I recently returned to the farm after a two-week trip to Mozambique where a friend (Alison) and I decided to make a holiday out of our need to renew our Malawian visas. The places we went were so spectacular, and so ripe for a novice photographer, that I’ve decided to make this blog post more of a photo essay instead of another one of my usual wordy installments – although it is still quite wordy.
I’ll start and end with photos from the road. If the number of pictures were proportional to the amount of time spent in each activity, nearly half of the photos would be of transport. In total, we spent about 6-7 days in transit. Our path to the coast consisted of a two mini buses to a coach bus to a flatbed truck to a pickup truck (day one); a bicycle taxi to a mini bus (day two); a train (day three); a hitched ride in a sedan (day four).
This is a photo that Alison took from the train, which was by far our favorite form of transportation. We were initially concerned that we weren’t able to secure a second class ticket on our way there. However the third class compartment, while crowded, was still much more spacious than what we had been used to. The scenery was gorgeous and every stop provided an opportunity to try new foods purchased out the window.
On the fourth day we reached the beach town of Pemba. As soon as we saw the turquoise waters and the empty beaches we knew that the destination was going to be worth the trip. We spent the next three days exploring the beaches in and around Pemba – swimming, reading, relaxing, and finding new spots to watch the sunset.
While the beaches were absolutely gorgeous, the town itself was a bit of an odd experience. Two to three years ago natural gas reserves were discovered off shore and the oil companies have moved in, causing intense growth in the formerly sleepy beach community. Prices have skyrocketed, there is construction and traffic everywhere, and the town is crawling with middle-aged white men in Halliburton apparel. It was definitely not what we had expected, but it was very interesting to hear about all of the changes and to observe the strange atmosphere that the discovery had brought to the town.
After Pemba came the highlight of our trip: Ilha de Mozambique. A bit reminiscent of Zanzibar though much smaller, this island town felt like a little piece of Latin America in Africa. The Portuguese heritage of this former port town, from which the country got its name, was clear in the colorful, beautifully decaying buildings, narrow, winding alleys, and large fig trees lining the main streets.
We arrived in Ilha via a coach bus then a flatbed truck and we got there in time to wander around, find our new favorite café, and catch the sunset from the roof of our hostel.
The next morning we took a bicycle tour of the island, which is a flat 2.5km long and 500m wide – the ride was not very strenuous. What it lacked in physical rigor it made up for in beautiful views, charming architecture, and a friendly tour guide named Daniel.
As with most other evenings, we found a good spot to watch the sunset and have a drink, then had a delicious seafood dinner. While every night the fish was delicious, on this night we had a coconut crab curry that was definitely worth the effort of eating it.
That night there was a big street party to celebrate the anniversary of the city. We wandered around and danced with the kids until the men watching us became a bit too awkward. All in all, it was a wonderful last day of vacation.
The next morning we started back on our trek home. Getting back was a bit easier than getting there, and we got quite lucky in a few spots where we could have been stuck for a long time. But from a hitch to a train to a truck to a 2-hour bicycle taxi to another hitch to a mini bus, we were back in Lilongwe in 2.5 days.
Here we are on the side of the road in Lilongwe, waiting for our friends to pick us up and take us to dinner. We may have been a little delirious.