You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.

One of the final few tasks that need to be completed in order to receive our approval and tourism licences we need to get the administrators of each of the regions our project falls into to write a small letter acknowledging what we are going to be doing. The islands fall into the Moma district and the letter from the head honcho has already been delivered. It has been a bit more complicated getting the same from the administrator of Angoche region as this is where the peninsula lies and it thus only a secondary focus of the project right now. But the licences need to be done together as one.

And the only way to get our letter is to go to the man himself which is a 2 and a half hour journey. Angoche itself is a port town with a small harbour and run down buildings that testify that this was once a central, rich city. But it has never recovered from the war years. The harbour isn’t used much and the cashew nut factories that have been standing hollow all these years are only now starting to be revived.  In the process of being graded and tarred, the road to Angoche is much easier that it was just a few years ago. Fields of coconut trees and the sticky sweet smell of roasting cashews are its welcoming ambassadors. Heat is its representative, sticking to you wherever you go.

A word with the administrators secretary gives us hope that the letter will be written and we can see him when he comes back from a trip along the river at 4pm. We go to the one and only coffee shop/restaurant/bar, “O Pescador”. I remember this place from when I was last here in 2005 except it has moved from one side of town to another, to a building identical in structure, decor and layout, down to the outside tiling to the blue painted window slabs boasting the same dusty plastic flowers. Like looking in a mirror.

We drink coke after coke while waiting an hour for some chips. I start to get literally too uncomfortable to sit anymore, using the excuse of getting more drinks as a way of dodging the heat, a complicated dance that never ends.

With a couple more hours to spare we drive to the beach, “Praia Nova” which the department od tourism says is the next big destination in this province. An old ‘resort’ abandoned sometime in the 50’s is in the process of being restored. The bungalows are small concrete boxes with a couple of small windows and cleared of all trees. It something I see everywhere here, a strange affliction of the Portuguese that they wanted to build houses that keep in all the heat, windows so small, they keep all eyes and light out, and no trees in case they dare provide any shade!

A bit further and we reach the beach, a long strip hidden from view by a small dune running its edges. There is a bar here consisting of a small corral of straw huts, a mud house with a coca cola fridge and kitchenette in the corner and nothing else. But there is shade, a breeze and cold drinks. We wait. We drink. And we try to pay – there is a major change issue here in Mozambique – it seems as though the bank never minted enough of the smaller notes and coins and so every drink we buy anywhere we go comes with a futile discussion about us having a note and them having no change. Of course it doesn’t help to suggest we take some drinks with us as they are bottles which hold a deposit.

Back in the town and overheated once more we try to see if the administrator is back. After 10 minutes standing at the harbour we see his boat arriving and so we drive around to some back road so Jack and Nox can change back into their business suits. But the bush telegraph is fast here and no sooner are we parked that the harbour master has found us to tell us Mr Administrator has landed.

Then we wait again, 10 minutes, 20, 30, 40…. they are called in at 4:30 pm. At 5, they come out shaking their heads. The administrator wants us to do another community consultation, there has been a confusion between the administrator and the lands department. Now we drive back the 2 and a half hours knowing that it will tomorrow or the next day that we will have to be back to do it all again.

Advertisements

Carrusca Mar & Sol

In a place where any journey anywhere is going to take some time, it makes some sense that weekend trips to the coast, to Nacala or Ilha, are seen as simple excursions just out of town. And driving for just over 2 hours, mostly on a relatively smooth tar road is nothing compared to the hours of total relaxation one earns, being in the middle of nowhere.

And this is my excuse for going away on another weekend break, this time to Chocos Mar, found along the road to Ilha. The turn off to Chocos takes us off the tar and onto a sandy and rain rutted road, fun for the driver, not so much fun for the passengers who get the most bounce out of each ditch and donga.

It’s worth it though – Chocos is one of my favourite spots here in Nampula Province. It is the quintessential Mozambican stretch of coast with nothing but long thin palm trees slightly bent, water patchworked in turquoise, aquamarine and denim blues, a beach with sand so bright it blinds and clusters of mangroves that the tides fill and empty of water throughout the day.

The actual town of Chocos Mar has its own strange atmosphere. Here, there are small flat roofed holiday houses that on a whole seem to have been out of use for some time. This was after all the Hermanus or Plettenberg Bay of the Mozambican Portuguese before they lost their rule. Now signs of revival show with some of the cottages showing off new coats of paint but the dirt streets, laid out in a 2X3 grid along the coast line, are still deserted, some buildings stand incomplete and empty. It’s the quiet that is so strange – no holiday making sounds, no cars, no people sitting in bars. But no doubt there will be a day of revival, it has started already, these things just take time out here in Mozambique.

