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April 1, 2013 / samwilson60

On top of the world

From our wild camp we were soon at the base of the Tundravala escarpment, where we found chips (an unexpected roadside treat) and let the Tinker Beast cool down before attempting our ascent up the Leba Pass. It’s never a great sign when the car needs to cool off in anticipation of over-exertion, but once trundling along in nothing over second gear she did surprisingly well – and gave us plenty of time to enjoy the experience. Strange undulations in the tarmac aside, you just couldn’t beat it. This was the most incredible stretch of road we’d driven since entering Africa, and the views from the top were even better.

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There was apparently a campsite (still in construction?) in Humpata, the first town at the top of the pass, but we also had a waterfall marked on our map – options aplenty! We tried to check out the campsite but saw only a campsite-style toilet block in what otherwise looked like a private garden. There was no one around and no obvious ‘reception’, so we thought we’d see what the falls had to offer and start knocking on doors if we couldn’t camp wild elsewhere.

The track out to the waterfalls was intersected at some point by a padlocked gate and a sign advertising something veterinary. We struggled to communicate with the guardian of the gate but he did seem to confirm that there was a ‘cascado’ on the other side and seemed happy for us to visit it, for a fee. Numbers are our most obvious failing in Portuguese (will work on that before Mozambique!) so it took a while and lots of writing in the dirt on the truck to work out how much he was asking. It was more than we’d expected but, if we could camp inside, still cheaper and more appealing than a night anywhere else. We tried to convey our plans (enter tonight, leave tomorrow) but this clearly didn’t get through. No matter – we’d worry about the exit in the morning. For now we were happy to seek out the waterfalls and a nice camp spot nearby.

The track the other side of the gate passed through some beautiful forest with lots of shaded tent space, but beyond that was an eerie, nearly-but-not-quite deserted village and the route from there to the falls got markedly more confused. The one we had on the map looked disused and boggy, so we tried going round the derelict houses another way and ended up within metres of the waterfall, atop some beautiful rolling hills. Wandering around on foot, we realised we were actually behind the falls and while obviously nothing epic, the view would clearly be better from the other side. To get to the other side, however, we’d have to take the disused, boggy piste. Or we could settle for the pretty stream up high and camp in the hills. The grass was more rocks up close and eventually we decided to try our luck on the other side, so headed back through the ‘village’ and the bog – all the way to the broken bridge.

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It seems it’s not possible to get to the front of the falls at all anymore – even on foot it would have been a challenge – and although we’d doubtless not have understood if he’d tried, we were a little taken aback that the guardian of the gate had clearly not even tried to explain this seemingly key fact. It was a beautiful area though, and perfect wild camping territory (if you get away from the ‘village’ that is, which by this point had brought to mind Shaun of the Dead of all things and was therefore starting to unsettle us a little). We headed back into the forest, which was even nicer than we’d thought initially – we had lots of shade, our own little stream, springy grass for the tent, twigs for the kettle, the cool breeze of altitude and even more pebbles for the Awale board in the making!

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One Comment

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  1. Peter Cullen / Apr 1 2013 9:44 am

    Cracking images.

    Peter

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