When you think of Mozambique, scenic views of beautiful beaches probably come to mind. You’ll also probably start salivating when you think of the well seasoned, fresh-from-the-sea,barbecued seafood that awaits you at the small beach towns. That’s pretty much what I had in mind when we set off on the 12-hour drive to Barra Beach in Inhambane, Mozambique. Flying to any part of the country other than Maputo can be pretty expensive, so we chose to drive instead. At this point, it is worth mentioning that there was a war in the southern part of the country, so if you’re heading there, be sure to head north. Currently, there is a truce, but just to be safe, north is the way to go.
So, for the important stuff. Firstly, you need to take preventative medication for Malaria before the trip. Visit your doctor to find out which medication would be best for you, and follow the course until completion. Malaria is fatal, so take this seriously. Secondly, make sure you have the correct paperwork for your vehicle and adequate insurance before you hit the road. You’ll be surprised how many people have reached the border only to realise they took the registration book for the wrong vehicle, or don’t have one at all! And, check all your passengers have 1) a passport, to begin with, and 2) have it with them on the day. Print out a map of where you’re going, or set your phone on roaming. We decided to buy simcards at the border,except they didn’t go online for another 5 hours! Not cool. Asking for directions is always an option, however, if you can find someone that speaks English! Lastly, don’t start the drive too late. We did, and had to figure out the way, in the middle of the night. It’s dangerous, don’t do it.
Barra Beach and Tofo Beach
Sipping on some coconut juice, we started the day exploring around the hotel and onto the beach. The breakfast at the hotel was amazing, just what we needed after a long night on the road. The long stretches of white beach secluded only to the residents of the hotel, were breathtaking. It’s at this point, however, that I got an allergic reaction to “something in the air”. I had great difficulty breathing, and so we were directed to go to the nearest pharmacy at Tofo beach, which was about a 15 minute drive. The thing though,is that there is no pharmacy at Tofo beach! At least not anymore, so we had drive to town, about half an hour way, to find a pharmacy so I could get medication. Why they would close down a pharmacy in a place where people are likely to have allergic reactions or get injured? We’ll save that story for another day. But the moral of the story is, carry your own first aid kit when going to these small beach towns.
We managed to get back to the hotel in time our first activity of the trip, the quad bike ride. We rode through the small settlements between Barra beach and Tofo beach, hi-fiving the children along the way. It was such a great way to see the way the locals live around the area, but also a painful reminder that they are not beneficiaries of the lucrative tourism business thriving around their homes. In Tofo, we had a chance to explore the local market, tasting some of the local beer and seeing the crafts and fabrics on sale. At dusk, we drove back to our hotel, with near collisions along the way as my friends tested the full “power” of the quad bikes.
Tofo beach is a backpacker’s paradise, with a lot of tourists choosing this because of the variety of cheap accommodation and food stalls. A lot of the activities are in Tofo as well. Because a lot of the activities are weather dependant, it is best to book them on arrival. Unfortunately the tide was too rough for a snorkelling or diving trip, but it was good enough to try our hand at surfing, or at least that’s what we thought. We would probably get it after a few days of continuous surfing, but we didn’t have that much time unfortunately. We managed to stay on the boards for a respectable amount of time (for first timers), but the water was too rough so we had to call it a day. We headed to one of the food sheds for a massive lunch of lobster (we had 2 servings) and fish. The food is so affordable, so if there’s anything you’ve never tried,this is the place to try it out. We spent the rest of the evening just relaxing at the beach, and having lengthy conversations about how well one can predict the possibility of a Tsunami-type event occurring based on the position of the shoreline!
The next day saw us heading to Maputo, stopping to buy peri peri and mangoes along the way. There are a lot of police stops on the roads by the way, a lot! Anyway, Maputo, being the capital, has a quite a vibrant nightlife. I threw in the towel quite early, but from my friend’s pictures (which I shall not post for obvious reasons), Mozambicans sure know how to party! Our last day in Maputo was spent at the famous fish market right by the beach, on Marginal Avenue. The seafood is fresh from the sea, so fresh some of it is still squirting water in the bowls!
They braai the fish for you, but you need to have cash. There’s an atm at the market in case you forget. There are lot’s of vendors around, if you want to do some last-minute shopping for fabrics and crafts. This was a really great place to spend our last day. At this point, it was time to accept the reality that we had work the next day. With a new found appreciation for Portuguese cuisine, we hit the road to head back. I’ll definitely be heading back!