Hello again my friends,
At this exact moment I am sitting in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The temperature has cooled and there are warthogs noisily eating grass behind me. I simply love the great outdoors, especially in Africa. There is just something about the smell of campfires, the illumination provided by the moon and stars, and the quiet of the night that makes me appreciate everything nature so generously gives to us on a daily basis. The only thing different about this picture is the fact that I am sitting in the middle of this national park in front of my computer. With wireless internet. Honestly, this is one thing I did not expect, especially since internet connections are always such a challenge in Africa. However, thanks to technology and some very generous donors, I am able to catch you up all on the interesting places I have visited since my last post while periodically smiling at the warthogs.
After my visit to Tofo, we drove about 3 ½ hours to Vilankulos, another popular beach destination. Vilankulos is slightly larger than Tofo and definitely attracts more tourists. As I drove into the city I noticed that it was significantly dirtier than Tofo. There was much more trash on the street- something practically non-existent in Tofo. However, there were many more accommodation options, which ranged form boutique hotels to backpacker /camping sites. No matter what your budget, an ocean view is practically guaranteed. On our second day in Vilankulos, we decided to take a day long trip on a dhow to the 2 mile reef, famous for snorkeling and
Bazaruto island. The dhow is a traditional African sail boat which are used by many of the local fisherman. There were six of us in our group, not including the crew of four. We did have the option to take a speed boat, however, we opted for the more traditional and slower means of transportation.
After sailing for a couple of hours, we reached the 2 mile reef. Without hesitation I jumped into the warm ocean. As I opened my eyes under water I was met with a scene straight out of the Little Mermaid. Brightly colored fish of all types and miles of corral lay beneath me in its entire splendor. It was a world that would take hours and even days to explore. The water was so clear, allowing me to take some wonderful photos all the while singing, “under the sea.” I have snorkeled all over the world, to include the British Virgin Islands, and I can honestly say that this is one of my all time favorite locations to snorkel.
After snorkeling we sailed to Bazaruto Island. As we approached the island I was struck by the large and dramatic white sand dunes.
These dunes, combined with the turquoise water, created a scene out of a dream.
I loved how untouched the island was. Sitting, perfectly in the middle of a beautiful ocean just waiting tobe explored. As I stepped gingerly onto the beach and my toes sunk into the white sand I felt as if I could stay there forever.
While our group climbed the dunes and explored the islands, the crew on the boat prepared us a traditional delicious lunch of steamed crabs, rice, salad, and fruit. We ate on the beach while the warm ocean breeze caressed our faces and the sun soaked into our skin. After lunch, we sailed back towards Vilankulos, periodically napping and swapping stories about our worldy travels. It was a day I will never forget and an island I will forever yearn to go back to.
The next day, we left Vilankulos along with the ocean and palm trees for something very different. As we headed inland, the scenery began to drastically change. Large plains replaced palm trees and everything became much dryer. Thatched and mud huts replaced woven palm huts. Finally, poorer and dirtier communities replaced the nice and clean little villages I was used to seeing by the coast. It is obvious that the poverty level increases as one travels inland and away from the tourist areas.
Another interesting thing I noticed as I traveled through the country was the different goods sold along the roads. They seem to come in stages. The first stage was cashew nuts.The locals fill plastic bags full of cashews and then hang them on branches near the road.
Cashews were being sold for miles until the Peri Peri hot sauce industry took over. I have never tried this sauce, but I hear it is not for the faint hearted. After the Peri Peri, we entered into coal territory, then honey, and finally basic firewood. It is interesting to see how the locals use what they have available to them and market what their environment yields.
I have also noticed that Vodacom has completely taken over Mozambique. It is amazing to see a tiny mud hut, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with a Vodacom sign hung on the outside. Additionally, the logo is painted on every store and every wall there is. I love how their advertising basically reads, “even though you may not make more than $2 a day, at least you still have cell phone service!” Let’s just say I am already looking into stock options!
After a long drive, we reached Gorongosa just before sunset and settled into the campsite. This is a remarkable national park and was almost decimated during Mozambique’s civil war. Due to the efforts of private donations and the hard work of many people the park is slowly recovering. As always, I look forward to telling you about the park and sharing more stories with you.
Until then, travel well and travel often.