Friday, March 5, 2010

Vacation Part V

  • The only language spoken in Mozambique is Portuguese, but it’s kind of similar to Spanish…
  • Roads in Mozambique are atrocious due to potholes. We had to drive extremely slowly across the country, especially at night.
  • In Tofo we took at guided snorkeling tour, jumping off the boat to swim with dolphins. It was fun until a 4m long Tiger Shark glided below the boat…
  • Mozambican restaurant service is unbearably slow. The worst I have seen in my travels. To the extent where we would always cook for ourselves to avoid it

Part V: Eventually… The Beaches of Mozambique

4:57… AM. For the first time in a long, long time, I was freezing. I guess that’s what you get after complaining about the heat for two weeks straight. Anyway, it wouldn’t last. We packed up our campsite in the Vumba Mountains of Mozambique, to the songs of extremely large birds as they jumped around in the trees above us. After a quick adventure with a bunch of monkeys through the gardens of the park, we hopped back in our beloved POS pick-up truck and headed back to Mutare. We stopped into a super market, picked up some supplies, and hired a taxi driver to take us to the Mozambican border. The traffic was brutal as loads of white Zimbabweans were making their way East for New Years Eve (it was December 27th) and the beaches of Mozambique.

The border was a pain in the butt. I sat in “line” with our American passports, waiting for our visas, forever. Apparently American passports are quite the customs magnet- the customs officials were insistent on letting us go first. By the time I got out of there I was despised by everyone in the immigration room, with one guy uttering, “Just because he has BLUE passports” numerous times. As soon as we crossed into Mozambique we were bombarded with guys trying to sell us their currency (the met) and soon after we found ourselves at the center of a price war as we calmly decided which bus to take to Chimoyo, the nearest city.

A quick trip of 75 kilometers, we made it to the inland city at around noon. Let me just say that at this point we had no idea how we were getting anywhere or where we were staying that night. Our ambitious goal was to get to Vilanculos, Mozambique, a beautiful beach town, by nightfall (look at a map, its not close). After several minutes of talking to bus drivers and taxi drivers in broken, broken, Spanish (yes, they speak Portuguese, I know), we realized that we miiiight have bit off more than we could chew.

Then we realized we were in a dirty, hot, inland town (when we SHOULD be on a beach), and it would be much more fun to wake up on the ocean than here. We would do whatever it took to get out of this place, today. We hired a guy, Xavi, to drive us the 600kms to Vilanculus, and though it was pretty expensive, we realized we had been living quite frugally, and a reward of sorts was OK at this point. I could talk about this trip, all 12 hours of it, in its own essay entitled, “The Portuguese Car Hire: How to get your driver to turn down his f-ing music if you can’t speak Portuguese.” (Quickly: turn down horrific “music,” jam headphones in his ears, and provide ad hoc DJing every time he screams, “CHANGE!”) Thanks for that, Hooter.

“Highlights” from the trip: Our driver didn’t speak English, drove 60kph the whole time (subtract 40kph every time you see a pothole), worst music ever at highest volume possible, paying off police, flat tire, lots of pineapples, occasional thoughts of we could be back in Zimbabwe for all I know, and arriving at 3am after getting stuck on a beach of a road with a driver who doesn’t know how to use his own 4-wheel drive.

We woke up in our tent-sauna, in Vilanculus, with the Indian Ocean never looking so good. We stayed in the town for two days, relaxing, swimming, recovering from our surreal drive, and reading horrible books like SANDSTORM by James Rollins (available on for definitely $7.99 too much). The town was devoid of tourists, giving it a nice, laid back feeling, with backpackers’ hostels serving as the only accommodations. On December 30th, we got a ride into town, where we took a hysterical mini-taxi four hours south to Tofo Beach, to spend New Years Eve with four of our other interns. This mini-taxi was literally falling apart as we drove, there were several chickens on board, and my legs were about 10 inches too long for the “leg room” that I was allotted.

Tofo Beach is located on the Tofo Peninsula, and in order to get to our destination we would have to take a ferry from Maxixe (Ma-Sheesh). I voted for taking the tiny sailboat straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, but I was overruled. We crossed the bay, got some food, and were retrieved by a shuttle from our hostel, Fatima’s Nest. After 45 minutes we were at our home. Interns, Mike Zales (Port Elizabeth), Karti Subramanian (Johannesburg), Jess Pettit (Cape Town), and Chris Kaimmer (Richmond) found us quickly- civilization!

Arriving at Tofo kind of brought us back to reality – we were out of the wilderness and back into the real world. It had been a great run – Sarah, Amy, Hooter and I were still alive – no elephant tramples, no whitewater rafting mishaps, no killer hippos, and only a few food “situations” ;) ;). AND we still liked each other.. I think. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and each one of us played such an important roll and had such a great time. I could not have asked for anything more. Well, maybe some room service.

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