A Travellerspoint blog

June 2008

Beira to Ilha de Moçambique

Not much to say about Beira, just a small city, with a big heart, fast women and fast food. (Okay, there wasn’t any fast food but we definitely saw some fast women.) We stayed in a place with the foulest smelling bathroom, but you get what you pay for. The best part of our story is the bus ride to Beira, where Carina watches in mouth-gaping horror (look away PETA), as they tie a live goat to the bare roof, which has no rails. He's visible as the light brown thing on top:


Guess what happens a little after we’re under way? The goat’s ass begins slowly creeping, lower and lower, off the roof. Lucky guy gets tied back on, giving him an opportunity to piss on our bags. It turns out that goat pee washes out pretty easily. (BTW, he survived the trip to piss again.) Here's a shot of the road on the way to Beira:


Roosters, unlike goats, are welcome to ride inside:


After an uneventful plane to Nampula, we caught a chapa to Ilha de Moçambique (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_Mozambique), the place we have enjoyed the most so far, even though there’s nothing to do. It’s a small island, maybe 3 km by 500m wide, which was once the Portuguese capital of their province of Africa, and prior a major Arab port. Thus, there is a mosque, a Hindu temple, and Catholic churches. The people here were very friendly and warm, in particular the younger children who were eager to interact with us in any way.



We stayed in a lovely five room place, Casa do Gabriele (http://www.mozambiqueguesthouse.com/eng/amazing_guesthouse.html), whose owner was an architect who had renovated a couple of small buildings, which had housed small shops.


Our room had a bed suspended by ropes, and each night we were rocked gently to sleep. Gotta get one of those when we get back. At 4:20 each morning, we ignored the call to prayer from the Mosque immediately adjacent, as neither of us is Muslim, yet. We had a great laugh the first morning because it seemed the muezzin may have had a cold…or a breakfast of crackers and peanut butter.


We spent four days chilling, just walking around, doing laundry, and meeting some of the locals and a couple of interesting travelers staying at our place. Seafood is the major source of income for people working on the island:


We caught a beautiful sunset at one of the few restaurants, Reliquias:


The place was obviously once quite segregated by the Portuguese, who lived and worked in the northern half of the island, in what is called Stone Town, while the local Macuans were relegated to an area in the southern part, referred to as Mecutí (perhaps the Macuan name for reed houses). The homes in Stone Town are mostly dilapidated but oddly beautiful, with a pastiche of hues.


We felt really lucky to see the island before Moçambique’s northern areas are totally developed as tourist destinations, which seems likely, given that ex-pats who have been here some time are slowly renovating places that will cater to wealthier tourists. One can only hope some residents will be able to benefit directly, and that there is a sense to conserving the land from overdevelopment.

Posted by cleichter 09:56 Archived in Mozambique Comments (2)


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.

Posted by cleichter 09:54 Archived in Mozambique Comments (1)

Maputo to Tofo Beach

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.


Posted by cleichter 09:43 Archived in Mozambique Comments (1)


View Carina and Will's Route on cleichter's travel map.


By the time the plane touched down in Maputo, we were pretty tired, having only slept a couple of hours. This certainly contributed to our first dose of culture shock, which happened as we exited the terminal into a mass of people all vying for our bags. Of course, there was no need for anyone to take our bags as we had nowhere to go, not having booked a hotel. Will managed to buy a Blá Blá phone card (Moçambiquans have a certain sense of humor) and we proceeded to call most of the cheap hotels in our guide book, all of which were booked. Yikes! We ended up deciding to go to an overpriced business hotel, ‘cause we were just too tired to keep trying. We spent the next couple of days taking care of business—that is buying our first sim card for our phone, figuring out transportation to our next destination, and other research. Euro cup fever continued strong. Our big splurge was going to a restaurant a little outside of town, called Costa do Sol, where we ate the most amazing grilled prawns, Moçambique’s signature seafood dish. With it we had our first Moçambiquan piri piri, the chili sauce accompaniment that is ubiquitous here…as is “2M,” Moçambiquan lager.

Maputo, the capital of Moçambique, like most big cities, has a mixture of expensive tourist hotels, places where the locals go, and shanty towns on the outskirts. Like many places in Moçambique, there are many dilapidated buildings from the Portuguese colonial era, and often the sidewalks are sketchy at best. All along the streets people sell various items, typically produce, cell phone minute vouchers, and cheap goods. Moçambique is a country consisting of about 8 different tribes, each with their own language, but Portuguese is still the common language, and not too many people speak English, although this is probably changing as English is being taught in schools.

