Thursday, March 23, 2006

You say Ponto and I say Ponta!!

This past weekend I set off with some friends for a camping trip to Ponta D’Ouro, a beautiful stretch of pristine coastline at the Southernmost tip of Mozambique. There were many squabbles among the group as to the proper spelling and pronunciation of our destination and we never really reached a consensus, especially given the fact that we encountered about ten different versions of the name within the town itself. However, there was a unanimous consensus amongst the group that Ponto was indeed a spectacular ocean paradise. Warm turquoise water, huge crashing waves and soft white sand was exactly what we were craving after being cooped up in the city for the past month.

The only downside to Ponto is that it is completely overrun by South African tourists. I had not seen so much white meat sizzling in the sun during my entire time so far in Mozambique. The Boers come in with their huge boats, 4 X 4s, quad bikes, jet skies and completely drown out any tranquility the beach may have otherwise possessed. And the campsite is literally one huge braai (BBQ) with Boerwurst, steaks and beers served up from 7AM until well past sundown. Without any hesitation, we elected to camp at a backpackers lodge further up the shore where we could relax amongst the reed huts and the gentle breeze coming in from the ocean.

One of the reasons why Ponto is such a haven for Boers is that it is extremely difficult to get to from Maputo. The roads from South Africa are freshly paved while the road from Maputo is a 200km stretch of soft sand that is just waiting to swallow up any unqualified vehicle that dares to make the journey. This highway is easily the worst road I have seen in Mozambique. I had been out to Ponto once before, back in December with my boss Pierre and his family and we got stuck for over an hour despite having a Kia Sportage 4 X4!! This time, however, we elected to all jam into a Ponto bound public chapa that could easily traverse over the challenging terrain. The chapa driver, Julio, was actually a client of Male Yeru, one of the MFIs that we work with and I was present on the day that he received a microloan to purchase the chapa and begin his business of transporting locals and tourists from Catembe to Ponto. Julio does very good business and certainly doesn’t mind doing overnights at Ponto with his kids that come along for the non-stop bumpy ride.

On the ride back we ended up having a very energetic conversation with some locals about soccer, South Africans and global poverty. They got quite a kick out of learning that our friend Gustav was Mozambican, despite the fact that he is a white guy from Sweden. Gus was born in Maputo and spent the first fifteen years of his life living in Mozambique and Swaziland. They called him “O Chefe de Missao” (the head missionary). We then all stopped at this road side vender when a lone woman with her two children sat selling bananas, a string of dried fish and some umkombotsi, which is local homemade corn beer. Looking around I could not see any other sign of life for miles and I wondered how a woman like this could possibly make a living selling these products in the middle of nowhere. She must walk a great distance just to get to the road where she probably waits all day for just a few customers. What other options does she have I guess? The men in the chapa loaded up on bananas and beer and we were quickly on our way, leaving the woman to return to the shade of a nearby tree and wait for the next vehicle that could be hours away.

While we were hoping for some gender balance on the trip, it ended up turning into mostly a guys weekend. Here’s a shot I got of the boys when we were on the ferry boat back to Maputo. Left to right you have Peter and Wes, my trusty Canadian comrades, Dan the Brit and Gus the Swedish Mozambican. Dan has an interesting philosophy towards language. He has lived in Maputo for as long as I have, teaching English, and simply could not be bothered to learn Portuguese. He believes that any Mozambican that wants a good paying job in the country will need to learn English so by speaking with the locals in any other language is only hindering their long term development potential. He is a very funny yet crazy character and on Sunday evening I think he was still hung over from the St. Paddy’s day party we went to on Friday night.

The lone female in the group was my friend Maria, who bravely put up with the barrage of testosterone throughout the trip. Maria is a documentary film maker from Colombia who is here in Mozambique to gather material for her next project on the history of African slavery and the contrast between traditional and contemporary African societies. She has found work here producing short films for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. She has an incredible eye for capturing images and I have immensely enjoyed assisting her in filming the nature and the people around Maputo. She has taught me much about opening my eyes to the beauty that exists around me every single day. Mas buena preciosa!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there big buddy! Sorry I keep missing you on msn! One of these days we will have a visit. I am well. I am now completely carless. Yup, old bessie died a painful death, well that isn't exactly true. She is waiting for us to decide if we are going to fix it or not. But to be honest, since the travesty, I have never felt freer, more relieved and less busy in months! I am loving walking everywhere again, and just can't book myself solid throughout the day. Not possible without a car. So, I have decided to be a non-car owner. I feel like I am saying good-bye to a dear friend though.

Great pictures! And what cute boys you get to hang out with! I was admiring the pictures and dreaming about the warm weather on its' way to us here in the northern hemisphere.

I trust you are well and loving every minute out there. I am sure you are.

Take care dear

9:23 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:30 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! It is Ponta D'ouro, which means 'Golden Point'. You describe it´s beauty well.

12:47 a.m.  
Anonymous Kiwi Traveller said...

HI There - i came across your blog through google - i am interested to know how easy it is to get from ponta d ouro to maputo?? and possibly how long it would take? i plan on heading there in december tocheck it out and will be flying back to jhb from maputo. Any help on this would be much appreciated!

5:23 p.m.  

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