It has always been a name on a map, a place that might be nice to visit someday but actually going to the Gile Reserve made me think, “why haven’t I done this before?”

As part of their Anchor Site program, the Mozambican Ministry of Tourism (FUTUR) and the IFC (International Finance Corporation), are looking for investors in the Gile Anchor Site which includes two islands of the Primeras and Secundas Archipelago. The idea behind this anchor site is to set up a couple of lodges or resorts on the two islands, Casuarina Island and Epidendron Island, with the option of later developing some sort of lodge or resort on a concession in the reserve. The investment in the island resorts will help pay for some of the restoration and preservation costs of the reserve. The eventual idea would be to have an opportunity to offer a combination package to guests, to spend time on one of two beautiful remote islands and then visit an off the beaten track wilderness area.

So, being interested, we went to have a look. But first we needed to see what it all looked like from above and chartered a plane to take us over the reserve and then the islands. The Gile Reserve from above is simply amazing. Almost the entire area is covered in forest and even now in the dry season it all looks so green. There are a couple of inselberg formations which have their own forest ecologies growing on them. The two rivers bordering the reserve, the Molocue and the Mulela, are surrounded by lush riverine forest.

The next day, we drove three hours out of Nampula to see what the view was like from the other side, the ground. Arriving in Gile Town in the evening we spent some time getting to know some of the people from IGF, a French NGO working to conserve the Reserve. After a couple of beers we reached lights out time (the town generator goes off at 10pm) and settled into bed at the pensao, which was clean and quite pleasant. (I always expect the worst so was happily surprised)

The next morning we set off for the actual reserve. Once we entered the gates, it was like the other Mozambique ceased to exist, the one where there is always a village in sight or cassava fields. Here there was us and the forest. The reserve is made up of Miombo woodlands and there are a few open grassland dambos but on this first day we saw only forest. And beautiful forest it is, with a few varieties of orchids visible on the trees, slashes of light shining green throught the trees and a sense of quiet immersion with the nature surrounding us.

In one day we manage to drive the ‘road’ traversing the reserve, stopping briefly outside Malema before driving on the outskirts to get to the main camp at Mualama where we spent the night. The next day we have time for a quick (3 hour) jaunt to find the inselbergs and a quick climb up one to see the view – this is the ideal spot for a lodge with views over the reserve forests, feeling like one of the gods atop Mount Olympus. Unfortunately we can also see smoke from the fires that poachers in the reserve make to trap animals then leave them to burn without control. This is one of the first tasks of the IGF, to control the poaching and fire problems.

There is so much more I could say about Gile but here there isn’t enough space. It may have been work that took us there but I think I got more pleasure out of it than anything else. A thanks to the IGF and the Reserve Manager who hosted us and I look forward to seeing their progress in keeping this pristine piece of wilderness alive.

After many months of being away I finally got a chance to visit the mainland camp at Larde. And after so long, there are many new, exciting changes in the camp.

The bread oven is now fully functional and we enjoyed delicious warm baked bread for breakfast. Coming soon will be the layer chickens so fresh eggs will be added to the fare available.

For the first time I slept in a bed in one of the houses and not a tent, what a pleasure! The houses have now coat some paint on the outside and soon the inside of each will be painted too, making them ‘real’ houses at last. I’m sure this will make a big difference to the guys staying there. Everything is ready for the plumbing, which will bring showers and flush toilets!! Most exciting!

But one of the best new happenings at Larde definately has to be the canteen. Almost finished, the canteen has a kitchen and storeroom, a toilet and a large open sitting area where the staff can eat and gather socially. If all goes well a Tv will be installed (depending on the pending electricity coming soon to Larde).

The new manager is coming soon all the way from Germany and he will be helping the staff set up a carpentry and joinery workshop to supply materials for the islands. Staff will also have the chance to learn new carpentry skills from him. A training room will be part of the new workshop buildings which are next on the list of what to build.

We weren’t there nearly long enough as we had to get back to Nampula to complete some important proposal work but I am guessing that next time I will be happy to stay a few days, the camp is now like a proper living area and I am looking forward to fresh bread and eggs for breakfast!

