Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vilankulos

In many ways, that picture says it all. We spent the best part of a week in this astoundingly beautiful place. About half way up the Mozambiquan coast nestle a few pristine islands, cupped by the Bayo de San Sebastian and cosseted by large sand banks that expose themselves at low tide.We walked for miles along beaches fringed by palms. Tides like no where I have seen outside of Europe exposed mangrove and beached rotting wooden fishing boats. Fisherman dragging their nets through the channels in the sand, which rise and shrink with the tide.It was by one such ancient channel (reportedly used by the Arabs during slave raids) that we stumbled on the most gorgeous restaurant. Perched atop a dune, with magnificent vistas of the sea and run by some charming Zimbabweans. Top sea-food and a G&T.

MOZAMBIQUE HORSE SAFARIS
This area is full of dislodged people, white and black, who have fled the chaos of a neighbouring country. Stories abound of mistreatment and gross mismanagement. A tragedy and an incredible waste.
Adversity can though lead people to do amazing things. Perhaps the story which struck me the most is that of Mandy (http://www.mozambiquehorsesafari.com/). Introduced by the guys at the restaurant, this exceedingly nice and seriously quirky lady arranged for Dingo and I to do a sunset ride across the dunes and through the mangroves (very romantic I know). Over the ride and beers that followed, she recalled how on being chucked off her farm in the first waves of Mugabe's purges (a particularly threatening and frightening experience on her part), she refused to leave behind the horses which she loved. One thing led to another and before long she was crossing the border with not just her horses, but those from several other farms in the same predicament. All in all she crossed with some 90 odd horses into Mozambique (ball park figures). After a troubled enterprise setting up a new farm in central Mozambique, her and her husband (and the herd of horses) finally ended up on this part of the Mozambiquan coast.
These guy were not young. Nearly everything they had owned and worked so hard for had been stolen on racial grounds. To this day they still employ a couple of the Zimbabweans who fled with them. In the past they employed many, produced goods and aided the economy. Now people are starving. These are not simple matters, but this equation does not add up and Mugabe should answer for it.

Despite all this they had the goodness of heart and courage to save these animals. The money they make from these tours goes towards the upkeep of the 70 odd remaining horses (20 or so have been the victim of local diseases etc). To top it all off, she does all this with the most witty inane sense of humour. Simply lovely people that should be supported.

ISLANDS OF PARADISE

We spent a couple of days shooting out to the islands which rich Europeans pay so many thousands to come visit.
One day by dhow (local sailing boat): Lying back as the sun burned and the wind blew us gently to our destination. Learning a bit of Portuguese from the captain, smoking and drinking tea. Trekking round the soft sands of Magaruque and hunting for crabs. With sincere guilt I admit that I killed a crab with my sandal. In my defence, I disabled it with my first throw from 6ft. I did not expect to hit it, but still take the blame. As for Dingo, who chased the thing and repeatedly chucked his sandals at it until he finally killed it from less than a yard….. he deserves far more ridicule….
Another day by semi-inflatable speed-boat: Dropping off on the pristine sands of Benguerua, before diving on "2-mile" reef, which shields the island from the full force of the ocean. Serious currents and some big fish. Then the highlight. Climbing the huge dunes of Bazaruto. Staring at the sands which swirl between the idyllically turquoise water. A view that has to be seen to be believed. Then jumping and rolling head first down the almost vertical back edge of the dune. The sand burned, but my word it was fun!
A MIXED ATMOSPHERE

Back on the mainland we chilled on veranda, rocked back in hammocks and generally ignored the worries of the world. While I thought there was a certain charm to the little town with its tat markets and bars, occasional Portuguese old buildings and beach front palms, it was not without negativity. There was an undeniable air of something a bit nasty. Too many warnings, too many slightly odd looks. It was just this feeling (along with the laziest bar man I have ever met), that led us to jump ship from the once "in" Baobab hostel to the oh so cozy Zombie Cucumber. While nearly everyone I met was amiable, it was clear that there were bad people here. Tales of theft and whisperings of murder. A tourist joint that has taken a wrong turn.
Zombie Cucumber

OFF AND AWAY

Another Chapas, another day on the road south. Many more villages, palm trees, people and thatched roofs. To the town of Maxixe. Onto a little rickety boat with a ton of people and across the harbour as the sun set on the horizon. It was time to do some serious diving!
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