Beach life in Vilankulos, Mozambique
03.07.2012 - 06.07.2012 20 °C
After our somewhat epic journey here, Jack, Kate and I have enjoyed the past few days in Vilankulos, a sleepy fishing village on the coast. It’s very different from Tofo; Tofo feels more like a tourist village, but Vilankulos is definitely a functioning town. The sandy streets are lined with thatch huts, and the beach fills up each afternoon with people waiting for the fishing dhows to arrive with the day’s catch.
We didn’t do much on Sunday except recover from our journey, and Monday we spent lounging at the beach by our hostel. On Monday we were also joined by Monica, Inga, Chris, and Camillo, our friends from Tofo. Tuesday we all set out on a dhow safari to the Bazaruto archipelago, Vilakulos’ main tourist attraction.
The archipelago is a series of sand islands separated from Vilakulos by a narrow strip of turquoise Indian Ocean. We set out with our group Tuesday morning towards the closest island, spotting a few dolphins playing in the water along the way. The island is a lovely strip of sand lined with palm trees, and as soon as we got off the dhow we headed into the water for some snorkeling. The water is very clear here and we managed to see some colorful fish (though not as many as I saw diving). I even spotted a little ray swimming by!
After a delicious lunch on the beach, we sailed over to another island which was completely empty except for us. We hiked over the sand dunes to the other side, where we found an empty beach and a huge expanse of bright blue sea, which goes on and on until Madagascar. We were so lucky to have this island all to ourselves! Once we’d had our fill of the waves we started the journey back to Vilankulos, unaware that Mozambique was about to throw us another curve ball.
When we were about 10 minutes from shore, we saw a boat with six or seven Mozambique Marines in full uniform approaching us. Everyone on the dhow fell silent as they pulled up next to us. Three of the men boarded, carrying AK47s, and started to yell at our crew in Portuguese (I was so mad I couldn’t understand Portuguese!) They then proceeded to remove our motor and all got back in their boat. At this point we were all exchanging very nervous glances…I was worried they were just going to take our motor and leave us there, or tow us to shore but take us to the police station - I didn’t have my passport photocopy with me and was worried the day would end with a large bribe to the Mozambican police. Two Marines got back on our boat, with their massive guns, and started arguing again with our crew. As we sat nervously they tied a line to our boat and started to tow us to shore, as we were guarded by the two soldiers with guns. I don’t think ten minutes has ever lasted so long! When we got to shore we all got off and just walked away to our hostel, without the soldiers saying anything to us! Once we’d calmed down and had a beer, we found out that the Marines had stopped our boat because it didn’t have a name painted on it so they couldn’t know if it had paid the proper fees. But since this is Mozambique, rather than escorting us to shore, they felt the need to remove our motor…It’s a great story now but it was definitely a bit nerve-racking!
We spent Wednesday just hanging out at the beach, having had our fill of run-ins with authority figures. Wednesday night everyone left - Camillo, Inga, and Chris heading north, Jack, Kate, and Monica heading south back to Maputo. I‘ve been hanging around until later tonight when I take the 1am bus to Maputo…why it has to leave at 1am I can’t explain, just another one of Mozambique’s quirks!
Yesterday and today have been lazy days for me; chilling on the beach, eating samosas, reorganizing my bag and getting ready for Ghana. This is definitely my least favourite thing about traveling alone - after sharing so many experiences together and becoming so close, suddenly my good friends have all gone their separate ways and I’m on my own again. Navigating the public transit back to Maputo definitely won’t be as fun now that I don’t have anyone to laugh about it with!
After my 13 hour bus ride to Maputo I’ll have the weekend there before heading Monday morning to Ghana. I’m very excited to be back in a country where I’m not afraid of police, although I’ll miss the yummy food and gorgeous beaches here!
Pictures to come once I’m in Ghana, the internet here just isn’t fast enough to load them.