Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slow, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and wonder what was going to happen next.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
After being dragged kicking and screaming onto the airplane after refusing to leave South Africa, myself and four of my friends from last year’s Egypt trip took off for Mozambique. While I would gladly have stayed in South Africa forever, the lure of a new country was strong. Additionally, the lure of laying by the pool/beach and reading books for a week was also strong. South Africa was exhausting and I could use a break!
That wish was quickly granted as I spent the entire first day firmly planted on a pool chair, reading 1 1/2 books. I did get to admire the beauty of the Mozambique landscape from my chair, although outside of a walk into the village to acquire cash, I didn’t do much else.
The second day was filled with much more excitement as I began to discover the odd polarity of this village of Vilankulos. Up early to enjoy some coffee, I casually watched a small tour group walk in to have breakfast. They were led by none other than my guide from South Africa the previous year. Neither of us knew the other was there, yet it seems perfectly natural that we find each other. Of all the restaurants in all of the villages in all of Mozambique, we ended up at the same one at the same time.
Unfortunately, we both had other commitments so our reunion was short lived and I headed off with my friends to sail on a dhow out to a reef and what appeared to be a deserted island for some snorkeling. While the coral was average, there were some fantastic fish and the water, though rough, was quite warm. The beaches were amazing white sand beaches and I entertained myself in the style of an only child, burying myself in the sand. The dhow was a neat little boat, complete with a fire pit for cooking. Our captains and two hands pulled off hot coffee and a complete fish, chicken and vegetable lunch on this tiny boat. And to top it off, they made fresh popcorn for the return home. What struck me most about this trip, though, was how they fished. Two of the crew had lines off the back of the boat for the entire trip. They weren’t fancy poles and they didn’t have nets and bait. They had a bunch of fishing line wrapped around a wood plank. They held the plank and pulled the line by hand when they had a bite. Seemed just as effective as any other method!
The third day kicked off with some culture. A local guide picked us up in tuk tuks and took us around the village. I knew it would be special when the first stop was the art deco hotel built in 1960. The hotel, while still decorated perfectly, was nearly empty. You could hear the ghosts of the past walking through the hotel and I could only imagine how amazing it must have been in its heyday. We also visited a local’s bar, the fish/vegetable/clothes/shoes market and the new hospital. Our guide, around age 65, had far surpassed the average age of people in Mozambique, which hovers near 45-50. 70% of the population is under the age of 30, AIDS having taken its toll on this nation. They struggle with literacy and poverty yet nearly everyone walks around with a smile on their face and a desire to talk to you. I think my highlight of the afternoon was a stop at the church, where hundreds had gathered to celebrate those that have been married for 20 or more years. There was dancing and singing and unadulterated joy.
That evening, we scheduled a sunset cruise on another dhow. Ever since we arrived, we had been searching for a dugong, a sea creature that resembles a manatee. We were told by all that they were elusive and rarely seen, even by locals. Our good fortune and the polarity of the village gave us another treat. Two large dugongs sailed with us for a bit and treated us to some tail flips. I, of course, had opted to leave my camera behind and have only a fuzzy phone photo of these guys. This group of friends had participated in last year’s crashing of the felucca on the Nile so we found it necessary to recreate the scenario. Celine Dion was called up and I moved to the front of the boat, holding my breath. Success. We stayed afloat. It was only at that moment I realized I was wearing the exact same dress that helped crash the felucca. Another weird moment in Mozambique!
One more day of poolside reading, beach bars and strolling along the water and it was time for some more excitement.
Off to Madagascar I go.