Mozambique’s hidden treasure a bargain find
For a very reasonable price, Sowetan deputy sports editor Daniel Mothowagae and a group of friends experienced an extraordinary week-long excursion in Mozambique recently. Mothowagae also took the pictures
THE R1 199 five-night stay for two in a casita more than made up for the 18-hour drive that started at 2am on a chilly Sunday morning in Johannesburg and ended in Inhambane – 960km away.
The sleepy historic town is located in the south of Mozambique, about 490km north of the capital Maputo. The dorpie’s rusting colonial architecture almost obscures the picturesque coastline of Ponta da Barra, our final destination.
After a 30-minute drive from Inhambane town, we uncovered a paradise the minute we checked in at Casas Delight resort at around 7pm. The journey took longer because of zero tolerance in 60km zones along the route; I counted 11 in all.
The resort owners – South African couple Anna and Andre Greyling – were happy to see us because we were among a few guests in what was supposed to be peak season because of South Africa’s school holidays.
Our accommodation, built of natural materials only, was basic and rustic but all clean. And it was a minute’s walk from the beach.
We dozed off to the sound of the waves with just the odd mosquito to worry about because it was not yet hot.
There was never a dull moment after we had marked our first sunrise. We hit the beach because the view was so tempting and skipped breakfast. The sea breeze that hit us felt therapeutic.
The warm Indian Ocean waters and stretches of striking clean, white, powdery beach sand were a delight.
The sight of a fisherman and hawkers, including a 14-year-old who went by the name of “Mr Price”, were a daily occurrence along the beach. Add to the mix sunbathers and jogging tourists.
We observed a few fish species dangled our way by fishermen. The most common catch was the barracuda (a ray-finned monster of a fish) and dorado (a rare golden fish) that these men brought in by kayaks or self-made boats, having raided the sea as early as 4.30am and only getting back at noon.
A kilogram cost between 180 metical (about R51) and 250 metical (R71) depending on the species. The fish added great variety to our braai, for a bargain price.
Apart from the local beer 2M (or dosh-em in Portuguese), we fell in love with a Mozambican phenomenon known as “tipo tinto” (rum and raspberry).
Marcos, a barman at our lodge, unlocked even more discoveries for us outside our base.
He connected us with Armando dos Santos, an 18-year-old tour guide who arranged a dhow trip to nearby islands.
It set us back R395 per person for a full package: transport and lunch all included.
We experienced a different world at “Pigs island”, where we met arguably the most humble people who are at peace with their surroundings and, of course, their pigs – hence the name.
Back at Barra, a local named Safrimento hosted us at his house, which was on the other side of a dune that divided us.
His humility reminded us why Inhambane is known as “Terra de Boa Gente”, Portuguese for the land of good people.
Barring overloaded, battered jalopies and menacing minibus taxis along main routes, it’s 4x4 or nothing in Mozambique.
Volkswagen SA had offered us the Amarok to take for a test drive.
The TDI 4motion double-cab had all the right buttons to navigate the sandy paths with an effortless performance from its 2-litre turbodiesel engine.
Selecting the “offroad mode” option bailed us out of challenging conditions a number of times, including a drive to Safrimento’s house at Murongulo village.
With its reasonable fuel consumption over long distance, we spent about R2 000 on diesel to and from Johannesburg, all thanks to Mozambique’s struggling currency, the metacas, or “mets” in local slang.