay off police and mafia manning illegal entry points. Truck drivers will charge a huge amount to transport the contraband, as much as $100 for a short ride due to the risks involved and simple greed. When back home, more police will come for their pay off along with tax officials who should be applying a 40% tax but would rather settle for a nice little kickback. After they sort, clean and repair the clothes and finally get to a point to make some money off the arduous journey… she might make around $10 profit. Sometimes they do a lot better than that. Sometimes they lose it all.

That is the thing about an informal economy. It is better than subsistence but significant changes in ones existence are near impossible to realise. So although we were impressed with the vibrancy of the informal economy of Mozambique we still saw it for what is was – a step above abject poverty but a mile away from prosperity.

One of the main reasons we travelled all the way south to Maputo was that we had a date with some rats. I have been a long time fan of a fantastic NGO called APOPO who train rats to solve human problems, namely to detect landmines and tuberculosis (TB). Knowing they had a TB centre in Maputo I contacted them and asked if we could visit them like a proper rat groupie and they were happy to oblige. They also said we were welcome to visit the mine detecting rats when we went to Tanzania. I was so excited I almost couldn’t handle it.

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One of the TB sniffing rats in action.

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Waiting for its reward for correctly identifying a confirmed case of TB in one of the 10 samples. Unfortunately for this little guy, while he correctly identified the TB case, he didn’t wait for a click from the trainer to indicate he was correct. This rat was too confident and too keen for his treat and as soon as he identified the TB sample he ran for his reward. The HeroRATs may be easy to train but they are even easier to un-train. The clicks are import to keep the rats trained and disciplined. So this guy missed out on his prize.

So I am quite a cynical old duck these days so it is not your average charitable organisation that can impress me easily. But I gotta say organisations like APOPO are doing an amazing amount of good, not giving things away and creating dependency, just contributing to making a situation more conducive to development by removing landmines and diagnosing disease. And doing it in a most intelligent way. The rather creative and cluey founder of APOPO was a rat lover and set about researching the possibility of deploying rats for humanitarian purposes. First came the remarkably successful landmine detecting rats then the tuberculosis sniffing ones.

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This little fella identified the confirmed TB case by scratching on the positive sample. Then waited for the click (the audio reinforcement) and then got his reward.

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And didn’t waste a drop of it.

A little about the APOPO’s HeroRats: They are African giant pouched rats and are fantastic candidates for their work in Africa. They are indigenous and very robust critters, are surprisingly intelligent, have an appropriate temperament and a relatively long life span of about 8 to 10 years. They rival dogs for their sense of smell but well exceed them in ability to be trained. Rats are easy to transport and unlike mine sniffing dogs, they are too light to set off landmines. However the real kicker is the ease and low cost nature of training. It takes about 9 months and roughly $8000 to train a rat that may work in the field for up to 7 years.
A little about TB testing: Developing countries like Mozambique typically rely on a century old detection technique using microscopes to identify TB bacteria in a suspect’s sputum. Accuracy is a problem, and it is believed that fewer than 50% of TB cases are correctly detected in Sub-Saharan Africa. For each missed case of TB, 10 to 15 people per year may be infected by that person who then go on to infect another 10 to 15 people and so on and so forth. And that is how TB kills half a million people a year in Africa. TB is the second most deadly infections disease in the world after HIV. In 2010 the percentage of TB patients with HIV in Mozambique was 61%. This miserable statistic contributes to a greater difficulty of diagnosis for TB. This is where the rats step, or should I say scurry, in.

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The evaluation sheet for one of the star performers Astrid. You’ll see there are 4 control sample positive for TB. One is a very strong concentration, the other 3 are a standard. Astrid got them all correct and rewarded for all 4. All the ticks represent suspect cases in her expert opinion. Few of the other rats had the same high sense of smell.

