Another (more or less) twenty four hours, and a wealth of new things seen and done. Shortly after finishing yesterday’s post and realising that the two barmen had a musical preference for Gorillaz, we ended up crowded around my laptop, watching various music videos. One thing leading to another, conversation starts and I ended up talking until midnight with the manager of the backpackers, Sabrina.
We shared travel stories and her most incredible photos, taken when she was in Burma and Laos, with the most unreal stories accompanying them (getting stranded 40km from the nearest town in Laos jungle, for example, and running an informal taxi with a truck they had hired to get them out – in order to recoup the cost of the vehicle, rented from one of the local villagers). The photos and adventures stirred so many memories of the place I had visited just last year. Her stories were different to anything I had seen, but there is that comon thread of wanting to see – places, people, everything – that makes a traveler what they are. Sabrina and her partner Denis had decided that they wanted to settle somehere out of the first world, where the skies were a little freer and the coconuts… well.. exist. And so they now found themselves in Mozambique, running the Odyssey Adventures dive company and taking care of the Zombie Cucumber backpackers on behalf of some currently-overseas friends. It’s funy how messing around opens up a conversation, and a moment spent in frivolity expands into an experience that leaves a lasting memory. In a way, it was such a night.
Also, in the same evening, and perhaps partly to blame for the conversation starting so well, was Dave – a sea dog from sail Away Dhow Safaris in Vilankulo – the man to whose boat I would shortly be entrusting my life and possessions. After having paid my dhow fee at the backpackers, and paid him a fair volume of meticais for the overnight dhow safari, he bought me a beer. And another. Possibly three – it became difficult to tell later in the evening. As talking progreessed, I learned that he was a South African expatriate (from Johannesburg too) who had come to Mozambique, where he has spent the past fourteen years settled into managing the dhow safari company. It was a night spend in good, new company.
Our dhow. In bright purple and yellow, it was a most extravagant beast.
Dhows comprised much of the following day. Or rather, dhow. Our dhow. In bright purple and yellow, it was a most extravagant beast. For those who have no clue what a dhow in fact is, it is a large, open topped wooden boat – typically powered by a sail, although ours had made a concession to the 20th century by featuring a small outboard motor as well. Dhow travel, it should be noted, is a slow affair, and on occasion a wet one, as each swell on the journey to Bazaruto lifts and drops your vessel four or more feet, exposing you to various amounts of spray and rocking. The experience, ultimately, is a beautiful one, as you move slowly closer to the islands, watching them draw nearer over the purple bow of the boat, conversation having long since ended, leaving each traveler on the boat to their own quiet reflections. But for the presence of the outboard motor, much of the trip may in all likelihood emulate the voyages of many of the early Arab traders who traversed these same waters in very similar ships, seeking to trade spices and porcelain with the gold-mining interior of the time.
Since, I can now say with certainty that such places, more reminiscent of pirates of the caribbean than the thrid world, do in fact exist.
At the other end of this, particular dhow trip lay Margaruque island, the southernmost of the three in the Bazaruto Archipelago. Up until more or less this point, I hadn’t believed in the idea of clear, bath-warm water and bone white beaches. Since, I can now say with certainty that such places, more reminiscent of pirates of the caribbean than the thrid world, do in fact exist. From Margaruque, we would sail north west, to a beach on the mainland north of Vilanculo. Setting off at our slow dhow pace until anyone not charged with steering the boat had drifted in to varying degrees of sleep. That is until we were abruptly woken by a surprised shout and the presence of a half-dozen silver shaps in the water besde us. Our dhow had befriended a pod of dolphins, who took to swimming around the boat at length, popping above the water and then disappearing moments later. Staring dumbstruck at the animals around us, it was a few minutes at least before anyone thought about a camera. Dozens of photographs of ocean (and a few of dolphins) later, we resumed our journey, paying much sharper attention to the water around us and hoping for more surprises. The pod (or a different pod – it is hard to tell the identity of a dolphin) returned briefly, after which we were left to our own devices for the final hour or so of sailing.
My co-travelers on the dhow, Gareth from Ireland and Mailan from France became chattier once we had landed and made camp for the evening. Both were making the trip en route to leaving Africa via Johannesburg and returning home to Europe. Mailand had been working as a technical advisor to the Ministry of Finance in Rwanda, and her contract had since expired. The only excitement to an otherwise chilled evening of meandering conversation from EU enlargement to reality TV, saw our translator, Rogerio, climbing a nearby coconut tree to procure some coconuts as a pre-dinner snack, as the rest of us – an unathletic bunch at the best of times – took photographs and offered encouragement. Coconut milk, for the record, is surprisingly delicious after a day of sun and salt air.