We note two things about the country in our short stay here. Because it’s the winter, the daylight ends around 5:00pm, sort of a miscalculation on our part. The weather is actually beautiful: in the 80’s, dry and sunny, with only an occasional brief shower. However, it also means it’s the slow season for tourism. We’ve enjoyed seeing no tourists some days… and have been told by some more seasoned travelers to not expect this on the rest of our tour throughout the world.

Posted by cleichter 09:34 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)


Beautiful Port City

View Carina and Will's Route on cleichter's travel map.

We did an overnight flight from Newark to Lisboa. Our hotel didn’t allow an early check-in, so we wandered around nearby in an area called Castel Sao Jorge and Alfama, the old Muslim district. Lisbon2.jpg
The neighborhood is perched high on the hill with narrow alleyways and winding cobblestone streets, all accessible by small cable cars and small buses. Quite charming.

After checking in, we discovered that we arrived in the midst of the biggest celebration in Lisboa dedicated to Sao Antonio, their patron saint. What does this mean? Beer and grilled sardines and religious processions through the street in front of our hotel, the Rua do Milagro de Sao Antonio. That night we walked through one of the central squares of the city called the Praça do Rossio and stumbled upon a parade on the Ave. de Liberdade with various old neighborhood associations competing for best traditional dance and dress. It felt like the whole town was up for this. Oh yeah…more draft beer and grilled sardines…we love this country! We headed back to our neighborhood with thousands of other Lisboans to party in the streets near Sao Antonio’s church. Apparently, people were reveling till 6:00am.

The next morning we make our way on Lisboa’s great public transportation system to a neighorhood called Belem for a tour of old stuff. Among other things, we visit the Mosterio do Jeronimo where Vasco da Gama and Camoes (Portugal’s equivalent of Shakespeare) are buried. Naturally, we stopped to get the pasteis de nata, Belem’s signature pastry that’s essentially a small custard tart…damn fine. That night we get a tip from our Joanna who was manning the desk at our hotel (very helpful) that we should have dinner in a neighborhood called Bairro Alto. We have a great meal and find that wine in restaurants here is cheap compared to NYC…yes! Bairro Alto turns out to be a hopping place with small clubs and bars lining the streets. Of course, most people are drinking outside because the weather’s good. Amazingly, no complaints from the neighbors. We then head to a club to hear a prog rock band called Raising Panico which dealt a healthy dose of fat guitar. During the show, Will is happily groped by a kid who is actually trying to pickpocket him…to no avail, phew. Time to go to bed.

The next day we took the commuter rail to Sintra, a town about thirty minutes outside Lisboa that had some more old stuff to see: two national palaces and a Moorish castle on a hill. One of the palaces was truly amazing, called the Palacio Nacional da Pena, which has a very eclectic, colorful style with intricate stone carvings. Check out this wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pena_Palace.

After our return to the city, we have dinner and sit outside the castle to hear a concert of fado, a traditional Portuguese song form that's basically sad.

That evening, we take our fist dose of Malarone, our anti-malarial drug, in preparation for the trip to Mozambique. Will has bad dreams and blames it on the drug, only the first of what will surely be a trip filled with similar hypochondriacal moments.

Our last day, we do like other Lisboans and go to the futuristic Expo '98 center for a little mall action and to check out the architecture. We couldn't leave Lisboa without going to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, which houses an incredible collection of Moorish and Portuguese tiles.Lisbon_4.jpg Just to add a little weight to our packs, we buy two of the damn things. When we get to Africa we're going to look for souvenir stones.

Posted by cleichter 06:53 Archived in Portugal Comments (2)

Goodbye New York!

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We finally left after months of preparation and saying painful goodbyes to family and friends. We worked hard to get all our gear and clothing in our two backpacks. Carina's carrying about 25lbs and Will 35lbs...not too bad. Newark, here we come!

This is a very basic itinerary of where we're headed:

June 12 to June 15 - Lisbon
June 16 to July 5 - Mozambique
July 5 to Aug. 4 - Tanzania
Aug. 5 to Aug. 31 - Turkey
Sept. 1 to Sept. 25 - Egypt
Sept. 26 to Oct. 25 - Nepal
Oct. 26 to Nov. 30 - India
Dec. 1 to Dec. 15 - Thailand
Dec 15 to Dec 25 - Laos
Dec. 25 to Dec. 30 - Cambodia
Dec. 31 to Jan. 15 - Vietnam
Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 - New Zealand
Feb. 16 to March 21 - Brazil
Mar. 21 to April 15 - Patagonia (Chile and Argentina)
April 15 to May 15 - Argentina
May 15 to June 1 - Chile
June 1 to June 15 - Peru

The dates aren't totally fixed, but this is mostly accurate.

Come and join us on the way!!!

Posted by cleichter 05:59 Archived in USA Comments (3)

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