You’ll notice that the second TB suspect sample the rat detected she wasn’t rewarded for as it was not a control case (i.e. it was not confirmed positive.) But Mary the rat, was so confident she was convinced she was to be rewarded. We noticed most of the rats indicate TB in this particular sample so it would be sent back to the lab and most likely confirmed as a positive TB case.

For anyone who had previously pegged rats as worthless vermin, prepare to have your minds blown. A single rat can evaluate more samples of suspected TB in 30 minutes than a trained lab technician can test in 4 days. And not only are they quicker, they are more accurate. In the first 16 months, Maputo’s TB sniffing rats evaluated approximately 12,500 potential TB patients. Of those, 1,700 were found positive for TB by the conventional microscopy methods. The HeroRATs detected an additional 764 patients missed by the labs, resulting in a 44% increase detection rates.

A great clip of the TB rats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvUUadKKQ1s

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Me and one of the rats – They are nocturnal so only work for a couple of hours in the morning before going back to bed. Wish I could jag a similar working arrangement.

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The Maputo team

But what about modern, cutting edge detection methods, you ask? Well an automated diagnostic test called GeneXpert is seen as a real game changer in the fight against TB. However the device costs about $17,000 and between $10 and $17 per test. The rats on the other hand cost just $8000 to train and work, quite literally, for bananas. And I am guessing that the GeneXpert wiz-bang TB machine would not function in a place like Mozambique for 7 years the way a rat would. They are appropriate technology for the developing regions of the world.

But what about modern, cutting edge detection methods, you ask? Well an automated diagnostic test called GeneXpert is seen as a real game changer in the fight against TB. However the device costs about $17,000 and between $10 and $17 per test. The rats on the other hand cost just $8000 to train and work, quite literally, for bananas. And I am guessing that the GeneXpert wiz-bang TB machine would not function in a place like Mozambique for 7 years the way a rat would. They are appropriate technology for the developing regions of the world.

We were fascinated to hear of APOPOs future aspirations for the HeroRATs. At this stage the rats are a secondary detection method for TB. The rats go over samples that have already been evaluated by the lab. When multiple rats on multiple occasions detect a suspect sample cleared by the lab it is sent back for re-analysis. What APOPO is working towards is gathering enough data to statistically support the use of rats as a first line screening method. They would be used in conjunction with the more conventional and expensive methods of detection, but they would be weeding out the majority of the negative samples, reducing the time and work burden on conventional labs not to mention the costs.

The South African government has apparently expressed interest in the potential for the rats to work in prisons and mines. TB is such a huge health risk where people are working and living in close quarters, presenting perfect conditions for the rapid spread of the disease in absence of a cheap, reliable and rapid form of detection. Having worked in mining I became used to having a breath test for alcohol (a ‘breatho’) at the start of every shift. I was pretty amused by the mental image this conjured of mine workers going for their morning ‘rato’ test to make sure you weren’t under the influence of TB. TB is obviously not funny but the ideas and possibility of the humble rats is mind bending.

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Group photo

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One of the rats checking out my ride

Take this for example, we learnt they don’t actually know what it is that the rats are smelling when they detect the TB. Yes, they know that they are reacting to the TB bacteria as they have been trained through ‘operative conditioning’, ie reward the rats with food in the presence of a positive TB sample. But the actual chemicals they are smelling in the positive TB samples, they do not know. They suspect it must be some kind of enzyme of the TB germ that is distinctive to the rats. If they could gain an understanding of what exactly they are smelling there would be considerable scope for developing a non-invasive breath test for TB. This would be a significant improvement as current testing relies on a patient coughing up sputum, which is not always possible for children and the very sick for example. One of the trials they have going on is called CameRAT where they are investigating the potential to use rats wearing small cameras to participate in search and rescue operations in natural disaster/building collapse situations. Watch a video of an early trail here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCQRbPz3MF4

Suffice as to say, it was utterly fascinating stuff that is doing a lot of good and has huge potential to do even more. And it all came about because a creative and cluey guy in Belgium, once had a pet rat…..

