Thursday, March 01, 2007

Final Weekends: Part 1

Staring down the barrel at a looming departure date obviously makes one want to spend their final weekends productively. Before I left Mozambique, there were definitely some places I wanted to visit in the area and travel time I wanted to spend with close friends. For over a year I had been trying to visit the island of Inhaca, which is about 50 Km away from Maputo, only to have every plan fall apart due to terrible weather. This time, however, I was determined to get over to this tantalizing island that beckons Maputoites on a clear sunny day to see whether the rumours I had heard about its idyllic beaches and splendid corals were indeed true.

I set off with Nathalie and our French Canadian friends Ian and Marie-Claude (aka, the Quebecois “happy couple”) on a private boat “Maritimos” which took us to the island in just over one hour. This is much better than the six hour trip on the local ferry but of course you pay about four times as much!! The other nice thing about taking a private boat is that we were able to stop over at the Portuguese Island, a tiny little spot just off the coast from Inhaca. Here we were able to relax for a couple of hours, take a bath in the ocean and marvel at all the colourful star fish that dotted the shoreline. I was in such a relaxed state at one point that I fell asleep on the beach (sans sunscreen!!) and woke up almost an hour later with a crazy sun burn. Stupid boy!!

We then got back on our boat and set off for the main island of Inhaca. The island is a funny one really because the main boat dock and the huge expensive Pestana Resort are located along an absolutely unappealing stretch of beach overrun with muddy sludge and seaweed. Certainly not a spot worthy of a postcard photo. The exorbitant prices for food and drinks quickly scared us away from that location so we ended up buying some supplies from the local market and hiring a local boat to take us to the Biological Research Station toward the southern tip of the Island. This is a place that is run entirely by Mozambicans through the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, offering nice affordable places to stay, opportunities to explore and study the Islands protected environment and a well stocked museum showcasing the Island’s marine life.

There were only two other students at the research center so we were essentially left alone to enjoy its isolated tranquility. We all had a serious appetite for some fresh fish and cold cervejas but there were no local fishermen to be found. We took a tip from one of the employees at the center and went hiking through the bush in search of the nearest village where we could find a fish market and an open baraka. After only getting lost a couple of times, and having to flag down some ladies returning from their farms to ask for directions, we arrived at the village and sat down with the baraka owners for some well needed cold drinks. In a strange connection to Canada, the rock stars Nickelback and Bryan Adams were written in large letters along the baraka walls!!

We then stopped off at the local fish seller to pick up some barracuda and lulas (squid) before returning back to the research center for a final swim and the perfect sundowners on the beach. Because we were on the west side of the island looking out over the Maputo Bay, it was my first and only time in Mozambique seeing the sun set over the ocean. That night we thoroughly enjoyed our seafood BBQ (except we SEVERELY overcooked the lulas!!) while each nursing our collective sunburns. The next day we took the long walk back along the beach to the boat dock, stopping off at the various coral reefs at low tide. I was amazed at the variety of corals and tropical fish we were able to see simply be snorkeling off the coast. We were also amazed at the number of women seated along the shore who were cracking open the sea urchins that they had caught in order to make a stew out of the gooey insides…a picture that I imagine has not changed in hundreds of years. Getting back in our boat, we said goodbye to Inhaca and welcomed back our Maputo home as its impressive skyline grew larger on the horizon.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Friar Tuck said...

I hope it was a good way to end this part of your journey. It certainly sounds like it was.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pictures Jared! That island looks beautiful!

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Maud said...

Hi Jared,
I happened to come across your blog whilst searching for info via google on Mozambique. We're writing a travel guide with a personal touch and i would love to include your stories and photos about Xefina Island and Inhaca Island. Your writing style draws the reader into your adventures which is exactly what we aim with our guide. Please email me at maud@discovering-africa.com ASAP. Thank you. Maud

4:58 AM  
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