Staff houses at Larde

Staff houses at Larde

Staff canteen at Larde

Staff canteen at Larde

Getting a household together from scratch in Nampula is a bit of a challenge. And an effort. The challenge is in finding all the usual household things without too much problem. The effort is the marching up and down to all sorts of shops one would never usually notice to find these same things. I have been getting quite good at it now, pratice that I’ve had.

I now know where to get material, and a good tailor to make sheets, curtains etc. I know where the best pillows are and a decent mattress at a decent price. I also know my way around buying plastics such as tupperwares, buckets and bins. I have a fair idea about furniture, even though the choice isn’t good.

But what has been alluding me for weeks has been the purchase of plates. Normal serving size dinner plates. I have sideplates and bowls and funky square bowls and pasta shallow bowls and cups and saucers. But plates seem harder to come by. (There are sets available but wanting more than 4 of each, not liking the pattern or colours and already having all the other crockery I have been looking in particular for plates sold in the singular).

After a few fruitless searches and lots of frustration I decided to give up with the active search, taking the much more Nampulan way of thinking that one day I will come across what I want, so until then, don’t worry about it.

This theory worked quicker than I thought and Sunday, helping a friend find flip flops at the market, plates were found! There was an awkward moment when I almost got 5 blue plates and one marroon but after a bitof discussion and lifting of displays I came away with 3 blue and 3 green simple but bright plates. Perfect.

In the same way, friends came by the lounge suite they have been looking for for months, perhaps even years, when shopping for their son’s birthday present, they got more than they bargained for.

The moral here is when in Nampula, have patience, all things come to those who wait, some just might take a bit longer than others!

As the sun sets, around 5:50pm, the darkness that descends on Nampula is broken by the sharp sounds of sudden slaps coming from within the households as people settle in for the night. Or so I imagine. It is like this in my house every night that I am no longer taken by surprise, my heart ripped out of my skin, at the startling clap of hands on either side of a mosquito. In fact, I have quite taken to the sport myself, risking stings and the embarassment of clear missed swoops, all in the name of getting as many of the pests as possible. It doesn’t help, there are hundreds of them still but the moment, right after the clap, that reveals a dark smear on the palms, is reward enough.

There are other forms of mosquito slapping that require equipment more than mere hands. The Chinese shop sells mosquito zapping racquets – they have uv lights to attract the prey who get zapped in the mesh – which can be bought in pairs and a match arranged, remember to move the furniture to make some space. Then there is the more docile form of the sport, known as watching the mechanical mosquito slapper – or more commonly known as ‘the killer’ – which involves none other than a cold beer and comfy chair from which to watch those mossies get fried. (Equipment is a standing form of the racquet)

I have heard of pillow slapping, or toss the pillow at the mosquito, but this variety lends itself to more misses than hits and can be a form of frustration, especially as it seems to be played in the small hours of the morning, after being either rudely awoken or kept awake for hours.

The most dangerous form of mosquito slapping has to be mosquito slapping in the shower as it involves a subtle mix of awareness, aim, coordination and balance. One sudden move and you could be on the floor with bruised limbs and ego as the ones that got away hover above just out of reach of your soap waving arm.

What I know about the rubbish in Nampula is limited to the piles of it lying around on the pavements, spilling sometimes onto the streets. Ok, there is a lot of it but still, this is as far as my awareness went. But I have recently come across the politics of rubbish disposal in this city. I’m not sure if it is true or not and am only quoting someone else.

It first started when I noticed that during the day our empregada, the lovely Virginia, would empty the rubbish bin onto the lawn (or other random spot) and leave it there. When asking about this I was told that it is left there for the guarda who comes at night to take care of. By why? Apparently night is the time to put your rubbish in those oh so effective public rubbish bins, or rather on to the street. I still can’t quite figure out why this is. I have been told it is something to do with when the city collects the rubbish, which apparently they do during the day. I like to think that perhaps it is because dumping your rubbish next to some rusting piece of metal on the pavement is some cause for embarrasment. Then again, maybe not. I will just have to accept it as one of those strange Nampula things unless someone cares to enlighten me…