Back on the road after our longest sojourn yet – 14 weeks! ‘Was it worth it?’ you have to ask. Even though we are both delighted to be back in travelling mode, the answer is a most resounding ‘yes’. We have stayed in one of he most stunning places in the world; white sand beaches stretching as far as you care to take yourself; beautiful palm covered dunes dotted with small rural dwellings; local fisherman selling their daily catch of mouth-watering yellow-finned tuna, barracuda, lemon fish; world-class diving; delightful Mozambicans who never fail to charm with their spectacular, heart-warming smiles… we have fallen in love with Mozambique. Well – this little corner of Mozambique as, to be honest, having only traveled 1000km into this vast country, we don’t really feel that we have seen enough to do it justice. Hence the reason that we will be returning in April, when we plan to eventually start the homewards journey through East Africa.
Whilst there is not a huge amount to say about what we have been up to for the last 3-ish months that I haven’t covered in previous blogs, there is actually quite a bit to tell…
Now, you would have thought, particularly given my description above of where we have been, that the small community of lucky people who live, work & own property in this amazing place would be leading an idyllic existence. You would think that they would be a close-knit clan of adventurers, as ‘adventurers’ they indeed were when they first moved here in the immediate aftermath of Mozambique’s tragic civil war. You would imagine a community supporting each other as they attempt to build their lives in a relatively challenging part of the world. NOPE! None of it! Having spent our time living & working closely with the mainly South African community that own & run the resorts & lodges on this beautiful coast, we have come to the conclusion that they all have the unfailing ability to turn their lives into a series of bitter conflicts, petty battles & angry neighbourly disputes. Indeed, we have frequently commented over the past few months that it would be an ideal setting for a Reality TV show.
Why is it like this? I’m afraid that we have come to the conclusion that the Afrikaans South African has an inbuilt determination to get one over on his fellow man… he simply cannot get on with his neighbour, particularly if that neighbour happens to be anywhere near successful. Whilst this is a broad generalisation, it has been confirmed by several Afrikaans that we have spoken to on this issue – so I don’t believe it’s too unfair. They just love ‘shafting’ each other! The other thing is that the average South African who travels to Mozambique seems to believe that he has the right to break the law & that any attempt by the Mozambican authorities to enforce their law is unfair victimisation of South Africans. Some examples:
• The local businessman who has fallen out with every person he has ever been in partnership with, who has now built three separate resorts in the area without a single clean severance from the previous resort.
• Disputes as petty as small speed humps being installed on a public access road escalating to allegations, counter-allegations & counter-counter allegations to local police resulting in fines, vehicle confiscations and increased animosity between the two parties. At no point was the issue ever discussed face-to-face in order to attempt to find a mutually agreeable solution!
• Refusal to share facilities under reasonable agreements to allow the area as a whole to benefit.
• The few agreements that are ever made are constantly reneged on, particularly if the result is to destroy the other party’s business.
• Backhanders paid to the local ‘authorities’ (village chief) allowing South Africans to build competing businesses on another South African’s land without paying them a Penny (that should be Rand, I suppose).
• The utterly ‘unreasonable’ & now ostracised widow who won’t let the issue of her husband’s tragic death drop. He was allegedly the passenger in a vehicle & killed in an accident caused by the drunk driver. The drunk driver got away with the offence by telling the police that it was the man who died who had been driving.
• The outraged business owner who was ‘forced’ to pay a £100 bribe in order to get all his smuggled goods across the border without paying import duty.
• The equally outraged South African motorist who was ‘forced’ to pay a £20 bribe in order to get off a speeding ticket. He did not deny speeding, but truly believed that the Mozambican police were being unfair by stopping him.
• The South African standing ranting at an ATM (cash machine) in Inhambane – cursing the fact that he couldn’t draw Rand & simply not getting the point when Clive reminded him that he was in Mozambique & their currency was the Metical !!
It is the stuff of soap operas! Highly amusing… as long as you are not directly involved of course.
