Goodbye Cabo Delgado, hello Nampula!
All good things have to come to an end, or so we thought. We left Ibo with a heavy heart – after all, it was the first time that Elize felt that she was “on a holiday”! In all honesty, the first four weeks of our trip was anything but a holiday – long days of driving, hot dry weather, very few “tourist amenities”…but interesting. We will share our overall impressions with you at the end of our journey, hopefully lessons we learnt will be of value to you…
So – south to Pemba, only a few hours away on the tar. Once again, having an address and people you know in a strange place is a bonus. This time in the person of Fernando Moreira and his wife Annabelle, who manages Umaca Nanhimbe www.umacananhimbe.com , a delightful guesthouse on the eastern shores of Pemba. We had two relaxed days as their guests, had our washing done and enjoyed a “family evening” with their guests, mostly involved in the soon-to-start gas industry. Also, a very good friend of ours’ from Zimbabwe’s daughter, Larema Rix, who is at school with their daughter Rita in South Africa. Fernando is, amongst other things, a highly skilled graphic designer and is a partner in a successful printing business in Pemba.
Fernando also accompanied me to the offices of INATUR – the Mozambican Ministry of Tourism. Here we met with Ana Maria Tamele, the Regional Delegate, and Reinaldo Nangualale who kindly showed me around the Pemba peninsula. One of the projects we hope to get involved with in the near future is a Feasibility Study to investigate the tourism opportunities identified in the Arco Norte Tourism Masterplan, funded by USAID and completed in 2010. This masterplan identified opportunities in the three northern provinces of Mozambique – Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Nampula. We visited the proposed sites in Lichinga and along Lake Niassa earlier on our trip.
Although we wanted to follow the Lurio river’s course south of Pemba, we opted once again for the tar road. Turning off the tar at a small village called Alua, we embarked on surely the most interesting drive of our trip to date – a winding, sandy road, quite easily followed, leading us to Memba (which we gave a miss) and Nuarro Lodge, close to Baixo Pinda. The rainy season had started in all earnest – there were thunderstorms all around us, with lowering skies painting the incredible landscape, consisting of huge volcanic outcrops, in changing hues of grey. Cashew nut trees, blown over by a recent storm, shed their leaves in windy gusts and people hurriedly carried valuables into their rondavels. Dramatic Africa at its very best!
Isabel and Yannick, managers of Nuarro, kindly allowed us to camp in the lodge’s parking area. We hurriedly put up the awning at the back of the Cruiser as well, as a slight drizzle made life uncomfortable. We thanked them the next morning after a light breakfast and made a mental note to put their ecolodge www.nuarro.com on our list of future destinations.
Johan Boerekamp, a Dutch engineer who has been living and working in Mozambique for 20-odd years, provided me with a lot of useful information on places, people and roads before we left Pretoria. One of his recommendations was to spend time at Chocas – previously THE holiday destination in Mozambique. This small town boasts lovely little holiday homes painted in different shades of blues, greens and reds. We camped at Carrusca Mar e Sol for two nights. We also met with Stefan and Karine Dupon, a Belgian couple who has been living in close-by Mossuril village for 12 years and keep themselves busy in the boating industry (Stef imports outboard motors and hires out boats to Ilha do Mozambique) while Karine manufactures a whole range of aloe skin care products – needless to say, Elize bought a few products, all handsomely packaged by local people! www.belmoz.com
While Ibo’s isolation and unspoiltness makes it special – Ilha do Mozambique, the previous capital of the country (which relocated to Lourenco Marques in 1898) has a completely different vibe. Is it the smaller island, that one can walk around easily in an hour or two, the better condition of the buildings (a lot more restoration has happened here, after all, Ilha is the countries’ only World Heritage site) or the people that makes it different? Difficult to tell – maybe a combination, but we believe the relaxed nature of its inhabitants is what makes it special. Children will walk up to you and ask: “photo!”, and then be delighted if you pose with them, expecting nothing in return. Everyone greets you in a friendly manner, you immediately get the feeling that you are accepted as a visitor and not viewed as an intruder – after all, Ilha has been welcoming visitors for many years, being much more accessible than its’ northern neighbour. Maybe a confirmation of my long-held believe that a tourism destination needs to “mature” – the “benefits” of tourism need to prove itself and that does not happen overnight or by itself. People such as Abacar Abdul Sofar Naimo – Director of Tourism on the island, who kindly spent the morning after Christmas showing me around Lumbo and Sangulo, the Arco Norte Tourism Masterplan sites on the mainland, work hard at chancing perceptions about and growing support for this most sustainable of all industries.
Three relaxed days on the island was hardly enough to prepare us for what lay ahead. We embarked on the route that connects Ilha to Quelimane and Beira – long difficult gravel or sand roads (some badly eroded), numerous river crossings and unknown destinations with no facilities whatsoever. It almost got the better of us and our equipment…