Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A New Year: 2008

New Year’s Eve
I start the daily early, not waking Sally to say goodbye. After collecting my passport, I head along to Tofo Scuba. It’s a shame that I’m not diving. I grab my DVD of the dive yesterday after watching it on their TV. It looks good! I’m sad to leave though, they’re a nice bunch, especially the manager Steve, and one of the instructors, Ty. Walking past Fatima’s, the security guards are happy to see me. In the village, I try to hitch, and a Porsche 4x4 hesitates before driving on.

How on earth did this get here?

A large taxi stops, and tries to charge me taxi rates, then concedes when I walk away. How much do I want to pay? I suggest 30M, including my bag, which he is okay with – I’m in the back with three kids as we bump along the road to Inhambane.

At the bank there, I try to withdraw 3,000M. The machine accepts this and tries to count money, which it does for a while, perhaps a minute, before giving up. Oh dear. 2000M works though. I shall have to watch my statements very carefully for a double charge. I grab a egg and cheese sandwich before heading down to the ferry pier. On the pier a chap asks me if I’m travelling alone? Yes. The charge for the boat is 350M. I’m about to say something untoward when he realises he had better retract this, so he sells me the 12.5M ticket for the ferry. It’s packed, but enjoyable, chugging slowly across. I wonder what happens if it sinks – most Africans can’t swim. Later I’m told that there was an instance where it sank, and every single person on the boat died.

Ferry pier

Wilson, who I met in Maputo, comes to pick me up outside STOP Restaurant with Daniela. He investigates transport to Vilhankulo for me, then we go for drinks back at STOP. We end talking about relationships, particularly between foreigners and Mozambicans, and why the cultural clash makes things not difficult, but at least fragile. I order lula (calamari), which is quite good, but comes in a portion far larger than I was expecting.

So I end up on the public bus. It’s packed. My bag goes underneath, then on the bus I end up standing in the aisle. Don’t worry, says the conductor, you’ll probably only have to stand for the first 30kms or so. Problem is that in Africa that could mean an hour! We do the annoying “slow drive” thing out of town, with the driver going at walking pace for no apparent reason for about 10 minutes. It’s very hot and frustrating. Eventually I find a seat, next to boy who clearly wanted a window seat as he keep leaning over me to look out or buy cashews, exposing me to his terrible body odour.

We arrive in Vilhanculo about four hours later, and I walk down to the beach, hoping to find Zombie Cucumber, the recommended backpacker place in town. As I walk down, people are streaming up from the beach, wrapped in towels etc, all saying hello or boa tarde (good evening). I like the feel of Vilhanculo already!

Zombie is in fact just along the beach from where I meet it, so it’s not long till I’m walking in to a nice bar with a few people about drinking. It’s a few hours till midnight now, I really hope they have space available! Turns out they do, and in fact they seem fairly quiet.

I join the German guy who is married to the Indian South African girl, and the other African girl, and get down to drinking Dois M. Later the Afrikaans girl, Celia, and I go out to the beach at Tropical for party with a couple of the guys who work at the hostel. There are several hundred people just along from where we are, partying on the beach as several warm-up acts played. They’re luckily it’s low tide as at high tide there’s hardly any space on the beach. Well I guess more people would have ended up in the water perhaps.

The gig is sponsored by Vodacom, and they had out t-shirts to the crowd. It would seem that half of Mozambique wears either an mCel or Vodacom t-shirt as their standard apparel. At the bar I buy three beers, and get into a bizarre argument with the girl about how much 3x 35 is, she insists it’s 115, and is suggesting I am trying to short her! It’s cleared up when someone with slightly better arithmetic joins in the discussion.