As I mentioned earlier, this place is a taste of paradise & I would recommend it to anyone wanting to do some great diving or have some quailty time on a beach. The only one note of caution I would offer – make sure you go out of season, as during the South African holiday period it becomes choked with 1000s of the characters I describe above. They arrive in their droves within a day of the holidays starting – roaring past in their huge 4x4s, ‘orrible music blaring, clutching their 10th chilled bottle of beer that day & towing a stunning display of boys’ toys: huge fishing boats; jet skis more powerful than your average European car; fishing rods by the dozen (per person); water skis & rubber dinghies with outsized outboard engines just to mention a few. Each morning the beach would slowly turn from empty peacefulness into a thronging mass of gazebos, boys’ toys and loud, R&R* swilling South Africans. This goes on for a fortnight & then they simply disappear as quickly as they arrived. Within 2 days the place is restored to a beautiful, peaceful paradise…. that’s the time to turn up.
OK I have gone (some may say too much!) on about the masses – but to be fair we did meet some wonderful people too. In particular the families that came diving seemed just a little different to those with their excessive toy collection. Just nicer, I suppose! Also many proved to be amazingly kind & generous towards strangers such as ourselves… for which we are eternally grateful. I certainly wouldn’t want to be getting on their wrong side! The one great benefit of all the fishing activity was that on a few occasions we were very kindly given several beautiful yellow-finned tuna fillets. Now this tuna is nothing like the fresh tuna we buy at home – it’s much paler, beautifully tender and simply delicious. It’s so good it is used in sushi & can be eaten raw, simply with a little wasabi, ginger & soy sauce… my mouth is watering now just thinking about it. Even Clive secretly enjoyed it raw, having declared that no-one was EVER going to get him to eat raw fish!!
Special thanks for our last few months must go to Colin Jeffries (‘Jeff’ himself) and Nina, Colin’s long-suffering ‘accountant’ (who does so much more) who allowed, strangely even encouraged us to stay at Jeff’s for so long.
Jeff’s Pro Dive Centre has been my place of ‘work’ throughout our stay at Praia de Jangamo and has to rate as one of the best PADI dive centres I have ever experienced. Small & perfectly formed, the centre is run by a wonderful (if somewhat crazy) South African couple, Johan & Mauritza. When you first meet them, your initial reaction is to wonder what on earth they eat for breakfast… whatever it is, it must be laced with speed! I have never met a couple so genuinely enthusiastic about what they do. They are also blessed with a great crew of Mozambican staff: Ernesto & Chico, the two extraordinarily capable skippers; Gito & Armando, the ever cheerful and hard-working ‘kit-boys’. We grew incredibly fond of them all & will miss them terribly. Here’s a small collection of photo’s to remember them by….
The Jeff’s Pro Dive Centre Crew:
Johan Mauritza Armando
Ernesto Chico Gito
The other bonus we had being stationary for so long was that we had visitors… yes, Mum & Caroline came out for New Year; their second visit to Africa to meet up with us. How wonderful to have crazy relatives & friends. We had a fabulous time with them both – the only sad bit was that Mum didn’t get to see a whale shark… not to be struck of your Bucket List yet then Mum. You will just have to get yourself out to the Maldives to try again! Caroline is also a diver & we had an absolute hoot diving together. Oh, apart from the one dive where I almost killed Caroline by getting her stuck in a narrow dead-end of a cave & had to drag her out backwards by her fins… just a slight misreading of underwater hand signals. Ooops….. sorry Caroline. Certainly gave us something to laugh about that evening over several G&Ts.
Well – now on the road again & off to African country number 24, Swaziland. Hard to believe that we set off in August 2009, expecting to be home by Feb 2011. It’s now January 2012 & we’re only just about half way round… this Africa place just gets under your skin.
Clive Afternote: Just had a bit of a scare…. looked at our rate of travel & suddenly realised that the next RWC (Rugby World Cup for the thick ones!) is in the UK in 2015. So I have now issued orders to my navigator – “Home by 2014 – time to prepare for the RWC & to watch Waled being crowned Champions of the World”
Gavin – sitting here, drinking a 750ml thingy of Castle (good beer) which cost £1, but bloody missing the Pizza & Chianti.
* R&R: ghastly, bright pink Rum & Raspberry drink. It is compulsory for all South African’s who cross the border into Mozambique to be clutching a glass of R&R from 0900hrs onwards.