06.19.2008 - 06.21.2008
The predominant form of transportation here is by road. There’s only one large bus company in the south which doesn’t have daily service and requires advance registration. Most people can’t afford this, and so instead take privately owned, small buses, chapas, which are minivans (Flatbush Ave. anyone?), or ride in private trucks, perhaps the cheapest. The goal with any of these transports is to fill it with as many passengers, cargo and animals as possible to make it worthwhile for the driver (see picture of goat and chicken later). Most buses here require very early starts because the distances are frequently long, road conditions are poor and the day is hot. We picked up our bus at 4:00am from a local “backpackers” (the term for very low-priced accommodations with dorm rooms and some private rooms for more independent travelers) and headed for Tofo Beach. The trip was around 470 km (280mi) and took us nine hours, giving you some idea of the road conditions. Also contributing to the time is the fact that the bus makes frequent stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers, and also to let passengers buy water, sodas, produce and snacks, villagers who rush to the open windows. Haggling is often involved. We had the greatest bananas we’ve ever eaten at one of these stops. Oh yeah…and lots of BO, including ours. Mmmm, BO.
Our first view of the Indian Ocean…rough, but home to many surfers. Tofo is a crescent-shaped stretch of beach that appears to be frequented mostly by South Africans who fly or make the drive themselves. It’s also home to scuba diving outfits who take clients out to the open sea to see whale sharks during their season there. Alas, we have no PADI certification to do this. We ended up taking a long walk along the beach, watched the locals fishing for whatever they could find in the tidal pools and enjoyed the companionship of one of the areas many stray dogs.
Young boys also work the beach trying to sell trinkets, however, we find they’re not so aggressive and in fact curious and sometimes have a nice sense of humor. We also stayed in our first thatched hut “chalet,” a common accommodation all along the beach. Unfortunately, this was a lousy one: dark and dreary and the bedspread looked well used..he he. There’s not much to do in Tofo except hang on the beach and go to one of the few restaurants or bars in the vicinity. We’ve heard from other travelers that they loved the spot, but we were less enthused and didn’t find the beach to be that great. Sacrilege! We also were more interested in pushing on to the north to see Vilanculo, Ilha de Moçambique and Pemba, so after two days we checked out and made ready for the daunting day of travel ahead: small chapa from Tofo to Inhambane (a small town described as charming in Lonely Planet…NOT), motorized dhow from there across the bay to Maxixe, and then managed to catch a large, “fast” bus from this mainland town to Vilanculo (another 480km/300mi). Phew. Part way we saw a sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn—cool. On the way to Vilanculo, this girl offered to sell us a chicken...nice.
Before we left Tofo, we stopped for coffee at Mondo’s, the town’s pizza place. Our bad luck, no power, no java.