I didn't have very high expectations for Mozambique. From what I'd read in the guidebook, it sounded expensive, Portuguese-speaking, and like its main tourist attractions were...beaches. And Andy and I aren't really beach people.
Or are we???
I shouldn't speak for Andy, but Mozambique just about turned me around. The ocean there isn't just ocean...it's a sliver of turquoise paradise. (And it's filled with cool fish, too!) The beach isn't just beach...it's a sandy white yoga mat. Etc., etc.--you'll see in a moment for yourself.
As for the other objections, it turned out that Mozambique was one of the few countries we've visited where prices have actually gone down since our guidebook was published. Apparently the Mozambican metical has weakened against the US dollar since 2006, making it a heck of a lot cheaper than the preceding seven countries or so we'd been to. We'll take it!
And as for the Portuguese, I'll just say that a lot more people seem to speak English in Mozambique than they did in Brazil. Maybe it was all just Zimbabwean refugees we were talking to instead of actual Mozambicans...but we had no trouble whatsoever getting around, and everyone was incredibly friendly, no matter where they came from.
OK, on to pictoral evidence of good times had.
Maputo, Mozambique's capital, was our first stop. It's in the far south of the country and easy to get to in just a few hours by bus or car from South Africa or Swaziland. After several countries heavy on supermarkets but short on street food, we were overjoyed to be in a city with a real market and street food scene. Oh, and with cheap Internet. Pretty much all we did in Maputo was eat and blog, so we don't have too many touristy pictures to share.
Except for this one of a public telephone, which I was amused to learn is apparently called a "bla bla" in Portuguese.
Our next stop, around 9 hours up the coast, was a small beach town called Tofo (pronounced "Tofu"). A peek the local beach may help you understand why people flock here.
In Tofo, we stayed at a "yoga and surf retreat" called Turtle Cove for three days. (This was sort of my reward for all the friggin' hiking and sleeping in the car I did in South Africa!) They have two yoga classes a day in their on-site "yoga temple" or down on the beach, and you can bet I took advantage of them!
The visiting instructor happened to be an expert in "acro yoga," or partner yoga, in which you work together with a partner to achieve all sorts of crazy balancing poses. Not exactly my area, but I managed to accomplish some of the poses. Here I am practicing a sort of backbendy one on the beach--the half-naked man serving as my "base" is Olivier, my teacher.
In case you're curious, Andy did not participate in the yoga, but he did hide up in the sand dunes and secretly take pictures of me during my beach class (thanks!). He also napped a lot.
Oh, and he took some self-guided nature walks, during which he was entranced by these "cool hanging pine trees"...
...and some fun butterflies.
The other thing you can do in Tofo is snorkel with whale sharks. Andy did this in Mexico with his mom a few years ago and basically never shuts up about how cool it was, so I was happy to take a whole lot of anti-seasickness drugs and venture out to see for myself!
So we were given snorkels, flippers, and wet-shirts to help keep us warm and loaded into a boat, which then sped us out into the choppy, freezing Indian Ocean.
Whale sharks are the biggest sharks in the world, and indeed the biggest fish. The first one the crew spotted was a juvenile, only around 15 feet long, but he looked plenty big to me as I swam feverishly after him. I could barely keep up with his tail, but this German guy we were with got a great face shot with his underwater camera, which he kindly shared with us!
Another perspective on the shark. You can see its patterning nicely here.
Now, for some size comparison, here is our own Andy swimming with the second shark we found, which was around 3o feet long. Thanks again to the German dude for these awesome pictures!
The final fish we jumped in with was MASSIVE, far bigger than our boat. Maybe 50 feet long? I don't know, I'm just glad I didn't get as close to its mouth as our friend did. (Luckily, they eat plankton, not humans, and are totally not agressive.)
So, that got my adrenaline up after a few days of yoga! Very cool, I highly recommend swimming with whale sharks if you ever get a chance.
Land-based wildlife-viewing opportunities were a bit thin on the ground in Mozambique, but Andy did manage to find a lizard (of course!) somewhere...
...and we saw this cool ibis-like (?) bird on Magaruque Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago, which we visited from Vilankulos--another beach town about six hours north of Tofo. (Many thanks to the Italians who gave us a lift there!)
Here's me trying to keep up my yoga practice on this whole new paradisical island beach. Tough life.
We also snorkeled around this island (the water was freezing, but the fish were nice) and had an amazing seafood lunch (pics in the food post). We are happy to recommend Dolphin Dhow, the company that arranged this "ocean safari" for us in Vilankulos. They also have nice, cheap, waterfront rooms!
The only thing that was slightly less than glorious about Mozambique was that, no matter where you are in the country (or at least in the south and the middle of it), the long-distance buses all depart around 4AM. So you're always up in the middle of the night, lugging your crap into town and jostling for your seat.
The other crazy thing about minibuses in Mozambique (called chapas) is that they don't put luggage on the roof (like in West Africa) or in a trailer (like in Southern Africa), but cram it all into the bus with the passengers. And no one's carrying fewer bags of corn or boxes of live chickens in Mozambique than in any of those other places. The buses were frequently so crowded that when we stopped for a bathroom or food break, Andy and I had to climb out the window because the aisles were way too jammed with stuff.
Here is a visual aid, taken from my seat in the last row of the bus. The white cartons in the front on the left are the live chicks, of course.
Compared to the buses, this defunct camper that we slept in on the grounds of a hostel in Chimoio was the most spacious room ever!
Look, it even had a breakfast nook! We prepared a romantic dinner of pasta with vegetables and peach nectar to eat in our camper. That should probably be in the food post, but oh well.
We only stayed in Chimoio one night (well, half a night, since we had to be up again at 3AM for another bus), then it was on to Tete and across the border into Malawi in one more long, long day of busing. The mountainous landscape of this inland, central part of Mozambique was very pretty, but apparently cramped bus seats and smudged windows don't make for much motivation to take pictures.
If you look at Mozambique on a map, you'll see that there's a whole lot of it we didn't get to see. That just means that we'll have to go back one day. Maybe with our own car! But even by bus, it's totally a country worth eating in, snorkeling in, and just chilling out in. Mozambique, I will miss you.