Vilankulos, and the beautiful Bazarutos

Eventually we moved on from our home on the beach, to our next stop – Vilankulos, further north up the coast of Mozambique.

We checked into a backpackers hostel right on the sandy waterfront, overlooking the local fishermen as they go out and come back in their small wooden boats. This was our base for the next week.

Being a backpackers, we were surrounded by all sorts of people from all walks of life, so our week in Vilankulos was a little more lively – evenings spent sitting around in the outside communal area, eating dinner under the stars, drinking cold beers and chatting to other strangers exploring Mozambique, all to the accompanying sound of the lapping waves.

We took one day trip out of Vilankulos, to visit the beautiful Bazaruto archipelago.

Joining forces with a group of four Germans our age, living in South Africa, we had our own motorboat and skipper for the day.

The tour first took us 1.5 hours out into the sea, to a huge coral reef teeming with fish of all colours and sizes. We snorkelled there for a while, swimming among the fish which seemed as intrigued by us, as we were by them.

Next it was back on the boat, and we were taken to a huge sand dune in the middle of the sea – Bazaruto island. While the skipper and his friend set up a barbecue on the beach, we hiked to the top of the dune to take in the astounding view. From the top, sand banks and islands painted a dazzling pattern in the bright blue of the sea. It was stunning.

Walking back down the dune, we were met with freshly barbecued fish and cold cokes – delicious.

After lunch, we walked back up the dune – we hadn’t had enough of the view. But to our surprise, everything had changed. In the hour we were gone, the tides had shifted, and completely different sand banks had emerged, while others had been submerged. Within an hour we had returned to a completely different – but equally brilliant – view.

The afternoon was spent at another island, where we could explore the island or swim in the sea. Tom and I opted for swimming in the turquoise blue sea, and sunbathing on the perfect white beach.

After a 2 hour boat trip back to land, it was evening, as we had spent the most ideal day in paradise.

While Vilankulos itself was not much more than a dusty little town, the Bazarutos proved to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I truly hope one day I’ll get to go back.

 

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Life on the beach

It’s been two weeks now, since a civil war ruined all our travel plans.

Planning our overland trip across Mozambique, north into Tanzania, it was a car rental agent who mentioned it first:

“As much as I want the business, I have to voice my concerns – are you sure you want to cross the war zone? If you say you want to, I’ll rent you my car, but I really thought I should ask.”

What the hell was he talking about? A brief Google search later and all was revealed, indeed, there’s a silent civil war happening in the centre of the country – mass murders, criminal kidnappings, convoys of cars travelling with military escort and even then being attacked.

Of course, we couldn’t take the risk.

We were delayed in Maputo for the next day, re-planning our trip. We’d go to the next stop on the coast for a few days, move on to the second stop for a few more, then we’d have to drive back to Maputo and fly to Tanzania, we accepted.

So the next day we drove the nearly 500 kilometres to the coastal town of Inhambane, and took up our self-catering cottage on nearby Barra beach.

Life quickly fell into the rhythm of the beach. We’re woken early by the rising sun, we work hard through the day, finishing up early at around 3 or 4 to go and read on the beach, or go for  a walk.

By 4.30 the chill of the evening comes in, so it’s time to race down to the nearby village market to buy the fishermen’s catch of the day – fish, prawns, lobsters – to take home for the evening’s barbecue.

Evenings are spent sat in the dark, watching the glowing embers of the barbecue, our fish sizzling to perfection.

The sun sets early these days, by 5.30 the darkness is so all-encompassing it would be claustrophobic, were it not for the kaleidoscope of stars which seem to surround us.

We quickly realised we didn’t have anywhere to rush to, and the beach life is actually incredibly cheap. So within a couple of days we had extended our cottage stay.

Since then nearly two weeks have passed, with the same day-in, day-out routine. Quiet, relaxed, and accompanied by the rustling waves of the sea and the crackling leaves of the palm trees.

In all my life, I really never thought I’d find myself living on the beach in Mozambique.