Moz magic

2011-10-08 14:34

It took us five hours to cover 112km of road. Well, that is if you can call the almost-invisible sandy track a road.

We were travelling from Vilanculos to the Bazaruto Archipelago. Dugong Lodge, our destination, lay on the awesome long, white sandy beaches along the archipelago in the Indian Ocean, in Mozambique’s Inhambane province.

A boat ride through the warm water gets you there in less than 45 minutes. But we took the long and hard way instead.

“Why?”, you may ask. Well, because we could.

Make no mistake, it’s extremely hot and humid in these parts, and a boat ride brings with it the welcome relief of a cool breeze.

But really, who needs a boat when there is a fleet of different models of that elephant of the motoring world, the Toyota Land Cruiser, waiting to be put to the test?

Add to that a party of enthusiastic motoring scribes ready for some bundu bashing, and the harsh African bush waiting to be explored, then you begin to understand why a boat ride isn’t even an option.

And so we headed south via dusty back roads, leaving behind the town of Vilanculos.

A sweet little place this Vilanculos is, with almost no skyscrapers to speak of; a sort of village that grew into a town, and then, perhaps because of the country’s two decades of civil war, stopped developing.

Vilanculos fell fast behind, ushering before us a world that seemed to have remained untouched by the trappings of modern civilisation.

Homesteads of huts built from reeds appeared in clearings among the bush, covered in stretches and stretches of mopani and palm trees.

As we roared past at a speed, eager to get to our destination before sunset and avoid getting stuck in the sand, I couldn’t keep wondering how on earth people here survived in such stark conditions.

Strangely, though, while this land seemed to have been forgotten by time, never once did we spot a wild animal or a sign of one in this thick, rich bush where one would expect game to thrive.

Sad but true, this is apparently one of the legacies of the two decades-long civil war that ravaged the country from 1975 right up to the early 90s.

As we stopped for a bite in the soothingly quiet bush, I fought hard to persuade the bush lover in me not to venture off the track lest I somehow detonate a landmine.

Especially after someone remarked that this was the very route the warring factions of Renamo and Frelimo used to ferry supplies inland back during the days of the war.

But later I wondered if my fear wasn’t just a silly thought by an outsider who had read too many horror stories about wars and landmines.

We completed our journey without incident, having crossed a few low-flowing rivers.

We arrived at Dugong Lodge about half an hour after sunset, and immediately washed away the dust with a cold beer at a bar overlooking the archipelago.

Indeed, this Mozambique is a different one from the one before the signing of the Rome General Peace Accords in 1992.

The guns and cannons are silent now, and the beautiful group of islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago teem with tourists coming to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the exotic seafood served at the numerous lodges around here.

They also come here to surf, fish and snorkel. The archipelago comprises six islands – Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Banque, Paradise and Shell. Life here is what dreams are made of.

Take Dugong Lodge, for instance. You wake up in the early morning to be greeted by the stunning sight of the blue waters from the archipelago crashing against the beach not far from your doorstep. At sunset, you sit lazily on a chair, sipping a cold beer while watching the miracle of nature unfold just before your eyes.

So quiet this place – you can almost hear the earth breathe.

Although mosquito nets look quite beautiful hanging over those kingsize beds, they are a grim reminder that this is malaria country and precautions have to be taken. In fact, that first night as I staggered into bed, I could swear I heard an army of mosquitoes debating whether to launch an attack on poor me.

I took a gulp from my cold can of Laurentina beer and overheard one of them mosquitoes mutter in a rather defeated voice: “Argh, leave him alone! His blood must be very bitter! Too much beer!”

» Ledwaba was a guest of Toyota SA

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