Boat To Cobue From Malawi To Mozambique

Cobue Border – Traveling Northern Mozambique by Boat, Truck, Van + Train

Traveling from Malawi to Mozambique

My journey down the Swahili coast – from Kenya to Mozambique – stopped abruptly at the Mozambican Embassy in Dar es Salaam; facing a bureaucratic brick wall in Tanzania.

lake malawi beach  Cobue Border northern Mozambique
Taking a small boat from Likoma Island – across Lake Malawi to the Mozambique side and the village of Cobue. (Expect to wait until early afternoon in Likoma for enough passengers to make this trip.)

Mozambique required travelers coming from Tanzania to get a visa before arrival

After viewing the visa requirements at the Mozambique Embassy, I just walked out – muttering obscenities.

maps of travel northern Mozambique border crossing at cobue
Mozambique Overland Travel: from Likoma Island in Lake Malawi to Cobue and over to Mozambique Island.

Requirements for a Mozambique Visa Issued in Dar es Salaam are Anal

$US 100 for the visa ( = expensive).

5 working days wait (so, basically a week).

Passport-sized pics and forms filled-out ( usual; ok, fine ).

Invitation letter stating why I wanted to go to Mozambique ( why waste my time? )

Bank statement ( declaring I have $US 5000 – WTF ! )

And, other petty shit …

Boat To Cobue border crossing From Malawi To Mozambique
Sunset over the “port” at the Cobue border crossing in Northern Mozambique.

I knew a week (I’d already waited 3 days over a long holiday weekend) of waiting around in Dar es Salaam would be too much frustration, and expense.

However, I knew that at any other countries’ bordering Mozambique, overland entry at the border was simply a visa issued upon arrival.

Travel By Truck Across Northern Mozambique
Traveling northern Mozambique. On the road in the back of a truck – the only public transport – that would later be packed with timber, a bicycle, and loads of people. It was an uncomfortable 6 hours sweltering along dusty roads from Cobue to Metangula. I shared sack of pebbles as a cushion with a young woman. Every time the bumps and sloping roads sent passengers and stuff moving  – sometimes into each other in crushes of agony. Sometimes “passengers” had to get out and walk so the truck could climb the hill (= the RIGHT SIDE photo).

Crossing Lake Malawi to Cobue Border in Mozambique

Studying my map of Africa, I found an alternative travel route into Northern Mozambique: a remote border crossing at Cobue on Lake Malawi.

But, it would add an extra 1500+ km to my Cairo to Cape Town overland trip.

Cuamba Street Scenes Mozambique
Hanging out in Cuamba for 2 days, awaiting the train’s departure to Nampula.

So, the NEW PLAN ( – see map above ):

Cut south-west from the coast across the highlands of southern Tanzania and down into northern Malawi, then across the lake Malawi by boat from Likoma Island to the Cobue border crossing in remote north-western Mozambique.

And from there, travel east to Mozambique Island off the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Train Journey Cuamba To Nampula Mozambique

Kids at village stop. RIGHT: Inselburgs – granite humps – dominated the landscape and along with bright summer leaves, it reminded me totally of Korea in Autumn. BELOW: Inside the “executive class” carriage. (I had decided to treat myself with movable feast – it was only $5 more.  BUT despite it being a new addition to the train service, after only 2 months in service this A/C carriage was now broken, so it was sweltering. But at least not over-crowded like the other carriages – where luggage safety posed issues. A South African para-medic, working for the railway company and doing this journey regularly as his job, told me that some months ago, he’d had his entire backpack – including laptop – stolen when traveling 2nd class).
Vendors At Train Station in Northern Mozambique
At stops, vendors swarmed the train.

At the Cobue Border, I got a Mozambique Visa on Arrival for $US 30

AND, no extra paperwork or BS.

Nothing (like in Dar es Salaam).

All done within 15 minutes.

Cuamba To Nampula Train traveling Northern Mozambique
The weekly train from Cuamba to Nampula in Mozambique. It took all day, and arrived 5 hours late. But it was an amazing, dreamy train trip traveling Northern Mozambique. Hunger and sweltering heat was offset by my red wine picnic – and additional cold beer bought from vendors. I arrived that evening in Nampula, trashed and elated. Next stop: Mozambique Island.

Travels in Mozambique – 2013


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