Off the Beaten Path…and Praying to Find It Again

25 10 2008

Posted by: Chris

Travel Dates: 8.04.08- 8.06.08

Travel in Northern Mozambique is surely the toughest we’ve dealt with on the trip, and for a combination of reasons. 1) They cram tiny minibuses so tightly that people crawl out the windows to get out, as reaching the door isn’t a viable option. And we’ve taken the chicken buses in Central America, and nothing compares to this. 2) They stop every 100 ft to pick or drop people off. 3) Most buses leave at 4 or 4:30am in the morning, and if you miss it, your stuck for another 24 hours. 4) There’s a good chance the driver is drunk. 5) Your guaranteed to be quoted above the actual price and will need to argue it down before, and even after you arrive. Expect them to try to charge you for baggage at any chance (no one pays for baggage here). 6) The roads–when there are roads–are completely covered in potholes and the drivers actually veer off the road most the trip. 7) It’s hot. Real hot. And locals HATE opening the windows for some odd reason. 8.) You see where I’m going with this…

So given the difficulty of the above mentioned, we decided Ilha was fantastic…and as far North as we could stomach. Instead of 3 more days of solid travel in the above conditions just to get to the next place we wanted to go, I set up a Dhow (local sailboat) to take us across the bay to a secluded white sand beach. Sounds like a better plan right? Oh silly, silly Chris…

At least I got the price argued down ridiculously low, even locals who asked about it raised their eyebrows and commented that it was a good price, and they would not offer lower. We arrive at the dock at 9am, beautiful day, buy some necklaces before the Dhow sets sail and we’re off. Thirty minutes later we dock the boat on the sand and find ourselves walking to what seemed like the beach, and it looked spectacular with emerald green waters. But we kept walking, through a local village, mud-huts abound and children pointing and yelling “Acunya!”  They followed us for a bit till we found ourselves wading knee high in water, dodging freaky crabs and spiked urchins. An hour and half later we finally arrive at beachside hostel named Carushka. Looked fantastic; ok, so it was a long trip and a bit confusing but we made it here. Except they charged over twice as much as we were quoted, and we didn’t have the cash. And the nearest ATM was in Ilha and was broken for 4 days straight (not to mention we’d have to walk back, take the boat, then redo the journey all again, assuming of course the ATM was fixed).

I tried to explain to the guide who had led us to the hostel that we wanted to go to a place called Cabaciera, where there was cheaper accommodation. He said there were places to stay, and he’d take us there. Great. We follow him back an hour and a half to the original village, Laura sure they were leading us into the middle of nowhere to rob and kill us (joking, joking, relaaaax). The guide takes us to a local mudhut and, to the best of my knowledge, suggests it to us a place to stay. “Look, I like you and all, but I’m not sure this is quite what we had in mind.” I sat on the ground, made the guide sit next to me, and dropped our bags. 20 kids were gathered around us in a scene taken straight out of ‘Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.’ The people spoke a local dialect, and a couple knew some Portuguese words. We spoke English and knew basic Spanish. To say we had communication problems is an understatement.

I finally managed to get across that we wanted to go where “cars are.” And food. So, we walk again. In the middle of nowhere passing mangroves, wading through water, passing local women who laughed and stared at in wonder as we passed. Apparently not a whole lot of tourists make it out there. Go figure. Sunburned, starving, and utterly lost we finally spot a restaurant and–finally–white people. At 3pm we order food and I go over and try and ask where in the love of God we are. Turns out we were at a Tourist College where they train locals for jobs in restaurants and hotels, and these people were working here. Carushka, the original beachsite, was 45 minutes away from here. Good to know. This was called Cabaceira Grande, and the tiny village the guide took us to was Cabaciera Pequena. Awesome news. They also informed us of a local ferry that costs pennies and would have taken us closer than the Dhow, which just poured salt on our wounds (and my ego). Granted we could never have found this place, but still. We bought lunch for the poor Dhow driver who carried Laura’s bag the whole afternoon (the other two boatmen fell off along the way), but we were emotionally conflicted since he was the genius that docked so far from the beach only to take us in completely the wrong direction all afternoon.

The owner of the Tourism college asked “did they drop you off in the middle of nowhere?” This wasn’t a rare situation for her. We hung out all afternoon talking with the workers and staying in the shade. Good folks there. They gave us a ride to Mossuril Bay where we could stay for the night and catch a Chapas (local mini-bus) out. For the little we saw of Carushka, it was the most beautiful beach all trip and had no one on it. The walk was also beautiful and truly untouched by tourism. Even Mossuril was a nice spot to relax, though we got stuck there for a couple days before hitching a ride from some of the workers heading to Nampula. In restrospect it was a unique experience: in restrospect. At the time I was pretty sure Laura was going to rip my curls off my scalp and pepper spray me. Oh, and the “Acunya” thing the kids were yelling at us? It means ‘white person.’ “Brothers, Sisters, look: white people! What in the hell are they doing here?” I don’t know kid, I really don’t know.

Click here to see our Pictures of Mossuril Bay, and middle of nowhere Mozambique***

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