Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 8- Xai Xai

Left for Xai xai early in the morning- our last day of holiday and need to make the most of it! It was about an hours drive from Bilene- the roads in this country and terrible! You need to literally find bits of road in between all the potholes! Driving through thecountryside, you notice the stark contrast with life and infrastructure in South Africa. The beach in Xai xai was amazing- there is a natural layer of rock that separates the beach from the rest of the ocean. We went snorkelling and discovered an amazing shallow reef- it was like scuba diving without all the equipment! Big colourful fish and schools of smaller ones swimming all around you- also saw lion fish and some other weird looking stuff! Were supposed to be back in Maputo by lunch, but we had so much fun we didn’t want to leave! Ended up reaching Maputo in the afternoon and still had to pack car and buy prawns- border was supposed to close at 7pm and we reached there just at about 6:50! But rush was useless as we found out border closes at 10 during the holidays..But it was good to be back on familiar soil- where we having drinkable running water and roads instead of potholes! Mozambique is not that far from Joburg and I think close enough to hit a short trip over the next long weekend!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 7- Bilene

Woke up early- went to Holiday Inn on the beach front to catch sunrise- really stunning sunrise over the ocean! The Maputo Holiday Inn is a very smart building but is actually not very big; apparently the original Holiday Inn building has an interesting history to it: you can still see this massive multi story, high rise building on the beach front- the concrete skeleton looks like a new building under construction. However, the building was put up many years ago by the Portuguese- before leaving the country after independence, the Portuguese sabotaged it by pouring concrete down the pipes, thus rendering the building useless and virtually impossible to complete! They also took whatever they could move (machinery and equipment) and damaged whatever they couldn’t! That could have had something to do with why Mozambique was until recently the poorest country in the world!We picked up the keys and headed for Bilene- it is a natural lagoon; looks like a huge lake! Really beautiful place, spent the day on the beach- the water is very shallow and because it’s a lagoon there are no waves. We tried swimming across but were famished half way across! Had a braai and went to sleep- nice soft beds in the three bedroom house with hot water and a shower that was ours for the night!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Day 6- Maputo

Couldn’t wake up- the beds were too soft and comfortable! Managed to drag ourselves out of bed eventually. Went exploring in the city- found our way to the market that really looked like something you’d see in the movies! There are piles of fish and shellfish- perfect ingredients for a real seafood feast! The main commodity of Moz is its cashew nuts- we bought stocks for home and went on to do some exploring of the city. The architecture all over the city is really quaint and retro- all these cool old buildings that desperately need to be restored! Didn’t expect the city to be so different from South African cities- really interesting city to visit and explore…Were invited for supper to Eb’s connections- they laid out this scrumptious dinner of huge prawns and chicken. There were actually prawns left over- not because we were being polite, but because they made so much! Had more than my annual quota of prawns and not going to be having then again for a while… I recall that there was some political talk going on during the meal, but I have no recollection of anything; was too busy shovelling them prawns down!The uncle arranged a house for us in Bilene, and also invited us to his farm- somehow the offer didn’t seem too appealing… Headed home for an early night (actually only slept very late), leaving early morning for Bilene which is 120km north of Maputo…

Friday, July 08, 2005

Day 5- Maputo

Last morning waking up in a tent- just as we getting used to sleeping on a hard surface and in such close proximity to so many others! Went on our last scuba dive- definitely won’t be long before I do it again. Hope to plan a scuba adventure of an upcoming long weekend soon! Went for our last swim in the Point of Gold- that’s what Ponto Douro means in English. It really is a piece of heaven- the water is crystal clear and comfortably warm for the middle of winter. Think it would be an excellent investment to buy land in that place.
Packed up our 4x4 and hit the road for Maputo. It’s a 120km journey but takes 5 hours- there is no road, you just drive through the bush on a hectic dirt track! It was fun driving, but as a passenger it was flipping annoying!
Reached the bay across Maputo at night- the view of the city’s skyline was wicked! Taking a ferry across the bay was an interesting experience- mingling with the locals but sticking out like sore thumbs due to our picture snapping fanatics! Accommodation in Maputo was 5 stars! Three story luxurious house with hot showers and soft beds- was great! Maputo is a vibrant, interesting city- somehow there also seems to be an abundance of exorbitant wealth!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Day 4- Ponto Douro

The lady camping next door asked how we managed in the fierce storm last night- we asked, “What storm!” Somehow managed to sleep through some sort of cyclone! The tents of other campers got flooded and blown away- we were totally oblivious to the chaos that was going on around us!
Went on our second sea dive- did all the emergency exercises and then enjoyed the dive... Didn’t get to see dolphins again but did find the turtle! I am totally blown away by the magnificence of the world down there!
Two Moroccan guys pitched tent next door- Interesting okes- one guy plays professional basketball in Belgium! They drove to Kosi Bay border from Joburg, parked their car at the border and hitched a lift to Ponto…
Managed to find some shelter for our braai- luckily so as it was pouring! But once we were done the sky had cleared up and their was not a cloud in the sky- made a bon fire on the beach and lay there gazing at the stars- the entire sky was lit up and I have never seen so many stars before- no artificial lighting for miles, you could actually see the constellations… (or at least that’s what the other said!)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Day 3- Ponto Douro

