|The bouncy yet insightful bus journey from Maputo terminated at a small bus station in Inhambane. We were under the impression that we would be collected and transferred to Tofo Beach on arrival in Inhambane. Mind you this was as a result of a part Portuguese/ part English conversation that we'd had at the Maputo guesthouse so who knew for sure?!
Laden with backpacks and fruit we struggled to avoid the chapa (Mozambican minibus) touts, increasingly doubtful that we would be collected. No fear, an hour later we'd been packed into a pick up van and were on our way to Tofo, excited at the prospect of relaxing on a beach for the first time in months (it's hard work this backpacking you know!).
The beach was all we'd hoped for - white, powdery sand dotted with a few thatch umbrellas and hammocks leading down to the azure blue Indian Ocean. There weren't many travelers around and it didn't appear to be very developed as yet. Absolute paradise. Unfortunately the accommodation wasn't so great, even for the hardest of backpackers. The basic huts were falling apart, the ablutions block was disgusting and there was no electricity or water when we got there. Despite this we decided to stay for a few days and make the most of the beach. Days were spent lazing in the hammocks and evenings passed by chatting to other travelers over dinner while watching the lightening storms.
A bar/restaurant nearby on the beach was the destination for most meals apart from Friday evening when the highlight was a seafood buffet further along the beach. Everyone had been talking about this buffet since we arrived and so we followed the masses. It lived up to expectations - good food, cocktails, live music and familiar faces from our trip to Lesotho ensured that we had a great night.
The following evening we headed to a more up market hotel in the hope of watching the FA cup final. Kiran had managed to convince a few guys to join us and so we all sat glued to the screen, watching the nail biting match, penalties and all. Looking around us it seemed that the crowd from the seafood buffet place had simply moved in entirety to watch the football that night. Granted it was a small town but when you recognize all the faces around you a few nights in a row, it's surely time to move on. Especially as the accommodation hadn't really improved in our time there.
Sunday morning we waited for our 'transfer' back to Inhambane. By the afternoon, losing an hope of the lift due to a flat tyre, we headed to the chapa stop with Martin (a fellow guest). We spent a few hours standing around in the heat debating our options and watching as the South Africans drove past us on their return home after the weekend in Tofo.
When the chapa finally did arrive, it was greeted by a sudden rush of people. Where had they all come from? We had been waiting alone, just the 3 of us all this time. Bags were squashed into t he tiny boot with boxes and sacks and bodies were squashed into the van. Some sort of world record must have been broken as people pushed into the seats and jostled for standing space by the door. There must have been 30 people in that 12 seater van! The worst thing was the smell from the large, dead fish that accompanied us for half of the journey!
Inhambane was empty when we arrived and everything was shut. Tired and thirsty we walked in silence to the only accommodation in town. It was owned by a loud, crazy S. African (Dennis) who could charge whatever he wanted due to the lack of alternatives and insisted on chatting to us whenever he saw us. There was no way we could just sit and read or talk amongst ourselves.
We spent one day in Inhambane, walking around town with Martin and watching the celebrations as the President of Mozambique was in town. There was a procession of motorbikes and jeeps escorting the President and lorry loads of children, waving flags, arriving from outside town. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes and dancing along to the blaring radio. All in all a great atmosphere that seemed to disappear as quickly as it had appeared by the afternoon.
At a loose end we accompanied Dennis' partner to the airport to collect a car part being flown in from Johannesburg. It was a tiny airport filled with the President's plane and helicopters. We watched the rich S. African tourists land with trolleys of designer luggage and being greeted by the luxury resort owners while a customs official examined Dennis' car part.
The part was initially confiscated but then released on the payment of a 'small tax' in a side street just outside Inhambane. Although we knew that business is done differently in Africa, we'd never actually witnessed it.
The next destination in our journey through Mozambique is Vilankulo still on the coast, where we can carry on the relaxation where we'd left it at Tofo.
To get to Vilankulo from Inhambane was yet another adventure though. It involved a dhow crossing to Maxixe and a chapa journey along some of the worst roads that we've ever seen. The dhow journey was slow and cramped - no we hadn't actually expected anything different. At one point Kiran was convinced that a guy was eyeing up his rucksack so he got ready to retaliate should the need arise. However the guy was simply attempting to help us as he thought we were being overcharged for the trip! We felt very bad for doubting him.
At Maxixe we managed to find an escort to the chapa to Vilankulo. It was amazing how helpful everyone was despite no common language. A passing policeman even stopped to check that we were ok.
By now we were getting used to being squashed into the chapas, people and bags rearranged to make room for a new person at every village. However the lowlight of the drive came when a woman sitting next to Kiran vomited just outside Vilankulo. Unfortunately she missed the window she was aiming for and covered the woman next to her. We'd narrowly escaped a splattering but not the hideous stench.
We were overjoyed as the chapa pulled into Vilankulo and we could finally escape the smell of the van. Hopefully we can stay here for a few days and recover the feeling in our legs and butts after all the traveling in chapas.