28-Nov-2006 -- Follow the elephant dung
Visiting a degree confluence point in Mozambique starts at the Mozambique Demining institute. During a bloody civil war which lasted 15 years (1977-1992), tens of thousands of landmines were placed all over the country. Although most of them were cleared during the last 10 years, in remote rural areas small patches with mines remain, which could make 'confluence hunting' in Mozambique a dangerous hobby. Information from local NGOs working in the area and from local villagers is therefore indispensable.
The next step was checking the confluence points we had in mind on 'Google Earth'. Stef discovered a road that could not be seen on any detailed map we found previously. From the national highway this road leads almost straight to the 23S 35E point. Just a stretch of about two kilometres remained unexplored.
On 28 November we started early from a lodge nearby, about 77 km from the confluence point. We were curious about the 'Google Earth' road we found. Would it be possible to drive this road or was it only a firebreak to prevent the spread of forest fires? We were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a sandy road in good condition, lined with slash and burn fields, where local farmers were growing pineapple, bananas, cassava etc. All along the way, very friendly people assured us that the road was continuing in the right direction and was in good condition and that it was save to travel onwards. After about 22 kilometres on this road, we reached the point closest to the Confluence.
Along the way we got a bit worried when looking at the thick inpenetrable bush along the roadside. We parked our car in a small open area along the road. The bush did not look as hostile as we feared. In a good mood we started to wrestle ourselves through the thick undergrowth. Both of us being inexperienced GPS-users, we wondered about this miraculous machine but at the same time we had to get used to the delayed movement of the electronic compass-needle. We didn't move very fast and wandered from open area to open area through animal-made paths. After finding a heap of elephant dung we realized who had made these walkways...
At times the bush got thicker and thicker and progressing became very strenuous. After a little bit more than an hour, we reached exactly what we expected: an insignificant point in the bush. No pole or stick or lines on the earth. A trivial spot just underneath a young tree, where the screen of our GPS indicated S23.0000 and E35.0000. If we moved it a few centimetres the last digits would change. This was it.
We celebrated this achievement and took our pictures. The views in the four wind directions looked exactly alike: dense bush. Fascinating stuff, this Degree Confluence Project. Oh, if you want to go for a second visit to this point: bring a machete!