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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mozambique: Parte Um

Over the Easter holiday weekend, Mr. Deep and I took a trip to Mozambique. This was our first time to visit to an African country outside of South Africa. Technically Mr. Deep has been to Mozambique before IF you count the time he snuck under the fence and crossed the border into Mozambique when we were at Kruger Park.  As that type of behavior is frowned upon, we will count the Easter trip as Mr. Deep's first visit to Mozambique.

Vilankulo is a small town with a very small airport
In a previous post I described how after the trip was paid for in full, I learned that Americans need a visa to visit Mozambique. As Americans we are not used to needing a visa to go on vacation, so Mr. Deep and I were a little taken aback and we had to scramble to get the visas in time. We visited the Mozambican consulate with all our visa paperwork in hand only to learn that Mr. Deep did not have enough blank pages in his passport to get his visa. The consulate website said three pages were needed but at the consulate we were told it was actually six (three front and back.) Mr. Deep then had to make a few visits to the American embassy to get a new passport. While all of this excitement creates endless amounts of blog post material I do feel that the inability to easily complete tasks is becoming more and more frustrating over time. 

Therefore I am going to declare that the number one thing you need to know if you are moving to South Africa (in my opinion) has nothing to do with safety and security as you would think from reading about the country. Instead, I think the first thing that anyone moving here needs to understand and accept is that you will rarely, if ever, be able to fully complete a task on the first attempt. Even though the Mozambique visa debacle technically has nothing to do with South Africa, the whole thing took place on South African soil so I am lumping the experience into my nothing is easy in South Africa rant. Things like renewing your car registration or getting someone to come to your house to fix something and other seemingly simple tasks usually require multiple attempts before you achieve success. It's always something. The system is down that day, you have the wrong form, they can't process whatever it is you are trying to do at that location, the electrician just doesn't show up and doesn't bother to call and on and on. If your hobby is completing tasks in a quick and efficient manner than you are likely to be repeatedly frustrated.

Besides the race against time to get the visas, the other topic of pre-travel discussion was whether or not Mr. Deep and I should take malaria pills. While there is no malaria in the part of South Africa where we live, you can get malaria when visiting other parts of the country and continent. We already had the pills as we filled a prescription prior to visiting Kruger, but then decided not to take them.  Of course neither of us wanted to risk getting malaria but we have also heard bad things about the side effects. Ultimately, we decided to take the pills this time. The ones we had require you to take one pill per day with food for 11 days.  At first we didn't notice any side effects. In hindsight I think that was because we were eating huge breakfasts every morning at the hotel in Mozambique and therefore taking the pills with lots of food. But then, after we returned home and started having just green smoothies for breakfast, we both started to feel sick and nauseous. It took us a few days to realize that it was likely the pills making us feel bad and so we suffered through the remaining days and started to feel better shortly after we finished taking them.  

But I digress. We got the visas and flew to Vilankulo. When we landed at the airport we immediately saw that we could have obtained the visas at the airport upon arrival. We had received mixed information about this as several people had told us we could get the visas upon arrival. But, we also read information that said although you used to be able to get visas upon arrival that now you cannot. I would estimate that three quarters of the people on our plane were getting their visas created at the airport. And the line to create new visas was moving at a rate about three times faster then the line for those of us who already had visas which made no sense because the new visas required quite a bit more work including processing applications and taking photos. The person working the line for those of us who already had visas - whose job it was to look at the visa, type some information into a computer and then stamp the visa - was incredibly slow. He was seated behind a high counter which I couldn't see over the top of so I couldn't tell if he was even working on a computer or if he was just reading a book or texting with a friend or something. 

Finally the visas were stamped and we headed to our hotel called the Dona Ana.  The Dona Ana is located right on the beach and has amazing views of the Indian Ocean. As shown in the map below, Mozambique is a long skinny country with 1430 miles (2300km) of coastline. We chose to visit Vilankulo at the recommendation of a friend who used to live in Mozambique. I don't really enjoy doing research about trips so I am happy to take a recommendation from a person who knows and just go with it.




Vilankulo is a small fishing town named for an African tribal chief, Vilankulo. Since the Portuguese apparently don't use the letter k in their language, the name of the town can also be spelled Vilanculo. Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique but everyone spoke enough English and we did not have any trouble communicating. 
These guys are all fishing on the beach by the hotel. They are line fishing without rods or reels which is why their arms are all bent.
This is a wooden dhow boat. When the tide went out the boats would remain on the sand waiting for the tide to come in again.

Pretty landscaping at the Dona Ana Hotel
In front of the hotel
Another picture of the hotel


Lots of boats and fishermen

Saturday we took a snorkeling trip out to Maguraque, one of the six islands comprising the Bazuruto Archipelago. The archipelago is located just a few miles from Vilankulo. We rode in a wooden Arabian style boat called a dhow out to the island. It was raining slightly when we boarded the boat but soon it cleared up and became a gorgeous sunny day. 


The dhow and a cloudy sky
On the dhow.
Mr. Deep's beer on the dhow. When in Mozambique the beer of choice is called 2M.
The boat crew included the skipper and a chef. The chef began working right away preparing our lunch even though we were not going to eat for several hours. In the middle of the boat was a huge charcoal braai (braai is a grill in South African lingo) where he cooked everything.

The chef cleaning fresh calamari
In addition to calamari, we also had barracuda for lunch.


The braai
Depending on what aspects of snorkeling you enjoy, the snorkeling could be described as either really great or really poor. If you are looking to view brightly colored fish and pretty coral then the snorkeling was pretty bad because it had rained that morning and the water was still cloudy. BUT, if you like snorkeling in very warm water with a current so strong you don't have to do a thing except plop yourself in the water and be carried along the reef without expending a bit of energy then the snorkeling was great. Since I am not a very strong swimmer I did love just lying there in the hot sun and warm Indian Ocean just floating along easily even if we didn't see much of anything. 

After the snorkel, our guide talk us for a walk around the island of Magaruque. The island is only 2.4 km long and up to 1 km wide. It is largely uninhabited although it contains a guest lodge of some kind. 
Maguraque
Mr. Deep and our fellow trip goers walking along the beach on Maguraque

Lots of camera shy crabs on the island. This guy was was trying hard not to have his photo taken but we managed to get a shot of him right before he exited the frame.


After the snorkeling and the walk it was time to eat before we headed back to the mainland.

Lunch was calamari stew, grilled barracuda, rice, bread, bananas and salad. YUM!
We had several other adventures in Mozambique and there is more to come in my next blog post to be titled Mozambique Parte Dois (that's Portuguese for part two.)



3 comments:

  1. never made it to to the northern end of Mozambique which I hear is the nice end. We were in Pemba and didn't much like it. The hotel was literally falling apart.AND expensive, and awful non-caring staff. And see urchins all over the beach. Talk about things stacked against us! Pretty coastline though, if you look at pics in hindsight.

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    1. Yes I read your post and I know your trip was pretty bad. Our hotel, while pretty did have some issues with service and also at some restaurants in town the service was very slow. And there was a lot of litter everywhere in Vilankulo. So the place is not perfect but we did have fun.

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  2. If you get the malaria pills that have a coating you are less likely to have stomach trouble.

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.