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Off the Beaten Path in Mozambique I

View 11 months around the world on geldere's travel map.

It was a long and complicated journey from Cape Maclear, Malawi to Cuamba, Mozambique. In brief, it went like this: matola (a pickup truck that carries passengers and goods in its bed), minibus, second minibus, second matola, Malawi border, bicycle taxi, Mozambique border, second bicycle taxi, and (finally) third minibus. It was insane, seven different transports. Along the way, we met up with a Swiss-French couple and two Korean guys . . . all making our way to Mozambique Island. It’s nice to join up with other travelers for a few days to swap stories, share advice, and work through the logistics of traveling together.
IMG_5586.jpg Sitting in the back of a matola leaving Cape Maclear
IMG_5594.jpg Our bicycle taxi border crossing
Once we arrived in Cuamba, we bought tickets for a train from Cuamba to Nampula leaving the next morning. Ticket buying in Africa is a total free-for-all. At first, people form a line, but once the ticket window opens, all semblance of a line breaks down, people run, cut the line, push, etc. We also checked into a hostel with our new friends which, I have to say, was by far the dirtiest and most rundown place we’ve stayed. Thankfully, it had mosquito nets, but no running water. Taking a shower meant pouring cold water over your head. Flushing the toilet meant dumping water into the toilet bowl to dilute whatever was in there. Always an adventure :) Lastly, we ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the market. The only thing on the menu was roasted chicken over rice. It was surprisingly fantastic and cheap.
We left the hostel for the train at 4:30 in the morning and were able to sit together in a six-person cabin. The train journey was a memorable experience! It was fascinating to watch the country side go by and even more interesting to observe and interact with the locals. The train stopped frequently, every half hour or so, and at every stop people from the local village would mob the train selling food (mostly produce) and drinks. Jeff almost lost his mind when we found someone selling strawberries, which we haven’t seen since South America. They cost was a whopping $1.50 for a huge bowl and our whole compartment enjoyed eating them. One of the Koreans who we were with was an adventurous eater. He tried almost everything the locals had to offer, including roasted fish on a stick. It’s was also fun to watch all the local children clamor over each other just to wave at us. In between stops, we passed the time trading travel notes. It’s so interesting that even though we were American, Korean and Swiss, we conversed in English (the most common language among travelers).
IMG_5640.jpg The mountain view from the train
IMG_5676.jpg Jeff from the train
IMG_5699.jpg A woman carrying both produce and her child
IMG_5741.jpg The train mob selling their goods
After almost three full days of travel, we finally arrived on Mozambique Island. Seeing the Indian Ocean was a breath of fresh air. The water was an amazing shade of greenish-blue and our travel weariness eased almost instantly. Mozambique Island is a unique place. It was the capital of Portugal’s colonial empire in Africa for decades, but has been deteriorating ever since. It’s like you’ve entered a different time period when you arrive on the island. The buildings are crumbling; the narrow alleyways are lined with bougainvilleas; and small children follow you down the street just to see what you’re up to. We stayed at a great hostel, Ruby Backpackers. The owners were extremely friendly and the hostel had hot, running water! It was very exciting - don’t take it for granted people :) We spent our first full day wandering around the island and exploring an old fort on a nearby island which we walked to at low tide.
IMG_5782.jpg The old fort at low tide
IMG_5836.jpg Small children wanting their photos taken
IMG_5857.jpg The old hospital...apparently still in use in some parts!
On our second full day, we took a guided tour of a huge fort on the on the north end of the island that was built around 1550. We also visited the oldest European structure in Africa - a small church built in 1522. As we walked from place to place, small children would run up to us and say “photo, photo…” They were so cute and loved to see themselves on the camera screen, they would always laugh hysterically when we showed them their picture. As a cap off to the day, we found a fisherman walking the streets who sold us over five pounds of lobster for $12…we ate very well that night :)
IMG_5858.jpg Jeff had to include this kid...he thought he was adorable
IMG_5898.jpg The fort used up until the 70's
IMG_5907.jpg Oldest European structure in Africa
IMG_5954.jpg More historic though run-down buildings
P1020001.jpg Post-lobster dinner
We decided to cap off our time on Mozambique Island with a dhow trip to nearby Goa Island (a dhow is a small, handmade sailboat). Goa is known for its beautiful beach and an old lighthouse. We spent a few hours walking around, climbing up the lighthouse for some great views, and swimming in the Indian Ocean. The sailing to and from the island was a little rough at times, so half our boat got seasick.
IMG_6080.jpg The lighthouse on Goa
The next day, we said goodbye to our new friends and headed north along the coast to Pemba and Ibo Island. We’ll write more again soon!

Posted by geldere 09:40 Archived in Mozambique

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