09.02.2011 - 09.06.2011
Our journey to the town of Pemba was one of our more interesting experiences. Public transportation in Mozambique leaves extremely early, 3, 4, 5am, etc. Before the sun rose, we took a matola (pickup truck) for two-hours to a big intersection with the hope of catching a passing bus heading north to Pemba. The bus was supposed to pass the intersection around 7am… Well, for one reason or another, we missed the bus. With no other known option, we decided to wait at the intersection with the hope of finding other onward transportation to Pemba… We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Nothing showed and for four hours we stood in the blazing African sun. We were frequently surrounded by curious children who gathered whenever we applied sunscreen - a totally foreign concept to them. When I pointed to the sun and my skin, it dawned on them that we weren’t just applying lotion randomly. We were about to throw in the towel when one of the locals flagged down a petrol truck for us on its way to Pemba. In classic African style, we fit three people in two seats and headed north. Thankfully, at least, we knew we wouldn’t run out of gas!
Our initial plan was to sleep in Pemba for one night and then head to Ibo Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago the next day, but, after our journey to Pemba, we were totally exhausted, so we decided to spend a day enjoying the beach and hostel. The hostel boasted a ton of free activities, including archery and kayaking, so of course, Jeff did them all. We were under the impression that getting to Ibo would be complicated, so we asked around for advice and, as luck would have it, met a very nice woman who lives on Ibo and would be returning to Ibo the same day we wanted to travel. She was even willing to give us a ride in her car to the dock and a lift on her boat. Fantastic timing! So, the next morning, we drove with Lucy on badly maintained dirt roads to the dock and then boarded her crewed, motorized dhow. It was a lovely boat ride (calm, blue sea, mangroves, birds, etc., remarkably similar to Florida) and once we arrived on the island, Lucy offered us a room in her house for a few days and we took her up on it .
Relaxing in Pemba
Pemba at sunset
Jeff on the Dhow crossing to the island
Ibo is similar to Mozambique Island in that its heyday was back during Portuguese occupation and not much has changed since they left. Most of the buildings were again now in ruin. We spent our time on Ibo walking around the island, viewing the old Portuguese forts, and visiting Christian, Muslim and Hindu cemeteries. We also took a guided day trip to the nearby island of Karimba (highly recommended by Lucy). Our boat rode to Karimba weaved through the mangroves and we spent our day on the beach collecting amazing seashells, walking through the village like the pied piper with a gaggle of children behind us, and having lunch at a local restaurant near the beach. The color of the water was fantastic - it was a turquoise blue and continued to get even more beautiful as the tide went out. Because the tide levels vary dramatically here, the water almost empties out completely and a land bridge is created from island to island. So, in the afternoon at low tide, we hiked back to Ibo on foot across sandbanks and through the mangroves. It was a great day and we capped it off with another lobster dinner! Did I mention I love the islands??
What used to be downtown Ibo
The old fort at sunset
Jeff on the island of Karimba before low tide
This was the best- a sign to indicate to please not use the beach as a public toilet- the locals thought it was hilarious we took a photo of this
Our gaggle of kids that followed us through the town
Walking back at low tide- where we were walking was completely submerged a few hours before
The old Christian graveyard on Ibo
The oldest man on the island came to talk to us about the history and his experiences- he only spoke Portuguese so Lucy translated
We were enticed by Lucy to go with her to the “sandbank” (what we would call a sandbar) for snorkeling and relaxation. We took her boat out to a gorgeous patch of white sand rising out of the middle of the ocean. It looked like a deserted island surrounded by turquoise water (almost transparent). For lunch, we ate grilled fish and coconut rice under a makeshift tent while Anli, one of Lucy’s boat captains, pulled up these fantastically red starfish. We also snorkeled around and caught some rays to combat our horrendous farmer’s tan - it felt like paradise. Needless to say, we felt like we had arrived in a Corona commercial. We barely made it back to Ibo for sundowner drinks at the fancy Ibo Island Lodge which has a really great viewing deck on the roof.
Our first glimpse of the sandbank
The very red starfish
Relaxing in my own corona commercial
On our way back to Ibo from the sandback
Photos courtesy of Lucy- aerial view of the sandbank (that tiny sliver between the two larger islands)
View of the water and sandbank
Our time in and around Ibo was wonderful, but, alas, all good things must come to an end. Next stop, Tanzania. We’ll write more soon!