Monday March 4 – Isla de Mocambique

March 8, 2013 by  

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Depart JNB on SAA for Nampula in Mocambique. Challenges at the airport about visas – new rulings that travellers have to have visas ahead of time. SAA is charged with checking because if a traveller is refused they must transport that person back to place of origin. Apparently its the same situation for Canadian entry. SAA let us through because we are a group of 7, with defined travel arrangements out of the country. Our van was waiting at the airport – it was a tight fit for 7 and all our luggage but we managed. Everyone is a good sport and up for the adventure. On arrival we each had to be photographed and finger-printed on 2 index fingers for visas. The cost was $85USD each. By then our taxi had been waiting for an hour and we hoped our luggage had not been sold! As usually happens it all worked out just fine. We arrived at Isla Mocambique after a 2 and a half hour drive through third world conditions tightly packed into the van and still smiling.

Mocambique was a Portuguese colony until about 1974. Tourism infrastructure is not well advanced. Government is doing its best but its not good enough. Recently large coal and offshore gas deposits have been found. It will be interesting to see if there is enough good leadership in the country to make things better for everyone once these resources are harnessed. It is a beautiful place.
Our host tells us that 90% of Mocambicans on the island are Muslims – the Arabs arrived in the 13th century. When they arrived in the 1600s the Portuguese tried to convert them. Their are 4 Catholic churches on the island. All are closed.

Our arrival at Terraco das Quintadas was a surprise. As we crossed the 2 km long single lane causeway we came upon a narrow island that was reminiscent of the poorer districts in Havana. Beautiful clean children playing outside tiny houses made principally of limestone and without much inside were across the street from the ocean where other children roamed the coral studded beaches. An idyllic life perhaps but a poor one. It looks like most people live without electricity or running water, the kids are cute as can be and very clean. We are told schooling is 3 shifts each day for 3 hours for each different group of children. It is good to see that the schools are the best kept buildings on the island. A Save the Children worker is here in this hotel. We hear their work here consists largely in trying to improve the nutrition of the families by teaching mothers how to vary their minimalist diet. Our hotel at first seemed disappointing but you had only to think of the poverty we passed on our drive from the airport to realize it offers great luxury in comparison. Our host was helpful, we were exhausted from the plane, the visas acquisition, and the car ride. Showers were most welcome. A glass of wine on the breezy rooftop looking at a starry, starry sky then dinner in our hotel dining room, grilled langoustine, rice, potatoes, cashews (grown locally) mixed with a seaweed and surprisingly tasty. A good sleep in a nicely air conditioned room with our own ensuite proved the point about luxury. Once settled we realized the island housing consisted of 2 “towns” Stone Town, where we were located, was made up of merchant homes and government offices, largely abandoned now or refurbished into small hotels, guest houses and museums, and Reed Town, where the locals lived in inferior housing.

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