At midnight there is the usual countdown, then a cheer goes up and fireworks launch into the sky, everyone is so happy, and the crowd immediately starts dancing around. Once the official display is over, some rogue fireworks start spraying about, so I made sure Celia and I had some crowd as a buffer. Amusingly enough, the local girls are all assuming that I’m with Celia, so no chance of me misbehaving tonight! Soon after, I walk he home before heading back to the party for some boogying! I call it a night fairly early still, which is probably a silly thing to do given how close Zombie Cucumber is to the beach – the pumping music carries on till 6am, stops briefly, then at 7:30am starts again! Just for a few minutes though…

New Year’s Day
Up a little later, it’s already warming up. Today’s going to be hot! As I pick them up off the floor, I notice that my black trousers are hosting a cloud of mozzies. Perhaps four dozen. Makes me shiver to think of it even now. My bag is similarly decorated. The good news is, of course, that the net worked, yay! Perhaps I won’t get malaria after all!

Round in the bar area, I ask for breakfast. They don’t have eggs, but they can give me Bacon Beans on Toast. Sounds acceptable. However, when it arrived, I queried the lack of bacon. Bacon Beans on Toast. Of course he meant Baked Beans. They are from a tin, he explains to me, it says Bacon Beans on the front. Still tasty of course. The place is owned by a Yorkshire couple. What is the connection between Yorkshire and Mozambique?

Incidentally, they taunt me daily with a Timothy Taylor’s Landlord beer mat behind their bar, whereas I know full well that they don’t have any in their fridge. Taps? They dispense cholera round here, not ale sadly. After breakfast I lounge about a bit, summoning the energy to head out in this increasing heat.

Celia and I wander out eventually, along the beach, me paddling for a bit. It’s intense now, and I’m missing my sunglasses which went as we launched the boat for that last dive in Tofo.

Inhambane has been hit hard by some tropical cyclones, in fact almost annually, and along the beach we see evidence of this – deserted buildings, cleaned out but for the concrete structure. Millennium BIM Bank dispenses cash suspiciously easy in my opinion. I need to follow up with BCI Formento as soon as possible to see if I were stung for the zombie cash withdrawal.

The supermarket on which I had pinned my air-conditioning hopes is closed, so we end up at New York Pizza, which is a silly or at least unimaginative name for a nice waterside restaurant which, amongst other dishes, does pizza.

I use the internet downstairs at 2M a minute, it’s bloody hot but I do discover that there are plenty of flights between Beira and Nampula – this is my cunning plan to skip the three day bus journey. Price is 2500M, of which 1500 is airport taxes. LAM and Air Corridor prices are different by 1.13M, which I find somewhat suspicious.

We wander up to the Central Market which is fairly deserted, but instead we find a nice café with ice-creams and more importantly Pastel Natas. I introduce Celia to their delights, before we buy some fruit and head back to Zombie Cucumber for pool action and some wine provided by our German South African friends. I tuck into Tilman, who is heading up to the mountains near Kashgar at present.

Later, we wander out to Dolphin Dhow Safari and Odyssey Dive school, my two choices for tomorrow. I’m leaning towards the former as the diving is expensive here, and I’d rather save my money for further up the coast. As we hit the beach, it’s clear that yesterday’s party spot on the beach is filling up again, perhaps they’re doing something tonight. Lots of happy Mozambicans are descending from town and the fiesta spot is filling up again. Wonder if they’ve cleaned up all this broken glass. Gulp.

So, at the dhow, the chap says things will be fine tomorrow. Then at the dive school, they say there will be 35 knot winds, and maybe everything will be cancelled. It’s expensive to dive here, I wish I had dived more in Tofo to be honest. At the dive school, or rather at the hostel next to it, I bump into Frank, the German, who is enjoying being a reasonable distance away from the noise in town. As we leave and head back along the beach, one of their dogs follows me, and it’s quite difficult to stop him. He looks dopey enough that if he comes all the way into town I can imagine him not working out how to get back.

We spend the evening at Zombie. I order a mix of the two dishes on offer, going for the fish, but without tomato and olive sauce, instead with lentil, chickpea and veg curry.

Too much food, but good. Bed early.

No comments: