LG’s Blog: Lessons learned and memories made in magical Mozambique

Ola, Blogville.

The year 2018 has pulled in faster than a car-guard at an East Rand mall when you return to your vehicle from a shopping session.

Two weeks of holidays have flown by and, as promised, I am back again to blog about my experiences.

This past festive season I accompanied seven friends to our southern African neighbour Mozambique (Tofo Beach in Inhambane Province, to be exact) for the very first time and it was lovely (like a bunch of coconuts, and man there are a lot of coconuts there).

Seeing as it was my debut venture into the land of 2M (‘Doshem’) beer, Tipo Tintos and sweet mangoes I thought I would share some of the lessons learned (as I tend to do in these blogs) with you.

So, let me kick-off my 2018 version of blogs with those lessons:

1. Be prepared to get fleeced 

Pasop!

From the moment you get over the South African border into Mozambique there are hoards of hustlers trying to swindle you out of your hard-earned Madibas.

One of my travelling buddies got taken for a ride at the border when converting Rands to Meticals (Meticais) while I too got fleeced at the local market in Tofo for more than I should have when buying a cellphone sim card.

If you purchase something from one of the beach sellers, be ready for a swarm of hawkers offering you everything from bracelets and freshly cut coconuts to a living and breathing tortoise (a true and sad story).

If you are Caucasian like me then your chances of getting ripped off are extremely high.

When you are dealing with a weaker currency (the going rate was 4MZN to R1) and working with banknotes with more zeros than you are used to then it’s easy to get schnaaied. 

Always be on the lookout for these tricks and harness your bargaining skills before you cross the border.

I get it though…

The tourist brings money and the local makes more income than he or she normally would.

My advice to the vendors was: “Go for the Europeans, not the South Africans.”

We met a couple from Manchester in England and they received 80 Meticals for one Pound Sterling!

Blimey!

Britons in Moz.

Anyway, the next lesson:

2. Mozambique really is magnificent

Duh, LG!

It would not be a tourist attraction if it were not.

They don’t call it the warm Mozambique Current for nothing (if you remember your Grade Four Geography classes).

The white, sandy, mostly untouched beaches and temperate waters are the draw-card for most, while others from all around the globe head to the country to dive, observe and study the teeming marine life along the country’s coastline.

While we were there in Tofo Beach divers boasted about seeing the world’s largest fish – the whale shark.

Moz is stunning and exquisite!

I mean, just look at this pozzy:

Tofo main beach.

Our Christmas Day was probably the best I have had (sorry, Mom).

Instead of the usual presents or big spread for a family lunch we were picked up by a gent in a bakkie at 8am on Jesus’ birthday to head to an island across a lagoon dubbed ‘Pig Island’ by the Portuguese colonists or Gidwane Island (as the islanders prefer to call it), followed by some snorkeling (a first for this landlubber Benonian who probably swallowed more sea water than recommended) and a visit to Pansy Island, a sand bank that makes its appearance only at low tide, to collect Pansy shells.

We piled into the back of the bakkie like a herd of goats from our Tofu residence and made our way to the lagoon, some 20km or so away.

After a bumpy bakkie journey we made it to the lagoon and boarded a homemade dhow boat.

Christmas 2017. A couple of South Africans ready to board the dhow to Pig Island.

We floated along the lagoon, having to change seating places on a regular basis to find some balance on the water (not easy with a cold 2M beer in hand).

My pals Lee and Christine are hard in training for the 70.3 Ironman South Africa in East London later this month and could not pass up the opportunity to swim alongside the dhow in the lagoon and get some aquatic kilometres in.

Our bewildered sailors allowed this and were blown away by the swimmers.

“They swim like fish,” said an impressed tour guide Johnny as the athletes swam towards the island.

You cannot keep a good athlete out of the action, even on Christmas. Christine and Lee swim alongside the dhow towards the island.

After our very own Penny Heyns and Michael Phelps were done in the water we arrived at the island and embarked on a bit of a cultural tour of the place.

We looked at the sandy football field, the school, the locals’ dwellings and had a Christmassy moment in the church.

