Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Na costa da Mozambique

Another country, another language, everything is different here from Zimbabwe! People live in little round huts made from grass mats, and they eat fish and drink Mozambican beer and dance the night away. A night that starts early, because we're at the eastern-most edge of the time zone, so it gets dark around 4:30 in the afternoon.

I crossed over from Nyanga almost two weeks ago, and at the border post got promptly ripped off by clever street money traders with a trick calculator while changing my money into the local currency, Meticais - one Mt is worth about 3 cents. A zim girl who was also walking across the noman's land decided I needed help, and adopted me for the rest of the day - she suggested we hitchhike to Beira together. Hitching a ride on a truck is a much more comfortable way to travel than by minibus: you get to sit next to the driver on your own seat, or take a nap on the little on-board bed they all have, you can request a bathroom stop anytime, and buy copious amounts of cheap cheap pineapples and oranges on the side of the road.
Pineapples on the road

Of course the roads in that part of the country are so bad that said truck took about 8 hours to cover the 300km to Beira, dodging pot holes along the way. And when I finally got to my couchsurfer Flore's house, I just barely had the energy to head down to the beach with her, buy a Laurentina (one of the three local beers) from a street vendor there and dip my feet in the Indian ocean.

Indian ocean sunrise

All the buildings are owned by corporations... or falling apart.

Jongue and mother, and me stirring chima.
I stayed in Beira for one weekend: crumbling colonial glory, defunct ports, dirt roads in the city center. I hung out with Flore, as well as with her boyfriend Jongue, a local musician who builds jembe drums for a living

and whose big African mother cooked me one of the local specialties, Matapas - crabs in a stew of Manioc leaves cooked with peanut and coconut shreds. Wow was that tasty! And Saturday evening took us to a remote campsite with all of Jongue's musician friends around a big fire, eating and making music. Dancing and jamming with a jembe band on my little guitar even the Portuguese speaking got a bit easier.

My place in Vilanculos
From Beira I headed on the overnight bus to Vilanculos, a tiny beach town a few hundred km South of Beira. Here I found a strange contrast between some lovely absolutely Western hostels, complete with pool and British backpackers, and a city centre full of red dust roads an little round reed huts. Oranges cost 1Mt on the street, coconuts are free off the palm trees. The water is amazingly warm, and the children still get excited when they see a white person walking by (mostly because they hope for some candy or money I think, but they're friendly anyways).

The first day I made friends with some local fishermen on the beach, and they spontaneously offered to take me out fishing! So I spent a whole working day out at sea on Cpt. Tarcisio's boat, the Natyiwane, helped them pull in the nets out near the Bazaruto archipelago, and went home with 5 lovely little fish for dinner.

Vou pra ilha de mare...
Pulling in the catch

Since my couch surfer here, Hugo from Spain, works as a diving guide in Vilanculos, I decided I couldn't miss on a chance to see the stunning archipelago close-up. We went by speed boat over to the island, poked around the bush and waterholes inland in the morning, and then went for a snorkel in the reefs in the afternoon. I didn't expect it to be so good, but I just loved it! Huge rainbow-colored fish got a bit distressed when I tried to chase them down, and some of the corals change colors when you poke them with your finger... Unfortunately I came out of the water with slightly changed colors myself, and a case of stage 2 hypothermia, lips purple, disoriented and unable to speak! But a few cups of hot coffee and all the skippers' spare sweatshirts brought me back to normal quickly enough.

Exploring Bazaruto

Somehow we ended up crashing a local wedding at the hostel!

And what else? I made friends with lots of other travellers at the pool side, took time to relax, and then headed down further South in a mad sleepless trip to Maputo. Saturday night I got on a bus in the dusty center of town, roundabout 2 in the morning. My new-found travel companion Ines showed up with a bottle of Tipo Tinto, the cheapest alcohol you can get here - 50Mt for a 500mL bottle of rum. Good value... And it made the bus ride so much more enjoyable! At 6 in the morning we arrived at the waypoint of Maxixe, from
Ines and Daniel and the crumbling glory of Inhambane's old cathedral

where we caught a ferry full of freshly caught fish over to the charming old town of Inhambane. And what do you do early on a Sunday morning? Of course, church! Since the sermon was in Portuguese however, we didn't last through the whole service (I really feel sorry for everyone in the middle ages listening to Latin sermons every day). Instead we spent a few hours wandering the sort-of-but-not-quite Lisbon-like streets of the town, stocked up on bread, eggs and Tipo Tinto, and caught a ride with a friend of a friend into a proper beach colony, Tofo. Full of coconut palms and some of the most beautiful beaches in Mozambique.
Short short stay in Tofo!

Sleeping didn't seem worth my while, so I kept busy with a sunset walk on said beach, cooking some egg sandwiches,  going for a last skinny dip in the Indian ocean under a star lit sky and drinking TT with Ines and her Portuguese friends. Until 4 in the morning, when I haggled a good price for a chicken bus ride all the way down to Maputo.
Here I arrived on Monday, completely sleep deprived, to the house of an Englishman named Jerry - it's like the promised land, with internet, running water, wooden floors and located right in the center of this lively Southern African capital. The afternoon nap on a comfortable bed under a mosquito net was heaven, I think I might be adjusting back to civilization already!

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