We head through the town and on to Carrusca, a new development with 5 cottages and a bar/restaurant. The cottages are self contained in that they have their own bathrooms, a dining area, a bedroom and upstairs mezzanine with beds and kitchen. But the kitchen contains no fridge and no cooker – and if we want coffee in the morning we must a) bring our own and b) request a flask of hot water from the restaurant. The kitchen then is a unnecessary extra, having no real use at all. Same would go for the dining area as with no way of cooking any food, what would one eat at the table. 

But, the verandah comes with deck chairs, a hammock and the most spectacular sunsets over Ilha de Mocambique that we forget all our complaints. Besides, we travelled with others who were staying in the family cottage, the one that has the fridge, so the beers at least were cold.

And what is there to do at Carrusca? Nothing, some reading, long swims in the sea (almost like a rather large private swimming pool), beer drinking and talking and dinner at the restaurant. And we did just that!

There is a warning that should come with places like these – it will make you lazy, you will never want to do anything in a hurry again, that is, if you ever get it together to get up and actually leave.

Unfortunately we did manage to leave, only after a couple hour wait for a plate of chips, so we almost didn’t make it out. Fortunately we can always go back!

nacala.jpg

Friday 9 March – Sunday 11

Tobias had to go and see clients in Nacala and in exchange for him using our car we made a weekend of it – him helping out with the bill.

Nacala is about a 2 and half hour drive from Nampula. The drive a nice, easy one and again I got behind the wheel, this time even negotiating the potholes and people of town. But leaving as we did just after 6am, the drive was cool and quiet and I only had to use the hooter a few times, mostly for crows in the road and even once a kite, sitting there on the side of the road – very unconcerned about such trivial things as cars bearing down on its life.

We tried to find out about renting a large house for the weekend but after a brief 4X4 drive to the aforementioned house we find it is only available monthly. So back we went – me giving up my spot as driver because of the difficulty of reversing in sand. Our only other option was to stay at the local backpackers/lodge called ‘Bay Diving’ or ‘Fim do Mundo’ (they appear to have some difficulty deciding which one).

Bay Diving offers a beautiful view of the bay (which forms part of the deepest natural port), a cool is somewhat greenish pool and good chalets. There is also a restaurant (which is lucky as there isn’t really anywhere else to go and to go anywhere requires a bit of a drive). Needless to say I spent the weekend having coffee and breakfast, sitting in the pool, reading, sitting in the pool, having lunch, reading, sitting in the pool, reading, reading, sitting in the pool, swimming in the sea, sitting in the pool, showering, having drinks, having dinner, having more drinks and sleeping. I was a bit disturbed by the rumour of a house snake in our room, especially the thought of it coming out of the shower head but it may just have been a joke for the ladies.

The menu has a few vege options and so there were no problems there, the coffee was good and wine was the standard fare of Nederburg Baronne (which just happens to be a favourite although I’m sure at home in SA I wouldn’t even consider it at the prices it goes for here)

The highlight of the trip must have been the rather adventurous and definately more energetic than usual excursion across the bay in a kayak. But it was good. The trip took us about 30 minutes one way and once on the other side we had a completely secluded beach to ourselves and some well-planned cold beers which were enjoyed in the sea. (the seclusion excludes the guarda guy who was on hand to help out by putting a wooden bed out for us under the shade of the hut and arranging our stuff around this very neatly – and of course the fisherman in the area)

This trip made me feel a lot better about the drinks afterwards and the general laziness of the 3 day holiday.

What strikes me about this place is the amount of ex-pats living in these parts and most of them in middle age rather than the young and adventurous one would expect. But they are there – just not so many.

I’m sure I will be seeing a lot more of Nacala and the drive might even become something of a pain in the near future where it has been an exciting prospect. One thing about Nacala that I can find complaint with are the mosquitoes – I got attacked on my left arm due to that same arm lying against the net over our bed! The bites are only just going down now!

And maybe next time I can convince everyone (myself included) to get out the pool and into the car for a bit of a recce of the area….

In Nampula:

4 school boys huddled under a coca cola sun umbrella walking up the street, their legs splashing in the rain filled potholes, bumping along trying not to get wet heads while their feet get soaked.

Swallow sitting on the wire having a bath in the splashes of rain near the end of the storm. He waits for a couple of drops to collect then shakes it out while pecking at those hard to reach places under his wings.

