Brother Freeman came to pick us at our cozy little place in Beira at 2:30am to take us to the bus. The evening before he was kind enough to offer us a ride when we could not find a taxi or tuk-tuk who would take us so early in the morning. We arrived at the bus station just in time to board and we actually left on time at 3:00am.
We arrived in Pambara before 10:00am and were able to catch a chapa into Vilanculos right away. Andrew and I have been couch surfing our way across Africa and had contacted a couch surfer named Luke in Vilanculos several weeks ago. Luke and his girlfriend Steph are both dive instructors who have lived all around the world at some of the best diving locations. They lived in Thailand, Indonesia, and East-Timor before moving to Mozambique. Luke is an ex-army guy from America and Steph is a French girl.
We first stopped by the dive shop to collect the house key from Steph, as Luke was out on a dive that day. She was kind enough to escort us to the house on her way to the market an give us a short tour. Luke and Steph live in a little beach bungalow made of thatch with a beautiful view of the beach out front. Vilanculos is one of the most beautiful places I have been in Africa.
We decided to rest for a moment in their bungalow, giving me some time to pop some popcorn and cut some fruit to snack on. We headed out early afternoon to walk on the beach and explore the local village markets. We found ourself at Baobab backpackers where they were arranging a snorkeling tour for the following day, we decided to jump on it because we did not know exactly how long we would be staying in Vilanculos. The snorkeling tour was to Bazaruto Island and two-mile reef, the most beautiful destinations in all of Vilanculos.
After we gathered all the information for the following day, we decided to ask about opportunities to learn how to cook some of the local food. No one in Vilanculos gives real cooking classes, but several of the guest houses pointed me to a girl named Zita who is starting her own restaurant on the street behind Baobab Backpackers. We walked by her small restaurant, only large enough to fit one or two guests, and in my broken Portuguese I set up a time to come and cook with her the following day after our snorkeling tour. One of the most common dishes in Mozambique is called Matapa, and that is the dish we are going to learn. We are also going to observe how she cooks the different Mozambican fish and seafood, which are all very common in Mozambique. Zita’s specialties include calamari and prawns, so we are very excited to learn.
We walked back to our bungalow via the beach so that we could observe the fishermen selling their daily catch to the women who would then go sell it in the market. The most common fish and seafoods were carapau, squid, crab, and baracuda. Likewise, these are the most inexpensive fish and seafood in the markets. Mozambique is a place rich in fish and seafood, we decided to buy a kilo of carapau for dinner tonight, which cost us $1.25. We dropped the fish at home an proceeded to the market to purchase garlic, tomato, onion, and potatoes to cook with our fish.
Since we are in Mozambique I decided to adapt a Portuguese recipe from Portugal and bake the carapau and potatoes in a sauce with tomato, onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. The dish turned out delicious and it was lots of fun to be able to cook with whole fish! We cooked our fish while Luke and Steph fired up a braai with their fellow diver Mike from South Africa. Steph and Luke do not eat a lot of fish, despite the fact that they live right near the ocean. Our dinner conversation was wonderful and we all went to sleep early to prepare for our dives the following day.
(Below: Andrew’s post)
Both Kylie and I were a bit sluggish this morning with our 2am wake up. Thankfully we were already packed and we had to simply grab our things and walk outside to meet Freeman who was ready as promised.
As we drove down the near empty streets of Beira I found myself reflecting on the many things I’d learned in such a short time. I think thats been one of the richest parts of Kylie and my experience in Africa, is having the opportunity to learn from many wonderful people.
We’ve had exposure to people working in charities, NGOs, multi-level marketing schemes, consulting, shipping, game parks, students, mining, and local farmers and villagers in just 4 months time. Each person we’ve met has taught us something about what makes their lives tick and I’m increasingly inspired by what people choose to do with their time and energy. Truly to understand a people and culture you have to live among them.
Around 7am as our bus puttered along the road to Vilankulos everyone started waking up. The once quiet bus now was abuzz with chatter (all in Portuguese) and conversation.
When we finally reached Panbara, the turnoff to Vilankulos Kylie and I exited the bus and made our way to the junction to catch a lift from a local taxi. The local taxis are little more than a truck with a tarp draped over the back and hard metal seats.
Kylie and I climbed aboard and road into Vilankulos. Immediately it became apparent that the area was more tourist friendly as banks, ATMs, and information centers abounded. We walked through the beautiful and scenic streets of Vilankulos and arrived at the Odyssea Dive Shop.
As we walked in we were greeted by a very lovely French girl named Stephanie who turns out is the girlfriend of Luke, the couchsurfer we are staying with! Since she was running out in a few minutes she asked us to sit tight until she could take us to their place. Both Kylie and I, exhausted from the early morning, welcomed the chance to rest.
We munched on bananas, bread and regained the energy we lost in transit. A few moments later, Stephanie loaded our bags into her car and drove us to their place.
Luke and Stephanie live in a beautiful beach bungalow a couple minutes from the dive shop. Outside of their little home they have a beautiful herb and vegetable garden filled with fresh mint, basil, and an array of other wonderful things. Inside their home is quite simple, a concrete floor, no windows, and straw walls and roofing. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful home.
After we got ourselves settled, Kylie and I walked out of the bungalow onto the beach and we spent a good amount of time walking the shore together.
It was one of the few times we’ve been able to relax since arriving in Mozambique and it was lovely.
Vikankulos is beautiful. The sky and sea meet somewhere on the horizon and you can hardly differentiate the two. The sand is white and soft, and the locals all are extremely friendly. Best of all for Kylie, they all speak Portuguese which means she can practice!
Since most of the dive shops were already full for the next couple days, we found our way over to the nearby backpackers lodge that had snorkeling scheduled for the next day. Vilankulos is a great place to snorkel and dive because you can see turtles, manatees, Sharks, rays, and a variety of other sea creatures.
Kylie and I spent a little time at the backpackers lodge to get settled before we decided to gather materials to make dinner. On the menu, local food!
Kylie and I walked the beach and found several of the fisherman pulling in on their Dhows carrying a fresh load of fish to shore. When the fisherman come in, all the local village women walk down with large plastic buckets to purchase the days catch. Today, Kylie and I were among the throng of people purchasing fish.
For 1 USD we got a kg of fresh Karipao (Portuguese) fish. What a great deal! We took it home and cooked the fish with some other ingredients we’d gathered including coconut (given to us by the lodge employees since Kylie chatted with them) tomato, potato, and onion. It was delicious and I’m excited to cook some more local food tomorrow!
Not to mention tomorrow we go snorkeling… Very excited! 🙂