After about 9 hours we got into Vilanculo, we walked down a hill from town towards the beach to Zombie Cucumber’s, a backpackers owned by an English couple, which was a huge step up from our last place. Prices for accommodations in Moçambique have been as expensive as back home, so we’ve been paying between $28-40/night for so-so places. But Zombie’s broke the mold, and for about $28/ night, we had a spotless “chalet,” and great ambience at the small bar and eating area. Plus hot showers! The beach at Vilanculo was pretty, but sadly, filled with broken glass. The real beauty lies offshore, in the islands that compose the Bazaruto Archipelago, which have sparkling white beaches, and coral reefs. Only a few are inhabited, and some are protected lands. We arranged a snorkeling trip to one of the islands—Magaruque--with Junior, an interesting businessman, who owns the Dolphin Dhow, a dhow safari company. The dhows have sails, but also small engines, as the winds are unpredictable and under sail the journey can take up to three hours.
There was only one other couple on the trip, Sean, a young South African guy, and Emma, his Swedish-Dutch girlfriend. Much time was spent by Sean, often sheepishly, describing the beauty of South Africa, especially Cape Town. Hmmm...maybe next time, Sean. Actually, we had worried that we might be trapped on the dhow trip with obnoxious folks, but these kids were great companions. They shared they had had the same worry, too. When we arrived on the island we spent a little time going through the pail of snorkeling gear and with a warning from the crewman about being careful not to cut our feet on the rocks, we headed up the island, so we could float back down with the current. Okay, so that warning about getting cut did us no good, because as soon as we approached the water both of us lost our balance and got cut. (Look for the picture of Will’s bleeding finger as he reaches for the crab at lunchtime…For those of you with a high degree of anxiety, or sea smarts, fear not, no sharks were attracted by the streams of blood in the water.) The reef followed the coastline, with a drop off of about 20-25 feet. We saw an absolutely amazing variety of fish, and Will spotted some lobsters hiding in the reef—all you could see were their antennae. He actually saw one on the sea floor that was as big as one of his legs! (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it was still pretty big.) While we swam one of the crew (one of three) prepared us a simple but delicious lunch that was incredibly abundant and yummy: steamed crabs, sautéed chicken, calamari curry, coco rice, bread, salad, and succulent pineapple (and bad oranges) for dessert. Way more than we expected—the whole day cost us $50 each.
After lunch it looked like impending rain, and we went in for one more pass of the reef, during which we managed to miss the little rain that fell.
Time to hit the seas and get to Junior’s, who kindly had his woman make us some galao (i.e., latte). Loving this place!
Back at Zombie’s we met another couple, Tom and Keira, a young British couple, who were to be our traveling companions for the next leg of our journey…that’’s right another incredibly long bus ride and painfully early departure. But by now, we’re pretty used to it. Hey, after all, if you’ve taken the Lexington Ave. subway at rush hour, this ain’t so bad. On the other, the subway doesn’t usually allow livestock…Our plan was to take the bus to Beira, the second-largest city, with a reputation for being tawdry. From there we decided we would catch a plane from there to Nampula, because it would have taken us three full days to go overland, and we wanted to save the time for our two northern destinations.