I should think that much is true, especially for South Africans and especially for me. I’ve longed for an Eat Pray Love vac for a bit now, for most of my adult life – although, let’s face it, I can’t take a year off of my life to travel exotic places yet. But finally some sort of opportunity presented itself and instead of spending three months in Italy, India and Bali respectively, I spent three days in Maputo, Inhambane/Tofo and Tofo again. Because I’m not a best selling novelist by the weird name of Liz and my journey isn’t played out by Julia Roberts in a cult chick motivational flick. I’m 25 and I have a day job. It’s just not practical. So three days is all I could afford okay?!
They say budget travel (I say cheap) isn’t for the faint hearted and boy is that true. So Friday night I hopped on an overnighter to Maputo and there were a couple of things I was nervous about. Mostly foreign border officials and travelling to another country alone. Those two were def at the top of my ‘To Worry About’ list, so much that I forgot that the distance to Maputo is a huge b-word on its own. Alright, cards on the table, I’m from the Eastern Cape so honestly that many hours on the road is hell on earth, but a hell I’m pretty used to. I just wanna complain like all the other kids. The border went as expected – but not as feared. I was just not emotionally and mentally prepared for the hours I spent inside that bus. Not prepared. How many pit stops do people need? And do we have to pit stop for so long? Why are Mozambican people so lax?
So fast forward to my arrival in Maputo. I stepped out, so glad for the fresh air and was overcome by this awesome feeling, everything felt so warm and colourful and in very beautiful ruin. Old colonial era buildings, street corner stores, cool alfresco cafes, music coming from all over… I was glad I came. The driver who was supposed to pick me up to take me to the Backpackers was behind on time but I got a lift with the most awesome local whose sister was coming from SA. This is when I first noticed that Mozambican dudes find me attractive. Win.
Fatima’s Backpackers in Maputo is a paradise for hippies and easy going travellers. It’s bright and friendly and super chilled. I hung out with a couple of South Africans from Johannesburg, and we all huddled by the sockets to charge our phones and chat about weird South African stuff we were glad to be away from, like traffic and work and how we should all just run away to Moz to escape the suffocating racial issues back home. Later on I met a few very awesome ladies I quickly became friends with, Pat (SA), Eva(USA), Kholi(SA), Joni(CHI) and – later – Olga(GER). Fun fact: None of us knew how to speak Portuguese 🙂 I mean, I’d learnt a few phrases thanks to Duolingo but it was so much tougher because Mozambican Portuguese, like Brazilian, isn’t exactly the standardised form of the language. Between us we managed a few words though, like please, how much, thank you, no thank you, bye and water (which you have to buy a lot of). I also learnt ‘beautiful’ because the word got thrown my way quite a bit. I love foreign countries, because I get there and I’m exotic AF.
We walked around and had drinks by the ocean with a view you’d trade your nephews for. And had lunch at this cool outdoor restaurant called Pirates that has pizzas the size of a tractor wheel and the Moz beer 2M on tap. I also tried Laurentina but 2M caught my fancy. And, of course, we shopped around for stuff to take back home, from colourful fabrics to hand crafted jewellery and bags. At night I was supposed to go to some dancehall thing but I was too bushed so I stayed at the Backpackers and mildly flirted with the barkeep, then drank enough 2M’s to knock me out – right after I sprayed myself with enough Peaceful Sleep to poison a little well. Because, Malaria.
The following morning, we took a 5am chapa to Inhambane>Tofo to Fatima’s Nest, which was 7 hours away. Again, the chill factor in Moz was startling, with all the pit stops and all the slow walking and the fact that Traffic cops will stop a chapa and check for a driver’s license but don’t mind that the vehicle is brutally overloaded. Is it because it’s so hot and nobody cares for these trivial things? Upside of the journey was all the clear blue ocean and quaint little tropical looking towns we saw on the way. But nothing could have prepared us for the tranquil majesticness that is Tofo beach.
Tofo is magical. Blue beaches, white sand, surf and food. I loved everything about it. I loved my room and how the sea was a stone throw away from my door, just like the bar. I loved that my whole bathroom was a shower. I loved all the people, locals and travellers. It just felt like a super amazing dream, honestly. Although the Moz heat bordered on insane I was not mad at what that sea breeze and humidity was doing to my skin. I have dreadlocks so I don’t have the hair frizzing over problem either. Haha. On arrival, Joni immediately went for a swim in the ocean – it was early evening so the conditions were perfect. I ordered a monster size 2M and hung out on the deck, just lying in the sun and looking out into the sea. Side note: There were so many good looking people there, I literally could not move. Later on we ordered a light dinner (think I got some sort of gourmet sandwich) and dined by the bar, I got quite a few surprise phone numbers from some dudes and I’m sure whatever they were saying in Portuguese was super charming but I had no idea what it was, I was just shocked that people still write their numbers on coasters and serviettes and give them to strangers. After dinner we lazed around on the bean bags and finally got around to answering texts and other social medias. There was also this family of three, a dad and his kids who are about my age who brought their laptop out to the general sitting area and we all watched The Grand Budapest Hotel at midnight, tipsy on TipoTinto.
Breakfast was a lot of ice cream and pancakes and a crap load of Catemba. Joni and I visited the busy market and it was beautiful but it was too hot to stay long. I bought a pipe and home made island style juice in a coconut and went home, but Joni the Explorer went to Inhambane for the day. Then I met two older guys from Cape Town, Albie and Sean and we had a good chat on the deck while buying shell jewellery from the local kids and musing about the paradise we were all in, and I remember thinking, gosh I wanna be this cool when I’m 40/50. They had anklets and they surfed and ate watermelons & nuts, and their tans were out of this world. There is a really cool strip of restaurants, central to everything where I grabbed lunch with Albie and I just listened to him talk about his adventures. The rest of the girls arrived not too long after that and the fun truly began. It was nice to be just a bunch of girls from all over the world, enjoying ourselves on holiday. We swam in the sea at sunset and took pictures and laughed (because giggle juice – and I’m pretty sure I almost got lost at sea because of that night tide). By nighttime, the Backpackers was alive with music and chatter and a large group of us joined tables and just had a great big tipsy chat. The night was not over for Eva and and we found ourselves grabbing dinner with a group of like five gorgeous British okes intensely talking about Egyptian current affairs and politics, at one of those eateries on the strip. Then we all went dancing until sunrise. Which I dreaded because I had to rush back to SA that morning to spend Christmas with my family in East London. But three days was all I needed to fall helplessly in love with that place.
We’ll always have Mozambique. I think I still have sand in my hair.