You can find more info on their website www.apopo.org and you should like their excellent Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/heroRAT?fref=ts

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We found this great café near the embassies that served great coffee and Portuguese desserts

After an awesome morning with the rats with headed into town to try our luck at getting a visa for Egypt, the easiest one of 3 visas that we need heading north, along with Ethiopia and Sudan. The first person we spoke to at the Egyptian embassy informed us that they only issued visas to Mozambique citizens, which is what they always say. We reasoned that there must be a way for people from other countries to get visas on the road and eventually another lady who worked at the embassy come along to help us. She took an interest in our bike trip and she went to discuss the matter with the consul. When she returned she informed us that we could come and pick up the visa the following day. She also let us know that when we picked up the visa she’d love to see our bikes and take a photo. Elsa was a huge help to us and it was lovely to meet her and we are so happy to see that she has been following us and commenting on our blog. Thanks again Elsa! And if that wasn’t an awesome day in Maputo so far, Ken and Marietjie then took us out for an extravagant seafood dinner! Maputo is famous for prawns and it didn’t disappoint.

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Our Egyptian embassy guardian angel Elsa who we wouldn’t have got the visa without

With Egyptian visas in hand we felt like we were on a roll so ducked around the corner to try our luck with the notoriously difficult to secure Sudan tourist visa. We showed up and were treated like royal guests by everyone from the security guard to the embassy staff. We were served coffee while we waited and even offered fresh juice. We were informed by an assistant that the consul was currently out but that she could start the visa process in the meantime. We have heard many tales of people requiring a letter of introduction from their home embassy, hotel bookings, contact details for a person in Sudan, invitation letters and tourist reference numbers issued from Khartoum which can take weeks. We had none of those things. All we had were copies of various African visas and our carnet de passage documents demonstrating we are travelling through Africa to Europe. She said that if we just wrote our own introduction letter that would be fine.

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The Sudanese consul to Mozambique who made our day and dug our bikes

It was all looking quite positive, however we simply couldn’t believe it. We didn’t get our hopes up, yet did everything she asked on the off chance that it worked out. After the weekend we returned to the Sudan embassy and were this time greeted by the Consul who apologised a number of times that he could not process our visa the other day as he was busy – like the time of some bikers bums like us was more important than his. He then gave us the visas and informed us he was keen to check out the bikes parked out front. We couldn’t believe our luck we had the visas in our hands. Then he completely bowled us over by refusing payment for the visas. They should have been $US50 each and he just gave them to us. Have you ever heard of such a thing!

Much in the same way our use of remote border posts tends to benefit us, we have learned that it can be a lot easier applying for your visas in more distant countries. People who get their Sudan visas from Nairobi and Addis Ababa report very different experiences to ours. We celebrated our amazing visa feat with a great braai Ken and Maritjie’s two Aussie friends, Kit and Tony who had also been living and working in Maputo. It was great to spend some time with some fellow Aussies and to outnumber South Africans for the first time in months.

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Ken assisting Mick with the front suspension rebuild

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Pulling the forks apart

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Home made fork seal driver cut from a piece of PVC pipe

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New fork oil on the left, old fork oil on the right

While I was stuck sorting out visas and working on an essay that was nearly due, Mick worked on a list of bike chores. Mick’s front forks slowed but didn’t stop leaking oil after Zimbabwe and it was apparent a rebuild was in order. With the help of Ken (and the fork oil and seals he got us from SA) he got the forks rebuilt nice and plush again. Also, his steering damper had been leaking slowly for some time now, so that got rebuilt also using spare o-rings he was carrying (seriously Mick carries spares for EVERYTHING). Wheel bearings and steering bearings were inspected and regreased. Chains cleaned and greased. New brake pads installed. New heavy duty front tube and tyre goo installed. We also replaced my donated mirror with a new folding one sourced from South Africa. Mick checked my valve clearances and they were perfectly in spec, not bad for a bike with 47,000km on it. He also reset the height of our headlights which are so bright they seem to freak everyone out. The lights were sitting slightly too high so Mick took out the mounts and filed the slots out some more and put it back together.