This weather is weird- woke up and it was pouring, 2 hours later the sun is blazing and the heat is sweltering! Did our first pool dive- not that difficult to scuba in a pool; the only challenge of the whole exercise is to get comfortable breathing through that whole apparatus. Had lunch and we then headed for our first open water dive in the ocean! On the boat, heading for the reefs that we were going to dive at, came across a school of dolphins! Really neat- people normally pay big money for dolphin viewing tours and here we just do it by the way!
Scuba diving should be compulsory for everyone! It opens up a whole new world… Just like in the movies, you launch of the boat by falling backwards off the side of the boat. It’s like swimming in a big fish tank- school of colourful reef fish just swimming all around you! We did a 12 metre dive- bit scary at first coz you not used to the feeling of pressure building up in your ears. But honestly, if you haven’t scuba dived, I can safely say that you really missing out on an astonishing experience. Our instructor was super cool- we did none of the exercises, just enjoyed the exhilarating occasion of our first dive… Saw a huge sea turtle and even got to hold it- the colours of the fish are marvellous- all shades and sizes…
There was a guy spear fishing and he caught these two huge fish that would’ve have been swell on our braai!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Day 2- Ponto Douro

Couldn’t sleep- the floor of the tent was too hard and my sleeping bag didn’t provide enough cushioning! Woke Eb up and took a walk on the beach at about 3am! We met two security guards enjoying a raging bon fire on the beach- tried to have a discussion with them but the language barrier proved too tough to crack! However, and we discussed this later, what could we tell those guys anyways? I mean, they work so hard just to survive- what do they care about seeking the Truth or the existence of a Greater Being! As the saying goes, ‘You can’t teach man faith on an empty stomach!’
The weather turned out to be really great- we started our scuba diving course and did a bit of snorkelling- the water is so clean and clear; vision was really good underwater! Spent the day bumming on the beach- it seems like our lives are revolving around food! We had breakfast and then started preparing lunch, finished lunch and soon after we getting the fire ready for supper:) The bread in this place is awesome: you get it fresh and hot from the small bakery just down the road in the quaint market- probably the best bread I’ve ever tasted! Had a scrumptious braai and ended the evening of with a bon fire on the beach: had a good discussion on the disparities we have noticed since reaching this country- everyone is so poor, yet so content... They work so hard, yet have so little… Anyways, off to try and sleep- hope that tonight works out better!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Day 1- Durban

The beginning of a new journey- if the rest of the story is as exciting as the opening chapter then I’m going to be ecstatic! The plan was to leave Durban at 5am (hehe) and head straight for the border and Moz.
In true road trip custom, we left a mere 5 hours after deadline- 10am saw us hit the road on the ‘journey of a lifetime!’ 2 Accountants, a doctor, engineer and politics/film studies student, all crammed into a Rav4 with a big tent and two cooler bags of meat..
We stopped in Richards Bay to do our grocery shopping (last minute- again, in true road trip tradition!) We were naïve to think that shopping for groceries is a swift process, but we ended up having an adventure in the supermarket itself!
So after shopping and lunch we once again hit the road- made it to the border just 5 minutes before closing! Entered Moz from the Kosi Bay border on the east coast. The SA side was a pleasant face brick building with police and soldiers in splendid uniform and the bright and snazzy SA flag flapping in the wind! The Moz border, literally 5 meters away, consisted of a converted container and a rickety prefab office and the border personnel were dressed in dreary, old uniforms… Such a world of variation in only a few feet! What I found most amazing was the language- a line drawn on the map by some foreigner (I presume..) means a change in language and culture?!
Well, the disparities didn’t end there- the tar road stops 10 meters into Moz- the rest is dirt road; nay, not dirt road- dirt track! A 10km drive from the border to Ponto Douro takes almost an hour! Got to the camp site just as the sun set- managed to find a camping spot overlooking the beach and pitched tent.
Jealousy makes people nasty- the curses of those covetous souls came true and the rain came pouring down! Wet, cold, windy, trying to start a fire to braai meat for supper- we had enough of camping within the first hour! Somehow managed to eat and get into dry clothes- then came the real challenge; trying to sleep with 4 other guys in a tent! Well, the good news is that things can only get better from here:) No regrets, yuhoo! Lying in a sleeping bag and listening to the waves crashing on the beach just a few metres away- tomorrow morning we going to rock that beach!