|Collecting our backpacks and securing them onto our backs we started the long walk towards Baobob Beach accommodation. There was a party atmosphere in the market as we walked through. People were singing and dancing to loud music, smiling and shouting hello / bao tarde (good afternoon) at us. This scene never changed over our stay in Vilankulo. They were truly fun loving people here, wanting to help or simply get an acknowledgement from the mulungu (foreigners).
Before long a kid attached himself to us explaining that he'd get some commission if he came to Baobob's with us. So there we were, 2 Indians with huge backpacks and a black kid slowly making their way thorough the village shacks. No wonder people stared!
Baobob's had a well-built, sociable bar area with views over the ocean and delicious pizzas. The huts were dark but at least they were sturdy and the communal showers outside were housed in a wooden fenced area but at least they worked. All in all, backpacker luxury!!
We settled down at the bar and got to know everyone. There was Karl, an Aussie guy who along with 4 others was traveling through Africa on a light aircraft. His party tricks involved opening a beer bottle with his eye socket and convincing drunken people that when doing tequila shots, the salt had to be snorted and the lemon squeezed in the eyes - ouch and ouch again! Then there were a group of French lads who'd get hideously drunk on whisky and sambucca shots and go skinny-dipping in the dive pool. A mad bunch!
We met a few couples whose cars / jeeps had broken down on reaching Vilankulo and now they were stuck here until they could repair them. Some of their stories of driving through Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, etc were terrifying. It appeared to be an expensive way to travel once bribes and repairs were accounted for....mmm maybe chapas weren't so bad after all?!
We quickly fell into a routine of lazing in the hammocks, reading books, chatting and wandering to the market for fruit (we tasted the sweetest, juiciest pineapples and oranges here). Walking around the shacks we were amazed at people's friendliness and solidarity when their living conditions were so obviously poor. We were always greeted with a huge smile when we tested our 2 phrases of Portuguese, bom dia / boa tarde (good day / good afternoon) and como esta? (how are you?). Directions were given to us at every confused look we gave them. Children seemed happy to play on their own, making toys out of wire and empty cans. They could make model cars, scooters and just about anything out of these! One of the funniest sights on our walks was 2 small children, about 3 / 4 years old, balancing a coke bottle full of water on each head. They were copying their mothers - the women could be seen carrying a baby on their back, held in place with a sarong / bit of material and balancing full buckets on their heads as they walked. Kiran placed our water bottle on his head and followed the children much to the amusement of the rest of the village.
The only strenuous activity we undertook was to locate a place showing the Champions League final (Kiran's passion for football knows no bounds even in a place where we'd not seen a single TV or computer).
After walking for what seemed like and eternity and asking every person we saw along the way, we found a 'sports bar' where it would be shown. We waited for 6 hours until the game started, getting to know the bar staff, the customers and just about anyone we spotted coming through the place. There seemed to be a lot of people from Zimbabwe working in Mozambique doing anything from bar work to development work - just wanting to escape Robert Mugabe presumably. S. Africans capitalizing on the development of tourism in Mozambique owned all the hotels and backpackers places. So what were the Mozambicans doing?
Once again it was a nail biting match ending with penalties, made even more entertaining by the loud Italians who were sharing the TV with us - well entertaining for Neha but frustrating for Kiran whose competitive side came out in full force.
The match over, Kiran smug, the Italians quiet and England's honour in tact we were now facing a long walk back to Baobob's in the pitch-blackness. The barmen briefed us on which route to take and which areas to avoid as we geared ourselves up for the journey. Luckily some locals overheard the conversation and the barmen convinced them to give us a loft back. Delighted, we got into the back of the pick up van, bums lodged into the corners, bracing ourselves for the large bumps along the way. The strong wind was freezing and the bumps painful but at least we weren't walking.
After nearly a week of not really doing much we thought we should at least go on a day trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago - a snorkeling and diving heaven.
We arranged to trip with Bob Marley (seriously that was his name), a Mozambican guy with bad body odour but amazing persistence. He had come to Baobob's every day and sat with us, speaking the little English he knew and generally testing our patience.
It was a great day. We took a dhow with 5 other people to 'Sand Dune Island' and 2 mile reef. 'Sand Dune Island' was incredible. A large dune of white sand stood towering over the deep blue ocean. The contrast was stunning, even to us and we were 'sand duned out'!
Snorkeling in 2 mile reef was equally as stunning as we watched the brightly coloured fish swim by. The only downsides were the unbelievably choppy waters (Neha was found vomiting when not snorkeling) and the bite / sting Neha had acquired. Kiran spent most of the time in the dhow due to the incredibly salty water and so escaped the fish attack.
We had a great time in Vilankulo, relaxing fully, snorkeling and meeting some incredible people. However we were now risking the possibility that we'd become part of the furniture and so it was time to make a move further north towards Nampula (a base for Ilha de Mozambique). As the roads were rumoured to get worse the further north you went we decided to fly.
This was not as straightforward as imagined though. We'd have to fly to Beira and then get another flight to Nampula. The tickets for both flights were booked for the same day with 40 mins between the flights at Beira. Plenty of time we thought....pity it wasn't quite what the airline staff thought. On arrival in Beira we were first told that we were too late for the Nampula flight. After much insistence, Kiran was ordered to wait for the backpacks while Neha was escorted to the check in desk. There she managed to check in both of us and out backpacks without the actual presence of Kiran or the backpacks. After all that running around we were both ordered to sit in the waiting area with the rest of the passengers. There we had to wait 15 mins before being called for boarding. What was the rush then?!
In Nampula, we get a chance to see the even less touristy side of Mozambique and plan our trip to the World Heritage site of Ihla de Mozambique. Hopefully the local friendliness we've encountered so far will continue.