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Mick taking advantage of a good work bench to rebuild my steering damper

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Steering damper gizzards

I replaced our front sprockets and set about changing Mick’s front tyre. I was deep in essay procrastination mode so was insistent on changing the tyre despite my shoulder injury. This was a mistake. As my right shoulder was still very poorly I had to resort to using my left hand which I have near to no coordination in. I was just about to get the last of the tyre on to the rim when my left hand grip slipped and the tyre lever flew up and clocked me in the face just above my right eye. Any lower and I think I could have done serious damage. As it was I very nearly passed out and the room was spinning for some time. Yet even at the time I was very aware what I did was very stupid so I set about trying to hide my folly from Mick. But he noticed something was up and came to inspect. I was fighting back tears successfully until I saw the blood and became alarmed. It was awful but didn’t need stitches. I then left the bike work to work on my essay which at that point felt like the safer course of action.

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Changing the worn out front sprockets

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Nothing says thank you like a 10,000 calorie breakfast

On the weekend we cooked an extravagant French toast feast for brunch before Mick and Ken went to the local MX track and did some riding on Ken’s Husky. I stayed and worked on my essay due the next day (I am completing the last few units of a degree while we travel). Mick had a good time and was in awe of Ken who was absolutely hooking in and getting serious air over the jumps. He is fit and mean on a motorbike.

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Mick taking Ken’s Husqvarna TE310 for a spin… taking it easy on someone elses bike…

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They went riding of a track near the aluminium smelter. Some of the bikers pool money to pay a couple of local guys to maintain the track.

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The track is 100% sand

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Our loaded DRs often feel like lumbering fat pigs…all the more so having ridden on the Husky

We were keen to celebrate handing in my first essay of the semester so we headed for the Maputo fish market. I had heard and read mixed reviews about the fish market with some saying it is fantastic while others complained it was a tourist trap full of charlatans. For us, it was brilliant and one of the highlights of our time in Maputo.

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Oyster girl

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Clam ladies

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Highly tempted to get crab for lunch

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But the prawns are the main draw here

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Check out the size of the things

On our way to fish market we got pulled over for the first time. As the officer came up to us we did our best to push the many horrible stories of corrupt Mozambican police out of our minds. Sure enough he was just a guy doing his job and when he saw our papers were in order he waved us on and actually directed us to the fish market. We’d been warned about corrupt and unscrupulous police throughout Mozambique and am happy to report that we encountered none. I am convinced that we are lucky travellers and that on the bikes we are simply not as much of a target for extortion.

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A lot of fish markets you go to you can smell a mile away. This one you could barely smell even from within it. A sign of how fresh the produce was.

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‘My fish for your inspection’

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GET IN MY BELLY!

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One of the many prawn sellers

The fish market was a lot smaller and calmer than we were expecting. There was the odd hawker out front but they seemed to clear off when we entered the market. Produce was undeniably fresh with piles of oysters, mussels, fish, prawns, lobster, calamari – you name it. We were spoilt for choice but ultimately decided on getting a kilo of calamari, a kilo of prawns and a 1.5kg crayfish. The deal is you buy the gear then go out back and get a restaurant to cook it for you.

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This is the lady we bought our squid from

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And here is the one we bought our prawns from.

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More ocean life

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More fish

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Before going to the market I googled the place to get an idea of prices and was met with many stories of all the creative ways people will rip you off there; putting excess water and even stones in the bags, using dodgy scales, swapping out fresh fish for older fish once it hits the restaurant kitchen. These stories of imminent rip offs are not all that helpful and just create a level of suspicion and negativity that you can do without. When it comes down to it if you are satisfied with the produce and the price being offered; that is good. If not, bargain. Tell them it doesn’t feel like 1kg and offer a lower price or tell them to give you more. Worrying if you are paying more than you should just takes the fun out of the experience. I can no longer remember what we paid for things but it may have been about $10 per kg for large prawns, $8 per kg of squid and $17 for 1.5kg of crayfish.