UNICEF had erected a hospital tent on the island due to an outbreak of malaria on the island (before our visit).

Some shots of the island tour:

From there we enjoyed a lunch of chicken, barracuda and matapa (leaves from the matapa plant that are crushed along with peanuts and coconut) with the chief of the island – not quite the gammon and turkey of our usual Christmas feasts.

The chief (dressed to the nines in a Builder’s Warehouse shirt) was an amiable and good-humored dude, besides not speaking much English.

Chief (who has two wives) warned my married pal Robez that having one wife was “big trouble”, much to the disapproval of Robez’s Mrs, Sheila-Ann.

I, being a self-proclaimed hot sauce connoisseur, was impressed with the chilli sauce on the table and soon discovered that it was made by the big chief himself.

I offered to purchase a bottle from him and he happily obliged.

It’s not everyday that you own some hot sauce made by a chief.

LG with the chief of Gidwane Island and his homemade chilli sauce.

Our tour guide Johnny then showed us how to climb a palm tree to get to the coconuts, but those who tried could barely get a quarter of the way up.

I then understood why Johnny had some dodgy looking toenails.

Johnny makes climbing the palm tree look easy.

The island was an eye-opening experience for me.

It is a completely different world as compared to my high-walled, gated Rynfield residence.

The islanders might not have much, but life is simple.

My next lesson:

3. History helps us learn from the horrors of the past

As a journo I have learned that everyone has a story.

As a child Johnny lived in Tofo and was sent to the island by his mother when Civil War conflict was rife in Mozambique.

Can you imagine sending your child to an island just to keep them away from the horrors of civil war?

Crazy!

One afternoon my buddy Dave and I took a walk up to the monument not far from our house at Buraco dos Assassinatos, a 5m-high blowhole on a bluff south of Tofo, translated to “Execution Rock”.

Covered on three sides by sharp barnacles and dropping onto small boulders at low tide, the point was the site of countless assassinations.

First, the Portuguese used it to execute dissidents at the start of the rebellion, then Frelimo did the same to Renamo soldiers during the civil war.

It is a horrific way to die.

You get thrown down the hole (alive), break a limb during your fall, have your skin shredded on the sharp and narrow walls and then get washed away when the tide picks up again.

Take a look:

Inhumane, much?

I took a moment to show my respect to those who fell at Buraco dos Assassinatos and all those who fell during the independence struggle in Mozambique.

A moment’s respect for those who fell at Buraco dos Assassinatos and for Mozambique’s independence.

4. There ain’t no animal rights in Moz

There are definitely no Bunny Park activist groups in Mozambique.

Shame, the animals of Moz could use a voice.

From a tortoise being sold on the beachfront, goats tied by ropes to trees (I assume so they don’t run away), to some used and abused donkeys that I saw while driving the country, the SPCA would certainly have their work cut out for them if they ventured further north in Africa.

Over the New Year period folks honestly gave no Fs with their firecrackers.

I heard that Benoni was bad with people setting off fireworks, but I am sure that it couldn’t have been as bad as Tofo which felt like a Syrian airstrike was happening.

All I could think about was the poor animals.

What is mankind’s obsession with fireworks?

I don’t know, but let’s put an end to it, mmmkay?

5. The music is all around us

In Mozambique (like most of Africa) the music is everywhere.

I would wake in the morning to the sounds of music blaring from my Mozambican neighbour’s dwelling whether I liked it or not.

Hell, there was even plenty earsplitting Nicholis Louw tjoons booming from the vehicles of the Afrikaner holidaymakers.

A friend has a tattoo that reads: “My heart will always beat to the rhythm of an African drum”.

As will mine.

Obrigado, Mozambique.

There’s no place like Africa, my home.

Listen to the rhythm in your heart and let the music of 2018 guide you to places you’ve never been.

Peace be da journey.

LG

* Please note that this is an opinion piece and that the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Benoni City Times or Caxton Newspapers.

Check out some other blogs from this writer:

Things I learned (and am still learning) about road running after completing my first marathon

LG’s A to Z of a South African road trip

Things I learned in the Fair Cape

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Logan Green

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