What started out as a real pie-in-the-sky conversation of following a friend’s band to Mozambique (or Mozzieambique as I have come to call it) for a gig turned into one of the best holidays you could imagine despite the fact that our plans to go to a music festival withered away when we found out the tickets were sold out in the space of two weeks. No matter, we had one of the most amazing adventures nonetheless. There is so much to talk about that I originally envisioned a play-by-play, day-by-day post but that was when it was a little more fresh in my mind, so what follows is more of a round-up of what we experienced but let me say this before we even start – if you haven’t visited, it is an absolute must!
Flying in over Maputo, I got the distinct feeling that we were entering the land time forgot. There’s a sense of delapidation in many places around the world but there is something so beautiful about the way it meets with this city. To be fair, this was the first African city I was visiting outside of South Africa, a fact that came as a surprise to me in itself, and what you see is probably what should be expected but it still feels rather surreal. The airport has such a nostalgic vibe that you just want to drink it all in with your eyes.
A shuttle was waiting for us and as we trundled along the Maputo streets (that is the very definition of driving in Maputo, I’d say) it’s like you are driving through a Cape Town stuck in the 1960s – well, from the pictures I have seen, at least. I don’t mean to make this sound bad, it certainly wasn’t, not in the slightest – the weather in May was absolutely mint and the people are friendly enough even though many don’t have a clue what you are saying…
To make my life a little easier, I left my accommodation in the hands of the backpacking legends at Coast to Coast and happened upon Fatima’s Backpackers, who have premises in Maputo and Tofo, a tiny beach hamlet about 400km up the coast and quite possibly one of my favourite places I have had the pleasure of acquainting myself with. The fact that Fatima’s website url almost literally speaks for the country’s backpackers was a chuckle and enough to make me book with them on its own.
We only stayed a night on either side of our visit at Fatima’s in Maputo but from the word go I was in my element. The beers are cold, there’s always some music lulling in the air and the people you will meet there will be intriguing, as you most likely are for ending up there in the first place. On that first night we met some Brazilians, who invited us to their band’s gig at the Brazilian social club in Maputo’s CBD. From the first sip of Caiprinha, with electric music and laughter filling the warm night sky on an open-air courtyard, our holiday had officially begun.
That pretty much explains Mozambique in one sentence. Everything is an experience, from grabbing a 2M (the beer you are most likely to find wherever you are) in a park, sampling some peri-peri (they serve it with everything – everything!), taking a stroll along the promenade and inspecting crafts of every sort to travelling in a chapas (a mini-bus) at a snail’s pace even on the major highways – everything is just an experience you will never forget.
Let’s take a moment to talk about beer. Sure, not everyone drinks beer but, when in Mozambique, you should. Even my wife took a liking to the offerings, albeit as a shandy in most cases. As I have mentioned, 2M (Dos M, not “two M” as I called it until the very last day of my stay when someone actually pointed out what the locals call it – oi…) is everywhere but there are many beers to chose from. Laurentina is one I had in a Mozambican restaurant in Cape Town once and the owner of the restaurant ordered two cases for me when I enquired about how I could get my hands on it, so I was familiar with this amazing brew.
The other one I came to like, mainly because it was pretty easy on the pocket, was Impala, which actually became a favourite of mine with its fruity aftertaste and easy drinking. In the city the beers are smaller but keep an eye out for the 500ml bottles as you will save moola with them and they are cheap in the first place. You usually don’t pay more than R20 for a beer, even in a restaurant. That’s sort of a hallmark of the country, food and drink come pretty cheaply…
From Maputo we went to Tofu in the back of the local transport, a chapas minibus. Waking up at the crack of dawn is never my favourite thing to do but when it’s to jump on a bus to head to a tropical beach town, I’m there! As long as there’s hot coffee I promise not to be too grumpy, too.
The drive was long. Only 400km, but soooo loooooong. Chapas drivers usually stick to around 60 to 80km speeds on the highway, which is crazy, and the chapas acts as more than just transport for people, it’s a post service, taxicab, social commentator and so much more. It will test your patience as you slug along for 10 hours in what should be a three to four-hour drive but despite that, what I saw on the trip to and from Tofu are memories burned into my brain forever and I wouldn’t change that for anything. From delivering a computer to a reed shanty, dropping off mail in a small off-the-map town, buying long, thin aromatic loaves from aunties on the side of the road to having a live chicken bound and stuffed under my seat – it was amazing and stays vivid throughout.
Tofu is so beautiful. Our little rustic reed-roofed lodging, with a deck looking out onto the beach that caught the sun on its ascent every morning, was really something out of a dream. One you can live over and over again. It wasn’t anything fancy – a bed, a mosquito net, a fan, a bathroom, that kinda thing, but it was ours and it was perfect.
The town has a bustling trading area, lots of small yet brilliant restaurants and activities to keep you busy all holiday long. We ate out, ate in, bought wares on the beach (hand-sewn shorts made to order, what’s not to like?), went snorkeling, took a sail on a traditional dhow to have lunch with an island chief who invited us into his personal quarters when there were no more seats in the communal area, did a 2-hour trip of the peninsula on the back of a quad bike, drank way too much tipo tinto (the local rum and rasberry go-to) and lazed the rest of our time away on the beach or in hammocks.
As I said, there really is so much to say about all this but I feel like I might be straining your eyes already as we near the 1 300-word mark. Let me just say this: Go to Mozambique! Now if you can, as soon as you can. Just do it, already!
Also, I made a video. I think I have to upload to youtube and share a link as it may be a bit big to share here directly, so let’s see if that ever materialises 😛