The river that forms under the tyres of the cars parked at the side of the streets, making a grade six white water rafting experience for any stick that happens to be floating by.

In Nacala:

A line of dug out canoes looking so peaceful fishing in a row just a few minutes ago are suddenly lost from sight as the curtain of rain goes down on them and our view.

Bars and restaurants of Nampula (or the ones I have been to)

 

Nampula isn’t very big – it seems to me that most places are within the same grid of 3 blocks along and 3 up. Of course, everything is centered around the one and only set of traffic lights. But still the people who have been here a while opt to drive or take taxis when going out. Myself, I would rather walk, novelty outweighing laziness.

 

So it is quite surprising when going out we get in the car, or as was the case last Saturday, calling and waiting for a taxi, that we go about one or two blocks and we are there! In fact, there are times when it seems walking could be quicker.

 

And the places – they are also within the same 3 blocks of each other. Our most immediate local (and they can all be termed locals) is the Pensao Parque opposite the flat. This place is made enticing by the coloured lights hung on a string going from tree to tree. The drinks – beer or coke – cost the same here as most places and the plastic garden furniture certainly aren’t going to set it apart from every other place in town. Also the immediate proximity and heat make this place a good temptation into alcoholism. The thought of cold beer is all-consuming on some of the more sticky hot days. But this place is pretty and has a strange romantic appeal to me – it seems the kind of place where I, under different circumstances, would find myself with notebook, writing about my travels.

 

Copacabana must be the most visited restaurant here. The main reason for our return time and again is that they make the best pizzas (pizza being the standard cuisine other than chicken) and also have a couple of vegetarian options. But they are slow. On arrival it is absolutely imperative to order your drink otherwise you will die of thirst as well as hunger before you get a chance to protest the service. Ordering wine is a special event – on the menu you have the option of Portuguese wine or South African wine – you then choose and they bring the selection of say South African wines in stock to the table. Then you choose again. All SA wines cost the same no matter what the label and it is all R100 – the same price as in the supermarkets. Beers are the best value for money but there is a trap – some places will charge the same price for a normal small bottle as for a 500ml bottle and will bring you the small one unless you specifically ask for the grande, which costs R10. And they are always cold.

Food takes over an hour to arrive at Copacabana but there is nothing to do but wait. If necessary there is bread and butter on request and if it is not too busy you could get the olive oil (only one bottle available sometimes) with the bread. The pizzas usually arrive one or two at a time – if it is two then one is usually cold – it seems the pizza oven only cooks one at a time. But if the pizza is hot it is good although I have started to get a bit tired of the tinned peas and muchrooms on my pizza vegetariana.

 

MP3 Bar is the newest bar in town and is situated, a bit bizarrely, in the Girasoll building, which is the newest office, shops center in Nampula. The bar has promise with low marble like tables and soft booth chairs. It starts to lose its appeal with the pink lights and  mushy pea green printed marble bar counter. But then the name should be a give away to the cheesiness this place is capable of. Because it is ‘new’ and ‘modern’ they can charge a lot more for their drinks. I paid double the price of a beer for a small can of tonic water – I can only imagine what it must have cost if I asked for Gin with it! They also have the weirdest security system here – as you walk in you are given an order card. The idea is when you order you do so writing it down here and then get it marked off when you pay. Where this system gets a bit shaky is that if you are in a group of people you only use one card but you MUST be able to show your blank one as you leave. I see a few loopholes here!

 

Café Atlantico is a small but busy coffee shop also in the Girasol. The coffee is good but I suspect the real reason for its success is the aircon – it is heaven and the only way one could actually enjoy a hot coffee at midday.

 

Café Carlos – this is about a block away from the flat in the only road in Nampula not to get repaired in the last few years. Most roads here have some potholes but this one is more pothole than road. Carlos has a secluded tranquility about it; it is situated within a courtyard, some tables outside, some inside. There are actually pictures on the walls inside and the tables are all neatly decked out with checked green clothes. Bamboo and other pots of a variety of green plants line the walls showing off the tropical lushness of Nampula so often covered in concrete. The beer is the usual 2M at the regular price of 30MTn (Meticais Nova Familia) which is just under R10. The menu consists of the Nampula staples of grilled chicken or pizza – which apparently aren’t that great so we don’t eat here.

 

There are a few more places I have yet to discover but that will happen in time. At the moment I am happy to be cooking at home using whichever vegetables are in season and available at the market!