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The guys we got to cook up our haul

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We were excited to eat this bad boy

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There were no instructions necessary. They knew exactly what they were doing. All that remained was to drink beer and wait. Mick approved highly of the Mozambican beers

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This guy was selling some cool stuff. There are a few hawkers about but they aren’t too insistent at all.

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And it seems there is an arrangement. They can come up to people before the food arrives but the moment it is on the table they won’t approach.

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The place was smaller than we expected but it was perfect. Popular with visitors and locals alike.

We found a place with friendly looking staff to cook our haul. I think we were paying about $1 per kg to clean and prepare, then to cook it was about $3-4 per kg. They clearly knew what they were doing as we almost lost our minds at the taste. Never had I had better seafood and the place had a great atmosphere and it didn’t feel like a tourist trap at all to us. We easily could have stayed there drinking beer and rubbing our distended stomachs until dinnertime came but we’d planned to cook for Ken and Marietjie to thank them for their hospitality. We bought 2kg of prawns for the road and made our way back to whip up a Thai coconut prawn curry.

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Behold the crayfish!

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Tasted even better than it looked.

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Heaven is a crayfish

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And the prawns…..

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We.Ate.All.The.Things

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And got some more for the road

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And turned it into this

After an excellent and productive stay in Maputo it was time to leave. I think we were so reluctant to leave our new friends that we really faffed about getting going… even more than usual, I mean. We took care of some superficial little bike jobs like re-siliconing my volt meter back on to the dash, replacing a missing bolt in Mick’s exhaust end cap, plus a few others. We had such a fantastic time with Ken and Marietjie who were more fun and carefree than the average 20 year old. With any luck we’ll be able to convince them to come riding with us somewhere. We were sad to be leaving such good company and their dogs, especially my mate Frankie who would have been an awesome addition to the team. I reluctantly agreed it would be poor form to steal their dog after all they have done for us.

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I fell in love with the Frank man but Mick wouldn’t let me take him even though he was obviously keen

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Our awesome new biker buddies

After saying our goodbyes we set about negotiating Maputo’s traffic, filling up and getting some cash. We fell about 30kms short of our planned destination when the sun went down and opted to stay there in the town of Marcia. In the last few km before town I had some ground dwelling animal jump out on the road and explode on my left boot. I didn’t know what it was but it was sizable enough that my ankle was sore inside my SIDIs. I thought it was a hare but feathers glued to my boots with blood and guts revealed it must have been some kind of fowl. Sorry fella.

We found a hotel in town that was nice though expensive, had a feed and crashed out for the night. The next day we tried to figure out what we should do with ourselves while we waited for our KLR riding biker mate Mark to come and meet us. Someone recommended that we check out a place called Bilene which had some nice campsites and a great lagoon. We planned on a quiet and peaceful rest and recuperation at the beach…… and then we met our South African’s camp neighbours….. with their hospitality, their never ending meat supplies, their rivers of R&Rs….we didn’t stand a chance.

3 Comments on “Bet You Didn’t Know This About Rats

  1. We absolutely love all of your blogs… thank you so much for the excellent fun and informative treasures. Keep it up and travel safely. xxxx Beth, Pete and family

    • Hi Guys!!

      We are enjoying your beautifully written blogs soooo much! Glad to see you having a great time, and your positive attitudes,
      yet wise observations are refreshing.
      I bet my Yamaha would not have needed so much work though. Just joking.
      Our best wishes,
      Danie and Sara.

      • Your Yamaha maybe not but your KTM sure would have…if it made it this far!!!
        So glad to hear you are enjoying the blog. Wish you guys were here with us.

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