Stories

 

Mozambique


From the 16th of September to the 12th of October, 2016



We left the highway, followed the dirt road cutting through rural villages for about 20 kilometers. The more we progressed, the more potholes we had to avoid. At some point, our SatNav indicated to turn left. "Did you see a track?" Well, there was indeed a little opening in the bush, but it was pretty sandy. Hoping this would lead to a bigger track a few kilometers away, we engaged the 4x4 and went for it. The track became even narrower and the sand softer and deeper. Fearing to get stuck we couldn't slow down nor turn around. The narrow track surrounded by a dense bush was wide enough for a donkey cart, but definitely not for a car. The constant sound of the branches scratching Hyundi's paint was very painful. And hitting a little trunk without being able to slow down didn't help. Luckily the bulbar saved our bumper and hood from bigger damage. It took another 20 kilometers until our adrenaline lever could drop while reaching the first village. This "shortcut" to avoid Maputo which our SatNav suggested turned out to nearly lead into catastrophy... First lesson: there are no such things as shortcuts in Mozambique!

    

"Olá, como vai você?" With my broken Portugnol (Mix of Spanish and Portuguese), I could finally speak with the local ladies selling their veggies by the street without having the feeling of being a gringo in Mexico. Luckily, it was much easier to be understood here than it was in Brazil. For sure both countries have this tropical vibe we like so much and beautiful beaches. Aren't those the ingredients for the perfect holidays? Coincidently, Mozambique was planned to be our holidays within the trip. And because it coincided with the end of our African journey, we decided to take it really easy. We stayed in each places for a couple of nights and limited our driving days to around 100 kilometers. Much to our surprise, we found a more or less untouched coast. Beaches and resorts are not easily accessible. The main highway from the southern main borders to Vilanculos is really good. However reaching a beach meant driving on sandy tracks for 5 to 20 kilometers, sometimes 4x4 only.

Zavora beach was a convenient stop to break the journey on our way to Tofo. Although I wasn't expecting much more than another beach, it ended up being our most memorable place in Mozambique. It was the first time we had a camping spot overlooking the ocean, but that's not it.

Although they didn't make a big fuss about their diving trips, I gave it a shot. As soon as we jumped from the boat, we discovered a few manta rays "flying" over the reef followed by dozens of little fish. At barely 15 meters deep, this reef is actually a cleaning station where the mantas are getting rid of their parasites. For almost an hour, the group kept gliding past me at a very slow pace while looking right into my eyes or skimming my hair. I felt moments of complicity where I was more a guest than a spectator. Being the only diver, the divemaster stepped back to let me enjoy one of my most memorable dive with the sound of the singing whales setting the background soundtrack.

    

When scuba diving, I often feel like I'm dreaming, this underwater world and those amazing creatures must be my imagination. In a reoccurring dream, I am training my ability to breath water. I have been training at night for years!

Diving on my own allows me to have more intimacy with those creatures. But I actually like to dive with someone who can witness when my dream become reality. Someone who will understand the smile which will stick to my face for the rest of the day. After that amazing immersion, I convinced Raphael to join me for his first ocean scuba dive. A discovery dive which would make many divers jealous. As a fairly experienced diver, I know what a special dive he had there. Therefore I recommended him: never dive again!

Being one of the most commercialized beaches in the country, I pictured Tofo to be packed with fancy resorts. It is indeed more developed than any other beach we had seen so far, but it was nowhere near the Cancun type of resorts. At this time of the year (October), we had the beach to ourselves. But the main draw here is the ocean. I went out scuba diving in the southern part of Tofo where I discovered beautiful coral, big schools of barracudas and jacks, lots of colorful fish and a couple of mantas. It was a nice day out, but my manta experience wasn't comparable to Zavora. While I was out diving, Rapha joined an ocean safari for his first encounter with the gracious whale shark. The following day I didn't get the same luck, the big fish wasn't up for swimming along snorkelers. However I had to chance to snorkel with playful dolphins checking me out.

    

Vilanculos is at the doorstep of the Bazaruto archipelago known for its calm turquoise waters and very colorful coral reef. At low tide, the ocean retreats for a few hundred meters forming little lagoons where the kids can play safely. But one has to know when to walk back as you could easily get trapped by the water. In a very short time the tide rises all the way to the palm trees leaving only a very narrow beach. Unfortunately the weather didn't play in our favor. On the outer part of the archipelago the ocean was way too rough for a scuba diving trip. One day I'll be back for sure...

    

While in South Africa, we received warnings about the police behavior in Mozambique. Ready for the worst, all valuables were hidden in deep spots and we made a strategy. Whatever happen, we do not speak English! There were indeed police check in most villages, but they kept waving us through, stopping mostly trucks and passenger vans. Luckily, other drivers often times warned us about upcoming speed check which saved our asses but one of too many finally got us. "Sprechen Sie deutsch? Parlez-vous français?" Of course there is no need to speak any language to understand the situation when seeing a picture of your car with your speed next to it... But understanding ways of payment can get complicated. "Sorry, no money." After some nonsense discussions, he gave us our driving license back (it wasn't the original anyway...) while asking me to get a little present from our car. I shook his hand with a big smile pretending he said goodbye and left. Rapha couldn't believe what had just happened. "Are you going to give him something?" "No way, don't look at them and drive! " Got a pretty good training in Central America, huh?

Mozambique was a huge contrast to developed South Africa. We could again buy fruits and veggies in the markets or along the road. It is a nice way to exchange a few words with the locals and stop in villages you wouldn't usually stop. Along the road, locals are selling whatever their garden produced that day. It can be 3 papayas, 2 potatoes, 10 oranges and 5 tomatoes. At the end, we were stopping at every little stall and I was buying all they had to get sufficient stock for a few days on the beach. Also, thanks to the Portuguese colonization, they have padarias producing really good bread and pastries all around. Being a very poor country, there are always kids trying to sell something cheap or ask for money but the way they ask is rather sweet than insisting. I'm wondering: why is it always in the poorest countries where we find the sweetest people?

    

We spent one month in Mozambique, entering from South Africa, drove all the way to Vilanculos and backtracked most of our journey to enter Swaziland. In two weeks time, Hyundi will be loaded in a container in Durban. As mentioned in my Zambian story, we decided not to enter the country from Malawi nor Zambia as the political situation was rather unstable in this part of the country. From what we heard from other travelers, northern and southern Mozambique have a totally different vibe. For sure the south was hassle free and we felt totally safe. Unfortunately the media isn't pointing out that difference and is therefore influencing many tourists, mainly South Africans, to cancel their holidays altogether.

For me Mozambique was definitely a highlight in this journey with beautiful beaches, friendly Mozambicans, outstanding diving. Did I mention that my most memorable dives with the Manta Rays were also my cheapest dives ever? I will for sure be back one day for more diving in those spots where the weather didn't play in our favor.

Click here to read the following story about our journey in Spain.

Album "Mozambique - September-October 2016"